“Do I have to?”
“Yes,” the flight attendant chides tartly, jerking my gaze to where she has poked her head back into the cabin. “In a seat, please.”
Blood rushes to my cheeks and I scramble off of Liam’s lap, into the seat beside him to buckle up. The flight attendant disappears and Tellar appears in the doorway. “You have to sit down,” the flight attendant scolds from behind him.
Tellar lifts a hand. “I’m sitting. I’m sitting.” He claims the seat in front of me. “Jeez. Women. They really can be nags.”
My head prickles and an image of my brother saying the same thing flickers in my mind. I swallow hard and shove aside the image, but somehow I repeat what I’d said to Chad so long ago. “Men. They really can be pains in the backside.”
Tellar snorts and looks at Liam. “You’re right. She looks sweet, but she’s feisty. I think I should make friends before I get my ass kicked. We haven’t been formally introduced. I’m Tellar. Tellar Phelps.”
I don’t even know how to introduce myself. Hi, I’m a dead girl named Lara? I’m the fake girl named Amy? “Tellar is an interesting name,” I say, doing the avoidance thing I do almost as well as I tell the lies I despise so much.
“Interesting is one way of putting it. My father was military. He and my uncles loved the whole ‘Tell her you love her. Tell her she’s beautiful. Tell her--”
“What she wants to hear,” I supply without even meaning to. It just sort of happens and so does the ache in my gut that comes with the idea that he or Liam might be doing just that.
Liam grabs my hand and his is strong and warm. He laces his fingers with mine, drawing my gaze to his, as he says, “I won’t keep the truth from you, no matter how brutal. You have my word.”
But he hadn’t told me everything in Denver and unbidden, a memory smashes into me. I can handle Amy. It had been those cold words that made me sound like a puppet he controlled and had made me feel that what I’d overheard had been more than Liam just snooping around. I try to jerk my hand from Liam’s.
He held onto it, his eyes narrowing. “What just happened?”
“Nothing just happened.” But I don’t want to say more and I don’t want to go where these thoughts are taking me. I want to stay in the land of trust and temptation.
“Something just happened,” Liam counters.
The plane jumps and shakes and out of nowhere a wave of nausea overcomes me. I lean forward, almost doubling over and unhook my belt. Liam’s hand comes down on my back. “Amy.”
“I’m okay,” I whisper, unhooking my belt. “I just...I need a minute.” I’m on my feet, darting to my left before he can stop me.
Somehow, I make it to the bathroom without heaving and shove inside the tiny room, shutting the door. The plane shudders again and I struggle with the lock, almost feeling myself turn green, and I give up on the door. Turning, I hang over the tiny toilet, knots balling in my gut. A metal taste forms in my mouth and I gag, but there is nothing to come up. I can’t even remember the last time I ate.
“Amy?” Liam says from the hallway and I squeeze my eyes shut, angry that his caring matters to me. Angry that I’ve convinced myself to trust him without knowing all the facts. I’m just this stupid young girl who isn’t young anymore. I can’t keep using that excuse.
“Amy. Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I manage, noting the urgency in his voice and grabbing the sink to blink my ratty, horrible hair into view. I might not know who the girl in the mirror is anymore, but she sure looks like something the dog dragged in.
The door creaks and I turn as Liam appears in the tiny entryway, those intense eyes of his seeing too much. Despite the rain that has drenched us both, unlike me, he doesn’t look like hell. He looks like sex and sin and the temptation I can never say no to. “You’re sick to your stomach,” he says, stating the obvious.
“I...no.” Damn it, I hate the lies and yet they flow from my mouth like water from a faucet. “It passed. I haven’t eaten and...I’m okay.”
He doesn’t so much as blink, nor does he show any signs of budging and giving me a chance to collect myself. He just stands there, and every second he does, he is temptation turning to double temptation. He consumes the tiny space, and me with it, and he doesn’t even have to try. “Is this the first time you’ve been sick?” he finally asks.
I know where this is headed and I’m not ready for this conversation. Not here. Not now. “I got sick. It’s done.”
His lips tighten and I hold my breath, knowing he’s about to push, but unexpectedly, the wheels hit the ground and we tumble into each other, his strong arms wrapping around me, his big body collapsing around me to hold me steady. And I lean into him, wrapping my arms around him, holding on as if I am holding on for dear life. I think maybe I am. I think...maybe he’s my last hope. Or maybe, he’s my final destruction.
Too soon and not soon enough, the plane jerks to a stop and then begins a slower crawl. He frames my head and forces my eyes to his, searching my face. I don’t know what he sees. I don’t try to hide anything. He knows too much. I know too little.
His thumb strokes my jaw. My lip. “We have a lot to talk about.”
Desperately, I burn to simply live in this moment, drown in the tenderness I see in his eyes, but instead I hear his words to Derek in my head again. I can handle Amy. Instantly, I stiffen, flattening my hand on his chest, intending to push him away, but like always, I do not. “Yes, Liam. Yes, we do.” His heart pounds beneath my palm. Races. He is affected by me, by us, and by my reaction to what he has said. On some core level I believe that is because he cares about me and I need him to deserve the trust that comes with that and I add, “I have questions.”