Liam says something else to me. I don’t know what and I don’t care. I am in my own head and in a wave of Tellar’s wrath that I do not like. “Who are you to judge me, Tellar?” I demand, and with no conscious decision to act, I snap and launch myself at him, grabbing his shirt before he even blinks. “Who are you to judge me?”

“Holy hell, woman,” Tellar growls but he doesn’t touch me. I want him to touch me. I want him to give me a reason to hit him. To lash out even more. I want to hit him and I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone in my entire life.

“Who are you to judge me?” I scream again. “Who are you? Don’t you think I’ve done enough of that myself?”

“Amy,” Liam roars behind me, his strong arm looping around my waist as he pulls me off of Tellar.

I lunge forward, fighting Liam, wanting back at Tellar, but Liam holds me hard against his body. “I listened to my mother scream as she was burning alive,” I hiss at Tellar, “and I couldn’t get to her. What state of mind do you think I was in? What resources did I have?” I jerk against Liam but still he holds me. “Let go, damn it. Let me go!”

“Not a chance,” Liam vows, his arms closing around my upper body like a vise, trapping my hands by my sides.

Tellar goes white as a sheet. “Oh God, Amy. You were in the house?”

My fingers curl into fists and I am shaking so hard my teeth start to chatter. “Yes. Yes, I was in the house, Tellar. I heard every last scream, and there was nothing but fire between them and me and a window...I jumped....” I sob and the tears bleed from my eyes, trailing like blood down my cheeks, over my lips... “I jumped out of the damn window when Chad...”

“Your brother,” he says.

My brother. Just hearing that word does me in. I explode into tears and it’s like my bones melt in my body. My legs just give way and Liam is all that holds me up. “Amy,” he murmurs, turning me into him, holding me close. “I’ve got you.”

Clutching at his shirt, I blink through the tears. Chad’s voice shouts in my ears. Jump. Jump now. “I shouldn’t have jumped. I should never have jumped.”

He frames my face in one hand, one arm wrapped around my waist, still holding me up. “Listen to me. Dying wouldn’t solve anything. You did what you had to do. You survived.”

“I survived and that’s all.”

“We’re going to change that, baby. I promise you. We’re going to change that.” He glances over my shoulder and speaks to Tellar and Derek. “We’re done here.” He tries to pick me up.

I stiffen and shove on his chest. “No. No. I can’t...won’t...I want to talk. I want to find who did this.” I force myself to straighten. “I’m okay.”

“No,” Liam insists. “You are not okay.” He tries to lift me into his arms. “We’re done here.”

“Stop.” I squirm and step away, wobbly but on my feet and getting stronger again. “I don’t want to just be okay and survive anymore. And I don’t want anyone else to die.”

Liam flicks a look toward Tellar and Derek. “Both of you. Get the hell out.”

I growl in frustration and swipe at my eyes. “Don’t make my decisions, Liam. They need to stay. I want answers and they want answers. It’s time to figure this out.”

Tellar and Derek ignore me and walk around us. “Stay here,” I shout after them.

“They aren’t staying, Amy,” Liam insists, like he is the Almighty and we are all at His command.

I level him a scathing stare. “Because you can handle me on your own, right?”

“What?” His brow furrows. “What does that mean?”

The kitchen door opens and closes and we are left alone. “I heard you, Liam. I told you that. I heard it all that night in Denver. Derek was worried about my reaction to the camera and you told him ‘I can handle Amy’. You can handle me? Well, news for you, Liam. Not only did you fail to ‘handle’ me back in Denver, you’re failing now, too. And that comment was what made me run more than anything else.”

He advances on me and backs me against the table, his powerful thighs capturing mine, his arms caging me. Heat washes over me, confuses my senses, and I hold onto the table so I won’t touch him. “I meant I’d make sure you felt safe and didn’t panic.” His voice is a low rasp of sandpaper, no caress of silk to be felt. “But you’re right. I failed and we both lived through hell because I did. You, far more than me, and I won’t let that happen again. I will protect you, Amy, with or without your consent.”

“Like you own me.”

“Call it what you want, but unlike that private detective who’s now dead, you’ll be alive on the other side of this.”

“People are dying and that’s my point which you don’t seem to be getting. So let me repeat what I’ve already asked. Who protects me from you, Liam?”

His head lowers, his breath is hot on my cheek, and there is an instant charge in the air. We are connected, he and I, and I don’t know if that is good or bad. It “Do you think you need protection from me, Amy?” he demands. “Is that where we still are?”

Somehow, I do what I know will be my undoing. It is always my undoing with this man and proof he is claiming the control I so desperately need. I touch him. My hand goes to his chest, and again I feel the thrum of his rapid heartbeat and it affects me. He affects me. Deeply. Passionately. Completely. “I’m just...I’m confused.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Romance