“I hope you like gingerbread,” Liam comments, all of that intensity of moments before sliding away. “Evans’ Cafe next door does breakfast all day and since they only do these in November and December, I admit to overindulging.”

“They smell wonderful but I find it hard to believe you overindulge in anything.”

That sensual mouth of his curves ever so slightly. “I have a few weaknesses. Gingerbread Pancakes. Architecture.” His voice deepens. “And you, Amy.”

Me. I am his weakness. I don’t let myself think of how true that might be, how dangerous I could be to him, and quickly indulge in a real treat for me. The truth. “Mine would be macaroni and cheese, ancient history, and you, Liam.”

His eyes blaze blue-green with a hint of amber lifted from the sunlight and water behind him. He is magnificently male in that moment, absolutely, devastatingly, a work of art. He motions to the pancakes. “Try the gingerbread. I want to see what you think.”

Remarkably relaxed considering I charged in here for a confrontation, I dig in. “Hmm. Yes. Wonderful. I see why you like them.”

Obviously pleased, he takes a bite. “Evans is one of two restaurants next door. There are also several high-end clothing stores, and a hair salon, as well as several medical offices, most of which have been there since I first met Alex.”

“How old where you when you moved in with him?”

“My mother died when I was fifteen.”

“And your father--”

“Long gone.” His tone is short in a way that says he’s done with the topic and he reaches for a glass of orange juice I think must be as bitter as the topic clearly is, from the sugary pancakes, but he gulps it down just fine. The same way he has every sour note life has thrown him and not for the first time I envy him that control.

An odd sensation churns in my belly, and I’m not sure if it’s about food, or how poorly I’ve handled my life. “Any chance you have something carbonated?”

He stands up and walks to the fridge and returns with Ginger Ale and a glass of ice. “My mother’s cure for all stomachaches. I had Evans bring you a bottle.”

I tilt the can to fill my glass. “They had Ginger Ale in stock?”

“They do now.”

He had them stock it for me and I soften inside with this knowledge. For all the hardness on Liam’s outside, he is capable of such tenderness. I take a sip of the soda and it is soothing to my stomach.

He claims his seat again, watching me. “Good?”

I nod. “It’s perfect. I thought rest would make me a hundred percent but I’m still not quite right.”

“You’ve been through hell. Give yourself time. When we get done eating, I thought I’d show you the rest of Alex’s dagger collection. There are some unique pieces that might interest the history lover in you.”

The idea intrigues me. “I’d like that very much. Do you collect as well?”

He leans back in his chair. “Not my thing, but Alex spent a lot of time in Asia and developed the interest, and about seventy-five percent of his collection, while living there.”

“What drew him to Asia?”

“Architecture. They like tall buildings. He wanted to be able to master that craft.”

“Like you have. Did you study in Asia as well?”

He nods and I feel relief at the confirmation it gives me. “Alex insisted I spend time there. He wanted me to learn from the best and he never considered himself that, even when everyone else did.” He leans forward. “I spent a lot of time in Asia, Amy. I never went to Egypt until a few years ago and I can prove it through my passport records.”

I reach for his hand and cover it. “I didn’t ask.”

“But you should. Knowing what you’ve been through, you have to suspect everyone. Just like you had to run when you heard that conversation between me and Derek. I don’t want you to ever doubt me like that again.”

I inhale and decide to embrace more of that honesty I’ve so rarely been allowed. “You have no idea how much the idea of you being the enemy crushed me.”

“I’m not the enemy and I want to be able to talk to you about Egypt and the pyramids and anything you want or need to talk about without creating fear and doubt in you.”

“It won’t. And I’d like that. I tried to block them out. I tried to block all of it out and I think that’s what led to my blackouts. I need to reconnect with my past.” And so I do. “They were my everything. We all traveled together until I was in high school, mostly through Egypt and Africa. I did my school work from dig sites. Working with my father, who was passionate and absolutely brilliant, represents the most amazing experiences of my life.”

His expression softens. “I felt the same way with Alex and with the many talented people he connected me with.”

“Did you travel while you were in school like I did?”

“Some, but I spent the bulk of my time in Asia right after I graduated from college.”

A sad smile touches my lips. “My mom said I was a great student. I got my work done fast and right so we could both get back in the dirt.”

“If it worked so well, what happened to change it all?”

“My father said he wanted me to have some kind of normal childhood, with a prom and all that fluffy stuff I was supposed to want. So my mother and I stayed behind and he and my brother conquered the world beyond.”

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