“No.” Her voice is soft, reluctant. “They didn’t make it, honey. Chad had nightmares over their loss and he’d wake up screaming. And I don’t know what happened, but he went nuts when he needed to move you to Denver. He was terrified of losing you, too.”
My gut clenches. Did I cause all of this by taking the job at the museum?
“I helped him get the note to you in the museum and set you up in Denver,” she continues. “We were going to do the same thing we did before and live near you, but we weren’t there long before he said he had to take a trip. He was supposed to be back in a day and he never returned. He just vanished. I didn’t know what to do. He’d set up certain things to help you and I only knew pieces of the puzzle to fit together for you and me. And he’d left me money, but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. I was trying to maintain your cover, but I didn’t fully understand.” She shakes her head. “I tried, Amy. I did, but I was scared and--”
I grab her hand, grateful for her help. “It’s okay. You did fine.” But nothing is making sense any more now than it has for six years and I feel like I’ve lost Chad in the same instant I’ve found him. “Are you sure Chad was kidnapped?”
“Yes. Absolutely. When you disappeared, I was confused. I started to think maybe Chad had simply left me. It was easier to deal with than thinking he was dead. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I went back to New York. It was the only link I had to you and Chad. I knew you’d been with Liam, so I took a job in the building next to his home and got to be friends with a waitress at one of the restaurants he frequented. People buzzed about him when he was in town, but he wasn’t there. You weren’t there. Looking back, I think me taking that job was a mistake. Either they already knew who I was and were watching me or they were watching Liam for you and found me because I was there. I don’t know. Something went wrong or right. Maybe it’s good because now we know he’s alive.”
“You still haven’t told me how we know he’s alive.”
She reaches into her purse and pulls out a 5 x 8 sealed envelope. My heart starts to race and acid burns my throat as I take it and lift the seal. Inside is a note and a small cellphone. I pull out the plain white note card and open it.
We have Chad. You have what we want. Get it for us or he dies. You have five days. Don’t make us kill him. We’ll be in touch.
The world is spinning again, spinning and spinning, and I can’t think. Adrenaline spikes in my blood and I can’t catch my breath.
“I don’t know what they want,” Meg says. “I don’t know. I had to get to you and I heard Liam was back in his house. I thought you could be there and you might know and --”
My gaze rockets to her. “You set Liam’s house on fire to get to me?”
“I read up about how to cause electrical fires that would be slow, and--”
“So you did it.”
“I had no option. I had to get you out if you were inside. You have to see that. You have to want to save Chad the way I do. Please understand. Please. I’m sorry.” Her bottom lips quivers and huge, trembling tears drip from her eyes. “I’m alone, too. He’s all I have. I have to save him.”
I start to shake all over and it’s like her tears are my tears, and they streak my cheeks. “He’s alive?”
“I hope so. I think so. He has to be.”
“He’s alive,” I repeat and suddenly we are hugging each other, both sobbing uncontrollably.
“Yes. He’s alive. I hope he’s alive. We have to keep him that way.”
“We will,” I vow. “We will.” And memories of Chad flood my mind and I find myself rejoicing in his life, and mourning my parents all over again.
How long we hold each other, two aching hearts, trying to survive, I do not know. But the vow to keep Chad alive is what burns inside me with as much heat as the fire that once almost stole him away. “We have to call Liam,” I say, pushing back from Meg and swiping at my eyes. “He can help. He will help and he has the resources to find Chad.”
“No. That’s why I had to get you out of there the way I did. I know you trust him, but Chad didn’t, Amy. He was freaking out about Liam. He’s got to be a part of this.”
“No. That makes no sense. He’s protected me.”
“Why? To gain your trust? To get answers? Think about it, Amy. How did you end up in first class going to Denver? And why was a billionaire on a commercial flight?”
I laugh, not flustered at all. “You don’t know Liam Stone.” I think of the one car in his garage. “He came from nothing and he skimps in areas other people wouldn’t.” And while I haven’t figured out fully why that is, it is, and that’s my answer.
“How did you get into first class?”
“I don’t know. Maybe Liam paid to get me there.”
“Exactly. Don’t you get it? Chad said he was trouble and we had to get him away from you.” She grabs my arms and her voice quakes as she insists, “Liam Stone is the enemy.”
Meg’s words hang in the air and she stares at me expectantly. I’m not sure what she expects me to say or do but I have a fleeting memory of the moment Liam had ripped the center of my dress with the dagger and I can almost feel the gentleness of his touch and kiss when we’d finally landed on the mattress. To me, Liam Stone is a man of infinite possibilities, but all of them still equate to one simple fact. He’s the man I love.