“Chad!” I rush him and he’s on his feet at the same instant I fling myself around him. “I can’t believe you’re here.” He’s been away forever it seems, first at college and then in Egypt. “Is Dad with you?”
“Yeah, but you know, he and Mom have to catch up.” He wiggles a brow. “At least they have a door. Those tent sessions they used to have could get awkward.”
I laugh and we settle into the seats. He kisses my head. “How’s school?”
“Miserable,” I confess. “I want to be in the field with you and Dad. So does Mom.”
“Finish school. It’s good for you.”
“You left college.”
“Dad needed me in the field and I didn’t leave. I’m working for school credit and you know I have windows of time when I’m in class.”
“Right. I guess.”
He sighs.“How’s Luke?”
“He took off to college in Austin.”
“Good thing I’m not there much. Don’t like the way the bastard looks at you. He’s lucky I don’t beat his ass.”
A hotspot forms in my chest. I’ve missed how he protects me. I miss our family. “Why do you hate him so much?”
“He’s a user, known for bed-hopping and then bragging afterwards. I don’t want you becoming a conquest.”
“Like you don’t bed-hop.”
“Out of necessity and because I’m not a one woman kind of man. I don’t live a life that supports a girlfriend, but I don’t brag and I don’t make promises I can’t keep.”
Because he’s a goodbye waiting to happen. “When do you leave again?”
The hotspot is now an ache. Two days. “Oh.”
“We’ll be back for your eighteenth birthday.”
In six months. I guess I’m supposed to cheer up now.
A loud sound jolts me and I sit up. “What happened?”
“We need gas,” Meg announces, and I glance around to find we’re at a gas station and her door is open. “You’ve been asleep about an hour.”
“Asleep,” I repeat, and frown with Luke’s name in my head. Luke. I know why I dreamed of my brother, but why does Luke keep showing up in my dreams? At least they are dreams, not flashbacks with blackouts, I remind myself.
“Want anything from inside?” Meg asks.
My stomach rumbles. “I need a snack, but I think I’ll go to the bathroom.”
“Just get whatever you want and put it at the register.” She climbs out of the car and shuts the door.
Grabbing my purse, I go still with a memory. My fake boss in Denver was named Luke. My fist balls over my racing heart. Chad had been trying to tell me he was alive. Don’t like the way the bastard looks at you. He’s lucky I don’t beat his ass. No. Chad, being bossy, macho Chad, had been trying to tell me he was about to beat Liam’s ass.
“Damn it,” I whisper. “He’s not the enemy.”
Shoving open the door and shivering against the cold, I glance at Meg over the hood. “I’m freezing. I really need clothes and a coat of some sort to make it the next few days.”
“Oh gosh, yes. I’m sorry.” She pops the trunk and opens it, displaying a couple of suitcases, unzipping one and handing me a jacket with a hood. “We can grab you some stuff on the road, too.”
I nod and slip on the jacket. “Any idea why Chad would have put a camera in the computer you gave me to use back in Denver?”
She snorts and shuts the trunk. “Yeah. He didn’t trust Liam Stone. He was determined to find a connection between him and the men he was in trouble with.”
I was right. The name Luke had been no accident, but it’s just creepy thinking my brother would tape me. What if he’d seen Liam and I having sex? Did he? The thought is choke-worthy. I refocus on Meg. “Did Chad find a connection to Liam?”
“No. Not before he...you know. I’m shocked you found out about the camera. He was confident you wouldn’t.”
I don’t say anything and I’m confused by how she claims to not know anything about how Chad had set up my living situation, and yet she knows so much. My gaze lifts to the store and it hits me that I can call Liam and tell him I’m okay. I need to hear his voice. I think he needs to hear mine.
I motion to the door and start walking when Meg calls out, “Amy.” Turning I tilt my head in silent question and she says, “Either he’s one of them and he’ll kill us the minute he has what he wants, or he’s not, and they’ll kill him for getting involved.”
Suddenly the ice in my blood is far colder than the winter air chilling my bones. I don’t reply. She’s right. I can’t involve him. I have to let that idea go. I give her a choppy nod and start walking, and it hits me that I was wrong. She has thought about what happens when and if we hand over whatever these people want from us.
Inside the store, I find the bathroom, where I lock the door and let air rush out of my lungs. Think, Amy. Think. But nothing comes to me. I have no plan. I walk to the sink and the girl in the mirror is a horror show of puffy eyes, no makeup, and witchy blonde hair. My hand flattens on my belly where my reason to survive above all else rests. I’m going to figure out an answer. I just have no idea how.
Wanting the comfort the gun offers, I flip open my purse, and instead stare at the contents: a makeup bag that I unzip to find well-stocked, a brush, hairspray and a wallet. If the make up bag is stocked....I grab the wallet and flip it open, to stare at the wad of cash inside and the black American Express Liam had once given me and I’d discarded, that he’s replaced. Liam has made sure I was taken care of and then some.