Without a bra to tuck the cash into, I take off my shoes and distribute it between them. I hold the credit card in my hand and I’m certain it’s being monitored. One swipe at a register would tell Liam where I’m at, but Meg’s warning rolls through my head. They’ll kill him. It’s not the first time she’s said it. I’m convinced that at least part of her story is true. And of Chad being alive. I believe he’s alive. One swipe of the credit card and I know Liam will be alerted to where I am. I stick the credit card in my shoe, my dire emergency plan, and my way to reach Liam when I’m ready. Which will be when I know he won’t end up dead like everyone else in my life.
Meg is at the register when I exit and I gather a couple of protein bars and some fruit. We are just settling into the car when Meg’s phone rings. Her eyes go wide, terror in their depths. “My purse.” She starts scrambling for it. “Where is it? That’s the phone. That’s the one they gave me.”
My heart jackhammers and I search behind us and on the floorboard, grabbing it and handing it to Meg. The phone stops ringing.
“No!” Meg shouts and hits the steering wheel, her head dropping onto it, her long hair draped over her face.
“Try to call it back,” I urge, wondering why I doubt someone this distraught, but I do.
She lifts her head, tears streaking her cheeks. “Been there, done that. It doesn’t work.”
The phone beeps with a text and she glances down and goes even paler than she already is. “What is it?” I whisper, barely able to breathe.
She hands me the phone and I read the message, my blood running cold. You’re wasting time that Chad doesn’t have in gas stations and highways. Get on a damn plane and get me what I want or your lover boy is dead.
Meg turns to me and grabs my arm, her fingers pinching into my flesh. “What do we do? What the hell do we do?”
There is one answer and it is both right and wrong in every way. We go to Texas, where this started and deep down, I’ve always known it will end. Liam will find me there, though, and it’s clear we’re being watched. But I’ve warned him he’s in danger. He’ll play it cautious, and watch me from a distance like they, whoever they are, seem to be doing. I might even be safer for that reason. He won’t charge into Jasmine Heights and claim me as his. Who am I kidding? This is Liam Stone I’m talking about. Yes. Yes, he will. And these people I’m dealing with have killed before. They’ll kill again. They’ll kill him if I don’t find a way to protect him.
Meg grabs my arm. “Amy. Please. What do we do?”
“We go to a cheap hotel where we shower, change, eat real food, and sleep at least two hours. Then we figure it out.”
“We should figure it out now.”
“No, we don’t. We need to figure it out right. The wrong move and people die.” And no one else is dying on me. That’s the only “The End” I’ll accept.
Three hours later, we’re back on the road and pulling into the airport after sleeping for a couple of hours and showering. I’ve borrowed a bra that’s a size too big, a pink tank top, jeans, and a jacket from Meg, and I at least feel a little human.
Meg parks her Volvo in the long-term section of the Philly airport, and hangs up the phone after calling the airline. “We’re good. The flight that leaves in thirty minutes is still under-booked.”
“That’s perfect. We can buy a ticket at the gate right now and get a seat.”
“Liam Stone has money and power. He’s still going to be able to see you used your ID for the flight.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Because I’m right.”
Yes. She is. “That’s why I have to distract him. I assume that phone you’re using is under an alias since you helped Chad relocate me?”
She nods. “Yes.”
“Then I need to use it to call Liam.”
Her eyes go wide. “What? Are you crazy?”
“I’m going to convince him I’m in Denver and on the run. He’ll get everyone working for him focused on finding me there. It won’t keep him away forever, but maybe it will be long enough for me to figure this all out.” She doesn’t look overjoyed. I’m sure not. “It’s the closest thing to a solution we have.”
She hands me the phone. “You have to make him believe you’re in danger.”
I take it and turn away. “I know.” And I dread this clear to my soul. I take a moment to think of my story, then punch in the number I’m thankful I still remember. He answers almost immediately and how he knows it’s me, I don’t know, but he says, “Amy?”
The dark, gravelly richness of his voice ripples down my spine and I can barely breathe.
“Amy? Is that you, baby? I need to hear your voice. Tell me it’s you.”
The desperation and worry in his voice rips through me like a blade. “I can’t talk,” I whisper. “I snuck a phone. I’m in Denver. I...oh God. They’re coming. I...Denver, Liam. I don’t know where, and--” I hang up and drop my head to the seat, biting my bottom lip and willing myself not to cry. A horrible knotting sensation in my stomach starts and I pop the door open and get sick.
“Amy. Oh God. Amy are you okay?” Meg shoves some kind of fast food napkin at me and I take it, wipe my mouth, and grab the navy jacket she’s given me and my purse. “Let’s go before we miss this flight.”