A white truck pulls up next to me and the passenger door pops open. “Get in,” Jared orders.

Rushing forward, I climb inside, but it’s too late. Meg is gone, like my brother, and Jared is driving us I don’t know where.

Chapter Seventeen

“Now, what?” I ask as Jared pulls the rental truck onto the main road.

“Now we regroup,” he replies, and I can feel the probing look he gives me though his eyes should be on the road. “How did you end up with Meg?”

“How did you find me?”

“I hacked my way to nothing and clearly you dumped your cell phone because it wouldn’t ping so—”

“You had my cellphone pinged?”

“Hacker, sweetheart. Of course I did.”

“But it wasn’t in my name.”

“I saw Liam take you into the cellphone store. I added two and two, hacked the system, and got a lock on it.”

I remember the mysterious call I’d received. “You called my cellphone?”

“Liam had several lines. I had to make sure it was you.”

“You scared the crap out of me.”

“Not my intent. I have to use my tech resources to compensate for working on my own. And speaking of scaring the crap out of someone. What the hell were you thinking using the Amy Bensen ID? That’s how I found you, and I guarantee you it’s how others will, too.”

I don’t explain. I’m not done asking questions. “And you got here this fast how?”

“I was back in Texas already.”

“And Meg? Where has she been?”

“Disappeared when you did.” He pulls into a motel parking lot a few blocks from the restaurant that used to be my home. “And this is not Liam Stone quality, but it has beds.”

I grimace at the disdain in his voice when he says Liam’s name, and as much as I trust and love Liam, my brother’s worry over him worries me. “What’s your problem with Liam Stone?”

“Money. Money, and let me think. Oh yeah. More money.”

“Money’s a problem why?” I ask, despite money being exactly what has worried me about Liam in the past.

“Chad was in bed with an enemy with bucket-loads of money. Liam has bucket-loads of money and those people don’t grow on trees any more than the green stuff does. It’s a common denominator and it’s dangerous.”

“He’s not dangerous to me or my brother. He is dangerous to anyone who tries to hurt me.”

“If you trust him, then why leave him behind in Denver?”

“How do you know I wasn’t with him?”

“Hacking has a broad reach. He was looking for you just like I was.”

“I got spooked.”

“Stay spooked. It’s safer where he’s concerned. And he’s going to get that same ID flag I did. If I’m right about him, and he’s in this mess up to his neck, he’s going to come for you and we’re going to need a plan for him in this and soon.”

He clearly doesn’t know I’d reunited with Liam and I’m not telling him. “Did my brother say Liam was a part of this?”

“I’d love to lie and get you the hell out from under Liam’s spell. I thought you were out from under it, but you clearly aren’t. But you were right when you said you’ve lived enough lies. I haven’t had any conversations with your brother about Liam Stone, but I don’t like that when I got to Denver, Chad wasn’t there and Liam was.”

“Then do you have one piece of information in all your hacking or otherwise that says he is?”

“No, but--”

“No,” I supply. “That’s the answer. And yes, he has money. That isn’t a sin.”

“Do you trust me?”

“I don’t know you. I’m with you because my brother trusts you.”

“If Liam Stone wants whatever Chad has, he will come for you. If Liam Stone wants you, he will come for you. Either way, we have Liam Stone to deal with. And Meg, who you still haven’t told me how you ended up with.” He scrubs a hand over his jaw and sighs. “Right now we need to get inside where we’ll feel safer. I’m going in to register and I’d rather you not be seen, but I also don’t want you sitting here unprotected.” He reaches across me, his arm touching my leg as he opens the glove compartment and then slaps a gun on the seat between us. “I’ll be as quick as I can. I know you know how to shoot. Chad talked about you a lot. It’s loaded, so lock up until I get back and shoot anyone who isn’t me that tries to get in the truck. I’d say include Liam Stone, but somehow, I don’t think you’d listen.”

He starts to leave and I call, “Aren’t you afraid I’ll take off?”

“You want to save your brother. I want to save your brother. No. I don’t think you’ll take off.”

I open my mouth to reply but he’s gone before I can stop him, leaving me wondering what he has to show me, but then, I’m certain that was his intent. I watch him enter the motel, all loose-legged swagger and bad boy confidence, a different kind of male grace than Liam’s, but still wholly male, still a demanding presence. Though he looks nothing like Chad, he reminds me of him, and I can see them as friends.

Nervous about needing the gun he’s left me, I settle it in my lap, check for the safety, and spend the next five minutes scanning the area, intermittently eying Jared through the glass at the counter. I’m surprised to be calm and unemotional. I’m in that zone I use to use to survive. It used to be my comfort zone, a place I escaped the darkness of my fear, but it’s now an icy hollow place I do not want to visit.

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