“She has nothing you want,” Liam bites out, “but mark my words, Mr. Smith, if I find out you have what she wants, you’ll regret the day you were born. And I will find out.”
“Because you have money? That doesn’t work with me. I, too, have money.”
“Money has nothing to do with it. It’s what I’m willing and capable of doing to protect what’s mine. That’s what matters here. Push me I will make you bleed in ways you never believed possible. We’re done here.”
Liam turns me to the door and we start walking.
Liam pauses with his hand on the door handle.
“It’s you who do not know what I’m capable of.”
I watch Liam’s lips hint at a cynical smile and now he turns to face Smith. “Not everything, but there are at least a hundred ways I do know you in that paperwork I gave you, and all those ways are illegal. Read through the document and butter up some popcorn. There are some real blockbusters in there.”
And this time, Liam and I leave. Tellar and Jared follow us into the elevator car and the need for silence is killing me. The instant we are in the truck, I turn to Liam but I open my mouth and snap it shut, afraid I could say something that could later incriminate him.
He leans in, resting his cheek next to mine like he does sometimes and whispers, “Yes. I really did it, and I will do anything to protect you and make you happy. Anything.”
We arrive at the private section of the airport and exit the truck. Dr. Murphy arrives in a private car and Tellar helps her with her bags. Jared turns to Liam and me and says, “This is where I say goodbye.”
“No,” I insist. “What about Chad? We need your help.”
“I’ll look for Chad my way.”
“Why not join us?” Liam asks. “Consider it a private hire job.”
“I freelance for a reason. I work best by myself.” He flicks a look at Liam. “And the jury is still out on you for me, Liam Stone, but the book isn’t closed.” His gaze settles on me. “Take care, Amy.” He turns and starts to jog toward the building.
I dart after him. “Wait! Wait!”
Looking surprised, he faces me and I say, “You’re the way Chad reaches me.”
“If Chad calls, I’ll be in touch.” He softens his voice. “You can’t live thinking Chad will reappear, Amy. That’s not living and that’s not what Chad wanted for you.”
Wanted. Past tense. He thinks Chad’s dead. “And you, Jared, can’t live without hope, or you won’t be living at all.”
He studies me a moment, his lips quirking, a cold wind reminding us it’s November despite being in Texas, blowing wisps of light brown hair from the clasp at the back of his neck. “I haven’t really lived in a long time. I’ll be in touch.”
He starts jogging again and this time I let him go. Liam steps to my side and laces his fingers through mine. “He left because he thinks Chad’s dead.”
“He left because this isn’t his place or his way, not because of Chad. That doesn’t mean he’s gone. Either of them.” He motions to the plane. “We need to get you off your feet.”
I nod and let him lead me onto the same private plane we’d been on once before. The doctor fusses over me when I don’t want to be fussed over, and finally Liam and I settle into private seats beside each other in the back of the cabin and pull the curtain for privacy. With a blanket and a pillow, I lay on my side facing Liam, and he does the same. The engines churn louder and I think about how much has happened since that first time I’d seen Liam in the airport and sat next to him on the plane.
“That flight to Denver, did you have anything to do with me ending up in first class?”
“Of course I did. I asked if you were making it on the flight and there was one coach seat left. I paid the guy sitting in first class next to me fifty thousand dollars to take it.”
I gape. “You paid fifty thousand dollars to sit next to me? I don’t understand. You were flying commercial. You could have flown private for that.”
“I fly commercial often. I don’t believe in throwing my money away, but that fifty thousand dollars was the best money I’ve ever spent.”
“You didn’t know me.”
He reaches up and strokes my cheeks. “When our eyes met in that airport, I saw another lost soul. And baby, you will never be alone again.”
I curl my fingers on his cheek.
Liam and I spend the entire flight talking about pyramids and I find myself excited to talk about my family and the many amazing things I experienced with them. Honoring them, as Liam had once suggested.
By the time we walk into his home, my home, I am exhausted, but I am eager to gobble down a pizza in bed with him, and when he calls it our “habit”, it creates a sweet, warm spot in my chest. Not since I lived at home with my family have I had habits I shared with anyone. I fall asleep in Liam’s arms feeling safer than I have in a long time but as I drift off to sleep, I cannot help but think of Chad, and wonder where he is.
“Honey, grab the mail?” my mom asks as she stirs a pan on the stove. “I’m expecting something important.”
“Sure, Mom,” I say, pushing away from the table where I was working on my homework.
Humming the new song I just downloaded off of iTunes that I can’t get out of my head, I leave the kitchen and head toward the porch, thinking I’ll never get used to my mom baking cakes rather than digging in the dirt beside my dad.