“The same way someone else will if you keep living like this. The CB circuit is broad and truckers like money. And damn it, Amy, what if one of them had raped you? Or worse, killed you?”
“You think I didn’t worry about those things?” I demand, angry that the control I’d thought I’d had was nothing but a façade he’d destroyed with his money. “I did what I had to.”
“You ran when you overheard me talking to Derek. And, yes, I know. I saw the security footage. What I don’t know is what you assumed it meant. All I’m guilty of is trying to protect you.”
“I can’t trust you, Liam. I don’t trust you.”
“You think I’m involved in whatever you’re running from, don’t you?”
“I don’t know what I think.”
“Would I be here, in a public place with you, if I meant to hurt you? I could have waited until you were alone and cornered you.”
“You weren’t afraid to be seen with me in Denver.”
“Exactly.” He settles his free hand on my hip, and it is a branding, a claiming that sets my heart racing. “Because I have nothing to hide. And you have nothing to fear from me. Not from me. I would never hurt you.”
Not from him. There are so many ways to translate that. “Liam--”
“Do you know how good it is to hear you say my name again?” His tone is rough, affected. And I am affected by the emotion I sense in him.
“Let me go,” I whisper, telling myself I mean it, but I do not sound convincing, not even to my own ears.
“What do I have to do to convince you I’m the one you run to, not away from? Tell me and I’ll do it.”
“You put a camera in my computer. Nothing is going to convince me you are my hero whisking me away to safety. Nothing.”
“I didn’t put the camera in the computer. I found the one your ‘boss’ installed.”
I blink at the unexpected answer. Found it? Is he saying my handler put it there? That makes no sense. “Why would you even look for a camera if you didn’t know it was there?”
“Because nothing added up about your new boss.”
“You promised I could tell you what was wrong when I was ready, so either you lied about that or you’re lying about this.”
“You couldn’t tell me what you didn’t know was a problem. I won’t apologize for protecting you, Amy. Not then and not now.” He softens his voice. “Run to me. Not from me. Let’s get out of here before someone else finds you.”
Run to him. If only it were so simple. If only I could just say yes. “And if I say no? Will you walk away?”
“Don’t. Don’t say no.”
“If I do,” I repeat, “will you let me walk away?”
“Raw and honest, baby, no matter what. So, no. Not now. Not when I fear for your safety. I won’t let you walk away.”
“So you’re telling me you came here to kidnap me.”
“Call it what you want, but I’m not leaving here without you.”
“Amy? Is everything okay?”
I stiffen at Katy’s unexpected interruption and I try to pull my hand from Liam’s, but he holds on to it. “Think before you act,” he orders softly. “You’re already on too many people’s radar.”
“Including yours.” My lips tighten. “But I know.” And I do. It seems just about everyone can be bought, even the police, I suspect. They certainly document everything and have their own radio system.
“Amy,” Katy snaps, and her concern now rings more like irritation than anything else.
“Liam,” I say softly.
“Be careful,” he says, and with obvious hesitation, releases me.
I turn to Katy, acutely aware of Liam standing up behind me and stepping to my side, his shoulder brushing mine. “Sorry, Katy,” I manage, despite my struggle to think of anything but Liam. “I was catching up with--”
“An old friend,” Liam supplies, clearly avoiding the use of his name and this hits a nerve for me. I thought he was fine with being seen with me, but he’s not fine with anyone knowing who he is here?
Katy focuses on me. “We have customers. Some of yours are pretty angry. You need to get back to work.”
“Actually,” Liam says, reaching across me and dropping a stack of money on the table, “Amy’s resigning, effective immediately.” He straightens again, still standing protectively by my side as he adds, “That should pay for all of her tables tonight and leave a generous tip for you taking over on such short notice.”
Her eyes go wide at the large sum of money. “Oh. Well.” She scoops up the cash. “No problem. Sorry to see you go, Amy, but,” she looks Liam up and down, and her lips curve, “I get it. Believe me, I do.”
She turns and walks away, but I stay put, and I do not like where my mind is taking me. Liam has just paid Katy off. He paid the trucker to find me. My father lived a life filled with invaluable relics which translated to more money. I’d tried to find a connection between my father’s work and Liam, and had come up dry, but now I have it. Money.
Liam’s hand settles possessively on my back, and I squeeze my eyes shut at the shiver that races down my spine, angry that I cannot control myself with this man. “Let’s get out of here, Amy,” he urges and panic rises inside me.
Without a conscious decision to do so, I whirl on him and take several steps backwards. “I’m going to get my backpack,” I announce and I don’t give him time to respond, rushing away to the echo of his soft curse, and charging for the back of the diner. He won’t follow, I tell myself. He’ll want to avoid a bigger scene that draws attention. He doesn’t like attention or the press that comes with it. And I won’t risk the police, with nothing to truly report, and no certainty their records won’t somehow tell the wrong person my location. Or maybe the wrong person already knows. Maybe that wrong person is Liam.