Two people pass right by Gia, and her expression is pure terror but it works in my favor, setting her in motion as she starts checking doors with me. “Bingo,” I say, opening the door to an F-150 pickup. “Get in,” I order her.
Whatever her motivation for sticking with me right now, she doesn’t have to be told twice, quickly scrambling inside the vehicle. I follow her and order, “Stay low,” but apparently she’s smart enough to set a bomb and knows to get down on the floorboard, because she’s already there.
Crouching in the driver’s seat, I yank the plastic panel from under the steering column. “You’re stealing the truck?” she asks anxiously.
“If you wanted to grow morals, you should have done it before involving yourself with Sheridan.”
“Says the man looking in the mirror.”
“I never claimed to have morals,” I assure her. “In fact, I don’t have many. You should remember that the next time you want my help.”
“Won’t a stolen vehicle get more attention, not less?” she asks, leaving my smartass comment alone. “What if it’s called in to the police? Can’t Sheridan track us on a scanner?”
I ignore her, yanking out the wires and going to work, all the while wondering if that was a question or a warning from someone far too close to Sheridan to earn my trust. She had better not hold her breath on that one. It takes me sixty seconds to get the engine started, and I stay as low as possible as I put us into gear. “Don’t get up,” I warn. I notice the blood-stained tissues in her hand and wonder if that’s from the fence—but I plan to save her life, not take her for a manicure.
Backing out of the parking space, I spot a couple of men at the edge of the highway, both waiting a lot more patiently than I did for traffic, and I take the opportunity to leave via the farthest exit from the parking lot, out of their sight. “I don’t have my purse,” Gia says. “Or my credit cards—not that I think I can use them, but I have nothing, is my point. I have to go to the bank, maybe in another city so I don’t draw attention. I’ll grab cash and then we’ll be gone before he can get to us.”
“There is no ‘we,’ sweetheart, and I have a plan that includes untraceable resources.” I turn into traffic and take the ramp to I-35. “Why don’t you?”
“I told you before. I acted spontaneously. They were about to give you truth serum. You would have talked.”
I give a bark of humorless laughter. “Sheridan should know that I’m ready for that. It wouldn’t have worked.”
“It’s a drug. It’s not torture and mind over matter.”
“I have a plan for everything,” I assure her, which is a lie, considering truth serum had never crossed my mind.
“If you’re pointing out my lack of a plan,” she replies, climbing off the floor and onto the seat as we change lanes onto and take the exit for Ben White Boulevard, “you’re right. And I’m going to pay the price. I know you know that you don’t betray Sheridan and get away with it.”
My fingers flex on the steering wheel at her statement, which hits close to home, and the loss of my parents. “Who are you to him?”
“I’m the secretary to the head of the chemistry department,” she declares, and despite the quickness of the reply, it rolls off her lips awkwardly, the way most lies do.
“A secretary,” I repeat flatly.
“Yes. A secretary, and my boss is very close to Sheridan, so I do work for them both. The bottom line here is that I was in a position of trust. That means my betrayal will be unforgivable.”
Yanking the wheel sharply, I pull in at the storage facility I’d rented when I was here doing surveillance on Sheridan, putting the vehicle in Park and turning to face Gia. “I hate lies.” My voice is low, rough, vibrating with the six-year-old anger she’s managed to stir. “I hate the people who tell them even more.” I don’t wait for her reply, opening the door and storming toward the security system panel to punch in my code.
The gates start to open and I head back to the truck, my mind running in circles as I try to decide exactly what to do with Gia. Obviously she’s been close to Sheridan, deep inside his operation, which makes her a resource, but also dangerous as hell. With what I know is nuclear-level agitation, I yank open the door and climb inside without even looking at Gia. When I look at her, she stirs the protector in me, and makes me want to believe every damn lie she tells me.
I drive inside the facility, and Gia twists around to watch the gates shut. I have no doubt she’s on edge, afraid I might turn on her. I’m no murderer, but if I find out she had anything to do with Sheridan killing my family, I’m not responsible for my actions. No one works closely with Sheridan Scott and remains innocent for long. We halt in front of one of the many storage units in a row, a streetlight illuminating the cab of the truck. She reaches for the door. I grab her arm, cursing the rush of male awareness she stirs in me. “Stay here,” I order. “I’ll only be a moment.”
It’s her who avoids eye contact this time, giving me a choppy nod. Yep. She’s nervous all right—unsure if I’m here to do her harm. Good. Bad.
If she’s innocent, I don’t want her to feel fear. I shove open the door again and exit the truck, scrubbing my itching jaw, and retracing in my mind how Meg fooled me. I’ve been too busy taking my beatings to even think about it.