She swallows hard. “I didn’t even know Sheridan six years ago, I swear. If you hate me this much, why would you want me to come with you?”

“Because it’s not you I hate. It’s him, and you’re going to help me take him down.”

“You left me at the bus station to die.”

“I needed to know if you’d contact him. Now, are you walking, or am I carrying you?”

“I want him to go down, too. You don’t have to threaten me to do it, but I’m not his whore, or yours either. Don’t treat me like I am, or I swear to you I’ll fight you like no one ever has. And the answer to your question is I’m walking.”

I give her a look that has to be cynical. It’s all I can be anymore, besides pissed off. “Then let’s walk.” I grab her wrist and waste no time leading her out of the bathroom and down the hallway to the hostess stand, where the woman who’d tried to join us in the bathroom is talking to a man in a suit who I assume to be a manager. “Bathroom’s all yours,” I say, continuing to the front door and shoving it open.

I pull Gia forward, in front of me, and she glances over her shoulder at them and calls out, “Have a good night.”

I snort as we fall into step together on the sidewalk, her strides keeping remarkable pace with mine as we travel to the back of the restaurant. “ ‘Have a good night’?” I ask. “Really?”

“I didn’t want them to call the police and risk Sheridan monitoring the police frequency, which is why you should hold my hand or let me go. Right now, I look like your prisoner.”

I stop walking, dragging her in front of me, towering over her by nearly a foot. “You are my prisoner, and you’ll stay that way until I’m done with you.” I start walking again.

She double-steps to keep pace, and instead of fear in her voice, there is disbelief. “ ‘Done with me’? Then what? You’ll kill me? Or hand me over to Sheridan so he can do it?”

I step over the curb leading to the mall parking lot and she stumbles, forcing me to wrap my arm around her waist and catch her. She is tiny against me, soft and womanly, and I feel a warmth deep in my gut that I do not want to feel. I set her away from me and lead her to the truck, then quickly release her wrist, and it’s like ice on fire, a swift, welcome relief.

I yank open the door and motion her forward. She steps toward the cab but then whirls on me, the moon peeking from behind clouds, casting her in a warm glow. “You didn’t answer my question,” she whispers. “What are you going to do with me whenever you’re done with him?”

My hand comes down on the top of the window and I step closer, crowding her. “The same thing I was going to do for you with that fifty thousand dollars, but better.”

“You set me up to fail back there.”

“I told you. It was a test. Don’t stand in the way of me and Sheridan and we won’t have any problems.”

“Why doesn’t that answer make me feel any better?”

“It’s the only one you’re going to get right now.” I motion to the truck cab. “Get in.”

“If I say no?”

“You won’t.”

“I was doing just fine in that bathroom. I had a plan.”

“A fifty-thousand-dollar plan won’t help you escape Sheridan long term, and we both know you have one of two reasons to hide: Either you really betrayed him, or you let him down when you couldn’t fuck me into stupidity. Either way, you need me. If the latter’s true, you’ll still try to fuck me into stupidity.”

“I’m not—”

“Save it.”

“I’m not his whore, or yours,” she hisses. “Maybe if I keep repeating that, you’ll get it. You want information from me, and I want a real escape that doesn’t get me killed. The end. There’s nothing more to this story.” She climbs inside the truck, but her words linger in the air. Nothing more to this story. Suddenly, I’m transported back a year in time to the New York subway station where I’d met Meg.

I step off the car, trying to get to Amy’s job before she gets off work, keeping her close even if she doesn’t know I am. It kills me not to be able to talk to her, but I don’t dare. I am poison. I’m the reason she’s going through this hell in the first place. And she’s doing fine. She doesn’t seem to need me, but if she ever does, I will not fail her again, the way I did so long ago. The way I did our parents. Sometimes I just need to see her alive and well.

I push through the busy Grand Central crowd, about to exit to the street when a woman tries to go up the stairs at the same time as me. Our shoulders collide and I grab her arm and it’s thin, and she is petite and blond, like my sister, and I have to see her face, but she won’t look at me. She murmurs an apology and tries to move away. I hold onto her. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. I—” She seems to look at me despite trying not to, the mascara smudged on her cheeks, one eye black. She is small, fragile. Lost. I can’t leave her without helping her.

I jerk myself back to the present and blink Gia into view. She won’t look at me. But Meg did. She looked me straight in the eyes and lied without a blink, and I never guessed the “more” of her story. After five years of staying off Sheridan’s radar, I didn’t make mistakes, she became my one and only mistake, and I didn’t even love the bitch.

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Books The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Series Books Romance Books