My nerves are jumping, my skin crawling as if eyes are on me, though I find no signs that I’m being tracked. Trying to find the source of my discomfort, I weave through the neighborhood, walking inside several stores in a mall, where I intend to let darkness fall before I depart. With a new hat on, I finally exit back onto the street, and that sensation of being watched has eased. Returning to the hotel, I enter through its restaurant and a side door into the lobby.

It’s nearly eight in the evening when I take the elevator to our secure, key-coded floor and enter the suite, where I immediately hear “Chad! Is that you?”

“Yes. Who do you think it is? The bogeyman?”

“If his name is Sheridan then yes.”

Damn. I pace a few more times. I seem to be good at pacing. I’m good at a lot of things that don’t mean shit right now. I need to fix that, and fix it now. I need to find my sister. I need to destroy Sheridan. Angry, I grab the chair in front of the door and shove it aside.

“Oh, thank God,” Gia gushes, flinging her arms around my neck. “You’re in one piece.”

Stunned by her greeting, by the way her sweet curves meld against me, I fight the heat that rushes through me, untangling her grip and pressing her hands against the wall. “Tell me what you know about my sister,” I demand.

“Nothing, Chad. I told you that. Is she—was she—”

“You know I didn’t find her.”

“I wanted you to find her. I was terrified for you.”

Anger expands in me, seeping into my veins, and on some level, I know it’s not about Gia at all, or maybe I just fear it will be about her. I don’t want to trust her and be wrong. “You barely know me.”

“I know you’re in pain. I know what being alone feels like, and I know that’s what you feel right now.”

Alone.

It’s a word that pierces my heart with guilt. It’s what I know my sister has felt for six long years. I was all she had, the only one she could count on, even if she didn’t know I was there—and I failed her. The pain is a seed that grows and expands inside me in an instant, and suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, the idea of being betrayed by Gia is not as biting as the idea of failing her as well. My hands come down on her face, and I stare at her. “I have money and resources to hide you, and I promise you, no one will find you. But I won’t be there with you. I’m poison to anyone near me. You can’t forget that. I can’t forget that.”

I don’t give her time to reply. My mouth closes down on hers, my tongue pressing past her lips, stroking and stroking again, in what is instantly an aggressive, searching kiss. She moans, and I swear the sound of her moan shatters a piece of my soul that is already bleeding for my sister. In this moment, it feels like all I have left is this woman.

I let go of her wrists and her arms wrap around me again and she is small and delicate and somehow brave and bold at the same time. The touch of her, the taste of her, it’s like a rush of anger, passion, and need combusting inside of me, feeding the same in her. One minute I’m kissing her and she’s kissing me. The next we are naked and on the bed, her pretty pink nipples in my mouth, my cock buried deep in her sweet, tight pussy, and I am thrusting into her. There was no beginning to this. I don’t want there to be an end. There is just us, and I’m kissing her and fucking her and she’s just as ravenous. Just as needy. I am lost in this woman and her moans and soft touches, and she has become the only piece of heaven I have left.

“Chad,” she whispers, and in that instant my name matters more than her moans. It tells me that she knows who I am, really knows, because I’ve hidden nothing from her, shown her all of my good and bad and terrible self.

I answer her by licking into her mouth, softly murmuring, “Gia,” letting her know that I too am lost in the moment, but I know who I’m lost with.

Her leg wraps around mine as if I’ve given her the answer she seeks and now she’s fully committed, no holding back. My hand slides under her perfect little ass and I squeeze, lifting her, thrusting into her. Once again, I’m different with her than with the string of nameless women I’ve known, kissing her, unconcerned about the emotional bullshit that too much intimacy is to me. Gia tastes like the indescribable flavor of escape wrapped in sweet honey. And when she locks up around me, arching upward, her fingernails digging into my shoulders, her sex clenching around me, I am beyond control. I thrust into her, pushing deeper, and when her body clenches around me, spasms milking me, I too am tensing, shuddering with release. Time and space fade in and out, and I cling to that hazy, wonderful place where nothing but pleasure exists.

Like a hard slap in the face, the room returns, and with it the moment I wanted to escape that seems eternal. Reality is here, and so is the wet, wonderful feeling of being buried inside her that represents a huge mistake. “Fuck,” I whisper. “We didn’t use birth control.” I am off her in an instant, closing the space between me and the bathroom, and grabbing a towel that I toss at her before I’m back to pacing. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” She says nothing, and I glance at her unmoving, sitting with her back to me on the edge of the bed. “Why aren’t you saying anything? The last thing either of us needs is to bring a baby into this hell.”

Still she says nothing, calmly standing to retrieve her jeans. Frustrated, I close the distance between us, my hands on her shoulders as I turn her to face me. “What about this being a problem don’t you get? I am a target. I can’t raise a child.”

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