At the mention of my bastard captor, all fun and games are over. My jaw clamps down, shoulders hunching beneath her touch. “Your boss knows the rules of my organization. If I show up anywhere near the people who can get him what he wants, and I’m less than a hundred percent, I’ll be considered compromised. It’ll be snatched out of my reach faster than I could make you scream my name, and that’s fast, baby.”

“There are ways to hurt you that won’t be seen. You know it. He knows it. He’ll make you talk.” She leans forward and presses her cheek to mine. A sweet, floral scent teases my nostrils as her long brown hair slips over my face and she whispers, “I can’t let you tell him where it is.”

She shoves herself off me, standing with the blade at her side, blood, my blood, staining her pale cheek, tension blasting off her and punching me in the chest. She looks determined, pissed off even, and for survival’s sake, I have to assume she means to act on her proclamation that she must ensure that I not talk. Which leaves me with only one question: What will she do to keep my mouth shut? The thought has me suddenly giving new respect to the knife in her hand.

“He can’t make me talk,” I promise her. “He’s tried.”

“You’re good,” she counters, using my words against me. “But I promise you, you’re not that good.” She doesn’t wait for a response, walking around me, disappearing out of sight for a moment before one of her hands comes back down on my shoulder. I don’t fight. It’s a worthless effort, and I don’t believe in wasting energy. Instead, I steel myself for the blade that’s sure to pierce my flesh at any moment, and I’m calm—at peace, even. I’ve done a lot of shit in my life. Somehow, this feels profoundly like the right way to go, dying to protect a secret I should never have unearthed in the first place. A secret that could either destroy, or save, the world. I don’t want to be the one who makes that decision.

No. Not me.

I’m fine with dying to protect this secret, I think, but as soon as I have that thought, an image of Amy’s face fills the empty space of my mind, and the innocence in her eyes shreds me. I left Jared a message asking him to protect her. I don’t know for sure that he got to her in time, and even if she is okay, who knows for how long? I fucked up, and now Sheridan knows she’s alive. He’ll go after her. He’ll think she has the secret only I hold. And others will go after her, too. I’m the only one she has to protect her, even if she doesn’t know I’m alive.

My fight returning, I try to look over my shoulder. “Don’t be a coward, woman. Face me if you mean to use that knife.” The instant I make the demand, a loud blast shakes the ceiling above us, confirming what I suspected: I’m in some sort of basement. Another flash of a second and smoke starts forming by my feet, fast filling the room.

The woman shakes my shoulders, shouting, “What did you do? What did you do?” when we both know a smoke grenade just went off. Since my hands are tied, she’s responsible. But I give her credit, and an A for acting skills. She appears in front of me and grabs chunks of my longish blond hair in her hands, jerking my head to the side. “What did you do?”

My eyes narrow on hers. “Payback is Rosemary’s baby, bitch,” I promise, a moment before the smoke consumes her and me.

She releases my hair, her hands coming down on my knees, and it’s clear she’s squatting in front of me. “What the—?” I begin, swallowing my words as she cuts free one of my legs and then the other.

She leans into me, pushing herself to her feet, and as much as my instinct tells me to stand up with her, I’m not doing anything to spook her before she cuts my arms free. Her hand goes to my shoulder, as if she’s afraid of losing me in the smoke, and freedom is so close I can taste it; adrenaline is pouring through me like liquid fire. She grabs my forearm, and every muscle in my body is tense as I wait for my bindings to be cut. Instead, there’s a new plastic cuff attached to my wrist that I instinctively know is about to be connected to her arm as well.

“Don’t even think about it,” I growl, using all of my energy to jerk the chair which barely moves. The original binding between my arms goes slack and I’m on my feet in an instant, the weight of another arm connected to mine evident. I can’t see my new ball and chain, but I damn sure can grab her. Yanking her hard against me and cursing, I reach for the knife, only to hear the clanging of steel on the concrete somewhere in the smoke cloud.

“Bitch,” I murmur. I’ve lost the only means I had to cut us free. I cup the back of her head, pulling her ear to my lips. “You just made a mistake you’re going to regret.”

Her fingers curl around my shirt. “I couldn’t let you leave me,” she hisses fiercely. “He’ll kill me if you leave me.”

“Don’t be so sure I won’t kill you,” I counter, releasing her and dragging her to the door, which I don’t hesitate to pull open. Sheridan doesn’t want me dead. My guess is he wants me to escape with this woman, whom he intends to have seduce me into taking him to his treasure. Obviously he, too, thinks I’m stupid.

I stop inside the door frame, inching around it just enough to see what my blindfold hadn’t allowed me to see upon my arrival. We’re inside some sort of unfinished office space on what appears to be a windowless basement level. “This way,” the woman says, moving in front of me and taking a step.

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