“You don’t have to.”

“Like hell. If you’re pregnant—”

“I’m not. I can’t . . . be pregnant.”

I blink and shake my head. “What? What does that mean?”

“It means,” she rasps, her voice quaking with barely contained emotion, “I had an infection when I was eighteen. It left me infertile.”

The pain in her confession is palpable, a deep cutting blade that clearly inflicts itself on her over and over, the way my guilt does me. And on some level, it’s the same, that sense of not having a family, of never being able to even try. “Gia—”

“Don’t offer sympathy that you know doesn’t help. I don’t want to bring kids into the hell that’s become my life anyway.” She jerks away from me and I reach for her, turning her to face me again, but somehow I lose whatever I intended to say. What am I supposed to tell her? That alone is better, when I know it sucks? That it gets easier? Because it doesn’t. It never gets easier.


“I said don’t,” she snaps. “This isn’t new to me, and if anything, the ‘why me’ I’ve asked myself too many times now has an answer. A child would have made this so much more complicated.”

There are no words of comfort I can give her. They’d be false promises, lies. They’d be hope, the kind I have for my sister, despite the doubts I have of her safety. “You are going to survive,” I vow. “I’m going to make sure of it.”

“Yes. I will survive, but we both know it’s not because of you. You’re going to get what you need out of me, and then send me away with cash and a new identity. Let’s keep this real. The sex is just sex, a way we’re both coping with our situation.”

I despise every word she’s just spoken, when I should embrace them. Instead, I want to make us both forget they exist. I need, and I don’t even know what I need anymore. I grab her pants and toss them aside, tangling fingers in her hair. “Sex is how we cope?”

“You know it is.”

“Then let’s do a little more coping.”

“Yes,” she whispers. “Let’s.”

My cock thickens with her approval, my body hard and hot. I can’t get enough of her but I’m damn sure going to try. I lower my head, anticipating the taste of her, the moment I will once again be inside her, when suddenly my cell phone rings. I pause, lost in a haze of lust, in a burn for this woman, but the ring sounds again, jolting me back to reality.

Blood pumping fiercely, I release Gia, scrambling for my pants, cursing myself for leaving my phone unattended. Relieved and scared shitless of what I’m about to hear, I dig it out of my pocket and hit the Answer button in time to hear, “I’m calling you back, motherfucker.”


AT THE SOUND of Jared’s voice, the tension in my spine eases only a fraction. “Tell me my sister’s alive.”

“She is. And she’s safe. For now. But we need to talk.”

“Define ‘safe.’ ”

“No imminent threat.”

“Where is she?”

“Do you really want to do this on the phone?”

“How likely is it that anyone else saw me go to that apartment?”

“The apartment itself, zero. I have it wired with cameras and a silent alarm. You were the first mouse in my trap, but I reset it to see who else might come calling.”

I open my mouth to ask if he means Meg, but glance at Gia, who’s naked and hugging herself, and I hesitate to bring Jared here for reasons I can’t explain. “1732 Wazee Street in half an hour.” I end the call and Gia is already getting dressed. “The contact I’ve been trying to reach left me a number at my sister’s apartment. We need to go and meet him.”


“I have a safe house near here where we’ll stay until we decide what comes next.”

“Then why come here at all?”

“I knew the maid service would rescue you if I didn’t come back from that apartment.”

She tugs her shirt over her head. “I don’t know if I should thank you or tell you you’re crazy.”

“Neither.” I sit down and start putting on my boots.

Gia sits and does the same with her tennis shoes. “So your sister’s alive?”

“He says she is.”

“You don’t believe him?”

I stand up and grab the duffel. “I need to see her with my own eyes.”

She nods and pushes herself to her feet, sliding her bag over her shoulder. “I would, too. Chad. How much do you trust this person we’re meeting?”

“I trusted him with my sister’s life.”

“Right. Of course.”

I narrow my gaze. “Why?”

“Because greed is a terrifying thing. What you have, or what people think you have, represents the kind of power that changes people.”

“And you know this how?”

“We all know it in our core. It’s humanity.” She draws in a breath. “You said you’d sell me if the price was right. What would this man do if the price is right?”

My gut clenches and I grab her and pull her to me. “I was trying to make sure you don’t trust anyone. I was trying to keep you alive.”

“I got the message. You’re a treasure hunter. I’m just lucky enough to be worth nothing to anyone—unless Sheridan simply wants to punish me for betraying him. But your sister is another story. She means everything to you, and Sheridan knows that. This man we’re about to meet knows that. Meg knew that. Even I know that. Listen to your own advice. Trust no one. Not even this person we’re going to meet now.”

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