We stare at each other, the heat of that kiss burning around us like damning flames, ready to consume us. We can’t happen, I remind myself, grabbing her hand, the touch scorching my palm, but I don’t let it stop my progress forward, leading her to the hallway and down the stairs.

Entering the kitchen, we find Jared standing at the stone island in the center of the room, a coffee cup, a laptop, and a file sitting in front of him. “I see you found the coffeepot,” I comment, my hand protectively at Gia’s back.

“The beer was older than the coffee, so coffee won,” he says, but it’s not me he’s focused on. It’s Gia. “And you would be?” he asks, giving her a once-over.

“Gia,” she supplies, and rather than avoiding him, she leans on the counter across from him. “And you’re Jared. I’ve heard all about you.”

“And yet I’ve heard nothing about you,” he counters. “How’d you end up with an asshole like Chad?”

“The same way she ended up with an asshole like you,” I assure him, claiming the spot next to her. “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“I was working for Sheridan’s company,” she supplies. “I overheard Sheridan talking about Chad and something he wanted from him. Next came the order to torture him, and I just . . . acted.”

His gaze flickers between us. “Did you know each other before this?”

“No,” she says. “I acted in the heat of the moment, without thinking about the consequences.”

Jared’s brow furrows. “If you thought he was in trouble, why not call the police?”

“Sheridan’s very powerful. By the time the police came and investigated, Chad would have been moved, and I would have been fired and probably called crazy.”

“It’s complicated,” I assure him, spooning a shit-ton of sugar into my coffee. “And we don’t have time for me to explain it to you right now. Bottom line, Gia made decisions, and Sheridan thinks she knows more than she does. Right now, I’m focused on Amy and getting her away from Liam Stone.”

“That’s no easy task. He’s possessive, and protective, and keeps her guarded. Add to that the fact that she’s in love with him and won’t walk away, and you have a problem.”

“She’s not staying with Liam fucking Stone. For all we know, he’s holding her for ransom, like bait, and I’m the fish.”

“That might be true,” he says, “but you aren’t going to convince Amy of that easily. She’ll fight leaving Liam. And she knows you’re alive, Chad. Or, she knows you were a month ago. I had to play your voice mail to me to get her to trust me. You can’t just leave her a note and a warning this time.”

Gia’s hand comes down on my arm. “She’s going to be hurt,” she warns. “You need to tread cautiously, because she could withdraw from you rather than welcome you. That could push her closer to Liam, and give him more control over her.”

The idea of hurting Amy, of her hating me, continues to tear me to pieces, but I will endure her wrath to save her. To know she’s alive and well. “Her safety has to come first. I’m going after her. Now, tonight.”

Gia turns to me, gripping my arm tighter. “Sheridan will expect you to go after her. You can’t just charge in and grab her.”

“I told you. I always have a plan.”

“ ‘Grab her, run, and deal with the aftermath later’ is not a plan.”

“It will be if I say it is.”

TWELVE

TRYING TO ARRANGE A FLIGHT that I can be certain won’t make it onto Sheridan’s radar turns into a nightmare and uses a shit-ton of resources. Aside from cash, I end up calling in a favor from someone who had dirt on someone who had dirt on the pilot. It’s nearly five in the morning when we reach the private airstrip a good hour outside of Denver from which we’ll take a private jet to New York City.

With a computer case on my shoulder and the folder of Jared’s notes and photos inside it, I follow Gia inside the luxury plane with leather seats, a lounge area, and televisions. To say I’m irritable and tired is an understatement, but after hours of grilling Jared about Liam Stone and everything he’s witnessed these past weeks, I can come to only one conclusion: I need to get to my sister now, not later.

My hand comes down on Gia’s back and I direct her to a seat by the window, quickly joining her. We’re both buckling up when Jared stops in front of us. “If you’re done grilling me, I’m going to the back to try and get some sleep.”

“We’ll have in-flight internet. I’m going to dial in and do some research, but I’ll save the questions until after you get your beauty sleep.”

He holds his hands out to his sides. “What can I say? I hack better when I’m beautiful. And seriously, man. You need rest. When was the last time you slept?”

“About four hours in two days,” Gia answers for me, “and before that catnaps while tied to a chair for I don’t even know how long.”

“Go away,” I order Jared.

Jared laughs. “Night-night, Prince Charming.” He gives Gia a sympathetic look. “You’re welcome to join me in the back of the plane if he gets intolerable.”

He disappears and I grimace at the empty space he occupied moments before and say, “You aren’t going anywhere with him.”

“You act like I’m your possession. Or . . . like you don’t trust him.”

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