The engine roars to life and with it, something dark snaps inside me. I rotate to face her, my hand sliding under her dark brown hair to wrap the back of her neck. “I don’t trust anyone,” I say, lowering my head, bringing our mouths one hot breath apart, “and until I say otherwise, you are my possession. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Would it matter?”
“Don’t answer my question with a question.”
“Fine. For reasons I can’t define, no, I do not have a problem with that, but my answer is subject to change at any moment.”
And for reasons I can’t define, I don’t want her answer to change. I kiss her, and it’s a demand for something, anything, which only she can answer; my need for this woman is seemingly the only outlet for the guilt I’ve lived with and can no longer manage to contain.
“Well then,” she whispers when our lips part, “I guess I’ll stay sitting right where I am.”
“Yes,” I say, my voice gravelly, my body tight. “You will.”
I don’t let go of her. I don’t want to let go of her, but I don’t cave to my craving for another kiss, either. Instead, I find myself simply inhaling, drawing in the scent of her—no perfume, none of the fakeness that has haunted my life these past six years, just utterly seductive. Now I want that kiss. Now I need it, but suddenly the plane lifts off the runway, jolting me back to the reality of the hell on wheels we’re living. Hell, everywhere we go, I think.
I release Gia, facing forward, running my hands down my jeans, and I am suddenly certain that everything that’s just happened is a product of the all-too-familiar thrum of energy that it’s time I admit is an old friend. It’s a part of me that I’ve lived with for a good few years since the fire. Trying to shake it off, I set my computer bag on the ground, reaching inside to remove the folder.
Gia shivers beside me. “Do you think they have blankets on this plane?”
“I’m sure they do,” I say, unhooking my seat belt to stand up and open the overhead bin, where I hit the blanket jackpot. I stand still a moment in thought, wondering why Jared making a joke about Gia had set me off the way it had. He’s been a close friend and a protector of my sister while I was gone. What the hell is wrong with me?
Grabbing a blanket and two pillows, I slam the compartment shut, rejoining Gia, who eagerly covers herself as I buckle back in. “There might be a little Prince Charming in you after all,” she teases, snuggling under the cover.
“Only if you have a fucked-up idea of Prince Charming,” I assure her, shoving pillows down beside each of our armrests for later use. Reaching for the file, I flip it open on my lap. Gia shuts it, her hand resting on top of it and my legs. “You’ve spent hours going over that file and the data and photos inside. We both have. Tellar Phelps, security guard, ex-military: Buzz cut, tall, muscular. Melody Ethridge, a new friend of Amy’s: Blond, twenty-eight, high-end real estate agent. Likes to shop.”
“Her brother,” I say tightly. “Derek Ethridge, Liam’s best friend and a wealthy real estate investor who has put together financial investment packages tied to the Middle East and the oil industry.”
“He also gave Liam a reason to be in Denver when he met Amy.”
“So Liam could design a downtown development. Right. It’s certainly a good alibi.”
“Alibi? He didn’t commit a crime by bumping your sister to first class to meet her, Chad. It’s actually pretty romantic.”
“It’s convenient. It’s all very convenient.”
“A major downtown development, which Jared validated as real, would require someone with Liam’s design credentials. And there’s proof in the file that it’s a real development. Those kinds of massive projects don’t come together without effort.”
“If this was a setup meant to make me expose my sister, it could have been planned for a long while.”
“How would they have known you were going to send her to Denver in time to plan it? Did you detail that to someone before the last minute?”
“Why are you trying to protect Liam Stone?”
She lifts the arm and turns fully to face me. “I’m not protecting him, but I see how much you care about your sister. She’s not going to feel like you do, though. She’s going to feel joy that you’re alive and then anger that you left her alone. If you’re not careful, you’ll push her away, and that only gives Liam more power over her. And if he really loves her, and she loves him, it could drive her away forever.”
“I’m not trying to be her hero, Gia. I’m trying to save her life. If Stone turns out to be a good man when this is over, she can be with him.”
“Will it ever be over? I’m not sure it will. Think about this. You can’t just go in there and kidnap your own sister.”
“Why the hell not?”
“She’ll be furious.”
“And alive, Gia.”
“Even if Liam Stone isn’t the bad guy here, Sheridan is going to expect you to go after your sister. We now know that he knows where she is. He’s going to be watching her, but he won’t touch her until you show yourself.”
“Even if that’s true for now, it won’t be for long. Sheridan knows I’m alive. He’ll find a way to use her against me. I have to go after her, and I’ve told you before: I always have a plan, and this time will be no different.”