“I’ll keep an eye on the door,” he replies. “I’m on edge just being in this city.”
Giving him a nod, I turn Gia and myself toward the coffee shop, and we enter and sit in a corner, where a waitress quickly takes our order. And while I fully intend to redirect Gia to the topic of her confessionlike statement before our arrival, she beats me to the punch. “I’m nervous like Jared, too, Chad. I can’t help it. We’re targets.”
“We’re fine, Gia. I need to know what you were talking about back there.”
She straightens, shoving her dark brown hair behind her ear. “What? I don’t know what you mean.”
“You really thought he was a good man. What did he convince you to do?”
“It’s not what I did; it’s what I could have done.”
“What does that mean?”
“You didn’t hear the conversation I did. The man has a God complex. If he gets the cylinder, the world will not be the same. The idea that I was helping him, even looking up to him, is just . . . it’s hard to swallow. He was like a father figure to me.”
“A fucking father figure? How close to him were you?”
“He took the time to get to know all of us on the team.”
“How many were there?” I ask.
“Only four? So you knew him well?”
She shakes her head. “No. No, that man I overheard talking was not the man I knew. The man who killed your parents is not the man I knew. He showed us a façade of a man who was all about honor and changing the world for the good.”
I laugh bitterly. “Right. All about changing the world for the good. Or rather, his good. How did he get close to you?”
“Our group had weekly dinners. I feel stupid, but he’s a gifted deceiver.”
The coffee arrives and I wait for the waitress to leave, finding Gia’s eyes clear again, as if she’s regained control. “Why do I feel like you’re still not telling me everything?” I lean closer to her, my voice soft, but firm. “I told you, Jared is the best hacker on the planet. He’s going to look into you, Gia. I’ll find out what you don’t tell me.”
“Mr. Wade,” I hear, looking up to find the hotel attendant. “Here are your keys.” He slides a small envelope in front of me. “We’ve left a concierge services menu in your apartment, along with a variety of property information. I had your luggage sent up already. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“We have a few retail deliveries that should arrive soon.”
“I’ll make sure they’re sent up promptly.”
“Thank you very much.”
The man departs and I stare at Gia, needing the truth, no matter how brutal it might be. “If you started out as an ally of Sheridan,” I begin.
“You’re an ass,” she whispers fiercely. “You tell me not to trust you and yet you demand I do in all kinds of ways. And then when I dared to share a part of my heartache over this, what happens? You accuse me of basically donating my body and soul to Sheridan’s efforts to be the most powerful man on the planet.” She stands and I follow her, lacing my fingers with hers and stepping close, our breaths mingling.
“Hurting you is the last thing I want to do. I just don’t want to get burned.”
Her gaze jerks to mine, her hand flattens on my chest, and I know she must be able to feel the racing of my heart. “I don’t either.”
“This was the wrong place for this. Let’s go upstairs, where we can be alone.”
She lowers her chin, no longer allowing me to see her eyes. I want her to look at me, to let me see that the answers she hasn’t given me aren’t going to make her the enemy. But there are too many people here, and the window of opportunity is lost.
“Come on,” I say, deserting our coffees to lead her toward the shop exit. I stop dead in my tracks as we clear the line crowding the entryway and see Jared talking on a phone.
“Who would he be talking on the phone with that you consider safe?” Gia asks beside me.
“Not a damn soul.”
Seems I’ve been busy worrying about the wrong person.
I CHARGE FORWARD and Gia keeps pace with me. Jared seems to sense our approach, ending his call and punching a few buttons, which does not diminish my growing anger before he starts toward us. We stop toe-to-toe, him explaining his actions before I can demand answers.
“I have alerts set up on Liam Stone, Sheridan Scott, and every member of the consortium Sheridan works with, and my program leaves me voice mails.” He shoves the phone in my direction. “Take it. Check.”
Despite knowing he’d had time to erase any evidence, I don’t hesitate to take the phone, determined to catch anything he might have missed. Glancing down at the screen, I confirm the message alert, but a frisson of my initial unease lingers and I don’t stop there. I go to his call log and check for anything further, but then, he could have cleared his log in expectation that I would look at it.
Still, I scan it, and it gives me nothing. I should be comforted. This is Jared, the man who helped me save, and hide, my sister. It’s then that I realize my “trust no one” philosophy hasn’t been as pure as I thought. Until this moment¸ I trusted Jared.
Eyeing my longtime “friend,” I hand him back his phone, watching as the anger seeps into his brown eyes. “You asshole,” Jared accuses in a low, vehement tone. “I see what’s in your face. How can you think that I’d betray you, you son of a bitch? I exposed myself to Liam Stone, and thus Sheridan, for you, and I don’t even know your damnable secret.” His gaze flickers to Gia and back to me. “Do you want to talk about what I just found out here, or elsewhere?”