Gia has already collapsed on top of me, both of us exhausted, sated. For a minute, maybe two, I just hold her, before rolling her to face me. We don’t speak at first. I’m not sure either of us wants the return to reality, and with it, our battle. But finally, Gia ends the silence. “Alone isn’t better.”
God. This woman could make me forget why alone is better. I reach up, stroking hair from her eyes. “Gia—”
The doorbell rings and I’m on my feet in an instant, tugging on my pants and grabbing my gun from the holster at the foot of the bed. I open the bedroom door to find Jared already at the door to the apartment. “Delivery,” I hear from the hallway before Jared says, “Yes. We were expecting you.”
I lean on the doorframe, willing the adrenaline rush in my body to calm. Jared turns to look at me over his shoulder, giving my naked chest and low-hanging, unzipped jeans a look before shaking his head in frustration. He really doesn’t trust Gia, and I really have to face the facts that Gia can’t yet fully comprehend: In a world where a delivery makes me draw a weapon and I question everyone and anyone, including a longtime friend and the woman in my bed, being alone is better, and trust doesn’t exist.
HOURS LATER, all three of us have showered and thrown on casual attire. The sun has set long ago behind the skyline, darkness a cloak beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows of the main living area. The marble coffee table is the command center of our hours of work piecing together anything that might be of value to defeat Sheridan and protect Amy.
Stretching, I lean back on the ottoman I’d pulled to the end of the table a good hour ago, watching Gia tab through something on her computer screen while she nibbles on a slice of pizza. Seeming to sense my attention, she arches her brow with a questioning look. I answer by lifting my chin toward Jared, who is sitting on the opposite side of the couch from her. “Just wondering how you’re surviving the stench of his anchovies.”
Jared glances up from his computer, but doesn’t stop typing. “I guess she doesn’t have your delicate little nose.”
“Chad’s right,” Gia says, crinkling her nose. “They stink.”
“Spoken like a person who ordered ‘just cheese’ pizza,” Jared responds. He seems to have grown more comfortable with Gia as we’ve shared information, and she’s become comfortable with him as well.
“Anything that’s furry and stinky should not go in food,” Gia fires back. “And it’s funny how furry and stinky remind me of Sheridan. I just finished typing up everything I remember about the year I spent with the man. The dinners. The conversations. The people in his life. I just e-mailed my notes to both of you at the addresses you gave me. I’m [email protected]”
“GiaGia?” I ask, and it’s my turn to arch a questioning brow.
“It’s a memory,” she explains.
“Gia, you know—”
“That I’m not Gia anymore,” she finishes. “Yes. It’s a free e-mail address on Jared’s protected remote server. Let me cling to my past where I can safely.”
“There is no place to do it safely. I didn’t make those kinds of assumptions, and I still don’t know how I was located and targeted by Meg.”
“So far I can’t find a clear answer to that,” Jared adds, “and I know you’ve looked as well, but I’m not exactly focused right now. I just fed a personnel list for the facility Gia worked at into a program I created, as well as the guest list for Friday night’s party. The program will flag certain criteria I’ve coded it to look for, but it’s going to take a few hours. I can speed it up by not running anything else at the same time.” He pulls another computer out of his briefcase. “Good thing I have a backup computer.” He glances at me. “I’ve done this previously with Meg and come up dry. When I couldn’t find anything on her electronically, I followed her to a restaurant and bar in Denver, played the social game, and left with her fingerprints. I’ve done a few jobs for the FBI, and I managed to get her details run through their system without leaving any record the search was done. Nothing turned up. She doesn’t exist.”
I’m blown away by everything Jared’s done, feeling like a shithead for doubting him. “Thanks, man. Seriously. I didn’t even have time to leave you money when I disappeared. I swear you will be repaid generously in every possible way.”
“The only payment I need is for this to end. And I’m pissed as hell that Meg escaped my radar. She was in Texas at the same time we were, and then she was just gone. No sign of her again, and she’s the only link we have to Rollin. And it makes me nervous as hell to know he’s a dead man walking around out there somewhere, a license to kill from his fictional grave.”
“The upside,” I say, “is that I can have the honor of putting him in his real grave.”
Jared turns his computer toward Gia. “You’re sure you don’t remember seeing Rollin before?”
Her brow furrows. “You know, now that I see a larger shot rather than the cell phone photo you showed me before, there is something about him, but I don’t know what. Maybe . . . a photo on Sheridan’s credenza, perhaps?” She shakes her head. “But I’m not really sure. I didn’t exactly get invited to his office to chitchat about his personal life.”
“Why did you go there?” I ask.