“What the fuck are you doing here?” I growl.
“Help me by protecting my sister.”
“Liam has Amy, and I’m not going anywhere.” We cross a busy street, dodging cars, and while I try to dodge him right along with them, it doesn’t work. He reappears by my side, already running his mouth again. “Did you hear me? It’s a trap. Whatever this is, it’s a trap.”
“Of course it’s a fucking trap.” Nearly at our destination, I force myself to slow to a fast walk, scanning for potential trouble. “It’s also a ticking clock, with Gia’s life on the line. They killed my family. They’ll kill her.”
“Let me go in after her,” he says. “They aren’t expecting me.”
“That’s not happening,” I say, but right about the time I’m about to shove him against a wall and give him a knee he won’t forget for ten years, I spy a cop on the corner and decide that’s a bad idea.
“They could grab you the minute you walk in the door.”
Once again, I’m forced to trust him. “Good thing I have a sniper at my back.” We stop at the door. “I know my sister wants me to live, but no one else dies because of me. Gia comes first.”
“As it should be,” he says, opening the door for me. “Sniper at your back.”
Another time, that statement would give me pause, but I don’t allow myself to think of anything but Gia. Entering the coffee shop, every muscle in my body is stiff, every nerve ending on edge. I scan as I walk, confirming Jared and Gia are at none of the ten or so sparsely populated tables, continuing toward the hallway leading to the back exit. Entering the enclosed hallway where I’d reconciled with Amy, I find it empty, but my heart misses a beat as I catch sight of the bathroom doors.
“I’ve got this one,” Tellar says, stopping in front of the men’s room and reaching under his jacket to hold his weapon.
At my nod, he enters, and uncaring of who I might interrupt I repeat his action with the women’s bathroom, my hand covering my gun, dread in my gut as I push open the door to find the immediate area clear, both stall doors shut. Bending down, my heart stops beating as I find someone sitting on the floor and recognize the boots as Gia’s. Straightening, I try to open the door. “Gia! Gia, open up.” She doesn’t reply and I jiggle the door harder, afraid to kick it open and slam it against her. Pushing my way into the unlocked stall next to hers, I climb onto the toilet and bring the stall below into view, feeling sick at what I find. Gia is bound and gagged, her head hanging forward, a needle stuck in her arm.
“Tellar!” I shout, lifting myself over the divider, feeling as if Sheridan is using a shovel to gut me right here and now. “Tellar, damn it!”
He bursts through the door. “I’m here.”
“Call an ambulance. They injected her with something, and she’s not moving.”
I JUMP OVER THE STALL WALL onto the toilet beside Gia and unlock the door, which immediately opens in the other direction, and then drop to one knee to wrap Gia in my arms. She doesn’t move, and I can’t breathe. What if she’s not breathing? I’m reaching for the syringe, wanting it out of her arm, needing it out, when I hear “Stop!”
Tellar bends down in front of me. “Some poisons are lethal to touch. Some so potent even gloves won’t protect you.”
“Poisons,” I repeat, the word heavy on my tongue. “Please, God, no.” I reach down and untie the gag around her mouth, leaning down to thankfully feel a light rush of air. “She’s alive.”
“I could see her chest moving,” Tellar says, shrugging out of his jacket and using it to remove the syringe.
Trying not to think about what a drug so lethal that it can kill by touch could do if injected, I untie her hands. She suddenly jerks and gasps, grabbing my shirt. “Chad. Chad. I . . . where am I? What happened?” She starts shivering. “Cold. I’m so cold.”
“Hold on, sweetheart. I’ve got you.” I maneuver to get out of my jacket and Tellar takes it, laying it on top of her, and I don’t miss the absence of her jacket or her purse.
She looks up at Tellar, stares at him a moment, and then, as if she’s just seen him, pulls back, shrinking against me as if she’s just noticed him. “No. No. No. Who are you? No.”
“Easy, sweetheart,” I murmur, holding her tighter. “This is Tellar. Remember. Amy’s security guard.”
“I’m a friend,” Tellar promises. “I called for an ambulance, Gia. Help is coming. Okay?”
“Yes,” she whispers. “Yes. I . . . Amy?” She turns to me, her bottom lip trembling, tears on her cheeks. “Is Amy . . . okay?”
“Yes,” I say, astounded by the selflessness of her worry. “She’s okay. You’re okay.”
“No. No. I don’t . . . promise me you won’t make this for nothing. Promise me. My father . . . he . . .” She shivers and curls into me.
“I’m sorry, Chad,” Tellar says, “but we need to talk about what to tell the police.”
He’s right. I hate him for being so fucking right. I hate Sheridan. I hate all of this, but I cup Gia’s face, forcing her gaze to mine, and her skin is icy—so very icy. “Gia.” She blinks. She shuts her eyes. “Gia, honey, listen to me.”
“Listening,” she whispers. “Can’t open . . . eyes.”