“Yes, well, I’m not you. I don’t deserve peace, and Gia doesn’t deserve this world any more than you did.”

“You deserve peace, Chad. You do. You do.”

“I got us into this.”

“No. I know more than you think I do. I overheard conversations and I’ve gathered some information. Dad borrowed money. Sheridan extorted him. Mom slept with Rollin, and I lived with knowing that by convincing myself that it was to protect Dad. And you started working for The Underground and tried to help. Sheridan’s the monster, not you.”

“I see Jared’s been running his mouth.”

“I needed answers. I deserve answers.”

“I know that, Amy, but I’d prefer to be the one to give them to you. And you’re right. Dad borrowed money from Sheridan to fund dig sites. Big sums of money he should have known better than to borrow. But I didn’t know Dad was in trouble when I started working for The Underground. I did it for the high and the money I wanted. I even took jobs for Sheridan when Dad told me Sheridan was trouble. But when I tried to pay off Dad’s debt, Sheridan insisted I do another job for him. He wanted me to find something for him that seemed innocent enough.”

“Until it wasn’t.”

“Right. And once I knew what I had, I wasn’t sure who to give it to and I’m still not. I think they knew, and it’s speculation, but I’m fairly certain Rollin threatened Dad to get into Mom’s bed and try to find out more about what I was doing. When he pressured me I told him I couldn’t find what he wanted. He said someone from The Underground said I did.”

“The Underground betrayed you?”

“I never told anyone about that job. Someone lied for the payout. And I promise you, if I knew who, they’d be dead.”

Her brow furrows. “I’m confused. Who helped me hide, then?”

“A friend.”

“So the tattoo wasn’t for The Underground?”

“No. It was just a tattoo we got together one night out partying.”

“Where is he now?”

“Dead, Amy. Everyone close to this dies.”

“Oh God. Chad, I don’t understand. If Sheridan thought you didn’t have it, why kill him and burn down our house?”

“He must have believed I had it, and thought I was selling it to someone else.”

“But . . . then he made sure he’d never get it either.”

“I know. I’ve spent six years trying to make sense out of it. There is none.”

“I need to know what it is. I need to feel like I have a reason to keep fighting this fight.”

I reach up and stroke hair behind her ear. “And you deserve that and so much more. It’s a cylinder the size of a pencil eraser that would make enough clean energy to make all other sources of energy unnecessary.”

Looking confused, she asks, “Isn’t that a good thing?”

“Yes and no. It would crumble industries and governments. It would make the one person who holds it in their hand capable of demanding anything. Doing anything.”

Liam joins us and I give him a hard look. “We need to talk.”

He gives me a nod and we move several feet away, but I don’t wait to lay into him. “What the fuck is she doing here? You’re a damn prodigy architect, which means you’re supposed to have brains. What part of ‘they were herding us to one spot’ do you not get?”

“Herding us, or trying to make us scatter like wild, scared animals? We had Amy cornered in that hallway, the three of us all willing to die for her, and they picked another target. Right now, she’s safer right here with us.”

“You want to know about ‘right now’? Right now, Jared is most likely being tortured for information he doesn’t have to give. When they find that out, they’ll lash out again. Amy can’t be here for that.”

“I need to know what’s going on.”

I am not in the mood to explain anything to this man. “Ask Amy. I just told her the entire story.”

“I need Gia Hudson’s family!”

I whirl around, rushing to meet the fiftysomething gray-haired nurse near the double doors Gia disappeared through. “I’m Gia’s husband,” I announce as Amy steps to my side and asks, “How is she?”

“Disoriented, but stable and resting,” the nurse reports. “We’ve started fluids to help with the nausea and to flush her system of any toxins.” She hesitates. “We’re waiting on your wife’s test results, but I need to let you know that the syringe tested positive for arsenic.”

Amy gasps, grabbing my arm as if she needs to be steadied. “Arsenic,” I repeat, the word falling from my mouth like lead, impossibly heavy. Impossible to believe. “She was injected with arsenic?”

“It would seem likely, yes.”

“What’s the treatment for arsenic poisoning?” Amy asks.

More importantly, I ask, “What’s the survival rate?”

“There are a number of drugs and protocols, depending on the toxicity,” the nurse replies. “Right now, her condition suggests limited exposure. Let’s hope that proves true.” She offers me a clipboard. “We’d like to have you sign for consent. We feel like it’s best to start treatment now.”

“Without the final tests?” Amy asks. “Is that safe?”

“Time is critical with a toxin,” the nurse explains. “We feel this is the smart choice.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Romance
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