I glance up from the computer, where I’ve just pulled up the ER floor plan. “That explains why she doesn’t remember what happened to her.”

“The good news is it doesn’t impact the toxicity of the arsenic, and there is a plan for treatment. We just need to get Gia out safely.”

That’s something I’m ready to have happen now, not later, and I start the conversation about how to execute a plan with that result. Ten minutes later, we have plotted our exit strategy. Twenty minutes later, Derek and Dr. Murphy are at the side door by the ER. Liam and Amy are in the SUV that is pulled around to the front, and Coco has arrived. Petite, brunette, and proper-looking, she is nothing like what her name and her ownership of a hospital gown suggest. Hugging her black trench coat around her, she waits for her moment and follows another visitor through the ER door.

Tellar and I are on her heels, following her down a corridor and slipping behind a curtain. Gia is lying in a bed, her lashes dark half-circles on her pale cheeks, unaware there are three people standing in her room. As Coco shrugs out of her coat and removes her shoes, I go to Gia. Tellar turns off the heart monitor so it won’t buzz when I pull the leads off.

“Gia,” I whisper softly.

Her lashes lift, eyes glassy. “Chad? You came.”

It kills me to think she believed I’d leave her. “I never left. I found you. I brought you here, and now I’m going to take you someplace safe.”

“And leave me?”

“No, but you’re going to go with Tellar, the friend who helped save you, and he’s going to get you to a doctor. I’ll be there soon.”

She glances at Tellar, who’s leaning over the bed now, and then back at me. “Promise?”

“Yes, sweetheart, I promise. It’s going to get scary, though.”

She tries to smile. “You need me to make a bomb?”

“Yeah,” I say, smiling back at her as I pull out her connections to the machine. “Yeah. To blow up Sheridan’s house.”

“That would be . . . fun.”

How she manages that word despite the kind of pain I see etched in her face, I don’t know, but my admiration for her grows every second I’m with her. “We need to take your medication with us,” I explain as Tellar hands me two IV bags and I lay them on top of her. “You need to hold onto these tightly. No matter what, hold onto them.”

“Yes. Okay. I don’t . . . remember what happened.”

“Remember me. And us.” I lean down and whisper in Gia’s ear. “Alone isn’t better. You were right.” I stand then and look at Tellar. “Let’s do this.”

He nods, scooping up Gia, and I turn and do the same with Coco, who pulls her coat over her head to hide her identity. I inhale and I exit the room in a rush, and a nurse comes after me. “What are you doing? She’s not discharged.”

“She is now,” I say, pushing through the double doors and entering the lobby. It kills me to know I’m leaving Gia behind.

SEVENTEEN

I EXIT THE HOSPITAL to find the open door of the SUV waiting for me, and I huddle down to allow Coco to climb inside. She quickly scoots across the seat and gushes, “That was a rush,” pulling her coat around to put it on, perhaps the only one of us enjoying this.

Joining her inside, I slam the door shut and shout, “Go, Liam!”

He accelerates and calls over his shoulder, “Any trouble?”

“Not on our end.”

“Is she out?” Amy asks, twisting around in the seat. “Is she okay?”

“I don’t know,” I say, already punching in Tellar’s number. “Coco and I were the distraction. We couldn’t tell what was happening with Tellar and Gia.”

Coco pulls some flat shoes out of her coat pocket. “The staff was disorganized,” she observes, “and Tellar’s good at what he does. I have no doubt they got out. The real question is if they got away from whoever they’re trying to escape.”

“Voice mail,” I announce at the sound of the beep I don’t want to hear, already hitting Redial.

“He won’t answer when he’s on the alert,” Coco says. “That’s how he’s trained.”

“How did Gia seem?” Amy asks. “Could she talk?”

“She was weak,” I say, “but more coherent than the last time I saw her.” I punch Redial again.

Coco covers my hand. “You don’t want him to answer to comfort you when he should be focused on protecting your woman.”

My woman. I barely have time to process the rightness of those words, when my phone rings and I answer with, “Tell me she’s okay.”

“We forgot to warn her that the doc isn’t working for Sheridan.”

“Oh, shit.”

“Yeah. She freaked out, and proved she has a whole lot of fight in her, but it took a lot out of her. She’s hurting. Badly.”

Pain. That’s what being ‘my woman’ does for her. “Can the doctor give her something to help?”

“She has, and we’re waiting for it to kick in.”

“You have a black sedan in your lefthand mirror,” Coco warns Liam softly. “I assume that’s what you want—to be followed so the others aren’t.”

“I heard that,” Tellar says over the phone, “and while that was the idea, it’s become a problem.”

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