She stirs something that’s been bugging me for a while now. How did Gia get from a subway back to that coffee shop? I frown, thinking about the SUV. Where was Jared’s laptop? I could have missed it in the chaos, but it had been in the front seat.

“Why are you making that face?” she asks.

I blink and refocus on Gia. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“You,” she repeats. “Just you.” She squeezes her eyes shut and I watch the pain flicker over her delicate features, wishing I could make it end. “Hurts. It hurts.”

“What hurts?”

“Everything.”

I start to move, to get help and she says, “No. Don’t go.”

“Dr. Murphy—”

“Can’t help. Just . . . need to close my eyes.”

I ease back down, stroking her hair, caressing her shoulders until she relaxes into steady breathing. Sleeping, I think, until I lower my head to the seat beside her, and somehow, as weak as she is, she manages to rest her hand on my head. Like she needs to know I’m here. I am here, in every sense of the word, in a way I haven’t been in a very long time.

I’m not sure how long we stay like that before Dr. Murphy breaks us up, claiming my spot beside Gia to start the transfusion. Gia’s alert, watching the blood flowing into her arm, as she murmurs, “Maybe this will make me a brilliant architect.”

Liam’s low rumble of laughter reaches us, mingling with Amy’s, while Dr. Murphy gives a conspiratorial whisper of, “Let’s hope it doesn’t make you as arrogant.”

“I heard that,” Liam calls out.

Amy laughs and joins us, introducing herself to Gia, and I leave the women to chat, going to the front of the van to conference with Tellar. “Any word from Coco?” I ask.

“Apparently the hotel makes killer chocolate chip cookies. Other than that, nothing.”

“Killer cookies. She’s a piece of work, that one. “

“We have enough history for me to assure you that is true.”

“I won’t ask,” I laugh, noting the dimming horizon. “How much longer?”

“A little under an hour.”

I nod and turn to find Liam sitting forward, elbows on his knees, and I join him. “The famous Liam Stone in a simple van, no jacket, sleeves rolled up. Who’d have thunk it?”

“I’m much more of a simple man than you might think.”

“Prodigy. Protégé. Billionaire. You are not a simple man.”

“Humble beginnings,” Liam states, “and a father in jail for drunk driving. Simpler than you think.”

“I read that about you. I have to admit I didn’t expect you to share it quite so easily.”

“We are the sum of everything we’ve been and will be,” he says.

“Life as a math equation. Spoken like a true architect.”

“Spoken like a man who’s watched the woman he loves coming apart at the seams, after years of suppressing her past to survive it.”

“I know she’s hurt. I hurt for her, and now Gia’s become part of the same circle of lies. Thank you for what you did for her today.”

“I don’t need your thanks,” Liam says. “I need your trust.”

“Trust,” I repeat, the word playing on my tongue, unfamiliar but getting more familiar by the minute, it seems. “Amy told you about the cylinder?”

“Yes. And I told Tellar. I trust him.”

There is that word again.

“I know you spent time in Egypt, studying the pyramids.”

“Yes,” he confirms. “I did.”

“Did you know some believe the secrets of the Great City of Atlantis are buried somewhere beneath one of those pyramids?”

“I do, actually.”

“And do you know why? It’s said that they could harness the power of the universe, and such power corrupted those who used it and they self-destructed. The secrets to that power are said to be protected so that it can’t happen again. The moral of the story being that power corrupts. I believe you are honorable right now. I can’t know that won’t change.”

His lips curve. “No. But if it does, and it won’t, you could always just choke me to death, like you promised before.”

I give him a deadpan stare and then, to my surprise, I laugh. “Yes, I could. And I would.”

“I have no doubt that that’s a good thing. You could, but you won’t unless you have to, as proven by the fact that you could have killed every one of those consortium members after your parents’ death.”

“I thought about it. I’ve thought about it often, but each of them has connections outside that group, and I have no idea how many of them know about me. So instead, I gathered resources and prepared for a conclusion, and I planned to follow with revenge. At this point, I just want the conclusion.”

“Which is what?”

“If I knew that, we’d already have one.”

“I might have some ideas on that.”

“You don’t even know what I have. And what were you thinking, making a special appearance at an event you knew a consortium member would be at?”

“We were going to set a trap. Given all that’s happened, they’ll be ready for us now, so we’ll have to think of something else. And as of about fifteen minutes ago, I do know exactly what you have.”

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