Stunned, I turn to look at him. “How?”

“Dr. Murphy managed to install a bug in Sheridan’s office during her last visit. Derek, who I trust implicitly, is monitoring the feed while Tellar has been occupied. Apparently things just got more complicated. We aren’t in this alone anymore. Derek just overheard Sheridan making a deal with the Chinese, after someone told him Rollin is alive. He didn’t know that before. And I don’t think I have to tell you how big a problem the Chinese suddenly being involved is.”

“Does Amy know?”

He gives a sharp shake of his head. “Not yet. She’s been through hell lately, and I’m not looking forward to the fear this is going to create in her. But we have to tell her. And maybe knowing will stop her damned blackouts. What does Gia know?”

“Everything but where the cylinder is.” I take a risk, testing him by adding, “No one knows that but me.”

And he passes the test with a vehement “Keep it that way,” followed by “What we don’t know, we can’t tell willingly or unwillingly. You can’t give up the cylinder. It’s a nuclear bomb. Industries would crash. Jobs gone. We’re talking complete economic and world collapse. If one man controlled that cylinder he could re-create everything under his power.”

“That’s right. But I can’t destroy it, because one day the world might need it. And they’d never believe I destroyed it, anyway.” My brow furrows as a plan, that damn plan I’ve been looking for forever, comes to me. “But what if we make them all believe someone else has it?”

“Rollin?” Liam supplies.

“He’s the perfect fall guy. He’s faked his death. He’s crossed his father.”

“Agreed,” Liam says. “But we have to find him to use him, and that’s going to be a race against his father. Sheridan was furious about the betrayal. He’s on the hunt for Rollin, with someone feeding him information. That means they’ll either be preoccupied fighting each other, or coming after us from all sides.”

“Sheridan’s the one who grabbed me. Rollin must have someone inside his father’s operation. How else could he promise the cylinder to anyone? We need to know who.”

“I spent time in China for work. I have contacts, people that I trust within certain cautious boundaries—but I can’t make those calls until we get to the safe house and I have privacy.”

Gia’s voice carries in the air, stronger now it seems, with Amy’s laughter on its tail. “Safe house,” I repeat. “It’s not safe. They aren’t safe.”

“No,” he agrees. “They aren’t.”

I look at him. “Then this is war.”

“Yes,” he agrees. “This is war.”

Then Dr. Murphy appears and motions me to the back. “Gia is asking for you.”

I exchange a look with Liam—two men united, fighting for their women—then I head to the back.

Amy smiles at me. “We’re debating the merits of locking Sheridan in one of Dad’s dig sites versus poisoning him with arsenic. Or both.”

“Remind me not to piss you two off.”

“We will,” Amy promises, scooting forward to kiss me on the cheek, whispering in my ear, “I adore her.” Then she leaves to join Dr. Murphy and Liam up front.

I reclaim my spot by Gia.

“I love her,” Gia says. “She’s not an asshole like you, at all.”

I smile. “I love it when you talk dirty to me.”

She laughs and then flinches, her lashes lowering as she whispers, “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

I lean down and kiss her cheek, wishing like hell I could keep her out of this. She knows my sins, and she isn’t afraid. But this is war—a war I have to win, no matter how vicious, illegal, or bloody I have to be. And she’s going to see who I really am.

EIGHTEEN

IT’S NIGHTFALL WHEN WE ARRIVE safely at the sprawling Hamptons beachfront retreat we will call home for an indefinite period. I give Gia my T-shirt and settle her into a real bed, with Dr. Murphy carefully monitoring what becomes her rapid progress, and also tending to the wound on her hand that was becoming infected. By morning we have supplies, clothes, and all the comforts one might want from a vacation home, and I try to keep Gia in bed, focused on recovering, not on the unknowns outside these walls. Not an easy task, considering she wants to get up and join the roundtable in the kitchen Liam has labeled “the War Room.”

Both my sister and I rise to the challenge of occupying Gia in her bedroom “prison” as she calls it, relieved when she agrees to a Matrix movie marathon while I’m present, reverting back to Sex in the City while I spend time chasing leads on Rollin with Liam and Tellar.

I also get a lot of one-on-one time with Amy. We talked for hours on end, and still I hold back information to protect her. I have to protect her. It’s all bittersweet. She’s angry with me and happy to see me. And I’m angry with me, and happy to see her.

Days pass and each morning I wake from nightmares of the fire. And each day I get hungrier for this to end. Day four is the breaking point for me. I jerk upward from the bed, and I am still half-living my sleep-induced fantasy of slamming Rollin’s head into the window as I’d wanted to the last time I’d seen him. If I’d killed him, my parents would be alive.

“Chad. Chad.”

Gia’s voice breaks into the haze of my half-sleep. “Are you okay?” Her hand comes down on my arm, a soft caress over my skin that sends a chill down my spine, but I do not pull her to me or kiss her as I normally would. I am too on edge, too out of myself, and in need of a release that she can’t give me right now.

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