“Nightmare,” I murmur, throwing off the blankets and walking to the shower, turning on the hot water and climbing inside before it even warms up, shivering in the cold, savoring the heat. The water pours over me, and I do not fight what I feel. I revel in the hatred inside of me, no matter how toxic it might be. I buried it for years. I need to feel it and deal with it now.

The curtain moves and Gia climbs inside, naked and too thin, wrapping her arms around me. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“You should be in bed.”

“I’m feeling better. But you aren’t. Talk to me. Please.”

I could shelter her. I should shelter her, but I do not. “Remember when I told you I strangled the man who set the house fire?”

“Yes. I remember.”

“Liam uncovered some details about Rollin. He was disinherited right before the fire. I gave him money that day. I think he set the fire and then disappeared.”

“That explains so much. It answers questions you needed answered.”

“Knowing who and why only makes me angrier. But father or son almost killed you, too. If I get the chance, I will kill them, Gia. The bruises from my beatings might be fading now, but I’m still broken. I’m trying not to be that man for you and for my sister, but you need to know that the part of me that wants them dead—he’s still a part of me.”

“I know who you are. I know what you are. And I know what you feel more than you realize, I think.”

I study her, this woman who does seem to see me for all that I am, and I don’t know what to make of it. “I am not a scientist or a doctor. Or a billionaire architect. I’m a treasure hunter, a man who walks lines I shouldn’t walk. A thrill seeker. An adrenaline junkie.”

“A man who knows when the payday isn’t all that matters.” She smiles. “And a man who really, really loves the word fuck.”

And just like that, I’m laughing. I’m fucking laughing and pushing her against the wall and kissing her. Gia does that for me. She’s changing me. In this moment, I feel it. I feel her. And us. And I feel something I haven’t dared in a lifetime, it seems. A reason to live that isn’t hate and revenge. But the hate and revenge still feel pretty damn good.

AN HOUR LATER, I leave Gia and Amy for a final checkup with Dr. Murphy before Coco is to pick the doctor up to escort her on an extended vacation meant to ensure her safety. I, in turn, claim a spot at the kitchen table opposite Liam, with Tellar on my left, and join their work to turn Rollin into our endgame. And I do not miss Liam’s intense scowls, or the ridiculous fact that his black T-shirt is perfectly pressed. He knows we don’t have control over this situation, and he’s overcompensating. Nor do I miss the irony of my opposite approach, with my fantasies of banging Rollin’s head into a windshield. Tellar, it seems, is somewhere in the middle of the two of us, and I can only hope that gives us balance.

I’ve barely guzzled the thick syrup Amy calls coffee when I glance up to find Gia standing in the doorway, having traded in her pajamas for faded jeans, a pink T-shirt, and sneakers.

“Gia,” I say, standing, fully intent on insisting she go back to bed, but she is already moving toward the table, planting herself in a chair.

“I’m staying. Amy is with Dr. Murphy, and she says I’m fine to move around a bit.” I arch a disbelieving brow, and she says, “Ask her. She’s still here.” She grabs my coffee cup and sips, then crinkles her nose. “That’s horrible.”

“Hey now,” Amy scolds, entering the room. “I made that.”

“I’ll make the next pot,” Gia volunteers.

“Thank you,” Tellar says. “Amy seems to want to please Chad more than the rest of us, and apparently my last pot wasn’t much better.”

“Welcome back, Ms. Hudson,” Liam says. “Have you been feeling the tingles of architectural creations?”

“No, I have not, Mr. Stone. It appears I will not become a brilliant architect but will remain a humble chemist, damn you.”

“A rather brilliant chemist in your own right, from what I understand,” he replies. “You were on Sheridan’s top secret team.”

“I was,” she confirms. “And it felt like an honor. I really thought he wanted to save the world.”

“How do you think Napoleon and Hitler managed to get so many followers?” Liam replies. “We’re just glad he didn’t brainwash you, or Chad might not be here right now.”

“Right,” she says, twisting her fingers together on top of the table a moment before she looks at me. “Still no idea how Sheridan found you?”

“None,” I confirm.

Her teeth worry her bottom lip a moment before she says, “And no one has contacted us to demand or threaten us to get the cylinder that I don’t know about, right?”

“No,” Liam replies. “We’re on radio silence.”

“We’re certain Sheridan is waiting us out,” Tellar says. “Expecting one of us to surface. We just aren’t sure how long that will last before they get impatient, especially since the Chinese are putting pressure on him.”

“Yes,” she murmurs, her gaze going to me. “They know you’re with Amy and Liam now, so I’m sure they’ll call Liam.”

I arch a brow. “That wasn’t a question, so why does it feels like one?”

Lisa Renee Jones Books | Romance Books | The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Series Books
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