“It means we’re complicated, just like I said to Amy.”

“You think I’ll leave.”

“Of course you’ll leave.”

“I know what I said—”

“Over and over, you said it. I told you alone wasn’t better. I did. I meant it, but we don’t know each other.”

“What? We do. I want to know more.”

“No. No, I don’t. I don’t want to feel what you make me feel.”

“What am I making you feel?”

“Confused.”

I back her against the railing, my legs framing hers, hands cupping her face. “You aren’t pushing me away. I don’t know why you’re trying.”

“Amy needed you and you stayed away from her.”

“To protect her, Gia,” I argue, hearing the accusation in her voice. “Is that what this is about? You think I’ll leave. I’m not leaving you.”

“Chad.”

I squeeze my eyes shut at the sound of Tellar’s voice. “Now isn’t a good time.”

“Make it a good time.” The hardness in his voice has me releasing Gia, who immediately retreats, hugging herself.

Frustrated, I turn to face Tellar, finding his spine erect, his expression pure stone. My brow furrows, and I don’t have to ask if there’s a problem to know that there is, nor do I miss the irony of having sworn I would end this, sparing Gia and me nothing in the worst of moments.

I look at her, willing her to look at me, but she doesn’t. Amy exits the side door again, a well-timed companion to Gia, and for reasons I can’t explain, it feels almost too well-timed. But as I step toward the living area with Tellar, and Amy moves toward Gia, I frown when she doesn’t look at me. What the hell is going on?

Following Teller to the kitchen, I find Liam sitting at the same spot that he’s occupied for days, but his eyes are not on his computer screen. They’re on me. Silently, he motions to the seat beside him, giving me the impression he wants me closer than in the past, the conversation tighter. I join him, and Tellar claims the seat across from us. They share a look, and unease has me snapping, “What the hell is going on?”

Liam’s lips press together a moment before he asks, “How much do you know about Gia?”

Just the question punches me in the chest with dread. “Why?”

Tellar answers: “Because looking at the files again made me realize we didn’t have one on Gia.”

“I had it on my computer that disappeared from the SUV,” I reply. “Jared pulled it for me when we were in the city.”

“So you reviewed Jared’s file?” Liam asks.

“Yes. Completely.” I narrow my gaze on him. “Whatever you aren’t saying, just get to it.”

“Does the name Madison Cook mean anything to you?” Tellar asks.

“That’s the man who created the cylinder,” I reply.

“That’s Gia’s father,” he says.

“No,” I say, rejecting that bomb. “That’s impossible. Her last name is Hudson, not Cook, and she told me that her father was a chemist at the university. Cook was a scientist at NASA, who worked on the cylinder there until funding was cut and Sheridan offered him private support.”

“And the files that Jared gave you confirmed that Gia’s father worked at the university?”

“No,” I say, a knot forming in my stomach. “He gave me her employee record from Sheridan’s company records.”

Tellar slides an iPad in front of me, showing me Gia’s birth certificate. “Gia Hudson. Mother: Gia Marie Hudson. Father: Madison Cook.”

Barely believing what I’m seeing, I run my hand over my face. “Her parents were never married,” Tellar says, pointing out the obvious. “And Jared seems too good to miss what I’ve found this easily. Did he know her before you did?”

“No,” I say, praying that answer is right. “She doesn’t trust Jared.”

“Or she was afraid that he’d tell her secrets,” Tellar offers.

“I don’t trust Jared,” Liam says. “I never did, but right now, Gia’s the one we need to focus on. We don’t know what she wants done with her father’s cylinder. If it’s the same as us, we don’t have a problem on that end. We need to know for sure, though, and I’m not sure how we make that happen.”

“She wants the same as us,” I say. “I’m sure of it.”

“You didn’t know her history,” Liam argues. “You can’t know her motivations.”

I scrub my neck. “I was an asshole to her. I played up being a treasure hunter when I thought she was working for Sheridan. I told her that I would do anything for money, including selling her back to Sheridan, to scare her into helping me.”

“Since she kept her mouth shut about her past,” Tellar says, “I’d say you were convincing, which leads to another problem.”

“What problem?”

“Records show that her father died in a car accident a month before your house burned down,” Tellar explains. “I did some digging and someone was sloppy. Her father was in Alaska the day he was supposed to have been killed in a car accident in Texas.”

My anger rises swiftly, barely contained. “Be careful where you’re going with this, Tellar.”

He holds up his hands. “Hey man, I don’t believe it was you. I’m simply stating facts here. You told her you’d do anything for money and she knows you got the cylinder from somewhere and her father was obviously murdered.”

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