“I told you that because I didn’t want you to figure out who I really was. You didn’t trust me. I was sure you’d think being my father’s daughter would make me look worse to you, or make me a bigger treasure to a treasure hunter.”

“And I threatened to sell you to the highest bidder! I wish you would have told me sooner.”

“There was never a right time, and then Jared came into the picture. I was sure he’d figure out the truth, and was relieved when he didn’t because I didn’t trust him. But the fact that he didn’t made me wonder if he knew and didn’t tell you.”

“You were right to distrust Jared,” I say, hating the truth, hating it so fucking bad. “He’s too good not to have known. Where’s that journal now?”

“I have a copy, and I’m sure Sheridan does as well, but the original was in the lab the day I overhead Sheridan’s conversation and helped you escape. And—it hurt, but I burned it.”

My hand comes down on her leg. “Why burn it, if you knew he had a copy?”

“Because not long before that day, I’d found a key sewn inside the journal cover and ripped it open. I didn’t want him to see I’d torn it open.”

“And the key goes to what? Do you know?”

“I knew immediately it was to a jewelry box that once belong to my mother.”

“And?”

“And inside, I found a piece of paper with an equation scribbled on it. It had my name on it and it said For your eyes only. I played with it being a part of the formula to create the cylinder, but it didn’t even make sense.”

“But you never gave it to Sheridan?”

She shakes her head. “No. It said for my eyes only, and I kept it that way.”

“Where is that piece of paper?”

“I burned it as well, but I kept the equation. She turns and lifts her hair, showing me the tattoo on her neck.

“Holy fuck, Gia!” I grab her arms. “That could be the answer everyone is looking for. We’re getting it removed.”

“It’s all I have left of him, Chad. I can’t lose it, and you didn’t even notice it. I have a lot of hair.”

“I should have noticed it. It has to go. We’ll find a place to keep it safe, carve it into a mountainside somewhere or whatever, but you can’t have it on your body. And no one but you and I can know. Not even Amy. For their protection, and yours.”

“Yes. Okay. But that really sucks, Chad.”

“I know, sweetheart. Believe me, I know, but it has to be this way.”

“Yes. Okay.” She squeezes her eyes shut a moment and then looks at me. “That day, at the car lot. Do you remember you told me your family died six years ago?”

“Yes. I remember.”

“That was when it hit me that my father was murdered, and the man I’d known as my godfather had done it. That’s why I went into the bathroom. I melted down. I tried not to, but it doubled me over.”

I pull her to me, holding her close. “I’m sorry. I was an ass to you that day.”

“Yeah. You were. A really big ass.” She inhales and lets it out. “Do you think . . . could my father be alive? Maybe they have him in a lab somewhere?”

I don’t know what to say to her. They killed my family. I know they killed her father. She shakes her head. “Never mind. I know he’s dead. Sheridan wouldn’t need me if he wasn’t.” She buries her face in her hands and murmurs, “I just don’t want him to be.”

I cup her face, forcing her gaze to mine, and I dare to say what I have not even allowed myself to think. “I know, Gia. I want my family to be alive, too. But we have each other, now. I know I pushed you away. I told you not to trust me. But it was only because I wanted you too much. And because I was, and am, falling in love with you.”

“I am too,” she whispers. “I’m falling—”

I kiss her, deep and slow, and when I finish, I murmur, “Don’t tell me you feel the same as I do. I don’t deserve that yet, but I swear to you, Gia, I will.” I try to kiss her again and she presses her fingers to my mouth.

“Don’t try to be what you aren’t. That never works for people. They wake up and realize they can’t do it, and they leave.”

They leave. It hits me then why she’d thrown my leaving Amy in my face earlier. She’s lost everyone in her life. Her mother and father, her unborn child and even the godparent she thought she’d had. And all I’ve done is tell her I’m leaving her, over and over and over again. “I’m not leaving.”

“Until you do.”

“Gia, I know you see how I left Amy. I know you heard how many times I said that we didn’t exist. I realize now that I’ve spent six years of my life aspiring to be a man worthy of the blame I felt I deserved for my parents’ deaths, filling the holes inside of me with everything wrong, not knowing everything right was out there. And I know what’s right is you.” I roll her to her back and she tangles fingers in my hair. “I can’t breathe when I think about losing you.”

Her fingers curl on my jaw. “Then don’t talk yourself into leaving.”

“I’m not going to take that fear from you with words. I’m just going to stay.” My lips quirk. “No matter how many times you call me an asshole, or how irritated I make you. We’ll fight and we’ll make up. And it’ll be good.”

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