“You could just not be an asshole,” she suggests.
“I’m still me, sweetheart—so maybe I should just practice apologizing.” I brush my lips over hers. “By doing what I’m going to do, and what I should have already done. Make love to you for all the right reasons, instead of fucking you for the wrong ones.”
“Chad,” she whispers, and I swallow my name on her lips, kissing her passionately, intensely—licking into her mouth, tasting her, and then slowly undressing her, reveling in each new spot my tongue can travel. She moans, delicate, sweet moans that thicken my cock and soften my heart.
By the time I toss the last piece of her clothing away and settle between her legs, finding her clit, lapping at it, then sucking, she is already coming unglued. This is power. The only kind I need. I lift her legs over my shoulders, dip my fingers inside her, take her to the edge and back, and do it again. And finally, when I am hard and hot, and in need of her body wrapped snuggly around mine, I carry her to the bed, spreading her legs again and settling between them. I watch the pleasure ripple over her face when I bury myself inside her. Brushing my cheek against hers, I roughly promise, “I am definitely not going anywhere. And neither are you,” thrusting into her a moment later.
That’s when the wildness starts, the frenzied hot need that has my hands under her hips, lifting her to drive deeper, to take more. Now we are fucking, and it’s the best damn fucking of my life. Because she’s the best damned thing in my life. The woman who has pulled me back from the edge of hell, where I wasn’t burning alive, but raising hell of my own. Now, I’m putting it to rest.
But when I finally pull Gia into my arms and she falls asleep, I stare at the ceiling, with Jared on my mind. And I keep thinking about Gia disappearing at the coffee shop, and how I never once questioned her. Never once did I think she’d left and betrayed me. But I have always held back with Jared, telling myself it was about protecting him. He walked away from treasure hunting for honor. He was better than me. It doesn’t make sense. It just . . . doesn’t.
And yet, while I could reason away many things, no one else knew where I was when Meg found me. No one else. It’s then that I know we can’t just wait anymore for something to happen, digging through paperwork, waiting for answers. Hell can’t be put to rest until we shove Sheridan and Rollin Scott inside the hole.
“Gia, wake up.”
She shifts and lifts her head and then jolts upright. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Just the opposite. Get dressed. We need to make plans.”
“Yes,” I say, grabbing my jeans and pulling them on. “I said we were going to end this, and we are. Can you make a flawed but convincing prototype of the cylinder?”
“Maybe. I have the schematics.”
“Several remote electronic storage accounts, and a lockbox in Texas.”
“That might be all that we need.” I motion her forward. “Hurry. Get dressed.”
She scrambles to the end of the bed, rushing to the pile of her clothes by the chaise lounge. “What are you thinking, Chad?”
“I’ll explain once we get everyone together. I’m still piecing it all together in my head.”
Five minutes later, Gia and I enter the kitchen to find Amy, Liam, and Tellar at the table, with no signs of taking a break. When all eyes go to Gia, she holds up her hands. “Yes, my father created the cylinder. Sheridan killed him and befriended me. I never knew the cylinder existed. I fully intend to protect my father’s legacy by not allowing it to destroy the world. That’s all for now.” She motions to me and sits down.
I lean on the back of a chair. “And that about sums up the prelude to a realization that just hit me. That work for everyone?”
Tellar gives Gia a steely look. “Why didn’t you tell us all of this before?”
Gia bristles slightly and then lets her self-confessed nervous habit of being a smartass rise to the challenge. “I was busy being poisoned with arsenic by the man who killed my father.”
“Okaaaay then,” Tellar says. “Works for me.”
“I’m satisfied,” Liam states.
“Good,” I say, claiming my seat. “Let’s talk about a new strategy. We set Rollin aside. We can deal with Sheridan first, and we do that by going straight to the Chinese.”
Tellar leans forward, glaring at me. “What are you drinking? They’re far more dangerous than Sheridan and Rollin, and we have nothing to offer them.”
“Actually, we do,” I reply. “Gia has her father’s journal with notes and equations related to the cylinder, and a schematic for an early prototype.”
“Both will keep the most brilliant of scientists swimming in circles,” Gia adds. “My father coded it so it only meant something to him. It’s a jumbled confusing mess to everyone else.”
“Sheridan had the journal for six years, and no one he hired ever figured that out,” I add, leaning forward. “The plan is, we offer them the journal and schematic in exchange for crushing Sheridan and his consortium, and Rollin along with them.”
Liam shakes his head. “We don’t know how much Sheridan has told the Chinese. There is no guarantee they’ll settle for a journal and schematics. It’s too risky.”
“It would be if I were talking about going to Sheridan’s people,” I agree. “But I’m talking about one of the many radical groups tired of government oppression.”