“Where is this scientist?” Chen asks.

“Dead. Sheridan and Rollin didn’t want to share the profits.”

“And you have these things how?”

“I’m in love with his daughter, who Sheridan and Rollin just tried to kill as well.”

“Why kill the daughter?”

“To convince me to hand over the information she did not want released.”

“But she is willing now?”

“She almost died. She wants this over.”

He is silent a moment. “Why are you offering this to me?”

“Revenge. Sheridan and Rollin Scott want this. They can’t have it, and neither can anyone supporting them.”

He is silent a moment. “How much?”

“The complete destruction of Sheridan Scott, Rollin Scott, and the consortium supporting Sheridan’s operation.”

“No money?”

“I have money.”

“Hmmmm, yes. Revenge and blood, these are the riches of many a man. Send me the items. If am pleased, I will give you your revenge.”

“I’ll give you half the journal and half the schematic up front. The rest after you deliver your part of the deal.”

He pauses—one beat, two. “Transfer the documents to me electronically. If I am pleased we will make our deal.” He gives me an e-mail address. “I’ll be in contact if I am interested.”

“Wait,” I say when it’s clear he’s about to hang up. “Seventy-two hours, or I give it to someone else.”

“Ninety-six hours.”

“Fine,” I agree.

The line goes dead and I set the phone down, wasting no time keying my computer to life, but feeling the expectant stares of everyone around me. “He wants the documents electronically transferred,” I announce, glancing up. “He’ll be in contact if he’s interested.”

I can almost hear everyone suck in air, as if leveled by the uncertainty I’ve delivered. Tellar stands and disappears beyond the counter dividing our War Room from the main kitchen. I watch my screen as the “sending” icon becomes “complete.” “It’s done,” I say, leaning back to run my hands down my legs. “And now we wait.”

Tellar returns, setting a bottle of tequila and five shot glasses on the table. “I’d say we all need this right about now.”

Everyone at the table comes to life at his offering, cheering him as he fills our glasses, the mood steadily becoming more optimistic. Surprising me, Amy accepts her shot without hesitation, her actions confirming she is not pregnant after all. I am both relieved and sad for her, but this isn’t the right time. Not yet. But soon, I hope.

Lifting the glass, Amy smells the tequila and crinkles her nose. “I have to warn everyone, I’m a lightweight and a giggler.”

“I’ll carry you, baby,” Liam promises her, a gleam in his eye that would have made me want to punch him two weeks ago. Now, I’m just damn glad she has a man who protects her and loves her.

I glance at Gia to find her watching me. Winking, I lean in close to her, nuzzle her neck, and whisper, “I’ll carry you, too.”

She gives me a playful scowl. “Oh, Chad, you have much to learn. I’ll drink you under the table.”

I lean back and arch a brow. “Really?”

“No,” she snickers. “But it sounded good.”

I wrap my arm around her and Tellar lifts his glass, while we all follow. “To fucking up our enemies,” he declares.

“To fucking up our enemies,” I agree, and everyone laughs, clinks glasses, and downs their shots, Gia and I laughing at each other as we do. We all stand, and I throw Gia over my shoulder and carry her to the bedroom.

EVERY NIGHT FOR three nights, I wake in a sweat, reliving the fire in my nightmares. Each time, Gia is there for me, kissing me, fucking me, bringing me back to this world, and finally making love to me. And I am not alone, no different from everyone else. On day three, we are all sitting in the War Room when Amy has another blackout, her first in weeks, and scares the shit out of all of us.

It sets Liam into control mode, insisting we need a backup plan. He dials China again and intentionally puts a buzz out through his contacts that we are looking for a backup buyer. Bedtime arrives and we’ve still heard nothing.

On the eve of the deadline, when Gia and I finally enter our bedroom, she starts pacing, as if my habit has now become hers. I try talking to her. She paces more, and I take her to bed, where we don’t make love. We do a whole lot of fucking. And then we do some more. And finally we curl up together and sleep. Despite that, I wake from a nightmare in the throes of flames and fire, and find Gia is not in bed, a cold draft alerting me to the open door leading to the deck off our bedroom.

I grab my jeans and pull them on, and I have no idea why, but a sudden shooting fear for her safety overwhelms me, and I dart for the door, shoving back the curtain. Gia stands at the railing in only my T-shirt, shivering in the cold wind blowing off the water, staring forward to where the sun has begun to break the horizon. Certain she knows I am here, I gently snag her wrist, and she jerks, yelping in surprise as I lead her inside and shut the door.

“Are you trying to freeze yourself?” I demand, grabbing her robe and wrapping it around her.

“Yes,” she replies, shoving her arms into the robe, her teeth chattering. “I am. I just want to feel something other than fear and worry.”

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