Understanding seeps through me, in a far too familiar way, and my hands go to her shoulders. “I get it, sweetheart, I do. Waiting sucks. It guts you. That’s why I kept treasure hunting all these years. I could find a way aside from mass murder to save Amy, and the cylinder, and those hunts gave me the rush I needed and a lot of money if Amy and I needed it. If we need it, Gia.”
“I don’t want money, Chad. I want a real life. I want to work in a lab, the way Amy wanted to live at archeological dig sites. I want to take a walk with you and not fear being grabbed and poisoned with arsenic.”
“I know. Just have faith. We aren’t doing nothing. This is going to work. I feel it. I know it.” I lead her toward the bed. “Come try and rest a little while longer.”
She shakes her head. “No. I can’t. I think I’ll take a run.”
Then my phone rings by the bed. I’ve carried it with me everywhere for days, and it had been quiet. I launch myself at the nightstand, grabbing it. I sit on the bed, and Gia goes down on her knees in front of me. Our eyes meet, anticipation between us, and I draw a breath and hit Answer to hear: “We are satisfied with the terms, but Rollin is recorded as dead.”
A crazy mix of relief and adrenaline rushes through me. “He was disinherited by his father. He’s trying to steal what we have to sell out from under his father.”
“Make the call to lure Rollin out now, then, and get me details. Preparations for the destruction of Sheridan and his consortium are already underway.” The line goes dead.
“Well?” Gia asks, on her knees beside me now. “What happened?”
“They’re in, sweetheart. We just have to set the trap for Rollin.”
“Oh my God. Could this really happen? Could it be over?”
I grab her and bury my face in her neck, drawing in the sweet scent of woman, my woman, who I am not letting anyone else hurt. “Yeah, sweetheart. It’s happening. This is going to work.”
She leans back. “Now what?”
I glance at the clock, which reads six in the morning. “We wake Sheridan and set the bait for Rollin.”
She settles back to listen in, staring at me as I listen to the line ring once, twice. Sheridan answers, his voice like sand in a wound, and I don’t waste a good greeting on him. “It’s Chad, you piece of shit. You win. Gia almost died. No one else gets hurt. I’ll give you what you want.”
“You do know how to wake a man to sunshine,” he drawls, and I can almost see the gloat on his face. “When? Where?”
“Full circle. Texas. The same spot where I last met Rollin.”
“I’ll be in touch.” I end the call.
He autodials back, and I have not protected the number, on purpose—I want Jared to hack his phone records and show up. I’m looking for a standoff. I let the phone ring and stand up, pulling Gia to her feet. “Let’s go share the news.”
I lace my fingers with Gia’s and we walk into the hallway, and I laugh as Gia shouts, “The Chinese called!”
I hear doors start opening around the house. “I guess that’s a good way to wake them up.” I motion her forward and we make it to the living area before we are faced with Liam and Amy, both in robes, while Tellar arrives in just his boxers.
“They called?” Amy asks. “What happened?”
I relay the entire conversation. “Gia and I will leave for Texas tonight.”
“I’ll go with you,” Tellar says.
I shake my head. “No. You protect my sister. Gia and I will hole up in a safe house I have in Texas until we’re sure this is done.”
“It’s not done until we find a way to truly protect the cylinder and make it available to the world if it’s needed,” Liam points out.
“Then I plan to convince Gia to get the fuck out of Dodge with me for a few months.”
Amy’s eyes go wide. “You’re leaving? No. You can’t leave. I’ve only just found you again.”
“Just for a little while, sis. We aren’t disappearing. We’ll be in touch.” I wrap my arm around Gia. “I just need some time to convince Gia I’m not the asshole she’s always calling me. I think I need some time to convince myself, too.”
Gia turns in my arms, her hand on my chest, teasing me. “Don’t totally stop being an asshole. I might not like you anymore.”
I cup her head and kiss her and she refocuses on Liam, Amy, and Tellar, her laughter fading into a gravelly, emotional confession. “I love you all. I want justice for you. I want happiness for you. I want this to be as over as it ever can be for any of us.”
Her words, drenched with the heartache that had her standing out in the cold, fill the room, expanding and sweeping over all of us. Amy makes a choked sound and wraps her arms around Gia. I step toward Liam, motioning him to walk with me, stopping a few feet away. “If anything happens to me—”
“Don’t let it,” he snaps. “Or I’ll come yank you from the grave.”
“While I appreciate the power of a command given by Liam Stone, I’m the only one who knows where the cylinder is. If I die, it’s gone. If I don’t come back, tell Amy to look for our father and Tombstone. And no, I’m not foolish enough to bury it in my father’s grave.”
“Amy will understand the clue?”
“It’ll take her some time, but she’ll figure it out if she has to.”