Liam steps to my side, his hand warming my back. “I quite like you au naturel. True beauty lies in the honest nature of oneself.”
Josh smirks. “And I’m betting someone more important than you said that.”
“Alex, actually,” Liam confirms, laughing. “And though he swore some great prophet in China said it, I’m pretty sure it came from a movie.”
“Of course it did,” Josh replies. “That man loved movies.”
“You knew Alex?” I ask. Josh might have a far deeper history with Liam than I knew.
“Their fathers were the guts of Chase Electronics at one point,” Liam explains. “Alex was the second-largest stockholder in the company, after Josh’s father.”
“And then there was us,” Josh says.
“Us?” I prod.
“The changing of the guard,” Liam explains. “I replaced Alex, and Josh replaced his father. If Alex had had his way, Josh would have been in the CEO’s seat much earlier, though.”
“I wouldn’t be CEO without Liam’s support,” Josh surprises me by admitting. “And on that note, I’d better get back to work. I’ll look forward to seeing you tomorrow night, Amy.”
My brow furrows. “Tomorrow night?”
“Chase Electronics holds an annual holiday party,” Liam explains. “Josh tries to convince me to attend every year.”
I glance up at Liam. “Doesn’t he know you’re a recluse?”
“Seems I have to keep reminding him,” he comments dryly.
Josh smirks. “The man even sent me his Wikipedia page stating so, as proof.”
I laugh, remembering quoting that page myself not so long ago. “Did it work?”
Josh grimaces. “Not even close. And since he’s evidently not told you about the party, I assume he wasn’t planning on attending. So my personal visit to offer him an added incentive to attend wasn’t wasted. I won and,” he gives a mock bow, “I’ll see you soon, Amy.”
Liam motions to the door. “I’ll walk you out.”
Tellar quickly stands and says, “Let me walk you—I need to run next door.”
Josh and Tellar head for the door and I face Liam, not about to let him escape without answers. “Please tell me he’s not in the Circle and that he knows nothing about it,” I whisper.
He grabs me and kisses me.
“I’ll explain when he’s gone.” Then he’s gone.
And that was not the answer I wanted.
I HEAD FOR THE CHRISTMAS TREE to distract myself. Maybe Josh’s visit today had nothing to do with the Circle, and was just about the party. No one is in danger. I sit down in front of one of the many boxes of decorations and open it, staring blindly down at the sparkling red ornaments. I know Liam, and I would have sensed trouble if he felt it. But his answer to my question was cryptic, whereas he’s normally direct.
The garage door opens and shuts, and I hear Liam’s footsteps. When he appears at the top of the stairwell, his gaze takes me in as he closes in on me. “I’m sorry you were surprised like that,” he says, squatting in front of me. “I ran into his secretary at the bank and she told him I was back in town. When he called and wanted to come by, I wanted you to meet him. We’ve known each other since we were teens, and I know his ethics and his skills. He’s been on my mind the past three days, since Chad sideswiped us with his decision to fake his death.”
“Think about it: if Chad is the only one monitoring for danger and he goes MIA, then what? How will we know if he’s alive and monitoring the situation? Jared is a world-class hacker, but Josh can swim circles around him. We have to have a warning system that is foolproof. And that needs to include a way to monitor any activity that suggests anyone has gone rogue like Jared did—either in the Circle or out of it. The list of people involved with the cylinder has grown tenfold. We need Josh and his resources monitoring the cyber-world for potential dangers.”
“Jared betrayed Chad and us. Chad’s got to be afraid of the same thing happening again. I’m afraid, Liam. Putting this much trust in Josh is a huge step for us to take.”
“I understand that—and I know it’s why Chad declined Josh’s involvement in the Circle. So let me tell you a story about Josh. When Alex discovered illegal activity under the Chase Electronics umbrella, he questioned Josh’s father, then the CEO, and it turned quite nasty. Josh defended his father, despite the man’s emotionally abusive treatment of him. For years, it put a wedge between us. Not until Alex was dead and I took over his board seat did we begin rebuilding our relationship. At that point, Josh was the brains behind all the new technology rollouts, but not active on the board. Somehow, though, he stumbled onto proof of his father’s illegal activity and came to me. We unseated his father at great expense to Josh and the company. Josh could have stayed quiet and just inherited a fortune. Instead, I had to help him re-create it and save Chase Electronics.”
I cringe. “Oh God. I feel horrible about the billionaire comment.”
“Don’t. He wasn’t even slightly rattled by it. The bottom line is that we need to bring Josh into the mix. He’s less of a risk than our being blind and exposed. And I’m not suggesting we tell Josh all the details, or about the Circle—even if Chad buys into this idea. Ideally, Chad would provide states, countries, and regions to monitor for keywords. If he doesn’t buy into this, we’ll set up what criteria we can, which I still believe can be extensive.”