“And if there is trouble? Do we get Tellar involved?”
Liam shakes his head. “If he starts following up on leads that Josh generates, he could bring attention to us that we don’t need. He has to stay as removed as we are from any problems that might arise.”
“So who follows up on the leads?”
“I’m working on that. A man named Dante. Josh knows him well. I’ve checked him out and I think he’s our man.”
“Another person we have to trust? That makes me nervous.”
“Dante has worked for the government at the most elite levels. He’s discreet and dependable. And wise choices are better than none at all. We’re exposed, no matter what. So we need to control it as much as we can.”
“I like the idea of control.”
“Good. I’m going to try to convince Chad of my plan, but if I can’t reach him or he doesn’t agree, it changes nothing. This is the right thing to do, and I’m going to set up a breakfast meeting with Josh tomorrow. We also need to be at his party tomorrow night.”
“That seems like it brings attention to Josh’s involvement with us. And Dante’s. Anyone researching you would know that you don’t like parties.”
“Becoming more active with Chase Electronics makes any extra time I spend with Josh reasonable. He’s also been trying to convince me to redesign their corporate headquarters, and I’m going to agree to that as well.”
I inhale and let it out. “You’re never going to be out of this. I was fooling myself this morning to think you would be.”
“No, I’m not, and neither are you. And your nightmare reminded me that you need to feel grounded in reality. I was wrong to forget that. I told you this was over; Chad told you it was over. And that’s true of the hiding—but the cylinder and our connection to it will always exist.”
It’s as if I can breathe more easily with his words, and a sense of peace slides over me that I haven’t felt in far too long. “Thank you,” I say, squeezing his hand. “That feels real.”
“I need you to know that we’re taking the right steps to make sure that in a few years, we’ll barely remember the cylinder exists. We’re together, Amy, that’s why I talked to you about Josh before I talk to him.”
Moments like this remind me of his amazing gift to be overwhelmingly alpha yet able to share the right amount of control with me. “Thank you, Liam. It’s the not-knowing that always gets me.”
“I know.” Then he motions toward the other room. “I have something I want to show you. A good something.”
“Another surprise?” I ask as he stands and helps me to my feet.
“Another surprise,” he confirms, lacing his fingers with mine and leading me forward, the tiles fading into the shiny dark wood of the hallway. It overlooks a cozy living area, complete with fireplace, brown overstuffed furnishings, and several wide round pillars set in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows. We continue on up the stairs to the second floor, where our bedroom is located. But instead of turning right, he turns left down the long hallway.
Nearly at the end of the hall, Liam leads me into his office, its pale hardwood floor beneath our feet, rows of bookshelves lining every wall in place of windows. One side has a desk that is reached by way of a short stairwell overlooking the main sitting area directly in front of us. Liam uses a wall switch to turn on the fireplace to the right of the sitting area, leading me toward it and around the rectangular oak coffee table. Side by side, we sink into the pure luxury of the navy cushions of the couch framed by two matching chairs. Then he reaches under the table to produce a long, slim silver box, which he sets on top.
My eyes widen at the sight of the engraved symbol etched into its surface and I reach out to touch the triangle of numbers with the 3.14 over the top. “It’s your tattoo.”
“A reminder that some things are eternal.” He strokes my hair. “Open it.”
Suddenly nervous, I reach forward to grasp the knob at one end of the box and slide it all the way to the other side. And my heart skips an actual beat when I see the six brown leather journals inside, and a white card with my handler’s symbol lying on top. My hand trembles as I reach forward and flip it open.
Amy . . . Lara . . . I can’t give you back the past I stole, but I hope I can give you back some of the good memories to replace the nightmares. I love you. Chad.
I flatten my hand on one of the journals, my head falling forward as I draw in a shaky breath. Liam wraps his arms around me. “I thought . . .” I start, pausing to swallow the knot from my throat and start again. “I thought that Chad wanted me to forget the past and move on.”
“I chose the tattoo because I wanted to remind you that no one can take away the special times you shared with your parents. They were always with you, and always will be.”
I take a deep breath. “It always felt like such a betrayal to pretend they didn’t exist.”
“You don’t have to pretend anymore. That’s Chad’s gift to you, with these journals. You can be Lara again if you want to be.”
I shake my head. “I’m Amy now. Lara died when they died.” I pick up one of the journals and hold it, feeling like the piece of me I’d lost is now found.
“I told you my life is no fairy tale.” I shift to face him again. “And I don’t want it to be; I just want it to be my life. Just like I don’t need a Prince Charming. You don’t have to protect me. Just love me.”