He grabs a cup from the cabinet, the jagged scar on his jawline I’ve never had the courage to ask about in view. “Liam wasn’t here,” he says, reaching for the pot. “I figured it was a safe gamble you’d be dressed.”

My cheeks flush. “I owe you for that one,” I say, as he reaches for the sugar and pours enough in his coffee to bake a cake. “My God, your dental bill must be outrageous.”

He shrugs and leans on the island across from me. “You only live once. I’m going to enjoy my sugar.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that about pizza,” I say, inspecting his navy suit and noting how neatly slicked back his light brown hair is. “Why are you looking all Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard today?”

“Now that we’re back from the beach house, I need to be ready to run in the same powerful circles Liam does.”

“Of course.” It hits me that I don’t recall Liam taking any business calls at the safe house, and selfishly I’d never once noticed, let alone wondered how that impacted him. Just like when I’d asked him to run away with me and leave everything he’s ever accomplished and established behind.

“Hard to believe Liam has a Christmas tree,” Tellar comments, pulling me back into the conversation.

“Oh. Yes. We do. We didn’t like any of the choices Liam ordered,” I laugh, recalling the decorating process. “Liam turned the alignment of the ornaments into a precise architecture project.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. Architecture is his life. Aside from you, that is.”

I feel rather queasy that Liam has ignored his business matters these past weeks. I can’t remember the last time he touched a pencil to a design.

“I’m helping my sister put her tree up tonight,” Tellar continues. “Anything to lift her spirits.” He scowls, the deep scar on his cheek making the look quite menacing. “That bastard ex of hers is doing a number on her.”

Forcing myself to focus on the conversation, I ask, “He’s giving her trouble?”

“He’s giving her the cold shoulder, and it’s killing her when she shouldn’t give a shit. They were together five years when he decided to give his secretary a go. She caught them in his office the night before Thanksgiving.”

“Yikes,” I say. “I guess my lonely holidays weren’t so bad after all.”

He levels me with a stare. “You won’t be alone this year or any year going forward. You know that, right?”

“Yes, I know. And it’s wonderful.”

His eyes light with approval and he lifts his cup in a toast. “To all kinds of wonderful.”

“To all kinds of wonderful,” I repeat, clinking my cup to his.

“Starting with the big party tonight,” he says. “I understand we need to take you shopping for a dress.”

“I have a few dresses Liam bought for me a while back. I need to go see if anything will work.”

He snorts. “Unless it’s dripping with gold, it won’t. That event will be a money farm.”

I almost choke on a sip of coffee “A money farm?”

“That’s what all those people will be there for. Farming money.”

“You’re making me really excited to attend.”

He shrugs. “Just keeping it real.”

“Thank goodness someone does.” Keeping it real, when so much in my life has been absolutely fake, is exactly what I love about Tellar, and why I have to corner him while I have this chance. “How do you feel about us being back and Liam roaming the streets without you?”

“What happened to all that brave talk you just fed me?”

“I’m braver about myself than about Liam.”

“Be bold or stay home,” he says. “And bold is the right move, Amy. I know you’re nervous. How can you not be after all you’ve been through? But the steps taken now will establish your freedom, and safety, for years to come.”

I nod. “I know. I do. What about Josh? What do you think of him?”

“He’s a good guy, and yes, I know Liam is bringing him into the mix and finding someone to follow up on any leads he generates.”

“And how do you feel about him keeping you out of it?”

He sets his cup down and rests his hands on the counter behind him. “Realistic enough to know that I’m too close to you and Liam to follow up on anything that brings attention to you both.”

“Are you going to help us pick someone to do it, then?”

“If Liam asks me to I will, but he is of the opinion the less I know, the better.”

My brow furrows. “But he told you about Josh.”

“Because anyone close to you needs to be on my radar.”

That makes no sense. “But Josh isn’t close to me.”

“Monitoring any red flags attached to you and Liam is close to you. And my job is to take care of you.”

The vehement way he makes the statement reminds me of how lucky we are to have him on our side. “Thank you, Tellar.”

“For what?”

“For being here for me so many times and in so many ways.”

He inhales and lets it out. “I’ve been wanting to say something to you for a while now.” I arch a brow and he answers with, “I owe you an apology.”

“For what?”

“The first night I met you, I misjudged you. I didn’t understand how alone, and without resources, you were. Surviving took perseverance and smarts few people would have had.”

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