I set my flat iron down. “I’m starving. You have to feed me this time.”

“I’m starving too,” he assures me. “And if I didn’t have to check in with Josh before we leave, I’d make you feed me right now.”

“Before we leave?”

“I thought we could go sit at a coffee shop I know and talk through the wedding plans.”

My giddiness is instant. “I’d love that.”

“Me too,” he says, flicking a quick look at my nipple puckering beneath the silk of my robe. “But if you don’t get dressed soon, we’ll be talking in bed.”

I’m laughing as he leaves and I waste no time dressing in a pair of dark blue jeans and a navy sweater, finishing off my makeup in pale pinks, and glossing my lips. My final touch is the Chanel No. 5 perfume Liam bought for me when we were in the Hamptons.

Excited to start our day, I seek out Liam and find him standing at the Christmas tree. His spine is erect, his body still, and I can almost hear the demons of his past whispering around him. I step to his side, wordlessly letting him know I’m here for him, giving him the space he might need, but the love and support he may need more.

“My mother,” he says after a full minute, “she loved Christmas.” He glances at me. “We were broke my entire childhood, so she’d buy little gifts and stash them all year long so I’d have packages under the tree.” He wraps his arm around my shoulder and cocoons me against his body, his mood shifting, lips curving. “She’d be happy to see me celebrating again.”

I move to face him, my hands anchored on his chest. “Were you as compulsive about decorating the tree then?”

“Yes. And it drove her crazy.”

“I doubt that.”

“It drove my father crazy,” he amends, bitterness in his tone. “But he was usually so drunk he’d pass out by dinnertime, so my mother and I enjoyed ourselves.” His lashes lower, and when they lift, he’s banked the bad memory and returned to the good. “We need to get some eggnog. My mother thought no holiday was complete without it.”

“Mandatory,” I agree. “We need to plan our Christmas dinner, too. Maybe we can go to the grocery store in the next few days?”

“Us, grocery shopping,” he says. “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

I giggle. “Yes, we have.”

“Why don’t we go tomorrow,” he suggests. “We can also stop by the bank and get you a bank card and signature rights.”

“What? No. I don’t—”

He kisses me hard and fast. “Yes. You do. And we need to get our marriage license.”

Smiling inside and out, I poke a finger at his chest. “And you need a ring.”

“I custom ordered one for me, and another to go with your engagement ring. They arrive Tuesday. Unless you’d rather—”

“Are you kidding? I’m dying to know what they look like.”

His eyes light up. “I can’t wait to show you.” He motions with his head. “Let’s grab our coats and get out of here.”

“Wait,” I say as he starts to move, hating where my mind just jumped. “What happened with Josh?”

“He’s already found Jared’s home and an online parking spot he uses. We’re good.”

“And all is well with Dante and Meg?” I continue, hating that I’m thinking about this, not our day together.

“Everything was okay with Meg the minute we hired Dante. Presidents of this country have trusted him. I will, too.”

The door to the garage opens and Tellar comes up the steps with a “Ho, ho, ho.”

Liam and I laugh, my worries fading. This is going to be a good day.

THIRTY MINUTES LATER, Tellar drops us off at a quaint little coffee shop a few blocks away and leaves to run errands, though I suspect Liam sent him away to prove a point. No safe house. No running.

“I can’t believe we’re alone,” I say, as we drop our coats onto two cozy leather chairs in a corner.

“About damn time,” he says, wrapping his arm around my shoulder as we walk to the wooden counter to order coffee and pastries. Once we’re settled in our seats, I’m thrilled to watch Liam pull out a sketchpad. “You’re going to design?”

“If I’m going to redesign the Chase Electronics office, I’m going to make a statement doing it.”

“I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Any ideas?”

“High tech and abstract,” he says. “Maybe round. There aren’t any round buildings in this city.”

“I love that idea, and I’m so very happy to see you do what you love.” My lips quirk. “I was starting to worry you had forgotten how to design.”

“Speaking of doing what you love . . .” He reaches into his briefcase and hands me one of my father’s journals. “I have an idea.”

I accept it, giving him a curious look. “Thank you. What’s the idea?”

“You now have the freedom to explore your love for archaeology any way you want. We can travel the world and dig together, if you like.”

“We don’t have to go dig, but I love that you mean that.”

“And you don’t have to decide now. Why not write a book about your father’s work? It’s a chance for you to honor him and revisit your past.”

My excitement is instant. “That’s an incredibly good idea. There’s so much to tell. The people we interacted with, the way we found the sites, the threats we faced. There’s so much.”

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