“I know.”

“No. No, you don’t. I don’t have identification that says I’m Lara. I don’t know what I was thinking. We can’t get our license.”

“We can.” He holds up another piece of paper. “This is a formal petition to change your name to Amy Bensen. Unless you want to be Lara?”

“No,” I say quickly. “No. I do not want to be Lara. I know it might seem odd, but leaving her behind was part of coping for so long, I just . . . I don’t know how to be her again.”

“You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. Not now or ever.” I can’t seem to swallow and have to clear my throat. He seems to understand, drawing me to him and kissing my temple. “We can come back.”

I push back and look at him. “No. I want to get our license. Thank you for what you did. For thinking of this when I blocked it all out. But since my name isn’t changed and I don’t have ID that says Lara, how do we make this happen?”

“Coco made arrangements for us through the CIA. All we have to do is show the paperwork I had prepared, along with your Amy identification, and we’re set.” He motions to the door. “You want to go in?”

“Yes. Let’s do this.”

He holds the door open for me and I enter the small office, with one clerk behind a desk. I expect a hassle and awkward questions, but there are none. Ten minutes later we’re done, and we exit into the hallway hand in hand. When we look at each other, there is a bond between us that started in an airport months before and has blossomed into something soul-deep and special.

We’re getting married.

I’m so elated, I barely feel the cold on the walk back to the car. Once we’re inside, Liam pulls me to him, his hand framing my face. “You only get to be Amy Bensen long enough for me to make you Amy Stone. That’s your new beginning. Our new beginning.”

“Yes. A new beginning.”

He brushes his lips over mine. “Now. Let’s go find you a dress to get married in.”

“I already have my dress,” I say, deciding in this moment that I’m wearing the pink fairy-tale dress, daring to believe we’re about to have our happily ever after.

OUR NEXT STOP is a liquor store, where we decide on rosé champagne for our wedding. Then we walk next door to a bakery, where we choose all kinds of divine treats for our intimate wedding night, all to be delivered the morning of the wedding. From there, we stop at Liam’s favorite tailor to have a custom suit created, a rush job he’s willing to pay for, and I’m excited to see what he picks. The instant we step inside the shop, it’s clear Liam is well known by the warm greetings we receive. Our coats are taken and Liam and I browse through all kinds of fabrics, and we both favor a black suit and pink tie.

Liam heads to the back room for measurements and I’m offered hot chocolate I happily accept, and then claim one of two cozy leather seats in a corner. Sipping the warm beverage, I’m aware of a sense of peace I haven’t felt since my youth. My mind goes to what I want to say to Liam during our vows, and I’m so lost in thought that I’m only remotely aware of the man who sits down next to me.

“Amy.”

I jolt back to reality and I blink Jared into view, nearly dropping my drink.

He takes it from me, setting it on the small table between us. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“But you did. I told you: I have nothing to say to you.”

“But I have something to say to you. First, I’m sorry for the other day. I needed to know if Chad was alive, and surprising you was the only way I knew I could get an honest reaction.”

“You could have just asked,” I say, biting back a comment about him sending Meg to pump me for information. “But you didn’t. Everything you did was a lie.”

“That’s not true. Chad was—he is—my friend. I need you to know that. I need him to know that.”

“Friends don’t deceive friends.”

“They do if they’re protecting them—like he was protecting you by staying away from you.”

“He hurt me by doing that, and now that he’s dead, I have to live with that. Just like you have to live with what you did, Jared.”

“He’s not dead. I saw anger and fear in your reaction, but not grief.”

I make a sound of disbelief. “I can’t even grieve my brother without accusation. Just go away, Jared.”

“You don’t have to convince me he’s dead. I’m not out to get him. I’m helping him, and I always have been. I was protecting you in Denver and I will always protect you. If you ever need me. I’m here. I owe him that.”

“You betrayed him, Jared. What part of that do you not understand?”

“Everything I did had one endgame: getting him, and you, out of all of this. And Gia, too. I know it’s hard to trust me, but just know Chad is a brother to me.”

“A brother would have told him about the CIA approaching him.”

“I wanted to. I almost did, but then hell broke loose for him with Sheridan, and the CIA was filled with resources to help him and you. I made the choices I thought I had to make, just like he did.”

There is a rough, desperate quality to his voice, something broken in his eyes. I flash back to Denver, remembering the instant friendship I’d felt with him, confused by all he was then and is now. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” I say. “Just like my parents, he’s gone.”


Tags: Lisa Renee Jones The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Romance
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