“Thank you,” I whisper. “I can’t believe we’re doing this. I really can’t believe you and Chad are here for it.”
“It’s pretty darn amazing that we are,” she says, touching my arm. “He loves you so much, Amy. He needed to be here for you as much as you needed him to be here.” There’s a knock on the door. “That’s probably him now. Are you ready?”
“Yes. I’m ready.”
“Then I’ll see you downstairs.” She hugs me and says, “Oh. I need your ring.”
I slip it off my finger and hand it to her. “You can have it back soon!” she declares, darting away.
I linger a moment, staring at my reflection, remembering that moment in the airport that Dr. Murphy reminded me of earlier, when I’d first met Liam. Suddenly, I am transported back in time. I remember standing at that ticket counter, hearing the news that I might be bumped from a flight that was my only escape from danger.
Definitely flustered, I turn away from the counter. Ignoring the few vacant seats, I head to the window and settle my bags on the floor beside me. Leaning against the steel handrail on the glass, I position myself so I can see everyone around me to be sure I’m prepared for any problem before it’s on me. And that’s when the room falls away, when my gaze collides with his. He is sitting in a seat that faces me, one row between us, his features handsomely carved, his dark hair a thick, rumpled temptation for my fingers. He’s dressed in faded jeans and a dark blue T-shirt, but he could just as easily be wearing a finely fitted suit and tie. He is older than me, maybe thirty, but there is a worldliness, a sense of control and confidence, about him that reaches beyond his years. He is money, power, and sex, and while I cannot make out the color of his eyes, I don’t need to. All that matters is that he is one hundred percent focused on me, and me on him. A moment ago I was alone in a crowd and suddenly, I’m with him. As if the space between us is nothing. I tell myself to look away, that everyone is a potential threat, but I just . . . can’t.
His eyes narrow the tiniest bit, and then his lips curve ever so slightly and I am certain I see satisfaction slide over his face. He knows I cannot look away. I’ve become his newest conquest, of which I am certain he has many, and I’ve embarrassingly done so without one single moan of pleasure in the process.
“Inviting our first-class guests to board now,” a female voice says over the intercom.
I blink and my new, hmmm, whatever he is pushes to his feet and slides a duffel onto his shoulder. His eyes hold mine, a hint of something in them I can’t quite make out. Challenge, I think. Challenge? What kind of challenge? I don’t have time to figure it out. He turns away, and just like that I’m alone again.
I snap back to the moment and whisper, “Only I wasn’t alone. Not from that moment forward.” Smiling with that thought, I walk into the bathroom and just as I’m about to enter the bedroom, Chad appears in the doorway, looking amazing in one of Liam’s black suits with a white shirt and tie.
He gives me a once-over and grins. “For a couple of people who like to dig in the dirt, we clean up pretty good.”
I laugh. “Yes, we do.”
“You look gorgeous, Amy.” His voice softens. “Lara.”
“Amy,” I say quickly against the pinch in my chest. “I’m Amy.”
“Amy,” he amends. “I’m glad I’m here.”
I point at him. “Don’t make me cry and mess up my makeup.” I face the mirror. “I’m nervous. Is Liam ready?”
“He’s ready, and he’s pretty nervous, too.”
“Liam’s nervous?” I ask, surprised.
“Hell yeah, he’s nervous. The man can’t stand still.”
Knowing that he’s as affected as I am charms me. But then, everything Liam does charms me. “Then we should go down now.”
“Not quite yet. Shut your eyes.”
“Liam sent you a Christmas present.”
I look at him curiously. “Why wouldn’t he give it to me himself?”
“Don’t argue about a gift. Close your eyes.”
I do as he orders as he steps behind me, my curiosity growing by the instant. I feel the touch of a chain on my neck and he warns, “Don’t look yet.” I wait impatiently until he says, “Now you can look.”
My lashes lift and I stare at the pink diamond at my neck that matches my ring. “He thinks of everything. It’s incredible.”
Chad steps beside me and looks at me in the mirror. “Like you, Amy. You’re brave and strong, and he’s lucky to have you.”
“Chad,” I whisper.
He offers me his arm, our gazes meeting in the mirror. “Shall we?”
I accept his arm and my eyes start to water. “You’re making me cry again.”
He laughs and covers my hand with his. “Well, then you’re just going to have to cry. Let’s go marry you off to a billionaire.”
“Don’t call him that,” I say, as we exit the bedroom.
He chuckles. “You make it sound like I just called him an asshole.”
“He is not defined by his money,” I retort and we argue all the way down the stairs, just like old times. We reach the final step and Tellar steps in front of us, looking sharp in one of his best suits. He backs up beyond the wall blocking us from the living area and motions to someone. Music begins and the instant I hear the soft violin lift in the air, I know it’s a recording of David Garrett. I smile at this piece of Liam that is not a piece of me.