PART TWO

Safety

LIAM REMOVES HIS COAT WHILE TELLAR shifts the car into drive and I inhale, easing a few inches away from him as I try to recover from his successful seduction. Unsurprisingly, Liam has no intention of allowing me time to regroup, his hand settling possessively on my leg to pull me close again, intimately aligning our limbs. And when his long, gifted fingers stroke my inner thigh, I’m so close to a moan that I grab Liam’s hand and blurt out, “Is Dr. Murphy coming out of hiding as well?”

“Next week,” Liam says, his lips hinting at an amused smile that says he’s on to my distraction. “We didn’t want the timing to match ours and be obvious.”

Tellar snorts, cutting the wheel to turn us onto some sort of private runway. “It’s not like she’s in a rush to return. She and Coco are living it up in Costa Rica.”

Coco being Samantha, the woman who’d helped us get to the safe house without harm and was later hired by Liam to guard my doctor, who’d also helped us. I think she also has a past with Tellar that he downplays. “I assume Sam’s coming back with Dr. Murphy?”

He eyes me in the mirror. “She’ll be with Dr. Murphy another week, and then I hear she’s in talks to take another contract security job here in the city.”

“So she’ll be here with us. That’s good. The two of you seem to have some chemistry.”

“The two of us have a whole lot of conflict,” Tellar corrects.

“What’s the problem?” I tease. “Afraid of a beautiful woman who can kick your ass?”

Liam chuckles, his fingers sliding farther up my leg. I lean into him and whisper a warning. “Behave or I’ll kick your ass.”

“You could try. Sounds fun.”

“Samantha cannot kick my ass,” Tellar retorts irritably to my jibe, unaware of Liam’s and my exchange.

“Spoken like a man who’s had his ass kicked,” Liam says dryly.

“I have to agree.” I laugh, glancing out the window as Tellar maneuvers us onto the busy highway. I am strangely at peace in the midst of honking horns and near collisions, despite the fact that I wasn’t in my home state of Texas. But then, Texas has taken away those I love, and New York has given me Liam, and my reunion with Chad.

I watch the traffic and buildings pass by my window, listening to Liam and Tellar banter back and forth, both relaxed, and I feel myself feeding off their energy. I’m comfortable with these two men in my life and with their unique ways, an idea I’d never have accepted months before. I could have stayed at the safe house in the Hamptons indefinitely and felt safe, and even happy, doing so. Seclusion is what I’ve been used to—a way of life I’ve accepted, even embraced, out of necessity. But it’s not what I truly desire for myself, nor what I want forced on Liam and Tellar.

Now deep inside Manhattan, we pass Macy’s and I smile at the sight of the giant Christmas tree made of lights, spanning the whole front of the store. Excitement fills me for a season that I normally associate with heartache and loneliness instead of hope and passion. “Do you have plans for Christmas, Tellar?”

“We usually have a big family get-together,” he replies, “but this year my parents decided we should take a family vacation to Paris, to which I said no thanks.”

“It sounds fabulous,” I comment, remembering the many overseas trips I’d taken with my family with fond sadness. “You aren’t going?”

“I’m staying here with one of my sisters, who just came off a bad breakup. She doesn’t want to risk the rest of my family trying to fix her up with a rich Frenchman. And believe me, my sisters would try. My mother, too.”

“How old is your sister?”

“Thirty.”

“And what does she do for a living?”

“She’s an attorney. Smart as hell and drop-dead gorgeous, but don’t tell her I said that.”

“Typical sibling love,” I conclude, trying to ignore the pinch in my chest that comes with how much that statement reminds me of something Chad would offhandedly remark. “She sounds perfect for Derek.”

“No,” Liam and Tellar say at the same time.

“No matchmaking,” Liam insists.

Intrigued by an idea I hadn’t considered, I laugh, and egg them both on. “What’s this sister’s name, Tellar?”

“Kelly,” Tellar supplies as Liam insists, “We’re not fixing her up with Derek.”

“Of course we aren’t,” I agree, barely containing a smile.

Liam makes a frustrated sound, looking quite pirate-like in the flicker of passing streetlights with his goatee and scowl, and I’m quite enjoying teasing him. I continue questioning Tellar, learning tidbits about his rather colorful family, and with those details, my craving for the vivid, beautifully colored way my parents made me dream I could live surfaces. The way I know Liam and I can live, if we truly can escape my past.

When we approach Liam’s contemporary glass mansion on the Hudson, stopping at the steel gate framed by brick walls, a flutter of nerves hits my stomach at the idea of how many people will look for us here, but watching Tellar enter security codes into the panel reminds me how safe we are. Even the high-rise next door, filled with residents and retail stores, belongs to Liam, so all of its security personnel report to him, too.

With cameras monitoring us, we go through the gates and they close behind us as we travel the cobblestone driveway. From living here for a month and a half before we were forced into hiding, I know that extra alarms, cameras, and motion detectors offer further protection. Another code is required to enter the garage, which lights up as the garage door rises. Once we’re sealed inside the garage, we’re safe until we leave these grounds. And then, well . . .

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