"Oh, I will. Believe me."
Bryce thanked Steve, said goodbye then hung up. He picked up a pen tapping it against his lips, then a moment later, he tossed it aside and left the chair.
"I'll be out for the rest of the day," he said to Lisa as he walked through the reception area.
"But sir, you have appointments."
"Cancel them," he growled as he strode out the door.
He would find Ciara, and learn all he needed. Now.
* * *
Bryce found her in Carolina's bedroom, her arms filled with his daughter. She was swaying back and forth, singing "Nothing Could Be Finer," as she lulled his baby into her nap. His heart nearly broke at the sight and he hated to be thinking what he was thinking.
She'd lied. And she'd lied from the start.
She laid the baby down in her crib, and swept a light blanket over Carolina, pausing to touch her hair.
His chest felt suddenly tight, his heart beat hard. She turned and saw him and her smile caught him in the chest like a hammer. She came to him, kissing him. Bryce grabbed her against him devouring her mouth wanting his suspicions to leave him alone and let him have this bit of happiness. He told himself he didn't care, but he did.
He hated it, but he did.
"Whoa," she whispered when he drew back.
Then she frowned at his harsh look.
He didn't say anything and grabbed her hand, dragging her down the hall to the master bedroom.
"Okay, now I know." She laughed softly.
"No, you don't."
"Bryce?" She pulled free and he swung around to face her. The hard look on his face sent claws of trepidation up her spine. "Why are you acting this way?"
"Ciara," he said in a low voice, grasping her by the arms and dragging her close. "I want a life with you, I want more than just this temporary feeling like I'm going to lose you any second."
"Then tell me what you've been hiding."
She gazed into his eyes and knew it had come, that moment.
Ciara fought the harsh reality encroaching on her heart.
The look on her face made his shoulders sag and he whispered, "Can't you trust me with whatever it is that's eating at you? I can see it, baby, you try to hide it, but I can feel it."
She pressed her head to his chest. "Oh, Bryce."
He rubbed his hands over her back, thinking she might be witness protection, and awaiting the trial. "Trust me, baby."
She tipped her head back, going up on her toes to kiss him. "Okay."
He let out a long sigh. "Tell me what's going on."
She stepped back and met his gaze. "I'm trusting you with this when it could mean my life."
Witness, he thought. He was sure of it.
"I work for the government," she said.
His features sharpened. "No, you don't."
Her brows shot up. "I thought you wanted the truth?"
"Well this is it, I work for the government."
"How can you when there is no record of you?"
She paled, her features going slack.
"There's nothing on Ciara Stuart. No social security card, no job record, taxes, nothing on you."
"Oh God," she whispered as the realization hit her. "You had me investigated."
Bryce tensed and bit out, "Yes."
"How much investigating did you do?"
Bryce scowled at the horror in her expression, the way her voice trembled.
"How much?" she shouted when he didn't answer right away.
"When you first came here, I asked a friend to check you out. I'd forgotten about it 'til he called today. But it was a deep enough search to know that on paper, you don't exist."
She cursed and rushed from the room, her bare feet slapping the wood floors as she ran down the hall to her bedroom. Throwing open the closet she reached for her suitcase, pulling it out and tossing it on the bed.
"You're leaving? Now, without talking?"
"No, I'm not leaving. But you have no idea what you've done," she said and unzipped the case, pulling out her computer and phone, then shoving the suitcase aside to sit on the bed.
He grasped her hands, stopping her. "Why don't you just tell me?"
"You asked me to trust you, Bryce. So I am. With my life."
His features went taut. "What are you saying?"
She opened the laptop, booting it up and plugging in the phone. "That your little investigation could get me killed."