She dragged air into her lungs but before she could find the words to reassure Eddie, Jack slipped past her, lowered the silver bed rail on Eddie's bed and perched on the edge.

"I lost both of my parents when I was a teenager, Eddie. I was lucky because I had a good friend, and his parents took me in to live with them until I finished high school. There are good people out there, and they're going to find you and help you."

Eddie's round eyes got rounder. "You were an orphan, too, Mr. Jack?"

"I was." Jack dipped his head once and offered his fist to Eddie. "We orphans gotta stick together, right?"

Eddie bunched his small hand into a fist and touched his knuckles to Jack's. "Yep."

Lola's throat tightened. Not only was Jack Coburn not a traitor, he was a good man. She blinked her eyes to clear the tears. "And remember, whatever happens, you're spending Christmas with me."

"I remember." Eddie bounced on the bed and jabbed Jack in the chest with his finger. "Is Mr. Jack going to be there, too?"

"I'm not sure, Eddie." Lola swallowed, avoiding Jack's gaze. Heck, she didn't know if Jack would be around tomorrow, or if he'd be spending Christmas with his long-lost family.

"I'll try to be there, but I can't make any promises. Is that good enough for now?"

Eddie bobbed his head, but Lola screamed inside, It's not good enough for me.

They chatted with Eddie for several more minutes until the nurse shooed them out.

On the way back to the house, Lola said, "You made that little boy's day. That was nice of you to take the time to tell him your own story when I know you're dying to get back to the house and find Colonel Scripps."

Jack shrugged those broad shoulders that had been carrying so much weight the past few weeks. "I could tell he wasn't thrilled about foster care. Is it going to be bad for him?"

She matched his shrug. "Who knows? Sometimes it works out great, and sometimes they get shuffled around, which is bad news for any kid."

"And the grandmother?"

"I'm not sure it would be such a good idea if she stepped up to the plate, anyway. If she didn't jump at the chance to take him in after her daughter's murder, she's not much of a grandma."

"My grandparents were already dead by the time my parents died in that car accident. They never had a chance. I had a few aunts who weren't interested."

"I--I was thinking of adopting Eddie myself, or at least becoming a foster parent at first." She held her breath, waiting for his reaction. But why did it matter? It's not like Jack was going to be in her life for much longer.

"You're an amazing woman, Lola Famosa." He tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear, his fingers lingering at her cheek.

His touch caused a slow burn just beneath the surface of her skin, or maybe his approval had caused it. "Eddie's an amazing kid, and I want to protect him."

"You want to protect everyone, don't you?"

"I guess I'm in the right line of work, then." Her lips stretched into a smile. She'd wanted to be a doctor ever since her father had been shot and the doctors fixed him. It had appealed to the girl who couldn't fix or change anything in her own life.

"But until we turn over that formula to the CIA, you're the one in need of protection...and I'm going to provide it."

And once they turned over the formula? She left the question unasked as her gaze tracked over Jack's body, lean, muscled and perpetually coiled for action.

Oh, yeah. He could provide her with just about everything she needed.

MEMORIES OF COLONEL SCRIPPS had been seeping back into his brain ever since his session with Lesley. The man had chosen him for Prospero, chosen him to be Prospero's leader. But they hadn't always seen eye to eye, and they'd gone toe to toe on more than a few issues.

Would he help him now? Believe him?

Lola leaned one hip against the kitchen table, which had become their unofficial command center. "How are you going to reach Colonel Scripps? I'm assuming he doesn't have a Facebook page."

"You're going to make a call to the CIA in Langley. He's still military, but he works with the CIA and has an office there."

"Really?" She hoisted herself onto the table and swung her legs. "Just like that, I'm going to ask for Colonel Scripps? He's not going to speak to a nobody, and I'm pretty sure you don't want your name bandied about by receptionists and flunkies until you settle a few things with the Colonel. Am I right?"