Her eyes flicker with worry. “I know what you found. It’s my laptop, asshole.” She drops her head and talks to the ground. “The photos of me. Is that what you’re talking about? They were taken a long time ago.”

“I don’t care about the photos of you.” I give her a little shake and she lifts her head once again. “We found Pilar’s in-boxes. The ones you broke into. We know what Pilar is planning to do.”

“We? Who’s ‘we’?” She looks confused. And she’s right—we should go somewhere public and talk. For all I know, Pilar’s hired someone else to keep tabs on Lily and find that laptop I supposedly didn’t take. Her life could be in danger.

I can’t risk it. I can’t risk her.

“Come with me. Let’s get a cab and … go somewhere. Somewhere safe where I can tell you everything.” I pause and stare into her eyes, wanting her to see the truth inside of me. I will do anything to help her, to keep her safe. I could tell her that, but she won’t believe me. I need her to know it, to sense it. “Please, Lily.”

She returns my stare, her eyes wide, her fingers resting on my chest, curling into my sweatshirt. Her touch burns, even through the thick fabric, and I will the sexual response away. I want her. I always want her. But we don’t have time to deal with that now. “You look terrible,” she finally says. “Like a thug.”

I chuckle. I can’t help it. She called me a thug. “It’s been a rough couple of days.”

“For me, too,” she admits, her voice as soft as her eyes. “We’re only talking. That’s it,” she says, her voice going stern. Tough. “I’m pissed that you broke into my apartment, Max. That’s fucked up.”

“Agreed.” I nod. “And I know. I’m … sorry.”

“I want you to tell me everything,” she continues.

“I will,” I say as I steer her out of her bedroom. We start down the short hall toward the entryway where she left her boots. “Did you notice anyone outside of your building? Anyone look suspicious? Like they’re maybe … watching you?”

She gasps. “Watching? What are you talking about?”

“I’m not working for Pilar anymore, so I wouldn’t doubt if she’s put someone else on the case,” I explain, reaching for her boots on the floor. I grab them and hand them to her.

“What case?”

I release my hold on her, watching as she slips her boots back on her feet. “You, Lily. She’s after you.”

Chapter twenty-four

Lily

THE CAB MOVES SLOWLY through the city, the streets clogged with traffic, horns honking, brakes squealing. We’ve been in this car for over twenty minutes and I assume we’re still nowhere close to our destination. I didn’t choose it, Max giving the driver an unfamiliar address before he settled his large frame right beside me. There’s a narrow strip of space between us but not enough. Though the Grand Canyon could be dividing us and I’d still feel his presence, smell his intoxicating scent, the warmth that radiates from his big, strong body.

I’d also want to reach out and touch him, despite knowing how wrong that is. I hate him for what he did to me. I want to do violent, graphic things to his body that involve pain and blood. Bruises and scrapes and maybe a broken bone or two. I want him to hurt and suffer as much as I did, because I can’t stand him. He wronged me in the absolute worst way possible.

That’s what I keep telling myself, my hands clenched into fists and resting on my knees, my teeth gritted, my breath coming in ragged exhales.

For most of the ride, I’ve kept my head averted, my gaze locked on the window, but I don’t see anything outside as we pass. My thoughts are as hazy as my vision, everything within me total chaos. It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around what just happened.

Max is beside me. The man who double-crossed me, who worked for fucking Pilar, is sitting next to me and wants to tell me … something. Lots of somethings. After the initial shock of seeing him in such a different environment, in my freaking bedroom like some sort of criminal breaking and entering, I couldn’t help but be worried at his appearance.

Wan complexion, thick stubble covering his cheeks and jaw, hollow eyes, dark sweatshirt and jeans, he looked like a criminal. My first instinct was to ask him if he was all right.

So. Stupid.

Then I got good and angry. That’s what I focused on for all of about two minutes, my anger. The fight seemed to go out of me in an instant and I practically collapsed in his arms, feeling like a complete failure.

And so incredibly weak.

The tension seems to thicken between us as every minute passes, and I chance a glance at him out of the corner of my eye to find him watching me. He’s leaning into the corner of the seat, his legs sprawled wide, his right arm propped on the window ledge of the door. His other arm is stretched out along the back of the seat, his hand disturbingly close to me, and I scoot closer to my side of the car until I’m practically crammed into the corner.

He lets out a sigh, his broad chest lifting with the movement, drawing my attention. For that brief, shining moment when I rested my head against his chest, I had felt … safe. I wanted all the lies and the deceit to be forgotten so I could rely on this man. He’d rescued me countless times already.

But why? When he was working for Pilar … he should have left me to fend for myself. He didn’t.

I don’t get why. That’s the theme running through my head. The same word, over and over again.

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