“I’m just trying to survive, Liam,” I confess. “You gave me reasons not to trust you. I just...I need answers.”

“That’s what I was trying to find out when you got spooked and ran off.”

“Well I’m here now. Who are you in all of this?”

“Just a man who cares.”

It’s a perfect answer, if it comes from the right place with the right motives. “Why?”

“Every time you ask that question, I’ll answer the same.” He leans forward, resting his elbows on his powerful thighs. “I care. It’s that simple.”

“Nothing in my life is that simple.”

“I am.”

“No.” I laugh without humor. “We’ve had this discussion before. You are anything but simple or normal.”

“Well then, let me make at least one thing simple for you, Amy. Anyone who wants to hurt you has to come through me first.”

His vow punches me in the chest, a bittersweet, tempting promise that could easily be a deadly poison that tears away caution I can’t afford to let fall. “You’re right. You keep answering my questions the same way and saying all the right things. I can’t just take your word. I need more. I need...more.”

He scrubs his jaw and then sighs. “I wanted to wait to do this when we were alone and you felt safe, but I can see that to ever get to that point you need to know what I know. So here are the facts.” He runs both hands over his thighs to rest at his knees. “And when we get to New York, I’ll show you all the documentation.”

“I’m listening,” I whisper, unable to find my voice, hanging by a thread over what he might confess or where in my past he might lead me.

“I knew you were running scared,” he continues, “and I didn’t trust your boss. I told you that.”

“Yes,” I agree. “You were clear on that and I was clear when I told you not to look into my background. You were clear when you said you wouldn’t. I trusted you at your word.”

“You were terrified out of your mind. What kind of man sits back and just watches that? Your boss doesn’t exist beyond a shell on paper, Amy.”

“I told you not to dig.”

His eyes narrow on me. “So you knew he wasn’t real. It was a cover story.”

He’s too close to the real me, whoever she is, for comfort. “What matters is you broke a promise.”

“But you didn’t know about the camera,” he continues as if I haven’t spoken, adding things together far too quickly. “You couldn’t have or you wouldn’t have accused me of installing it. Interestingly, the fake boss is the person who set up the Amy Bensen identity.”

It’s not a question. It’s a sharp jab in my chest. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

His eyes narrow on mine. “Yes, you do. Amy Bensen has no school pictures, no connections of any sort, and no real life. She doesn’t even have fingerprints on file. But did you know that Jasmine Heights, Texas has an abduction prevention program that fingerprints kids? You were fingerprinted in kindergarten.”

I go still inside but my hands are shaking as I curl my fingers into my palms. “What?”

“That’s right, Amy. You were fingerprinted, or rather, Lara was fingerprinted and supposedly died in a house fire six years ago. That’s what her death certificate says. That’s what your death certificate says.”

I can barely breathe just hearing my real name being spoken out loud for the first time since the fire, but even more so at the news he’s delivered with it. I’m dead. The real me didn’t just leave Jasmine Heights behind. Someone buried me alive. The finality of all that once was and can never be again. There is nothing left. Nothing. The shaking has turned to trembling all over. “I...no. I...no...” I squeeze my eyes shut, the flames flickering in my mind’s eye, hearing my brother’s shout. My mother’s screams. “No.” I press my hand to my face.

Liam curses and then I don’t even remember him moving but he is kneeling in front of me, wrapping a blanket around my shoulders. “I knew I should have waited until we were safe and dry.” He caresses hair from my face. “It’s going to be okay. You’re not alone anymore.”

“Nothing is okay,” I rasp out, grabbing his shirt “Nothing has been okay for six years.”

“I know, baby, and I’m going to try to change that for you now.”

“Were you involved? Tell me if you were involved. Good or bad or right or wrong, I have to know.”

“No. God no, Amy.” His hands go to the sides of my face. “I would never hurt you.”

“Then tell me, who is making my life hell?”

He looks stunned and his hands go to my shoulders, almost as if he’s steadying me. “You don’t know?”

“Do you?”

“No. But I’m trying to find out. I’m going to find out.”

A confusing mix of relief and disappointment fills me. “You really don’t know?”

His lips thin into a grim line and he shakes his head. “No. I wish I did.”

“You tried to find out?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“So even with all your money and power, you have no answers.”

“Not yet. I will.”

Blood rushes in my ears and my hands go to his shoulders. “No. No, if you are what you seem to be--”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Romance
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