“His, my ass.”

“He has more money and power than you do, and as harsh as the truth is, he has her trust. You’re going to have to earn it back—and it’s going to be a war.”

The truth of those words crushes what’s left of my heart and I let Jared go, running my hand down my hair. I can’t lock Amy away eternally. I have to deal with Liam Stone, but I’m going to have to do it after I know she’s safe. “I need a way to get to her before Friday night.”

“I’ll start working on it.” He glances toward the bedroom. “I hacked Gia’s personnel file at Sheridan’s company. Her story matches what you just told me, but there’s no mention of a top-secret project.”

“That’s because it’s top secret.”

“Four people. That’s all that special team comprised, and Sheridan handpicked them all.”

“None of this is news to me,” I say, relieved it’s the truth. “But those other three members will be working to re-create what Gia destroyed. We need to know who they are, and what their motivations are.”

“I’m working on making files on the others, but my point wasn’t about them. The bottom line here is that Gia was close to Sheridan by being a part of this project. Now I see her getting close to you. She could be another Meg.”

“We don’t know where Meg came from, or how she found me. We know where Gia came from.”

“And we need to know those things about Meg, too. I need everything you can give me from your life before she found you. But that still does nothing to tame my worries about Gia.”

“Gia’s not another Meg, for all kinds of reasons, and I have no intention of letting anyone screw me over again. On that note, Gia and I need to have a conversation sooner rather than later.” I turn to leave.

“Be careful, Chad.”

I consider a number of replies, none of which I’d accept if I were him, so I opt to scrub my jawline that’s in desperate need of shaving and simply say nothing. I cross the room to enter the master bedroom, likewise wrapped in windows, and Gia greets me at the door, her pale skin like ivory, her dark brown hair draping her shoulders, and worry etched in the furrow of her brow. She is beautiful. She is here. She is mine, if only for now, and I have every intention of keeping her.

I kick the door shut and she takes a step backward, giving me space I do not want. “You have to know that party is a setup. You can’t show up there.”

“I take it you listened in on our conversation.”

“Yes. I did. Chad—”

She yelps as I grab her, rotating her to press her against the door, trapping her legs with mine. “He hacked your personnel file.”

“Of course he did. I don’t trust him.”

I tangle rough fingers into her hair, tugging just enough to force her blue eyes to mine. “He doesn’t trust you.”

“Like you?”

My answer is a deep, hungry kiss. The taste of her, addictively sweet, fills my senses, stirs a craving for more. She makes me crave more. Escape. Passion. That indefinable sense of needing what only she can give me. She moans, a soft, sexy sound I feel in the tightening of my body, the burn in my limbs. My free hand caresses her hip, her waist, the curve of her breast, and I want nothing more than to be lost at sea with this woman, floating on an ocean of waves, so far away from the rest of the world we can’t be found. But I have to settle for here. Now. Lost in her. With her.

Only, she’s not with me. I feel it in the tentative caress of her tongue, the uncertainty and reserve of her fingers barely flexing against my chest, and I tear my mouth from hers. “I fucked up in the lobby. But Gia, in a very short time, you’ve gotten inside my head and under my skin in a way no one else has. You know the real me, and that’s dangerous for both of us.”

“Dangerous. Right.” She shoves against my chest. “Let me off this wall.”


“It’s my turn to say stop talking. I can’t take the back and forth we have going on. You tell me not to trust you, and then use other words to demand the opposite. I can’t be this conflicted about you and us when I’m struggling with all I’ve lost.”

“When I tell you not to trust me, it’s not about the here and now. It’s about the future, after the dust settles. You can’t be with me. I will always invite danger. I am a part of a world you can’t understand.”

“I’m a part of this world now, too, and I need to understand to survive.”

“You aren’t. You can’t be. I won’t allow it.”

“You can’t change what already is. You think that if I’m out of your sight, I’m safe? That’s a fantasy, Chad, and I’m not willing to live in a fantasy that could kill me. I want to fight Sheridan. And I want to protect the cylinder, which I know you have.” She balls her fingers around my shirt. “It’s not enough to convince him you don’t have it. One day this world might need it. You have to come up with a way to make sure it gets to the right person.”

“And who is that?”

“I don’t know. We have to figure that out. We can. Together.”

We stare at each other, the sound of our breaths mingling together, the sun starting to dim beyond the windows, like the resistance I once had to this woman. “I want your help. I even need it, but I won’t lie to you anymore. You need to know that the first chance I have to make it happen, I will get you out of this.”

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