GIA AND I manage to manipulate our shared personal space in awkward silence, and by eight thirty, I’m sporting a one-day shadow again and I’ve dressed in black jeans and a plain black tee. I’ve just finished strapping on a shoulder holster when Gia exits the bathroom wearing a pair of snug navy jeans and a simple navy long-sleeved blouse, gaping as she watches me insert a handgun in the holster.

“I thought all we were doing today was watching the surveillance feed Jared hacked from the truck you bought yesterday?”

“We are,” I say, disposing of the gun again, “but you can never be too prepared. That’s exactly why I told you to dress to blend in. Wear that long, black, knee-length jacket with the hood we got you. It’s cold outside, and it lets you disappear if you need to.”

She hugs herself. “You’re making me very uptight.”

“Good. You need to be. This isn’t going to just go away.” I walk to her, towering over her, proving to us both that I can be around her and not touch her. “The cold, hard fact is that if I convince Sheridan that I don’t have the cylinder, you become more valuable. And no matter how guilty I feel about starting this, it doesn’t help you for me to pretend that isn’t the case.”

“I don’t need you to make things pretty for me, Chad. I don’t even know where that would come from. And there were three other people on the team, but frankly, if I have to be the bait that we use to take that man down, that’s exactly what I’ll do.” She pauses, her jaw setting. “With or without you.”

“Responding to that will not get us out of here on time, so I won’t.” I glance at the black Gucci watch that I’d bought to replace the one Sheridan’s men had stolen from me. “We need to move now.”

“I thought Amy’s doctor’s appointment was at eleven?”

“It is, but this is Manhattan. You don’t just get a parking spot, and we want plenty of time to test the cameras.” I begin to turn and she grabs my arm, and damn it, my sex clenches in automatic reaction. “Today is about observing, right?”

“Yes,” I confirm. “Today we watch. Thursday I get my sister.”

She studies me for several beats, weighing my reply. “Good,” she finally says. “Because we still need to talk about how to handle Liam Stone.”

Having no interest in talking about Liam Stone, I tap my watch. “Grab the jacket and let’s go,” I say, dislodging her hand from my arm and leaving the room. Stepping into the living room, I see Jared waiting at the door, his long hair in some sort of funky bun at the back of his head.

“What’s with the bright green Fighting Irish T-shirt?” Gia asks before I can, stepping to my side.

“I’m blending in, as instructed,” he replies. “There’s a large Irish community in New York City, and a number of pubs near the coffee shop.”

I don’t approve of this strategy, but we’re on too tight a clock for me to argue. I herd everyone to the elevator and the valet parking area, where I’ve had the Ford Explorer I’d purchased yesterday pulled around already. With Jared driving to leave me free to exit quickly if need be, and Gia in the back seat, we drive around for an hour looking for parking. Finally, I bribe someone to give up a curb spot directly across from the coffee shop.

Once we’re parked, Jared sets up a laptop on a cradle beneath the radio, the screen split into quarters to show various portions of the medical building and coffee shop. At ten forty-five, Liam Stone’s Bentley pulls up to the building, and instinctively my hand goes to my weapon, every muscle in my body tense. Gia’s hand goes to my arm, a silent warning to steady myself, and it’s unnerving how well she reads me. But then again, my hand on my weapon isn’t exactly a sign that I’m feeling relaxed.

The passenger’s-side back door opens and Liam steps out of the vehicle, towering over the hood, but rather than move away and allow Amy’s exit, his body encloses the small space, preventing it. He scans the area around them while the driver’s door opens and a man in a suit, sporting a military-style buzz cut, emerges, his demeanor unapproachable and ready for battle.

“Tellar Phelps,” Jared murmurs, watching him discreetly taking in his surroundings. “They don’t seem like men who believe they’ve negotiated safety. Maybe someone warned them we might show up,” I comment.

It’s in that moment that Amy steps out of the Bentley, her long blond hair lifting in the wind over the collar of some sort of trench coat. My hand that was resting on my gun goes to the door.

Still holding my arm, Gia settles a second hand on my shoulder. “She’s safe. That has to be enough right now.”

I inhale a hard-earned breath and force it out, watching as Liam pulls her to him, possessively kissing her hard on the lips, before Tellar offers her his arm. Tension travels up and down my spine and I ball my fist over the door handle. Liam remains unmoving, watching Amy and Tellar until they enter the building. Once she’s assumedly safely inside, he rounds the hood of the car, coming fully into view, his suit and his carriage screaming regal, rich bastard, a little too like Sheridan for my comfort. Once he’s at the driver’s door, he opens it, but he doesn’t disappear into the car as I expect. Instead, he pauses and scans the area around him again, his eyes running over our car, stopping, and lingering a moment before his attention shifts.

Gia lets out a loud breath. “Did he see us?” Gia asks. “He seemed like he knew we were here.”

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