My cell phone rings, and I dig it from my jeans pocket, glancing at the unknown number. “If this is Rollin, he’s either listening in on his father, or Sheridan immediately called Jared.” I hit the Answer button and hear “Hello, Chad.”

The sound of Rollin’s voice slithers down my spine, grating my nerves, and not just because I hate the bastard—also because, with this quick response, I’ve proven my theory about Jared and lost the last shred of hope of his innocence. “Dead man walking,” I say. “How’s the zombie apocalypse going for you?”

“Better than it has been for you lately. Sell to my father and I’ll keep coming for you. Sell to me and I’ll kill my father and go away.”

I go along with his silly, worthless ploy. “I hate you, you bastard, but you do know how to make a deal appealing. How much?”

“Five hundred million. Enough for you to disappear for good.”

“You don’t have that much money.”

“My buyers do,” he assures me.

“Half up front, and half when your father’s dead.”

“When and where?”

“You know where. You were obviously listening in on your father’s phone call. Same time. Same day of the week.” I end the call and redial my China connection, relaying to him my plan to trap Rollin. When I disconnect, I inhale and look around the room. “It’s done. Two days from now—Thursday night at sunset—we deliver Rollin to the Chinese. Gia and I will arrange a flight and leave in the next few hours.”

“Don’t you dare get killed,” Amy exclaims, throwing her arms around me. “Don’t you dare.”

“I love you too, sis,” I say, and my gaze connects with Gia’s over Amy’s shoulder, and in her eyes I see understanding. She knows where my head is and what I intend. I didn’t make a promise I can’t be sure I can keep. I love Amy, and I love Gia. I will fight for them with my life, but I am still no hero. I set up this meeting with Rollin for a reason. I believe he set that fire in my house, and that he killed Gia’s father. I plan to find out the truth. And if I’m right, I will be his Grim Reaper.


TWO DAYS LATER, and only two hours before my meeting with Rollin, Chen has rejected the meeting site I picked, saying it’s too open and impossible for a sneak attack, but I’ve convinced him I have a plan. One I can’t share with Gia without putting her in danger. In the meantime, I pull the new black Jag Gia helped me pick out the day before up to the door of the Jasmine Heights restaurant that had once been my house. Leaving my coat behind, my black short-sleeved T-shirt and jeans are my only protection from the near freezing temperature and light, cold drizzle. It doesn’t stop me from rounding the hood of the car. But I am not seeking a way to hide from the heartache that is this place for me. I simply want to feel and remember every last second of this moment.

I open the door for Gia and she pulls the hood of her parka up as she stands and steps into the wet chill of a gloomy evening, frowning at the sign above the restaurant. “Red Heaven? What a strange name.”

“Sheridan owns it. This is where my house burned down.”

“Oh, God.” Her hand comes down on my chest. “Chad. I’m sorry. The name. It’s—”

“Fire and blood and death.”

Her fingers curl in my now damp shirt. “Why are we here?”

“Back where it began, sweetheart. A place to say I’m sorry. To say good-bye.”

“You want . . . to go inside and eat?”

“No. I don’t.” A black sedan pulls up beside us. “That’s Coco. You’re going to get in the car and stay with her until this is over.”

“What? No. I deserve to see him die.”

My hands go down on her arms. “You do. I know. But as I stand here, where my parents were burned alive, I am begging you to do this for me. Her expression crumbles. “How am I supposed to not worry and wonder what’s happening? You could end up dead.”

Coco walks toward us, dressed for battle in cargo pants and a black jacket, which I have no doubt hides a number of weapons. Good. I want her armed. I want Gia safe.

Gia follows my gaze and whirls on Coco. “I’m not going with you. I heard you helped save my life, and thank you, but not today.”

Coco just looks at me and hands me a package. “That’s a wire,” she says. “We’ll be able to hear everything going on.”

“That’s not good enough,” Gia argues, turning to me, her parka hood falling down. “I want to be there.”

My hands go to her face. “You’re going to park a mile away from the meeting spot and wait for me on a private jet that’s waiting to take us to Dallas. The pilot is a friend of Tellar’s and Coco’s. Coco is my backup. If she hears a problem, you’ll stay with the pilot and you’ll be on that plane.”

“What about Dr. Murphy?” she demands as I lead her to the passenger side of the sedan.

“We got her a bodyguard,” I assure her.

“You planned this and didn’t tell me. You’re such an asshole, Chad.”

I wrap her in my arms, cupping her face. “An asshole who loves you, Gia. I need you to know that. I love you.”

Tears pool in her blue eyes. “I love you, too. Asshole.”

I smile and kiss her. “Now go. I want you out of here.” I open the door to Coco’s sedan and have to force her inside. She stares up at me, willing me to let her out. I hold the door shut while Coco joins her and quickly revs the engine, backing the car out of the parking spot.

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