A bark of laughter burst out of her and I smiled.
…It better get better.
Smiling to myself, I all but skip down the hall to Nox’s office. Not bothering to knock, I open the door and step in. Nox stands with his back to me, looking out the window, talking on the cell phone. I hear one side of the conversation.
“No, sir. It’s not that complicated.” Pause. “I understand. I assure you when the time comes, I can let her go.”
My heart skips a beat.
Obviously not having heard me enter, he continues, “She’s just a girl. She’ll get over it. We knew it wouldn’t last anyway. We were stupid to start it.”
My heart shrinks. Then shrivels. Then dies.
My throat thickens. I try to swallow the lump but can’t. My eyes blur with unshed tears.
“Yes, sir. I can’t tell you how sorry I am. It was a moment of weakness and it won’t happen again.”
Oh God. No.
Mitch’s voice sounds into the cell, “Listen, Nox. I know it can be lonely in this life, but you’re better off finding one of your own. I’m not sure if I want you working this anymore. You’re in too deep. I think it might be clouding your judgment. Hell, you took her off site! That isn’t like you.”
I should’ve known he would find out about me and Lily at the beach.
The door to my office opens. I know it’s her. But I need to steer Mitch the other way.
My eyes shut tight and my chest aches as I say, “No, sir. It’s not that complicated.”
Mitch utters, “I hope not. This could cause trouble. I think it already has.”
I force out, “I understand. I assure you when the time comes, I can let her go.”
I almost hear Lily’s heart break when I say, “She’s just a girl. She’ll get over it. We knew it wouldn’t last anyway. We were stupid to start it.”
Mitch pauses a moment, then, “I’m sure you did the best you could, son. I know I can count on you, Nox. You’re one of my best men.”
I choke the urge to roar in anger and mutter, “Yes, sir. I can’t tell you how sorry I am. It was a moment of weakness and it won’t happen again.”
The rage builds inside of me. I feel it trail up my chest as it claws its way into my head.
Mitch finishes with, “I suspect it won’t. Keep me updated.” Then he’s gone.
Head pounding, I clutch the phone tight. Breathing deep, I dip my chin and say, “Come here, baby.”
Her voice hitches, “No.” She chokes out, “You made me believe…I’m so stupid…I believed…”
Turning, I throw down the cell and walk over to her. She holds her hands out, palms up and utters through gritted teeth, “Don’t you touch me. Don’t you fucking touch me.”
I plead, “Baby, listen to me.”
Walking back with her palms up, tears fall down her cheeks. She hisses, “I believed you! Don’t come near me, Nox. You’ve made it clear where we stand.”
Turning on her heel, she tries to escape.
Not a chance of that happening.
Running up behind her, I wrap my arms around her arms, holding her tight. She kicks out. “Let go of me! You’re a liar!” A sob bursts out of her, “You’re a goddamn liar and I hate you!”
Her body shakes with silent sobs and I rock her side to side, allowing her a moment to get it out. She weakens in my hold and stops fighting. I take this chance to explain, “Knew you were there the whole time, baby. And I never lied to you. I lied to Mitch.”
Lily mutters, “I don’t believe you. You were always going to leave me. You were never going to come back for me.”
There’s so much I want to tell her right now, but I can’t. Swallowing hard, I tell her, “Lily, I swear, I never lied to you. There are things I want to tell you, but I can’t right now. Just please believe me when I say I never lied to you.”
Still hurt by what she heard, she tries to pull free. “No. I don’t have to believe shit!”
Holding her tighter, I lean my head forward, closer to her ear and whisper, “What’s my name, princess?”
She stills in my arms. “Adam.”
I urge, “My full name.”
She whispers, “Adam Christian Taylor.”
“And where was I born?”
Her breath hitches. “White Deer, Texas.”
Planting a kiss to her neck, I ask, “When’s my birthday?”
She chokes on a sob. “March eighteenth.”
Burying my face into her neck, I say, “Know how many people know that information?”
Her answer if a sniffle.
I state, “You. Just you, Lily. You’re the only one I trust with that. Because you’re everything to me.”
Collapsing in my arms, she cries softly. I turn her around and pull her into a hug. I’m immediately relieved when her arms come around me and she squeezes me tight.
“I just heard- I mean, I walked in and--then you said--and I didn’t know--and it hurt so much!” She cries into my chest and I kiss the top of her head.
“I know. And I’m sorry you thought what you thought. But it was Mitch who needed to think what you thought. I heard you come in, baby. I knew you were there the whole time. I still had to do it,” I say as I rub her back.
Feeling protective of my girl, I decide to let her in on one little secret. “Doesn’t matter where you are, baby. I’ll come for you.” She lifts her watery eyes to mine and I state confidently, “I’ll come for you.”
Lifting her face, I lower mine. We meet in the middle.
The kiss is sweet. So much conveyed in that small gesture. I release her lips to whisper, “You gotta trust me like I trust you, ‘kay?”
She nods and sniffles. So I kiss her sweet lips again.
I hang out with Nox in his office for the rest of the afternoon.
He puts me to work filing, and although it’s a crappy job, I used to do it at Flynn Logistics all the damn time, so I’m good at it. Within an hour, I have him up to speed and he sets me to work looking through boxes to see if there’s anything else I can do without getting bored.
Nox types away at his laptop, clearly busy, so when I open the first book and gasp quietly, he doesn’t react.
There, on top of the files, is my cell phone.
Picking it up, I hold it for a while before placing it back in the box and shutting the lid.
Closing my eyes, I breathe deeply. Temptation will not win out. I am stronger than this. I do not need to turn it on. I’ve been fine without it for months. I don’t need it.
You don’t need it.
No. I don’t.
Opening the box again, I pick up my cell and hold down the power button. It starts without a problem. There are a ton of text messages and missed calls, but before I can check anything, the phone rings.
Staring at the display, I still.
Jamie’s twin brother.
I need to take this.
I’m so tangled in the phone ringing that I don’t hear Nox move until he’s behind me. “Lily, baby, don’t answer.”
Still kneeling in front of the open box, my fingers twitch.
“Baby, that phone isn’t secure. Don’t answer.”
Standing, I hold the cell phone by my side and turn to Nox. He looks worried. I whisper, “I have to take this.”
Nox shakes his head. His lips thin. “It’s not a secure line, Lily. Anyone can track it.”
Looking back down at the still ringing phone, I whisper again, “I need to take this.”
Nox reaches out to take the phone, but I hold it out of reach. His eyes meet mine, confusion written all over them. Breathing heavily, I say, “I’m sorry.” Then run out the door, down the hall and into my old room. Taking the chair from inside the room, I drag it into the bathroom with me and lodge it under the door knob.
Not a second after I place it there, the door handle jiggles. Nox yells, “Babe! Stop! Do not answer!”
Closing my eyes, I press the call button. I hold the cell to my ear and whisper, “Hello?”
Nox bangs on the door and booms, “Hang up, Lily! Fuck!”
“Lily! Lily, darlin’! Please don’t hang up! It’s urgent!”
Oh my effing God!
A heavy Irish accent but the wrong brother. A clearly distressed Jamie Harrison begs for me to stay on the line.
The person who I thought was my friend.
The person who organized a hit on me.
He was going to have me killed for money.
And I trusted him.
My finger dances on the end call button. I accuse, “I thought you were my friend, Jamie.”
He yells, “I am, Lily! I feckin’ love ye! Yer my family, girlie. I’m more a feckin’ Flynn than I am a Harrison! Please listen ta me!”
There’s something about the desperation in his voice I don’t like.
I know Jamie. I know him well enough to know that he isn’t a shaking-in-your-boots type of guy. The boots are shaking now. I can almost hear them through the phone.
Steeling my voice, I tell him, “You’ve got thirty seconds to make me listen.”
His voice shakes as he whispers, “Never meant for this ta happen. It wasn’t meant ta happen like this. I swear, Lily.” Voice breaking, he mutters, “Swear on my own life.”
My chest squeezes. This is so unlike Jamie.
Sniffling, he states, “Jett’s trying ta kill me.”
What? No way.
Jett and Jamie are closer than close. I don’t believe it.
Covering my mouth with my hand, I listen wide-eyed as he starts, “Jett came up with an idea ta get money. We needed ta do something ta look after mam. Do ye ken? It was all for Mam, Lil.”
He moans low, as if in pain. Panting, he goes on, “Da knew about what happened when ye were a bairn. He told us all about it. We were desperate enough to use it against ye.” Panting harder, his voice shakes. “Said it’d be perfect. No one would get hurt. We get the money. Then we disappear.”
Jamie breaks into a coughing fit and my heart races.
More banging, then Nox yells, “Open the fucking door, Lily! Don’t make me break it down!”
Don’t hang up!
Eye prickling, I ask, “What then, Jamie?”
Breathing deeply, he steadies his voice. “Then it changed. Jett started ta hide shit from me. He changed the password on our laptop, Lily. I couldn’t get in. Took the work phone away from me. Started listening on yer father’s conversations and asking about ye. A lot, girlie. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t ken how much.”
Jamie makes a choked noise, he whispers through tears. “He framed me, Lily. I swear it.” My entire body jolts as he roars, “The feckin’ twat framed me!”
Tears fall onto my cheeks.
He isn’t lying. No way, no how. I whisper, “What does he want?”
His voice shakes, “Never about you, Lily. Never. He wants two things.” I wait patiently as he utters, “Money. And Terah. He’s on his way ta get her now. He knows where ye are, Lily. Don’t be fooled. He’s smarter than he shows. Ye need to get out of there. Get somewhere safe. He’s lost his mind.”
My blood runs cold.
Trembling, I screech, “Nox!” before breaking into sobs.
Standing, I kick away the chair that holds the door locked.
Jamie starts to cough again, wheezing as he mutters, “He feckin’ killed me, Lil.”
My voice quakes as I ask, “What do you mean, Jamie? Where are you?”
His voice weakens. “In my apartment, love. And it won’t be long now. I’ll be back with Da.”
Tears fall freely down my cheeks and I shout, “You’re not going to die!”
Jamie chuckles, “Oh, sweets, the two bullets in my chest tell me different.” Doubling over, I clutch my stomach, bawling as I listen to my dying friend. “Ye were the best thing about America, Lily. Never wanted ta live here, but I had to come. Yer da is a good man. And I loved him like he was my own.”
More banging in the background.
Arms come around my waist, but I clutch the phone to my ear and whisper, “You’re going to be okay.”
“No, Lil. I won’t. But I’m good with that. Get ta see Da.” His voice turns reverent. “Never had a sister before, Lil.”
My body shakes violently with my tears. A second more and I hear the call disconnect. Panicked, I wail, “No!”
Nox rocks me, but not before taking my cell and throwing it hard against the bathroom wall. It shatters into a hundred pieces and I sob while Nox holds me.
Between choked breaths, I tell him, “Jamie’s dying. They got it wrong. It’s Jett, not Jamie. He shot him, and now he’s going after Terah.” Closing my eyes, I whisper, “Don’t let him get her. Please, God. Don’t let him get her.”
Opening my eyes, I look at Nox through the mirror and say quietly, “He knows where I am.”
Nox’s arms tighten around me. Offering false security.
Leaving on a Jett plane
Pandemonium. That’s the only word I could use to describe the hours after that call.
Rock yells on one cell while Nox barks orders through another, and Boo packs a bag full of my things.
We’re leaving tonight.
I don’t know where we’re going, but as long as I’m with Nox, I’ll be okay.
My body trembles.
I’m not showing my true fear. Nox is stressed enough without having to deal with my BS.
Boo stops what she’s doing at the sight of me. And I thought I was hiding it so well. She comes over and wraps her arms around me, and I let her. She whispers encouraging words that I don’t actually hear.
Rock finishes up his call looking more than worried.
Turning to Nox, he waits patiently for him to finish his call. Once off the phone, Nox barks, “Tell me something good, Rock. I couldn’t handle bad right now.”