“Liis!” Val said, snapping her fingers. “You didn’t hear a flippin’ word I said, did you?”
“No,” I said before finishing my drink. “I’m going to head out.”
“What? No!” Val said, pouting. Her protruding bottom lip pulled back in as she smiled. “You don’t have a ride. You can’t leave.”
“See you Monday,” I said, situating my purse strap.
“Monday? What about tomorrow? You’re going to waste a perfectly good Saturday night?”
“I have to unpack, and I would actually like to spend time in the condo I’m paying for.”
“Good night, Lindy,” Marks said before turning his attention back to Val.
I pushed the door open, smiling politely to the patrons sitting outside on the patio. The multicolored string lights hanging overhead made me feel like I was on vacation. I still wasn’t used to the fact that the balmy temperature and camisoles were now my normal. Instead of trudging through the frozen tundra of Chicago in a down coat, I could step outside in a summer dress and sandals if I wanted, even in the wee hours of the morning.
“Yes. I’d like to get completely unpacked this weekend.”
“You look”—I leaned over to peek at his groupies through the window—“busy.”
“I’m not.” He shook his head as if I should have known better.
When he looked at me that way, I felt like the only person in the city.
My heart fluttered in my chest, and I begged any hatred I still had for him to make itself known.
“You’re not driving me home. You’ve been drinking.”
He sat his half-empty bottle of Corona on a table. “I’m good. I swear.”
“Thanks. It was a birthday present from my parents. Jackson never understood why I’d wear something so tiny that didn’t have any numbers on it.”
Thomas covered my watch with his hand, his fingers wrapping around my small wrist one and a half times. “Please let me drive you.”
“Liis”—Thomas slid his hand from my wrist to my hand, leading me toward the parking lot—“I’m going that way anyway.”
The warmth in his smile made him seem more like the stranger I had taken home and less like the ogre at the office. He didn’t let go of my hand until we were at his black Land Rover Defender. It looked almost as old as I was, but Thomas had clearly made some upgrades and modifications, and he kept it meticulously clean.
“What?” he said, noticing the look on my face after he sat in the driver’s seat.
“This is just such an odd vehicle to own in the city.”
“I agree, but I can’t give her up. We’ve been through too much. I bought her on eBay when I first moved here.”
I had left behind my four-year-old silver Toyota Camry in Chicago. I hadn’t had the money saved up to ship it, and that long of a road trip hadn’t sounded appealing in the least, so it was sitting in my parents’ drive with the words For Sale and my cell phone number written in white shoe polish on the front windshield. I hadn’t thought of eBay. I was so determined not to think about Jackson or home that I hadn’t thought about anyone or anything inside of Chicago’s city limits. I hadn’t called my old friends or even my parents.
Thomas left me to my thoughts, lost in his own, as he navigated his SUV through traffic to our building. My hand had felt lonely ever since he let it go to open my door. Once he parked and jogged around to my side to be a gentleman again, I tried not to hope that he would take my hand, but I failed. However, Thomas didn’t fail to disappoint me.
I walked with my arms crossed against my chest, pretending like I wouldn’t have taken his hand anyway. Once inside, Thomas pressed the button, and we waited in silence for the elevator. Once the doors opened, he motioned for me to step inside, but he didn’t follow.
“Are you going all the way back?”
He thought about that and then shook his head. “Nah, I’ll probably go across the street.”
“If I go upstairs with you right now—” he said as the doors slid closed. He didn’t get to finish.
The elevator climbed five floors and then set me free. Feeling ridiculous, I hurried to the window at the end of the hall and watched Thomas walk across the street with his hands in his pockets. A weird sadness came over me until he paused and looked up. When his eyes met mine, a gentle smile stretched across his face. I waved at him, and he waved back and then continued on.
Feeling half embarrassed and half exhilarated, I walked to my condo and dug around in my purse for my keys. The metal grated against each other as I jiggled the lock and turned the knob. Immediately, I closed the door behind me, and one after another, I slid the chain and flipped the dead bolt.
The boxes stacked in my condo were beginning to look like furniture. I let my purse slide from my shoulder onto the small table next to me, and I kicked off my shoes. It was going to be a long solitary night.
Three loud knocks on the door made me jump, and without checking the peephole, I scrambled to open the locks before yanking the door open so quickly that the wind swept my hair.
“Don’t look so letdown,” Sawyer said, brushing past me into my living room.
He sat on my couch, leaning back into the cushions and stretching his arms out over the top. He looked more comfortable in my condo than I did.
I didn’t bother asking an FBI agent how he knew where I lived. “What the hell are you doing here, unannounced?”
“It’s Friday. I’ve been trying to speak with you all week. I live in the next building over. I was outside, smoking my e-cig, and saw Maddox walk in here with you, but then he walked toward Cutter’s without you.”
“I’m not understanding where any of that translates into an invitation.”
“Sorry,” he said, not an ounce of apology in his voice. “Can I come over?”
That gave me pause. “What about him?”
Sawyer enjoyed having my full attention. “Did you read the file?”
“Did you read the part about Benny trying to employ Travis? The S.A.C. ordered Maddox to make his brother an asset. He has an in no one else does.”
“I know this already.” I didn’t want to let him in on the fact that Travis had already been slated for recruitment. My gut told me to keep that to myself.
“Did you also know that it’s a shit idea? Abby Abernathy is the way to go.”
“She doesn’t get along with her father. Travis is the more viable choice.”
“She whisked Travis off to Vegas and lied about the alibi. Trenton was at the fight. He knew his brother was there. The whole family was in on it.”