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Liam rolled onto his back, but this time brought her with him and held her cuddled up against his side. "Allison, I’ll keep you safe."

"I know, but what if he-"

She raised her head and he gently pushed it back down on his shoulder and kissed her forehead before closing his eyes again. "If he tries to hurt you, I’ll kill him."

NINETEEN

Allison slept until late morning. Liam was already dressed in jeans and a button-down shirt. His ever-present gun was on his hip. He looked relaxed. He’d rolled up his sleeves and was in the kitchen talking on the phone.

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She put on her pink robe and headed to the refrigerator for a glass of orange juice, but as she tried to pass him he turned and saw her. His phone conversation stopped in midsentence. Putting his phone on mute, he took a step toward her and pinned her against the counter. Then, with his hand behind her neck, he pulled her to him and kissed her. She felt as though she were melting on the spot. He didn’t seem to be affected at all. As soon as he ended the kiss, he went right back to talking on the phone. She didn’t move for several seconds, waiting until she was sure her legs would support her. When she finally had the strength, she opened the refrigerator, took out a gallon of milk, and walked out of the kitchen. She made it to her bedroom door before she realized what she was carrying. Without a word she turned around and took the milk back. To his credit he didn’t laugh, but she knew he wanted to.

What had just happened? He had kissed her as though it was the most natural thing in the world and didn’t affect him in the least, and yet it had made her weak-kneed. Might as well face it, she told herself. Liam was a sophisticated and worldly man, and she was inexperienced and naive about such things as sex and romance. What meant everything to her was just sex to him. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t spelled it all out for her from the very beginning so there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding. Sex was just sex, he’d told her, and because he led such an unpredictable life, a long-term commitment to any woman wasn’t possible. The fact was, he didn’t like the notion of being tied down anyway. Her eyes were finally open, and as painful as it was, she had to deal with reality.

After she showered and dressed, she returned to the kitchen. Liam was still on the phone. She drank a glass of orange juice and took a bite out of a granola bar that was as hard as nails and smelled like gerbil food. After tossing the rest of the bar into the trash, she waited for Liam to end his call. Then she wanted to know why he thought she needed protection. She personally thought it was ridiculous that Bale, a federal agent, would hold a grudge against her. If he were a child, perhaps it would make sense, but the man was an adult. Didn’t he have anything better to do than stew over his bad luck?

Liam patiently listened as she ranted, and as soon as she wound down he told her that Phillips would be talking to Bale later today. Until then Allison was stuck with him. He would be sure to tell Phillips to ask why Bale was acting like a child. Would that satisfy her?

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She didn’t care that he was humoring her. "Yes, thank you."

Liam turned to make another call.

"I’ve got to get out of here," she whispered to herself. She rushed into her bedroom, checked her overnight bag to make sure she had everything she needed, zipped it closed, and headed to the door. Liam was still on the phone. She dropped the bag on the floor just as she thought she heard Liam call someone "darling." Shifting from one foot to the other, she waited until he finished his conversation, then said, "I’ve decided to drive out to Nathan’s Bay. I’ll spend the night there and come back tomorrow afternoon. Why are you shaking your head at me? I wasn’t asking permission, Liam. I was informing you of my plans because-"

He stopped her. "If you go anywhere I’m going with you. Understand?" His voice was unbending.

"Yes," she said to placate him. She had already made up her mind that, with or without him, she was leaving.

"That was Phillips I was talking to-" 

"You call Phillips your darling?"

"I . . . What?"

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"I heard you say ‘darling.’"

He shook his head. "I don’t know what you heard, but I didn’t call anyone darling, and if I did, it sure as hell wouldn’t be Phillips."

She realized her imagination was playing tricks on her, so she didn’t pursue the subject. If she asked any more questions, Liam might have thought she cared. She wasn’t in the mood to argue. She wanted to leave.

"You’re going to cooperate, aren’t you?" It wasn’t a question so much as a statement. He expected her to cooperate.

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