“So many people died because of me. Because I was stupid. Because—”
Stone didn’t let her finish that sentence. He captured her mouth with his own and stole inside. It wasn’t a kiss of passion. He filled her with tenderness and comfort. He held her with shaking hands and told her without words that he wouldn’t let her suffer alone anymore.
Confusion and yearning wracked her. Let him soothe and ease her? Or take the self-
Punishment she deserved? Give this man all the love she could muster in her scarred heart? Or leave him because Canton would find and kill him, too?
She wrenched away from Stone, staring, breathing hard, shaking her head. “I . . . I don’t know—”
“You don’t have to know right now, baby. I’m here. I’ll fix it. I’ll wipe this fucking dirtbag off the face of the earth.”
Lily sent him a rapid shake of her head in denial. “You can’t. You just got out of prison. I’m not worth you risking your freedom.”
“You are to me. I would move mountains to give you happiness and peace.”
“Then don’t go after him. I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you.” Her fingers bit into his shoulders. Her tears crept ever closer to her lash line. One rolled down her cheek, then nothing more. “I couldn’t live with myself if I lost you. After I left Los Angeles, I spent so many years existing but not being important to anyone. By design. If no one cared, no one would mourn if Canton found me or if I had to leave abruptly. If I didn’t invest my heart in anyone, then I wouldn’t really miss anyone once I was gone.” She hugged him close, trembling against his body. “Then came you.”
“Fuck this.” He held her in his arms and cradled her against his chest as he darted across the hall with her.
Lily didn’t fight him as he laid her on the bed and tumbled down after her, wrapping her in the sheets that smelled like Stone and comfort and the sex they’d shared. She grabbed on tightly, never wanting to let him go.
“Baby, you can’t stay afraid and running forever,” he murmured in her ear.
He spoke the truth, and she didn’t know how to hear it. “I don’t have many choices. He found me in Dallas. Those flowers had to be from him. The car bomb . . . He wants to finally silence me forever. That would give him a clear path to become governor. If you let me leave and I run—”
“You’d be alone, and it will take him anywhere from days or years to find you again. But that kind of guy? He will find you. Why not take a stand? Stay? Fight him finally? I’ll help you.”
She stroked the steely curve of his shoulder. “I would never want you in danger.”
“And I’d never leave you to face it alone. If you don’t want me to kill the son of a bitch, then let’s do this the right way. Let’s contact the authorities. Testify, baby. Put him behind bars. End this for good.”
That sounded so wonderful and noble . . . and so unrealistic. “If I agree to do that, the police can’t protect me.”
“But I can. Jack and Sean and the Edgington brothers, too. They’re the best, baby. Governments hire them to protect and defend. I can track Canton’s movements via his computer or phone. They can give you a fortress until the trial is over. We can make this work. If he goes away, you’re free.” He brushed her hair from her face and thumbed her cheek, making everything inside her melt. “You can have a future with me.”