Authors: Christina Dodd
The air smelled of spiced potpourri and there
were the usual samples set out next to a sign proclaiming, “Hot tea
and glazed pecans!” in artful script, but Liam was nowhere in
sight. She would have thought he’d be easy to spot in a
Williams-Sonoma. How many tall, black-haired Irishmen could there
be in a kitchen goods store? But all she saw were two housewives
earnestly discussing the pros and cons of salad spinners, and a
balding, middle-aged salesman wearing a deep green apron with
matching oven mitts, presumably in case of an oven-related
As if sensing that she was looking for
something, the salesman approached Amanda, adjusted his round
eyeglasses, and in an unexpectedly gruff voice, asked, “May I help
“No, thank you. I’m waiting for someone.”
“No doubt a devilishly handsome fellow.” He
winked at her.
His eyes were a gorgeous blue.
Of course. She should have realized. It was
In a low voice designed to avoid attention
from the housewives, Amanda said, “Damn it! Would you be serious
and stop changing into other people every time we’re supposed to
He blinked at her from behind his owl-like
“There’s no need to get so uptight, darlin’.”
His Irish lilt was evident now. No wonder his voice had been so
gruff before. Liam could look like other people, but he had never
been much good at imitating voices.
She wanted to deck him.
Leading her over to a secluded corner of the
store full of bins holding everything from pizza cutters to garlic
presses, he looked around and when he was sure they were alone, he
asked, “What have you got for me? Will Irving come out of his
precious mansion soon?”
To avoid looking into his ridiculous,
middle-aged face, Amanda glared at his ridiculous oven mitts. “No,
of course not, he’s a very sick, very old man. What is the Sculptor
expecting? That Irving will suddenly decide that it’s time for a
stroll through New York in thirty-five-degree weather?”
“The Sculptor doesn’t give a damn what Irving
wants. He thinks you, being Irving’s nurse and all, will be able to
sneak Irving out of the house.” Liam’s lips formed into a thin
line. “Don’t you want Sophia back?”
Amanda felt the color creeping up her neck as
the anger took over. “Don’t you ever mention my sister to me again,
unless you’re bringing her home to me. It’s your fault she’s
frozen. It’s your fault she’s trapped!”
Liam’s blue eyes hardened. Flinging off the
green oven mitts and dumping them unceremoniously in a display of
casserole dishes, he grabbed the glasses from his face, using them
to punctuate each word. “I. Didn’t. Betray. You.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night.” Amanda
picked up a wire whisk.
But how much damage could she do to him with
Liam had been claiming his innocence since
the first time she had met him to turn over her information on the
Chosen Ones. But now she knew what he was. One of the Others. An
enemy, nothing more.
Certainly not someone worth all the sleepless
nights, full of yearning. Not worth all the tears she had cried for
Amanda decided now was the time to plunge
forward with the plan. If he didn’t accept it, he’d probably
deliver her to the Sculptor. Life as a sculpture or death at the
hands of the Others sucked rocks.
But she had to take the chance for Sophia.
“Look, I have a proposal for you. Are you interested or not?”
“Darlin’, I am always interested in a
proposal from you.”
“Your charm is overrated. But not your
greed.” She dangled the bait. “It involves a lot of money.”
LIAM DID skepticism very well. “You don’t
have any money. You and Sophia were barely making it with your
He knew Amanda too well, and it gave her a
great deal of satisfaction to retort, “You’re right, I don’t have
money. But Irving Shea has tons of it.”
His eyebrows went up. She had surprised him.
“I didn’t think you’d get to the point of killing the old man and
stealing his money.”
“Be serious, would you?” Amanda was already
getting exasperated. So much hung on Liam agreeing to the plan.
And Liam Gallagher had always had the ability
to get her riled up.
“I’m completely serious. How else are you
going to get money to pay me for” — he waved him hand in a
noncommittal manner — “whatever it is I’m supposed to do?”
“You’ve been with the Others for too long.”
Amanda said bitterly. “You’ve forgotten the idea of simple human
kindness and decency.”
“No, darlin’, I haven’t forgotten about them.
I just don’t see much evidence of them in my daily life.”
Amanda momentarily lost her patience. “Cut it
out with the endearments!”
“I can’t, darlin’. I’m Irish. ‘Tis in our
blood.” At Amanda’s warning glance, Liam held up his hands in a
gesture of mock surrender. “Don’t worry … you’re not the sort of
woman that invites endearments.”
Liam grabbed something at random out of the
bin and in his badly faked voice, he said, “As you can see, ma’am,
this is what you were looking for.”
Amanda glanced behind her and caught the eye
of the lady who was waiting for his attention. “How does it
He glanced around, trying to get an idea, and
read the sign. “You place the garlic in here and press hard … er …
hence the name garlic press.”
Amanda bit down on a grin. “Really? A garlic
press? Wow, that’s so cool! How long did it take you to figure it
The lady gave a brief guffaw and backed away,
looking for someone in customer service who wasn’t so observably
Turning back to Amanda, Liam dropped the
horrible accent. “Now, tell me, why is Irving Shea willing to hand
“Because I asked for it. Because I need it to
get Sophia back.”
Liam stiffened. “Getting Sophia back is the
plan? Good luck with that. The last time I stood against the
Sculptor, I got a sound beating by two of my brethren. I’ll not
volunteer for that again.”
“When have you ever stood against the
Piercing her with his deep blue gaze, he
replied, “When I came to warn you. When I told you to get out of
remember. I remember you waited until the last second.”
had led the Others to her. When
the Others broke into the apartment, Eric had thanked
was responsible for Sophia’s
captivity, for the Sculptor’s ability to blackmail Amanda. Liam
worked for the Sculptor, for Osgood, and ultimately for the devil.
No matter how cute Liam was, no matter how the dark hair fell over
his forehead, no matter how his blue eyes gazed at her in pleading
and love like a man who desperately wanted her to believe … she had
to remember the truth, to hold it close, and never let Liam back
into her heart.
He must have seen her eyes harden, for his
shoulders sagged. “Anyway, I can’t help you save Sophia, not if it
means going against the Sculptor. He’s one of Osgood’s favorites,
and he has been given great power.” He shuddered. “Just get Irving
to come out of the house, let the Others have him, and you might be
able to wrest Sophia from the Sculptor’s grasp.” He glanced around
at the colorful placemats and bins of serving spoons. “Unless
you’re planning on offering me a new identity and enough money to
blow this joint and get as far away from Osgood as possible, I
can’t help you.”
Amanda had him. She could tell. Maybe his
employee benefits weren’t what they used to be. Maybe somewhere in
his evil mind, there was enough goodness that he wanted to leave
the Others and their devilish organization behind.
Maybe he merely needed to be enticed.
She was the woman who knew how to do it.
“Liam,” Amanda purred. “Irving is a
millionaire. A billionaire. He worked as the CEO of the Gypsy
Travel Agency for years and years, amassing stock options and
savings. With no family to spend it on, he is an incredibly wealthy
Liam was taken aback, she could see. Her
change from strict nurse and wounded woman to sexy
lady-in-need-of-rescue must be astounding to him.
He had no illusions that she had forgiven
him. But possibly … this change he could get used to.
Cautiously he asked, “Amanda, what are you
She could speak the language of a mercenary.
A man out for nothing but his own gain. A man like Liam.
She stepped closer, her gray eyes heavy with
sultry thoughts. Leaning in until he could smell her perfume, a
heady combination of white jasmine and mint, she whispered, “Oh,
Liam. I’m not just talking about money. I’m talking about a
mountain of money.”
LIAM HAD to clear his throat before he could
speak properly. He was pretty sure Amanda, sweet, beautiful Amanda,
was playing him for a fool. But with all the blood rushing from his
head to other parts, it was getting more and more difficult to
He had to focus. He had to make sure her plan
was sound. Agreeing to help was one thing … but living through the
ordeal was another issue entirely. Another point to consider — dead
men couldn’t spend a shitload of money.
If there was anything a poor Irishman,
abandoned by his parents and left to be raised in an orphanage,
loved more than having money, it was spending money.
So this part of the bargain was damned
He had to force the smell of jasmine from his
mind and stop imagining loosening the prim bun at the nape of
Amanda's neck and running his hands through her golden hair.
Because that sure wasn’t helping him to concentrate.
Finally Liam focused back on the matter at
hand and said, “I’m going to need an amount.”
Amanda hid her triumph. Digging in the pocket
of her peacoat, she produced the paper Irving had handed her
earlier. She handed it to Liam, hoping against all reason that this
would seal the deal.
Liam glanced at the paper. “Wow, that’s a lot
Amanda smiled, not unlike a shark scenting
prey. “Yes, it is. Should be enough for you to buy your own Italian
“There’s only one problem.” Liam didn’t
relish the notion of being a shark’s prey.
Amanda’s face fell momentarily. But she
cleared her throat, adopting her huskiest voice again. “And what’s
going to need proof that Irving is willing to give you this kind of
cash.” Liam doubted it. This much money could make his wildest
dreams come true. He really
buy his own villa. A place where he could relax, learn to
grow grapes, maybe have a family … and be safe.
“Yes, I figured you would. That’s why you
have to come back to Irving’s mansion with me.”
Liam laughed out loud, drawing the attention
of a husband clearly searching wildly for a gift for his wife.
“Whoa, whoa. This could very well be a trap,
you know? As sexy as you are, darlin’, I don’t savor the idea of
walking into the Chosen Ones headquarters.” He leaned forward and
whispered conspiratorially, “They’re kind of the enemy, you
Amanda’s face took on what Sophia always
referred to as her strict schoolmarm look. He had thought it funny
before … when it wasn’t turned against him.
“Liam, I shouldn’t have to explain the rules
to you. You know that agents of the devil, such as yourself” — she
waved her hand toward him in disgust — “cannot be held against
their will by the Chosen Ones when you have gone to them of your
“Rules are made to be broken.”
Amanda's gray eyes turned stormy and her jaw
set. “This is a fight for good or evil. The Chosen Ones are
unlikely to break the rules for my sake, or yours. It’s not as
though you’re the devil’s right-hand man. You’re merely a lowly
Not that she wasn’t right, but … damn. To be
held with such contempt galled him. “Thanks so much for reminding
“No problem. Now are you coming or not?
Irving usually lays down for his nap after lunch, and I’d rather
not have you breaking his routine. It’s very important for his
rehabilitation.” She was back to all business, her cheeks no longer
flushed with a heady combination of hatred and fear.
Liam should have been concentrating on his
options here. Should have been considering the ramifications of
putting himself into the way of the Chosen Ones or living through
the day … saving her sister or living through the day … defying
Osgood or living through the day.
But Amanda distracted him. She was working so
hard to appear calm and casual, trying to project assurance. She
wasn’t doing a very good job of it — or perhaps he simply read her
Really, what difference did it make whether
he lived through the day? Things were disintegrating fast, and if
Irving didn’t arrive at the Sculptor's house pretty soon, the
Sculptor was going to have one of his famous tantrums, and Liam
knew who was first in line for calcification.
And … and
… he’d always been an “everything for
” sort of a guy, but every week when he was forced to visit
the Sculptor and he viewed that statue of Sophia, the tears frozen
on her face, an unfamiliar emotion rose in his heart. Horrible
thought, and he wasn’t sure, but he thought it was … selflessness.
Or gallantry. Or something that involved him getting his ass
captured, tortured and killed.
Worth remembering; he seen the torment on the
face of every statue in there. Amanda had some hare-brained idea;
if it failed, the Sculptor would take cruel, particular pleasure in
freezing Liam in stone.
He paced away. Paced back.