- Beautiful Redemption
I glanced around. “Yes, it is.”
“Did they tell you they had the tuxes delivered? His should be in the closet.”
“I’ll let him know.”
When Thomas came out of the bathroom, Camille immediately stood.
“Hi,” he said.
She smiled. “Hey. The, uh…the guys are in Shep’s room.”
“I heard,” Thomas said simply.
“And your tux is in the closet.”
“I was, um…hoping we could chat for a minute,” she said.
“About what?” he asked.
“Last night…and other things.” She looked as terrified as he had.
“We talked about it last night. You have more to say?” Thomas asked.
“Can we…” She gestured to the hall.
“I think it’s more respectful to Liis if we don’t.”
Camille glanced at me, sighed, and then nodded, picking at her metallic black nail polish.
“You look really happy,” she said, looking down. “Your brothers want you home, T.J.” When Thomas didn’t respond, she looked up at him. “I don’t want things to be awkward. I don’t want you to stay away. So, I was hoping…since you seem so happy now…that you would consider visiting more often. Abby, Liis, Falyn, and I need to be a united front.” She chuckled nervously. “You Maddox boys are a lot to handle, and I just…want to get along.”
“Okay,” Thomas said.
Camille’s face turned bright red, and I silently cursed myself for the empathy I felt.
“You’re different, T.J. Everyone can see it.”
Thomas began to speak, but she cut him off, “No, I’m glad. We’re all glad. You’re the man you were meant to be, and I don’t think you could have done that if you were with me.”
“What are you getting at, Camille?” Thomas asked.
Camille winced. “I know Liis doesn’t work at the university.” She held up her hand to me when my mouth fell open. “It’s okay. It won’t be the first secret I’ve kept.” She walked toward the door and turned the knob. “I’m just so damn glad for you both. You’re exactly who he needed. I just…I heard your discussion at the party last night, and I thought it would be best if we at least had a conversation. We need to put this behind us, T.J., as a family, and Liis is a big part of that.”
Thomas stood next to me and smiled. “Thank you for stopping by. We’ll make more of an effort to visit—as our jobs allow.”
I shot Thomas a look.
“Okay. See you at the ceremony,” she said before closing the door behind her.
“Is she going to talk?” I asked, panicked.
“No. I trust her.”
I sat down and covered my face, feeling tears burning my eyes.
“What?” Thomas said, kneeling in front of me and touching my knees. “Talk to me. Liis?” He paused when he saw my shoulders trembling. “Are you…crying? But you don’t cry. Why are you crying?” he spoke the words in staccato, flustered at the sight of me.
I looked up at him with wet eyes. “I’m a terrible undercover agent. If I can’t play the part of your girlfriend when I am your girlfriend, I am officially a failure.”
He chuckled and touched my cheek. “Jesus Christ, Liis. I thought you were going to say something completely different. I have never been so scared in my life.”
I sniffed. “What did you think I was going to say?”
He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. The only reason Camille knows you’re an agent is because she knows I’m an agent.”
“Anthony serves agents every night of the week. The locals call that neighborhood the Eagle’s Nest because of the concentration of federal agents.” He used his thumbs to wipe the tears from my cheeks, and then he touched his lips to mine. “You’re not a failure. I would never fall this hard for a failure.”
I blinked. “You’re falling for me?”
“Already at the bottom. Splat.”
I quietly giggled, and the green in his hazel eyes sparked.
He touched my bottom lip with his thumb. “I wish I didn’t have to go. I would love to lie in a hammock on the beach with you.”
Camille was right. He was different, even from the man I’d met at the bar. The darkness in his eyes was completely gone.
“After the reception?”
Thomas nodded and then kissed me good-bye, his lips lingering on my mouth.
“It’s a date,” he whispered. “I won’t see you until the wedding, but Dad is going to save you a seat in the front row. You’ll be sitting with Camille, Falyn, and Ellie.”
“Ellison Edson. She’s Tyler’s friend. He’s been chasing her forever.”
“Forever? I should have made you chase me a little longer. I think I made it too easy for you.”
Thomas’s eyes turned mischievous. “Feds don’t chase. They hunt.”
I smiled. “You’d better go.”
He hopped up and walked across the room. After stuffing socks in a pair of shiny black dress shoes, he grabbed the plastic-covered tux hanging in the closet. He swung the hanger over his shoulder. “See you soon.”
He stood with his hand on the door, turning his head to the side, while he waited for me to speak.
“Do you feel like we’re going a hundred miles per hour?”
He shrugged, the things in his hands pulling up as his shoulders did. “I don’t care. I’m trying not to think too hard about it. You’re doing that for both of us.”
“My head is telling me that we should tap on the brakes. But I don’t really want to.”
“Good,” he said. “I don’t think I could have agreed to that.” He smiled. “I’ve done a lot of things wrong, Liis. Being with you isn’t one of them.”
“See you in an hour,” I said.
He twisted the knob and closed the door behind him. I sat back in the chair and slid down, taking a deep breath and refusing to overanalyze the situation this time. We were happy, and he was right. It didn’t matter why.
Travis pulled Abby into his arms and leaned her back a bit as he kissed her. We all clapped, and Thomas caught my eyes and winked.