- Beautiful Redemption
The elevator seemed to be taking an extraordinary amount of time to reach the lobby, and I bounced in anticipation. I needed out of the building, out from under Thomas’s condo. I needed to be sitting in front of Anthony with a Manhattan in my hand, forgetting about Grove and Thomas and what I’d refused to let myself have.
I looked both ways and crossed the street in wide strides, but just as I reached the sidewalk, a large hand encircled my arm, stopping me in my tracks.
“Where the hell are you going?” Thomas asked.
I yanked back my arm and shoved him away. He barely moved, but I still covered my mouth and then held my hands at my chest.
“Oh God! I’m sorry! It was a knee-jerk reaction.”
Thomas frowned. “You can’t just go walking around alone right now, Liis, not until we get a location on Grove.”
A couple stood ten feet away on the corner, waiting for the light to change. Other than that, we were alone.
I puffed out a breath of relief, my heart still racing. “You can’t just go around grabbing people like that. You’re lucky you didn’t end up like drunk Joe.”
Thomas’s smile slowly stretched across his face. “Sorry. I heard your door slam, and I was worried you’d risk going outside because of me.”
“Possibly,” I said, ashamed.
Thomas braced himself, already hurting over his next words. “I’m not trying to make you miserable. You’d think I could stay busy enough just doing that to myself.”
My face fell. “I don’t want you to be miserable. But that’s what this is—miserable.”
“Then”—he reached out for me—“let’s go back. We can talk about this all night if you want. I’ll explain it as many times as you want. We can lay down some ground rules. I pushed too hard before. I see that now. We can take it slow. We can compromise.”
I had never wanted something so much in my life. “No.”
“No?” he said, devastated. “Why?”
My eyes glossed over, and I looked down, forcing tears to spill down my cheeks. “Because I want it so bad, and that scares me so much.”
The quick onset of emotion surprised me, but it set off something in Thomas.
“Baby, look at me,” he said, using his thumb to gently lift my chin until our eyes met. “It can’t be any worse together than it is apart.”
“But we’re at an impasse. We have the same argument over and over. We just have to get over it.”
Thomas shook his head.
“You’re still trying to get over Camille,” I thought aloud, “and it might take a while, but it’s possible. And no one gets everything they want, right?”
“I don’t just want you, Liis. I need you. That doesn’t go away.”
He pinched the sides of my shirt and touched his forehead to mine. He smelled so good, musky and clean. Just the tiny touch of his fingers on my clothes made me want to melt into him.
I scanned his eyes, unable to respond.
“You want me to say that I’m over her? I’m over her,” he said, his voice growing more desperate with every word.
I shook my head, glancing down the dark street. “I don’t just want you to say it. I want it to be true.”
“Liis.” He waited until I looked up at him. “Please believe me. I did love someone before, but I have never loved anyone the way I love you.”
I sank into him, letting him wrap his arms around me. I allowed myself to let go, to give control to whatever forces had brought us to that place. I had two choices. I could walk away from Thomas and somehow tolerate the heartache I felt every day from being without him. Or I could take a huge risk on just faith with no predictions, calculations, or certainty.
Thomas loved me. He needed me. Maybe I wasn’t the first woman he’d loved, and maybe the kind of love a Maddox man felt lasted forever, but I needed him, too. I wasn’t the first, but I would be the last. That didn’t make me the second prize. It made me his forever.
A loud popping noise echoed from across the dim street. The brick behind me splintered into a hundred pieces in every direction.
I turned and looked up, seeing a small cloud of dust floating in the air above my left shoulder and a hole in the brick.
“What the hell?” Thomas asked. His eyes took in every window above us and then settled on the empty road between us and our building.
Grove strode across the street with his arm outstretched in front of him, holding a Bureau-issued pistol in his trembling hand. Thomas angled himself in a protective stance, covering my body with his.
He glowered at our assailant. “Put your sidearm on the ground, Grove, and I won’t fucking kill you.”
Grove halted, only twenty yards and a parallel-parked car between us. “I saw you sprinting out of your building to catch Agent Lindy—in your bare feet. I doubt you thought to grab your gun. Did you tuck it into your shorts before you left?”
For a greasy-looking, pudgy, short man, he was awfully condescending.
Grove’s mustache twitched, and he smiled, revealing a mouthful of teeth well on their way to rotting. It was true. Evil ate people from the inside out.
“You sold me out, Lindy,” Grove sneered.
“It was me,” Thomas said, slowly bending his elbows to hold up his hands. “I brought her here because I was suspicious of your intel.”
Two men walked around the corner and froze.
“Oh, shit!” one of them said before they spun around and ran back the way they’d come.
I slowly reached into my purse, using Thomas’s body to hide my movement.
Grove’s gun went off, and Thomas jerked. He looked down and held his hand to his lower right abdomen.
“Thomas?” I shrieked.
He grunted, but refused to move out of the way. “You’re not walking away from this,” Thomas said, his voice strained. “Those guys are calling the police right now. But you can flip, Grove. Give us the information you have on Yakuza.”
Grove’s eyes glossed over. “I’m dead anyway. Stupid bitch,” he said, aiming his gun again.
I raised my hand between Thomas’s arm and his torso, and fired my gun. Grove fell to his knees, a red circle darkening the front pocket of his white button-down. He fell onto his side, and then Thomas turned, grunting.
“How bad is it?” I asked, scrambling to pull up his shirt.