I stepped forward, wrapping my arms around my center to try to trap some warmth in. There was a sticky pull at the bottom of my shoes. I glanced at the ground and immediately jumped away. A large, white crescent moon. Someone must have painted it there earlier in the night.
Liam had his back to me as he crouched down, working on the motorbike he’d found. Its gray shell of grime had been polished away, and the silver accents and black panels gleamed under his care. It looked like he’d just brought it home from the store.
He stood up suddenly, reaching for a piece of foam, and started to wrap it over the bike’s seat to cover the gashes in the leather.
“I like what you’ve done with the place!” I had to shout over Mick Jagger to be heard. The radio stood a foot away from my feet, and somehow I had the feeling that I didn’t have the right to turn it off. You listened to music this loudly to drown out everyone and everything, letting the rhythm and beats flow around you like a shield.
Liam spun around, startled. His white shirt was spotted with oil and dust, and somehow, clearly without realizing it, he’d managed to wipe some of it across his forehead and cheek. It was disarming how good he looked to me, how much I wanted to go straight toward him, take his face in between my hands and kiss him and kiss him and kiss him until that carefree smile was back. It made me forget everything that had happened between the start of this and now. My mind was still on blown-out tires, socks, and the Beach Boys, even as he said, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I managed. “I just...I was worried when you didn’t show up for lights out. I wanted to...”
“Make sure I didn’t run away? Really?” He started to turn back to his bike but stopped midway, pressing his hand to his forehead. “Oh, damn. I did do that, didn’t I? That was...not Nashville, right?”
The small bubble of contented memory popped around me. “It was Oklahoma, at the national park.”
“Right. Right. That’s the last foggy part. Right before you...” He waved a hand through the air. “Sorry. We need a clock in here.”
My eyes drifted over his profile, the line of his jaw, and I thought with crushing certainty, I’m not wanted here.
“Okay, well,” I said, forcing a horrible brightness into my voice. “Okay...I’m just going to...get going....”
My throat was aching by the time I finally got the words out, and I had a feeling they didn’t make sense, either. Stupid, so stupid. I’d wanted distance, hadn’t I? I hadn’t wanted to talk to him about everything—and now it was like I’d forgotten how to talk to him entirely.
I got a step away when the music got quieter and he called out, “I’m thinking of calling her Lovely Rita. What do you think?”
In spite of everything, I felt myself smile. “Like the Beatles song?”
He was leaning against the motorbike’s seat, his legs out in front of him, his arms crossed over his chest. I made a mental amendment—this was the best thing I’d ever seen. This was the first time Liam had looked like Liam in months, from his wild, kept-running-his-hands-through-it hair to the way his jeans were slung low on his hips.
“Fits, right?” he said, offering the smallest, sweetest little smile.
“Isn’t Rita a meter maid?” I asked, walking back over to him, my heart thrumming in my chest. Liam was watching me so intently, I almost tripped over my own careless feet. The warmth that pooled at my center threatened to spark when his arms slid forward, his hands turned up, toward me.
I stepped into the circle of them and leaned against his shoulder.
“Yeah,” he said, quietly, “but she’s so lovely.”
My hands slid up along his back, and I was relieved that it was as hot to the touch as I felt. I wanted to ask him about the drive up, what the people they made contact with had been like, but it seemed enough to just be held, to feel him kiss my hair, my cheek.
I leaned back, looking up at his face. One his hands moved, sliding into the back pocket of my jeans; he was still watching me when I reached up and tried to thumb some of the oil off his face.
“Damn,” he said, chuckling, “how much of a mess am I right now?”
You are perfect. My fingers and eyes shifted down, to the pale scar at the right corner of his mouth, and felt the first touch of something dark and insistent pressing at the back of my mind.
“How did you get this scar?” I asked. I just needed to hear it from him, to confirm what I’d seen locked inside Cole’s mind. “I never asked you.”
“It’s a good thing you didn’t,” he said, reaching up to catch my hand and hold it in his. “There’s not a good story to it. I’ve had it forever. Cole told me I got it when he pushed me off his bed.”
I closed my eyes, let out a soft breath. And when he kissed me, I let it chase the truth away.
“Cole said you called Harry to help find where they brought Cate,” I said. “Thank you—thank you so much. I know you’re trying to keep them out of this.”
Liam laughed. “Like I could ever keep Harry or Mom from getting themselves in trouble. Zu’s story pretty much proved that.”
“You got to talk to them?”
“Yeah, I used one of the extra burner phones,” he said. “It was amazing to hear their voices. It felt like it had been forever since the last time.”
I ran a hand up and down his arm. I was thrilled for him—honestly thrilled beyond anything I thought possible. Enough, at least, to ignore the small pang of jealousy in the corner of my heart that was still bruised.