Wyatt remained in the hospital for three days after his surgery. Three long, irritating days during which he had climbed the walls, especially after one of the nurses had taken his cell phone.
Staying in Maine when he most wanted to be in Washington, dealing with the fallout from everything that had happened, was the most difficult part of the whole ordeal. Far worse than the pain. He needed to go in and face the music himself, get his team out of trouble, put in his resignation-or accept his termination. He was also desperate to make sure they didn’t try to pin anything on Lily. Like her assault on Tom Anspaugh and her subsequent escape.
Instead, he’d been stuck here. Lily had left the morning after they’d been attacked. Though it had been hard to let her go, he knew that with the calls he and the local police had made, plus the help of Christian Mendez, who’d picked her up at the airport, she would be safe turning herself in. And according to her phone calls, she was.
But she hadn’t said much more than that, insisting that everything was fine and she’d explain it all in person when she came back. She didn’t tell him if she was facing charges, if his team was still employed, if everyone accepted the almost-crazy-sounding truth that attorney Claire Vincent was, in fact, a serial killer. Nothing.
She was there handling everything, all on her own. He, meanwhile, was just supposed to lie in bed and wait.
Waiting had never been one of Wyatt Blackstone’s favorite things to do.
“Stop thinking about it,” a voice said from the doorway to his room.
As she entered, his eyes devoured her, looking for any sign of fear or sadness, pain, or anger. There was nothing, just an easy, laid-back expression as she sauntered over to his bed.
“You’re back,” he said.
“For such a smart, literate guy, is that the best you’ve got to say?”
He grabbed her arm and pulled her down, catching her mouth and kissing her deeply, wanting to inhale the very essence of her after being deprived of it for three long, difficult days.
When they separated for air, their faces remaining close together, she said, “That was a much better greeting.”
“Wait till you see how I say good-bye.”
She shook her head. “I never want to.”
Lily slid onto the bed, curling up next to him, on his good side. He hadn’t even begun to ask her the many questions racing through his head, just enjoyed having her back here, free and happy.
Finally, though, she began to tell him. All of it. She started with the issue he most wanted to know about.
“I swear to you, Wyatt, Tom Anspaugh is never going to bother me again. I am not being charged for assaulting him and fleeing, because he finally broke down and admitted what he did, acknowledged he had physically threatened me, and apologized. He also admitted he has a drinking problem and is on leave, trying to get himself straightened out, and knows it’s his last shot at saving his job.”
Not good enough. Someday that bill would come due and Anspaugh was going to pay it. Their paths would cross again; of that, Wyatt had no doubt. But he didn’t want to worry her about it, not when she was so pleased at the way things had worked out.
She should be. She’d done a magnificent job, judging by what she told him about the meeting with Crandall and so many others. “Crandall kept wanting me to say you knew I was alive from the start,” she said with a deep frown. “That you faked my death from the very beginning. As if you would have actually left me there in that shack…”
“Don’t.” His hand tightened on her shoulder. “Please don’t.”
She was silent for a moment, then continued. “I didn’t give in. Told the truth and nothing but. And what it all came down to is, I’m not facing any charges, I’m alive, and I’ll be declared so, sooner or later. I’ll get my identity back, though not my job, not that I want it.”
He lifted his head and looked down at her. “What will you do?”
“I was thinking of trying live-in girlfriend for a little while, then going to work as a computer-security consultant. I think I’d be good at teaching companies how to prevent hackers like me and Brandon from getting into their systems.”
Girlfriend. That might do for now, though eventually Wyatt knew he’d want her to try on the title of wife. They were going to make one incredible team.
“Sounds good.” He managed a teasing smile. “I suspect you’re going to need to get a good job to support me in the style to which I’ve become accustomed.”
“Okay, but the fifteen-hundred-dollar suits have got to go.”
“Deal.” Growing serious again, he sighed and said, “Enough. Let’s just get to the end. Tell me what I’m going to find when I go back in to face the music.”
She raised one pretty brow. “Well, I think you’re going to find you’re on suspension, without pay, as is Brandon. The others got official reprimands.”
“Suspension?” he asked, surprised. He’d already assumed he would be fired, and had been thinking more along the lines of prosecution.
“Crandall wanted you fired, but he didn’t get his way. He’s still trying to get you stripped of your title, downgraded, and the hearing isn’t going to be pretty. I don’t know whether the Black CATs will even exist anymore once you get back.”
He nodded once, disappointed. But also already thinking, forming his arguments, mentally listing all the reasons his team should be kept intact. Starting with the fact that every one of them was damn good at his job, and together, they were utterly brilliant.
“I can deal with Crandall,” he muttered.
“I’m sure you can. Besides, I hear you have a friend or two in high places.” Her tone pleased, she added, “They very loudly reminded the director of all that you’ve done, not just with the crime-lab mess, but in being instrumental in the capture of several notorious serial killers in the past year.”
Damn. He hadn’t wanted that. “I didn’t call in favors for myself,” he said. “I just wanted the others to get out of this mess with their jobs and their pensions intact.”
“Well, first off, I don’t think anybody did you any favors, Wyatt, since you’re eventually going to have to go back to work under Deputy Director Crandall.”
“Besides, they weren’t doing it out of friendship.” She gently ran the tips of her soft fingers over his palm, every stroke reminding him of how much he needed her hand to be wrapped in his. “It was about nothing more than the fact that you do an excellent job. Eventually everyone had to acknowledge that you saved my life.” She shrugged modestly. “I made a very good witness, if I do say so myself”
He laughed deeply. “I’m sure you did. You’re very good at arguing your case. I can’t imagine anybody refusing you anything.”
She shifted a little so she could look up at him; that beautiful face, made even more so by trauma and grief, now shone with warmth and happiness.
“Does that mean if I ask you nicely, we can get another beach house, maybe on the Maryland shore this time?”
Knowing what she was saying, what she was offering, he tenderly brushed his fingers through her hair. “We don’t have to get rid of the Maine house. I know you love it.”
Serious, intent, she said, “Yes, we do. It was my crutch, and it was your cross. Neither of us needs it anymore.”
“No, I suppose we don’t,” he admitted. “Absolutely the only thing we need is each other.”