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  • Inside by Noelle Adams #chapter fourteen

    Introduction

    Here's Chapter Fourteen of Inside, the serial novel I'm working on. If you need to catch up, you can use the links to the earlier chapters below.
    After this chapter, I just have one more chapter and the epilogue to go, so I'm going to try to finish it this week. I'm hoping to send the last chapter on Friday and then the epilogue on Saturday.


    I don't want to end this book with any real cliffhangers, but I also don't want to spoil too much about Chance and Dax's book, so I'm having to do some balancing in that regard. I may rethink how I've done it as I revise, but right now I'm mostly trying to avoid cliffhangers since I don't know when I'll get the opportunity to write Outside.

    Need to catch up?

    You can catch up on the earlier chapters through the links below.

    Chapter Fourteen

    Seeing Will collapse was the last thing I could handle after everything else I’d gone through in the last two hours. I stared down at his big body on the floor—limp, pale, bloodied, loved—and I was on the verge of bursting into tears when there was a tap on the door.
    “It’s me.” Bryce’s voice from out in the hall.
    I let him in with a hoarse sigh of relief.
    “What the fuck did you do to him?” Bryce muttered when he saw Will’s condition.
    I slanted him an annoyed look. “Can you please help him? He had to fight some guy who recognized me, and he was already in bad shape.”
    Bryce was already moving, hefting Will up and dragging him over to the bed. By the time Bryce had changed the bandages and I’d used cool washcloths on his face, Will was conscious again.
    “I’m fine,” was the first thing he said.
    I almost laughed. “You are not fine. You’re a ridiculous man.” I caressed his face with a washcloth. “Thank you for saving me.”
    He made a grumbling sound, but his eyes were soft as he murmured, “You’re welcome.”
    We stared at each over for a minute, and something relaxed in my chest, as if we’d reached some sort of end point.
    We weren’t at the end yet, though.
    We still had a lot to do.
    Evidently content with the redone bandage, Bryce pulled a chair over to the bed and sat down. “Okay. Let’s figure this out. If that guy you knocked out wakes up, he’s going to know what building we’re in. So we still need to get out of here as soon as possible. What’s the plan?”
    “Greer needs to decide what do with those diamonds, and then we do it.” Will’s eyes were holding mine with a question.
    I glanced over and saw Bryce was watching me too.
    They were waiting for me to make a decision.
    My dad had wanted me to find these diamonds. He’d wanted me to have them. He’d wanted to provide for me for the rest of my life.
    I reached over to pick up the case, my stomach twisting.
    “We can put them in a more secure bank and make sure Kurt knows. Once they're no longer out in the open, he’ll probably give up on them and focus on easier targets.” Will’s voice was soft, almost gentle.
    “This is only half of them,” I said.
    “Kurt doesn’t know that.”
    “Yet,” Bryce added. When Will shot him a quick glare, Bryce continued, “What? He doesn’t know right now, but he might figure it out. Dax and your sister have got to move quick.”
    “They need to know the clue my dad left her first,” I said, standing up as I remembered I hadn’t yet contacted Chance. “Can I call her on your phone?”
    Will reached over and took his phone from the nightstand, punched in a number, and then handed it to me. Dax answered with a curt greeting, and I asked for Chance.
    “Hello? Greer?”
    I almost slumped with relief at the sound of my sister’s voice. “Hey. Is everything all right?”
    “I guess. We’re surviving. What’s going on?”
    “I found half the diamonds, but the other half is still out there. I think Dad wanted you to find them. He left this weird clue I don’t understand, but it seems like it’s intended for you.”
    “What is it?”
    Blue jays don’t build nests like sparrows. They just want to fly.”
    There was nothing but silence on the other end of the call.
    “Chance?” I prompted. “Do you know what it means?”
    “I think so.” Chance’s voice was slow, odd, like she was thinking hard.
    “You and Dax will have to hunt down the other half of the diamonds. Will got shot, and he can’t do anything. We’re pretty much at a standstill here.”
    “We’ll do it.”
    “Do it fast.”
    “We will. Thanks. Is Will going to be all right?”
    “Yeah. I think so. I just want to get him to a doctor as soon as possible.”
    “I’m fine,” Will muttered. “Stop coddling me.”
    There was a faint smile in Chance’s voice. “He sounds like he’ll be okay. I’m going to hang up now. I think I know what Dax and I need to do.”
    “Be careful.”
    “You too.”
    I disconnected the call and set down the phone. Both Bryce and Will were still watching me.
    I still needed to make a decision.
    I knew what I wanted to do with these diamonds. I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
    It just felt like I’d be hurting my father in some strange way if I did it.
    “We can also sell them,” Will said, his eyes never leaving my face. “If you want to just get rid of them, we can go somewhere this afternoon and sell them. I know a guy who’d take them, no questions asked. We wouldn’t get top dollar, but we’d get something.”
    I shook my head. “I don’t want to sell them.”
    “You want to keep them?” Bryce asked, looking faintly surprised.
    Will didn’t look surprised. He must already know what I wanted to do with them.
    “I’m not going to keep them. I hate these things. I know my dad wanted me to have them, but I don’t want them in my life at all.”
    “So what are you going to do?” Bryce asked. “If you try to dump them, you’re basically just handing them to Kurt.”
    “I’m not going to do that. I don’t want Kurt to have them after what he’s put us through.” I took a deep breath. Made a final decision. “I’m giving them back.”
    Bryce’s eyes doubled in size. “Fuck! What? You’re giving them back?”
    “Yes.” I turned to look at Will. “You know who they belonged to when my dad took them?”
    “Yes.”
    “You’ll help me give them back to the rightful owner?”
    Will gave a slow nod. He had more color now. He wasn’t in great shape, but he was functional and thinking clearly. “Yes. I’ll help you.”
    “You guys are crazy! Ten million worth of diamonds in your hands and you’re actually giving them back?” Bryce looked flabbergasted, and I couldn’t blame him.
    “These diamonds have brought me nothing but trouble. They almost killed Will. I know my dad was trying to do what he thought was best for me and Chance, but I don’t want these. I don’t want anything to do with these. My dad wanted me to be happy, and I’ll be happier if these are out of my life. I’m giving them back.”
    Bryce shrugged. “Okay. Your deal. I’m getting paid regardless.” He paused briefly. “Right?”
    “Right,” I assured him. “You’re getting paid.”
    “Then I’ll help you do whatever, no matter how stupid it is.”
    ***
    The owner of the diamonds lived in Quebec, so it wasn’t like we could just stop by and drop them off at his front door.
    So, after a brief discussion, we decided that the only thing to do was get them to a police station with a note about their rightful owner.
    It sounded fine to me. As soon as they were in police possession, they’d stop being my concern. If Kurt wanted to continue pursuing them at that point, then that was his problem.
    I just wanted them out of my hands for good.
    It took a few minutes of debate before we figured out the safest plan—and one that wouldn’t put me or Will in trouble for being in possession of stolen property.
    I wanted for me and Bryce to take care of the drop-off on our own, since Will was still visibly weak and running a fever, but Will was having nothing to do with that idea. So Bryce went out to distract any of Kurt’s guys who were lurking and lead them away while Will and I drove to the police station.
    There was a small station a few blocks away, but Will was worried about that station having adequate security, so we drove several miles to the division headquarters.
    Will was still pale, and I was pretty sure he still had a low-grade fever, but he was functioning, in control, and on a mission.
    I suspected he wanted to get this done and over with as much as I did.
    We got to his car without any problems, thanks to Bryce’s distraction. And Will was obviously keeping an eye out on the vehicles behind us, but he didn’t spot anyone suspicious on our way there.
    The whole thing was going so smoothly I couldn’t believe it.
    Nothing had gone this smoothly. Nothing since Will had showed up on campus and dragged me away from my regular life.
    I couldn’t believe it would be this easy.
    Something bad was going to happen.
    I knew it.
    I was waiting for it.
    It felt to me like Will was waiting for it too.
    But nothing happened. We parked half a block from the police station and walked to the front entrance. We’d put the diamonds in a small cardboard box and labeled it with the name of a police detective that Will was familiar with.
    We entered the building, going through security with no problem because Will had left his gun in the car. We then walked to the front desk and handed the box to the young man who greeted us, explaining the package was intended for the detective.
    He didn’t look surprised or suspicious. He took the box and asked if we needed anything else.
    We didn’t.
    So we walked out.
    There were security cameras in the building, so they would have our images recorded. But if they identified me and came to ask me about the diamonds, I would just tell them the truth.
    I found the diamonds in my father’s possessions. They weren’t mine, so I wanted to give them back.
    Surely I wouldn’t get in trouble for that.
    My dad was dead. It wouldn’t make any difference if they found out he’d stolen them. The main thing was just to get rid of them as quickly as I could.
    I was almost limp with relief as we walked back to the car. Will had one hand on my back, and a lot of the tension had left his body too.
    He was as glad as I was to have this done.
    Now if Chance and Dax could just find the other half of the diamonds without Kurt finding out, then we would be entirely out of danger.
    It was almost over now. At last.
    That was my thought—it was exactly my thought—as we approached the car and discovered that a man was standing beside it.
    Will tensed up first. I felt it in his body acutely.
    Then I focused on the man’s face as we got nearer and finally recognized it.
    Kurt.
    It was Kurt.
    He had a skinny build and overly long light brown hair. He wore glasses and looked more like a geek than a dangerous criminal.
    I knew from experience that people were more than capable of being both.
    Sheer terror sliced through me as I slowed down.
    Kurt was standing next to our car.
    We hadn’t gotten away without incident after all.
    He’d found us somehow.
    We no longer had the diamonds. They were out of our hands now. But the other half were still in the wind, which meant Dax and Chance were in danger and Kurt could possibly use me as leverage to get the other half of the diamonds.
    I had absolutely no idea what Kurt would do to us now, but I almost threw up as Will and I came to a stop a couple of feet away from where Kurt stood. I literally almost gagged.
    This was one thing too many.
    “We don’t have them,” Will said curtly, sliding an arm around my waist and pulling me close to him in a protective gesture. “They’re gone.”
    Kurt had been smiling slightly, but at this his expression sobered. “What do you mean they’re gone.”
    Will turned his head and nodded toward the police station down the block. “I mean they’re gone. For good. If you want to try to knock over a police station to get them, you’re more than welcome to do so. But we don’t have them, and you can’t get to them through us anymore.”
    Kurt wasn’t a dangerous looking man. He wasn’t even a nasty looking man.
    He looked… normal. Innocent. Harmless.
    He wasn’t though.
    His lips parted and his face paled slightly as he stared in the direction Will had indicated. “You turned them over to the police?”
    “Yes,” I said.
    “Twenty million in diamonds? You just gave them up?” Kurt’s voice was even more shocked than Bryce’s had been earlier. He clearly couldn’t conceptualize anyone giving up that kind of money.
    I stiffened slightly when his words registered.
    Twenty million.
    He thought we’d handed over all the diamonds.
    He didn’t know half of them were still out there.
    We had to make sure it stayed that way so Chance and Dax would be safe.
    Will’s arm tightened slightly around me, but I didn’t need the silent warning. I knew very well I couldn’t give anything away to Kurt.
    We had to play this exactly right or Chance and Dax would be in even greater danger.
    “I’d rather give back twenty million in diamonds than deal with this mess anymore,” I said, as calmly as I could. My voice was slightly uneven, but I figured that was natural. Anyone would be nervous in this situation. Kurt wouldn’t know it meant I was hiding something important. “I never wanted the diamonds. I was fine without them. And I just want all this to be over.”
    He seemed to believe me. He was peering at me like I was a strange sort of scientific experiment. “And you think it’s over now?”
    “Why wouldn’t it be over?” I was hit with a wave of fear, so my voice wobbled slightly.
    Would Kurt really hurt us now, just out of revenge or petty spite? Will had always said he was motivated by greed rather than hate, but maybe he was angry enough now to hurt us just to make us pay for what he’d lost.
    “If you want to hurt us, you know I’m not going to make it easy for you,” Will said, his voice as cold as ice. He’d stepped forward so he was slightly in front of me, as if blocking my body with his own. “So you can try to kidnap us or try to hurt us or try to kill us, but you’re going to have to do it right here on the street, half a block away from the police station. Because we’re never going with you willingly. And it would all be for nothing because the diamonds are out of our hands. So do you want to risk everything out of spite? Or do you want to just call this whole thing a failure and let it go?”
    “You think I’m going to just let you two walk away, after what I’ve gone through to get those diamonds?”
    I was clutching out Will’s shirt, and I could feel him shaking.
    He’d been so injured. Just yesterday he’d been shot. He was burning up with fever right now, and he was still managing to sound lucid and intimidating both.
    I had no idea how he was doing it, but I didn’t know how long he could pull it off.
    This conversation had to end soon.
    “I think you don’t have a choice. You’ve lost. Accept it. Move on.” Will’s voice was still clear and as unyielding as stone.
    There was a long, tense pause. I waited through it without breathing. Will was shaking so much now I was afraid Kurt might be able to see it. I held on to him, tried to hold him up.
    Then finally Kurt muttered out the longest, nastiest string of curses I’d ever heard anyone vocalize. It went on for so long I almost choked on my confusion and surprise.
    I didn’t know what all that meant, but evidently Will did. Because when Kurt finally stopped muttered, Will said, “It was a long shot from the beginning. You gave it a try. You know better than to risk adding murder to your record. The diamonds are in that building. Your time would be better spent finding a way to get your hands on them than bothering us anymore.”
    Kurt snarled at him. “We used to be friends.”
    “I always thought so. But clearly the diamonds were more important than our friendship.” For the first time, Will’s voice was hoarse. I knew it still hurt him—Kurt’s betrayal. It would always hurt him. I ached for him.
    Kurt shook his head. “Blame it on the diamonds if you want, but our friendship was over the first time you laid eyes on her.” He moved his eyes to my face with a look of utter hate, the likes of which I’d never seen before. “She was always the most important thing to you.”
    “Believe what you want. I don’t care anymore. Now are you going to get out of our way, or am I going to have to make you move?” Despite his weakness, it sounded like Will could do it. Like he would do it.
    I didn’t know how he was even staying on his feet, much less sounding so threatening. I could feel him trembling and he was so hot he was burning me.
    Kurt stared at us for another long minute. Then he finally glanced away. He muttered, “Fuck you.” Then he met my eyes and added, “Fuck you both.”
    Then he turned and walked away.
    Will and I stood on the sidewalk, clinging to each other, until he was out of sight.
    “Is it over?” I asked at last.
    “I don’t know. I don’t think he’s going to hurt us though. He’s never been into violence for the sake of violence. He’s not going to give up on the diamonds though. He’s invested too much into them.”
    “So Chance and Dax?”
    “They’re still in danger. But they have a short reprieve since he doesn’t yet know half of the diamonds are still out there. It’s something.”
    “Yeah. It’s something. I’ll take it.” I let out my pent breath. “Get in the car. I’m going to drive.”
    “I can—”
    “I’m driving. So shut up and sit down before you keel over. We’re going to the emergency room. Right now.”
    “They’ll have to report a gun shot.”
    “I don’t care. Kurt isn’t looking for us anymore, and I’m not going to risk your life. You can think of a story to tell the doctor by the time we get there.”
    “When did you get so bossy?” Will’s voice was almost fond, and he was already getting into the passenger seat of the car.
    I hurried to the driver’s side and got in. “I’m only this bossy when you’re hurt and being stupid. So don’t get hurt again.”
    Will’s eyes were soft and warm and flutter-inducing as they lingered on my face. “I’ll do my best.”
    “You better. Because I’m not going to be up for another ordeal like this for a really long time.”
    ***
    Will was in the hospital for two days, and I only left him to run home, shower, and change clothes. I saw no signs of Kurt or his guys—not at the hospital or at the townhouse—so I concluded that Kurt had let us go for real.
    A uniformed police office came by to question Will about the gunshot, but he kept claiming it was a hunting accident, and there wasn’t any evidence to the contrary. They didn’t seem to believe him, but they didn’t pursue the matter.
    On the second day, I was sitting in the hospital next to Will’s bed. He’d been sleeping for about an hour. He was feeling better today, after getting pain medication and antibiotics, and I knew pretty soon he was going to insist on getting out of here.
    I was fine with that. He was looking a lot stronger, and I no longer had any reason to assume he wouldn’t fully recover. I wasn’t a fan of hospitals, and I’d be very happy not to see this room again.
    It was better than that little apartment, though.
    At least I wasn’t trapped here, hiding from imminent danger.
    I jumped when the sound of ringing phone broke through the silence of the hospital room. It was Will’s phone, which was lying on the side table.
    I snatched it up before it rang a second time, not wanting it to wake Will up.
    “Hello?” I said, hoping it was Chance or Dax.
    “Greer?” Chance’s voice.
    I closed my eyes in relief. I hadn’t heard anything from her or Dax since I’d called with the clue my father had left. “Is everything okay?”
    “Yeah. Yeah, it is. We found them.”
    “You did?” I’m not sure why I lowered my voice to a whisper, but I did.
    “We did. Kurt found out about them and has been on our tail for the last day, but we... Everything is okay now.”
    I collapsed back in my chair, closing my eyes.
    It was over then.
    Over completely.
    We were safe.
    “So you’re okay?” I asked.
    “Pretty much.”
    “What does that mean? Is Dax okay too?”
    “Dax is a little beat up, but he’s fine. I… I…”
    “Did something happen to you?”
    “Nothing serious. A lot has happened. I’ll tell you all about it when we get back.”
    “Okay. You better.”
    “I will. How are you? And Will?”
    “Will’s getting better. Still in the hospital. All I had was one bruise from where a guy hit me, so I got out of it pretty well.”
    “And it’s over now.”
    “It’s over.”
    “I’ll see you soon.”
    “I can’t wait. It’s good to hear your voice.”
    “You too.” Chance paused. “We have a lot to catch up on.”
    “Don’t I know it.” I was smiling now as I said goodbye to my sister.
    When I put down the phone, Will’s eyes were open.
    “Chance,” I explained. “She and Dax found the rest of the diamonds and took care of them, so evidently the whole thing is over.”
    “They’re okay?”
    “Seems like it.” I reached over and picked up his hand from the bed where it was resting. “I think it’s really over.”
    Will’s gray eyes were strangely sober as they held mine, and my relief immediately tightened into anxiety.
    His hand was warm and strong in my grip. He was letting me hold it, but he wasn’t really holding it back.
    I swallowed hard. “Will.”
    “Yes?”
    “We’re not in danger anymore.”
    “I know.”
    “So we can finally… deal with what’s happening between us.”
    Will just gazed at me without speaking.
    Then, very slowly, he pulled his hand out of mine.
    I stared at my empty hand in a stunned daze.
    I knew what it meant. I knew what was coming now. And I simply couldn’t believe it.
    I’d really thought that—after everything we’d been through, after everything he’d expressed to me about his feelings—that what came next would be obvious, would be easy.
    But one day I was going to have to admit the truth.
    When it came to Will’s deep, quiet, devoted, passionate heart, nothing would ever be easy.

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