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Two is a Lie(5)

By:Pam Godwin

“Locking your doors is common sense.” Trace glances at me over his shoulder, his expression stone-cold. “And no. No one knows about your connection to Cole.”

“Except my handler.” Cole relentlessly rakes a hand through his hair. “He’s the man who came here three years ago.”

“Robert Wright.” My neck goes taut against the memory. “He’s the one who told me you were dead.”

“Not his real name, but yes.” Cole looks at Trace. “He’s the only person who has access to my whereabouts.”

“Can you trust him?” I wrap an arm around my waist, hating the paranoid thoughts they’re putting in my head.


“Did he tell you about his visit with me?” My voice croaks as I relive the gutting horror of that day.

I don’t hear the door shut, don’t feel the couch beneath me, don’t taste the tears flooding my face. The agony is all-consuming, crippling my body, twisting me into something unrecognizable, and spiraling me into a shapeless, hopeless place.

“No. He wouldn’t tell me anything about you.” Cole inhales deeply. “He thought it was best that I focus on staying alive.”

Cole was in danger. Life-threatening danger that forced him into hiding, and I had no idea.

“Before you left, I specifically asked if your safety was a concern, and you laughed at me when you told me no.”

He stares at his feet, unable to meet my eyes.

“Were you even in Iraq?” I ask.

The liar pins his lying lips and doesn’t look at me. Maybe Trace can shed some light.

“You said you used to work together?” I wave a hand between them. “Is that how you became best friends?”

“Yes.” Trace slides a knee onto the mattress as he shifts to face me. “I used to be his handler.”

“You keep using that term.” I finish off the coffee and set the mug on the nightstand. “I don’t know what handler means, because I don’t know what Cole does for a living.”

“I’m bound by the same secrecy agreement as Cole, but I’ll try to explain…” Trace strokes his chin, as if carefully choosing his words. “Here’s an analogy. The handler of a weapon controls how the weapon approaches a target and decides when and where to aim.”

A weapon. He said it was an analogy, but he chose that example for a reason. He wants me to understand the severity of Cole’s job.

“Okay, so you were Cole’s handler, and you called the shots.” I study Trace’s unreadable expression. “And Cole is what? Some kind of assassin?”

“No.” Cole drags a hand down his face. “Don’t dig, Danni.”

“Do you kill people?”

He closes his eyes and breathes deeply, refusing to answer.

I bristle with frustration and turn to Trace. “Are you retired from this handler job?”


“You’re not employed by the government or whomever Cole works for?”

“Correct. I’m completely severed from that business. I own the casino and work for myself.”

“But it’s okay for you to know about Cole’s job and not me?” I feel like I’m pulling teeth to collect tiny pieces of a convoluted puzzle.

“Since I was intimately involved in his prior jobs, I knew…things.” Trace’s mouth bounces between a flat line and a frown. “But I know nothing about his last mission.”

“Except you knew there was a chance he survived it.”

“I knew Cole wouldn’t have been stationed at an oil terminal, therefore, I knew he didn’t die in an explosion.” Trace rubs his brow. “What I didn’t know was if the story about the explosion was a cover for his actual death.”

“Bullshit.” Cole clenches his jaw. “You know how hard it is to kill me. I’m fucking trained—”

“No one’s impossible to kill.” Trace lifts his head, glaring at Cole. “You went on that mission knowing your heart wasn’t in it. You were preoccupied, unfocused. Frankly, I’m surprised you survived.”

“What’s he talking about?” I ask Cole, my stomach twisting into knots.

Cole scrapes a hand over the back of his head, frowning at Trace. “My job doesn’t allow for personal distractions. We don’t have relationships or attachments or—”

“Girlfriends? I was a distraction?” My voice is thin, pitted with alarm.

“No,” he says heatedly. “You’re the reason I fought so damn hard to stay alive. When I met you, I knew I’d have to complete this last job and that I’d survive it—for you—then I could quit.” His timbre drops to a tormented whisper. “The job should’ve only taken a year. A year, and I would’ve been back with you, married, and maybe even planning a family.”