Alec stepped in front of her. “Now, I know you’re smarter than that, and we have been over this, but I’m gonna pretend you still don’t understand. I’ve been assigned to you, and that means that everywhere you go, I go.”
She folded her arms and frowned. The day was proving to be long and arduous. “And as I explained, if I feel I need a bodyguard, I’ll hire one.”
His smile was distracting, and when he stepped closer to her, forcing her to tilt her head back to look into his eyes, she actually felt a rush of goose bumps.
“Are we going to get into an argument?” he asked.
“I believe we are.”
“You can’t win.”
“Why? Because you’ve got a gun?”
He didn’t say a word. He just nodded.
“Because you’re bigger?”
He nodded again.
She rolled her eyes. “You’ll notice I didn’t say smarter.” He did laugh then. “Detective—”
It was as far as he would let her get. “Neither one of us can leave just yet.”
“Why not?” she asked, temporarily sidetracked from the bodyguard issue.
“Your brother and your attorney are downstairs in Lewis’s office with Wincott and Bradshaw. I came up here to get you. They’re all waiting to talk to you.”
“Which brother?” she asked, trying not to let him see how irritated she was.
“I don’t know. Does it matter?”
“Yes. I hope it’s not Aiden,” she said. She didn’t tell Alec what she was thinking, but she did hope that Spencer was back in town and was waiting downstairs. He was much easier to deal with.
She shook her head as she attempted to go around him. “I guess we should go downstairs then.”
He maneuvered in front of her again and leaned against the wall. “What’s going on with you?”
He acted as though they were old friends and he knew her so well he could tell when she was out of sync.
She shifted from one foot to the other as she said, “If I hadn’t made that stupid list …”
“You didn’t kill anyone, did you?”
“No, but …”
“You simply took part in an exercise.”
“I made a murder list, for heaven’s sake.”
“Along with a whole lot of other people,” he pointed out. “You just didn’t get the opportunity to toss your list into the fire.” He stepped aside to let her go ahead of him. “I can’t wait to meet this Dr. Shields. He sounds like a snake charmer.”
“Not so charming. Just a snake. I wish I had never heard of him,” she answered over her shoulder.
“So what’s wrong with Aiden?”
The questions jarred her. “Nothing’s wrong with him. He’s a wonderful brother.”
Alec wasn’t buying it. “Yeah?”
“He’s just a little … uptight. That’s all.”
Alec didn’t have to ask which of the two strangers in Lewis’s office was Regan’s brother. The family resemblance was obvious. Though Regan was only five five or five six and her brother was over six feet, they shared the same coloring and patrician features. Aiden was impeccably dressed in a well-cut, dark suit, which Alec assumed had a fancy designer label inside. His own brother Theo had a suit just like it. Calvin Klein, Alec thought. Or maybe Armani.
The well-fed man sitting in a chair facing Lewis’s desk was also wearing an expensive suit. The man was short, round as an egg, and his face was as wrinkled as an unironed cotton shirt. Alec assumed he was the attorney.
Detectives Wincott and Bradshaw stood by the windows, watching. They both looked bored senseless.
Regan’s brother happened to glance up, spotted her coming toward him, and for a fleeting second, Alec saw relief in his eyes. No matter how many flaws the man might have, it was apparent he loved his sister.
SAM BALDWIN, THE MADISONS’ ATTORNEY, CLOSED HIS NOTEBOOK and stood when Regan walked in.
“You’re not a suspect,” he told her immediately.
“No, no, of course she isn’t,” Lewis agreed. He stood and leaned across the desk with his hand outstretched. He introduced himself, shook her hand, and wouldn’t let go as he said, “I know this must be a terrible ordeal for you.”
Before she could respond, Sam said, “I’ll get back to you within the hour, Aiden.” He nodded to Regan, who was trying to pull her hand away from Lewis’s grasp and then left the office.
“Regan?” Aiden said.
“I’m fine,” she replied.
The second Lewis let go of her, she crossed the room to stand next to her brother. Since the lieutenant hadn’t bothered to introduce Alec to him, she did.
The two men were the same height. Aiden was thinner, but both men were quite handsome and fit. Her brother looked tired, though. Tired and worried.
“The lieutenant tells me you’ve been assigned to protect my sister until the man who sent those photos is apprehended.”
“That’s right,” Lewis said before Alec could answer.
Wincott drew Lewis’s attention when he asked, “Who else are you going to put on this, or is it just Buchanan and Bradshaw and me working the case? Connelly’s already been reassigned, hasn’t he?”
“Yes, he has,” Lewis said. “You’ll have help, but it won’t be Buchanan.” He sat down in his chair and scowled at Wincott. “You understand what I’m saying? Buchanan’s got bodyguard duty and that’s all.”
“Did Sam call you?” Regan asked her brother. She whispered so that the lieutenant wouldn’t hear her. “Is that why you’re here?”
Wincott and Bradshaw were occupied arguing with Lewis about manpower, ignoring Regan for the moment, but Alec was paying attention.
“No,” Aiden said in response to Regan’s question. “Henry called Sam and told him you were on your way here. He also told him about the e-mail and the fax you received. I saw the photos.”
“There were copies on my desk when I arrived. As soon as I saw them, I called Sam. Neither one of us found out you had made a murder list until we got here. Regan, what in God’s name were you thinking?”
“Excuse me?” Anger radiated in her voice.
“You heard me. I cannot imagine why you would do such a thing.”
She didn’t bother to explain because she knew that no matter what she said, she would still be put on the defensive. And be found guilty.
She took a breath and whispered. “How did you get those photos? Henry wouldn’t have placed anything on your desk without checking with me first.”
“Someone put them there. I just assumed they came from your assistant. That really isn’t important, is it?”
Yes, she thought, it was very important, but she knew that now wasn’t the time to argue about it. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t bother Spencer and Walker about any of this. I don’t want them to worry,” she said.
“Too late. Someone e-mailed them the photos.”
“The photos of Detective Sweeney and the saleswoman? They’ve seen those photos?” she asked, trying to understand.
“Were there others?”
“No, no there weren’t.”
“Then the answer is yes. They’ve seen the photos of the detective and the saleswoman.”
“I wish they hadn’t seen them. They’re going to worry, and—” Her anger and frustration were building.
Aiden, on the other hand, was his usual stone-faced self. “Worry? They’re frantic. Spencer wants you under lock and key until he gets here, and then he hopes you’ll fly back to Melbourne and stay with him until the police catch this maniac.”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“He thinks he can talk you into it. Walker also wants you to stay with him.”
“Where is he this week?”
“Paris until the day after tomorrow. He wants you to travel with him, and that, of course, is out of the question.”
“Aiden, I can make my own decisions.”
“You won’t even get in a car with Walker. Why would you consider traveling with him?”
“I’m not going to travel with him, and I’m not going to Melbourne.”
Aiden nodded and turned to Alec. “As I was explaining to Detective Wincott, we have an excellent security force at the hotel. I’ll go ahead and hire additional men.”
Was he dismissing him? Alec thought maybe he was and was vastly amused. Did Aiden think Alec worked for him? Even though he found the job of bodyguard a little demeaning, he would keep Regan safe until Lewis replaced him.
Detective Wincott joined them. Aiden assured him that he and his brothers, and Regan, of course, would do anything they could to help with the investigation.
“She’s living at the hotel now, and her office is on the third floor, so she never has to go outside, and that should make your job a little easier,” he told Alec.
Regan was shaking her head. “I can’t just cancel my schedule. I’ve given my word that I would help with some important events coming up. I won’t miss the hospital fund-raiser.”
“You’re going to have to cancel everything for now,” Aiden said. “If you insist on staying in Chicago, then you’re stuck in the hotel. I’m postponing my business trips until this matter is settled.”
“But, Aiden—” she began. Her brother had already turned to Wincott and was now discussing the plan for her protection. Neither one of them asked her opinion. Aiden still firmly believed she should be put on their private jet and sent into seclusion.
In the midst of their conversation, Regan walked out of the office. Alec was right behind her.
“Would you mind driving me back to the hotel?” she asked. “If it isn’t convenient, I could walk or grab a cab.”
“What is it with you people? First you and then your brother. I’m not going to go away, so stop trying to dismiss me. Got that?”
She didn’t turn around. “Yes, all right.”
“Wait a minute. What about your brother?”
She kept right on going. “What about him?”
A slow smile crossed his face. He followed her down the stairs, half expecting her brother to come chasing after her.
“How come you didn’t defend yourself back there?”
“When your brother asked about the murder list. He gave me the impression that he thinks you’re responsible.”
“In a way I am, aren’t I?”
He grabbed her arm and pulled her back so she wouldn’t go outside ahead of him. They crossed the street and went into the parking lot. Alec opened the passenger door for her, but his gaze, she noticed, was never still. It was as though he expected a sniper to pop up somewhere. He scanned the roofs and the street beyond.
Once he was behind the wheel, he pushed a button that locked the doors. The sound turned her thoughts. “I’m going to buy a new car today.”
“You are? What’s wrong with the car you have? You do own a car, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.” She wondered if he thought she was driven around in a limo whenever she wanted to go out.
“So what’s wrong with it?” He pictured her driving a Mercedes or maybe even a Porsche, definitely something expensive and trendy.
“How old? A year? Two?”
“You think I’m spoiled, don’t you?”
“Does it matter what I think of you?”
“No.” She told the lie well and was certain he believed her. It did matter, though, a little anyway.
The traffic was heavy. When Alec veered to the left to avoid a car that pulled in front of them, Regan flinched, and when he sped up to work his way onto the highway, she reacted again. “Listen,” he said. “You’re making me nuts grabbing the dashboard every time I turn a corner. Try to relax, or is that possible?”
“Of course it’s possible. Slow down and I’ll prove it.”
“I know what I’m doing.” There was a bite in his voice now.
His tone didn’t faze her. “So does Walker, and he’s had God only knows how many accidents.”
“I’m not your brother,” he said. “And the name is Alec.”
She noticed he’d slowed the car down. “What did you say?”
“You might as well call me Alec. You and I are going to be real tight for a while.”
“If Lieutenant Lewis knew I was going to put him on that murder list, he’d reassign you and hang me out to dry. That’s what I’d do.”
He laughed. “No, you wouldn’t. You’re too softhearted to do anything like that.”
“You can’t know if I’m softhearted or not.”
“Sure I can. I’m a detective.”
“I detect,” he said with a grin.
“Are you married?” Now, why had she asked him that? It really was none of her business.
“I’m not either,” she said.
“Yeah, I know.”
Regan was trying to come up with a suitable reason she’d asked such a personal question. “I was just curious,” she said. How lame was that?
They reached the hotel a minute later. Wincott called Alec’s cell phone just as the doorman opened the car door for Regan.
“I wanted to talk to you about the schedule,” Wincott said as Alec followed her into the lobby.
“What about it?”
“You can’t be with the woman twenty-four hours a day, despite what Lewis thinks. You’re gonna have to sleep sometime. You could sleep with her, I guess. That would be one way to keep an eye on her during the night.”
“There’s a plan,” Alec said dryly.
“Of course, there’s a chance she might not cooperate.”
“So what do you suggest? You’re running the show.”
Regan had stopped at the front desk and was going through some papers one of the staff had handed her. Alec stood about ten feet away, his back to her, watching the people in the lobby.
“Her brother wants her under lock and key,” he said. “That would make our job easier; however, we both know there will be times when she absolutely has to leave the hotel, so how about this? You’re with her all day, in and outside the hotel. Wherever she goes, you go, but when she’s in for the night, we let the hotel security staff babysit her.”