“I don’t like it.”
“I don’t like it, either.”
Alec laughed. “Then why did you suggest it?”
“Bradshaw wanted me to.”
“Since when do you listen to your partner?”
“Pretty much never, but he came up with the idea, and I promised I’d run it by you,” he said. “Her brother’s hiring additional security.”
“Yeah, I know, but I still don’t like it. I don’t trust any outsider to do our job.”
Wincott agreed. “This bastard … he’s playing a sick game with her, isn’t he?”
“That’s my guess.”
“I’ve got a feeling he’s going to want some feedback from her.”
“I think so too. You do something nice for someone, you want to hear thank you.”
“Matlin agrees with you,” he said, referring to the staff psychiatrist. “He thinks he’ll want to contact her again, but he’ll do something a little more personal than a fax or an e-mail.”
“What else did he say?”
“Bradshaw only just gave him the file, so Matlin’s going to need a little time, but he did notice the ‘your’ was underlined a couple of times. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? On the subject line of the fax. He wrote, ‘Your Murder List.’”
“Yes, I know.”
“Matlin thinks underlining the ‘your’ is significant.”
“Did he say why?”
“That’s a big help.”
“I’ll talk to him in a couple of hours. He should have had enough time to go over our notes.”
“Let me know what he says.”
“Okay. I’m going to get someone over there tonight to relieve you. Tomorrow we’ll figure out a schedule that works for everyone.”
“Have whoever you assign call me before he comes over.”
Alec ended the call and turned to Regan. She handed some papers back to the clerk and said something to the woman that made her smile.
“Are you ready?” she asked Alec.
“Ready for anything,” he said. “What did you have in mind?”
“I’d like to test drive a couple of cars this afternoon.”
He shook his head. “You’re going to have to put that on hold.”
“I’m stuck here, aren’t I?”
“Yes. Do you have a lot of work to do?”
They crossed the lobby to the bank of elevators.
“Actually, once I get caught up, I won’t have much to do for a while. This is our slow time, or wind-down time.”
“All the grant letters have gone out. The money’s been allotted for this next year, but the process starts all over again in August, when Henry and I begin sorting through all the new applicants.”
Regan was digging through her purse, looking for her elevator key. She handed Alec her billfold, a pen, lipstick, a packet of tissues, an inhaler, and a notepad before she found it.
She smiled. “It’s always on the bottom,” she said. She put the key in the slot and pushed the button for the third floor before she opened her purse wide enough for Alec to dump everything back in.
“I understand no one can get up to the offices without a key,” he said as the doors opened.
“Bet it would be easy to steal a key.”
She thought about it. “Yes, it would be easy. So many of the staff have keys, and they get misplaced.”
“Not good.” The elevator stopped on the third floor as he said, “You need to talk to the head of security.”
“Yes, of course. I’ll make a note to talk to her tomorrow.”
“Her?”He sounded surprised.
“Do you have a problem with a woman in charge of our security?”
“Not if she’s good.”
Henry must have heard them talking, because he came rushing toward them when they turned the corner.
“Man, have I got news,” he said. He was so excited he sounded out of breath. “Aiden called and left a message. He’s posting a guard in front of the elevators and the stairwell downstairs, and another one on this floor. No one gets past without proper identification, and it’s got to be a photo ID. He’s also putting a guard outside your door upstairs, your bedroom door.”
“When is this supposed to happen?” Regan asked.
“Now,” he answered. “They’re all on their way, I guess. Anyway, there’s more …”
He was walking backward as Regan and Alec headed for her offices. “More guards?” she asked.
Henry shook his head. “No, more news. You’re not gonna believe this.”
“What is it?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” he said in case she was worried about that. “It’s just … well, you’re not going to believe …”
“You might get mad.”
“For heaven’s sake, just tell me,” she said, her exasperation obvious in her tone.
They had reached her offices. Alec stepped around Henry to hold the door for both of them.
“Before Aiden went with the attorney to the police station, he stopped in here.”
“For what purpose?”
“He told me to tell you that he had your car towed away, and he left this for you,” he said. He turned and picked up a padded envelope from his desk.
Regan looked astonished. “He had my car …”
“Towed away,” Henry said.
“Did he tell you where he had it towed?”
Henry looked miserable when he said, “To a junkyard, but he wouldn’t tell me which one.”
She took a step back. She could feel her face heating up. She tried to remain calm in front of Alec and Henry, but inside she was doing a slow burn. She took a deep breath. It didn’t help. The burn was getting hotter.
“Aren’t you going to open the envelope?” Henry asked.
“Yes,” she said. She tore the seal off and pulled out a set of keys.
“Did Aiden explain this?” she asked, holding the key chain up.
Once again, Henry was looking excited. “He bought you a car.”
Alec noticed that Regan’s left eyelid twitched ever so slightly. It was apparent she was struggling to keep her temper under control. She was doing a fair job of it too.
“Your brother bought you a new car,” Alec commented cheerfully. “Wasn’t that nice of him?” He added the question just to see how she would respond.
Her eyelid twitched again. “Yes,” she said, all but choking on the word.
“It’s a Beemer,” Henry announced. He was looking at the emblem on the key ring.
When Regan didn’t immediately show any reaction to that news, Henry thought she didn’t understand. “You know what I’m talking about, right? A Beemer’s a BMW.”
She didn’t trust herself to speak, and so she simply nodded. She was at a loss for words and so furious with her brother she wanted to scream. His audacity was stunning. Why was he so hell-bent on running her life?
“Regan, are you okay? You’ve got a real funny look in your eyes,” Henry said.
“I think she’s still reeling from the surprise,” Alec said. He was trying to be diplomatic. In reality, she looked as if she wanted to kill someone.
Henry couldn’t quite contain his eagerness. “Yes, I guess I would be reeling too. A Beemer costs a small fortune.” He turned to Regan again and said, “Aiden didn’t mention what color the car was, and I didn’t think to ask him until after he left.”
She took another deep breath. “The color isn’t important.”
“Would you like me to test drive it for you?” Henry asked. “I mean, you know, just to see if the car measures up. Aiden told me it’s already insured, and I’ve got the time. My desk is clear, and I’m all caught up.”
The kid was dying to drive the car, and judging from the look in Regan’s eyes, she was dying to get her hands on her brother’s neck.
Alec couldn’t help but be impressed with her restraint. Keeping all that anger bottled up inside couldn’t be good for her, though. And what was her brother’s problem? Alec thought it was damned gutsy for him to have her car towed away, no matter how old or junky it was.
Not my worry, he told himself. He was out of here in less than a month, and he wasn’t going to get involved with anyone before he left. Every family had problems, of course, but Regan’s brother put a whole new spin on the word “dysfunctional.” Alec couldn’t imagine one of his brothers or sisters having his car towed away. If they did, he’d have to kick some serious butt. Aiden didn’t seem to have any problem interfering in Regan’s life, however. Were her other brothers like him? Three men trying to run her life. Good Lord. If that were true he couldn’t help but feel sorry for her … and for any man who tried to get close to her.
But not his concern, he reminded himself. No, sir. No problem, no worries. Yeah, that was going to be his motto for the remainder of his time in Chicago. He’d do his job to the best of his ability and then get out. Sounded simple enough.
“So what do you think, Regan?” Henry asked.
She mentally shook herself. “I’m sorry. What do I think about what?”
“Do you want me to test drive the new car for you?”
She forced a smile. It wasn’t Henry’s fault she had a jerk for a brother. “Yes, I do.”
She dropped the keys into his hand, told him to be careful, and then slowly walked into her office and closed the door.
Henry was putting his blazer on as he headed for the door. “I won’t be gone long,” he told Alec.
“Wait a minute,” Alec said.
Henry paused with his hand on the doorknob. “Yes?”
Alec tilted his head toward Regan’s office. “Is she going to start throwing things, or is it safe for me to go in there?”
Henry laughed. “Regan throwing things? Like in a temper tantrum? She’d never do that. She never loses her cool, and she would never ever throw things. That’s just not her style. She is angry, though, but I guess you could tell that.”
“Yes, I could.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “She won’t take it out on you.”
That thought hadn’t entered his mind. Alec considered himself a good judge of character, and it had taken him about five minutes to figure out that Regan didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She could never deliberately hurt anyone. The way that her staff responded to her indicated she was kind and good-hearted. The problem, as he saw it, was that she was too sweet for her own good. She ought to find Aiden and give him hell for poking his nose into her affairs. Yeah, that’s what she ought to do, but he doubted she would. She was too nice to ever blow up.
No, not his problem, he reminded himself. It wasn’t his job to teach her how to stand up for herself. He did think it was odd, however, that growing up with three older brothers hadn’t toughened her up.
He knocked on her office door but didn’t wait for her to give him permission to enter. The sofa was calling his name. He remembered how comfortable it was, and while she worked, he was going to take a nap. Alec was a light sleeper. He wasn’t concerned she would leave, because he’d be wide awake before she reached the door.
Regan was on the phone. Her face was flushed, and she was obviously agitated. She was pacing back and forth behind her desk. He heard her say, “Have him call me the second he returns,” before she hung up the phone.
“Is everything okay?” he asked, knowing full well it wasn’t.
“Yes,” she said. “Everything’s fine.”
He leaned to the side to look behind her.
“What are you looking for?” she asked.
“I just wanted to see if your pants were on fire. You know,” he drawled. “‘Liar, liar …’”
She smiled. “Everything isn’t okay,” she admitted. “I’d like to get my brother alone and …”
He was removing his jacket, but his eyes were locked on hers. “And what?”
She didn’t answer.
“How do you get rid of it?” he asked then.
She pulled her chair out from behind her desk and sat down. “Get rid of what?”
“The tension, the frustration,” he said. “Or do you keep it all bottled up inside? If that’s the case, you’d better find a way to get rid of it, or you’re going to die young. Stress will kill you.”
“I take a yoga class.”
He laughed. “Yeah, well, you need a little more than yoga with those brothers of yours. Do they all interfere, or is it just the oldest, Aiden?”
She didn’t pretend not to know what he was talking about. “All of them,” she said. “And it’s getting tiresome.”
“I would think so.”
“What do you suggest I do?”
He draped his jacket over the back of a chair and started working on his tie.
“About your brothers?”
“No, about stress … tension.”
He suddenly realized he was breaking his own rule of not getting involved, but he couldn’t stop himself. “Stop being so nice.”
She looked surprised and also pleased. “You think I’m nice?”
“Being nice isn’t always a good thing.”
She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. “What about you? You’re in a high-stress job. How do you get rid of all the tension?”
“I shoot bad guys, and I get to break a lot of heads … and noses and arms.”
She laughed and shook her head. “You do not. I’ve got news for you, Detective. You’re not such a tough man. You’re actually kind of sweet.”
Now it was his turn to laugh. “Sweet? That’s a new one. I’m definitely not sweet. I’ve been told I can be a real mean mother …”
“Trust me on this. I can be mean, real mean.”
She didn’t believe him, but she wasn’t going to argue. She realized he had to be tough because of his job, but she also sensed that there was an ingrained goodness and decency about him.
Alec stretched his shoulders and rolled his head, trying to work out the knot in the back of his neck. Regan was distracted by his broad shoulders. The man was way too sexy for his own good.