Regan was dressed in jogging clothes, and Wincott frowned as he gave her the once-over.
“I thought we had an understanding,” he said. “We’re letting you go to that country club for the hospital thing, but running outside … that just can’t happen.”
The poor man looked as if he was bracing himself for an argument. She realized that if she insisted on running outside, the detective would have to run with her. From the shape he was in and the loafers he wore, she guessed he would have lasted about ten minutes tops.
“I don’t plan to go outside at all today. We have a gym upstairs with a brand-new track, so when I do work out, I go up there.”
He looked relieved. “Where are we headed now?”
“Do you work every weekend?”
“I really don’t have much to do, but since I’m stuck in the hotel, I’m reorganizing the office. This is our slow period. The charity projects and the work on the grants start all over in August.”
“Bet that’s a lot of hard work.”
“Not really. Henry could do the grants blindfolded. As soon as he graduates from Loyola, he’ll be taking over my job and working on his MBA. He’ll hire someone to help, of course.”
“And what will you do?”
She smiled. “I’m going global. I want to set up our programs at all the hotels.”
They reached the first floor and crossed the lobby to another bank of elevators. There was a security guard stationed in the alcove. Regan nodded to him as she walked past. She stepped into the elevator, inserted her key and pushed the button for the third floor.
“Do you think all of these extra guards are necessary, Detective Wincott?”
“Hey, if you’re calling Buchanan, Alec, you can call me John, and I’ve got mixed feelings about the guards. If they don’t get in our way, I guess they’re okay.”
The hallway was quiet, the doors to the other offices locked. Regan led the way into her office. Like Alec, Wincott immediately went to the sofa and made himself comfortable.
She grabbed another stack of files, dropped them on her desk, and sat down. Wincott had spotted the remote on a tray on the table and picked it up. She watched him look around.
“Hey, Regan …”
“Top button,” she said as she opened the first folder.
He didn’t understand her instructions. “Push the top button on the remote.”
The second the panels began to move, Wincott whistled. “Holy heaven. Did Alec know about this?”
She laughed. “Yes.”
“No wonder he didn’t want to share this detail. With this television and …”
Wincott shook his head. And “you,” he was going to say. “The sofa. It’s nice and soft. And this TV. It’s bigger than my house.”
“My brother Spencer had it installed a couple of months ago. He can’t be in a room without a television blaring.”
“I bet I’d like your brother.”
“I’m sure you would. Spencer’s the easygoing one,” she explained.
“And he hangs out here when he’s in town?”
She nodded. “Pretty much.”
“Will the noise bother you while you’re working?”
“Not at all.”
Her computer screen was on and she immediately noticed a little square light blinking in the corner. Had she forgotten to turn it off? Or had someone else turned it on this morning?
She drummed her fingers on the mouse pad while she thought about it. Melissa, the computer tech from the police department, had told Alec that she had removed Regan from the loop.
Melissa had given Regan her card. She found it in her desk drawer and called the station. She didn’t expect Melissa to be at her desk, but she wanted to leave a message asking her to call her Monday.
The woman answered on the second ring.
Regan told her who she was and said, “I didn’t think you would be working on a Saturday.”
“Then why did you call?”
Melissa’s antagonistic tone didn’t deter Regan. “I thought I would leave you a message, and you’d call me back on Monday. Since I have you on the phone, I wonder if you have a minute to answer a couple of questions for me. I could call back if it isn’t convenient now.”
“What kind of questions?”
“Yes, sure,” she said. She sounded almost perky now. “I know everything there is to know about computers.”
“That’s what I understand,” she said. “Detective Buchanan told me that you had discovered my e-mails were going to other terminals in the hotel.”
“That’s right,” she said. “They went to your assistant’s terminal and to one in your brother’s office. Did you want me to pinpoint the exact location?”
“No, that isn’t necessary. I’m almost positive my e-mails were going to my brother Aiden’s assistant.”
“Okay, so what do you want?”
“This morning, when I came into my office, I noticed my computer was on.”
“And you think maybe he or she hooked up again?”
“It’s easy to find out. I mean, easy for me to find out,” she qualified. “Are you sitting at your keyboard now?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then let’s get started,” she said impatiently.
For the next five minutes Melissa barked one order after another. Regan had to ask her to slow down a couple of times, but eventually she found the link that indicated someone else had locked onto her private and her business e-mails.
A couple of commands later, Regan knew exactly where her e-mails were going, and the link was broken. “Snoop’s gone,” Melissa said. “Now I’m going to talk you through this, and we’re going to make it impossible for anyone else to get in there.”
Melissa once again rattled off one command after another. Regan came up with a new password and typed it in.
“Okay, we’re done. If you do forget the password, just get hold of me and I’ll tell you what it is. You tell Henry what it is and to memorize it too.”
Regan thanked her for her help and said, “If you ever want to change jobs, please let me know. We could certainly use you at the Hamilton.”
“Honest? Or are you just saying that to be nice?”
“Yes, I do mean it.”
“Would I get to travel to the other hotels, like the one in London and the one going up in Melbourne?”
“Yes, you would.”
“Are there good benefits?”
“We’ll see,” she said, and then abruptly hung up the phone.
Melissa’s rude dismissal was both startling and somewhat humorous. Regan wasn’t sure what “We’ll see” meant, but she hoped the tech would seriously consider a move. She would be an asset. Regan was sure of that, and she also liked her. There didn’t seem to be an artificial bone in her body, and it was refreshing to talk to someone who didn’t have a hidden agenda.
While Regan had been working on her computer, her back was to the door, but when she swung around in her chair, Alec was standing there, not five feet away from her desk. He hadn’t made a sound when he’d entered her office, and she didn’t have any idea how long he’d been watching her.
She felt a surge of joy and hoped to heaven her reaction didn’t show in her face.
He looked as if he was about to change the oil in his car or maybe make his third trip to the hardware store. His gray sweatshirt had seen better days.
He looked amazing … and just about perfect. Surely she could find something wrong with him. Okay, she thought, he looked like a slob, and that wasn’t good, was it? Focus on the flaw, she told herself. Had he bothered to comb his hair? She didn’t think so. There you go, she thought. Another flaw to think about. God, who was she kidding? The slob was sexy and gorgeous and—
“What are you doing here?” Wincott called out.
Alec kept his gaze locked on Regan as he answered, “Just checking. I thought you were asleep when I walked in here.”
“Hey, I’m on duty. I heard you and I saw you.”
“I did. What did you mean when you said you were just checking? Checking what?”
Regan was the first to break eye contact. She leaned back in her chair and glanced over at Wincott, who admittedly did look half asleep. He had that glazed, I’m-watching-the-Sports-Channel look about him.
“Why are you here, Alec?” she asked.
“I was in the neighborhood.”
“You live in the neighborhood, Buchanan,” Wincott said without turning away from the TV.
“Yeah, well, I just wondered if anything was happening.”
She shook her head. “I’ve just been finishing up some things.”
“I thought you were going to pack today,” Wincott said. He hit the mute button on the remote and stood. “I don’t know why you think this is punishment. I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven. Just being able to order room service and watching television without kids climbing all over me … yeah, this is heaven.”
“Being with me is punishment?” she asked. She didn’t sound wounded, just curious.
Alec shook his head. “Lewis gave me the assignment as punishment. He thought I’d hate it.”
“And do you?”
He grinned. “What do you think?”
He didn’t wait for her to come up with a clever reply but turned to Wincott and said, “You want to explain why the head of the investigation is doing bodyguard duty?”
“I’m filling in until a replacement gets here.”
“Who’s on for tonight?”
“Lyle’s going to escort her to that formal thing she has to attend. He’s probably out renting a tux now.”
Alec shook his head. “Get him on the phone and tell him he’s off the hook. I’ll take her.”
“Off the hook?” Regan repeated. She didn’t know if she should be insulted or amused.
Alec ignored her and continued to frown at Wincott because he hadn’t pulled out his cell phone and dialed Bradshaw yet. “Call him,” he insisted.
“What do you mean, ‘how come?’ I just told you how come. I’m going to take her.”
“And I’m still asking how come you’re going to take her.”
Alec was glaring now. He knew Wincott was deliberately baiting him, and from the stupid grin on his face, he was having a fine time doing it too. Alec had the sudden urge to punch him.
“Because I said I would take her, that’s how come, and I’ve got a tux hanging in my closet.”
“But Lyle’s looking forward to tonight.”
“I’ll just bet he is,” he snapped. “We both know Bradshaw’s a …” He suddenly stopped.
“A what?” Wincott stretched as Alec crossed the room.
“Listen up,” Alec said, his voice low so Regan wouldn’t overhear. “Stop messing with me. Got that?”
“Last I checked, I was still in charge of this investigation, Alec.”
“That’s right, you are, John,” he replied, stressing the detective’s first name. “So go somewhere and investigate. I’m in charge of her protection, and you know what that means?”
Wincott grinned. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. You’re going to protect her.”
“Make the call.”
Alec turned to Regan and knew from her puzzled expression that she had heard every word of the exchange and most likely didn’t understand. She probably thought he was out of his mind, and maybe he was. At the moment he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to let anyone get near her, especially Lyle Screw-Anything-That-Walks-By Bradshaw.
“What time do you want to leave?” he asked Regan. He sounded downright surly.
“I’d like to be there a little early.”
“Okay. What time do you want me at your door?”
Wincott walked with Alec into the front office.
“Have you got any leads yet?” Alec asked.
“We’ve checked out almost everyone connected with Regan, and we looked hard at Shields and his sidekicks. I didn’t see anything there. The three of them are in protective custody, and I’m told that Shields is scared sick.”
“No one else looks good?”
“Not yet. We’re checking out Peter Morris. You know, the guy Regan turned down for a grant. We don’t have much on him yet.”
“What about former employees? Maybe someone who got fired is trying to get even.”
“Alec, I know how frustrated you must be because you can’t work on this case, and I’ll call you the second I do have something.”
“Are you looking at the employees?”
“Yes. Her brother Aiden is getting a list together.”
The two detectives continued to talk for another ten minutes. Regan was on the phone, but she’d been placed on hold, and while she waited, she tried to overhear what the men were saying. Alec caught her watching. He didn’t smile or frown, but he did wink before he turned and walked out of the office, and despite all her attempts to remain unaffected, every one of her senses reacted.
She would never ever admit any of this foolishness to her friends. Sophie would start nagging Regan to make a move on him, and that was something Regan wasn’t prepared to do.
Cordie would probably tell her that Alec was safe because he was untouchable, which made him great for a fantasy man. He was someone who had a job to do and would do it well, but when he was finished, he would walk away without a backward glance.
But still, Regan was relieved to find voice mails from each of her friends saying they’d returned to Chicago in time for the dinner dance. Sophie’s message said that she was bringing a date and that she had loads to tell Regan about their investigation.
Cordie had left two messages. The first was to inform Regan that she was going to the country club alone—she’d probably get a cab and catch a ride home with Sophie—and that she would wait for Regan in the reception area just outside the ballroom door. The second message was all about clothes. She described in great detail the sapphire blue gown she was wearing and ended her call with the suggestion that Regan stop being such a wimp and wear the “S” dress.