In the matter of the dress, Regan had no one to blame but herself, she supposed. She never should have let Cordie and Sophie talk her into buying the dress Cordie was referring to in the first place because they weren’t going to let up until she wore the thing. She had to admit, though, it really was a stunning dress, and the silky fabric was a rich, deep burgundy color that even Regan knew looked beautiful against her skin.
It was a simple slip dress, and while the plunge between her br**sts wasn’t all that low, it was certainly lower cut than Regan was comfortable with. She usually went to great lengths to downplay what her friends called her assets, and wearing the dress would make her feel so self-conscious she would be tugging and pulling all night.
Regan decided to make up her mind about what she would wear when it was time to get ready. Until then, she had other more important things to do. She turned her computer off. Wincott had been replaced by a uniformed policeman who followed as she headed upstairs to the gym. It took her an hour and a half to get through the regimen of exercises the physical therapist had given her to strengthen the muscles around her knees, and then, because she still had nervous energy to burn, she put on her protective brace and walked the track. She was usually able to block out all her worries and concentrate only on the sound of her breathing and the pounding of her feet against the cushioned floor, but that wasn’t working today.
For the last couple of weeks, her life had been turned upside down. It seemed that everywhere she looked, she saw security guards, and of course Alec or a policeman was always with her. Everyone was waiting for something to happen. Wincott was as convinced as Alec that the crazy—Alec’s name for the suspect—would try to contact her again, but thus far, that hadn’t happened.
Regan was pretty certain she had fooled everyone, even Henry, into believing she was taking it all in stride, but inside she was a nervous wreck. The only time she felt safe was when she was with Alec.
The wait was taking its toll. Her appetite was gone; she couldn’t sleep, and lately she was having trouble concentrating. She couldn’t stop worrying that the killer had already taken off for parts unknown—or what if he had simply gone to ground, waiting for them to drop their guard? How long would the detectives continue to shadow her before Lieutenant Lewis decided he was wasting valuable manpower? What would happen then?
Maybe Alec would have some answers, and if there was a quiet moment tonight, she would ask him what the next step was.
Wincott stopped by again that evening. He had returned to pick up a couple of employment files from Aiden and decided to sit with Regan until Alec got there. Wincott’s family was out of town, and he didn’t want to go home to an empty house, so he relieved the policeman on duty.
He was lounging on the sofa in her parlor while she took a long hot shower. At her insistence, he’d ordered dinner and was now watching a baseball game while he ate. She had grown accustomed to having someone sitting in the outer room. She hadn’t bothered to lock the French doors separating the bedroom from the parlor, but she was mindful not to walk in front of the windowpanes. There were sheers covering the glass, and he could probably see only her outline, but she still kept her robe on until she was inside the walk-in closet.
She took the “S” dress off the hanger and held it up. It really was lovely. The fabric was as light as air, and when she put it on and zipped up the back, the fabric clung in all the right places and felt wonderful against her skin.
Definitely too racy for tonight, she told herself.
She reluctantly removed the dress, put it back on the hanger, and sorted through her closet several times before settling on what Cordie called her old lady’s mourning dress. The thing was shaped like a sack. Even Regan, who usually didn’t focus very hard on her appearance, was so appalled when she looked at herself in the full-length mirror, she actually took a step back.
Her brothers would definitely approve of this one. “It’s fine,” she said out loud, trying to convince herself that the safe black sheath was better than the I-want-to-sin-tonight dress, which made her feel so sensual and feminine.
“Yes, this is fine,” she repeated. Then she sighed. “If I were eighty.”
Sick and tired of acting like a prude, she put on the sinner dress again. Then she searched through her drawers until she found the black, fringed silk wrap she’d purchased in Italy a couple of years ago. When she draped it around her shoulders just right, her back and chest were nicely covered.
Her only jewelry was a diamond pendant that hung on a platinum chain and a pair of diamond stud earrings.
She folded the wrap on the back of a chair, took a deep breath, and then opened the doors and walked into the parlor. Wincott had picked up a french fry and had it halfway to his mouth when he saw her. He froze, the forgotten french fry dangling in the air from the tips of his fingers.
He gaped at her. She waited for him to say something, and when he didn’t, she asked, “Do you think this dress is okay? It’s … decent enough, isn’t it?”
She’d put him on the spot asking him such a foolish question, and she was sorry she’d said anything. Not that it mattered. And still he gaped. Oh, dear, she thought. He had given her the onceover and was staring at her strappy, high-heeled sandals.
“I’ll go change.”
“No, no, it’s okay. Honest. You just took me by surprise. Your legs …” He realized what he was about to say and stopped in time.
“Yes?” she asked, looking down. Her dress had a ragged hemline, and in places the fabric floated well above her knees. “What about my legs?”
“Long,” he said, nodding. “Yeah, they’re long … I mean tanned. Have you been in the sun?” He cleared his throat, dropped the french fry on his plate, and stammered, “Your dress is pretty.”
He wanted to say, Wait until Alec gets a look at you, but he didn’t. She was already feeling self-conscious, and for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why. The woman was a knockout. How could she not know it?
The knock on the door pulled him from his thoughts. Regan went into the bedroom to collect her wrap and her evening bag while Wincott let Alec in.
She could hear the two men talking as she turned the lights off and walked back into the parlor. Wincott was watching Alec as he spotted Regan in the doorway. He gave her a quick glance and said, “You’ll need a raincoat.”
“Yes. All right.”
She disappeared into the bedroom again. Wincott stood in front of the sofa staring at Alec, willing him to say something. Wincott couldn’t stop grinning. Alec was good, all right. He hadn’t shown any outward reaction to the vision standing before him. He hadn’t even blinked. Come to think of it, he hadn’t taken a breath either.
He kept staring into the bedroom, though, even when he said to Wincott, “What are you looking at?”
“And I’m wondering how come you’re not drooling. Must have a lot of discipline,” he said.
Alec looked at him. “We’re here to do a job, and that’s all.”
“You’re saying you’re not going to try to get her to—”
Alec cut him off. He knew where he was going. “Not another frickin’ word, or I swear I’ll shoot you.”
“Hey, I wasn’t going to say anything offensive. Well, maybe I was gonna say something like, ‘You kids have a nice time tonight, but you keep your hands to yourself You know, I might have said something like that.”
ALEC WAS WEARING A BLACK RAINCOAT OVER HIS TUX AND looked devastatingly handsome. He opened the door for her, stepped back, and said to Wincott, “Replacement’s here.”
Wincott’s phone was ringing. “I’ll go over a couple of things with him. You two go on.”
The door closed as he was answering the phone.
They didn’t speak until they were in the car and on their way north. Regan gave Alec directions to the country club—she’d written them down on a three-by-five index card—but he already knew where it was located.
“Are you always so organized?” he asked.
“I try to be,” she said. She pulled out a handful of cards, shuffled through them, and put them back in her purse.
“What are all those?”
“Notes for tonight,” she said.
“Do you have to give a speech?” he asked.
“Just a couple of words.”
She didn’t expound, and he figured he’d find out what it was all about when he got there. He was having a difficult time paying attention to the road. Her perfume was playing havoc with his concentration, and all he wanted to think about was how sexy she had looked when she walked into the parlor.
Yeah, right. Who was he kidding? He was trying to picture her naked, and that was what was playing havoc with his concentration.
They’d driven a couple of miles without speaking again, and the silence was awkward. Regan wished he would say something, even if it was a mundane remark about the weather. He had a ferocious frown on his face. What in heaven’s name was he thinking about?
“Is everything all right?” she asked.
“What? Oh, sure. Everything’s fine.”
“You were frowning.”
He glanced over at her. “I was?”
“What were you thinking about?”
You. Naked. Stalling while he tried to come up with a suitable lie, he said. “Just now?”
He eased the car down the ramp onto the interstate and swung in behind a pickup. Traffic was unusually heavy, even for Saturday night, but he still didn’t have any trouble keeping track of the sedan following them.
“We’ve got company.”
“The gray sedan two cars back. They’ve been following us since we left the hotel, and they don’t seem to care if we notice them or not. I’m not worried, just irritated.”
She tried to see the sedan from her side-view mirror, and when that didn’t work, she twisted in her seat to look out the back window. The seat belt cut into her neck.
“I don’t see a sedan.”
He pulled over into the middle lane and accelerated, and as soon as he did that, the sedan followed.
Her eyes grew huge. “I see them. There are two men.” Turning to Alec, she said, “Why aren’t we worried?”
“They’re security guards.”
“So now I’ve got security guards following me around the city? Even when I’m with you? Who do you suppose gave that order?”
She settled back in the seat, adjusted her raincoat over her knees, and stared out the window. She didn’t say another word for several minutes. Alec glanced over at her and saw the worry on her face. “What’s on your mind?” he asked.
“I was just wondering why we haven’t heard from him,” she said. “Why hasn’t he tried to contact me? It’s been two weeks, Alec. Do you still think he will?”
He could hear her anxiety. “Yes, I do.”
“But what happens if he waits?”
“Then we wait.”
“How much time will the lieutenant let Detective Wincott and you and the others spend on this? You’re all overworked, and I know there aren’t enough of you to go around. If nothing happens, and you leave Chicago, and he goes into hiding …” She suddenly stopped, took a breath, and told herself to calm down. Alec wasn’t clairvoyant. He couldn’t possibly have all the answers.
“Listen, Regan. Wincott and Bradshaw haven’t been twiddling their thumbs. They’re working on this, okay?”
“Yes, okay,” she said, feeling guilty now because she knew the detectives had been putting in long hours. “I’m sorry. It’s just that, the more I know—”
“The less afraid you’ll be.”
“What were you going to say?’
“The more control I’ll have. Besides, I can’t come up with a plan to help catch him unless I know all the facts, now can I?”
“I don’t like the sound of that, and neither will Wincott. Don’t you get in the middle of this.”
“I am in the middle of it.”
“I’m talking about the investigation. Don’t muck it up with foolish plans …”
“You sound like you think I’m going to do something crazy.”
She had one hand on the dashboard, getting ready to brace herself should he swerve or increase his speed.
“Would you like to drive?”
The question jarred her. “No, I wouldn’t.”
“I’m only going sixty.”
“Did I criticize your driving?”
He reached across the console and pulled her hand away from the dash. “Try to relax,” he said. “And no more talk about the investigation tonight. Okay?”
“Yes,” she agreed. She leaned back and folded her hands in her lap. “About those security guards following us …”
“I don’t want them to follow us inside the club, and I’d rather no one knew that you were my bodyguard. The focus shouldn’t be on me tonight, and I don’t want a lot of questions.”
The only way the focus wouldn’t be on her was if she kept her coat on all evening and no one got a look at her dress. Actually, it was her body inside the dress, he silently corrected.
“I’ll talk to the guards and make sure they keep a low profile.”
The clouds suddenly erupted, and within seconds, fat raindrops splattered the windshield. Alec turned on the wipers and said, “I think we’re going to set a record for the most consecutive rain days.”
“That’s our exit.”
“Does Wincott know where Shields is hiding?”
“You’ll have to ask him that question.”
“Aiden wants me to hide too. I’m not going to, though. I’m not running away. I want to help catch him.”
“Aiden’s trying to look out for you,” he said. “I’ve got two younger sisters, and I’d probably react the same way.”
“He’s bringing in reinforcements.”
“Spencer’s on his way. He’s probably already at the hotel.”
“Wasn’t he coming to Chicago for that meeting you told me about?”