Henry smiled. “Thank you, sir, but I’m good here. Besides, someday this is all going to be mine.”
Aiden laughed. “The hotel, or this office?”
“Stop recruiting him,” Regan said.
Aiden ignored her. “If this is really what you want …”
“It is, sir. Besides, I could never work with …”
“The dragon? Isn’t that what you call Emily?”
Henry didn’t seem embarrassed or look the least contrite. “Most of the time that’s what I call her, but I’ve also got a couple of other names for her.”
“Yes. I’ve heard about those too.”
“I appreciate your offer,” he said. “But I love what I’m doing, and like I said, I could never work with Emily.”
“Apparently no one can.” He was looking at Regan when he made that remark.
She didn’t ask him what, if anything, he planned to do about his assistant because he might use that as a bargaining chip to get her to sign the papers. She was happy, though, to know that he was aware he had a problem.
Her brother nudged her shoulder as he walked by. “I left the papers on your desk. Sign them.”
“Triple my budget and I will.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
As soon as Aiden was out of earshot, Henry whispered, “He’s never going to go for triple. That was reaching.”
“I know he won’t. So we’ll negotiate, and we’ll get double, which is what we want.”
Henry shook his head. “Aiden’s got to know what you’re up to.”
“Of course he knows,” she said. “But he’ll still give in to us. At least I hope he will.”
“He acts like he doesn’t care about the job we do, but he does care, doesn’t he? It’s not just about a tax write-off.”
“No, he cares, and so does Spencer. They’re just so busy building their empire, they don’t have time for anything else.” She glanced around the office. “Henry, who were you talking to when I was inside with Spencer and Aiden?”
“Alec was here?”
Her reaction to the news was bizarre. She could feel herself blushing, and she hoped Henry wouldn’t notice. She tried to sound nonchalant when she asked, “Did Alec happen to overhear any of the conversation?”
Henry smiled. “Are you asking me if he heard you and Spencer shouting?”
So much for trying to act nonchalant. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m asking.”
“I know he heard some of it because he started laughing,” he said. “But I don’t remember how much. Why? Is that important?”
She shook her head and then decided to change the subject. “You know what? I should have talked to Aiden about Emily. He needs to know how much trouble she’s causing, and I want him to know I don’t like the way she blames you for her mistakes.”
“You heard Aiden. He’s going to do something about her. I hope he follows Cordie’s suggestion.”
“And that was?”
“Fire her ass.”
Regan tried not to laugh. “Those were her exact words, weren’t they?”
“Shame on her, corrupting a young, impressionable boy.”
Henry laughed. “I’ve heard worse.”
Regan went back into her office and closed the doors. She was feeling horribly nervous and thought she would hide until she had rehearsed what she was going to say to Alec about last night. Maybe he wouldn’t bring it up. Then again, maybe he would, and she wanted to be prepared.
She knew she was being foolish. What happened last night wouldn’t happen again; they had agreed on that, and Alec surely wouldn’t mention it today. Besides, he was on duty. He probably wouldn’t even be thinking about it.
“I can do this,” she whispered.
She took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders, and opened the door again. She was going to find Alec and say hello. The sooner she got through the awkwardness of seeing him for the first time after … oh, God, she was doing it again. Getting all flustered and panicky. If this is what love felt like, she didn’t want any part of it. She certainly didn’t want the broken heart she knew was coming either, but she couldn’t do anything about that now, could she? She had no one to blame for that misery but herself.
She walked past Henry and said, “Go have some fun. It’s Sunday. The mail will be here tomorrow.”
“I’m leaving,” he promised. “I just want to do a little catch-up. I won’t stay long.”
Time to get the moment over with, she thought as she walked out into the hall. She stopped short. Aiden and Alec were standing in front of Aiden’s office at the end of the hallway. Aiden was doing most of the talking, and Alec was nodding every now and then. She stood there a long minute, waiting until they finished their conversation. She assumed Aiden wanted the latest update on the investigation.
They both noticed her at the same time. Aiden nodded, then walked around the corner to the elevators. Alec started toward her.
He looked wonderful. And sloppy, of course, but comfortable sloppy. He had a five o’clock shadow, so he hadn’t bothered to shave this morning. And did he ever comb his hair? No man should be this sexy. She swallowed and tried to block out the memories of last night. What was it she was going to say to him when she saw him? What had she come up with? She couldn’t remember. She had to look over his shoulder in order to concentrate.
“I thought you weren’t coming in today.”
Good. That worked. She’d sounded quite normal, and she was sure nothing of what she was feeling was showing in her face.
“I told you I was.”
She nodded. Okay. The awkward moment was over. They were now having a normal conversation. She began to relax. Definitely okay. He wasn’t going to say anything about last night, and neither was she. She could stop worrying.
“Did it feel good?”
She was mortified. She knew her mouth dropped open. The question so shocked her. She couldn’t believe what he’d just asked, and so she made him repeat it.
“I asked you if it felt good.”
In seconds her face was burning with embarrassment. “Alec, I think it would be best if we didn’t discuss last night.”
He laughed. “I was asking if it felt good to stand up for yourself with your brothers.”
“Oh.” Instantly flustered, she said, “Yes, of course it felt … wait a minute. You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”
He pretended not to know what she was talking about. “Did what?”
“Phrasing the question the way you did, asking if it felt good but not explaining … oh, never mind.”
He loved how easily he could embarrass her. “So did it?”
She sighed. “Yes. I think maybe fighting with my brothers occasionally is a nice outlet for all my pent-up nervous energy.”
He shook his head. “I think maybe we found a better outlet last night.” He grinned as he added, “and I’m not going to ask you if that felt good. I know it did.”
His arrogance was totally out of control, and he certainly didn’t seem to need any confirmation from her. But then, why would he? Last night had been incredible. He didn’t need her to tell him so. He was there, after all. Oh, boy, was he.
She really needed to think about something else … anything else. She wanted to kiss him. She stepped back instead. “I think we should change the subject.”
“And please, stop looking at me that way,” she whispered.
“Like you’d like to find the nearest closet.”
“I wasn’t thinking closet. I was thinking—”
She interrupted. “We are finished talking about this.” She folded her arms across her waist. “Okay?”
Before he could argue, she asked, “What were you and Aiden talking about?”
“I asked him if there were any grudges against your family, any disgruntled employees, any threats, lawsuits, et cetera. He said he’d already talked to Wincott about that, but he’d set it up for us to talk to your family attorney. I’m just trying to cover all the angles, and I want to know what the legal problems have been.”
“With my brothers?”
“Oh.” She was taken aback by that admission. “I doubt you’ll find anything.”
“I’m still going to talk to Sam.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Are you hungry? You want to get something to eat?”
The abrupt change in subjects jarred her. “Yes … okay.”
She walked around him and headed for the elevators. He caught up with her in two strides. “By the way, the answer is yes.”
She glanced up at him. “What was the question?”
“You asked your brothers if anyone was ever faithful, and I’m telling you yes, some are.”
She reached to push the button for the elevator. He grabbed her hand and forced her to look at him. “I’ve got a lot of examples,” he said softly. “But there’s only one you need to know about.”
She didn’t know how to respond. “Why are you telling me this?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I just thought you ought to know that I’d be faithful.”
“If you ever married.”
“That’s right,” he replied. “If”
The conversation was cut short when his cell phone rang. Henry was calling, and he sounded frantic.
“Where are you?”
“Right down the hall. What’s going on?”
“You’ve got to get back here right away. You’ve got to see this.”
Alec had already turned around and was pulling Regan along as he strode back to the offices.
He didn’t need to answer her because Henry was standing in the doorway, and as soon as he spotted Alec and Regan coming around the corner, he blurted, “I opened this letter. It’s on our hotel stationery, and it came in one of our envelopes. You know what that means? He was here. He was in the hotel.”
Alec let go of her hand and went to the desk. She touched Henry’s arm and said, “Take a deep breath.”
“Regan, he was here.”
She nodded. “Yes, I heard you. And he sent a letter?” she asked, but she was already walking over to his desk.
She leaned against Alec and looked at the sheet of stationery Henry had put on the blotter. He’d placed a long silver letter opener on the edge of the paper to keep it from folding up again.
It wasn’t a letter, though. It was another murder list. This one had a different heading. “Our Murder List” was written on top of the paper, and the Our was underlined several times. The killer had hand-printed this one. All of the names on the list were there, but lines had been drawn through Ms. Patsy’s name and Detective Sweeney’s. There were question marks next to Shields’s name and the references to the two bodyguards.
Another name had been added to the list. Haley Cross. On the bottom, just below her name, he’d written, “You owe me for this one too.”
Alec was on his cell phone dialing Wincott. While he was waiting for the detective to answer, he asked Regan, “Did you know this woman?”
She didn’t pick up on the fact that he’d asked about the woman in the past tense.
“No,” she said. “Alec, we have to warn her. Oh, dear God, the police need to find her before …”
Henry pointed to the paper. His voice was shaking when he said, “There’s a line through her name, Regan, like he’s already … you know … killed her.”
“Henry, we cannot assume just because he’s put a line through her name that she’s dead. He might not have … Oh, God.” She could feel the panic building inside. “There has to be time to save her.”
Wincott answered the phone, and Alec let go of Regan and walked toward the hallway as he explained what Henry had found.
Regan was feeling sick to her stomach. She leaned against Henry’s desk and stared at the wall. “I don’t understand,” she whispered. “Why would he send me this? And what in God’s name does he mean by ‘Our Murder List’?”
“Haley Cross. I swear I’ve heard that name before, but I can’t remember where.”
Alec ended the call and walked back into the office. “Wincott and Bradshaw are on their way over.”
“On Sunday?” Henry realized how foolish the question was as soon as the words were out of his mouth.
“John was at work, but Bradshaw was home.”
“Are they going to look for the woman? Are they …”
Alec put his arm around her. “It’s too late.”
She jerked away. His quick acceptance that the girl was dead infuriated her. “You can’t know that. If they could just warn her … if they could find her and …”
Alec rubbed the knot in the back of his neck while he watched her pace. “They know where she is.”
“In the morgue.”
She sagged against Alec, bowed her head, and closed her eyes. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. Henry had all but fallen into his chair.
“How did he kill her?” he asked.
Alec was staring at the article on the wall behind Henry’s head. It all suddenly clicked. He didn’t answer Henry’s question, but said, “She was running on the path in—”
“Conrad Park,” Henry blurted. “That’s where I read the name. Regan, don’t you remember? I told you about it. At least I think I told you.”
Alec walked over to read the article again. “You’re quoted here as saying you run there at least three nights a week.”
“Yes, I did.”
“But then the track was finished upstairs,” Henry said.
Alec got Wincott on the phone again. “Where are you?”
“Getting out of the car in front of the hotel.”
“What was the physical description of Haley Cross?”
“I’ve got some copies of the file with me, and I’ve got her photo. Hang on, Alec, I’ll be right there.”