Brett reacted. He yanked the gun from his pocket and was raising it when Liam fired. Before Brett finished his first howl of pain, Liam had grabbed the gun from his hand and pulled Allison away from him.

"You shot me," Brett cried. "You shot my arm."


Liam nodded. "Yes. Yes, I did."

The other two agents came running. Allison moved close to Liam and watched Brett being handcuffed. As one of the agents carted him away, Brett clutched his arm and demanded to be driven to a hospital. The second agent turned to Liam. "We'll take it from here," he said, and then turned to Allison. "I can send a car for you."

"I'll take you home, Allison," Liam stated in his no-nonsense, "don't argue with me" voice.

"Wait a minute. What are you doing here?" she asked. The fact that he had appeared out of nowhere had just hit her. "Did you know Brett was coming?"

Liam wanted to get out of there and tried to pull her along, but she wasn't cooperating. Seeing that she wasn't going to wait for an answer, he decided to give in. "I came here for you," he began, and before she could react, he continued. "I knew someone was going to come after you, and I wanted to get you out of here and make sure you were safe. If anything ever happened to you . . ."

He couldn't go on. The thought of losing Allison was almost too much to bear. He pulled her into his arms and held her tight against him.

She could feel him shaking. "You were worried about me."

"Hell yes, I was worried." He kissed her forehead, then pulled away from her. "The man who ran you off the road works for Stiles. His name is Jud Bronsky, and he's going to turn state's evidence against the bastard. He's got a lot to tell."

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Astonished by the lengths Stiles had been willing to go to, she whispered, "He gave Brett the gun. I don't know if he would have shot me or not."

"I'm certain Stiles or one of his men wouldn't have had any qualms about killing you. He not only wanted your laptop; he wanted you. He was sure he would be able to force you to give him the rest of the code for your software. You'd disappear and he'd sell your work and make a fortune."

She was having trouble taking it all in. "Where is Stiles now?"

"I just got a call. Bronsky was able to give enough information to track him down. He's in a gated enclave about a half hour out of Boston. Agents are picking him up right now."

She was weak with relief. "Brett told me he was afraid of Stiles. Now I understand why. I can't help feeling sorry for Brett."

"Oh, hell no."

"What?" she asked, confused by his reaction.

"You are not going to try to make a deal for Brett or plead on his behalf. He had a gun on you. I'm never going to forget that." He took her hand and started to walk toward the lobby. "I don't like you wearing all that makeup," he said, hoping to change the subject until he could get his nerves under control.

"And I don't like you looking half-dead."

"I don't like seeing anyone pointing a gun at you."

"I didn't particularly like it, either," she replied.

"It scared the hell out of me."

She glanced up at him. "Me, too."

They were in the middle of the lobby when he stopped and turned to her. "I'm never going to let anyone hurt you."

"I know."

He leaned down and kissed her. Now was neither the time nor the place, he told himself, but it didn't seem to matter. "I love you, Allison."

"I know you do."

She tried to keep walking, but he stopped her. "That's all you have to say to me?"

"I love you, too, Liam."

He kissed her then. His mouth covered hers in a kiss that held nothing back. They were both having difficulty catching their breath when he lifted his head. She tried to take a step back. He wouldn't let her. 

"Isn't this where you tell me you have to leave tomorrow, and a life with me could never work because of your job and the demands on you?" she asked.

His arms were wrapped around her waist, and he stared into her eyes as he answered, "Yeah, that's pretty much what I used to believe . . . until now. I can't seem to stay away from you. Have you noticed?"

"I have noticed."

"What do you think we ought to do about it?" he asked.

She had a sly twinkle in her eyes, and he couldn't wait to hear what she would say.

"You're conflicted, Liam, but I'll be happy to clear it all up for you."

"Conflicted, huh?"

He didn't let her explain. He was suddenly eager to get her back to her apartment so he could show her how much he loved her. He had quite a bit inside him to say to her, too. It wasn't until they were on their way that she finally got his full attention.

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