"Protecting my asset."

The two men who had shouted at her were whistling, but she ignored them and stared straight ahead.


Once they were in the car, Liam asked, "Do you want me to take you home or drop you at Jordan's?" 

"Home," she answered. "I've decided I need a little time alone to think about the documents my cousin, Will, gave me today, and speaking of Will . . ."

He glanced over at her. "Yes?"

"I have a favor to ask." She paused, wondering how she should bring up the subject of her irresponsible cousin. After weighing her choices for a few seconds, she decided the direct approach was best. "I'm hoping you can help him stay out of prison. I want him to have one last chance." When he turned to her, she saw the incredulous look on his face.

"You're kidding, right?"

"No, I'm serious. If you can, I'd like you to help him. Why do you look so surprised?"

"I've read his file," he said, his tone hard. "There's no way I'm going to help him. He's had too many chances to change his life."

She didn't say another word. She wanted to let him think it through, and hopefully he would change his mind. She knew he would eventually ask her why she wanted to help Will, and it was going to be difficult to explain. Did admitting that she felt sorry for him make her a complete fool? His growing-up years had surely been as traumatic as hers, just in a different way. Having such controlling and smothering parents who had watched his every move was much worse than being ignored.

The set of Liam's jaw told her he was going to need more time to consider her request. They pulled up in front of her house, and Liam retrieved her overnight bag from the trunk and then followed her up the sidewalk.

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"Looks like the house is empty," he remarked.

"They must have gone out to get something to eat. No worries," she added. "They'll be back."

The porch light was off, and the porch was cast in shadows from the light coming through the living room window. The sheer drapes softened the glare and turned the light a golden hue.

At the door, Allison turned back and took a step closer to him. "May I please e-mail you a video? It shows Will and the bar fight he was involved in."

"You don't need to e-mail it. I can get it, but tell me, does it prove Will's innocent?"

Once again she didn't give him a direct answer. "It shows three men pressing in on him. Just watch it, okay?"

"Allison, why do you want to help him?"

She sighed. "I want to believe he can change. Is that so wrong? I don't want to give up on him. He's not all bad," she insisted. "Yes, he has a bad temper, but he's never turned his anger on me, and he always warned me when his friends were coming to the house."

"Why did he warn you?"

"He knew I didn't like them."

"And what did you do when he warned you?"

"I stayed in my room with the door locked. None of them ever bothered me."

"You were afraid of them."

Duh. "Yes."

He shook his head. "I guess that makes him a saint, warning you and all. . . ."

"I'm just pointing out that he isn't all bad."

"How about you read his file?" he suggested.

"Everyone deserves a second chance." She looked up into Liam's beautiful eyes and felt her heartbeat quicken.

"He's had a lot more than two chances."

"Then one more won't hurt, will it? I'm doing a favor for you. Couldn't you do this favor for me?"

"And in return I'm giving you immunity. That was the deal."

She could see she wasn't getting anywhere, and she needed to change her terms. She thought for a second and then said, "Okay, how about this? If you help him, I'll work for Agent Phillips and you for a month. A full month," she stressed.

"You're negotiating-"

"That's thirty-one days." She took a step closer until she was all but touching him and said, "That's a real deal."

"What happens if he gets probation and does something else? Are you going to ask for help again?"

"No," she answered. "It's on him then. He'll have to suffer the consequences."

"He should have suffered the consequences a long time ago." He shook his head. "No."

She wasn't giving up. "How about two months? I'll work for you and Phillips for two full months."

"If I were to do this, it wouldn't be for Will. I'd do it for you, and two months won't cut it."

Sensing victory, she smiled and said, "How long, then?"

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