"Are you ready?" Liam asked from behind her. As he took her elbow and steered her toward the elevator, he noticed Tom standing to watch them leave, no doubt to get a look at Allison's legs. Granted, they were mighty fine legs, but Liam didn't like the man ogling her.
As soon as the elevator doors closed, Liam said, "Stop flirting with the employees."
She thought he was joking until she saw his frown. "Saying hello isn't flirting."
Her hand flew to her throat. "Oh my God, what was I thinking? I smiled and I said hello? Shame on me."
He shook his head. "Okay, I might have overreacted."
She couldn't say anything more because the doors opened and Agent Phillips stood there, waiting. He wasn't much for greetings, she remembered, and it therefore didn't faze her when he gave her a brusque nod.
She responded by smiling sweetly and saying, "How nice to see you again, Agent Phillips."
She could have sworn he grunted. She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing as she followed him into his office. Liam shut the door, and Phillips turned a chair around, pointing at it to get her to sit. She wondered if he had any idea how rude the gesture was.
"Liam and I are at cross-purposes here," he began. "Liam thinks there might be someone leaking confidential information. He believes it could be someone in the CSA, and I'm just as certain that it isn't."
Liam interjected, "There have been too many instances that point to a leak. If it's not a hacker, then it's someone inside the agency who has access to the information."
"I have employees here whose sole job is to search for hackers. That's all they do all day long," Phillips stressed with a hint of resentment that his competence was in question. "I also find it hard to believe that anyone inside the agency is sabotaging investigations. However, I'm willing to look, and that's where you come in, Miss Trent. Liam has arranged that we forgo some of our typical protocols for new employees and let you get to work right away. I understand that you've agreed to give us your services for six months."
Allison immediately turned to Liam. "Then Will is getting probation?"
Phillips didn't allow time for explanations, resuming his remarks as though any deviation from the topic at hand was against the rules. "I would like to start you off in our basic system security analysis, but Liam has made this leak a priority because he has another case to get to and will be leaving us soon."
She nodded to let him know she understood. He continued on with procedures she should follow, but Allison was having difficulty concentrating. The moment he'd mentioned that Liam would be leaving, an unfamiliar pang gripped her. She'd never felt anything like that before and couldn't put a label on it-sadness, regret? She hardly knew Liam, and she was already aware that his work here was temporary. Why would the thought of him leaving upset her so?
Her attention again went back to Phillips, who was saying, "If anyone should ask, you're looking for viruses. I would rather you didn't interact with any of my employees. We take our jobs seriously, and we don't have time for idle chitchat."
"All right," she said when he looked at her expectantly. What a grim work environment, she thought.
"Where do you want her to work?" Liam asked.
"The office next to the break room on this floor. I don't want to hide her away, because that would raise questions. There's no one else in there right now, and none of her work will appear on any of the big screens." He turned to Allison and clarified. "This is a brand-new facility, and now that it's officially open, we're deciding to close down the Midwest or the West Coast units and we're moving some of the employees here. Until the transition begins, you will have the room to yourself."
That was why there were so many empty desks and such a large parking area, she thought.
"I'll give you an access code so you can begin looking for a sign of a leak as soon as possible."
"The leak you're certain I won't find."
Liam took her to the office she would be using. Like with so many other offices in the building, the side facing the hall was a wall of glass. There were three desks and a large screen on the far wall. No matter which desk she chose, she would have her back to the glass. She didn't want people coming and going behind her, so she went to the desk across the room, pushed it until it was more at an angle with the glass, and sat down. People walking past would see her profile. After adjusting the monitor and her keyboard, she was ready to start.