Although the weather was unseasonably warm, she knew the temperature would drop tonight. As she was reaching for her lightweight coat from the hall closet, someone knocked on her door. She looked through the peephole and jumped back. Liam was standing right outside. She peeked again; he was still there, looking as devastatingly handsome as usual. Her heart started racing. There were moments like this when she was in awe of him. And she needed to get over that as quickly as possible. She hoped she didn't appear flustered when she opened the door, smiled, and said, "What are you doing here?"
"Is that any way to greet me?" He paused to give her the once-over and said, "You look nice."
"Thank you. You look nice, too. Why are you wearing a suit? Are you on your way somewhere?"
"I've been in a meeting."
"Oh. I thought you might have a date."
"So I was wrong," she said, trying to quiet the inner voice that was screaming, Take a breath and stop staring at him.
"What kind of meeting was it?" she asked. "Or is it confidential?" How lame was that question?
"Yes, I can talk about it with you, but I don't want to just yet."
"Where were you going?"
"A cocktail party at the Hamilton and then dinner with my sister and her husband. What's in the envelope?"
"A contract Phillips wants you to sign. I'd like to go over it with you first. I was going to come by Sunday, but I got a call and decided to come over now. Is someone picking you up? Do you have a date?" He was frowning as he asked the questions. Before she could answer he said, "You'd better call him and cancel."
"No . . ."
He took a step toward her. "Yes." Enveloped by her wonderful scent, Liam tried to block the image of her naked body wrapped in his arms. It was a hell of a challenge. "We need to talk about this contract. It could take a while, so you should call him," he repeated.
"I was trying to tell you, no, I don't have a date. I was driving myself, and I am not going to cancel dinner or the cocktail party."
He attempted to reason with her. "I might be leaving Boston tomorrow night, and I want to make any necessary changes to this contract after we discuss it. I don't want Phillips to take advantage of you. I really think you should stay home so we can go over it."
She realized how sweet he was being with his concern for her, but didn't dare tell him so. She knew he would be insulted and assure her he was only doing his job. "That isn't an option," she insisted. "I've made plans."
He shrugged. "Okay, then. I'm going with you."
Liam acted as though this were an inconvenience when, in fact, staying close to her tonight was exactly what he had planned to do. He knew he was being overprotective and probably overreacting. He didn't care. The meeting with Curtis Bale at the cyber unit hadn't gone well, which was an understatement.
Phillips had called Bale into the office for a meeting with Liam that morning. While they were talking to him, a member of his staff in Detroit was being arrested. Allison's search had led them directly to the man. He was a tech for the FBI in Detroit, and he had been using a home computer to wreak havoc on the bureau. It didn't take long for them to come up with a possible motive. After looking through his file, they discovered he had received several reprimands for questionable conduct in the past. His record showed his inability to accept criticism and a tendency to respond with anger. His reputation and his job were in jeopardy, and apparently his burning resentment of the FBI authorities had led him to sabotage several cases.
After Liam laid out the case, Bale became outraged because he had been kept out of the loop and was the last to know what was going on. Assuming any weakness in his division would ultimately come to rest on his head, he let his ego take over. He swore that neither he nor any member of his staff had leaked confidential information, and while he was shouting at Liam and Phillips, he brought up Allison's name. He had noticed she was sequestered in a separate office, and he'd surmised she was working on a sensitive project. Since he was aware of the work being performed by the rest of the staff, he concluded she was the one who'd found what he called the alleged proof. Once his argument homed in on Allison, Bale wouldn't back down. He accused her of being little more than a teenager without any training in the field. She couldn't have known what she was doing.
The solid facts were right in front of Bale, but the longer he ranted, the more furious he became. After several hours of angry discussion, he needed someone to focus his blame on, and the most convenient target was Allison. Not only did he accuse her of creating false evidence in the leak investigation, but he went so far as to insinuate she'd had something to do with the closure of the Detroit office. Phillips got into it with Bale then, yet Bale wouldn't relent. He worked himself into such an agitated state he was no longer rational. The so-called facts, he insisted, must have been planted. Were they really going to let Allison, an outsider, ruin careers?