"Sure, I do."
He wondered how she would feel if he told her that several times today he'd thought about what he would have liked to do to her and what he would have liked her to do to him with that sexy mouth of hers. He also thought about last night and how good it had been with her. No, better than good. It was damn near perfect.
The party was being held in one of the smaller ballrooms on the mezzanine level. It was a beautifully appointed room. The walls were a soft gray, and there were floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors leading out to the garden. Bars had been set up in three corners of the room, and hors d'oeuvres were being served on silver platters by smiling, impeccably starched waiters. She and Liam were a few minutes late, so there was already quite a crowd, and yet the first person Allison spotted across the room was Brett Keaton, the jerk who had tried to steal her laptop. He was dressed like a yacht owner in a navy blue blazer with a silver emblem on the pocket, light pants, and matching shoes. The only thing missing was an ascot. He looked as though he had slept in a tanning bed, and his hair was a light blond. Had he bleached it? God's gift to women-or so Brett believed-was pivoting from one female to another. Allison wondered if they were charmed by him.
Liam noticed that a couple of unattached males were heading toward Allison, so he took her hand and pulled her into his side. He wasn't real gentle or subtle about it.
"What are you doing?" She looked up at him and saw a cocky gleam in his eyes, as if he had just won the biggest prize at the carnival.
"I don't want to lose you in the crowd," he said with a wide grin.
The two men greeted Allison, and once they introduced themselves to Liam, his grip on her hand loosened slightly. Both were professors who taught computer science classes. As they raved about Allison's talent, testifying that she had saved them from disaster a time or two, Liam noticed how uncomfortable she was with any kind of admiration. She didn't know how to handle it.
After the two men moved on, Allison and Liam strolled through the guests, stopping to speak to several other professors and a few students, many of whom mentioned some computer problem Allison had bailed them out of.
When they finally had a moment alone, Liam leaned down and whispered, "It's remarkable that you don't have a big ego."
"How do you know I don't?"
"Compliments bother you."
Before she had a chance to argue with him, he changed the subject. "Let's find the birthday boy."
She laughed. "It isn't a birthday party. Father Basher is retiring. And you don't call a Jesuit a boy."
Allison located the priest on the other side of the room and led Liam through the crowd to meet him. It was apparent Father Basher had great affection for Allison. He held her hand while he told her how much he was going to miss teaching, and her in particular. Bragging to Liam, he said, "I taught this young lady to love art history, which was no small feat, since she always had her nose in her laptop." He turned back to Allison. "I was just speaking to your friend Brett Keaton." He looked around the room as though searching for Brett in the crowd. "Isn't his news wonderful?"
Allison was immediately skeptical. "What news?"
"Why, the number of software companies that are vying to bid on the security program he's developed."
A chill stiffened Allison's spine. "He's written a security program?"
"I think that's what he called it," the priest answered. "He said it will prevent any kind of hacking. I'm afraid I don't know much about such things, but he seemed very excited."
Allison tried to remain composed as the priest continued to chat, but inside she was stoking a slow burn. Finally, Father Basher let go of her hand and turned to greet other well-wishers.
Liam saw the change in Allison's demeanor the minute the priest mentioned Brett, and he remembered what she had told him about her former roommate. When she turned around, there was fire in her eyes. She scanned the room and finally zeroed in on a small group standing by the door. In the center, holding court, was a young man in his mid-twenties with styled blond hair the color of sunburned wheat. One hand was holding a drink and the other was slipped casually into the pocket of his blazer. His smile said he was relishing the attention he was getting from his audience.
"Brett Keaton?" he asked.
Liam glanced over at him once again, and when he turned back, Allison was gone. She was already weaving through the crowd, heading for Brett. Anticipating a showdown, Liam rushed to catch up with her.