Jordan took pity. "Don't worry. You can put it together when we get back Sunday. I just thought, knowing how puzzles are a great stress reliever for you, and given the circumstances . . ."
Allison could have sworn she gave an almost imperceptible nod toward Liam. "Given what circumstances?" she asked.
Jordan didn't answer her. Noah had come up behind his wife and wrapped his arms around her waist. Allison envied how affectionate they were with each other. Their love was evident in every look, every action.
"She really is amazing," Noah said to Alec and Liam.
Noah had firsthand knowledge. He had been at Nathan's Bay when Jordan's mother complained to her husband about a puzzle that was spread out on the dining table. According to Mrs. Buchanan, the judge had put it there over a month ago. Believing her husband would never finish it, she ordered that the puzzle be put back in the box. Then Allison happened to walk past. She stopped as soon as she saw the puzzle, stared at it a minute, and then began to put the pieces together at a dazzling speed. Noah stood in the doorway watching her and was soon joined by Jordan and her parents. He was certain Allison set some sort of record. Once she was finished, she sighed, turned around, and walked out into the sunroom, leaving her audience speechless.
Alec set the bag on a chair. "You wrapped her gift in a trash bag?" he asked Jordan. "That's kind of lazy, isn't it?"
Jordan laughed as she defended herself. "All the boxes are different sizes. How else do you wrap them?"
The two began a silly debate about gift wrap, but Allison wasn't paying attention. She had suddenly guessed why Liam and Alec were there. She took a step back and shook her head. "Oh no, you don't."
Liam noticed how pale her face had become. "Oh no, what?"
"What's going on?" Alec asked.
"You want me to do something else illegal for you, don't you? Did Agent Phillips send you? Does he know about this?"
Jordan was outraged on her behalf. "You are not going to make her do anything more."
Alec put his hands up. "Hey, we're on her side."
"Ha," Allison scoffed.
"What does ‘ha' mean?" Liam wanted to know.
She wouldn't look at him when she said, "It means I'm not so sure you are on my side."
Liam decided Allison had ignored him long enough. She was obviously in a strange mood, and he couldn't figure out why. He was contemplating grabbing her and asking her what the hell was wrong with her when she finally turned her attention to him. She walked over to him, poked him in the chest, and said, "I've been following the contract, and I've been more than compliant, Liam. Way more."
"Way more, huh?" Liam repeated, and dared to smile.
"I've been trying to get along with the man. He wore me down, and I finally agreed to this." She lifted her arm to show off her new bracelet. "But that's it. I'm not doing anything more to keep him happy. I'm already working eighty-hour weeks. And I just found out he programmed his phone number in my cell phone. All I have to do is push the number one and he'll answer. Why he thinks I would want to call him is beyond me," she added. "I'm trying to get along, and Agent Phillips has absolutely nothing to complain about."
Jordan tried to calm her friend. "I think it's sweet that Phillips gave you a graduation present. That's a pretty bracelet."
"It's a tracking device."
"A what?" Alec asked. "Did you say a tracking-"
"Yes, I did. Liam, this isn't funny, so stop laughing."
Alec had more discipline. He just smiled. "If you don't like the bracelet, take it off," he suggested. It sounded logical to him, and Noah's nod indicated he agreed.
She slapped her forehead. "Why didn't I think of that?"
"I'm assuming that means ‘What a dumb question,'" Alec said.
She nodded. "I can't take it off. It has to be cut off with a special tool I don't believe has been invented yet."
"Why did you agree to let him put it on you?" Jordan asked.
"Like I said, he wore me down," Allison admitted. "Want to know one of his other numerous suggestions? He was real enthusiastic about this one. He thought it would be a good idea to put a tiny chip under my skin. That way he could always know where I was. Don't they do that to dogs?"
The entire time Allison had been ranting, her eyes were taking quick glances at the table. She moved closer and stared at the puzzle. She simply couldn't help herself. It was a quirk of hers, she supposed, although Charlotte called it a compulsion. She once asked Allison if the house were on fire but there was an unfinished puzzle, would she feel compelled to finish it before she left? Allison remembered she'd told her it was a ridiculous question. Of course she'd get out right away, but deep down she wasn't so sure. She might have been tempted to take the puzzle with her.