Authors: Julie Garwood
Tags: #Adult, #Thriller, #Romantic Suspense, #Action Adventure Mystery & Detective
He loved it.
Both of them had their feet propped up on the ottoman. She was barefoot; he was wearing socks.
One had a big hole in it.
The credits were rolling when he asked, “Want to watch it again?” She didn’t think he was kidding. “No, thank you. It was too violent for me.”
“You thought it was violent?” He acted surprised by her reaction.
“Alec, I counted thirty-two dead bodies.”
“That’s not so bad,” he said with a straight face.
“Thirty-two in the first half hour. I stopped counting after that.”
“Hey, they were aliens, and humans were their food source. What did you expect?”
“A little less face eating would have been nice.”
“Yeah, but not as scary. Man, I loved those kinds of movies when I was a kid.”
“You liked being scared?”
“What about nightmares?”
“I shared a room with my brother Dylan, and I figured if any monsters got in, the two of us could take them.” He grinned as he added, “I was kind of cocky back then.”
“Back then? I’ve got news for you, hotshot. You still are.” He laughed. “Hotshot? I come from a family of eight, and we were all hotshots at one time or another.”
“Where do you fit in?”
“I’m third down from the top. There’s Theo, the oldest, then Nick, then me, then Dylan, Mike, two sisters, Jordan and Sydney, and then baby Zack. He’s still a wild man.” She nudged his shoulder. “I’ll bet you gave your parents gray hair when you were a child. It’s lucky you grew up. But I guess I did some pretty foolish things too.”
“Is that a boast?”
When she didn’t answer, he nudged her shoulder.
“I’m sure I was just as reckless as you were,” she finally said.
They then spent the next hour trying to one-up each other with the dumb stunts they’d pulled as children. Alec won hands down.
“How come all of your stories about your childhood involve power tools?” she asked.
He laughed. “Not all, just some. How come you never mention your parents in any of your stories?”
“I know I told you my father died when I was little, and my mother was never at home. I remember saying good night to her over the phone.”
“Now, that’s just sad.”
She laughed. “No it isn’t. It’s just the way things were.”
“That’s no way for a little girl to grow up. How come you turned out so normal?”
“Who says I’m normal?”
“I do. I’ll bet that I know just about everything there is to know about you.” He was teasing her and being very arrogant. “I know what you like and what you don’t like.”
“I doubt that,” she said.
“You hate salmon; you’re allergic to strawberries, and you sneeze whenever you’re around roses.” She retaliated. “You’re a ketchup freak. You put it on everything, even peanut butter sandwiches.
You hate thin-crust pizza, and you aren’t allergic to anything.”
“My turn again? Okay. You’re very competitive; you’re a fullblown liberal trapped in a family of conservatives, and honest to God, I don’t know how that happened; you think you’re good at hiding your emotions, but you’re not, and you don’t trust men or marriage.” He had touched a nerve, and she sounded a bit defensive when she responded. “You’re far more competitive than I am; you think you’re a liberal, but you’re really very conservative; you have strong, unbendable values, and, Alec, I do trust some men.”
“My mother was married twice, and both of her husbands were unfaithful. I don’t want to make her mistakes, and I’ve learned there’s no such thing as now and forever.”
“Unless you marry the right man.”
“That’s the trick, isn’t it? Knowing who’s right and who’s wrong. I think it’s all a guessing game.”
“No, it isn’t,” he argued. “And it’s not a science either.”
“Oh? Then how will you know who’s right for you?”
“Are you asking me to describe my perfect woman?”
“There’s no such thing as a perfect woman.”
“Sure there is,” he said.
“Oh? What does she look like?”
Their arms were touching, and neither one of them moved away. “She has dark hair.”
“And blue eyes. The color of violets. Incredible blue eyes.” He was leaning down toward her now, and she thought he might kiss her. She hoped he would.
“She’s got a great body.”
“Of course she does.”
“Are you mocking my fantasy woman?”
“No,” she said, smiling. “Go on. What else? Does she have magic powers?” He leaned a little closer. “It’s gonna be magic when we’re together.” Oh, God, he was going to kiss her. She held her breath.
“And long legs,” he said, his voice whisper-soft now.
His knuckles gently trailed down the side of her face. She had to force herself to stay still and not lean into the caress. Why wouldn’t he kiss her? What was taking him so long?
“Does this perfect woman have a brain, or is not having a brain what makes her perfect.”
“Of course she has a brain. She’s very intelligent, has a quick wit, and she makes me laugh. She’s got this wonderful combination of vulnerability and stubbornness. And that, Regan, is my perfect woman.” His mouth was just inches from hers. She closed her eyes and waited.
He tweaked her nose. “Got to go.”
She blinked. “You… what?”
“Got to go.”
He had his tennis shoes on, his laces tied, and was halfway to the door before she had her wits about her.
She stood, grabbed the bowl of popcorn she’d forgotten was in her lap, and put it on the coffee table.
“You have fun teasing me, don’t you?”
He was tucking his T-shirt into his jeans. “You make it easy.” He opened the door and stepped out into the hall. “Come here, Regan.”
The way he was looking at her made her stomach flutter. She walked over to the door. “Yes?”
“Let me hear you flip the dead bolt.”
“Oh. Yes, okay.”
He pulled the door closed. “Night.”
She could have sworn she heard him laughing as he walked away.
Regan awakened Saturday morning to another foul-weather day. There’d been so much rain in the past three weeks, she thought she might start sprouting mold. Her allergies were driving her nuts too. She sneezed at least five times before she’d even gotten out of bed, and when she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror, she grimaced. Her eyes were so bloodshot she looked as if she’d tied one on the night before. Tonight there was a large, formal charity event, and she hoped she could get her allergies under control, otherwise everyone would think she’d been crying.
A hot shower helped, but not much. She still had to use eye-drops, nasal spray, and her inhaler after she got dressed. She hated being dependent on medicines to control her allergies, but at least it wasn’t an all-year thing. Spring was the worst, then fall, but she managed to function without any medication in the winter and summer.
She put her hair up in a ponytail and was ready to go.
Detective Wincott had insisted that Alec take the day off, and when she left her suite to go downstairs to her office to tear through more files, she was accompanied by one of the new security guards Aiden had hired, an ex-policeman named Justin Shephard. Wincott approved because Justin used to be a cop and knew the job. She spotted Detective Wincott sprawled in a chair that faced the elevators. He stood and adjusted his tie as they walked closer. From his ragged appearance, Regan assumed his baby girl had kept him up yet another night.
“It’s Saturday,” she said. “You should be home with your family.”
“I just put the family on a plane to go see my wife’s mother, but if she were home, she’d have me fixing things, and I’m no good at that kind of stuff.”
He stepped back as the elevator doors silently opened. “I’m filling in for an hour,” he explained. “The officer who was supposed to hang with you today couldn’t do it. His wife went into labor. I’ve got another man coming in.”
Regan was dressed in jogging clothes, and Wincott frowned as he gave her the once-over.
“I thought we had an understanding,” he said. “We’re letting you go to that country club for the hospital thing, but running outside… that just can’t happen.” The poor man looked as if he was bracing himself for an argument. She realized that if she insisted on running outside, the detective would have to run with her. From the shape he was in and the loafers he wore, she guessed he would have lasted about ten minutes tops.
“I don’t plan to go outside at all today. We have a gym upstairs with a brand-new track, so when I do work out, I go up there.”
He looked relieved. “Where are we headed now?”
“Do you work every weekend?”
“I really don’t have much to do, but since I’m stuck in the hotel, I’m reorganizing the office. This is our slow period. The charity projects and the work on the grants start all over in August.”
“Bet that’s a lot of hard work.”
“Not really. Henry could do the grants blindfolded. As soon as he graduates from Loyola, he’ll be taking over my job and working on his MBA. He’ll hire someone to help, of course.”
“And what will you do?”
She smiled. “I’m going global. I want to set up our programs at all the hotels.” They reached the first floor and crossed the lobby to another bank of elevators. There was a security guard stationed in the alcove. Regan nodded to him as she walked past. She stepped into the elevator, inserted her key and pushed the button for the third floor.
“Do you think all of these extra guards are necessary, Detective Wincott?”
“Hey, if you’re calling Buchanan, Alec, you can call me John, and I’ve got mixed feelings about the guards. If they don’t get in our way, I guess they’re okay.” The hallway was quiet, the doors to the other offices locked. Regan led the way into her office. Like Alec, Wincott immediately went to the sofa and made himself comfortable.
She grabbed another stack of files, dropped them on her desk, and sat down. Wincott had spotted the remote on a tray on the table and picked it up. She watched him look around.
“Top button,” she said as she opened the first folder.
He didn’t understand her instructions. “Push the top button on the remote.” The second the panels began to move, Wincott whistled. “Holy heaven. Did Alec know about this?” She laughed. “Yes.”
“No wonder he didn’t want to share this detail. With this television and…”
Wincott shook his head. And “you,” he was going to say. “The sofa. It’s nice and soft. And this TV.
It’s bigger than my house.”
“My brother Spencer had it installed a couple of months ago. He can’t be in a room without a television blaring.”
“I bet I’d like your brother.”
“I’m sure you would. Spencer’s the easygoing one,” she explained.
“And he hangs out here when he’s in town?”
She nodded. “Pretty much.”
“Will the noise bother you while you’re working?”
“Not at all.”
Her computer screen was on and she immediately noticed a little square light blinking in the corner.
Had she forgotten to turn it off? Or had someone else turned it on this morning?
She drummed her fingers on the mouse pad while she thought about it. Melissa, the computer tech from the police department, had told Alec that she had removed Regan from the loop.
Melissa had given Regan her card. She found it in her desk drawer and called the station. She didn’t expect Melissa to be at her desk, but she wanted to leave a message asking her to call her Monday.
The woman answered on the second ring.
Regan told her who she was and said, “I didn’t think you would be working on a Saturday.”
“Then why did you call?”
Melissa’s antagonistic tone didn’t deter Regan. “I thought I would leave you a message, and you’d call me back on Monday. Since I have you on the phone, I wonder if you have a minute to answer a couple of questions for me. I could call back if it isn’t convenient now.”
“What kind of questions?”
“Yes, sure,” she said. She sounded almost perky now. “I know everything there is to know about computers.”
“That’s what I understand,” she said. “Detective Buchanan told me that you had discovered my e-mails were going to other terminals in the hotel.”
“That’s right,” she said. “They went to your assistant’s terminal and to one in your brother’s office.
Did you want me to pinpoint the exact location?”
“No, that isn’t necessary. I’m almost positive my e-mails were going to my brother Aiden’s assistant.”
“Okay, so what do you want?”
“This morning, when I came into my office, I noticed my computer was on.”
“And you think maybe he or she hooked up again?”
“It’s easy to find out. I mean, easy for me to find out,” she qualified. “Are you sitting at your keyboard now?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then let’s get started,” she said impatiently.
For the next five minutes Melissa barked one order after another. Regan had to ask her to slow down a couple of times, but eventually she found the link that indicated someone else had locked onto her private and her business e-mails.
A couple of commands later, Regan knew exactly where her e-mails were going, and the link was broken. “Snoop’s gone,” Melissa said. “Now I’m going to talk you through this, and we’re going to make it impossible for anyone else to get in there.”
Melissa once again rattled off one command after another. Regan came up with a new password and typed it in.
“Okay, we’re done. If you do forget the password, just get hold of me and I’ll tell you what it is. You tell Henry what it is and to memorize it too.”
Regan thanked her for her help and said, “If you ever want to change jobs, please let me know. We could certainly use you at the Hamilton.”
“Honest? Or are you just saying that to be nice?”
“Yes, I do mean it.”
“Would I get to travel to the other hotels, like the one in London and the one going up in Melbourne?”
“Yes, you would.”
“Are there good benefits?”
“We’ll see,” she said, and then abruptly hung up the phone.