They had rendered Allison speechless. Several seconds passed before she responded. "You want me to lie for you."

"It wouldn’t be a lie," Jane insisted. "No, no. We did give you a place to sleep, and we fed you."

"What happens if I don’t go to court?"

Jane dabbed at the corners of her eyes, pretending to keep the tears at bay. "We could end up in prison."

"Think of the positive," Allison said. "You’d get to see Will more often."

Liam coughed to cover his laughter. He had to admit that the utter audacity of Jane and Russell’s plea was impressive, but even more impressive was the way Allison stood up to them.

"You would let us go to prison?" Jane demanded.

The sneer that Allison was accustomed to seeing on her aunt’s face was making its way to the surface once again. So much for acting timid, she thought. She went to the door and Liam opened it for her. "It’s time for you to leave," she ordered. "Don’t come here again. If you do, I’ll get a restraining order and call the police. Now, get out."

There was fire in her uncle’s bloodshot eyes. "You’ll go to hell for this," he mumbled as he stormed past.

Aunt Jane made it to the doorway and then stopped. "Why are you doing this to us?"

"Why?" Allison smiled. "I guess I’m just ungrateful." She slammed the door shut and fell back against it, taking a long, deep breath. When she was calm enough to speak again, she looked at Liam. "I’m sorry you had to see that," she apologized.

"I’m not," he said. "I’m very proud of you."

"Proud?"

"Yes," he answered. "You stood up to them, and they deserved it. The way I figure it, there are three kinds of people. The first kind are the good people who mostly do good things with their lives. The second are good people who sometimes get off track and do bad things. And then the third kind are the bad people who do bad things. I’d put your aunt and uncle in that category. I don’t think they’ll ever see the error of their ways."

"You’re right. I’m sure they still think they can badger me. I haven’t heard the last of them." She straightened her shoulders. "But I can handle it," she said with assurance.

"Good girl," Liam said as he gave her a hug.

He went to the desk for his gun. As he was strapping it on, a text came into his phone. He glanced at the screen. "I’ve got to go," he said without explanation. He slipped the phone back into his pocket and then walked over to give her a quick kiss. "Sorry. I’ve got to take care of something. You said you had a question. Can it wait?" he asked.

"Sure," Allison said, resignedly.

And once again she watched him leave.

Her job saved her from dwelling on Liam, and fortunately at night, once she turned on her new laptop, she could still escape into her work, and the world swirling around her ceased to exist.

She was back to two agents driving her to and from work, but now she knew most of them and enjoyed their company. Her assignments had become intense, many involving missing funds, and she had to stay late nearly every night.

Jordan had seen the photo of Allison’s crunched car-Noah got it from Alec, who had gotten it from Liam. She called to commiserate.

Allison’s greeting wasn’t the usual. "Men still suck."

"Uh-oh. Should I come over?" 

"No. I was just making a statement of fact. What’s going on?"

"Your car. Tell me what happened."

"You already know what happened. I told you about it."

"Yes, but I just now saw the photo. I can’t believe you walked away from that crash. My God, you hit a tree stump and then flipped and flipped. . . ."

Allison laughed. "I know. I was there."

They spent a half hour discussing the horrible crash. Then Allison said, "I’ve got to get going. I’ll talk to you soon."

"Wait. Did you want to embellish on your opening remark?" Jordan asked, trying to be diplomatic.

"No, not now."

Allison worked another hour and then went to bed. She was thankful Jordan hadn’t asked any questions about Liam. Maybe she already knew that the nonrelationship was over. Regardless, Allison wasn’t ready to talk about him. Her emotions were still too raw.

Just as she was drifting off to sleep, her phone rang. Her uncle Russell was on the line and was so drunk his words were slurred. He wanted her to know what an ungrateful bitch she was. All of his misery was her fault. She agreed just to get him to stop, but that didn’t work. She could hear her aunt Jane screeching like a colony of bats in the background. The sound was ear-piercing. Allison ended the call in the middle of one of his colorful threats.