"No one can force you," Jordan assured her.

"What if Liam has some kind of leverage?" Allison said.

"You don’t know what he wants yet," Jordan reminded her. "Don’t freak out until you have all the information. Besides, I’m on your side, no matter what."

A few minutes later they were seated around the table. The muscular men made the small table and chairs seem minuscule by comparison, but even though they looked uncomfortable, they didn’t complain. Alec and Liam kept the conversation light. Jordan wanted to know when Liam and Alec had started collaborating, since Liam had mentioned he traveled all over the world and Alec was assigned to the Chicago office. They answered by telling about a couple of the cases that had brought them together. Liam insisted he was the first to do a favor for Alec, and Alec was just as certain he was the first to help out his friend.

"Liam was with Interpol for a while," Alec told Jordan and Allison.

"A short while," Liam corrected.

"But you work for the FBI now?" Allison wondered.

"Yes."

"Why are you traveling to so many countries? The FBI doesn’t handle cases overseas . . . or do they?"

"Sure, we do," Liam answered. "We have agents and personnel in attaché offices around the globe, and we work with the governments in our host countries. Whenever there’s a crime or an attack involving an American abroad, we’re there to help. We also offer our resources to foreign governments when they need them."

"Weren’t you with the FBI Fly Team after the hit in Indonesia?" Alec asked.

"I met them there," Liam answered.

"What’s the Fly Team?" Allison asked.

Alec explained. "Counterterrorism unit. When there’s an attack, they’re deployed within hours. They’re the lead operatives in getting the investigation started."

She turned to Liam and waited for him to expound, but he didn’t. He remained silent until the conversation turned to another topic. She just then realized the stories he and Alec had been telling were about insignificant matters, mostly about eccentric characters they had worked with and interesting places they had visited. For the most part, they had shared very little about the dangers or the threats they had faced. Liam, especially, gave little away. She wondered what he had seen that he didn’t talk about. There was something intriguing about him. He definitely was an enigma. One second he was authoritative and domineering, and the next he was charming and charismatic. As she sat there watching him, she wondered if anyone ever saw the real Liam Scott.

Alec was telling the story of their first meeting. "For a while there I thought Liam was a criminal," he said.

"For a while there I was," Liam countered.

"You don’t mind bending the law?" Allison asked. She sounded thrilled.

"Depends," he answered.

Once again Liam didn’t explain his meaning, yet his response gave Allison a tiny grain of hope. If he didn’t mind bending the law, maybe he would be more understanding about her collection of bugs and the number of sites she had visited illegally.

Maybe . . .

SEVEN

Allison was too nervous to eat much at dinner. After she’d taken a couple of bites of steamed vegetables, her stomach turned queasy, and she didn’t dare eat any more. The tension inside her had eased up slightly while the conversation remained light, but now it was returning in full force, and she worried she was about to have a full-blown panic attack. She’d only had a couple of those in the past five years. They’d been unforgettable. And horrific. She remembered she’d felt frozen. She couldn’t talk, couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. It was as if an iron fist had wrapped around her and was slowly squeezing the life out of her. 

Liam was watching her and could see what was happening. The color had drained from her face, and she looked as though she was about to pass out. What was she hiding that she was so afraid he would discover? He was sure he could get her to tell him-eventually-but it would take time, and he had precious little of that.

He decided to once again put her at ease. "Allison, what did you think of Agent Phillips?"

"What . . . Oh, he’s very sweet."

Both Alec and Liam laughed.

"Sweet? That’s a new one," Liam said.

She realized she’d given her answer without thinking and rushed to correct it. "I mean, he’s pretty hard-nosed. Has he always been like that?" she asked.

"For as long as I’ve known him, which is five, six years now," Alec said.

"Once you’re on his team or working with him, he’ll back you a hundred percent," Liam added.