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Liam braced his arms on his knees and leaned closer. "Do you think you could get in and out of the FBI and the CSA without being detected?"

She had already guessed they were going to ask her to do just that, yet she was still shocked. First impressions, she decided, were often wrong because, when she first met them, Liam and Alec hadn’t seemed the type to break rules. "Do you know how many years I would get if I got caught?"

"None if you worked for us," Alec pointed out.

"Could you do it?" Liam pressed.

She took a deep breath. "You want me to go up against the experts?"

"Yes." Liam’s voice was emphatic. "Agent Phillips will know the true reason you’re at the cyber headquarters, but no one else. The rest of the staff will think Phillips has brought you in as another security analyst. After seeing what you can do, Phillips has decided he would like to give you some other assignments as well. He’s asked that you commit to at least a year."

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A year working for Agent Phillips? The possibility gave her shivers. Not going to happen, she thought. "How can you be so sure I can do this? You don’t know me."

She was wrong. Liam knew pretty much all there was to know about her . . . the important things, anyway. She was very intelligent and had extraordinary skills. That was a given. His investigation had turned up several impressive accomplishments. He discovered that she had written programs for a number of projects but rarely took credit. Even a couple of her professors admitted they had gone to her for help when they came up against a programming problem they couldn’t solve. While the information he had gathered on Allison Trent told him most of what he wanted to know, it was Jordan who was instrumental in convincing him that Allison was up to the task. Jordan didn’t realize she was helping, but every time she told her family of Allison’s amazing talent, Alec took notice and passed the information along to Liam. Alec called her a human computer, and when Liam watched her at the seminar where Jordan spoke, he was definitely impressed. Then today, hearing how she had systematically and immediately torn through the difficult problem at the cyber unit, he realized what a find Allison was. If she was half as good as that demonstration promised, she could get the job done.

He had discovered a great deal about her personal life as well, even though she was very private and tried to keep her thoughts and her talents hidden. She was not very social, but she was loyal and caring, and her friends were just as loyal to her. He also uncovered the fact that her home life had been hellish and still was, which was why she avoided going home whenever possible. She made up excuses on Thanksgiving and Christmas, preferring to spend those holidays alone or in a peaceful environment, often with her sister and brother-in-law until they’d moved to Seattle. Liam’s investigation of her background had been quite thorough, but until tonight his findings had merely been notes in an impartial report. Now that he was getting to know Allison, he could see her vulnerability, and though he didn’t understand why, he felt the need to protect her.

"I know a lot about you, Allison," he told her. "What I don’t know is why you are afraid to take a lie detector test. You haven’t hidden any money."

He would have gone on if she hadn’t interrupted. "How . . . ? Did you look at my bank statements?"

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"Yes," Alec said.

She was taken aback by the quick admission. "Then you know I’m poor."

"Most college students are," Liam remarked.

"Where does all your modeling money go?" Alec asked.

"Her relatives take it," Liam explained.

Allison could feel her face heating up. She couldn’t make up her mind if she was embarrassed or angry that he knew about her god-awful aunt and uncle. Before either of the men could continue his line of questioning, she blurted, "I could have hidden money in a secret account. When you know what you’re doing, anything is possible."

"But you didn’t." Liam made the statement.

"No, I didn’t."

"Why won’t you take a lie detector test?" Alec asked.

"If you help us, I’ll make sure you have immunity," Liam promised.

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"Are you serious?" She stared deeply into his eyes, looking for any sign of deception. "No matter what I tell you, no matter what I confess . . . ?" she asked suspiciously.

"You didn’t murder anyone, did you?"

"Of course not."

"Commit treason? Sell nuclear secrets to the enemy?"

She laughed at the absurdity. "No."

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