She looked so proud of herself Liam wanted to laugh. "You’re forgetting you told us you have a file of viruses you’ve collected, remember? That’s what would nail you."
"Yes, it would," she agreed. "If you could find the file."
"You think we couldn’t?"
"I know you couldn’t."
Liam appreciated her arrogance.
"You’re awfully confident, Allison," Alec remarked.
"None of it matters now, does it? Besides, I’ve decided to quit. No more looking in on protected sites. I promise."
"Except you’re going to help us," Liam reminded her.
Allison didn’t respond immediately. "Yes, I’ll help you with this problem, but . . . I’m not going to commit to working for the FBI for an entire year. I have plans. As soon as I find your leak, I’m gone. And no one else will know I’ve done this. Agreed?"
It wasn’t the deal they had hoped for, and Phillips wasn’t going to like it, but Allison appeared to be resolute in her position. Liam nodded to Alec and then said, "Agreed."
Jordan walked into the living room and sat next to Allison on the sofa. "I’m assuming all the secret talk is over."
"I explained to them that, as soon as I get a chance, I’ll tell you everything," Allison said.
"We don’t want either one of you to talk about this outside this house. Got that?" Alec warned.
"What about Noah? May I tell him?" Jordan asked.
"You’re going to anyway, aren’t you?" Allison wondered.
Jordan nodded. "Yes. I just thought it would be nice if I asked."
"For God’s sake, Jordan," Alec said, "this is serious."
"I know," she replied. "Neither one of us is going to post this conversation on the Internet, and Allison doesn’t need to tell me what the assignment is. I’ve already guessed the obvious. You want her to catch a hacker, don’t you?"
"Something like that," Alec answered.
"Don’t leave me out. I want to help."
"No, absolutely not," Allison said. "If anything went wrong, you could get into trouble."
"So could you."
"I don’t matter," she blurted, unaware how telling the comment was.
"Of course you matter. The FBI has given you immunity. You can’t get into trouble."
"What I meant to say is that, if I were to get into trouble, I’d deserve it. I’ve broken the law. You haven’t. Things have a way of getting messed up. It could be dangerous."
"What if the person or people I’m going after find out who I am and come after me? It could happen," she insisted.
Jordan turned to Liam. "Are you running this?"
He nodded slowly. He kept his gaze on Allison and said, "I’m not going to let anything happen to you. You’ll be safe."
"I still want to help," Jordan insisted.
"I’ve got a better chance of searching without being detected. That’s all I’m saying," Allison said.
The two of them began to argue in a language Liam had never heard before. It was computer talk on an incomprehensible level.
"What would you do, Jordan, if . . ." was as much as Liam or Alec understood.
As Liam listened to the two women debate the best ways of entering a secure site, he couldn’t stop staring at Allison. She was beautiful, yes, but what held his attention was the way her mind worked.
Alec interjected a thought into the discussion. "You know, Allison, there are some people who have sold various bugs and viruses for a lot of money."
"I’d never sell them," she protested.
Allison’s phone rang again. She muted it and didn’t even bother to see who was calling.
"I’m curious. How many viruses have you collected?" Alec asked.
"Oh, you know."
"No, I don’t know. That’s why I asked," Alec said.
She started to blush. "I’d like to know, too," Liam said.
"A few?" Alec asked.
It was obvious she was embarrassed. "More than a few."
"How many more than a few?" Liam asked.
"Several?" Alec asked. "Or a bunch?"
Jordan nudged Allison and said, "You’ve already admitted that you have a file of viruses. You might as well tell them how many. They can’t do anything to you."
Eventually they would find out, Allison thought. If she just told them now, she’d save time. "Not including the ones I’ve destroyed, I’d say there’re a hundred seventy or so in the file, give or take twenty or thirty."
"So . . . two hundred," Liam guessed.
She nodded. "Or thereabouts. Maybe a few more."