Allison could hear the men talking in low voices in Jordan’s living room but tuned them out and played her message again. Leaning against the kitchen counter, she put the phone to her ear and listened to her aunt’s demands a second time.
"We have a situation here, and you need to come home as soon as possible. Your uncle says the decision’s been made. Now come home. Will has been . . ." Allison turned the message off without hearing the rest and returned the call. Before she could say a word, her aunt demanded to know where she was.
"I want you home now," she insisted. Along with the anger and impatience that usually permeated her aunt’s voice, there was now a hint of desperation.
"Can’t this wait until Monday?" Allison asked. It was Friday, and the last thing she wanted to do was to go to her aunt and uncle’s house in Emerson. By Saturday night Uncle Russell would be a blithering mass of misery. He didn’t believe he had a drinking problem because he drank beer during the week and switched to hard liquor only on the weekends. The wrong word would set him off, and he’d go into a rage. He was predictable; she’d give him that.
"Absolutely not," her aunt snapped.
"Maybe we can figure out a solution over the phone."
No such luck. Her aunt went into a full-blown rant and included the word ungrateful three times. God, Allison hated weekends with her relatives. She interrupted her aunt’s tirade, said she would see her tomorrow, and disconnected the call.
Liam stood in the doorway watching her. He could tell from her stance and her expression that something had upset her. She looked so disheartened. He doubted she would tell him what was wrong, but he asked anyway.
"I’m just thinking," she said.
"Yeah? About what?"
He didn’t miss a beat. "Want to tell me why?"
She shrugged. "It’s a way to disappear. That’s all." She straightened and brushed past him as she returned to the living room.
For the rest of the evening Allison listened to the details of her assignment and answered about a hundred more questions. Most of them centered on the possible ways she could get into the protected sites without being detected. Even though the sites were constantly being monitored, Allison knew there was always a way around every obstacle. She just had to find the vulnerability. To her it was like a complicated math problem. There was always a solution. Truth be told, she couldn’t wait to get started.
It was after midnight when Liam called it quits. The night air had turned cold, and as they walked to his car, Allison folded her arms to ward off the chill. After removing his jacket, Liam placed it on her shoulders and drew her close. He didn’t know what perfume she was wearing, but it appealed to him. So did her killer body. Damn shapely for a model. No harm in noticing, he thought, as long as he kept the relationship professional. He wasn’t about to make a move. Allison was important to him because she was going to help him solve a problem. Once that was done, he would be on his way to another assignment. Travel had become a way of life for him. Even though he had friends all over the world, there hadn’t been time for personal commitments, and he had long ago accepted that as part of his job.
"It’s cold for this time of year," Allison remarked as Liam drove her back to her house. He had turned the heat on, but she was still shivering. "I’m tired of cold weather . . . but I love Boston."
"Aren’t you planning to move as soon as you graduate?"
"Yes," she answered. "I’m thinking Santa Clara, California. It’s beautiful there." Several minutes later she said, "You’re the lucky one."
"You get to travel all over the world."
"Yes, I do, but it can get old."
"Maybe you just need someone to go with you."
They stopped at a red light. Liam turned to her. "Are you applying for the job?"
She had foolishly believed she was beginning to relax with him until he looked into her eyes and smiled. He made her forget her every thought. She tried to be practical and analyze her reaction to him. Maybe it was just that he seemed so much bigger than life. She had done photo shoots with a lot of male models, men with perfect profiles and nearly perfect bodies, but none of them was as ruggedly handsome as Liam. There was a raw sexuality to him. She looked down, and her hands were fisted in her lap. She really had to put a stop to that, she told herself.
She knew he’d noticed. She didn’t think he missed much of anything. But then, he was an FBI agent. He should notice the little things.