Allison didn’t meet Jordan’s husband, Noah Clayborne, for several weeks. The two women generally spent their time discussing their common interest. They didn’t delve deeply into personal matters. Jordan shared the facts that she was married and her husband had a job with the government, but Allison knew little else about him. Then one weekend Jordan invited Allison to her parents’ home on Nathan’s Bay. It was there that she finally met Noah and found out he was an FBI agent. She liked him immediately. He was charming and funny and obviously very much in love with his wife. Allison saw no reason to keep her guard up.

Jordan’s parents, the Buchanans, were warm and welcoming, too, and Allison couldn’t help noticing the affection they showed each other, something she had never seen between her aunt and uncle. Over the weekend, two of Jordan’s brothers and their wives came for a visit. They treated Allison as if she were part of the family. She loved spending time with this gregarious and loving clan, especially the evenings around the dinner table when Jordan and her brothers told stories about their childhood and the pranks they would play on one another. Allison could only imagine the noise and the laughter when all seven of Jordan’s siblings were together. She envied them.

It was at dinner the first night that she discovered most members of the Buchanan family were also involved in some aspect of law enforcement. Three brothers worked for the bureau. One was a federal attorney. Even Jordan’s father was a judge. In any other situation, because of her forays into illegal activity, Allison would have made an excuse and gotten out of there as fast as she could, but the Buchanans were so much fun she ignored her vulnerability. In hindsight she realized she should have been more cautious. Yet, in her defense, she hadn’t thought anyone would have seen what was coming. All she knew was that it felt good to be with a family who liked one another and wanted to be together, not to mention the fact that she and Jordan had plenty of time to sit and talk about languages and codes, and writing programs, and bugs, and hackers.

As the weeks wore on, Allison’s crazy workload kept her from getting together with her friend as much as she would have liked, but an opportunity arose when she learned of an upcoming programming seminar. She signed up immediately. She knew she probably wasn’t going to learn anything new-that wasn’t arrogance on her part, just fact-but the presenter was Jordan, and she wanted to be supportive. 

The day of the seminar arrived, and Allison spent the afternoon in the library working on a paper that was due next week. At five o’clock she closed down her laptop and reached for her coat. Checking her watch, she figured she had plenty of time to rush home and change. Jordan was speaking tonight at seven, and Allison wanted to get to the small auditorium early so she could get a good seat. Over a hundred students were attending the event. If it was like her computer science classes, the vast majority would be men-which Allison found galling. Where were all the women? She was aware that women were entering the technology fields, but the forward strides weren’t happening fast enough to suit her. She didn’t feel intimidated by the men. She could hold her own when it came to ability. It was just that she would have liked to have more women around her and not be looked at as some sort of oddity.

Her sister, Charlotte, had always seen the analytical side of Allison, but most people who had known her as a child wouldn’t have predicted she would one day be a computer geek. They claimed that her talent lay in her looks. From the time she was a toddler, complete strangers would comment on what a pretty child she was. Then, as she grew into her teenage years, she was told her slender figure and long, shapely legs made her the perfect model. One photographer announced she had the perfect face: high cheekbones; gorgeous, brilliant blue eyes; perfect complexion; and full pouting lips. She had been just a junior in high school when, while browsing in a department store with her sister, she was spotted by the store’s manager and offered a photo shoot for an ad campaign in a local magazine. She went home and asked her aunt and uncle about it, and their answer was curt and dismissive, which was precisely the reaction Allison expected. In the years she had lived with them, she had never received encouragement for anything.

Allison had been about to reject the store manager’s modeling offer when her aunt and uncle had a sudden change of heart. They had just received a large bill from an attorney who represented Will on a shoplifting charge. Realizing that the extra income she could bring into the family would help alleviate some of their financial worries, they gave their permission.

The magazine layout was a big success, and in the months that followed Allison received several offers, which she declined. She wasn’t interested in a modeling career. But when an up-and-coming Boston designer named Giovanni Donato pleaded with her, insisting that no one could wear his clothes the way she could, she gave in. He had been so kind to her during the magazine shoot she couldn’t say no. She agreed to work for him, on a limited basis, just as long as the modeling didn’t interfere with school and her long-term goals.