While she was working, she was usually left alone. Phillips would saunter in every now and then to look over her shoulder at the monitor, but he rarely spoke to her. Occasionally she would notice employees walking by her office, and sometimes she would pass them in the hall, yet she never stopped to chat, nor did they try to engage her in conversation. Even though they weren’t aware of her purpose for being there, no one expressed curiosity. She wondered if they had been ordered not to ask about the work others were doing.
With each day that passed, she knew she was getting closer to the answer. Finding it was just a matter of time and persistence. By Friday afternoon of the second week, she sensed the end was in sight. She glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was getting late, and she prayed that Liam wouldn’t appear at the door to stop her. She was so close. She narrowed her concentration on the screen and worked furiously, as though all her work would slip away if she lost focus for even one second. Suddenly there it was. Everything came together in one single spot. She found the source. The urge to jump up and shout was nearly overwhelming. She couldn’t, of course, so she sat there and cheered silently.
Now what? She could either go to Phillips and report what she had found, or wait for Liam and tell him. A no-brainer. She would wait. Phillips wasn’t going to take the news well, no matter who told him. He had insisted it was impossible for her to trace the origin of the leaks back to the FBI-and he hated to be wrong. Besides, she had just seen Curtis Bale, the former head of the Detroit division, heading for Phillips’s office. It wouldn’t be such a good idea to rush in now and announce that she had identified the exact computer the breach had originated from and that it was located in Detroit.
Impatient, she glanced up at the clock again. Where was Liam?
While she waited, she was curious to look around and see what else she could find. Her fingers hovered over the keys. What would be the harm of checking out a few e-mails? Maybe there were other incriminating messages. She shook her head. As much as she wanted to snoop, she knew she couldn’t go any further without permission, no matter how great the temptation. She had made up her mind not to break any more laws, and she meant to keep her promise.
But making certain there weren’t any more damning messages would be helping, wouldn’t it?
While she was having her moral debate-should she or shouldn’t she?-Liam walked in. She nearly jumped out of her chair when she noticed him watching her. She was sure she looked as guilty as she felt. He, on the other hand, looked wonderful, but then, when didn’t he? The man certainly knew how to wear a suit. Every time he gave her his full attention, her heart did a little flip. She wished she could make herself not care because she knew she was headed for misery. Thank God she hadn’t gotten more involved with him. She could get over a couple of kisses. No big deal . . . right?
"Are you ready to leave? I’d like to get out of here. It’s been a long week," he said.
She didn’t ease into the news. "I found it."
His smile faded. "You’re sure?"
"Show me." He pulled up a chair and sat next to her.
"I can show you the original e-mails, but explaining how I got to the source would take a long time." She didn’t add her concern that he probably wouldn’t understand what she was trying to explain anyway.
"I don’t need to know how you got there," he said. "Phillips and his team will want the step-by-step explanation."
"I know what he’s going to do. He’ll point to that chair, tell me to sit, and then question me for hours."
More like days, Liam thought, but didn’t say. "That chair?"
"You know. The one in his office. It’s like he’s training a dog."
Liam put his arm on her shoulder, leaned toward the screen, and began to read the damning messages, examining each carefully as she scrolled through one and then another. He was so engrossed in what he was seeing he didn’t realize he was absentmindedly stroking her upper arm.
"The e-mails came from Detroit," he said.
She couldn’t tell what he was thinking. His expression wasn’t revealing anything, but when the muscle in his cheek flexed once, then again, she knew he was keeping his temper under control. When he finished reading, he looked at her intensely, which immediately messed with her ability to concentrate. How could one man have such a powerful effect on her?
"You did it, Allison. You got to the source. You should be proud of yourself."
Uncomfortable with praise, probably because she’d gotten so little of it in her life, she immediately downplayed her role. "It took much longer than I had anticipated, and I’m sure others wouldn’t have taken as long."