The FBI owned her now, and in the eight weeks she’d worked for them, they had managed to turn her life upside down. She was all theirs for six full months. On paper it didn’t look all that long, but on a day-to-day basis it was an eternity. Two months down, four to go.

She hated that others controlled her every action, and on the days when the stress and tension threatened to overwhelm her, she would put on her Bose headphones, close her eyes for a few minutes, and think about something pleasant, like walking along a white sand beach or, better yet, punching her immediate supervisor, Special Agent Jim Phillips. She bet that would remove his perpetually smug expression. Allison didn’t consider herself a violent person. She had never hit anyone, not even her irresponsible cousin, Will, yet the thought of smacking her boss did lighten her mood.

Agent Phillips seemed to know what buttons to push, and Allison came close to completely losing her composure one afternoon. He called her into his office for another one of his famous pep talks about the bureau. Then came the suggestions. The latest proposal was a doozy. He wanted her to wear a thin silver bracelet that had a built-in tracking device. She wouldn’t have to worry about losing it because, once it was snapped into place, it was impossible to remove. The man was actually enthusiastic about his outrageous plan, and it took every ounce of her willpower to sit quietly and listen. After gritting her teeth, she insisted for the hundredth time that he simply call her cell phone if and when he needed her after hours. He countered that there were times when she couldn’t be reached by phone, most likely suspecting she had turned it off. She had to admit there had been a few instances when she had silenced her phone just to have a couple hours of peace.

As much as she hated the job, she loved the work, and how strange was that? The real irony was that she was making a good salary, and it was all hers. Her aunt and uncle couldn’t take it from her as they had with her previous earnings.

She was a paid employee of the federal government-an employee who wasn’t allowed to quit-with official credentials and benefits up the wazoo. She had been told that the six-month job she’d agreed to would be only from eight to five Monday through Friday. There was a caveat attached, though: if there was ever an urgent situation, she would be required to come in after hours. Thus far, there had been an average of three urgent situations each workweek and one almost every weekend. Agents had pulled her out of bed in the middle of the night too many times to count, had ruined innumerable dinners, and had barged into half the movie theaters in the city looking for her. She became so skittish she even imagined they were trying to interrupt her graduation. She had been chosen to represent her department and had just stepped onto the stage to collect her diploma when she glanced at the crowd and spotted two men in suits hurrying down the aisle toward her. They looked determined. In the hope of avoiding a tug-of-war, she rushed across the stage, snatched the diploma out of the president’s hands, all but fist-bumped him in lieu of a handshake, and ran down the steps, just as the two men reached the front row, turned, and sat down next to their families.

After the ceremony, she was congratulated by Jordan and Noah, who promised to celebrate with her on Nathan’s Bay the following weekend. There was a big party scheduled. Allison had just said good-bye to them when Dan and his girlfriend made their way to her. Mark and his fiancée were also there. She had discouraged them from subjecting themselves to the never-ending proceedings, but they insisted on attending because they were her friends. She surmised they felt sorry for her because Charlotte and Oliver couldn’t come and she wouldn’t have family at her big event, but even if they came out of pity, she was happy to see all of them. It was while Dan was giving her a big bear hug that she looked up into the stands . . . and saw him . . . there, standing in the middle of a crowd of people who were slowly making their way to the exits. He was there only as long as a blink, and then he was gone.

Had she really seen Liam, or was her imagination playing tricks on her? She’d been thinking about him almost every day. She couldn’t seem to stop. She had told herself again and again he wasn’t worth it, and yet the constant reminder didn’t seem to matter.

Not a single phone call. He couldn’t take the time to pick up the phone and call her just to see how she was doing? With each passing day it had become abundantly clear she meant nothing to him. He had moved on without so much as a backward glance. Liam Scott, she decided, was insensitive and rude, and once again she reminded herself that she was happy to be rid of him.