"Yes, of course. It’s got to get better. I’m staying optimistic. Even though I was informed that Bale is coming after me because I tattled on him. Let’s get going to Nathan’s Bay." She reached for her bag.
Liam put his hands up and stopped her. "Not so fast." There was no way he could put a positive spin on the situation, so he was blunt with his announcement. "Phillips wants you at the cyber unit."
"No," she groaned.
"It shouldn’t take long." He managed a smile. Nothing with Phillips was quick. To her credit she took the news in stride. He came to that conclusion when she didn’t start crying. She also didn’t move. "I guess you could try to hide," he suggested with a straight face.
Allison thought he was serious and shook her head. "No, he’ll make a ruckus if I don’t go in right away."
"A ruckus?" He put his arms around her and gave her a quick hug. "I like that word. Want to make a ruckus in the bedroom?" he asked with a laugh.
Of course she did. "Absolutely not." Her voice lacked conviction.
He opened the door for her. "Come on. Let’s get going."
Usually when Phillips pulled her in on weekends, she took the time to change to her work clothes, but not today. Today she was taking a stand. She was wearing worn-out snug jeans, a cotton shirt, and sneakers. She wasn’t going to change. If he didn’t like her casual attire, too bad.
Liam left their bags in the apartment and drove her to the office. Rain was coming in. Black clouds rolled overhead as they turned onto the isolated stretch of road, and strong winds battered the tree branches. A clap of thunder shook the car, and Allison flinched. Even though she knew it was illogical, storms frightened her. She wasn’t nervous today, though, because she was with Liam. Nothing much ever fazed him, and that was a comfort.
Fortunately they reached the unit and walked inside a scant minute before the downpour. As usual, Phillips was waiting for her outside his office. "London needs your special talent," he told her. "There’s a small glitch in their system, and they’d like an outsider to look at it." Then he turned to Liam. "I just got a call." He gave a tilt of his head in Allison’s direction and said, "He’s coming in. You might want to talk to him."
Liam nodded. As soon as Phillips went into his office, Liam walked by her side to her office.
"Does Phillips live here?" she asked.
He laughed. "No, he lives with his wife."
"He’s married?" She sounded shocked.
"Yes, he is."
"Who would marry that man? He’s a classic type A personality, and he’s obsessive-compulsive. He’s-" She suddenly stopped. Wait a minute. She had just described herself.
"I’ve met her. She’s nice."
Exasperated, he said, "Phillips’s wife. They’ve been married a long time."
"I know why their marriage works. He’s never home."
He pulled the chair out for her, and as he turned to leave, she said, "I heard Phillips tell you someone is coming in. Who is it? Is it Bale?"
He didn’t answer her. He simply walked away.
"You’re becoming as rude as Phillips," she called after him.
He obviously didn’t understand she was trying to be insulting or he wouldn’t have laughed.
The little glitch turned out to be a whopper, and it took her the entire day to straighten it out. She also found and removed two bugs. Her hope of spending a relaxing weekend on Nathan’s Bay had been crushed. Maybe another time, she thought, trying to stay optimistic.
She closed down her station and headed toward Phillips’s office. She didn’t have any idea when she’d be able to leave. She knew he would want her to explain what she’d found in the London office. With an ordinary person that might take twenty minutes, but with Phillips it could take half the night.
She had just rounded the corner in the hallway when she came face-to-face with Curtis Bale. He looked surprised; then his expression quickly turned to anger. Allison tried to maneuver around him, but he blocked her path.
"I know what you did," he said, sneering.
Allison was shocked at first and then took offense to his accusatory tone. "Tell me. What did I do?"
"You made yourself look good. You couldn’t find what Scott and Phillips wanted, so you manufactured it. I had nothing to do with those leaks, and yet you did whatever it took to make me and my department look bad. Tell me, Miss Trent, was this all just a game to you, or did you deliberately set out to destroy me?"
"I don’t even know you, Mr. Bale. Why would I do that?"