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"I have absolutely nothing planned."

That wasn’t exactly true. If she followed past Saturday and Sunday night rituals, she would have eaten a salad and worked on her laptop until the early hours of the morning. Six months ago that routine would have sounded pleasant to her, almost fun, but now she realized how dismal her life had been . . . and maybe still was. Everything had changed, she realized, when she met Liam. He had opened her eyes to the world around her. He’d also opened her heart, and she wasn’t at all happy about that.

"I’ll pick you up at seven, and we’ll get a beer. Mark will probably come, too. Our womenfolk are out of town this weekend."

"‘Womenfolk’?" she repeated, laughing.

"I’ve got a stack of mail for you. Mostly catalogs. I’ll bring it all tonight."

She didn’t want to go out. She wanted to stay home and wallow in misery. As soon as she realized that sad fact, she told Dan she was looking forward to going out.

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"It’ll be fun," she said cheerfully.

Her statement turned out to be true. She ended up spending the evening at the Dead End Bar and Grille with Dan and Mark and two other seniors she’d helped out a couple of times in their computer classes. She drank a little and laughed a lot.

Dan was the designated driver. He drove Allison home, handed her the mail he’d collected, and cuffed her shoulder as a sign of affection before she got out of the car. If she had any doubt that he considered her one of the guys, his good-bye clinched it.

TWENTY-ONE

The day of Brett’s Armageddon finally arrived.

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Monday morning Allison was happy to be back at the cyber unit. She was going to bury herself in work and then go to the Adams Harbor Hotel and bury Brett. She left work early and went home to change clothes. Black seemed to fit the occasion. She slipped into a pair of slim ankle pants, a black silk blouse, and a pair of black flats. She transferred a few of her things into a black cross-body bag and was ready to go.

She really didn’t need to be there to watch Brett’s downfall. The computer program would take care of that. She knew she wasn’t being very charitable and would even say it was wrong to deliberately humiliate him. Maybe she was being vindictive, but after everything Brett had done, she wanted to watch him crash and burn. She could be contrite tomorrow . . . maybe even go to confession.

Someone was knocking on her door. She looked through the peephole and took a hasty step back. Liam was there . . . again. He had said he wanted to go to Brett’s presentation, but she hadn’t expected him to be in Boston. She opened the door and moved aside to let him in. She wanted to say hello, and she would do that just as soon as her brain started working again. She was so surprised, and yet so happy, to see him.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked.

"Go where?"

His smile widened. "The Adams Harbor Hotel."

"Yes, of course I’m ready. Don’t I look ready? I think I look fine. Just fine," she rattled on.

He slowly looked her up and down. "You look a whole lot better than fine."

Great. Now he was giving her goose bumps. It was his voice. It had turned husky and very sexy.

As she brushed past him, Liam got a whiff of her perfume and whispered, "Ah, come on." Her scent was light and subtle, but to him it was an aphrodisiac that wreaked havoc with his vow to keep his distance . . . a vow he, thus far, hadn’t been able to keep.

He couldn’t get her out of his mind, and he knew both of them were getting in too deep. What he thought he wanted to be a casual affair had quickly turned into much much, more. Who was he kidding? It had never been casual, and he didn’t know what he could do about it.

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"I’m driving," she said.

"Okay, sure."

The moment Allison stepped out of the elevator in the garage, she understood why Liam had been so accommodating. His car was blocking hers. He opened the passenger door and waited. His grin was telling. He liked getting his way.

She slid into the seat. "Maybe you should drive," she suggested.

They made the short drive to the hotel. An hour ago Allison had been so sure of herself, but now her nerves began to surface and she questioned whether it was a good idea to confront Brett. She knew she had to stop him from selling her program, but there was no way to predict what the aftermath would be. Fortunately her feeling of self-doubt lasted only a minute, and then she got her gumption back. One look at Liam and she realized she was acting like a wuss. She didn’t want him to watch her crumble, if in fact that was what she was going to do. It was time to take action. She was, as Jordan told her, now ready to kick some ass. 

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