Two full weeks passed and not a word from Liam. No surprise there. She was trying to accept the possibility that she might never see him again. It wasn’t as if he had deceived her. He’d been real up front about their relationship. Sex and only sex. No tender words of love. She didn’t want to cry over him or sink to self-pity. No, she was more in the mood to give him a good smack. It wasn’t a very ladylike thing to do, and she would never give in to the urge, but she certainly was tempted.

It was time to get the upper hand in this nonrelationship. She was determined that, if she saw Liam again, she would tell him she didn’t want him in her life. No more mind-blowing sex and then taking off. She’d better tell him over the phone, she decided, because she knew the minute she saw him her best intentions would go flying out the window and she’d want to tear his clothes off and attack him.

It didn’t matter that she loved him or that he might feel something more than just affection for the woman he occasionally had sex with. He might even love her a little, but that didn’t matter, either, because he would never do anything about it. His job came above all else. She saw how it was draining him. No one could keep up the frantic pace without paying a price. The stress alone would kill an ordinary man, and contrary to what he might believe, he wasn’t superhuman.

Not so long ago she would have believed that spending time coding was all she ever wanted or needed. Not any longer, though. She wanted it all. She wanted marriage and eventually babies to love and cherish. She accepted there wasn’t any future with Liam. Now all she had to do was find the courage to move on without him.

TWENTY-THREE

The doorbell rang in Emerson, and Aunt Jane opened it to find a young man standing there with a large envelope in his hand.

"Jane Trent?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered cautiously.

He handed the envelope to her. "Have a nice day," he said as he turned and headed back to his car.

Uncle Russell walked into the front hall. "What is that?" he asked, ripping the envelope out of her hands. He tore the envelope open, pulled out a letter, and read silently.

"Well?" she barked.

"Those ungrateful . . ." Beads of perspiration formed on his forehead. "It says here we have thirty days to account for the money we spent on the girls or give it back."

Jane slumped into a nearby chair. "They found out."

TWENTY-FOUR 

Work helped Allison take her mind off her personal problems. On one of her more challenging days, she had a particularly difficult puzzle to solve, and she enjoyed every frustrating minute of it. Once she finally found the source she was looking for, she sent it on to Phillips with her report and sat back to enjoy her accomplishment. There was such satisfaction and contentment to be had after a hard day’s work. As astonishing as it was to admit, she really loved this job. She had even softened in her attitude toward Phillips.

She finished work at five thirty, then went to a yoga class, and didn’t leave the gym until eight. Traffic was a mess as usual. She parked in her spot in the garage and was walking to the elevator with her backpack slung over her shoulder when she noticed the camera that faced the entrance was broken. It was hanging by a couple of wires. She made a mental note to tell the super and went on upstairs.

Stamos was waiting outside her door with a policeman. The doorman was fretting while the policeman was filling out a report.

"What’s going on?" she asked.

Stamos rushed to explain. "Someone broke into your apartment."

Officer Jay Watts asked Allison to walk through each room and let him know what, if anything, was missing.

Allison was shocked when she entered the apartment. The living room had been ransacked, and the desk drawers had been dumped on the floor. Drawers in the bedroom were also open and the contents spilled on the floor.

"If you have any valuables, you might want to check and see if they’re here," Officer Watts said.

The only thing of value that Allison could think of was her laptop and the program she had been working on. Her computer was still in the bag she was carrying, so it was safe. She rushed to her closet to check the cubby where she hid her backup drive. It was exactly where she’d left it. Her clothes and shoes didn’t appear to have been disturbed.

"I told Officer Watts it was those people who did this," Stamos told her when she returned to the living room. "Your aunt and uncle. I knew they were trouble the second I saw how they treated their Chrysler. They were here causing another fit downstairs. I had to let them in the lobby because the woman was banging on the glass, and I was worried she was going to break it. I had to help 3A with her packages, but I made sure those relatives of yours had left the premises before I got on the elevator. I’m betting they came back in with another tenant and went on up. I’m sure it was them who did this," he insisted to the officer.