“And?” Jack prodded when she didn’t continue.

“And he said he wouldn’t have looked,” she admitted reluctantly. “He’s a homicide detective. What else could he say?”

“Don’t you remember why your boss wanted you to work from home?” Alec asked. “Did you forget about the threats?”

“No, I didn’t forget,” she said quietly. “I just didn’t take them seriously.”

“Why not?”

“I get threats all the time—at least every time my father is in the news being unfairly accused of some crime or other. He’s never been convicted, I might add.”

“In the past, what kind of threats have you gotten?” Jack asked.

She gave a nonchalant shrug. “The usual stuff. You know: ‘I hate you,’ ‘I’m gonna make you sorry,’ ‘I’m gonna rip your head off…blah, blah, blah…’”

“I’ve told her to report these the minute they happen,” Alec told Jack.

“Tell the police?” Sophie scoffed. “And have them hovering around me even more than they already do? For what? The threats always stop within a week or two. Alec, I am not going to live my life in fear.”

“What else did the shooter say to you before you looked out the window?” Jack asked.

“‘Be a sport.’ I asked him to tell me his name, and he said, ‘Be a sport.’ He also said he didn’t want to ruin the surprise.”

“So you looked,” Jack said, shaking his head.


“Hmm…Yeah, I guess getting shot might be considered a surprise,” Jack said.

“It’s not helpful to be sarcastic.”

Jack, sitting in the other chair across from her, leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “So if I ask you to be a sport, you’ll pretty much do whatever I want you to do?”

Sophie didn’t appreciate his attitude. If it involves shooting you, I probably would, she thought.

Alec wanted her to continue. “You said the voice sounded familiar.”

“Sort of familiar,” she replied. “He was very cheerful, and he reminded me of a salesman. At the time I thought his voice sounded like I’d heard it before, but now I’m not so sure.”

“The next time you get a threat, you call me immediately. Understand?” Alec said, his tone hard.

“I can take care of myself.”

Wrong thing to say, she realized, especially since she had just been released from the hospital and was nursing a gunshot wound. Alec looked as though he wanted to shake some sense into her. Jack’s expression was even worse.

“Stop looking at me like that.”

“How am I looking at you?” Jack asked.

“Like you think I’m an idiot.”

“Then I nailed it. Good.”

What did they want from her? The truth? Not going to get that, she decided. Of course she was scared, and so tired, tired of pre tending that none of the threats bothered her. They were both waiting for some contrition. “Okay, I’ll admit it. I wasn’t being cautious.”

Jack nodded agreement and turned to Alec. While he recited a litany of all the horrible things that could happen to her if she were not more careful, she sat in silence and observed. He really was a jerk, she thought. Too bad he was so damned sexy. She couldn’t believe she was actually attracted to him. But why not? He was one fine specimen of masculinity—tall, broad-shouldered, muscular. He had thick, dark hair, a chiseled face, and piercing eyes, and his bad boy smile made her stomach shiver when he looked at her a certain way.

She knew he was attracted to her, too. The way he watched her was awfully personal for an FBI agent. He looked at her the way a man looks at a woman he’s interested in. She also knew he didn’t want to want her. Considering that he thought she was an imbecile with a smart mouth, and considering who she was related to, who could blame him?

She studied Jack MacAlister closely as his conversation with Alec proceeded without her. Did he know she was attracted to him? She hoped not. Oh, God. FBI. What was wrong with her? What had happened to her standards?

She could go to bed with him, she supposed. It would just be sex, a lot of wild, amazing, passionate sex. No love involved, though. She couldn’t allow herself to fall in love. She had to protect her heart. She wasn’t like other women. She could never get married and have children…not with her family history.

Animalistic, crazed sex…no strings…nothing wrong with that, was there?

Hello…. FBI. Stop it, Sophie, she scolded. She had to be crazy thinking such thoughts. FBI. Why couldn’t she seem to remember that when she looked at him?

She needed to occupy her mind with something else so she wouldn’t have time to think about her warped choices of men. It was like dieting. Whenever she was on a diet, she had to keep busy so she wouldn’t think about the quart of Häagen-Dazs chocolate chunk ice cream in the bottom of her freezer. Granted, she usually caved and ate the ice cream anyway, but she was determined not to cave with Jack. That was one craving she could resist.

William Harrington. With all the turmoil of the last twenty-four hours, she’d practically forgotten about him. Now there was a mystery she could concentrate on. What had happened to him? And why had he gone to Prudhoe Bay? Did he go there after leaving the race? Why, then, had she been told he’d gone to Europe? Something was wrong here, but what?

Sophie wasn’t sure how to proceed. She thought about running her thoughts past Alec. She could tell him how she had met Harrington and explain the bizarre circumstances surrounding his death, but what could Alec suggest? That it was an accidental death? A horrible way to die, but still accidental?

She needed to talk to Mr. Bitterman. He was an expert on checking sources, and he would certainly know how she should investigate this. After all, he’d played in the big leagues, working at one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world for over twenty years. She should call him.

Alec and Jack had ended their discussion of her, and Alec was texting on his iPhone.

“Alec, do you think someone could be listening in on my phone conversations?” she asked.

He didn’t look up as he answered, “Gil checked. He’s positive no one is tapping the line. Why do you ask?”

“I was curious, that’s all. Agent MacAlister, do you have someplace you need to be? You keep checking your watch.”

“Don’t you think it’s about time you started calling me Jack? And no, I don’t have any plans that can’t be changed. I’ll just make a quick call.”

“Alec, for goodness’s sake, drive Jack to his car. Let him keep his date. It’s rude for him to cancel so late in the day.” She couldn’t leave it at that. “Besides, I’ve heard that some of the high-priced escort services charge for last-minute cancellations.”

Jack flashed a smile and said, “Can’t leave until Gil gets here.”

The doorbell rang just then. Jack burst into laughter. “I swear I didn’t plan that.”

Gil was two hours early. He rushed inside carrying three large pizza boxes with two six-packs of bottled Kelly’s Root Beer balanced precariously on top.

“Out of my way, Alec. We’ve got to eat these pizzas while they’re nice and hot, and drink these sodas while they’re nice and cold. Hey, Sophie, darling, how are you doing? Feel like eating a slice or two?”

“Maybe later. Where’d you get the Kelly’s?”

“Black market,” he answered with a grin.

“You went to a lot of trouble bringing hot food in,” she said. She was about to add that it was a shame Jack and Alec had already eaten and Regan and Cordie had already left, but Jack followed Gil to the table while Alec went into the kitchen to get some napkins.

“What kind did you get?” Alec asked.

“What do you mean, what kind? The works, of course. If it’s edible, it’s on there.”

Sophie crossed the room and nudged Jack out of the way to examine the huge pizza Gil had just opened. “You’re really going to eat again?” she asked, looking up at Jack.

Jack glanced down and suddenly felt tongue-tied. Damn, she was pretty. Face scrubbed, not an ounce of makeup, and she still looked gorgeous. Seductive as hell, too. Another time, another place, he’d make a move.

“What?” he said, trying to remember what she’d asked him.

“I asked you if you were going to eat again.”

“Yeah, of course I’m gonna eat. It’s pizza. We’ve gotta eat while it’s hot.”

“That’s a no-brainer, Sophie,” Alec said.

It’s more like gluttony, she thought. She left them to their Roman feast, which seemed to be close to an orgasmic event, and went into the kitchen to make a cup of hot tea. She spotted the package of triple A batteries on the counter and was reminded of the digital recorder she’d used to interview Harrington. Tonight, no matter what, she was going to listen to every single word Harrington had said. It was a fitting penance for calling him a narcissist. He was a narcissist, but she felt bad saying so.

This time she would pay attention. He might have said something relevant about Prudhoe Bay while she had zoned out, and maybe that something would explain the where, when, and why. The poor man was dead, and so she made a promise to herself not to complain while she listened to him drone on and on and on about each of his twenty-four races. And, oh yes, also the saga of his blisters. She would not fast forward through any of it no matter how strong the urge. She sighed. That poor dead man. That poor, god-awful boring, dead man.

She sipped her tea and went into the bedroom to get the digital recorder. She thought she’d left it on her desk, but it wasn’t there. As she was checking the drawers, she remembered she’d put it in her purse just before Regan called. Uh-oh. It was all coming back to her now. She remembered holding the purse, the call interrupt, and now the infamous “Be a sport” spoken to her in such a cheerful voice.

The memory caused her to shudder. The purse had to be in the living room.

It wasn’t, though.

“Alec, did you see my purse? Red leather…” She glanced around the room again. “I was holding it when I got shot. It has to be here.”

“I saw it,” Gil said around a mouthful of pizza. “It was on the floor, right over there by the window,” he added, waving a half-eaten slice in that direction. “It was covered in blood.”

“Covered in blood? No, not my Prada!”

Jack looked at Alec and tilted his head toward Sophie. “Is this gonna be like the cabana shirt?”

She heard him. “It was a Dolce & Gabbana, and the Prada red leather tote is a one-of-a-kind.”

“Was a one-of-a-kind,” Jack corrected.

She felt like cursing. She slumped into the chair next to Jack. “Was? Care to explain what you mean by that?”

“I guess you could say the Prada helped save your life,” Jack said. “The bullet went through the latch before it got to you.”

She sat back. “Okay, I can have that fixed. If the leather isn’t stained…if I can get the blood out…where is it?”

“It isn’t here,” Alec told her.

“It was part of the crime scene,” Gil explained, “so it was taken to the lab.”

“I want it back. My recorder is inside, and my wallet with all my identification, and oh, my God, my credit cards.”

“I’ll call Steinbeck in the morning,” Alec promised as he finished the last of the pizza and began to clear off the table.

Sophie yawned. The pain medication was making her sleepy and she was worn out. “Don’t you two have someplace better to be?” she asked Alec and Jack. “Maybe some bad guys to catch?”

“Not me,” Jack answered. “I might be taking a leave of absence. If I do, I’m going to find a secluded beach where it’s hot all year long and set up a hammock. I hate the cold, and Chicago’s already getting there.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time,” Sophie said. “Now, if you will please excuse me, I’d like to go to bed.”

“Jack and I’ll head out,” Alec said, “but Gil’s staying here tonight.”

“But—” Sophie began.

“Don’t argue with me on this one, Sophie,” Alec warned.

Gil winked at her. “That sofa looks mighty comfortable to me. I promise to be quiet as a mouse. You won’t even know I’m here.”

Reluctantly, Sophie gave in. She no longer had the energy to argue.

After locking the door behind Alec and Jack, she went to her linen closet to get a blanket and pillow for Gil. She straightened up the kitchen and turned out the lights, then headed for her bedroom. The living room was illuminated by the glow of the TV. Gil was watching a basketball game with the volume turned down.

“Good night, Gil,” she said. “And thank you.”

“Good night, Sophie, darling,” he answered through a yawn.

Sophie dressed in her nightgown and sat on the edge of her bed. She was so weary she could hardly keep her eyes open. The clock on her nightstand said 11:30. She couldn’t go to sleep yet. She had to stay awake another half hour, so she picked up a magazine and read. Finally, at 11:55, she slipped quietly out of bed. She tiptoed to her bedroom door and cracked it open a sliver. Gil was snoring loudly. Gently closing the door again, she crossed the room to her closet and pushed aside a stack of shoe boxes on the floor to reveal a small wooden panel. With a couple of taps the panel came loose. Behind it was a cavity the size of a paperback novel. She reached inside and pulled out a thin cell phone. Glancing across the room at the nightstand, she squinted to see the clock. It now said 11:59. She waited.

At precisely midnight, the phone vibrated in her hand.

Sophie quickly flipped it open and put it to her ear.

“Hi, Daddy.”



I cannot describe how distraught all of us are. Lucy, the other adults, the pups, all gone. The only survivor is Ricky.

Ricky was at death’s door, too. Eric convinced Brandon and Kirk to return to the base facility. As soon as they left, Eric sedated Ricky and then, with my help, gave the wolf another injection of K-74. I urged him to increase the dosage.

Within hours of injecting him, Ricky was up and as strong as ever. His remarkable recovery in such a short time stunned Brandon and Kirk.

For the first time, I saw emotion in our alpha male. Ricky went into deep mourning over the loss of his family. He couldn’t seem to find his bearings and wailed long into the night; in the daytime, he paced.

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