Ironically, Suzanna would be proud of him. He might be too late to save her, but he was going to find a way to catch the Ripper before the bastard could kill Neely. Deirdre Mason and Lance Shaw could take a hike. If they found out, they’d do more than take away his job. They’d probably toss him in a cell. Tough shit.
“Tough shit? Do they still use that expression in your time?”
Max stiffened. “You know, you really shouldn’t eavesdrop on someone else’s thoughts.”
“Sorry.” She yawned widely. “I didn’t get anything but the ‘tough shit’ part. Has it taken on some new meaning in your time that describes what we just did to each other?”
His lips curved. “No. I was thinking of something else entirely. I’d be hard-pressed to come up with any words to describe what we just did.” He brushed hair back from her forehead. “I’m not sure the words have been invented yet.”
She traced his lips with a finger. “You don’t do that often enough.”
“Smile. You’re too serious.” Then she straightened and wiggled off of his lap to straddle his thighs. “Speaking of serious—I didn’t think about it before. What about protection? They still have that in your time, don’t they?”
He nodded. “I took care of it. I can do it psychically.”
“Sure you can.”
He grinned at her now. “Really. I took care of it while you were cleaning up in the kitchen.”
“That sure of yourself, huh?”
“No.” He cupped her face with his hand and kissed her very gently. “I wasn’t at all certain that I could keep my hands off of you. So I took care of it when I could still think.”
“Is it…still operational?”
She shifted her gaze down to his lap. “Speaking of operational…” She wrapped one of her hands around the hard length of his erection. “My, oh my. I don’t think I had time to really notice before, but there’s something to be said for the evolution of the species.”
Max threw back his head and laughed. Neely joined him.
“Do you always say exactly what’s on your mind?”
“Usually.” She began to stroke him.
He covered her hand with his, and his expression sobered.
“What’s between us can only be temporary, Neely.”
“Yeah, I got that. The rules.” She smiled at him. She stroked him again. “So we’d better make the most of the time we’ve got.” Then she pressed her mouth to his.
August 1, 2128, Paris
DEIRDRE STOOD shoulder to shoulder with Lance, studying the viewing screens on the wall behind his desk. There were pictures, formal and informal, of the five men who’d attended the board meeting. Scrolling next to each set of photos was complete background information on each man. She knew all five of the men. Four of them represented the global partnership that founded TGS. Henry Whitehall, a descendant of the former royal family of Great Britain, was fair and lean and resembled his great-uncle on his mother’s side, Prince Harry. Whitehall protected the interests of the former European Alliance. Lawrence Chu, a short, slender man with the look and the calm demeanor of a Buddhist monk, spoke for the interests of the Asia-Pacific areas. Jose Rivera, a dark-haired man in his early fifties with movie-star good looks, served as advocate for the southern hemispheres, and Mitchell Lambert, who had the distinguished gray-haired looks of an elder statesman, represented the United States and Canada. Their ages ranged from mid-fifties in the cases of Rivera, Whitehall and Chu to early seventies in the case of Lambert. Deirdre was familiar with the background of each of them. It was part of her job to know the political interests behind the company she worked for.
She shifted her attention to the fifth man, Dr. Thomas Renquist. Deirdre studied him now, taking in the handsome boyish face, the long pale blond hair tied at the back of his neck, the light blue eyes and the white lab coat that seemed too large for him.
Deirdre knew Thomas Renquist had been a child prodigy and was still considered to be a genius. Renquist had worked in research and development for one of Shaw’s first companies. Shaw had brought the young man with him when he’d taken over directorship of TGS.
“I assume Dr. Renquist was reporting to your board members on his latest research.”
“Yes, Tom’s isolated three new genes that are connected to clairvoyance. He also keeps me updated on any new threats that may be posed as our global citizens recognize and develop their psychic powers.”
Lance shifted his eyes back to the screens. “They’re the only ones who had access to Adam’s desk during the time when the communications chip was placed. Who’s your favorite?”
Deirdre had reviewed the security tapes. There’d been two breaks when the men had filed from Lance’s office into Adam’s for coffee and other refreshments. Each time, the four board members and the young doctor had spent some time clustered around Adam’s desk, giving one of them ample opportunity to slip the communications chip among the messages in Adam’s in-box.
She shook her head. “I won’t have one until I know more. How many of them are genetically equipped for time travel?”
“Everyone but Tom Renquist and Henry Whitehall. But they each carry a dormant gene.”
Deirdre’s lips curved. “That must bother the hell out of Whitehall—to have the royal blood but lack the power to travel through time.”
“It’s a constant thorn in his side. Do you want to eliminate Renquist and Whitehall?”
“No, not until we know more. And since we can’t interview them without tipping them off, I suggest we run thorough background checks and discreetly check alibis.”
Lance smiled at her and she felt the charm of it run in a warm current through her body. “So you believe in good old-fashioned police work.”
“It never goes out of style. I’ve also been thinking about the time span between the Ripper’s killings. One hundred and twenty years. And the specific years. We should check the ancestry of each one of our suspects and see if anything interesting pops up. Also, we should take a look at the cities. Whitehall is very familiar with London and he visits the New UN in Manhattan frequently. He even has an apartment there. Jose Rivera also attends meetings at the UN, and I believe he has business interests that take him frequently to London.”
“I like the way your mind works.” Lance looked at the screens again. “Do you believe we’re looking at the Ripper?”
A little hum of excitement ran through her as she studied their faces. “The only other possibility is that one of these men is the Ripper’s accomplice. The profiles from 2008 and those from our current experts agree that our Jack works alone. He’s arrogant, smart, a careful planner and at the same time very skilled at improvising on the spot. I don’t believe that any of these men could have reached their current positions without possessing all of those qualities. So yes, I believe we’re looking at him. And he made a big mistake by dropping that communications chip on your desk. If he did it, as we suspect, to make you force Max Gale off the case, he’s failed. And now he’s got you on his trail.”
This time Lance Shaw’s smile was feral rather than charming. “I agree again. I’ll transfer everything on the screens to your palm unit. Then you’d better go and fill Max in on what’s happening. Perhaps he’s already seen one of our suspects.”
DEIRDRE PAUSED across the street from Neely Rafferty’s bookstore. It hadn’t opened for business yet, but Max was planning to make personal contact with Neely today, and she’d hoped to catch him before he did. She’d purposely not made herself invisible, hoping that Max was in the vicinity and would spot her. But so far there’d been no sign of him.
She hated wasting time, but what choice did she have but to wait until Max showed up? She was still battling with frustration when she spotted a tall, incredibly handsome young man lope easily up the front steps of Neely’s brownstone. On impulse, she crossed the street. It might be a good idea to meet Neely Rafferty in person.
“Are you opening up?” Deirdre asked.
The man turned and sent her a beaming smile. “Officially, not until nine.” Then he extended his hand. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you in the store before. I’m Linc Matthews, one of the owners.”
Shaking his hand, she said, “Deirdre Mason. I’m here on a little vacation, and a friend of mine told me to look up Neely Rafferty’s bookstore. Am I in the right place?”
“You are.” Linc drew a key out of his pocket and inserted it in the lock. “Why don’t you come in. I’ll make some coffee and you can browse until we open.”
When the door swung inward, she and Linc gasped. A man stood with his back to them, wearing nothing but black jeans; he was swearing softly and creatively at a small, gleaming machine.
Even before he whirled around, his hand reaching for a weapon he wasn’t wearing, Deirdre recognized Max. The embarrassment that flooded his face as soon as he saw her answered any lingering questions she might have about what he’d been up to since he’d arrived in 2008.