Page 21 of A Sexy Time Of It

Neely strode forward, still clutching the envelope to her chest, and slapped her free hand on the tabletop. “Look, I won’t be kept in the dark anymore.” She placed the envelope on the table and tapped her finger on it. “My grandmother decided to do that. She knew I could travel to the past and she told me I was just having vivid dreams. I’m not sure I can understand it—or even forgive her.” She met Sam’s eyes first, then Max’s. “It’s stopping right now. I’m not going to be hovered over like a child.”

She turned to Max. “If you think you’re going to talk me out of going back to 1888 and helping you catch the Ripper, you’d better rethink that.”

Max looked at Sam. “See what I’m dealing with?”

“It’s too dangerous, Neely,” Sam said. “Mabel and Sally and I can come up with a pretty accurate time for the death of one of the Ripper’s last victims in London. Actually, we’ll come up with at least two possibilities since Mabel never agrees with anything I say. Then Max can choose one and handle the job on his own.”

Neely rested her hands on her hips. “The same could be said for me.”

Sam jabbed a finger in Max’s direction. “He’s the professional. You’re not.”

“No. I’m the klutzy amateur, but you can’t stop me from going back there by myself. Wouldn’t it be better if Max and I worked together?”

“She’s got a point,” Max said. “I’d much rather be working with her than chasing after her.”

Rising, Sam held up two hands, palms out, in a gesture of defeat. “Okay. I’m outvoted, but you’d better fill her in on everything.”

“Yes.” Neely beamed at both of them. “I agree.”

Sam didn’t return her smile. Instead, he said to Max, “If you can figure out a way to load those photos onto my laptop, I can have a friend who’s still active at my old precinct try to find a match. It’s a long shot, but we might as well take it.”

“Good idea. I’ll take a look at your laptop before we leave for Dr. Rhoades’s lecture.” Turning to Neely, he held the palm unit so that she could see the photos. “Recognize anyone?”

She studied them, then shook her head. “No.”

Max handed the device to Sam. “Show the pictures to Linc and the ladies and see if they’re familiar with any of the men.”

“How much should I tell Mabel and Sally about you?” Sam asked.

Max sighed. “You might as well tell them everything.”

Sam’s lips twitched. “Good decision. You can trust them to keep a lid on it.”

The moment the door closed behind Sam, Neely pressed her fingers to her temples. “Dr. Rhoades’s lecture. I forgot all about it. We should leave soon. It’ll be at least a thirty-minute taxi ride.”

“What’s the matter?”

She dropped her hands. “I’m so…distracted. I can’t understand why my grandmother never told me the truth about my ability. I don’t think she wanted me to ever figure it out.”

“Sam filled me in. He believes your grandmother loved you and wanted to protect you.”

“I know she did. It’s just that there’s so much I wish I could ask her.”

Neely looked beyond stressed and tired. She looked bruised. Filled with the need to hold her, to hold on to her, Max rose and drew her into his arms. When she sighed and rested her head on his shoulder, something melted inside of him. He didn’t want to move, wasn’t sure that he could. She brought out emotions and needs he’d never felt before.

“I want time with you, Neely.” The words escaped before he could stop them. “Time that isn’t just in our minds.”

“I know.” She ran her hands up his back and down. “I want that, too. Although I very much enjoyed that little episode in my bedroom.”

“It’s not enough.”

“No. But you have a job to do. And so do I. You’ll see. I’m going to help you catch the Ripper.”

She glanced back at the envelope she’d placed on the table. “Funny. I’m game for a round of hot, crazy sex against my bedroom door, and I’m not a bit afraid to go barreling off to 1888 to catch the Ripper, but I’m a real coward when it comes to opening that envelope my grandmother left for me.”

“Do you want me to do it?”

“No. But it helps that you’re here.” Drawing in a deep breath, she tore open the envelope and pulled out two items—a yellowed piece of paper that had been folded in two and a small box. She opened the paper first and Max studied it over her shoulder.

“It appears to be some kind of family tree that goes back to the birth of my great-great-grandfather Angus Sheffield in Mead in 1889.”

Neely picked up the small box, opened it and withdrew a carved, gold locket. Turning the locket over, she read. “To Elena, all my love, J.R.”

“There don’t seem to be any Elenas on the family tree,” Max said.

“My grandmother never spoke of anyone by that name. Why would she have this locket? I don’t understand why she didn’t explain all of this to me before she died.”

Max took her hand again and raised it to his lips. “You’ll figure it out. You’ll keep at it until you do.”

Neely’s heart skipped a beat. She was sure that Max had never looked at her in quite that way before.

There was a knock at the French doors, and Sam poked his head in. “We don’t recognize any of those men.”

Max turned, keeping Neely’s hand in his as he moved toward Sam. “I’ll load them onto your laptop.”

10

August 1, 2128

ParisLANCE SHAW WAS STANDING with his back to a wall of windows when Deirdre entered his office. Her face was in the light and his in shadow. He’d arranged for his personal shuttle to be waiting for her the moment she’d returned from checking on Max Gale.

If she was annoyed by the abrupt summons, none of it showed on her face. As usual, Deirdre Mason was cool, composed, unflappable. A woman who had that kind of control posed a challenge. Lance couldn’t help but wonder what lay below the surface. He’d been wondering about that for a long time, more than ever since he’d held her hand on that bluff above the Pacific.

“Report.”

“I spoke with Max and showed him our five suspects. So far he hasn’t spotted any of them in 2008 or in 1888. But he isn’t telling me everything.”

“Any idea what he’s holding back?”

“No, but he’s developed a romantic relationship with the woman—Neely Rafferty.”

Lance studied her for a moment. “Yet you haven’t called him back.”

“No.” Her chin lifted just a fraction. “He’s positive she’s his best link to the Ripper in any time. And I believe him. She has advanced psychic travel abilities. It’s a talent that evidently runs in her family in alternate generations.”

“Interesting. She’s a true anomaly, then.”

“Perhaps. According to Max, she only became aware of her power recently, and she’s been visiting London 1888 because of all the media coverage around the Jack the Second murders in Manhattan. Despite being a novice at consciously using her power, she can accurately travel to specific dates and times. Max said that she also has the ability to sense and pinpoint the Ripper’s presence even when he’s invisible.”

“She can mind link?”

Deirdre nodded. “With Max and to a lesser extent with our Ripper.”

“What in hell is someone with those advanced capabilities doing in 2008?”

“Exactly. Xavier is checking her genealogy right now. But the bottom line is that Max believes she can help him catch the Ripper.”

Lance narrowed his eyes. “But you’re worried that Max may be emotionally involved enough to bend or break some rules.”

“Perhaps. But I’m still not calling him back. If you want to overrule my judgment, that’s your right.”

Something moved through him then. Something that left a metallic taste in his mouth. Jealousy? “You’re putting a lot on the line, Director.”

She took a step forward. “Yes, I am.”

“You trust Max Gale a great deal.”

“I do, but this has—”

“Do your feelings for him go deeper than trust and respect?”

The flash of surprise in her eyes was the only sign that he’d flustered her. “I know it’s a personal question. I’m not asking entirely as your boss.”

Her eyes widened a little, and she swallowed before she spoke. “Max and I were involved very briefly nine years ago when we were in the academy. We’re still friends and colleagues. But that’s not affecting my judgment. I don’t have a better hunter to assign to the case. And I know that his primary goal is to catch this damn killer. I’m willing to risk my career on his judgment.”

For the first time, Lance heard the passion in her voice that she usually hid with a carefully modulated, professional tone. And he could feel the attraction that had been simmering between them for some time grow stronger until it became a palpable force in the room. He knew by the way her eyes had darkened that she felt it, too.

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