MAX SAT on the edge of the bed watching Neely sleep. He hadn’t given her much time to do that in the past twenty-four hours.
Twenty-four hours. It stunned him that twenty-four hours was all they’d had together. It seemed that he’d known her forever.
Reaching out, he allowed himself to touch only the very ends of her hair. If she woke, he’d make love to her again. He wouldn’t be able to stop himself.
Rising, he backed away from the bed, but his eyes remained on her. If something happened, this wasn’t the only way he would remember her. He had hundreds of other images stored in his mind. Goodbye, Neely. He willed the words into her mind. I love you. And I’ll be back.
Then he made himself picture Deirdre Mason’s outer office at the Trans Global Security Building in San Diego. For one moment, the details blurred into his surroundings in Neely’s bedroom. Then he closed his eyes and focused. Seconds later, he felt himself break free of gravity and whirl away, leaving Neely and 2008 behind.
HE HADN’T FAILED . He never failed.Still, it infuriated him that the encounter in London with Max Gale and the woman had interrupted his plans and sent him running back home.
He’d come to his own time to get his wrist attended to. A doctor on duty at the Medi-Unit had set the bone and placed it in a sheer cast. Thanks to the medication he’d been given, the pain had dulled to a steady but tolerable throb. And the blind rage that had nearly been his undoing in that stinking London alley was nearly under control.
Above all else, he must keep a cool head. That had always been the key to his success. He may have made a few mistakes. He’d made it a rule not to become involved with any of his victims, but twice he’d broken that rule. In 2128, he’d become personally involved with Suzanna Gale. Now he would have to deal with her brother.
In 1888, he’d become involved with the lovely Elena. The first time he’d seen her he’d been attracted to her almost beyond reason. Acting on impulse, he’d followed her. She and the older woman she’d left a party with had been beset by thugs and he’d come to their rescue. The older woman had turned out to be her aunt. The ladies’ gratitude had allowed him to become a regular visitor at their home.
He’d known from the beginning that he’d eventually have to kill Elena, but he’d been interrupted by Max Gale and the woman. It had been another mistake to give in to his anger and attack the woman. His stealth and cunning had enabled him to survive his fight with Max Gale, and now he knew the great hunter’s secret. What he’d suspected when he saw them under that tree at the Brooklyn Psychic Institute had been confirmed in the London alley. Max Gale loved Cornelia Rafferty.
Now, thanks to her business card, he knew where she lived. It was going to give him great pleasure to kill her.
But first, he was going to finish his work in London.
DEIRDRE AND LANCE stood shoulder to shoulder in his office, studying wall screens that displayed the information Adam had gathered on their five suspects.
Lance was close enough that now and then Deirdre caught his scent, or his arm brushed against hers. Each time she came into contact with him, her body responded.
In the two hours before she’d returned to his office, she’d walked around Paris trying to convince herself that the personal question about her relationship with Max and the fact that Lance had taken her hands meant nothing. So she had to quell her reactions to him.
“It looks as though we can cross Mitchell Lambert off the list,” Lance said.
Two of the men capable of psychic time travel—Lawrence Chu and Mitchell Lambert—had alibis for one or more of the murders the Ripper had committed in 2128. One of the perks or drawbacks of being a public figure was that you were constantly being taped or photographed. “That leaves us with Jose Rivera, Henry Whitehall and Thomas Renquist. None of them has a verifiable alibi for any of the murders, but Whitehall and Renquist don’t possess the psychic ability to time travel.”
“They don’t have it to our knowledge,” Lance said. “With the right kind of money and the willingness to undergo a risky procedure, it’s possible that one of them had the time-travel gene implanted.”
“An illegal operation?”
Lance nodded. “That would also explain why the Ripper doesn’t have a tracer chip.”
“Rivera would have the chip.”
“Unless he had it removed or somehow deactivated,” Lance said. “If Max is right and the Ripper has found some way around our security measures, any one of these men could be our killer. All three would have the money and the connections to access experimental procedures.”
Deirdre turned her attention back to the screen. “Whitehall and Rivera have intimate knowledge of both London and Manhattan.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she noted that Lance looked as fresh and energetic as when they’d begun. The man seemed to have an endless supply of energy. They’d been working for three straight hours. Thirty minutes ago, she’d given up propriety and slipped out of her stylish, but painful, heels.
“Do you have a favorite?” he asked.
Deirdre looked at him. Now that they were facing each other, he seemed closer, and without her shoes she had to tilt her head back to meet his eyes. This close, she saw that his eyes were a mix of green and gray. And his mouth…When she realized where her own gaze had shifted, she couldn’t prevent the flush that stole into her cheeks.
“Would you like to take a break?” Lance asked.
Quickly, she looked back at the screen. “I’d like to finish this first.”
“As you wish.” He brushed just the tips of his fingers down her arm. The contact was so soft that later she would try to convince herself that she’d imagined it, but the heat arrowing through her was real.
Determined, Deirdre focused her attention on the screens. “To answer your question, at this point I’m favoring Whitehall. He’s a more public figure than Renquist or Rivera, and it bothers me that he wasn’t making an appearance somewhere during the Ripper’s murders here in San Diego. I also noticed a gap in Renquist’s résumé—the two years before he entered college.”
“I asked him about that,” Lance said. “His father died when he was an infant. His mother was a brilliant scientist, an anthropologist. She passed away when he was twelve. He told me he had a breakdown after his mother’s death and he went to a private clinic—the Milbury, I believe. He stayed there until he was accepted at Harvard at age fourteen.”
“Yes, Xavier found something on that.” She took out her palm unit. “How did his mother die—do you know?”
Lance scrolled down his screen. “Here it is. The family home burned to the ground. Thomas was at a friend’s house at the time.”
Heart racing now, Deirdre ran through the data on her hand unit. And there it was—a news clip of the Milbury Clinic burning down.
“Our boy seems to attract fires,” Lance remarked after skimming the article.
Deirdre moved closer to the screens. “So he had a tough childhood and he survived a couple of fires. That doesn’t mean he’s a time-traveling serial killer.”
“What about Rivera?” Lance asked.
“We know he has the gene, and he has the reputation of being a womanizer. I’d like to probe a little deeper by interviewing some of his lady friends. We need more information,” Deirdre sighed. “We don’t have enough to point the finger at Whitehall, Renquist or Rivera.”
They both turned when a knock sounded at the door. Lance strode to open it, and Max Gale walked into the room.
“Director Shaw.” He nodded at Lance, then walked to Deirdre. “You’re a tough person to track down. I practically had to beat your location out of Xavier.”
Deirdre saw it in his eyes. “You got him.”
“No. I had my hands on him, but he got away. I got his knife, though. He’d just used it to stab a woman in London. Xavier arranged for your lab to lift and identify the prints.” He handed a document to Lance. “I’d like permission to be there when the arrest is made.”
“Why don’t we go together and make the arrest ourselves,” Lance said.
IT WAS NEARLY SEVEN when Neely came downstairs. She must have slept for more than an hour after Max had left. Then she showered, dressed and lectured herself that she’d just have to get used to the emptiness in her heart. Mabel and Sally were sitting on the leather couches playing Scrabble. Mabel’s umbrella lay on the couch beside her. Sally’s can of Mace sat on the table next to the gameboard. Linc patrolled from window to door to window.
“I’m taking the first shift,” he explained when he spotted her. “Sam’s in the kitchen whipping up supper. He brought his service revolver over from the house.”
Her protectors. She walked through the French doors to join Sam in the kitchen.
“Good,” he said when he saw her. He was stirring something in a large pot, and the scent reminded her that she hadn’t eaten anything since her ice cream at the Psychic Institute.
“I was about ready to come up and get you.” He gestured her into a chair and set a glass of wine in front of her. “I didn’t like the idea of you being alone up there.”