Logan tapped the 3D image. The viewer went black then reverted to the original puzzle pieces floating independently. “As we speak, the system has closed access to her files. The signal sends an alert notifying the program of an abnormality.”

“What happens to the files now?” Cardinal Montague from the Vatican asked, his voice raspy with age. “Will important data be lost…how do you say, in cyberspace?”

“I’ll let Allison show you.”

Allison’s green eyes sparkled with excitement. It sent a tingle up his spine that she appreciated the complexities of the system as much as he did. Her admiration meant a lot, on a personal level. It went both ways. She’d taken it upon herself to use her gift with languages to translate the voice-activated components into French, Italian, Spanish and German, which might’ve taken his company months to create. This international coalition of observers was only possible at this point because of her.

“The system recognizes and responds to my voice,” Allison explained. “It will bring up the puzzle for me to reconstruct.” She went through the motions as she spoke. “After the bio-scans reanalyze my fingerprints and the vein pattern in my palm, my files reappear intact.”

A chairman from the International Monetary Fund scoffed. “Suppose someone’s holding a gun to her head?”

Logan held back a grin. This capability he’d personally engineered, drawing from his experiences in espionage as a former commander of a U.S. Special Forces team.

“Remember the retinal scans, facial recognition and thermal imaging software? My system goes on to pinpoint signs of distress within those parameters, like pupil dilation, heart rate elevation, changes in core body temperature…watch.”

Privately, Logan had looked forward to this part of the demonstration most. Coming up behind Allison, he slid his arm around her waist and drew her back against his chest. His body went on high sexual alert. What he would give to have Allison to himself in the dark room with nothing but clothes separating them. His hand flared across her hipbone. One fingertip found the line of her panties. He was tempted to trace the seam downward. He forced himself to ignore his pounding lust. He drew his hand up to cup her waist instead.

With his free hand he mimicked the shape of a gun and held it under her jaw. “Get into the system,” he demanded, simulating a hostage situation.

She pressed the screen.

“We’re sorry,” the computerized voice stated. “Access denied.” A wide green laser swept the room floor to ceiling. “Detecting an unauthorized entity.  Image recording to defense database…” Ellipses flashed. A red icon popped up on the Invisi-Screen . “Match: Logan Stone. Occupation: Owner, Stone Security. Known address: Seventeen Wellspring Drive, Denver, Colorado. No weapon detected. Description dispatched to security personnel.”

In the far corner a printer spit out a piece of paper. Releasing Allison, he retrieved the print-out and held it up to the guests. The page displayed the picture on his diver license, along with the data the system collected with a single laser scan.

“With terabytes dedicated to identity search engines and linked to your company’s computerized profiles, an intruder doesn’t stand a chance.”

The panel stared unblinking. The head of Homeland Security pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Is this system available immediately ?”

Logan resisted the urge to punch the air in a gesture of victory. “We’ve started taking orders. The system rolls out next week.”

Questions flooded him. He took the abundant attention in stride.

Allison singled out the Louvre Museum assistant-curator, who instantly warmed to her presence. Logan heard her speak to him in fluid French. She was one of the best investments he’d ever made. They worked the room likes pros, independently and together.

Now if only he could get their connection to extend beyond the demonstration room and back into the bedroom. During the six weeks he’d worked beside her, he hadn’t figured her out. Most women wore their hearts on their sleeves. They spilled their life story after one martini at the bar, but Allison wore a shell impossible to crack.

It drove him crazy.

She drove him crazy.

He noticed a quizzical frown form between her eyebrows, and he came to her side should she need technical information about the system.

“Can I help answer any questions?” he offered. Allison took a few steps back. Frustration tensed his muscles. She seemed to avoid his presence unless absolutely necessary to their work. To stop her retreat, he placed his hand on her lower back and drew her close. “Everything okay?”

“Excuse me, Mr. Stone.”

She darted away, leaving him to stare after her at a loss. This dance they did around the obvious irritated him. He was determined to get her alone and get some answers. “Allison—”

“Be right back,” she said over her shoulder before disappearing into the elevator at the end of the hall.

He gritted his teeth. Why does she keep doing that?

*

Allison pulled in a deep breath, then let it out slowly.

Only six more weeks .

That’s all she had to endure before she took the eye-popping amount of money Logan had offered for this contract job and created the life of her dreams in Paris. Leaving the U.S. and her painful experiences behind.

She’d worked so hard for this, making personal sacrifices along the way. The notion of starting over completely on her own terms, with no one but her controlling her fate, shimmered like a mirage on the horizon. Freedom was so close she could almost taste it.

Unfortunately, at the moment she couldn’t think about tasting anything.

Leaning against the bathroom stall, she held her stomach until her sudden bout of queasiness passed. This wasn’t the first time she’d felt ill out of nowhere.

The word pregnancy popped into her head. Cold chills streamed down her arms. Dizziness overwhelmed her, as did an avalanche of fears about what would happen if she became pregnant at this uncertain stage of her life.

Immediately, she shut out the thought. That was impossible. She and Logan had used protection.

Discounting that theory, she hoped the sinus infection that had plagued her a few weeks ago wasn’t returning. She rarely got sick, and she didn’t need this right now. Not with back-to-back presentations for Logan’s Elite System looming. The next six weeks would be grueling but well worth the prize at the end. She’d leave with no strings attached and enough money to start the life she’d been steadily aiming for the past four years.


Tags: Vanessa Waltz Billionaire Bodyguard Suspense
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