She straightened up a little, risking a glance over her car to try to get a look at the color and model of car that the gunman was driving, but didn’t see anything.
“Help! Someone call the police!” she screamed even as she dug into her purse for her cell phone.
At the sound of feet pounding the pavement, she crouched down.
“Allison! For God’s sake, stay down!”
It was Connor’s voice shouting to her as he seemed to run past, even as she heard a car speed out of the parking lot with a shriek of tires.
“Dammit!” Connor said.
He cursed some more as Allison heard him coming back toward her.
She straightened, pushing her hair out of her face, and stepped from between the parked cars.
“I tried to get a shot at him, but he was too far away,” Connor said, breathing heavily.
Her eyes shot downward and she gaped as she noticed the gun that Connor grasped in his hand. Where had that come from?
When her gaze moved upward again, she focused for the first time on the expression on Connor’s face.
He looked mad as hell.
While they drove back to the townhouse, Connor kept a grip on his temper. But only because he had to.
They’d just finished talking to the police, who’d recovered a couple of unusual-looking bullets—or slugs, in police lingo—from the scene around the parking lot. With any luck, the police would have a theory soon on the caliber and model of gun that the perpetrator had probably used in the shooting.Unfortunately, the parking lot—at least the part around Allison’s car—had been empty of people at the time of the shooting, probably due in no small part to the bad weather. Of the two people whom the police had interviewed who had seen the perp’s car speed away, one had sworn the car was gray while the other had called it blue.
In any case, Connor doubted that the gunman was stupid enough to use a vehicle with plates that could be easily traced back to him, though he’d make sure that the police and his own people nevertheless looked into it.
And that was the other thing: the profile of Allison’s unknown harasser that he and Allison had constructed could be thrown out the window.
The assailant had now done more than merely threaten and vandalize property. He’d shown he was desperate enough to try a direct attack on Allison. Not only that, but, chillingly, he’d apparently slashed Allison’s tire before the shooting in order to make it hard for her to flee by car.
Still, Connor wasn’t convinced that the signs pointed to a member of Taylor’s gang rather than a white-collar criminal such as Kendall. Allison’s assailant had proved—fortunately—not to have very good aim. While it was possible that the incident in the parking lot had been intended as a gang-inspired drive-by shooting, the fact that the job had been so botched raised questions in Connor’s mind.
The minute he’d gotten back to the townhouse and found the note Allison had left behind, he’d taken off after her, trying to reach her on her cell phone and not succeeding. When he’d gotten to the parking lot, he’d pulled up right at the curb in front of the supermarket. He’d been getting out of his car when he’d heard the first shot ring out. Icy fear had wrapped itself around his heart as he’d reached for his own gun.
He gave a quick glance at Allison sitting in the passenger seat next to him. She sat looking straight ahead, still appearing shaken by what had transpired in the last couple of hours.
Silence reigned between them until they got into the townhouse. At which point, Connor decided it was time to get some answers. “I have a distinct memory of telling you to stay put,” he said tightly. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but running out to the supermarket does not count as staying put.”
“You were delayed,” she responded, irritation lacing her voice. “And, anyway, I refuse to be a prisoner in my own home.”
“Right,” he said harshly as he followed her into the living room. “It appears you’d rather be dead.”
She stopped and whirled back to face him, temper flaring in her eyes. “That’s blunt,” she fired back. “Anyway, even if you’d been with me, I might still have gotten shot at.”
“True, but it’s all about the odds, princess, and it would have been less likely,” he snarled back. “He, or whoever it was who took a shot at you, would have thought twice about it if you looked as if you had security.”
“Since when do you carry a gun?” she demanded abruptly.
“What do you think being in the security business means, petunia?” he said, his tone scornful. “Of course I’ve got a gun.”
He didn’t add that he was considered an excellent shot, keeping his skills honed at a shooting range. His clients expected him to provide top-notch security and that included using a gun if necessary. Fortunately, it had never been necessary—until today—because he was adept at using other means to get results.
“And I can’t believe you chased that nut,” she continued. “You could have been killed!”
Worried about him, was she? Under different circumstances, he’d have been pleased, but right now he was still furious about the way she’d completely disregarded his instructions. “So why did you run out?” he asked. “What was so important you couldn’t wait for me to get back? Or give me a call on my cell, for God’s sake?”
She went still, looking away, then glancing back.
She appeared embarrassed, though that didn’t make sense. “What?”
“I was planning a romantic dinner,” she said finally. “For two. I needed some ingredients.”
Her admission floored him. That was it? That was the important errand she’d told the police she’d had to run? He’d have been happy munching on cardboard if it had kept her inside!
The only good thing that had come out of the shooting was that the police would now be stationed outside the townhouse whenever Allison was home. They were taking the threats against her even more seriously.
Still, Allison’s admission brought home an unpleasant truth: they’d both gotten more focused on exploring the new-found physical chemistry between them than on keeping her safe.
Instead of thinking of him as a bodyguard whose orders should be followed to a T, Allison had been thinking of him as a lover who wouldn’t necessarily get furious with her for disregarding what he’d said. She’d gone out and risked her life because she’d been planning to surprise him with a romantic dinner, for God’s sake!
For his part, as much as he’d tried to convince himself otherwise, sleeping with her had changed everything. He wasn’t the cool-headed expert he needed to be in dangerous situations. Instead, he was running on emotion because the thought of anything happening to her tied him up in knots.
Aloud, he said, “That’s it? You ran out to the store so you could cook dinner?” He raked his fingers through his hair. “Where was your judgment?”
She folded her arms. “Obviously, in the wrong place,” she said sarcastically, “if I was thinking of cooking dinner for you. Clearly I was wasting my time.”
Anger battled with relief inside him. “You’re still the rash, headstrong princess, aren’t you? When are you going to learn to think before you act?”
“Well, I’m thinking now,” she said coldly, dropping her arms. “And what I’m thinking is that taking our relationship to a new level was a mistake.” She flashed him a look of disdain. “I should have known.”
She should have known? Heck, he should have known. He should have known better than to get involved with her.
He and Allison came from different worlds and he was a fool to have forgotten that for even a minute. She was the sheltered daughter of a wealthy family and he’d always be the guy who climbed out of rough-and-tumble, blue-collar South Boston.
Even after Harvard, even after more than ten years building a multimillion-dollar business, he was still rough around the edges. His South Boston accent trickled in when he wasn’t careful. And, frankly, he didn’t blend with the country-club set and never would.
Still, the fact that she’d brought up their different backgrounds in an argument riled him. “You can try chalking me up as a mistake,” he said silkily, “but we’re dynamite in bed together.”
“I’m betting,” he said, cutting her off, “that the pretty boys over at the country club haven’t done nearly as good a job of satisfying you, have they, petunia? Otherwise you wouldn’t still be looking for a roll in the sack with a guy who’s seen the seedier side of life.”
Her face had gone pale with anger. “That’s right, Rafferty, and I’m glad you realized it, because that’s all you were. A nice little frolic,” she said, her voice haughty with disdain, “but certainly not someone I’d contemplate having a real relationship with.”
He grabbed her arm as she stalked by him, whirling her to face him, but she shrugged off his hand.
“Give it up!” she said, her eyes flashing.
Ignoring her request, he followed her down the corridor toward the back of the house. They weren’t done, not by a long shot. That she’d even try to dismiss him as nothing more than a quick fling had him seething.