A short while later she stepped off the elevator. Halfway down the hall she saw a familiar figure waiting for her in front of the door marked Private Arrangements. J. Anderson Flint.
She was immediately hit with a full-color flashback to the scene in Anderson’s office on Friday afternoon. Every lurid detail was there, including the red bikini briefs. One of the drawbacks to having an artist’s eye, she thought. You sometimes remembered things that you would just as soon forget.
It was all she could do to resist the urge to leap back into the elevator before the doors closed.
She made herself continue moving forward. There were things that had to be done before she left town.
She could not avoid Anderson. Running away was not going to solve anything. Sooner or later she had to deal with the man.
Anderson did not notice her immediately. He was too busy checking the time on his very elegant black and gold wristwatch.
“Good morning, Anderson.”
He turned slightly at the sound of her voice and smiled. It struck her, not for the first time, that he could have played the part of the wise, understanding, all-knowing therapist in a soap opera. He certainly had the cheekbones and the jaw for television. He also had the eyes. They were very, very blue and filled with what looked like insight. He was in his late thirties but he projected an image of wisdom and maturity far beyond his years. His thick, precision-cut, prematurely silver hair and the precision-trimmed goatee added to the impression.
Anderson was dressed more conventionally this morning than he had been the last time she had seen him. He wore a gray chunky-weave turtleneck sweater, dark tailored trousers, and loafers. He had explained to her once over coffee that a formal business suit and tie made patients tense and uncomfortable. She tried not to think about whether he had on the red bikini briefs.
“Lillian.” He looked relieved to see her. “I was getting a little worried. It’s nearly eleven o’clock. I called your office several times this morning. When there was no response I thought I’d come up here and see what was going on.”
“Good morning, Anderson.” She jammed the keys in the lock and opened the door with a single twist of her hand. “I didn’t have any appointments today so I used the time to take care of some personal business.”
She flipped on the lights and went toward her desk. “Was there something you wanted?”
Anderson followed her into the office. “I thought we might have dinner tonight.”
“Thanks, but I’m afraid that won’t be possible.” She gave him an apologetic smile and put the laptop down on her desk. “I’m going to be busy all day and I have a lot to do tonight.”
“You just said you didn’t have any appointments.”
“I’m getting ready to leave town for a while.”
“You never said anything about planning a trip.”
“I’m not going on vacation. I’m changing careers.”
“Changing—?” he asked with concern. “What’s going on here? You’re not making any sense, Lillian.
You seem tense. Is something wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, Anderson. I’m going to stay at my family’s place in Eclipse Bay for a while, that’s all.”
“How long will you be gone?”
He stared at her. She doubted that he could have looked any more dumbfounded if she had just told him that she intended to join a cloistered order of nuns.
“I see.” He pulled himself together with a visible effort. “I hadn’t realized. Can you take that much time off from Private Arrangements?”
“I can take all the time I want, Anderson. Private Arrangements went out of business Friday afternoon.”
His jaw dropped a second time.
“I don’t understand,” he said, looking genuinely baffled. “What do you mean?”
“You heard me. I’ve closed my doors.”
“But that’s impossible,” he sputtered. “You can’t just walk away from Private Arrangements.”
“For one thing, you’ve got too much invested in it.” He swept out his hand to indicate their surroundings.
“Your office. Your program. Your client list.”
“My lease is up next month. I made back my investment in the program several times over a long time ago. And I’ve whittled my client list down to one.” She waved one hand. “I admit I’m having a small problem getting rid of him, but I’m sure that situation will soon be resolved.”
“What about our book project?”
“That’s another thing, Anderson. I’m sorry, but I’ve decided not to get involved in helping you with your book.”
He went very still. “Something is wrong here. This isn’t like you. Your behavior is very abnormal. It’s obvious that you’ve got some issues.”
She propped herself on the edge of the desk and looked at him. “Anderson, a very unpleasant thing happened to me this morning. A man named Campbell Witley stopped me on the street. He used to date one of my clients. You know what? Mr. Witley was really, really mad at me because I’d helped his girlfriend find someone else to date.”
“What does this Witley have to do with your decision to shut down your business?”
“He pointed out in no uncertain terms that I had no right to use my computer program to meddle in other people’s lives.”
“As it happens, I tend to agree with him.”
Anderson stared at her, clearly appalled.
“What do you mean?” he asked sharply. “Why do you say that?”
She eyed the closed laptop and wondered how to explain things to him. He probably wouldn’t believe her if she told him that the program only worked in conjunction with her intuition and a dose of common sense. She hadn’t wanted to believe it, herself.
She needed a more technical-sounding excuse with which to fob him off.
“The program is flawed,” she said finally. In a way, that wasn’t really far from the truth, she thought.
“Flawed. Are you certain?”
“I don’t understand. You’ve been so successful. You’ve attracted so many high-end clients.”
“Dumb luck, I’m afraid.” She shrugged. “Keep in mind that I don’t have any long-term statistics yet because I haven’t been in business long enough to obtain them. It’s possible that over time my matches won’t prove any more successful than the ones people make on their own in the usual ways.”