Anderson gave her a long, considering look. “I think I see the problem here.”
“The problem,” she said very deliberately, “is that Campbell Witley has a point. I don’t have the right to fiddle with other people’s lives. Besides, it’s too stressful.”
“Lately I’ve begun to wonder—what would happen if I screw up badly someday and put the wrong people together? Oh, sure, I do a comprehensive background check on all of my clients to make certain they don’t have a criminal record or any history of serious mental disorders. But what if I miss something? Don’t you see? There’s a very real potential for disaster.”
Anderson nodded soberly. “I agree.”
“Yes.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked a little in his tasseled loafers. “To be perfectly frank, I had been meaning to broach the subject, myself.”
“Yes. But I wanted to get to know you a little better before I raised such a delicate question. After all, Private Arrangements is your business.”
There was something distinctly patronizing about his smile, she decided.
“What delicate question?” she asked carefully.
He looked at the laptop. “As you know, I have been deeply intrigued by your program for some time now, but I must admit that the fact that you have been using it without professional guidance has worried me more than somewhat.”
She waited a beat. “Professional guidance?”
“Let’s be honest here, Lillian. You don’t have a background in psychology. You have no training or experience in clinical therapy or counseling techniques. It says a great deal for your program that you’ve been as successful as you have thus far. But I agree that in using it for real-life matchmaking, you assumed an enormous responsibility and a degree of risk. Obviously such a sophisticated program should be used only by a professional.”
“I see. A professional. Like you.”
“Actually, yes. If you’re serious about getting out of the business, I would like to make you an offer for the program and the related files that you’ve developed in the course of your work.”
That stopped her momentarily. She hadn’t bargained on this. The last thing she wanted to do was sell the program to Anderson. If he used it, he would soon discover that it didn’t work very well on its own. No telling how many mistakes he might make before he realized that it was not magic.
“No,” she said. “I told you, it’s flawed.”
“You mean there are bugs in the program?”
“Not technical bugs,” she said, trying to keep things vague. “It just doesn’t work very well.”
He chuckled. “I’m sure that I have the professional background necessary to fix any small problems that might come up. I’ll make you a fair offer. We can work out mutually satisfactory terms. Perhaps a licensing agreement?”
“The Private Arrangements program is not for sale.”
“Lillian, be reasonable.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ve made my decision.”
He frowned. “Obviously that confrontation with Witley was traumatic. Your state of generalized anxiety is extremely high. But I think that when you have a chance to calm down you’ll see that you’re overreacting.”
She straightened away from the desk, walked to the door and yanked it open. “If you don’t mind, I have a lot of things to do here today, Anderson. I want to leave town the day after tomorrow. That means I don’t have time for this conversation.”
He hesitated and then apparently decided that further argument would get him nowhere. “Very well.
We’ll discuss this later.”
Don’t hold your breath, she thought. But she managed what she hoped was a civil smile.
He hesitated and then took the hint and walked out into the hall. He paused.
“Goodbye, Anderson.” She shut the door very firmly in his face.
It felt good.
Probably overreacting, but what the heck. She had a right to overreact. Between Gabe, Witley, and Anderson, she’d had a very difficult week.
She went back to the desk, picked up the phone and called a familiar number.
Nella Townsend answered on the second ring.
“Nella, its me.”
“Hi, Lil. What can I do for you? Got a new client you want me to check out?”
“Not exactly. I want you to get some background on a man named Campbell Witley.”
“Not a client?”
“No. Ex-boyfriend of one.”
There was a short, distinct pause on the other end of the line.
“A problem?” Nella asked.
“I don’t know. That’s what I want you to find out for me.”
“Okay, what have you got?”
“Not much. All I know is that until sometime last fall he was seeing Heather Summers, a client, on a regular basis. You did a check on her when she signed up with Private Arrangements.”
“Got it. This shouldn’t take long. He’ll probably pop up in her file. I should have a preliminary report ready for you by the end of the day.”
“Great. I’ll pick it up on my way home. Thanks, Nella. I really appreciate this.”
“No problem. Got any plans for tonight?”
“I’ll be packing.”
“Packing takes energy. You need to eat. Why don’t you have dinner with Charles and me?”
“I’ll bring the wine.”
At five-thirty that afternoon, Lillian sank into a deeply cushioned chair in the living room of Nella’s apartment and kicked off her shoes.
“I’m exhausted. It took an entire day to pack up that office. I thought I’d be finished by two o’clock.
How can a person accumulate so much stuff in an office?”
“One of the great mysteries of life.”
Nella picked up the blue folder lying on the table and carried it across the room. She wore jeans and a deep yellow blouse with a spread collar. The gold necklace at her throat gleamed against her dark brown skin. She wore her black hair cut close to her head in a style that showed off her excellent bone structure.
She took the chair that faced Lillian’s, curled one leg under her and opened the folder.
“I thought you told me all of your files were stored on the hard drive of your computer,” she said.
“The client files are on the computer along with the program, but that still leaves a lot of paper. Receipts, correspondence, notes to the janitorial staff, messages from the company that leased me the space, you name it. I had to go through every single item and make a decision about whether to keep it or toss it.”