He took the only way out, going low to duck Anderson’s swinging fist. Anderson’s hand struck the wall where Gabe had been standing a second earlier. A shuddering jolt went through him. Gabe heard him suck in an anguished breath.

He caught Anderson by the legs and shoved hard. The momentum toppled both of them to the rug. They went down with a stunning thud, Anderson on the bottom. He struggled wildly, fighting back with a reckless fury, completely out of control. He hammered the floor with his heels and managed to slam a fist into Gabe’s ribs. He twisted violently, trying to lurch free.

Gabe finally pinned him to the rug, using his weight to force him to lie still.

Trapped, Anderson stared up at him. Gabe felt him go limp as the hurricane of violence dissipated as suddenly as it had appeared.

“I don’t want her hurt, do you understand?” Anderson’s voice was ragged. “I’ll do whatever you want—just don’t hurt her.”

“Listen to me, Anderson, no one wants to hurt Marilyn. We just want the truth.” Gabe tightened his hands on Anderson’s shoulders. “Tell me about the break-ins.”

“All right. Okay. I did go into Lillian’s apartment. But I didn’t break in, damn it. I went in with the cleaning people.”

“It was that easy?”

Anderson nodded. “It was that easy. Just told them I was there to check out some electrical problems.

People trust you when you wear a uniform with your name on it.”

Lillian moved closer. Gabe sensed the shock that gripped her. He caught a glimpse of her hands. They were clenched so tightly that her knuckles were white. But her voice was surprisingly steady.

“Did you want the matchmaking program that badly, Anderson?” she asked. “I told you, it wasn’t magic. Just a standard personality inventory analysis program that I used together with a dose of common sense.”

Anderson looked up at her. “It wasn’t the damned matchmaking program I wanted, you little fool. It was the data on your clients.”

“My clients .”

“Don’t you get it?” He made a disgusted sound. “Hell, you really don’t know what you’ve got, do you?

Don’t you have any concept of what that client database is worth? You’ve got detailed background information on some of the wealthiest, most successful, most powerful people in the city. Hell, in the whole damn state.”

“But what would you do with it?”

“Why don’t you ask your boyfriend, here. I’m sure he understands what that kind of information is worth these days.”

“A fortune.” Gabe released Anderson and got to his feet. “Good client data is one of the most valuable commodities on the market today. Businesses, investors, politicians, charitable organizations, you name it, they all want it. They’ll all pay big bucks for solid background on people who have a lot of money to spend.”

Lillian looked at Anderson. “You never were interested in collaborating on a book, were you? You were after my client roster all along. Who did you plan to sell my files to?”

He sat up slowly, wincing. “I hadn’t finalized my list of prospects. I was still working on it when you announced that you intended to close down Private Arrangements. When I realized you were serious, my first thought was to salvage the data. I offered to buy your program, thinking I’d get the client list with it.

But you refused to sell.”

“So you tried to steal it.”

“I didn’t intend to steal the damned files.” Anderson actually looked offended. “I just wanted to take a copy for myself.”

“You don’t call that theft?” Lillian asked.

His jaw clenched. “It wasn’t like you had any use for that data.”

“When you didn’t find her files in Portland, you followed her here to Eclipse Bay,” Gabe said. “That night in the restaurant you encountered the perfect prospect for the client info. Marilyn Thornley. A politician badly in need of a rich donor list.”

Some of the fierceness returned briefly to Anderson’s expression. “She needs those names and the background on those people.”

Lillian opened her mouth. Gabe didn’t know what she planned to say but quite suddenly he had had enough. He shook his head once. She got the message and remained silent.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said.

She glanced once more at Anderson and then walked to the door.

“Just a minute.” Anderson gripped the edge of the television set to steady himself. “What are you going to do? You can’t involve Marilyn in this. She had nothing to do with it.”

“Don’t worry, Flint.” Gabe opened the door. “We’re not going to do a damn thing. I told you, all we wanted was the truth. It stops here, provided you leave Lillian alone. But if you make another move to get her computer, I’ll take the story straight to the cops and to the press.”

Anderson looked horrified. “Marilyn’s campaign couldn’t survive that kind of scandal at this stage.

Things are too delicate.”

“I know,” Gabe said. “You have my word that if you leave Lillian alone, this won’t go any further.”

“I swear I won’t bother her again.” Anderson sounded frantic. “I promise.”

“It’s a deal,” Gabe said.

He ushered Lillian through the door and out onto the sidewalk. A chill, damp wind was blowing bits of litter around the parking lot.

“Lillian, wait.” Anderson came to stand in the doorway. “If you change your mind, my offer to buy those client files is still good.”

“Forget it, Anderson. The files are gone.”

“I don’t believe you destroyed them. They’re too valuable. Think about my offer. You’ve got in-depth information on guys like Tom Lydd of Lydd-Zone Software and Madison, here. That data is worth a lot of money.”

“I don’t know about the Lydd information,” Lillian said quietly. “But the data on Gabe certainly wouldn’t do anyone any good.”

Anderson scowled. “What the hell do you mean?”

“Most of it is false,” Lillian explained. “He lied through his teeth on the questionnaire that he filled out for Private Arrangements.”

Chapter 23

Gabe needed a place to think. And a cup of coffee. So he drove to the nearest restaurant, Snow’s Café.

They found a booth at the back. Lillian ordered tea. He went for the hard stuff, a double espresso.