There was a sprinkling of Arizona’s customary clientele around them, primarily students and faculty from Chamberlain College, but no one bothered them. Arizona was not behind the counter today. Gabe figured she was probably at home in her war room, devising strategy to uncover the secret, underground labs at the institute.
“Do you really think he’ll leave me alone now?” Lillian asked after a while.
“He didn’t believe me when I told him that I had destroyed the client files.”
Gabe sipped the supercharged espresso and lowered the small cup. “Did you?”
“First day I got here. I couldn’t figure out how to be absolutely certain that my clients’ privacy would be protected as long as the data concerning them was stored in my computer. So I removed the hard drive and tossed it into Dead Hand Cove at high tide. I left the rest of the computer in the trunk of my car. It’s still there as far as I know.”
“The only copy of those files was on that hard drive?”
“Guess that took care of the privacy issue.”
“That was the whole point.” She sighed. “Looking back, I suppose I should have realized sooner that Anderson was after those files. But he kept talking about the program so I assumed he wanted to go into matchmaking. It seemed like a logical extension of his sex therapy business.”
“He could hardly admit that he wanted the background info on your clients. He knew how strongly you felt about guarding their privacy.”
“One thing bothers me,” she said slowly. “He acknowledged that he went into my apartment in Portland.
Why didn’t he admit that he broke into the cottage here in Eclipse Bay, too?”
“He’s smart enough to know that he left no proof of illegal entry in your apartment. Like he said, he just walked in disguised as a repairman and looked around. Nothing was taken. No damage done. Hell, he’s got witnesses that he didn’t steal anything. Your cleaning people will vouch for him. And you never even filed a report with the cops. He had nothing to lose by telling us about that incident.”
“But here in Eclipse Bay, he left obvious signs of forcible entry and I did file a report with Sean Valentine.”
He nodded. “In addition, everyone knows that Valentine is investigating the assault on A.Z. and that he’s working on the assumption there may be a link to at least one of the break-ins at your place. Flint didn’t want to take the risk of admitting that he was ever inside your cottage.”
“Must have been him, though. He was the only one who knew about the files on my computer.”
Gabe contemplated the espresso cup. “And after meeting Marilyn, he wanted those files very, very badly.”
“He probably made the deal with her right after he met her and then had to deliver the goods quickly. So he took some chances and used force to get into the cottage.”
“Yeah.” Absently he touched his side, feeling the sore place around his ribs.
Her gaze followed the movement of his hand. Sudden alarm tightened her expression. “Are you all right?”
“Good heavens, did Anderson hurt you?”
“I told you, I’m fine, Lillian.” He put his hand back down on the table.
“Do you think you should have a doctor check out your ribs?”
“Okay, okay, no need to snap at me. I was just worried about you.”
“Thanks.” He took another swallow of coffee.
“It was a little scary there for a while.” She shivered. “To tell you the truth, I was completely taken off guard when Anderson turned violent. I never expected him to attack you that way. He seemed the type who would try to talk himself out of trouble.”
“People change when they fall in love.”
“In love .” She set her cup down hard on the table and fixed him with a dumbfounded expression. “
Anderson? Are you crazy? Who in the world could he possibly—? Good grief, not Marilyn Thornley.”
“But he just met her.”
“Happens that way sometimes.”
She flopped back against the vinyl cushions. “It boggles the mind. J. Anderson Flint in love with Marilyn Thornley.”
“You’re the one who said they were a perfect match.”
“Yes, but I was joking. Sort of.”
“It’s no joke.”
She looked thoughtful. “You may be right. He was very protective of her, wasn’t he? I wonder if she cares about him?”
“I don’t know. But if she’s smart, she’ll keep him on as her campaign manager. He’s committed. She’ll have his complete loyalty.”
“Nice qualities in a campaign manager. And in a husband. Be interesting to see what happens there.”
She smiled at him across the table. “Weird, when you think about it.”
“No, the fact that you picked up on it first. I’m supposed to be the expert in that department. What tipped you off?”
“Male intuition.” He drained the last of the espresso and put down the cup. He certainly wasn’t going to tell her the truth. Not yet at any rate. He had problems enough dealing with it, himself.
“It bothers you, doesn’t it?”
“The fact that you found his weak spot and you used it to apply pressure to get him to confess.”
He looked up, surprised. “No.”
“Are you sure?”
“Let’s get something clear here.” He pushed aside the empty espresso cup and folded his arms on the table. “Protecting you is my only priority. I don’t give a damn about Flint’s finer feelings.”
She searched his face. “I see. But if that’s true, then why are you acting so weird?”
“I’m not acting weird.” He started to extricate himself from the booth. “Are you finished? Let’s go.”
She reached across the table and covered one of his hands with her own. He went very still, intensely aware of the warmth of her fingers.
“Gabe, I’m sorry. I know you’ve been through a lot because of me. I’m very grateful.”
Anger heated his blood, just as the violence had earlier. He clamped down on the fierce surge of emotion, seeking refuge in that inner space to which he always retreated when things threatened to get out of control.