Under the Tycoon's Protection(4)

By: Anna DePalo



Connor took his time answering, wolfing down the last of his pancakes. “That’s true. But no one knows your cases as well as you do. Whoever is threatening you is probably betting the DA’s case will be a lot weaker with a prosecutor who has been substituted midstream.”

“But that’s crazy!”

“Yup.” Connor nodded. “Crazy and desperate.”

Was he purposely trying to scare her?

As if reading skepticism on her face, he continued, “There’ve been plots in the past to knock off judges. A defendant may figure he can get a more sympathetic judge if he succeeds in getting rid of the first one.” He shrugged. “It isn’t a big leap to think someone’s guessed a similar strategy could work with an overzealous Assistant DA.”

She felt a prick of annoyance. “I’m not overzealous.”

Connor leaned back in his chair. “Yeah, but you’re doing your job too well and it’s scaring this guy. When I called you overzealous, I was just conjecturing about what our Mr. Nice on the phone could be thinking—and what might be motivating him. Maybe the next Assistant DA won’t care as much about your cases or won’t have your determination and brains.”

She couldn’t help the frisson of happiness that went through her at his offhand compliment.

Connor leaned forward and shoved his empty plate aside. “Is there one case you’ve been working on a lot?”

She gave him a sardonic look. “I only wish there was just one.” She knew she should be standing up right now, thanking him for his concern and showing him to the door, just as she’d promised last night. Yet, she supposed, she owed him some satisfaction in return for his concern, however misplaced, not to mention for cooking breakfast.

“All right, what’s a major case you’re working on?”

She considered a moment, then said, “One of them is the Taylor burglary case.”

“That one hasn’t made the papers.”

She nodded. “It wouldn’t, but Sam Taylor has a rap sheet that’s long and interesting, including drug dealing and misdemeanor assault and battery. This time he’s charged with burglarizing a home.”

“Is he out on bail?”

“No, he’s behind bars awaiting trial.” Then she added, by way of explanation, “He’s only in his early twenties, so there’s still time for him to move on to more serious crimes even if he gets off for this one—or even if he doesn’t but gets out of prison in a few years.”

Connor nodded curtly. “Drug dealing. Was he a neighborhood pusher?”

“Basically.”

Connor drained his coffee cup, taking his time asking his next question. “Has anyone linked him with a gang? He’s the right age and corner-dealing is the bread-and-butter of gang business.”

His perceptiveness surprised her. “Some of his neighbors have more or less said so. Off the record.”

His face gave away nothing. “So, some gang members may be harassing the Assistant DA who’s trying to put their old buddy Taylor in the slammer for a long while.”

A chill went through her as he gave voice to the fear that she refused to acknowledge, but she forced herself to nod in agreement. “All right, I buy that logic.”

“Any other prosecutions you’re handling?”

“There’s the Kendall case.”

“Okay, what’s the Kendall case?”

She shrugged. “Business executive accused of embezzlement. Part of it is what accountants know as a lapping scheme. Basically, stealing and then hiding the fact by applying subsequent revenue to cover the missing money in the company’s accounts receivable.” She paused. “At least that’s what we’re trying to prove.”

“Kendall. Name sounds familiar.”

She nodded. “He’s high profile. Sits on a bunch of charitable boards. A big social climber.”

His lips twisted. “Great, my favorite type.”

She pasted a look of mock surprise on her face. “What? You dislike the social climbers as much as the born-rich types? Are there any types you do like?”

He gave her an inscrutable look before mentally seeming to shift gears back to the issue at hand. “Those white-collar crimes often settle. Just the thought of landing in a cell next to your run-of-the-mill burglar or drug dealer is usually enough to get these guys’ defense attorneys to talk settlement.”

“True, but, in this case, Kendall doesn’t want to admit any wrongdoing.” She was surprised by Connor’s knowledge of law enforcement. She supposed she really shouldn’t be though. His father had been a cop and Connor had in all likelihood worked with the police and prosecutors on numerous occasions on behalf of his clients.

She added, “As I said, Kendall is a social climber. If he’s convicted, it’ll ruin him. Right now his public relations firm is spinning this as the DA’s Office’s misguided attempt to bring down one of Boston’s big philanthropists.”

“Is Kendall out on bail?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, so Kendall is free to come and go. Unlike Taylor, who could, despite that, have some buddies on the outside helping him out. On the other hand, Kendall appears to be just a white-collar criminal. We don’t know whether he has it in him to get his hands dirty with death threats.”

She gave him a look of studied patience. “In other words, I’m working on two major cases, so I have two defendants with motives to do me wrong? Is that what you’re saying?”

He quirked a brow. “What I’m saying is, put a lid on it, petunia. Someone’s after you and we haven’t answered the who, what, and why questions yet. Until we do, it’s best if I stay here.”

Stay here? Hadn’t they settled this last night? He was going, going, gone. In fact, he should have been gone already. If she wasn’t such a sucker for coffee—not to mention pancakes for breakfast—she’d have seen him out the door an hour ago. In any case, there were so many things wrong with his suggestion she couldn’t begin to count them.

“You can’t stay here.” She added a note of finality to her tone.

“Can’t?”

“It’s not necessary.” She added repressively, “I thought we’d settled this last night.”

He glanced around in disgust. “Wake up, princess. You don’t even have an alarm system around here.”

“I’ll have one put in.”

He said dryly, “That’s exactly why I was hired.” Then added, “But putting in a security system takes time. Even a company like Rafferty Security needs a few days to do a job like this.”

She should have seen this coming the minute she got downstairs to find him flipping pancakes. The sneak. “So, I’ll stay with…” Who? She searched her brain in a hurry. Her parents? One of her brothers? The options weren’t enticing. “My parents.”

“Your parents live in Carlyle. That’s going to be quite a commute.” He folded his arms over his chest and sat back, apparently digging in for battle. “And, let’s see…” He snapped his fingers. “Oh yeah, if I were a criminal trying to kidnap you, I’d absolutely love the chance to follow your car home from the office on a deserted road at one o’clock in the morning.”

“One of my brothers then. Quentin, Matt and Noah all keep apartments in Boston.”

“They’re often not even in Boston. Ever since he got married, Quentin has settled down to domestic bliss in Carlyle with your friend Liz and their baby. And Matt and Noah are often on the road for Whittaker Enterprises. If you disappeared from one of their apartments, no one would discover it for hours, even a day or two.”

She knew he was right, but she rebelled at the thought. No one, least of all her family, seemed to understand that a bodyguard would raise eyebrows at the DA’s Office. She’d worked too hard at her career to have her credibility undermined by the poor-little-rich-girl image that had stalked her her entire life.

Connor unfolded his arms. “What you need is a bodyguard,” he stated matter-of-factly. “But I understand why that might be a problem for someone in your position.”

“Thanks,” she said wryly, his perceptiveness taking her by surprise. “At least you’re more reasonable than my family.”

“So,” he went on, “that’s why I’m suggesting another option. Namely, me. All anybody else needs to know is that I’m a friend of the family who’s moved in with you for a while, maybe until renovations on my own place are done.”

The man had a stubborn streak a mile wide. Even if he did manage to keep a lower profile than a typical bodyguard, his offer was unwise. Very unwise if last night’s kiss was anything to judge by. “I thought we’d been over this. No.”

“I’ll pick you up and drop you off at work,” he continued unperturbed, “and, as an added bonus—” he gestured to their surroundings “—I’ll stay here with you.”

“How magnanimous of you.”

He gave her a humorless smile. “Don’t worry. I’m house-trained and basically pick up after myself.”

She rolled her eyes.

He leaned in then, suddenly serious, his hazel gaze capturing and holding hers. “This isn’t a game, Allison. Someone has already vandalized your car and sent you death threats. You don’t know what he’ll do next.”

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