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By Lynn Emery

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Pure, simple lust seized him. He took a step close to her and brushed his mouth against hers. Talia gave a tiny gasp, but didn’t move away. She stared into his eyes as though looking for the answer to some critical question. Derrick blinked hard, unable to take his eyes from her. ” He swept both hands out. “I-I’m a little late, sorry,” she murmured. ” Derrick lifted a hand to touch her hair. He stopped when Talia tilted her head away slightly. The headwaiter, ready and efficient, moved up with a smile.

The next year Derrick had left town to attend a community college. Derrick got into a cab and waved once. He gazed at her as it drove away. Talia tried to push down the rise of an old fear. She should have known this day would come. Three hours later she sat in the conference room with six other staffers of Gallagher and Associates. Even on a Friday afternoon they were hard at it. Peter Gallagher liked to start out every week with a strategy session and pep talk. He ended the week with a postmortem.

He touched her arm, then pointed to an icon on the monitor. 48 Lynn Emery “That switches to another report. ” Derrick’s voice deepened. “I modified the database with the help of the group that designed it when we got it about a year ago. ” Talia could hardly breathe with him so close. As if to intensify his assault, he moved closer. Derrick smiled at her. “Long way from down the bayou, baby girl. ” Talia rose and walked to the table in a seating area near the window. She poured herself a glass of water from an insulated carafe.

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