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One of These Nights
By Justine Davis
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Justine Davis
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Hey, Professor, you've been ordered to the boss's office right away."
Ian Gamble swore that if one more person called him Professor, he was going to ruin his image and punch whoever said it.
At least they aren't saying the absentminded part, he told himself.
But it didn't help much when he knew they were thinking it. He was not absentminded, nor was he a professor. What he was was an inventor, and that, as he'd told them all more than once, should be enough of a job title. It had been enough for Joshua Redstone, after all. He'd hired Ian when nobody else would. Josh hadn't cared about a piece of paper with the name of some college on it.
"Did you hear me?"
Ian gave his high-energy, and occasionally wearing, assistant a sideways look. The young college student was bright and had a lot of potential, but she was also in a very big hurry to receive the kind of acknowledgment she thought she already deserved. Even Stan Chilton, the easygoing head of this safety-oriented section of Redstone's research and development division, admitted he sometimes found her tiring.
"Were you speaking to me?"
Rebecca Hollings let out an audible, put-upon sigh as she pushed a lock of rather dull brown hair out of her eyes.
"Mr. Redstone ordered me to his office? That's unusual." He watched her steadily until she gave in sheepishly.
"Well, I guess what he really said was he needed to talk to you."
That was more like it. Most of the time if Josh needed a face-to-face with someone in his own headquarters building, he went to them. Summoning the peons to the tower wasn't his style. Besides, as he'd told Ian once, he wasn't one to pass up any chance to get out of his office.
"But he did say soon," she added. "And he was headed for his office."
"Then he didn't stay long," Ian said as a movement at the doors to the research and development lab caught his eye. A split second later Joshua Redstone poked his head in the door.
Rebecca blushed and turned away. Ian supposed he should go easier on her. She worked hard, often late into the night. And she went out of her way to help him, even brought him sandwiches when he forgot to eat. It was just his own nature that made him feel she was hovering too much.
"Ian? Take a walk with me?" Josh said in that easy drawl that made it painless to follow what from another man in his position would have been an order.
Ian nodded at Josh, hit the keys to blank the screen he'd been working with, signed out and locked the system, then got up and headed for the doors. Without a backward glance at his assistant.
They walked in silence until they reached the end of the hall and the huge bay window that looked out on the courtyard. The building that was the main headquarters of Redstone, Incorporated, was built around a cool green garden with a big pond and waterfall. In the heat of a California summer, it was a favorite spot for all the employees, and this window alcove lined with comfortable chairs was Ian's favorite retreat when he needed to get out of the bustle of the lab. He wasn't surprised that Josh remembered that. Redstone people got used to that kind of thing after a while.
"How's it going?" Josh asked as he folded his lanky frame into a chair. The laziness of his drawl, an odd combination of all the places he'd drifted through during formative years, didn't fool Ian one bit.
"Backing up a bit after the last results," Ian said as he took the next chair, "but we're still on the right track."
He knew Josh already knew this, because after the last round of experiments he'd filed a report that had shown they had further to go before the explosive-sensitive material he was working on would be effective in a configuration to be of use. Something else must be on his mind, Ian thought.
"If you can do this, it's going to be a wonder, Ian. Maybe we can't prevent everything, but I'd give a lot to never read about another Lockerbie or lose another of the family to a bomb on a plane."
Ian knew he was referring to the death of Phil Cooper a few years ago. As it turned out Cooper hadn't been the stellar citizen they'd thought, having died in the process of abandoning his wife and child, but that had all worked out for the best in a typical Redstone way, with new, happy beginnings for all.
"You're already giving a lot," Ian pointed out. "You're supporting this research." And if he could just figure out what was wrong and fix it, so the material could line the cabins and holds of any aircraft as he intended, it would be worth everything Redstone was putting into it.
"And I'm not the only one."
Ah-ha, Ian thought. Josh was on that horse again. "Josh, the only one even close on this is Trektech, and Baron's stumped."
"I was talking to a old prof of mine at Cal Tech. He said Baron's called him three times in the last month, with wilder questions each time. He's lost. I know there are others working on it, too, but I'll get there first," Ian promised.
"I believe you. As long as you're left alone to do it. And that isn't what worries me."
"Oh?" Ian said, fairly sure now of where his boss was going with this. And the fact that Joshua Redstone, founder of the entire Redstone empire and veteran of innumerable corporate and personal battles, looked uncomfortable told Ian he was exactly right.
"I got a call from a friend today," Josh said. "He heard something interesting."
Ian knew Josh had an incredible network of people who, thanks to his penchant for lending a helping hand, were more than happy to repay him with bits of information.
"TriChem has had some inquiries about two of the chemical components you're using."
Josh smiled as Ian zeroed in on the crucial word. One might be coincidence, two was suspicious but not conclusive.
As if he'd read his mind, Josh added, "One of them is the compound, Ian."
Well, that changed things, Ian thought. It wasn't likely anyone else would need that particular combination at this exact moment in time.
Josh's voice was dangerously quiet. "I think we have to assume we have a leak."
Ian hated to agree with that summation, but he knew it was true. "You're right," he said reluctantly. "It's such an odd combination."
"And unlikely someone else would have come up with it within a month of your breakthrough."
Ian grimaced. Why couldn't he just get on with his work? He hated to think about things like this. About someone he knew, someone he worked with and trusted, betraying him.
He glanced at his boss and saw something in his eyes that reminded him that this was a betrayal of Josh, as well. Josh, who'd earned the loyalty of everyone who worked for him. A generous, staunch ally who also made a dangerous, lethal enemy.
"There's more," Josh added. "Personnel caught another one."
"Trying to get hired?"
Josh nodded. "He had the perfect credentials. Would have been just what we were looking for."
"A little digging turned up a JetCal connection. Not a close one - a roommate's brother or something - but it was there. Again."
This was the second time someone tied to JetCal had tried to get a job in Redstone Technologies' research and development division. Ian knew Josh hadn't thought much of Joe Santerelli's business methods already, and this only confirmed he was right in his judgment.
Excerpted from One of These Nights by Justine Davis Copyright © 2003 by Justine Davis
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.