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Jamie McNair fumed silently as she crawled along a traffic-clogged Houston freeway. Who did Daniel Logan think he was, summoning her as if she was one of his lackeys? When she'd heard that the billionaire wanted to overturn one of her verdicts, she'd been anxious to talk to him and set him straight. But on her terms, not his.
Unfortunately, he'd gone over her head, which tweaked her all the more. Now, because her boss was scared of Daniel and his charitable foundation, she had to make a command performance.
A meeting at the Project Justice office would have been tolerable. But no, Logan had decided he wanted to meet her at his home.
She hated being manipulated. But since Logan had forced her into this meeting, she intended to make it count. In her briefcase she had every piece of information she needed to convince Logan that Christopher Gables was right where he belongedon death row for brutally killing his business partner.
She had far better things to do than cater to the whims of a spoiled, supposedly do-gooder billionaire. Logan might be wealthy and powerful, but he was also a convicted murderer himself. Her own father had prosecuted Daniel many years ago, and her dad hadn't been one to make mistakes.
To prepare for the meeting, she had learned everything she could about Logan. She'd found lots of data about his arrest and trial, as well as his family's oil company. Unfortunately, personal information was in short supply.
The most recent picture she had found was a blurry wire-service photo of him the day he was released from prison six years ago. Back then, he'd been a tall, thin, pale man with a bad haircut. In photos from his trialmore than twelve years agohe'd looked like a handsome but scared frat boy.
A few minutes later she pulled up to a set of ornate wrought-iron gates in tony River Oaks, one of the richest zip codes in America. She was steamed, but she couldn't deny a certain curiosity to see the inside of this place. From the outside, it looked like a nineteenth-century English estate home, something that might be found in a Jane Austen novel, complete with ivy-covered walls and worn cobbles forming the driveway.
Jamie was about to get out of her car and walk up to the intercom when the gates opened quietly on well-oiled hinges. She pulled her caran aging Subaru that must have looked as out of place as a donkey in churchdown the cobbled driveway toward the house.
When she got out, one of her heels caught in the cobbles and she turned her ankle. Good night. Who made their driveway out of real cobblestones? Limping slightly and silently cursing at the added annoyance, she made her way to the front door; two huge panels of carved oak that looked as if they belonged on an ancient castle.
She reached for the bell, but before she could press it the door opened.
"Ms. McNair, please come in."
Standing in the doorway was a beautiful young woman with a sleek, blond bob. She wore a snug lavender cashmere sweater, skinny black pants and pointy-toed boots. Though Jamie wasn't exactly a clotheshorse, she knew quality when she saw it.
Even Daniel's servants were well-to-do.
"Thank you. You must be Jillian." Jamie had recognized the slight British accent as belonging to Daniel Logan's personal assistant.
Inside, the foyer was no less impressive than the outside, soaring three stories to a peaked roof with stained-glass windows that shot beams of colorful light to the white marble floor below. At the center of the foyer was a fountain in the shape of a boy riding a sea horse, like something one might find in ancient Greece. On the walls were oil paintings in gilt frames, museum-quality portraits and landscapes.
Holy mother of. was that a Van Gogh?
"You're a few minutes late," Jillian said matter-of-factly.
"Yes. The traffic " Jamie was damned if she was going to apologize for being twenty minutes late when Logan was the one who had insisted she meet him here, rather than at his downtown office, which was within walking distance of her own workplace at the Criminal Justice Center.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Logan had another appointment. He should be free in about an hour. In the meanwhile, I'm sure you'd like some lunch."
Jamie was starved, but she wasn't going to let Logan's underling lead her around by the nose. "Unfortunately," Jamie said, enunciating every word, "my time is limited as well, and the traffic jam tightened my schedule. If Mr. Logan can't see me right now, perhaps he can come by my office when it's convenient for him."
Jillian's eyes widened slightly. Probably she was so used to people bowing and scraping, eager to please her high-and-mighty boss, that Jamie's behavior came as a surprise.
"Give me a minute and I'll see what can be arranged." Her tone had gone a bit frosty.
Jillian stepped out of the foyer, leaving Jamie alone and steaming. Just because she was a public servant didn't mean Logan could treat her as if she were insignificant. She would walk right out of here and see how he liked it.
Jamie turned toward a noise she heard in the doorway, thinking Jillian had returned, but instead it was a large golden retriever. Tongue lolling, tail wagging, he accelerated toward her, and for a moment she thought he was going to jump up on her. But he skidded to a stop mere inches from her and stared up at her with big chocolate-brown eyes.
"Oh. Hello, there." She reached out cautiously to pat his head. He looked friendly, but you could never tell with dogs. This one wagged half his body, obviously thrilled by her scant attention. He leaned into her, and she scratched him behind the ear.
Jillian finally reappeared. "Tucker. Behave."
The dog obediently abandoned Jamie and trotted to Jillian, sitting at her heel, and she gave him an absent pat on the head. He was obviously well trained.
"Mr. Logan will see you now. But he apologizes for his rather, um, casual attire."
He could be dressed in a potato sack for all Jamie cared. She just wanted to get this meeting over with. Having tangled with Project Justice before, she knew that the foundation often took on cases that had merit.
This wasn't one of them.
With the dog following them, Jillian led Jamie through an opulent living room, a strange study in contrastsancient-looking tapestries and modernist furniture; cold marble and a warm sandstone fireplace; an antique, ivory-inlaid table here and a modern one of polished limestone there.
She got only a quick impression. Soon they were walking down a long hallway lined with more paintings, and finally down a flight of stairs.
He had a basement?
This just didn't seem normal. What had she gotten herself into? Logan might be a refined gentleman, but he was also a convicted murderer. The governor had pardoned him, but the conviction had never been over-turneda distinction that made Jamie feel edgy about meeting him in an underground bunker.
Finally, they ended up in an enormous workout room with fancy machines worthy of any upscale health club. But what drew her eye was the naked man lying on a massage table, getting worked over by a busty blonde in a pink velour tracksuit.
Jamie sucked in a long breath. He had only a small towel over his hips to preserve his modesty.
"Daniel, Ms. McNair is here." Jillian sounded faintly disapproving.
"Ow, Greta, have a heart," said the naked man, who Jamie assumed was Daniel Logan.
He was still tall, but no longer skinny or pale. In fact, the large expanse of skin on his muscular back was an even golden color, and for a moment she wished with all her heart that she was Greta, digging her fingers into those firm-looking muscles.
Daniel turned his head and caught sight of Jamie for the first time. Their eyes locked and held for several seconds.
He was arrestingly gorgeous, and he looked nothing like the stereotypical Texas billionaire in the oil bidness. No boots, no hat, no cigar and no Texas twang. His voice was cultured, educated.
"I'm afraid you've caught me at my worst, Ms. McNair," he said. "But I got a muscle spasm in my back just before you arrived, and Greta is the only person who can get rid of it."
Yeah, and he probably got lots of muscle spasms.
"Mr. Logan," Jamie said succinctly. "We can't have an intelligent discussion under these conditions. I suggest that if this meeting is important to you, we reschedule. Or even speak on the phone. You can call my office"
"No, wait, please." Daniel pushed himself up on his strong-looking arms and swung his legs over the massage table, somehow managing to wrap the towel around himself in the process so that he didn't flash the three women surrounding him. "I can meet with you now."
Greta handed him a silk robe, which he donned as he hopped off the table, letting the towel drop to the carpet. He shrugged experimentally, stretched his neck side to side and smiled. "I think you did it, Greta. Now, if you don't mind giving us a bit of privacy?" He included Jil-lian in his request.
Greta melted away as quietly as an icicle in the hot sun, but Jillian hesitated. "Are you sure you don't need me to take notes? Or bring you a file?"
"That won't be necessary for this meeting, thanks." He leaned down to scratch the dog, which had been waiting patiently for some attention from him. "Hey, Tucker."
With one last warning scowl toward Jamie, Jillian walked away.
"My office is this way," Daniel said. "Thank you for coming. It won't be a waste of your timeI think you'll be interested in what I have to say."
Jamie was dumbfounded by the luxury she saw all around her. In a basement, no less. Though they were underground, what appeared to be natural light surrounded them, pouring in from windows and skylights covered with frosted glass or translucent shades. But the most impressive sight was Daniel Logan himself.
He literally made her mouth go dry. No sign of a bad haircut now. As soon as he'd moved to an upright position, his silky brown hair had fallen into place perfectly. The hair was a medium length on top and short over his ears, where he had a sprinkling of premature gray.
Her research had told her he was in his mid-thirties, but he looked slightly older. Not that that was a bad thing. He was still handsome as sin. Perhaps prison had aged him.
She stopped herself before she started feeling sorry for him. He was a convicted murderer who belonged behind bars. Because of his money and influence, he was free to enjoy all this luxury.
His victim, Andreas Musto, would never enjoy anything again.
Daniel's office was another surprise. She'd expected a commanding antique walnut desk or maybe a workspace carved from a solid piece of granite, and walls decorated with more original art, perhaps a giant, saltwater fish tank or a bearskin rugsomething masculine. Instead, she found herself in a high-tech cave.
She'd never seen so much electronic equipment in one place outside a Best Buy. A huge U-shaped desk dominated the room, littered with gadgets of every description: multiple phones, keyboards, printers, three computers, each of which appeared to be in use. One of them had a monitor the size of a movie-theater screen.
Mounted on the walls above them were four TVs, each tuned to a different news channel.
Daniel indicated that Jamie should sit in one of the silk-covered wingback chairs facing the desk. He moved around the room to take his place in the giant rolling chair inside the U. Tucker settled onto a big pillow where he could watch his master with adoring eyes.
For all its high-tech feel, the room was still beautiful. More faux windows covered with black, wooden shutters lined one wall. A fine Oriental carpet topped the wood floor, and above them, two stained-glass chandeliers bathed them in warm light.
"Perhaps we can just cut to the chase here," Jamie said, wanting to get in the first word. "You have some wild idea that Christopher Gables is innocent. I don't know what might have led you down that garden path, but I can assure you, the facts speak for themselves. Gables and his victim argued. A couple of hours later, the victim was found dead with a slashed throat, a bloody knife lying nearby. Gables's printsand only his printswere found on the knife.
"Gables, who was normally in the restaurant until closing, could not account for his whereabouts at the time of the murder.
"That, Mr. Logan, is what we in the prosecution business call a slam dunk. The jury reached a verdict in less than an hour."
Daniel Logan seemed to be listening intently. He kept his gaze firmly focused on her as she spoke, his expression grave, nodding every so often. It unnerved her, having that laser beam of attention pointed at her, and she got the impression he was not only listening to her words, but observing every nuance of her face, her gesturesand learning more than she wanted him to know.
"So what do you have to wow me with, Mr. Logan?" she asked, struggling to keep from sounding smug. "If it's that little bit of unidentified DNA found on Sissom's apron, you should know that fingerprints trump DNA any day. Four separate fingerprint experts identified the prints on the knife as belonging to Gableseven the defense's own expert witness. The DNA could have come from anywhere."
Logan nodded again. "It was a solid case. You did an excellent job prosecuting."
Yes, she had. It had been the first big case in which she'd led the prosecution.