It was two o’clock when Becky handed Leanne a message from Eliot, and just after four, after her last patient left, when she had a chance to return his call.
She could hear the tension in his voice when he answered even though the only word he uttered was “Hello.”
“It’s Leanne,” she said. “What did you find out?”
“This is bad.” She could almost see him running a hand through his hair, his brow furrowed in frustration. “I called my bank, and they said I had no money in that account, that I’d withdrawn over nine thousand dollars by computer transfer earlier in the week. I told them that was impossible. They double checked and said there was no mistake. I transferred it to an account in the name of Edward Dalman.” He hesitated then plunged determinedly on. “Dalman was my birth name. Since Edward never accepted Mom and Dad as his parents, I suppose that would be his name.”
Leanne took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to assure that her own voice would sound calm when she spoke. “And you have no memory of doing this?”
“What about the code to your account? Does anyone but you have it?”
“No. It’s on a card in my wallet. I checked. The card’s still there. But that’s not the worst part. I have two more accounts at that bank, savings accounts. Over the last month, I’ve transferred almost thirty-five thousand dollars, all to Edward’s account.”
She gasped. “Thirty-five thousand dollars in one month? What happened to it? Is it still in Edward’s account? Did you spend it?”
“I don’t know.” He sounded frustrated. “The bank officer asked me if there was a problem, if the funds had been moved fraudulently. I had to tell him no. I couldn’t tell him the truth. So there’s no way I can find out about Edward’s account. My name isn’t on it.” His dry, humorless laugh seemed to come from deep within a parched throat. “He has access to my money, but I don’t have access to his.”
“Eliot, my last patient just left. Why don’t you come on over here?” she urged impulsively even as she recognized she was acting—or reacting—irrationally and unprofessionally.
“No,” he replied curtly. “I can’t do that. You’re not my doctor any longer. I’ve got an appointment with Thurman on Monday. It can wait until then. I’ll send you a check on another account, if that’s okay. Or I can get a cashier’s check.”
“A cashier’s check? No, your personal check will be fine.”
A moment of silence followed. “Thanks,” he said, “for trusting me. That means a lot.”
“I’m going over to White Rock Lake, to the spillway,” she heard herself say as though some invisible ventriloquist had taken over her vocal chords. “It’s a public place, there’s always a crowd hanging around. If you want to come by, I’ll be there.”
She hung up the phone without giving him a chance to answer.
His gratitude, his admission of need, was totally out of character for him. The man was suffering, and she didn’t want him to suffer alone. He needed her. That’s why she’d offered to meet him. She was a compassionate person. That was the reason she’d become a doctor.
But it wasn’t all the truth. She needed to see him. Because he was a mystery, a puzzle, because he needed her services as an analyst, because she needed to be needed.
Because she wanted to see him. It was that simple and that complex.
At least it was a public place. She wouldn’t be putting herself in danger from Edward.
Only from Eliot.
Eliot told himself he wasn’t going to meet Leanne. He had no business seeing her, involving her further in his confused, possibly dangerous life. But now, more than ever, he wanted to see her, to feel the peaceful, caring aura that surrounded her and glowed from her sapphire eyes, to wrap that aura around the two of them and hide from all the craziness.
As if that entire notion wasn’t craziness in itself.
What the hell was the matter with him that he could even remotely consider Leanne in those terms? He could be a murderer, was almost certainly psychotic, and all he could think about was the chance to see her, to be with her...to touch her...even an accidental brush as when he’d taken the glass of tea from her at her house.
After half an hour’s battle with himself, he gave up and made the ten mile drive from his downtown office to White Rock Lake, cursing his weak resolve all the way. If he really cared about her welfare, about her as a person, he’d avoid her like the plague.
But he didn’t. He couldn’t.
She was already there when he arrived. He spotted her immediately though several other people were in the vicinity, lounging, jogging, riding bicycles. She leaned over the rail, her back to him, watching the water as it trickled over the concrete tiers of the spillway.
In her perpetual business suit—this one a hounds tooth jacket and black skirt—her slim body looked relaxed with one ankle crossed behind the other, one hip jutting slightly sideways. The evening sun nestled in her dark hair, and he knew it would be warm to the touch...soft and warm with electric sparks that tingled his skin.
He pulled into the parking area, stopped and got out.
As he started toward her, she turned the other way, looking out to the street in the direction from which he’d come. A slight smile settled around her lips as her gaze traveled along the street, past the entrance. She blinked then, and the corners of her mouth turned down. He took another step, and her gaze suddenly focused on him.
“Oh!” she gasped, breaking into a wide smile. “I was watching a dark blue car go down the street. I thought it was you, and you’d gone past without stopping!”
He couldn’t suppress a feeling of elation. Just seeing her had that effect on him. Knowing she’d been smiling as she watched a car she thought was his, then had frowned when the car went on past gave him an almost giddy high.
“I’m glad you came,” she said.
“Me, too.” That was an understatement.
“Do you want to walk along the trail?” she asked. “The leaves are starting to turn, and there are plenty of other people coming and going.”
He should refuse, but the quiet lake surrounded by trees had a peaceful lure, and he needed some peace from somewhere. As long as they didn’t venture off onto a side path, they’d be in sight of other people.
As they strolled along, he jammed his hands into his pockets to keep them from taking hers, from sliding around her waist, under the jacket, touching the silky fabric of her blouse, pulling her close to him...
“Have you noticed any new items around the house, anything you might be spending money on?” she asked, pulling him back to the real world.
“No,” he said then frowned. “Well, little things. Food I don’t remember buying, my dry cleaning...I’ve never kept tabs on my cash to see if I’m paying for things or writing checks on another account. Edward’s account.” He clenched his fists inside his pockets.
“Have you received any bank statements that weren’t yours?”
“No. I’ve never seen any sign of checks on that account, but I haven’t been looking. Tonight I’ll search at home, and tomorrow I’ll go through my office.” He shook his head. “I’ve been racking my brain all afternoon trying to make sense of this. I’ve even considered that this business of my money being moved could be some sort of scam, some criminal who somehow got my code number. It’s not impossible, you know. Somebody with the right computer skills could do it.”
“You know, I hadn’t thought about that,” she exclaimed, halting abruptly, her slim fingers seizing his arm. Her eyes shone with excitement. He wasn’t sure she even realized she was touching him...but he knew it. Her touch jolted from his biceps all through his body, awareness tingling every nerve. “You’re right. A computer hack could do that, and if he happened to look like you, or could make himself up to look like you—no, that wouldn’t explain the dreams,” she finished on a low note, her eyes losing some of their sparkle.
“Besides, you saw him up close. And don’t forget the name on the new bank account, Edward Dalman.”
As she gazed up at him in the autumn twilight, a subtle glow sparked in her eyes. She loosened her fingers from his arm.
His life was going down the tube, running out of control, and all he could think about at this minute was pulling Leanne into his arms, kissing her lips until they were swollen...
She turned away and started walking again. Thank God one of them still had some sense.
“The deeper we get into this park with all the trees, the more difficult it becomes to realize downtown Dallas with all its hustle and bustle is only fifteen minutes away,” she said. Shadows shifted in her hair, and his fingers itched to touch it, to caress the porcelain skin of her face.
“It’s nice here,” he agreed.
“Look at the ducks.” She pointed to the lake and the birds gliding smoothly across. “I come up here sometimes in the morning to jog. Last spring every morning I passed a woman going in the other direction, and we waved every time we passed. Then one morning instead of waving, she pointed to the lake. I looked, and there was a mother duck with her little ones swimming behind her. After sharing such a special moment, I’ll always think of that woman as my friend.”
Leanne wasn’t making things any easier. The doctor had disappeared entirely. She was a beautiful woman, not a psychiatrist.
“On the right!” someone called, and a bicycle whizzed past them.
Leanne gasped and staggered against him, clutching his arm for support as they stumbled off the path. He grabbed her around her waist to steady her...and held on to steady himself, his racing heart and surging desires. It had gone on too long, reached an uncontrollable peak, this forbidden desire he felt for her.
He wrapped his other arm about her and pulled her to him. For an instant he thought she might protest. She lifted her hands to his chest, but she didn’t push him away. Instead she slid her fingers up his shoulders, and her eyes told him all he needed to know...that she wanted him as much as he wanted her.
A groan escaped his lips as they closed over hers, as he pressed her closer against him. This was insane. He couldn’t do this.
He couldn’t not do it.
He had no more control over his desire for Leanne than he had over Edward’s actions.