"You have to let me see Tabitha Grant! It’s a matter of life and death!"
The gruff, masculine voice heard over the mingling of guests’ conversations and background Christmas music drew Jonathan Spangler’s attention away from the congressman in front of him to the doorway of the main pavilion area. The indoor event space was right above home plate inside Boston’s historic Fenway Park and the perfect place to host a holiday party. A security guard grappled with a disheveled elderly man who was trying to enter the private event being hosted by Jon’s company, Spangler Sports Management.
Mrs. Davidson, the congressman’s wife, leaned toward Jon with a furrowed brow. "Oh, my. What do you think that is all about?"
Irritated by the uninvited man’s display, Jon forced a smile. "Excuse me while I find out," he said and stalked toward the double doors.
The harried security guard, a young man with a pockmarked face and spindly arms named Andrew, valiantly struggled to restrain the older man. He grimaced as Jon approached. "Sorry, Mr. Spangler. Not sure how he got up here."
Jon narrowed his gaze on the agitated party crasher. Though clean, his cheap suit, old–fashioned tie and worn Florsheims piqued Jon’s interest. This couldn’t be Tabby’s father, could it? "Are you a relative?"
"No." The old man jerked away from the young security guard and latched on to the lapels of Jon’s custom–tailored Brioni suit. "I’ve gotta speak to Tabitha Grant. It’s about her sister."
Jon’s gut clenched with a mix of surprise and hurt. Tabitha was Jon’s personal assistant. She’d worked closely with him for nearly five years now. But he hadn’t known she had a sister. In fact, she rarely mentioned her family. His all–business assistant kept her life very private, while Jon’s life was an open book to her.
Prying the man’s fingers off and stepping back, Jon said, "Let’s talk outside, shall we?"
He didn’t give the old man an option. Grasping him by the arm in a tight grip, Jon tugged him out of the doorway and pulled him far enough away from the entrance that they couldn’t be seen or heard by the guests. "What is this about Tabby’s sister?"
"You gotta let me talk to Tabitha."
"She’s my employee. You can tell me."
Distrust flared in the man’s bloodshot eyes. "No! I gotta make sure she knows."
Jon had the feeling the guy wouldn’t leave unless he spoke to Tabby and something in his urgent manner sent an internal alarm pulsing through Jon’s brain.
"Take him to my suite," he said to the hovering guard. To the man, he said, "If you go with Andrew here, I’ll bring Tabby to you."
The old man nodded and allowed the security guard to lead him away. Jon returned to his party, casually weaving through the sports players with their agents or managers, the political figures and various other guests who in one way or another were connected to Jon’s business. Jon smiled with pride for the business he’d started on a whim after being discharged from the army.
He’d had no real direction when he’d left the military, but a chance meeting with a young hockey player trying to decide his future had changed Jon’s life. He’d offered to represent the young man, had negotiated a sweet deal with the Boston Bruins hockey team and a career was born, for both of them.
He found Tabby talking to one of his newest clients, a young athlete from California who’d just signed a lucrative deal with the Red Sox. They stood near the garland–festooned floor–to–ceiling windows overlooking the ballpark. The two of them made a striking picture. Griffin had everything required of a professional athlete these days—looks, talent and charisma, but Tabby had those same star qualities, too. Tonight she looked stunning and very elegant in a floor–length blue shimmering gown with her blond hair twisted up in some fancy do.
The zing of attraction flared through Jon as it always did when he strayed too close to his lovely assistant. Tabby was still as much a mystery to him as the day she’d walked into his office five years ago and informed him that he needed her. So brash, so bossy.
And so right. He did need her.
He’d come to rely heavily on her business savvy, her attention to detail and the way she made each and every client feel special.
Just as she made Jon feel special every day, yet very neatly kept him at arm’s length. The only part of her personal life she’d opened up about was her deep faith in God. Jon admired her commitment to God, even if he didn’t quite understand it. Though he’d grown up going to church in his Midwest suburb, Sunday services were more about social gathering than any kind of spiritual enlightenment.
He’d tried in the beginning to take things to a more personal level with his assistant, but he’d quickly realized that not getting involved with her was the smartest thing to do. Tabitha was the kind of girl who captured a man’s heart and didn’t let go. Jon had no intention of having his heart trapped. Ever. He’d seen what that did to a man.
He wound his way through his guests, nodding and murmuring Merry Christmas, nice to see you, thank you for coming, as he went. He reached Tabby’s side and touched her elbow. Her attention shifted from the handsome ballplayer who clearly had it bad judging by the goofy, lovesick expression on his baby face.
Blue eyes sparkling, Tabby said, "I was just explaining to Griffin the intricacies of living in Boston and surviving the winters."
"I’m sure Griff needs all the advice he can get," Jon said and then turned his attention to the young man. "Excuse us, please."
"Uh, sure, Mr. Spangler, sir. No problem." Griff’s neck turned beet–red and he quickly walked away.
Jon drew Tabby farther into the corner and lowered his voice. "We have a problem."
She frowned. "What? Are we running out of food or drink? Is the waitstaff not staying on top of bussing the tables?"
Jon shook his head. "Nothing like that." He paused. He’d never pushed her boundaries before but the situation warranted doing so. "Do you have a sister?"
She blinked and tucked in her chin. "Yes. Why?"
"There’s a guy saying he needs to talk to you about her. I’ve stashed him in my suite."
Panic flashed in her eyes. "Who is he? And what about my sister?"
"He won’t talk to anyone but you."
Turning, she started toward the door, her long legs carrying her quickly as she dodged her way through the crowd. Jon stayed right on her heels.
"Why didn’t I know you had a sister?"
"It didn’t come up," she replied over her shoulder.
Once they cleared the crush of guests, he stepped even with her. "That’s odd, don’t you think? What’s her name?"
She spared him a troubled glance as she moved out of the pavilion and into the hall. "Beth. She ran away from home when she was fifteen. I was ten. We never heard from her again until recently. She showed up on my doorstep out of the blue."
"Where had she been?" Jon asked, feeling unaccountably hurt that Tabby hadn’t confided in him.
She shrugged. "I don’t know. She’s a nomad. She said she saw that spread People magazine did on you and noticed the picture of us. That’s how she found me."
As they approached the Spangler Suite, a private seating area with a clear view of the field below, Jon frowned. The security guard wasn’t stationed outside the door. Jon glanced down the hall, but there was no sign of the guard. At the very far south end a cleaning lady mopped the floor. Where was security?
Moving in front of Tabby, Jon opened the door and stepped inside. For a moment he thought the old guy had left but then his gaze fell on the body stretched out on the floor. A pool of blood darkened the carpet around the old man’s head.
Beside Jon, Tabby gasped, her face paling. "Is he…dead?"