Max glanced at the clock. It was five-thirty and he hadn't finished the contracts. His stomach grumbled, reminding him he'd only had a hotdog to eat that day. Damn good dog though. He remembered how she'd sat in the car and waved her hands in the sun roof, humming that song--

Shit. He suddenly recognized it.

You're So Vain.

Fuming, Max picked up his cell phone, grabbed the Whitford file and punched in Layla Whitford's home phone number. It bounced immediately to a voice mailbox.

"Hi, leave a message and I'll probably call back, but maybe not. Just thought I'd be honest. Bye."

Instead of a beep, the introductory bars to Eric Clapton's "Layla" played. In spite of his anger, Max grinned. Anyone who knew anything about rock and roll would recognize those few notes.

"This is Max Lerner. I was wondering if we could get together for coffee tomorrow, maybe after work." Max stared out his office window in shocked surprise. Where had that come from? "I'd also like to know if you would go to the High Tech dinner with me on Saturday. It's a charity event and I'd--I mean, I have tickets and--" He ground to a halt. "Please call me."

Cursing softly, he slapped the phone shut and glared out the window again. Why did he sound like a bumbling fool every time he talked to her? He'd called her multiple times this morning, each time sounding like an incoherent idiot. She'd probably listened to his messages and laughed her ass off.

His cell phone rang. "Lerner," he snarled.

There was a long pause. "Well my, aren't we in a happy mood?" Layla Whitford said. "I swear Mr. Lerner, you're such a sunny boy it does my heart good to talk to you."

Max clenched his jaw. "I just remembered what song you were humming today." He stared at his reflection in his office window and wanted to hit himself up side of his head. God, what a gauche remark! Why did he say that?

She laughed. "Nothing personal. You're a smart cookie, I didn't know if you'd catch it."

"Thank you for returning my call so quickly," he said, dragging the conversation back to the present and away from her choice of humming.

There was another pause. "Did you call? I haven't checked my voicemail lately."

There was an odd note to her voice. Max thought it trembled slightly. He stared out at the traffic on the interstate that went by his office building, confused. "I just left you a message."

"Oh. Well, I'm not calling about that, whatever it was. I'm calling because somebody just called and threatened me. Well, not me specifically, but threatened us."

Max stepped back from the window, surprised. "What?"

"Yeah, just now. I suppose you were calling me and that's why you got bounced to my mailbox. I was talking to this weird psycho on the phone."

Max took a deep, steadying breath. "Are you okay?"

She snorted. "I'm still here, if that's what you mean. But it was..." She hesitated. "It was spooky."

He heard the fright in her voice. "Look, why don't I come over there? This is getting out of hand if someone is calling and threatening you."

"Well, it was weird. I mean, the person said all kinds of things."

"I'm on my way," Max said, suddenly worried. "I can be there in just a few minutes. Tell me all about it when I'm there." His stomach rumbled again. "Can we get something to eat while we talk? Can I pick up something on the way?"

"I'll put together something. See you soon."

Max closed the phone, jammed the contract into his briefcase and was out the door in five minutes. Telephone threats were a definite escalation. Whether she liked it or not, Layla was going to have to deal with him. No way was Max going to let anything interfere with his merger. Layla Whitford would just have to cope.

* * * * *

Layla flew around the house, dusting cat hair off chairs, grabbing food from the fridge then putting beer in to chill. Fifteen minutes later she ran a hand through her hair and stopped, horrified. She dashed down the hallway and peered at herself in the bathroom mirror. What a disaster, Layla thought as she dabbed on powder then put on a bit of eyeliner. She was just putting on mascara when her doorbell chimed.

She looked down at her shorts and T-shirt then at Patti, who was watching this display of human theatrics with amused curiosity. "Damn. I can't believe I'm still wearing these clothes." The shorts were indecent and the shirt was old and faded. She really should change.

The bell rang again. With a philosophical shrug, Layla went to answer the door.

Max Lerner would just have to cope.