excerpt – THE SPANISH ACQUISITION

THE SPANISH ACQUISITION

Chapter One

Inhaling the soothing scent of fresh hay and horses, Carlos Diego let the tension of the last few weeks seep from his jet-lagged limbs. It was good to be back among honest friends. A horse would always treat you fairly, unlike many people. He scowled, the environmentalists protesting his ship’s recovery never far from his mind these days. Would they rather he left it littering the ocean floor? Still, Carlos’s absence would send a clear message that he would not be intimidated. And his legal team was standing by. As he neared the stalls, several horses popped their heads over the doors to greet him. A large chestnut whinnied hopefully.

Para usted, mi amigo… ” he murmured, watching the horse eagerly chomp on the carrot sticks he’d taken from the buffet table. A rub on the nose and then he went in search of his favorite mount. “Buenas tardes, muchacho.” The bay gelding reached over his gate to nuzzle Carlos’s shirt. “You remember me from last year. Or maybe you smell the treat?”

A feminine squeak and a loud thump made him turn and take a step toward the other side of the stalls. A young woman was awkwardly getting up from the ground. Her strange attire of baggy cargo shorts, an old rock t-shirt, and cheap high-top sneakers made him wonder if she’d snuck in from a less exclusive hotel down the beach.

“Are you all right?” Carlos extended a hand to help her to her feet. Upon closer inspection, he realized she wasn’t as young as he first suspected—her fingers were calloused and she definitely was an adult. Her eyes, when she finally looked up at him, were a striking shade of blue set against porcelain skin that was quickly turning red. This was a person who would have a difficult time lying, he decided.

“Oh, I—I’m fine,” the woman stammered. “I, um, was just patting the horse, and it suddenly jerked its head up. I was startled, that’s all.”

“It looks like you scared the horse as well.” Carlos approached the gray and quietly blew into its nostrils. The mare calmed down immediately. “Would you like to give her a treat?” He gave a carrot stick to the woman and she offered it nervously to the horse.

“Hold it out with a flat palm,” he advised.

“Her mouth feels so soft.” Her eyes widened with amazement. “Can I give her another one?”

“Just one more. We do not want to spoil her figure,” he teased.

This time her hand was steady. She really was beautiful. Jet black hair framed a sweet, heart-shaped face. Her lips, although unadorned by any makeup, seemed plump and inviting. What he could see of her figure looked entrancing. A pleasant change from the usual array of Botox, silicone, and surgery-enhanced women he usually encountered at the resort.

“Now you have a friend for life. Have you signed up for a trail ride?” Carlos wasn’t sure why he cared if she was sneaking into the resort. She didn’t seem intent on mischief, but he was curious.

“Maybe tomorrow. I just got here. I figured I’d meet the horses first and then see how you go about getting to ride them. Do you work here?”

“No.” He stifled a smile at the thought. “I am a guest.”

“Oh, sorry. You look so comfortable around the horses.”

“Ah si, horses are my family. But where are my manners? I am Carlos Diego, at your service.” He bowed low and lightly kissed the back of her hand. Her flustered response amused him.

“Oh, pleased to meet cha. I’m Lily Scott.”

“Your name sounds familiar. Should I know you from film or music?”

“I don’t think so.” She laughed. “I was once employee of the month at the Mac’s in Springfield, Oregon, but that was ten years ago. Well, I’d better go. Nice meeting you.”

She’d turned away before Carlos realized that she had assumed his question had been a pick-up line. And she had rebuffed him. How unusual. But her name did ring a bell and he was never mistaken on names.

Uno momento. Do you have plans for dinner tonight, or are you here with your husband?”

“I’m not married.”

“Good. Then you will meet me at seven at The Captain’s Table?” he challenged her. If nothing else, it would be interesting to see what she wore to dinner. A variety of thoughts flitted across her face before she came to a decision.

“Okay, sure.” She rubbed her palm on the side of her shorts. “That’s one of the restaurants in this resort, right?”

Si. The food is very good.”

“Great. I guess I’ll see you later.”

Carlos admired her shapely legs as she hurried out of the barn. He obviously made her nervous but she had agreed to dine with him. Quite an interesting mixture of shyness and determination. If he didn’t remember soon where he recognized her name, he would ask his assistant. But meanwhile she might be a nice diversion.

****

Negative. The undisputable truth. Carlos stood in his luxury suite and turned over the single sheet of fax paper. Incredible that such a small physical item could have such an impact on his life. He read the report from the lab one more time. His anger built as he recalled Elena’s tearful speech all those months ago.

“No, of course there has been no one else. I love only you. We must’ve used a faulty condom.” Luckily, Carlos had heeded his lawyer’s advice about waiting to marry her until after the DNA test came back. Why was he such a fool? He’d even been happy at the thought of having a baby.

Carlos balled up the page and flung it into the garbage can. He would not be fooled again. Elena was a beautiful, if somewhat greedy woman, but he hadn’t thought she was so deceptive. Would she now try to pawn the baby off on some other billionaire? And how many others was she sleeping with? He ground his teeth as he e-mailed instructions to his personal lawyer. Elena had crossed the wrong man. She’d pay dearly for that mistake.

****

“Aunt Lilith, this place is incredible. The suite is huge with a Jacuzzi and a sauna. And you should see the beach. The water is so clear you can see to the bottom even when you’re in way over your head. This is like a dream come true.” Lily flopped back on the giant bed and switched the phone to her other ear so she could gaze out the window. “I can’t thank you enough for giving me this trip.”

“Oh, forget about it. The ticket was a freebie. I think that company gave it to me so I wouldn’t sue them after falling in their gallery. Lawrence was disgusted I wouldn’t let him take them to court. You know, I never would’ve encouraged law school if I’d known he would end up so greedy like his father.”

“But I thought you tripped because your heel broke.”

“Lawrence says that doesn’t matter. Big companies will pay to avoid press. But it’s a moot point. I ain’t suing, and you’re getting a vacation in the Dominican Republic out of the deal. But if you want to bring me something back…”

“Sure, anything.”

“Well I’ve always wanted my own cabana boy.” Lilith’s raucous laugh devolved into her smoker’s hack.

“I’ll see what I can do.” Lily smiled. “Oh and guess what else? This handsome guy asked me to dinner. And I said yes. Are you proud of me?”

“Hmm. Very. But make sure you use protection.”

“Aunt Lilith! He just asked me to dinner. I’m not going to sleep with him.”

“Why not? You’re young, available. Now if I were twenty-seven… ”

“I don’t even know him.” Lily couldn’t believe they were discussing this. “Besides, then I’d have to list it the next time I gave blood.

“You need to loosen up, Lily. Sex can be fun.”

“I know, I know, Aunt Lilith.” God, she wished she’d never told her aunt about Danny. “Look I’d better go. This call is costing you a bundle. Thanks again for the trip. I love you.”

Lily hung up and hugged a big pillow to her chest. She wasn’t going to worry about dinner tonight. It would be fun and, since the guy—Carlos, wasn’t it? Oh God, was that his name?—wasn’t paying for her meal, he couldn’t expect her to sleep with him. Despite her aunt’s preoccupation, not everyone was having non-stop sex.

****

Lily flipped through the brochures on her night table to see how dressed up she should be for The Captain’s Table. Of course, she grumbled, everyone in brochures was dressed to the nines. Then again, was this considered a date? It wasn’t as though he had to pick her up, pay for her, or anything. Still there might be a dress code. Aunt Lilith had insisted she pack some fancy clothes just in case. “You don’t want to be schlepping about in your glad rags. It’s all well and good to dress like a homeless bum around the art school, but you’ll meet classier people if you try to dress like one.”

Yet she’d met Carlos—yes, that was his name—in her “glad rags.” She should’ve told Aunt Lilith that. Lily chose her blue wrap dress as it was pretty without being too revealing. Then she washed and pinned her hair up on top of her head with a few curly tendrils framing her face. Tremors of excitement danced through her as she applied her lip gloss. She considered nylons, but couldn’t bear to put them on in this heat. Carlos would have to put up with her shockingly white legs. With a little luck, she might be slightly darker by the end of her vacation, but even that wasn’t a sure thing.

Mostly she didn’t care how she looked, but for some reason the concept of dinner with this man made her feel incredibly unsophisticated. In their brief encounter, he’d seemed so suave. It wasn’t that he was older—he appeared close to her age—but he was

unnervingly confident. She had debated several times whether to call him to cancel their dinner but couldn’t think of a good excuse. And it wasn’t like she wanted to eat alone. But what if he was a weirdo? At home in New York, she’d never let a pushy stranger take her out.

It was almost seven. Was Carlos a punctual person? She hated being the first one at a restaurant. Her friends would say she should arrive a little late, to be stylish. Or was it to make him think she wasn’t too eager? She couldn’t remember. It might be out of her hands anyway—she wasn’t sure where The Captain’s Table was. She had passed a number of restaurants and dining rooms in her first run around the resort. If it was that expensive one with the dark wood and snotty looking servers, then it was easy to get to. That restaurant had looked sort of nautical, so she’d try it first.

She was just nearing the paneled doors when Carlos stepped out from beside the floral decor.

Ah bella, you are on time. Good.” Carlos kissed her hand, then leaned back to assess her. “You are very beautiful.”

“Thank you.” It was probably a European thing, but the way his eyes swept her from head to toe was intimate and embarrassing. Plus he was even more attractive than she recalled. His face had that tanned, chiseled look of a professional model. Except that perhaps his nose was a tad more generous. And his dark curly hair failed to conceal a faint scar on his temple. But other than that—

“Was the rest of your afternoon entertaining?”

“Yeah, I checked out the beach and the pool. There are whirlpools built right into the pool. How do they fix them when they break?”

“It’s not something I’ve ever worried about.”

“I guess not. Oh, and there’s a swim up bar, too.” Oh God, I’m rambling on like a small town hick. Shut up!

Si. I have stayed here before.” His slow smile revealed perfect teeth. Of course.

The maître d’ appeared with a silent grace. “Your table is right this way, Señor Diego.”

Carlos placed his hand on the small of her back and directed her forward. Lily jumped at the shock wave his casual touch sent through her body. She almost stepped on the maître d’s heels in her attempt to distance herself from the contact.

“What is it you do in Springfield, Lily?” Carlos asked after they were seated.

“Oh, I live in New York now. I’m an artist.” She suddenly felt embarrassed. What if he asked her where she had shown? He probably only considered people who sold their stuff for millions to be artists.

“It is a difficult profession, no?”

“Well I’m actually a massage therapist as well. That helps to cover the bills.” His eyes lit up at the word massage and she inwardly groaned. Why did some guys assume massage is some kind of code for prostitution?

“I see.”

Lily was relieved when the waiter interrupted.

“Would you like to start off with something to drink?”

“A lemonade for me, please. And a glass of water.” Should she have specified bottled water, or was the tap water safe? Oh well, she’d see what they brought.

“A bottle of your Sauvignon Blanc, gracias. You will join me in a taste?”

“No thank you. I don’t drink.”

“You don’t drink anything?” Carlos gave her a look of disbelief.

“Not alcohol.” Lily hated feeling defensive about not drinking. She never bothered people if they didn’t like chocolate. He seemed to be waiting for a reason so she added lamely, “Hey, don’t let me stop you.”

“Thank you. You do realize that in Spain you might be hanged for a witch, for such odd behavior?”

“I’ll try to remember not to go there. So what’s good here?”

“Perhaps you will allow me to order for you?”

“If you promise to avoid jellyfish and snails, then sure.”

“Certainly.” With a discreet nod from Carlos, the waiter quickly reappeared. Carlos discussed several options with him until they came to a mutually agreeably decision. The waiter withdrew.

“That all sounds wonderful, but do you think we can eat that much?” Lily asked tentatively.

“Well, if you aren’t drinking, we must find another way to excite your palate.”

“As long as I don’t get too heavy to ride a horse tomorrow,” she joked. “I’ve never ridden and it’s been a goal of mine forever.”

“Really? And why have you never done this?”

“Because it’s expensive.” Was he making fun of her?

“Oh.” Carlos sounded surprised. “I will go with you tomorrow. The first group goes out at ten o’clock.”

“No! I mean… ” She scrambled to think of an excuse. “I’ll probably be very slow and it’ll be boring for you.” Despite herself, Lily almost hoped he’d override her objections.

What was wrong with her? She wasn’t even sure that she liked him, but she was mesmerized by his seductive smile.

“It is a beautiful ride along the beach. I can think of no one I would rather be with. Would you like me to order a slow horse for you?”

“I don’t know. I like going fast on bikes, but… ” Lily chewed on her bottom lip while she thought about it. “No. I think I’d like a fast horse. Either you fall or you don’t, it probably doesn’t make much difference how fast you go.” The waiter reappeared with several plates of appetizers, which Lily eyed with a mixture of apprehension and delight. “Wow. I sure hope you’re hungry.”

“Ravenous.” Carlos’s sensuous smile kicked up a notch, and Lily’s breath caught in surprise. It seemed he could turn on the sexual heat at will. “Try one of these.” He held a prawn up to her lips.

Lily carefully took his offering with her fingers and popped it in her mouth. She ignored his teasing look. “Mmm, that is good.” She pointed at an odd looking deep-fried dish. “But what’s this?”

“It is the conch fritter. Don’t worry, I did not order anything scary.” Carlos helped himself to a selection of each of the dishes. “Unless you do not approve of blow fish?”

“What’s that?” Lily eyed him suspiciously.

“A specialty that is very popular in Japan. It is delicious, but if it is not prepared correctly, it will kill you instantly.”

“What!” Lily looked with horror at the dishes on the table.

“I did not order it. They do not even have it here.” Carlos raised her hand up to his lips. “You can trust me.”

Lily’s heart raced at his unexpected gesture. Maybe she could trust him, but could she trust herself? He had a way of focusing his intense gaze on her that made her quiver inside. This was ridiculous. She didn’t even know the man. Self-consciously, she pulled her hand away. “So you’re saying that nothing here will kill me. Well, that’s a relief. Playing Russian roulette with food never struck me as a good idea.”

****

Carlos sipped his wine and considered the chameleon across the table. She wasn’t adding up to be the person he’d assumed. Or else she was a damn good actress. She seemed very naïve and genuine. And she certainly cleaned up beautifully from her earlier ruffian look. But surely if she worked in one of those sleazy massage parlors, she wouldn’t be so quick to blush at his every move on her. Either way, she was a delightful puzzle for him to play with while he was here.

He watched her cautiously eat a conch fritter, admiring her beautiful bow lips closing around her fork. He wanted to kiss those lips and feel their softness against his. She blushed and Carlos realized he was staring. Again. Dios, but it was difficult to think about food around this woman. Carlos refilled his wine while he considered his next move. He decided to tackle the question head on.

“So, why did you get into massage as a profession?”

“It’s a long story.” She shrugged dismissively.

Carlos sat back in his chair. “I’d love to hear it.”

She paused as if contemplating how much to say. “I guess it was about ten years ago. My mother had been very sick for a year and, well, the doctors were competent, but they seemed to treat her like a bunch of symptoms and ailments, you know, not like a real person.”

She hesitated again and Carlos nodded in encouragement

“Well, near the end of her life, we had this marvelous guy from the Home Care Agency. He was a massage therapist. I mean, he couldn’t cure her, but he helped her feel a lot better. Some of what he did was just listening to her and validating her feelings. After Mom died, my aunt suggested I move to New York to study art. I did, but I also attended massage school so I could be like that caregiver and help people. It was a bit tight at first, but now that I’ve got regular customers, it’s actually a good profession.”

“But don’t you have to worry about strange customers?”

“I’m very picky and only take people who are referred to me. Early on I had a stalker client. That was scary. After that I started asking for references.”

“What did he do?”

“No, it was a she. And it was mostly that she kept turning up everywhere, phoning at all hours, and leaving me odd little notes. I still don’t know how she knew my every move, but it was unnerving.”

“How did you stop her?”

“I threatened to go to the cops, but I think she must have moved away, gotten locked up, or something. I changed my phone number, but nowadays with the internet, if someone wants to find you, it’s not that difficult.”

“That is true. So you only massage people who are ill?” He kept the skepticism from his voice.

“Well, some are sick. I treat this one woman with torticollis. For some reason her neck muscles pull her head to always look to the left. I can’t cure it, but I work on the other muscles that are pulling against the neck muscles. Other people come for general stiffness or sports injuries.”

“Don’t you need medical training for that?”

“It was an intense two-year course with lots of anatomy and biology.” She sounded defensive.

He nodded. “That is impressive.”

“Yeah. So that’s enough about me. What about you? You’re from Spain?”

Si, Barcelona. I have one sister, and my mother is still there.” Carlos shifted his wine glass to make room for the waiter to put down their main course of lobster, baked potato, and melted butter.

“Oh my God. What is that?” Lily’s eyes widened in alarm.

“Lobster. You have not eaten it before?”

“No…” She paused and reconsidered. “Well, actually, I guess I have. A friend used to make fancy party sandwiches with canned lobster paste and pickles. This doesn’t look quite like that.” She poked the lobster shell with her fingertip. “Hmm, how do you eat it?”

“Here, allow me.” Carlos reached across and cracked open her lobster. He speared a piece with his lobster fork, dipped it in the melted butter, and offered it to her with a smile. She hesitated only slightly before leaning forward to taste the shellfish.

“Wow. That is way better than the canned stuff.” She smiled sheepishly at him. “But do you mind—?” Lily put a cloth napkin over the lobster’s head. “There’s something wrong with being watched by your dinner.”

Carlos laughed. “You don’t eat fish, either?”

“Not with the heads on.” Her nose crinkled in disgust. “I mostly cook pasta at home. But I want to try lots of different foods on vacation. Then again, maybe I should stick to lobster every night.” They wrestled with the lobsters in companionable silence for a while before Lily asked, “Is lobster fattening?”

“We’ll ride tomorrow then, in case you get too big to go later on,” Carlos teased. He speared another choice piece of lobster and held it out to her. “Here, this is a good part.”

He watched her luscious mouth close around the morsel and then her eyes shut as she savored the taste.

“Mmm. That was so good, but I can’t eat another bite. Can we get a doggy bag?” she asked with a smile.

“No. But don’t worry. There will be more food tomorrow.” He signaled to the waiter.

“May I interest you in some dessert and coffee?”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m too full for dessert. Hey, it’s almost time for the evening show. Do you think they’ll let us take our coffee in the theater?”

“Certainly. But you want to see that?” Carlos asked surprised.

“Yeah. Don’t you?”

“Of course,” he answered swiftly with a smile. “You realize it will not be like the excellent shows you see in New York?”

“I haven’t been to many shows in New York. I go to several art exhibits a month—if they’re free. And a few years ago a friend from school had tickets to Movin’ Out, the Billy Joel musical. Other than that…”

“Let’s watch this one then, and we can see how it compares to Billy Joel.”

****

They settled into the theater chairs early because Lily wanted to make sure they got in. Now looking at all the vacant seats, she understood why Carlos hadn’t been too concerned. Still they got good seats and, since they weren’t in the front, no one would use them in their act. She’d been to a comedy club in SoHo once, and the comedian had picked on the people in the front row. It was unpleasant to watch and it must’ve been twice as bad for those poor people.

She glanced around with curiosity. It was a small theater with crimson red velvet curtains and matching fabric on the walls. The seats even had little cup holders like the ones at the movies.

“This is so cool,” Lily whispered to Carlos when the lights dimmed. He smiled and stretched his arm out along the back of her chair. There was a loud percussion, and then the band—she looked to see where they were playing, but couldn’t see them—started up with “Let Me Entertain You.” One long leg in a very high heel kicked out from behind the curtain. Then it was followed by one gorgeous, long-legged beauty after another, doing a Ziegfeld Follies routine.

“They’re beautiful,” Lily said in awe. “I bet they can’t eat lobster every night and keep those figures.”

“Probably not,” Carlos whispered back. “But I think a lot of their looks are achieved in the doctor’s office.”

“Doctors can’t make your legs that long,” she countered.

“True. But look at the heels they are wearing.”

“Wearing those is a skill all on its own.” Carlos laughed and Lily turned away from the stage to look up at him. “It’s true. Mere mortals would fall over.”

He pulled her closer and asked, “And what do you think of the singing?”

“The brunette in red has a good voice, but the others … ” Lily paused, trying to think of a polite way to say it. “Well, they’re mostly on tune, but not that good.”

It felt good to have his arm around her shoulders. Comfortable, she realized. When he whispered in her ear, a shiver shot down her spine.

“And the dancing?” His breath tickled.

“That’s not their fault. That’s crappy choreography. Even I could follow those dance steps.” Lily chuckled. “Well, not in those shoes.”

The name of the revue was Broadway Lights and followed a loose plot involving a sweet girl named Babs trying to get into a Broadway revue. A lot of songs from 42nd Street fit easily, but it was a bit of a stretch when Babs sang the main song from Cats. The big boffo ending was the entire cast singing “Just One Night” from Dreamgirls as Babs took over for the evil lead actress with the broken leg. Lily applauded enthusiastically until every performer had left the stage.

“Did you really enjoy it that much?” he asked.

“No. But did you see how much some of those performers were sweating? They were working hard. And it would be difficult doing that every night. Wouldn’t it be fun if one night the bad girl said at the end, ‘You know, I think my leg isn’t broken after all,’ and see how the other performers worked around that?”

“I hope you do not plan on seeing the show every night in case she does.”

“No. I bet they’ve got pretty good contracts to keep them from doing it. But you’d want to.”

“It is still early. Would you like to go to one of the nightclubs?” he asked.

“Sorry, but I think I’m going to call it a night. I’ve been so excited about this trip that I haven’t slept for several days now. And I want to be alert and ready for horseback riding tomorrow. Where and when should I meet you?”

“Quarter to ten at the concierge desk. Or meet me for breakfast at nine, if you’re awake.” Carlos paused and then added, “I’ll walk you up to your room, now.”

“Um, sure.” Lily was both thrilled and nervous at the way his arm curled protectively around her waist. She wondered again if he considered this a date and if he’d expect a goodnight kiss. Or was he hoping she’d invite him in for a nightcap? Since she didn’t drink, it seemed unlikely. She tried not to worry about it. She’d find out soon enough when they got to her door.

She paused to sniff at one of the large orange flowers lining the walkway back to the hotel. She frowned and Carlos smiled at her puzzled look.

“That is bougainvillea. It has no scent but it is very beautiful, si?”

“Yeah. It still seems strange coming from the cold winter in New York to this. It’s going to be hard to go back next week.”

“You have only arrived. It is too soon to be worried about returning.” He picked a bloom and tucked it into her hair. In the elevator, she watched the floor numbers go by and desperately tried to think of something witty to say.

When they finally reached her room she turned to Carlos with a smile. “Well, this is it. Thank you. That was a fun dinner and show. I’ll see you tomorrow, probably at breakfast.” Before she could turn back to her door, Carlos had pulled her gently into his arms. She watched his lips descending slowly to hers. She could duck away. Instead she closed her eyes.

His lips were gentle at first, but then his hand held her head closer and his mouth demanded more. Lily gasped as his tongue slid in to explore her mouth. It was a strange and thrilling sensation. He seemed to consume her with his need. And her body responded far quicker than her mind. Her hands reached up to run through his hair and her body pressed closer against his.

Through the pounding of her own heartbeat, she barely heard his groan when she kissed the pulse at the side of his neck. He even tasted good. His hand ran down her backside and drew her leg up to curl around his outer thigh. She felt his teeth nibble lightly on her ear sending chills running down her spine. Suddenly his hand touched the side of her breast and she pulled away with a start.

“Excuse me. I’d better get to bed. I, I mean—” Lily fumbled for the card to unlock her door.

“Certainly. I shall see you tomorrow morning. Buenas nochas.” Carlos kissed her cheek and stroked her hair before she ducked into the safety of her room.

Once inside, Lily leaned against the back of her door and slid down it in shock. She’d only met this guy today, and here she was making out with him in the hallway! What was wrong with her? Yes, he was gorgeous and seemed very nice. And he smelled heavenly, too. But he could be a whacko for all she knew. Or married. To top it off, he lived in another country, so there was no hope of a real relationship. She would not let herself be used by a man, she resolved, no matter how much she wanted him.

She sighed involuntarily, her body still quivering from the heat of his caresses. Now she just had to figure out how to backtrack with him. She had a feeling it wasn’t going to be easy.

****

Carlos strode back to his suite in confusion. He’d been sure from her enthusiastic response to his kiss that she would invite him into her room. Her reaction at the end had been that of an inexperienced teenager, but she was certainly older than that. He tried to recall if she’d mentioned her age. She’d been working ten years ago so she was at least twenty-five. At most, six years younger than him. No Americana would remain a virgin at that age. And her responses up until she stopped him had definitely been that of a woman. He gritted his teeth recalling her gentle love bites on his neck. A cold shower tonight or he’d never get to sleep. But first he would see if he had any communications rom his office.

As he read the e-mail from his personal assistant, Carlos smiled incredulously. What were the odds? Lilith Scott was the woman who had fallen at the Klee exhibit his company was touring. His new assistant had stupidly given the woman that bitch Elena’s unused vacation after she had backed out last minute for a photo shoot. He’d almost fired the girl for that. Americans were litigious enough without encouraging their greed. Now having met Ms. Scott, he felt fairly certain she wouldn’t take his company to court. Obviously she was not grievously wounded. To be safe he would keep this revelation to himself. After Elena’s deception, he would not let himself be fooled again. But getting closer to Ms. Scott would be an amusing way to determine her intentions.

****