Authors: Beth Ciotta
HE NEXT DAY
, I was fit enough to travel. Milo Beckett, who'd insisted on escorting me back to the States, had been cordial and generous, handling the hospital bills and arranging for a charter flight. I think he felt guilty about my head injury, though it really wasn't a big deal.
Gina had flown home the day before. Gavin was in the brig with Fred. Lamont's goons were being detained by local law. And Martha was back on the ship with her cronies. He didn't seem concerned in the least about Arch.
I, on the other hand, couldn't get the complicated Scot off my mind. Mostly, I wondered how he was handling the fact that he'd killed a man. One might assume he was thinking tit for tat, an eye for an eye, but I was fast learning not to assume anything about Arch. Maybe, just maybe, he was wrestling with remorse. According to Milo, there'd been a struggle, the gun had gone off. A bullet meant for Arch had ended up in Simon the Fish. Self-defense. I'm not sure either one of us truly believed that, but we wanted to.
Though I didn't fully understand the dynamics of Chameleon, I did sense a history between Arch and Milo. Another mystery to unravel. Even though I was returning to my old stomping grounds, a new world awaited. I couldn't wait to dig in and explore.
“We've got a few minutes before we board,” Milo said, as we navigated the small but crowded La Romana airport.
“I need to use the ladies' room.”
“Up ahead on the left,” he said. “I'm going to slip into the gift shop. Buy some gum and a magazine. Want anything?”
“I could use some Dramamine. Just in case we hit turbulence.”
“Motion sickness. Right.” He smiled and pointed. “I'll meet you by that water fountain.”
I peeled off, still marveling that this nice guy, dressed in tasteful jeans and a funky T-shirt, was the same guy I'd dubbed Tex Aloha a few days before.
Smoke and mirrors.
I pushed into the bathroom, another woman close behind. She edged me aside, almost knocking me over. Jeez, not to be catty, but what a clumsy moose. Might help if she wore flats. I never realized they made pumps in a size thirteen! She slammed shut the stall door and proceeded to moan and whine and shuffle around. “For heaven's sake,” she said in a nasally American accent. “This is the second time todayâ¦If this don't beat all. Anybody out there?” she asked.
I paused, my hand on my own stall door. The only one
was me. Another woman occupied the toilet down the way. Other than thatâ¦just me. Just my luck. “Something wrong?”
“My zipper's stuck and I can't reach around.”
Been there. “If you come out, I'll helpâ”
“The teeth are caught in my panty hose andâ¦I can't come out. And I really need toâ¦go. You'll have to come in. Please. Oh! This is dreadful!”
I sort of believed in Karma, so I couldn't ignore her. A story for my new diary I told myself as I gently knocked. “Hello?” The door swung open and she hauled me inside. Suddenly I was squished between the wall and an Amazonian, heavily made-up brunette. “What theâ”
believe you fell for that.”
I blinked. “Arch?”
He, as a big, unattractive
gestured to me to lower my voice. “Lured into a compromising situation by a stranger. What if I was a thief, or worse? I could rob you right now. Or I could have my way with you.”
“Do I get a choice?”
“This isn't funny.”
“You're right. It's hilarious.” I grinned ear to ear. “You're wearing a pencil skirt, a silk blouse and panty hose. Hey, is that a padded bra?”
He slapped my hand away. “
touch. Do you think I'm easy?”
“I'm hoping.” The grin faded and I threw my arms around him and clung. “I was worried about you.”
“And I you.”
“Milo said you have to lie low.”
“He told me you'd already left the island.”
“He's under that impression.
tell him otherwise. He'll be pissed. He likes to think he's in control.”
“Sometimes. He was right to shelter you after what happened with Lamont. I'm sorry I dragged you into that, Sunshine.”
I framed his face between my hands, looked for the man beneath the mascara and rouge. “You changed my life for the better. Please don't apologize.”
He dropped his forehead to mine. “I should not be here.”
“So why are you?”
look so good last time I saw you. I wanted to make you smile, yeah?”
I laughed softly. “By dressing as Josephine?”
“I was going for Daphne.”
“Wrong hair color, but hey, great legs.”
“Flattery will get youâ¦” He pressed papers into my hands.
I eased away and read. “A ticket to London?”
“My grandfather had a flat there. I need to handle some of his affairs. Having you there would beâ¦nice.”
My heart hammered against my chest. He didn't want a relationship. No emotional ties. But he was inviting me to share a part of his life he didn't want other people to know about
? Danger, Will Robinson!
“I only have a couple of free weeks. I'm supposed to be starting a new job. Speaking ofâ”
“You can tell me
it when I pick you up at Heathrow. You depart from Philly day after tomorrow.”
He kissed me, a lingering, hot kiss that set my blood ablaze and melted brain matter. Common senseâup in smoke.
Next thing I knew he was gone and I was stumbling out of the stall dazed. A woman who'd been washing her hands regarded me with a raised brow. Guess she thought I'd been making out with another girl in the stall. All I could do was smile.
I exited the bathroom, still a tad dazed, Arch nowhere in sight. Milo, however, was exactly where he said he'd be. I neared the water fountain, telling myself to play it cool. The trip to London would have to be on the Q.T. I'd sworn to Milo that Arch and I were just friends. And I'd sworn to Arch not to reveal any details regarding his grandfather. Ooh, boy. Life was about to get complicated. And exciting.
“Weather's turned iffy. Might get bumpy,” Milo said. “Think you can handle it?”
I nabbed the Dramamine out of his hand, chucked it in my Lucy tote alongside my ticket to London and grinned. “Bring it on.”
ALL ABOUT EVIE
Copyright Â© 2007 by Beth Ciotta
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