Authors: Karen Sue Burns
Tags: #romance, #romantic suspense
“Trevi Fountain.” Quinn pulled away from Logan and squared her shoulders. Dammit, she'd find that bitch and in Rome.
She consulted the map and they started off in the direction Logan suggested. The upscale shops bordering the street reminded her of the shops in Houston. Rome was definitely cosmopolitan. After they found Rebecca, she planned to shop and play tourist.
“I think we're going in the right direction,” Logan said after ten minutes. “Look for a sign that says Trevi Fountain.”
They soon came to a wide boulevard, Via del Tritone, and sure enough, a street sign pointed straight ahead to the Trevi. They walked down another busy street and followed the signs to a small piazza, shadowed by the buildings surrounding it. The Trevi Fountain rested at the juncture of three streets marking the terminal point of an ancient aqua duct.
The backdrop of the fountain was the Palazzo Poli. It looked like the front of an ancient building with Corinthian columns and a bunch of sculptures of Neptune and ladies holding urns and cups that spilled water into a huge square basin filled with coins. They walked along the upper perimeter of the fountain gazing at the visitors. No one resembled the southern belle.
They moved down a couple of dented stone steps to the lower level of the basin, which was bordered by a stone ledge occupied by visitors.
Logan grabbed Quinn's hand. “Let's walk to the other end and back and then sit for a while.”
They looked at all the tourists directly in front of the water. No one was a Rebecca clone.
Quinn pulled Logan to an open spot on the uneven stone ledge. She took a deep breath and allowed her body to bask in the incredible sense of history. She knew the fountain was completed in 1762 and included work by Bernini. He sure did get around Rome back in the day.
They sat in silence for several minutes, watching the water cascade, enjoying the ambiance, and continually glancing at the people surrounding them.
Logan nudged her arm. “History buff, you up to throwing a coin in the fountain?”
“You bet. Doesn't a coin ensure a return to Rome?”
“That's what I've heard,” Logan chuckled.
“I'm throwing a U.S. quarter.” She pulled two coins out of her wallet, handed one to Logan. “Here's one for you.”
“Throw it over your left shoulder.”
She counted, “One, two, three.” She squeezed her eyes shut, tossed the quarter over her shoulder. For some odd reason, the symbolism of this simple touristy act washed a flood of comfort over Quinn.
She glanced at Logan. His sunglasses were on the top of his head and his eyes were trained on her. They had crossed an unspoken boundary. The warmth of his gaze filled her with hope. Hope that what lay ahead wouldn't bite her in the butt. But at that moment, the planets in her world were in perfect alignment.
For several minutes, they watched the water dance over the sculptures. The eclectic crowd reminded Quinn why Rome was a perfect location for Rebecca to hide. A change of hair color, a new cut, and a different style of clothing and she would be nearly impossible to recognize among the thousands of tourists. How in the hell could Quinn find her?
With her shoulder pressed against Logan, her chin collapsed to her chest. Quinn closed her eyes. She didn't want to admit to herself that the trek to Rome was probably a waste of time. But she'd see it to the end.
$ $ $
Back on the street, Quinn and Logan turned toward the Pantheon, the next monument on their list. Logan knew the area and the best route to walk. They soon crossed Via del Croso. Delivery trucks clogged the street's curb, irritating the taxi drivers who responded with a loud honk of their horn.
Even with the noise, the walk was pleasant. They passed many business people. Quinn ignored the men who were very attractive. Most wore dark suits fitted at the torso, soft leather shoes, and dark sunglasses. Another time. She concentrated on any female over five feet tall. No one reminded her of Rebecca.
They kept on the lookout for Via de Caravita and found it after ten minutes. After rounding a corner, Quinn had an attack of conscience. There she was, guiding Logan all over Rome with her trusty tourist map, while he should have been back in Houston taking care of Bridge Foundation business. She was selfish. She stopped forward motion, moved toward the window of a wine store.
“Logan, I'm so sorry.”
He stared at her, placed a hand on her arm. “Sorry? For what?”
“I'm sorry for dragging you into this mess, first, Las Vegas and now, Rome.” She pushed back a strand of hair. “I'm sure you have more important things to do than chaperone me in my search for Rebecca. It was a mistake involving you in this mess.”
“Hold on, Quinn. I am involved in this mess. Don't forget the money Rebecca stole came from my family.” He pointed a finger at her chest. “We're in this fifty-fifty. And you didn't drag me along. It was my choice to accompany you.”
She threw up my hands, again. “Okay, all right, I was feeling guilty dragging you all over the place. I really am sorry, it won't happen again.” She started down the narrow street.
Logan grabbed her arm, forcing her to stop.
“Quinn, the theft isn't the only reason I'm in Rome.”
“I came because of you and your, uh, dedication to this mess. I'm here of my own accord.”
He enveloped Quinn a quick hug. “I like you. You're fun to be around.”
“Wonderful.” Her heart skipped. He liked her.
“Let's go check out the Pantheon. Rebecca might be touring there this very minute.” He kissed her cheek and led her down the street.
They passed another piazza with a fountain holding a fair maiden spilling water from an urn. One frustrating thing about Roman streets was that they were short and changed names at an intersection or piazza. They'd be walking in circles if not for the map and Logan's memory. Quinn would never again complain about Houston's streets.
They came upon the Pantheon from its left side. The piazza in front was filled with people and the cafes along its sides were busy as well. Just like Las Vegas, always busy. They meandered around the edge of the square then faced the monument.
“Let's go inside.” Quinn touched Logan's arm.
This was her first experience roving around a building nearly nineteen hundred years old. They passed under the portico, columns on either side. The bronze doors were huge and once plated in gold. They journeyed into the interior of the dome.
She moved with Logan to the left and soon came upon the tomb of Raphael, the well-known artist of the fifteenth century. Rome was a home for art lovers. Threading through tourists, they came to the center of the monument, directly under the open oculus, or Great Eye.
“What happens when it rains?” she asked.
Logan pointed to the floor. “See the holes? They built a drainage system.”
“Very cool,” Quinn said, studying the floor. She raised up. “I don't see Rebecca. Should we walk to the next monument on the list?”
“I'm pooped. How about a rest and then something to eat?” Logan said.
“Okay. I'll plan our schedule for tomorrow.”
“Don't forget, we're waiting on the FBI to officially locate Rebecca.”
“Whatever you say.”
$ $ $
After a five-minute walk back to the hotel, Quinn and Logan stretched out on the bed and promptly fell asleep. A few hours later, Logan's voice poked at Quinn's subconscious and started the wheels to turn. She rolled over toward his voice.
“That'll work. Thanks.” Logan clicked off his cell phone.
“What will work?” she said.
“You're awake. I made dinner reservations.”
“I thought we'd check out Rome's night life. Never know who you might run across. We have reservations at seven. You'd better get ready.”
She checked her watch then jumped out of bed, not much time to shower and dress. Yet she made herself proud. In forty-five minutes she was dressed in an aqua baby doll top, a black denim skirt, and gold sandals.
“I'm ready. Are we walking or taking a taxi?”
Logan rose from the chair. “Taxi. One should be waiting for us.”
Within ten minutes, they arrived at an ambiance-loaded restaurant, Ristorante la Carbanara, near Camp dÃ¨ Fiori in the heart of Rome. They elected to sit on the patio. It was lit with fairy lights and bordered the street, providing an excellent view of the strolling foot traffic.
The food and wine were excellent along with the conversation. Quinn blabbed to Logan about her marriage. Normally, she would never mention it to a man but he asked.
“I got married soon out of high school. I was attending the community college but the fun life kept getting in the way. I met Jonathon at a club. He was older than me and very mature or so I thought. He had money to throw around, thanks to his father's string of auto dealerships. I was impressed by the family business and he was impressed by the cup size of my bra. Truly, a match made in heaven.”
Logan nodded in understanding â sympathy, or sorrow?
“Why did you divorce?”
“That's an easy answer. Once his father retired, he became general manager. I went to his office one evening as a surprise and the surprise was on me.”
“I found him in his office all right. He was showing his parts to the Parts Department receptionist. I called him a not-so-nice name, slammed the door behind me, and hired an attorney the next day.”
“Actually, it was the best for both of us. We didn't marry for the right reasons. The twins were the one right thing we did. He made most of the school events and dance recitals.”
“Sounds like a stand-up guy.”
Quinn smiled at that. “He always knew just the right birthday and Christmas gifts because his girlfriends were so close in age to the twins.”
Logan chuckled. “At least he had talents.”
“I make fun of him but he has been a good father.”
“And you're a good mother to be honest about that. Ever get close to marrying again?”
She looked at him with wide eyes. “Are you kidding? I told you before I'm a bad picker. The âtill death do us part' gene bypassed me. I don't have what it takes.”
“Have you considered he was simply the wrong man for you?”
“Maybe, but I won't take the chance of going through another breakup.” She drained her wine glass.
“I'm sorry you had to go through all of that. There aren't any winners with divorce.”
Now that was an intriguing comment. “I thought you'd never been married.”
“I haven't. Billy went through one five years ago. It was really ugly. He hardly sees his little girl,” Logan said. “It changed him. But he's remarried now and happy with his wife and step-kids. How about dessert?”
She begged off more food. “Why don't we walk back to the hotel and get a coffee along the way?”
They paused on the sidewalk, deciding which direction to walk. After a short discussion with the restaurant hostess, they had directions to the Pantheon. They turned right on the busy street, following her suggestion.
Couples strolled arm in arm while shoppers laden with bags weaved through the crowd. After a couple of blocks, they turned onto Via del Corso. Street lights were abundant so it was a pleasant walk even with the heavy pedestrian traffic.
“Rome is busier than Houston at night.” Quinn commented after their pace had slowed. She was acutely aware of the bodies moving around her â much worse that the Vegas Strip.
“Houston doesn't have all this foot traffic,” Logan replied. “Being outside at night is a nice change. I like to walk.”
“Me, too, the view of Rome is better on the street than in a taxi.”
The crowd on the sidewalk became even more constricting. Quinn attempted to clutch Logan's arm as she sensed someone too close behind her. Her sandal hit a bump in the side walk and she fell to the ground, hard.
“Quinn, are you okay? What happened?”
She placed her hands over her ears. With eyes closed, she whispered, “Please stop yelling at me. I can hear you.”
“Sorry, do you think anything is broken?”
“No, no,” Her eyes opened straight into Logan's concerned face. The focus was a little off. “Help me up, please.” She raised an arm to him. “I want to go back to the hotel.”
Logan's eyes focused on Quinn as he placed his arms under her armpits and pulled her to her feet. She swayed for a second then found her footing.
“Thanks.” She moved a step, discovered a pain or two she hadn't felt sixty seconds earlier. “Hmm â¦ .”
“Can you walk or should I get a taxi?”
She didn't like the idea of bending her body to enter a car and then unbend it to get out.
“I can walk. It's only two or three more blocks. Just hold on to my arm, okay?”
Now she knew what it would be like to walk down the street as an eighty year old. Thank heavens, Logan was with her. She couldn't have made it back without him. His presence at her side was becoming a habit.
“Is the water too hot?” Logan turned off the old-fashioned faucet handles. The deep tub could float a small whale, or, in this instance, Quinn's sore and bruised body. Logan had dumped in the entire bottle of complementary bubble bath so suds nearly shampooed her hair.
She blew a clump away from her nose. “It's fine, really.” She needed him to get out the bathroom so she could sink into the water in peace.
“I'm going to order room service. What would you prefer to help you relax? Coffee, wine, my scotch, or Kahlua?”
Scotch sounded terrible. Alcohol was the only legal drug they could obtain just then, since she refused to see a doctor. She ordered Kahlua and vodka.