More Than Lust (Courthouse Connections Book 1) (3 page)

BOOK: More Than Lust (Courthouse Connections Book 1)
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Chapter Three

 

“Here we are. This is
Miss Barbara
, named after my grandmother. She belongs to my uncle now, since Grandpa Winston died. I always wished that he’d left her to my mother, but I can understand why he didn’t. Mother has never been crazy about the water.”

Andi looked around the polished mahogany deck. “Hello,
Miss Barbara
. My, you’re a beautiful boat. How old are you?”

“She’s a good bit older than either of us. I think she was built back in the early 1960s. Come on, I’ll show you the cabins.”

Gray noticed Andi’s eyes widen as he showed her around the classic forty-foot Hinckley Bermuda cruiser. “You okay?” he asked when he caught her gaping at the well-equipped galley and head.

“I think so. This boat is as big as my apartment, and it has considerably nicer amenities. I see what you meant when you said I couldn’t tip it over.”

“Want to stay out here or go relax in the cabin? Since you haven’t worked sails before, we’ll use the motor today. Is that okay, or were you countin’ on a real sailboat ride?”

He loved the way she smiled. “Motor’s fine. Am I right in assuming that it takes at least two people to handle
Miss Barbara
’s sails?” She looked around the deck, taking in the main mast near the cockpit and a smaller one near the stern .

“Yeah. I’d practically forgotten that Uncle Hugh had the rigging modified. When I was a teenager, she didn’t have the rear mast, and I could handle the mainsail alone—at least in good weather like we’ve got today. Hold on unless you want to wait in the cabin while I get us underway.”

While Gray checked the fluid gauges, Andi curled up on a padded bench near the cockpit and watched him with apparent interest. “You seem like you know your way around boats. Should I put on a life preserver?”

He grinned. “You’re sitting on one life preserver and leaning against another. No need to put one on unless I tell you to. If we hit a patch of rough water, grab one and put your arms through the loops on the underside.”

“I thought from TV shows I’ve seen that boats have life preservers that look like vests, and that most of them are orange.”

Gray laughed. “Snap-on jackets are mainly for kids, or for adults to wear in boats small enough that they’re likely to fall overboard if they try to stand up while the boat’s in motion. Just hold on to the rail behind you while I start the engine.
Miss Barbara
has an older diesel inboard, and it sometimes coughs and sputters a little when it first fires up, until I put it in gear and we start moving.”

“Okay.” She did as he asked, gripping the aluminum rail behind where she was sitting. Smart woman, he thought as he started the motor and adjusted its idle rate. When he put the boat in gear and backed out of the slip, she loosened her grip on the rail and relaxed against the cushions, her gaze shifting between the slowly changing scenery and his hands on the controls.

It was a rare female in his experience who would admit she hadn’t experienced everything there was to see. He liked that Andi seemed to have faith that he’d take care of her, without at least pretending fear to get him to pay her more attention. Gray liked that, along with the fact that she didn’t chatter like a magpie while he maneuvered out of some tight spaces in the marina.

When he turned into the open water of the bay, Gray set a course for one of his favorite points for watching sunsets—a buoy just past where the bay veered westward, away from Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard and MacDill Air Force Base. Once he was sure he was on course, he turned on the autopilot and turned to Andi.

“You’ll soon be able to see the Sunshine Skyway at dusk. It’s pretty awesome if you’ve never seen it from this end of the bay.” He paused, then continued. “Ted said he thought you were a Tampa native. Want to tell me something about what you like and dislike, since I’m planning for us to spend a lot of time together once I get back from my next assignment?”

“Well, you know I’m a lawyer. I work for the state attorney, trying to put criminal defendants behind bars. I’ve worked there for close to three years, ever since I finished law school at Stetson. I’ve seen a good bit of the Skyway from the St. Pete side, since I had to drive I-275 every day to get to my classes. What about you?” Andi shifted her gaze from him to a small sailboat going the opposite direction, passing by them on the opposite side of the boat.

“When I finished Harvard Law five years ago, I came back home long enough to pass the Florida Bar, but I wasn’t about to settle down and join Winston-Roe, even though my dad was a partner there and my maternal grandfather was one of its founders. Since I wanted to travel and have some excitement, I signed on with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Around a year ago, my mother finagled with some of her political buddies to get me based here in their Tampa office, but I’ve finally outfoxed her. I managed to score this undercover assignment in Colombia that will take me away for a month or so if all goes well.” He paused, took a good look at this woman who’d attracted him so strongly even before they’d met, and shot her a self-deprecating grin. “If I’d met you before asking for this assignment, I’d have reconsidered.”

“Really?”

He liked that she didn’t accuse him of lying to soften her up for the kill. “Yes, really. I should have called Sam Kramer when I first got home and had him get Marcy to introduce me to the hottest redheaded attorney in Harper Wells’ army of young female prosecutors. I’ve always had a thing for redheads, particularly if they’ve got a brain as well as a body that turns me every way but loose.”

“I doubt Marcy would have sicced you on me if you had.” She gave a nervous little laugh. “We may both be in the business of law enforcement, and I definitely
am
a redhead, but she knows that we come from worlds way too far apart to ever think about trying to arrange a merger.”

“Even for a wild weekend fling now, and more of the same when I get back?” Gray couldn’t help imagining having Andi in his arms…his bed. He could see himself enjoying debating law and politics with her in the privacy of this boat or his condo, and showing her places and things she’d enjoy for the first time with him. He’d never done that with a lover before, because the debutantes he usually dated had experienced pretty much the same amusements as he had.

Maybe someday I’ll persuade Andi that a man and a woman can have a more lasting and meaningful relationship when they merge divergent qualities into one more interesting whole. I’ve always had a feeling that the best partnerships might be forged that way.
Meanwhile, though…

He slowed
Miss Barbara
, pulled out of the boat traffic path, and angled her so they’d have a good view of the Skyway from the port side. Turning to face Andi, he asked, “How about it, pretty lady? Are you up for seeing where this chemistry takes us?”

For a minute her expression turned serious, but then she grinned at him. “Well, maybe a fling since I have to admit that you attracted my attention from the minute I saw you. But certainly not more than that.”

“Why not? Are you afraid I’ll gobble you up the way the big bad wolf threatened to do with Little Red Riding Hood?” He shot her a grin to take the bite off his question.

“Not really. Marcy was the one who scared me off the idea of any more than a wild weekend with you, by implying quite seriously that your mother scares her. If your mom intimidates Marcy Kramer—one of the least timid and most put-together women I know—I know damn well that she’d scare me half to death if you ever brought me home to meet her.”

“According to ‘Mommy Dearest,’ there’s high-society and then there’s WASP high-society. Only WASP upper-crust society meets Elizabeth Winston Syzmanski’s exacting standards,” Gray said, his tone as disparaging as he could make it. “Mother apparently took pleasure in warning Marcy back when I had a crush on her before either of us was old enough to date that she’d never let me go out with a Jewish girl, no matter how beautiful and talented she might be, and no matter that her parents had been accepted to membership at the country club where we both attended Cotillion.”

“Cotillion?”

“The ballroom dance classes, slash etiquette sessions, that club members’ kids are forced to attend for three summers so we won’t embarrass our parents when they finally let us out into polite society away from their watchful eyes. I hated every minute of it, except for getting to put my arms around the prettiest girls. Marcy was the hottest of the hot back when she was in sixth grade and I was in eighth.”

“My God. That must have made Marcy feel terrible. I hope your mother didn’t say that to her in front of other people—or you.”

Gray laughed. “Mother isn’t quite that crass. I didn’t find out about her conversation with Marcy until several years later. Sam Kramer stopped me after Latin Three class one day when we were juniors in high school and thanked me for not being a bigot like my mother. When I asked him to explain that comment, he told me he’d asked Marcy after they started dating what had happened to make her quit chasing after me—and she told him what ‘Mommy Dearest’ had said to her.”

“I don’t blame Marcy for not thinking very well of your mother. That must have hurt her feelings for a long time.” Andi shook her head.

“Yeah, I guess so. I thought about going to her and apologizing for what Mother had done, but by that time she and Sam were pretty tight. I didn’t want to cut in on him anyhow, because we’d become friends even though we didn’t hang with the same crowd. He was a loner, smart as hell but determined not to let anybody beat him out academically. His brother Maury had been valedictorian nine or ten years ahead of us, and Sam followed in his footsteps. Practically everybody thought Marcy was crazy to have fallen for the class nerd, but after he told me about my mother, I decided to stand up for him—and her. Sam may have looked like a geek, but he was a hell of a good guy.”

Andi looked as though she didn’t believe Gray. “I’ve met Sam Kramer. He may not be quite as big and athletic as you, but he’s no geek. He and Marcy make an adorable couple.” She stretched out her legs and stood, as though wanting to get a better view of the Skyway in the distance. “Come to think of it, if I saw him on the street and thought he was single, I’d classify him as a bona fide chick magnet.”

Gray joined her on the bench and held her hand. “You wouldn’t believe it to see Sam now, but he was an A-number-one nerd in high school. Picture a skinny kid with bad skin, bright orange hair he’d let go for months without a trim, horn-rimmed glasses, and mismatched clothes he usually wore with high-top sneakers. His hair lightened up gradually with time and his complexion cleared up, but I’m sure Marcy’s the one who took his wardrobe in hand and pointed him in the direction of the gym and a good hairstylist who could deal with taming his curls.”

“If she did, she did a great job. Maybe I should ask her to give me some fashion lessons, but I doubt I could afford to implement them.” Andi shrugged, as though she thought it was more than a lack of money that separated her from Marcy—and him.

“Marcy’s family’s in fashion merchandising. She comes by her sense of style honestly. I’m sure she’d be glad to share her sources with you if you asked—not that what you have on doesn’t look perfectly fine. Of course, I don’t set much store in dressing to impress anybody.”

“I pretty much guessed that,” Andi commented with a smile that belied her acerbic tone. “You were the only man at the reception who wasn’t wearing a tie and socks—almost the only one who didn’t have on a suit.”

He smiled. “I saw you with Marcy in the parking lot, so I came down to
Miss Barbara
and borrowed the blazer that Uncle Guy always keeps aboard. I hadn’t intended to join Ted at the reception, but once I saw you, I knew you were somebody I had to meet—no matter who I might piss off by not being dressed for the occasion.”

“I guess I can forgive you, since you risked being talked about just to meet li ’l ol’ me.”

“Can you forgive me for having a mother that your friend refers to as ‘Mommy Dearest?’ Not, of course, that Marcy does it without more than adequate reasons.”

“Yes. That still doesn’t mean that I’m anxious to meet ‘Mommy Dearest,’ particularly as your date.”

“I’m not even planning to drop by and see her before I head out of the country, so that shouldn’t be an issue, at least for now. What would you like for us to do during our weekend fling, Miss Andi?”

“Besides this boat ride?” When she smiled at him, he loved the way her eyes twinkled.

“Yeah, and besides the heavy stuff too, although I’m very much looking forward to knowing you in the biblical sense. I’d offer a weekend cruise but my uncle’s planning to use
Miss Barbara
tomorrow, so how about having dinner out somewhere, stopping by your place so you can grab whatever you’ll need, and camping out at my condo on Clearwater Beach? We can go out for meals or order them from a deli that does great carryout.”

Chapter Four

 

Andi grinned as Gray went back to the cockpit and turned the boat in a slow circle until its bow pointed back toward the marina. “That sounds like a plan. I’ll need to take some paperwork along, though. I’ve got a one-day trial scheduled for Monday morning. Maybe you can help me draft a closing argument.”

“I can try. The only trials that I’ve participated in except as a witness in were mock ones during law school. I’d probably better warn you that my mindset has always been more toward defense than prosecution, so you may not want to listen to any advice I may offer.”

Actually, Gray sort of missed those mock trials. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in practicing law, it was that if he’d accepted his family’s legacy, he’d have ended up in Winston-Roe’s estates and trusts division because, as Uncle Guy had said, “Like father, like son.”

Once he had
Miss Barbara
back on course, he set the autopilot and turned to Andi. “How do you feel about being a prosecutor?”

“Impoverished. Overworked. I’d switch to defense anytime, but so far no big-name criminal defense firm has come to make me an offer I can’t refuse. I’m not confident enough to hang out my own shingle so I can starve, the way a good many of my law school buddies are doing.” She paused and gave a nervous laugh before going on.

“I realize there are dangerous criminals who need to be in prison to protect society, but so far I’ve never gotten to prosecute anybody I’d classify as a real sociopath. I sometimes hate having to do my damnedest to send misguided kids to jail for simple possession of the substances that have them hooked. They’d be so much better off with counseling and mandatory rehabilitation. Florida prisons don’t rehabilitate anybody, from all I’ve seen and read.”

Gray liked her philosophy about criminal law. “Sounds as though we think alike. I always thought I’d enjoy criminal defense. At Winston-Roe, though, it’s always been the smallest and least prestigious division, even though it probably makes more profit than any of the others except maybe torts in years when a big class action case is won. The managing partners hate that so much of their revenue comes from getting shady characters acquitted of heinous crimes—but they don’t hate it enough to quit taking the filthy lucre.”

“Why didn’t you join Winston-Roe then? Prestigious or not, the firm has a highly respected criminal division. I imagine you’d be able to put your legal training to more use there than with the DEA, particularly if your interest lies in the area of criminal defense.”

“Because of my family connection, the partners were insistent that I go into Estates and Trusts with Uncle Guy, executing wills and setting up estates for boring old men and their widows. So I said ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”

Andi shook her head. “Between Mr. Ellis and his hotshot protegee, Tony Landry, Winston-Roe’s criminal division concerns Mr. Wells and Ms. Giancone more than any other defense lawyers they have to go against. Any defendant who has Winston-Roe as his or her lawyers draws our most experienced prosecutors. I’m too green to get even the simplest cases except occasionally as a second chair. When Mr. Ellis is going to try a case himself, nobody in our office except Sandra ever represents the State.”

“Why doesn’t Wells take the difficult cases?” Gray asked, already pretty sure he knew the answer. “Does the man ever personally try a case?”

“Only on murder or rape cases where there are at least three eyewitnesses, and only if they’ve attracted a lot of pretrial media attention.” Andi shrugged and turned to glance at a passing speedboat in the distance. “That’s what comes from having state attorneys be elected instead of being hired because of their skills, you know.”

Gray slowed the boat as they approached the marina, waving occasionally to another boater that he knew. “Yeah. I hear ol’ Harper’s a pain in the backside to work for. I don’t envy you.”

She grinned. “I don’t envy you your job, either, chasing down truly dangerous drug lords. I’d even be terrified if I had to go undercover against some of the two-bit dealers I occasionally get to prosecute. Some of them make me shake in my boots when I see them on the street, even when I’m sure that they don’t recognize me.”

“Don’t blame you a bit for that. Tampa’s got some bad actors. Not that all good-size cities don’t, but we get more than our share because we’re so close to sheltered coves where traffickers who escape the Coast Guard can slide in to shore and dump their boatloads full of poison. I was on a raid south of Boca Grande just last month. We got almost a ton of cocaine, four Colombian nationals, and a new Cigarette speedboat.” Gray cut the motor as he approached the boat slip. “Now’s the time to hold on, just in case I approached the dock a little too fast.”

Andi grabbed the rail and watched
Miss Barbara
idle gracefully into her slip, apparently not worried that she might get splashed. When he’d tied the boat off to the dock, port and starboard, he came back to get her. “Well, did you enjoy your first ride on a sailboat, even if we didn’t actually sail?” he asked.

“Oh, yes. I had no idea that being out on the water could be so relaxing. Thank you for taking me, even though we missed seeing the sunset.” She took Gray’s hand as they walked to the parking lot. “If I’m going to stop by my place to get a change of clothes, I should probably take my car if you don’t mind. That way it won’t clutter up the parking lot here—and you won’t have to drop me off here later so I can get it.”

Gray was reminded again that Andi was more than just a pretty face. “Good idea. I’ll follow you so I’ll know where you live. Which car is yours?”

“That one, over by the entrance. It stands out like a sore thumb, but it gets me around and lets me whittle down my student loans.” She gestured toward an older Toyota sedan, which truly did look out of place among the luxury vehicles nearby.

“Hop in, and I’ll drive you over there.” It almost made him feel guilty when he unlocked the doors of the silver Porsche he’d bought with income from his trust fund, but he opened the passenger door and enjoyed the view of her long, shapely legs as she folded herself onto the low bucket seat .

He started the car and drove over to hers. Turning off the engine, he started to get out and open the door for her.

“I think I can get myself out, Gray, but I appreciate your manners,” she said, grinning at him as she opened the passenger door and let herself out. “See you at my apartment complex. It’s in old Hyde Park—the less fashionable section between Swann and Azeele Streets, just west of North Boulevard.”

Gray wasn’t about to miss the chance of spending another few minutes with her before letting her drive away, even if he knew they’d be together again very soon. He got out of his car and walked to her as she was unlocking hers. “Where would you like to have dinner? Shall we take our chances, or should I call somewhere for reservations?”

“Any place I could recommend wouldn’t require reservations, even on a Friday night. Why don’t you surprise me?” She laid a hand on his forearm, a gesture that inexplicably had him thinking about ditching the idea of food.

“Okay. At least tell me what kind of food you like. Otherwise I might subject you to Thai or sushi since I know a couple of good places to get them near your neighborhood.” He paused, shot her a mock-horrified look. “Please tell me you’re not a vegan.”

“No. I don’t do sushi, but I’m game to try almost anything else. Like I said, surprise me. I’ll just run in when we get to my place and grab a few things. I won’t be more than five minutes. You’d better stay in your car or my landlord may decide to have it towed.”

After opening her door, Gray went back to his car and followed her, taking an empty spot in the parking lot of a century-old house that had been converted to apartments, probably before he was born. Before he had time to consider the instant attraction he and Andi felt for each other, she was back, her briefcase and a small overnight bag in hand.

“You really didn’t take long.” Another point in Andi’s favor, he thought, recalling how many times he’d been stuck waiting for hours while a date dawdled over choosing clothes to take on an overnight outing.

Andi grinned as she stowed her bag on the small backseat and slid into Gray’s car. “That’s one advantage to having only so many casual outfits to choose from, I guess. I brought my laptop and some case notes along—I really do have to prep for that trial.”

“Okay. I thought we’d grab a quick dinner at Paesano’s. They’ve got good southern Italian food, if that’s okay with you.”

“More than okay. I love pasta and pizza. Paesano’s is one of my favorite restaurants.”

“Mine too. I think I love you already. Most women I’ve taken to eat there insist on having nothing but a salad.”

Andi laughed. “Not me. I guess I’m lucky not to have to starve myself to fit into my clothes, but I’m not sure I could live on nothing but rabbit food even if my mirror told me that I should.”

“My eyes tell me you’re just right. Slender enough for me to pick up and carry, curvy enough for me to want to get my hands on you any time I get the opportunity. What I like best about you is that you don’t seem obsessed about yourself like a lot of women I know. C’mon, let’s go eat so we can get on over to the beach.”

 

             

● ● ●

 

 

When they got to Paesano’s, Gray spoke to the hostess, then held Andi’s hand as they followed her to a table on the patio where ceiling fans turned lazily, keeping mosquitoes at bay so they could enjoy the tropical plants and Italian marble statuary lit by hanging lanterns that swayed in the breeze. After seating Andi, he took the place next to hers, rather than across the table set for four.

“I’ve always thought natives ought to take advantage of the few days of the year when Tampa is dry, not too hot, not too cool, and not plagued with too many flying insects. Hope you don’t mind,” he said, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips.

“Not at all.” She glanced at the menu. “What are you hungry for tonight?” she asked, wondering whether he’d want pasta or pizza.

“That’s a loaded question, honey. I don’t think I’m likely to get what I’m hungry for while we’re here, but I thought we’d start out by sharing bruschetta and antipasto, and follow that up with their homemade
ravioli al formaggio
and whatever kind of pizza you like, that we can finish up for breakfast tomorrow if we don’t eat it all tonight. Sound good?”

Andi smiled. “It sounds outstanding. The
margherita
is my favorite, but I like them all, except the ones that have eggs or anchovies on them.” She could never eat an entire pizza at one sitting, but she frequently stopped here after working late and bought one to take home and munch on for the next couple of days. “How did you know I think their ravioli is to die for?”

“I didn’t, but it’s definitely my go-to pasta dish, not that the meat ravioli in Bolognese sauce isn’t good, too.” He motioned for a waiter, who scurried to the table right away.

“What kind of wine do you like?”

“You choose. I’m afraid I’m not an expert on wines, but I enjoy a glass every now and then with a meal.” Andi couldn’t pronounce the wines on the restaurant’s list. Italian wasn’t one of the languages she’d mastered. She hadn’t actually mastered Spanish in the three years she’d taken it in high school, either, a fact that annoyed her supervisors immeasurably in the city where a good many defendants
only
spoke Spanish .

Gray grinned. “I bet you usually order a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, but I want you to try this one.” He pointed out something called
Brunello, Capanna Di Montalcino
, described on the wine list as red, dry, and naturally fruity, which didn’t tell her anything about what the wine would taste like except that it cost a whole lot more than the restaurant’s most popular Chianti, which she’d sampled and enjoyed.

“All right, but if I don’t care for it, you’ll have to drink the whole bottle. Why do you think I usually drink white wines? I like reds, too.”

He turned to the waiter and ordered for them, then laced his fingers through hers. “Most women I know seem to think they ought to drink white wines with white meats, red with beef and pork, and in a place like this, chianti with pizza, no matter what’s on top of it. I say drink what you enjoy with whatever you’re eating, and the hell with tradition. You’ll like the bottle I ordered.”

She liked the feel of his long, slender fingers, the way he moved them gently against her palm, in time with the mellow Italian song being piped through the PA system. The slight vibration started a pleasant feeling everywhere their hands touched and migrated up her arm.

Before long, their waiter came back with the wine, two plates, small forks, and dishes with bruschetta and antipasto. Andi hated losing the body contact that felt so good, but it couldn’t be helped.

After the waiter poured wine, Gray sampled it and nodded. He piled some of the bruschetta on a thin slice of warm, wood-fired bread. He laid it on Andi’s plate before offering her the first choice of prosciutto, soppressata, olives, round red peppers, Asiago and provolone cheeses that had been arranged artfully on the antipasto plate. “Don’t be polite. Take the ones you like. I’m going to fix myself some of the bruschetta while you pick out your goodies.”

Not terribly hungry after the appetizers she’d snacked on at the reception earlier, she selected one of the olives, a pepper, and some cheese. “I’ve never been too sure about unfamiliar meats, so I’ll leave them for you.”

BOOK: More Than Lust (Courthouse Connections Book 1)
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