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Authors: Catherine Bybee

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BOOK: Seduced by Sunday
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“Don’t bring my mother into this conversation.”

“You know, Masini, your people skills could use some work. I’m not your enemy.”

“The privacy of my guests is paramount.”

“As if I don’t know that.”

“I don’t care for surprises.”

She glared with her lips in a straight line. “Must be a bitch for your family around your birthday.”

“Who is Ryder Gerard?”

“I couldn’t tell you.”

Val twisted his hands into small knots and shoved them in his pockets.

For a brief moment, Margaret simply stared him down. It was a visual game of chicken and Val had a sneaking suspicion that he was about to lose.

She blew out a long breath. “Listen, Val. I honestly don’t know who Michael wants to bring to the island. But I do know Michael. The man seldom has a vacation or even a meal without hordes of fans wanting a piece of him. My guess is he feels safe here. I don’t think there has been any media watching us since we’ve arrived and maybe Michael wanted to have an old friend join us. I’m sure whoever Mr. Gerard is, he’s perfectly safe.”

Val hated how sincere she sounded. How innocent her eyes were.

“You’re not upset someone is interrupting your vacation?” Why had he asked that?

A slight lift to Margaret’s lips made him eat his words. “Michael and I are friends.”

“With benefits.”

She lifted her left brow, paused. “Right.”

Was Margaret a better actor than her companion? Was she playing him? Val hated that he didn’t know her well enough to trust her.

“All right, Margaret. So long as Mr. Gerard isn’t a known felon or working for any media cooperation, I’ll honor Michael’s request.”

She smiled.

Her grin was contagious and he felt his lips smiling back.

“How old was Gabi when your father passed?”

He found the question off his radar and answered without thinking. “Fourteen.”

“So all her dates had to go through you?”

“I was the man of the house.”

“What a bitch that had to be.”

Val shook his head. “It was.”

“For her. What a bitch
for her
. No offense, Masini, but you’d be the worst high school principal ever.”

“Didn’t your brothers look out for you?”

“I’m an only child, Masini. A fact you might have known if you’d actually done your background check a little better. Even I know where you were born, what college you went to, and what your major was.”

She turned and started to walk away before her words registered.

Val reached for her, let go when she looked at his hand holding her elbow as if it were made of hot tar.

Margaret silenced him with one sentence. “You were born in New York, spent summers in Italy before your grandparents passed, went to NYU, my guess is to stay close to home to watch over your mother and sister after your dad died of an early heart attack.”

“How do you—”

“You weren’t the only one doing background checks, Masini.”

With that, Margaret turned and walked away.

“Holy crap, Michael.” Meg walked into the villa cussing.

Michael stood in the kitchen pouring wine into two glasses, the smile on his face just this side of radiant.

“Hey, darlin’. I take it you heard we have company.”

Before Meg could utter a word, a man just a tad shorter than Michael, with a build almost as nice, walked into the room.

“Ryder Gerard, I assume.”

Michael’s guest offered a sheepish smile. “You must be Meg.”

Meg offered her hand, mumbled a
nice to meet you
, and turned to Michael. “A little warning, Michael.”

“It was a last-minute decision.”

“The island isn’t that big. You could have found me, told me.”

“You weren’t here.”

Ryder backed away. “Should I leave?”

Both Michael and Meg said, “No.”

Without much thought, Meg moved to the windows and started pulling the shades. “Masini cornered me, asked about your unexpected guest. I played dumb, which wasn’t difficult since I didn’t know what was going on.” She tugged the last blind and turned.

Michael handed a glass of wine to Ryder and pulled another glass from the cabinet. Meg took the wine, though she really wanted a stiff shot of something much stronger, and sat across from Michael and his friend.

When Ryder moved to the far side of the couch, Meg laughed. “Please, Ryder. I’m guessing you’re Michael’s teacher friend.”

Ryder had a soft quality to his voice. “We’re on spring break.”

“That’s convenient. Wait . . .” Hadn’t Michael suggested this week, a different week than the one she had originally suggested before she set up their vacation? “You planned this . . .”

Michael studied the ceiling. “I wouldn’t say planned.”

Meg set her wine on the side table and leaned forward. “Michael!”

“Hoped, OK? When yesterday didn’t result in anything other than a tweet, I called Ryder.”

How could she be mad at the man? “Why didn’t you say something?”

“Because I’ve found that the least amount of information to the fewest number of people is best.”

“C’mon, Michael. You can trust me. You know that.”

Michael laid a hand on Ryder’s thigh and left it there.

The grin on Michael’s face was a shade off nirvana. “So what’s the plan?” Meg asked. “What do we tell anyone who asks? As much as I might like being a girl in a threesome, I’m not sure that excuse will fly.”

Ryder covered Michael’s hand with his and spelled out their plan.

The single-bench golf cart at their disposal had been switched up to one that seated four. The cart simply arrived sometime before dinner. Val paid attention to details, Meg had to give him that.

Meg, Michael, and Ryder had dinner in the villa and then dressed for the evening entertainment.

Meg was never more pleased with the closet full of new dresses. She couldn’t stop smiling. Of all the people in the world to find on the island, being able to sing with Jim Lewis was a dream she never even realized she’d had. All she had to do was agree to a cooking lesson from Mrs. Masini.

Score!

“Tell me about this Jim Lewis again.” Michael zipped up the fitted dress in the back and patted her shoulder.

“I can’t believe you don’t know who he is.”

“I listen to rock and roll.”

Meg turned toward the full-length mirror and pulled her “girls” to a respectable position in the dress. Once her cleavage was properly in place, she moved to the edge of the bed to put on her shoes. “Well, prepare your auditory palate for a new sound. Jim Lewis will have you feeling every word he sings unlike anything hard rock can deliver.” She loved the hard stuff, too, but she’d take a smoky blues bar over a concert hall any day. Well, the blues, not the smoky bar.

“Are we ready?” Ryder glanced into the room.

“We’re waiting on the girl.”

“Figures.”

Meg stood an extra four inches taller than nature intended and picked up her clutch. “Ready.”

Flanked by two attractive men, she walked the short distance to the golf cart and tucked herself into the passenger seat.

It had been a while since she’d had an audience. Karaoke only counted for so much. Truth was she hadn’t made time to sing to something other than her piano in close to a year. She missed it.

She knew early on that singing for a living was a long shot she didn’t want to pursue. It didn’t help that her asthma kept her from smoky bars, venues . . . even concert halls.

“Are you nervous?” Ryder asked from the backseat.

“Excited.” Yeah, maybe a little nervous.

“Well, you look great.”

She accepted Ryder’s compliment with a smile.

“Did Val really give you crap when he heard I wanted to bring a guest?”

Michael rounded the corner onto the path straight to the main villa that housed the nightclub where Jim would be singing.

“The man really doesn’t trust me.”

Michael frowned. “I don’t understand why.”

“He doesn’t know me,” Meg said when they pulled to a stop behind a dozen golf carts. “And he couldn’t learn much about me through any regular channels.”

“If there isn’t any dirt, how can he be so untrusting?”

“I think that might be the problem. Everyone here . . . well, many of those here have some dirt. When someone doesn’t have anything to hide, they have nothing to lose.”

Michael walked around the cart and helped Meg out. “He couldn’t crack Alliance.”

“He couldn’t smudge Alliance. Sam perfected the barriers around that long before you and I came along.”

“I don’t think I like this Val guy,” Ryder said.

That’s what Meg kept saying to herself . . . then she’d see him in person and she’d ask herself what the harm was in flirting with the man.

“There’s only one tiny problem,” Michael said.

They walked to the door to the nightclub and met the center of their conversation. He was back in a suit, this one black and perfect for the host of the evening. He’d managed a shave, damn shame that, and he wore something that held a sandalwood musky pull.

She licked her lips and denied the desire to move closer to the man to reach the full effect of the scent of his skin.

His eyes swept down and took a slow dance up her frame. “You look positively stunning, Margaret.”

“Thank you.” Without much thought, she reached forward and straightened his bow tie. “James Bond called, wanted to know when you’re returning his suit.”

His gaze fell on her lips when he smiled. “Is that right?”

“That’s the rumor.”

Meg broke free of his gaze. “Valentino Masini, I’d like you to meet Ryder Gerard.”

The two men shook hands. “I hope you enjoy your time on my island.”

“It’s beautiful. I appreciate you accepting me on such short notice.”

“Not a problem. If you need anything, please ask.”

Meg squelched the need to roll her eyes as another set of guests moved in behind them.

“I have a table for you close to the stage,” he told them.

On cue, the maître d’ closed in and asked them to follow.

Once the three of them were seated and their drink orders were taken, they moved close to finish their conversation.

“See the problem?” Michael asked Ryder.

“Bright and clear.”

Meg watched Val at the door, his easy smile and grace with his other guests made her wonder if he distrusted them, too.

“See what?” Meg asked.

Val must have felt her gaze and he narrowed his eyes on her. She purposely looked to the men she was seated with. “What?”

Ryder broke into a grin and Michael laughed. “He might not trust you, but he has it bad
for
you.”

“Keep your enemies closer . . . as they say.”

“You keep telling yourself that, Meg. Let me know how that works out.”

Chapter Eight

He couldn’t stop staring.

She’d stepped out of a 1930s pinup magazine. Her creamy, soft breasts pushed out of the skintight fitted red dress that narrowed at her waist. The hem stopped at her knees and had a slight slit in the back. Tiny black beads ran the back length of her stockings; her feet were tucked into slim high heels with straps that wrapped around her ankles. She was completely polished on the outside with a flippant tongue hiding on the inside. Val wanted the whole package.

BOOK: Seduced by Sunday
2.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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