“How about some drinks,” Lori suggested.
Miguel pulled out a drink card. “Free for us today. What can we get you?”
Less than half an hour later, Rogelio and Avery peeled away from their party to “swim.” Only instead of heading for the pool, they headed toward the stairs.
“That’s one,” Shannon said to Lori. Her eyes skirted over to Reed.
“One what?” he asked.
“Nothing!” Lori said too quickly.
“Hey, Antonio, do you ever have the feeling that there is a whole conversation going on between women that you have no idea about?”
“Every day, my friend.”
“Everyone has secrets,” Shannon told them.
Lori’s gaze moved between Reed and Shannon. Out of nowhere, she stood and reached for his hand. “Do you swim?”
For one brief moment, he thought maybe she was suggesting they head in the direction that Avery had with Rogelio. But when Lori pulled his hand and led him to the pool, he realized his signals were being crossed again.
Lori’s heart flipped a little when she saw Trina take the stage. Avery’s marriage and divorce wouldn’t be considered high profile on the Mediterranean Sea. A rich American man who divorced his trophy wife simply wasn’t newsworthy enough in this part of the world. Trina Petrov, however . . . might easily get picked up. Infamous in both Russia and Germany, Ruslan was a well-known businessman with as many allies as he had enemies. Those who knew him knew of Fedor’s death. And then there were the oil interests of Fedor’s mother, Alice—the reaches of their story captured worldwide attention. So far, the only person who looked twice at the four of them with any recognition was Reed.
She grasped his hand and pulled him to the pool. The warm salt water was easy to slide into. And since the pool was more for lounging than for swimming, they stood waist deep along the side of the pool before she started to talk.
“I didn’t want to swim.”
His eyes lingered on her wet skin. “That’s too bad.”
She dodged the splash of a man playing with his kids.
“You recognize Shannon.” She was certain he had.
“Hard not to. I do live in California.”
Lori knew she stared. “You do?”
“I thought I told you that.”
She scrolled through their conversations and didn’t even know where he would have suggested they spoke of where they lived. Lori knew for a fact she hadn’t told him anything about where she lived. “No.”
His fingers found her elbow and led her deeper into the pool. “Don’t look so stressed,” he said.
She tried to relax. “They’re my friends. We planned a vacation far away to avoid recognition.”
“I would think Shannon would be used to the spotlight by now.”
“Doesn’t make it comfortable. Lots of people judge out there.”
Reed splashed water on his arms. “I’m not judging, and I don’t think anyone else was snapping pictures of Shannon to sell to the media.”
“If you see anyone taking pictures, tell me.” She hesitated. “Please. Or any of my friends.”
His eyes narrowed. “Should I know who they are, too?”
“No,” she said, straight-faced.
“You’re a beautiful liar.”
She shivered. “Please. I could use another set of eyes.”
He blinked his a few times. “That’s a simple request.”
“Good.” She turned to leave the pool.
“On one condition.”
A slow pivot and she was inches from his body.
“Dinner tonight. You and me.”
Dripping wet, with a sly smile on his lips, he was hard to resist. When was the last time she had a romantic dinner with a man?
“I need to watch over my friends.” Her excuse was lame, even to her ears.
“You’re not old enough to be their mother.”
“I’m their—” She caught the word lawyer before it fell from her lips.
“You don’t look like sisters either.” Reed traced his fingers along her arm. “What are you scared of, Lori? I asked you to dinner, not skydiving.”
“Something tells me skydiving is next.”
He smirked. “Let’s start with dinner. We’ll meet up with your friends after . . . that is, if Avery and Rogelio come out for air before tomorrow.”
“They were kinda obvious.”
“They have the same goals.”
What were Reed’s goals? Would he tell her? Should she ask?
Did she want to hear them?
“Okay, dinner. I can do dinner.”
“All right then.” Reed left a hand on the small of her back as they exited the pool.
His touch lingered long after they were among friends and separated by conversation.
Lori slipped into a midcalf-length sundress and jeweled sandals. The sun had given her face more color than she normally had, so makeup consisted of mascara and lip gloss. Strange how living in Southern California didn’t add a glow to her face, yet less than three days on the Mediterranean had.
She glanced at the time when someone knocked on her door.
“You’re early,” she called out.
Lori hustled to the door to let her in.
“You look nice,” Trina said, closing the door behind her.
“It’s just dinner.” And she was more nervous than she cared to admit.
“If my opinion is wanted, I think Reed is a decent guy.”
“We’ve known him less than forty-eight hours.”
“And I’m sure there is a lot to know, but if this is a weeklong affair, what does it matter?”
Lori had been asking herself that question since she met the man. “You’re right.” She shook her head. “I’m overthinking this.”
“I’m glad you said that. It isn’t like you just buried your husband, or just divorced your husband . . . or had it bad for your ex-husband. You should be the first one from the First Wives Club that should be having a fling.”
Hearing Trina paint the truth in black and white cleared up her resolve. She’d go to dinner, see if any warning bells rang. Lori sat on the edge of her bed. “How are you holding up?”
A slow smile inched across Trina’s lips. “I forgot about Fedor for over an hour today.”
“Let me guess: somewhere between the lap dance and oiling Miguel?”
“Or the other way around.” Her smile fell. “I feel guilty.”
Lori reached out and grasped both of Trina’s hands, encouraged her to sit next to her on the bed. “Stop it. You have no reason to feel guilty. Fedor did this to himself. We may never know why he did what he did, but it was his choice.”
“He was my husband.”
“No. He was a contract. He may have been given the title of husband, but he wasn’t.”
“The world won’t think that.”
Lori leaned down until Trina met her eyes. “Which is why we’re miles away from his life and the details of his death. Find the strength it took for you to take the plunge into his world, and use it to catapult out of it.”
“Good. Now do me a favor. Every time you think about Fedor as your husband, take that word out of your thoughts and put in business partner. You don’t owe your business partner who killed himself anything.”
Trina slapped her palms on her thighs and stood. “You’re right. He shouldn’t have done this to me. We had become friends, and friends don’t exit without an explanation.”
“He shouldn’t have!” Lori agreed.
Now that Trina was moving out of the denial stage of her grief, it was time for her to get mad. With any luck, this trip would help her move through the five stages quickly. The sooner she accepted Fedor’s death and the murky waters he left behind, the better.
A knock on the door brought Lori back to reality.
Trina kissed Lori’s cheek. “Go have fun. Shannon and I are going to check out the ice bar.”
“Brrr, that sounds cold.”
“If you need a cold shower later, join us,” Trina said.
Lori laughed as she opened her stateroom door.
Reed wore slacks and a button-up short sleeve shirt. His hair was wet, as if he’d just jumped from the shower. He’d shaved.
His eyes swept her. “You look nice.”
“Okay, three is a crowd.” Trina pushed past Reed. “You kids have fun. Don’t keep her out too late, we have an early morning,” she teased.
Trina giggled and scooted past him and into the hall.
Lori studied her feet, feeling a little bit like she had when she’d dated in high school and her dates had to meet her parents before taking her anywhere.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Let me grab my purse.”
“Do you know anything about French food?” Reed asked as they left the room.
“I know enough to avoid escargot.”
When his hand found the small of her back, her cheeks warmed. Crazy how a simple touch declared that she was with him . . . if only for a meal.