He found an image.
Lori wore her hair up, and the tight black skirt and office jacket with crisp lines were nothing like he’d seen her in since they met.
He followed the ball and searched for recent mentions and images of Lori Cumberland. The one that caught his eye he’d seen before, only it hadn’t meant a thing to him until now.
Trina. The quiet beauty who hid behind massive Kardashian-style sunglasses was none other than Katrina Petrov. New York stood in the background of the picture he found, which had been taken less than a month earlier. Katrina in widow’s black, at the cemetery where she buried her husband. At her side were Lori and another woman Reed took a second look at. He switched back to Shannon’s wedding photos.
A petite woman with auburn hair was the same woman flanking Lori and Katrina at the funeral. Dark glasses, her hair pulled tight to her head. Reed took a closer look. Designer red soled shoes, a dress that belonged on a fashion runway even if it was appropriate for a funeral.
Lots of money.
Why were Shannon and Trina vacationing with Lori? Were they simply friends, or was Lori there as their lawyer? So far, Lori had hovered over the three women as if they needed constant supervision for fear of saying the wrong thing. He couldn’t help but think he was onto something there. Lori was reluctant to tell him what she did for a living . . . was that on purpose?
Something smelled funny. And while he might learn a thing or two about Paul Wentworth through his ex-wife, Reed didn’t think getting Shannon to open up was possible.
Lori, on the other hand . . .
He saved the file, the pictures, and turned his computer off.
With his cell phone, wallet, and sunglasses, Reed left his room in search of his travel companions.
Lori should have woken rested and ready for the day. Unfortunately, she’d tossed and turned most of the night. She wondered what Reed’s goal was. The man seemed to have one, and so far, keeping her attention on no one but him stood out. She hadn’t so much as looked at another man since they’d met.
When she and the other women found Reed, Rogelio, and Miguel waiting on the dock in Naples, she wasn’t surprised.
“Good morning, ladies.”
Avery and her all telling grin slid into Rogelio’s arms and kissed him like they’d been lovers for longer than one day. “Hola,” she said to him.
He said something slow and sultry, and Avery giggled.
“Do I want to know what he just said?” Lori asked.
Trina and Miguel both said no at the same time.
“So what will it be today? A walking tour of the city? A trip to Pompeii? The catacombs underground?” Reed asked the group.
“Where is Antonio?” Shannon asked.
“He has friends here, said he’d see us back on the ship tonight,” Reed said.
“I’m game for anything,” Trina said.
“Careful with that statement, Trina. Reed will have us jumping out of planes if he had his way.”
Trina lowered the sides of her big, floppy hat. “No way in the world I’m jumping out of a plane.”
“Sounds like a challenge,” said Reed.
“I was a flight attendant for years. Staying inside a pressurized cabin is the only place to be while in the sky.”
Reed shook his head.
“You’re outnumbered,” Lori told him.
“I’m a patient man,” he offered with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
She was sure his statement had more than one meaning.
“Let’s walk the city, drink wine, eat pizza, and save the touristy stuff for Rome,” Shannon suggested.
“So no scuba diving?” Reed asked, a hopeful lift in his voice.
“Oh my God, where did you find this guy, Lori?”
“At the bar.”
They walked into the center of the city and weaved their way through the steep hills and narrow streets. The stench of fish was everywhere, and merchants sold their wares from baskets on bicycles and folding tables.
Above their heads, clotheslines littered with laundry were strung between buildings. A woman who had to be in her sixties stood on a balcony screaming at a man below.
Lori stopped to watch. “What’s going on?”
Trina started to laugh.
“She’s saying something about today’s fish.”
The woman spoke with her hands.
The fisherman on the street yelled back, turned to walk away, and then back around.
Still complaining, the woman lowered a basket from her balcony with a long rope.
The fisherman removed the money from the basket, and for a moment Lori expected him to taste it with a quick bite to make sure it was real. Instead, he filled the basket with loosely wrapped fish.
Once the entire melodrama was over, Avery started to clap.
The Italian woman waved a hand in the air.
“I think she just told you off,” Shannon said.
“Yep, she did!” Trina added.
Sometime before lunch, Reed reached for her hand and ran his finger along her palm.
Why handholding flipped her nerves, she didn’t know. But it did. And for the rest of the day, he made a simple statement of ownership by holding her hand.
On one breath, she cautioned herself. On the other, she reminded herself that this was only a week of her life. Might as well enjoy it and not think too hard.
Buzzed on espresso, Lori and the others found lunch overlooking the sea. Hundreds of boats dotted the water as the midday sun warmed the ocean air. “Watered down wine and a five-course meal,” Shannon said.
“Heaven,” Avery added.
“Have you ever been here before?” Miguel asked them.
Lori lifted her hand. “I have.”
Shannon chimed in, “I have, too.”
“Not Naples, but I’ve been to Rome,” Trina told them.
“First time in Italy.” Avery sipped her wine. “Won’t be my last.”
Miguel glanced at Reed.
“First time for me too.”
“Americans don’t venture far from home, I’ve noticed,” Miguel said.
“It’s expensive for a lot of people.”
“But not for you, ladies . . . eh?” Miguel questioned. “All of you in private penthouse rooms. Even on board most people share.”
Lori felt the weight of Trina’s eyes, hidden behind sunglasses, focused on her.
Avery came to the rescue. “We knocked over a liquor store for the travel funds. We’re all on the run.”
Lori found Reed staring at her.
Rogelio said something to Avery in Spanish. Lori waited for Trina or Miguel to translate.
“He said he’s delighted Avery had the funds to travel.”
Avery animatedly batted her eyelashes.
Rogelio kissed her briefly.
“Do you two work together?” Lori asked them, doing her best to switch the subject of how the four of them could afford to travel the way they did.
“No, no. Friends from our school days, eh, Rogelio?” Miguel translated again, Rogelio nodded, and the two spoke of their college days.
Lori caught Reed watching the two men closely, his expression unreadable.
He caught her staring and smiled. From under the table, he reached out with the back of his hand and brushed her thigh.
The Italians loved their carbs. Small plates of pastas, breads, and cheeses littered the table. They grazed their way through lunch and rolled out of the restaurant and back toward the ship.
At some point between lunch and returning to the ship, Reed reached for Lori’s hand and held it. A teenage memory of a boy holding her hand in the halls of her high school surfaced and brought with it tiny butterflies in the pit of her stomach.
Some of the merchants were rolling up their wares for the day. The streets started to empty as the cruise ship filled.
“I need a nap,” Avery told everyone as they took the stairs to their deck.
Rogelio said something and Trina nudged him. “I think she means to sleep!”
Rogelio pouted, and they laughed.
“Are we doing the Cirque show tonight?” Trina asked.
They discussed their evening options as a group. Somewhere between Barcelona and Naples, the group had become travel buddies.
“And dinner?” Miguel asked.
The women moaned and grabbed their full bellies.
“We’ll meet up with you in the dance club.”
“I could use the workout.” The words left her mouth and Reed’s smile spread.
“On the dance floor.”
They turned the corner to their bank of rooms. “I’m with Avery, I need to rest before turning the next page of tonight’s activities.”
Reed held back when the others disappeared behind stateroom doors.
“Italy agrees with you.” He brushed the side of her face with his index finger.
“Yeah, you dropped your protective armor for a good hour today.”
“I don’t have protective armor.”
Reed stared into her eyes. “You hover over these women like you’re their mother.”
“I-I . . .” She wanted to deny him. “Whatever.”
Reed stepped aside when another passenger passed by them. “I’ll see you at the club. Maybe by midnight you’ll be ready for dinner.”
“I can’t eat another thing.”
“Or we could just turn in early.” His gaze lingered on her lips.