Two days passed since Sam asked Colleen for help in researching the missing girl, and she had yet to hear from her. Sam decided it was time to check things out for herself, and find out why. She supposed she could do it herself, but she hated research and since Colleen enjoyed it so much, why not let her have some fun.
“I got into the adult section,” Ed boasted the instant she entered the front doors.
With a heavy sigh, Sam kept walking. “Good for you, Ed.”
“Want me to show you what I learned?”
She jumped out of his reach, feeling slimy at even the thought of him touching her. “Dear God no! Oh look, they just got in a fresh shipment of Playboys.” Relieved when Ed bolted off, Sam went in search of her sister. After fifteen minutes of looking, and coming up empty, Sam decided to ask around. She was politely told by a mousy brunette that Colleen was in the stock room.
She found her sister busy at work deep amongst boxes and dust. Did anyone ever clean back here? Rubbing the dusty smell from her nose, Sam snuck up to her sister. “Boo!”
Colleen screamed, the book she held in her hands flew up, her arms flailing. When she turned and saw Sam, splitting a gut with laughter, Colleen growled. “Damn it, Samantha, I hate when you do that.”
“I know, that’s why I do it.” Sam picked the book up Colleen had tossed in her fright. “More Shakespeare? Colleen, come on, haven’t you read it all a dozen times before.”
“You can never get too much Shakespeare,” Colleen said defensively, snatching the book from her sister’s hands. “What are you doing here?”
“You didn’t get back to me on the missing girl, so I thought I’d come by and see if you had anything yet.”
“Sorry, I haven’t had time to look into it.”
“Of course you didn’t have time, why would you, it’s not you the dead come to, begging for help all day and night,” Sam added a dose of guilt.
“Sshh.” Colleen put a hand over Sam’s mouth, her eyes darting around. “You want someone to hear you?”
Sam pulled Colleen’s hand away. “Who would hear me in this place?” Sam lifted her hands in the air. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll just do it myself. Which computer can I use?”
“I’ll show you.” Leading the way, Colleen tucked the book in her skirt pocket.
Fifteen minutes later, Sam was clicking into the local news papers, scanning the obituary’s for her missing girl. And frowning deeply.
“I hate research.”
“What did we do before computers? Samantha, wasn’t it?”
Sam didn’t need to lift her head to know who stood behind her, the voice gave him away. Deep, dark and sophisticated. She angled in her seat, looking up at his smiling face. Oh lord what a face. “Yes it is, and I’m not really great with computers. My god you’re tall at this angle.”
Smiling once again, showing off his dimples, Ethan pulled up a chair. “Better?”
“Much.” There was that wonderful scent of his again. She wondered what cologne he used. “Ethan, right?” She knew perfectly well it was.
“On the nose. What are you researching, Samantha?” He smiled at her and her heart was lost.
“Nothing, really.” She closed the window before he could read it. “So, are you a grandson or son of the owner of this place?” Given the name of the place was Montgomery’s, she figured he had to be related to the owner.
“Both.” Folding his hands on his lap, his deep emerald green slacks perfectly pressed, as was his suit jacket and black shirt, Ethan continued. “My father took over when my grandfather grew too ill to work it. Then, when my father passed away a few months ago, I took over.”
“Sorry to hear about your father.” She could easily drown in those ocean blue eyes of his. They were so dreamy.
“Thank you. You’re last name is Dowling, am I correct?”
“On the nose,” she mimicked him with a smile.
“Your father is the famous author and journalist, C.J. Dowling.”
“You know your authors.”
“I do deal in books, after all.” He smiled again, sending her into dimple heaven. “And your mother would be our local TV anchor, Jessica Dowling?”
“You’ve done your research it seems. Why is that?” It was odd, she thought, that he knew so much about her family.
“I like to get to know my employees.”
“But I’m not one of your employees.”
“No, but your sister is.”
“Yet she isn’t the one you’re making a play for,” she stated frankly.
“Am I that obvious?”
“Just a little,” she chuckled.
His face lit up, his blue eyes twinkling as he reached out to take her hand in his. “Then may I be so bold as to ask you to dinner?”
“You may be as bold as you like.” He was making her pulse race faster than a horse in full gallop.
“Is that a yes then?”
“Depends, is it true that you’re a married man?
“Separated, and on the road to divorce,” he reassured her.
She smiled; her hand and her pulse relaxing to his touch. “Then the answer is yes.”
“Wonderful. Where shall I pick you up?”
She recited her address. “What time should I be ready?” This was crazy. She was crazy. But damn it, she just couldn’t say no.
“I’ll be by at six.” He lifted her hand to his mouth and her eyes widened in shock when he brushed his lips over the smooth skin on her palm. “See you then.” He curled her fingers into her hand, capturing the kiss, and then strolled away.
“Now that is what I call smooth.”
A little startled, Sam jolted. “Go away, Ed, you’re ruining the moment.” And she didn’t want anything to ruin what she was feeling. It was silly but she couldn’t help herself and opening her hand, pressed the palm to her cheek.
“Maybe I should try that.”
“Maybe you should try abstinence.” She put her hand down, annoyed at Ed for ruining her perfect moment.
“Now where is the fun in that?”
“Go away, Ed, I have work to do.”
Right at six her doorbell rang. Apparently Ethan Montgomery was a punctual man. Sam checked herself in the mirror one more time and was satisfied with what she saw. She’d chosen the emerald dress because it accentuated her figure and went with a shade darker green for her eyes. Deciding to leave her hair down, Sam had styled it in large bouncy curls that brushed her shoulders.
She looked great.
Rushing to the door, she stopped short, drew in a few deep breaths, and told herself to calm down. Don’t look too eager.
Opening the door, Sam noticed two things. Ethan had changed into a navy suit, the red silk tie he chose was a bold contrast yet looked regal.
And he’d brought her a flower. One simple rose, in yellow. How sweet. “You’re right on time.”
“I do believe in being prompt. This is for you, and may I say, you look fabulous.”
Sam took the rose, smiling shyly. “You may, and thank you.” She sniffed the rose, then rushed to the kitchen to place it in a vase with water. She couldn’t remember the last time a man had given her a rose.
“I just need to grab my wrap.” When she turned, she saw he had it in his hands. “Oh, thanks.” His hands skimmed her bare shoulder and sent a dozen shivers cascading throughout her body.
“Oh, yeah.” Letting him lead her out, Sam realized it had been quite some time since she’d been out on a date. Never with anyone as sophisticated and gorgeous as Ethan, though. Wasn’t she a lucky girl?
It wasn't much of a surprise to see he drove a Bentley in deep silver. Everything about the man spoke class. Even the restaurant he chose was well suited for him, sophisticated and classy, but not so much so that Sam felt uneasy or lower class.
They were shown to their seats by an elegant waiter, dressed all in black.
“Nice place. Do you come here often?” Were her nerves showing? Sam hoped not. But when she saw the menu shaking as she lifted it she knew otherwise.
“Not often, but I have been here a time or two. You’ve never been?” Ethan asked as he lifted his own menu.
“I’ve never even seen this place before today. I like it. It’s very elegant.”
“Good evening, my name is René. May I take your order?” The waiter asked as he approached the table.
The prices were enough to make Sam take an inner breath. She would never be able to afford eating here on her meager wage from working in Paris. Sam chose the Filet Mignon while Ethan chose the Halibut. The wine he ordered sounded French and expensive and after one sip she knew it had to be. “Mmm, this is nice.”
His fingers were long and elegant as he took the wine glass in his hand and she’d noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding band. “Tell me a little about yourself, Samantha.”
You don’t want me to tell you about myself. She took a sip from her wine, stalling. She wasn't about to tell him the truth, that she spoke to the dead. So she gave him everything but the truth. “Well, for starters, I’m a struggling artist.”
“Really, how fascinating? What sort of art?” he asked casually and Sam admired how smoothly he spoke.
“Pretty much everything and anything. I paint, mostly watercolors, if it can be molded, chiseled, fired or heated I can make something of it.”
“Would I recognize anything of yours?” he asked, lifting his wine glass and elegantly sipped the golden wine.
She wanted to melt. If only he tasted her with those lips. “I doubt it. I’m not famous. Most of my stuff is sold in small shops.”
“Why haven’t you sold any of your art work to galleries?”
“I’m in the process of doing that with one local gallery.”
“I would love to see what you’ve created.”
She looked up and saw the sincerity in his eyes. “Okay, I have a few pieces finished, if you would like to see them after dinner.”
“I would love to.”
She cleared her throat, hoping her cheeks weren’t as hot as she was. “Now it’s your turn. Tell me about Ethan Montgomery.”
“I’ve been in charge of running Montgomery Industries for several months now.”
He made the bookstore sound so big, like it was some big company. “And how is that going for you?”
He laughed and Sam felt it ripple inside of her with arousing consequences. “So far so good.”
“How long have you and your wife been separated?” It had to be asked, and they both knew it.
“Nearly a month.”
“Oh.” She pulled her hand away to lift her wine glass. “Is it amicable?”
“I found out my wife was cheating on me.”
The glass in her hand paused midway to her mouth. “Ouch.”
She bit the inside of her cheek, debating whether to ask or not. In the end she decided to just go for it. “Are you still in love with her?”
“No,” he said firmly. “I wouldn’t be here tonight if I was.”
Relieved by that, Sam sipped her wine while the waiter brought their meals. In the back of her mind she scolded herself for wanting him in her bed. She wasn’t too sure it was such a smart idea to get involved with a married man in the midst of an ugly divorce.
Sometimes, though, she thought to herself, you had to be stupid to enjoy life.