voice. This is not going well. “We aim to please, Miss Steele,” I add, deadpan, hoping to put her in a good mood. “Won’t you join us for a drink, Christian?” Mrs. Adams says graciously, and catches the eye of the waiter. I need something stronger than beer. “I’ll have a gin and tonic,” I tell the waiter. “Hendrick’s, if you have it, or Bombay Sapphire. Cucumber with the Hendrick’s, lime with the Bombay.” “And two more Cosmos, please,” Ana adds, with an anxious look at me. She’s right to be anxious. I think she’s had enough to drink already. “Please pull up a chair, Christian.” “Thank you, Mrs. Adams.” I do as she asks, and sit down beside Ana. “So you just happen to be staying in the hotel where we’re drinking?” Ana’s tone is tense. “Or you just happen to be drinking in the hotel where I’m staying. I just finished dinner, came in here, and saw you. I was distracted, thinking about your most recent e-mail”—I give her a pointed look —“and I glance up and there you are. Quite a coincidence, eh?” Ana looks flustered. “My mother and I were shopping this morning and on the beach this afternoon. We decided on a few cocktails this evening,” she says hurriedly, as if she has to justify drinking in a bar with her mother. “Did you buy that top?” I ask. She really does look stunning. Her camisole is emerald green; I’ve made the right choices—gem colors—for the clothes Caroline Acton has selected for her. “The color suits you. And you’ve caught some sun. You look lovely.” Her cheeks color and her lips lift at my compliment. “Well, I was going to pay you a visit tomorrow. But here you are.” I take her hand, because I want to touch her, and I give it a gentle squeeze. Slowly I caress her knuckles with my thumb, and her breathing alters. Yes, Ana. Feel it. Don’t be mad at me. Her eyes meet mine, and I’m rewarded with her coy smile. “I thought I’d surprise you. But as ever, Anastasia, you surprise me by being here. I don’t want to interrupt the time you have with your mother. I’ll have a quick drink and then retire. I have work to do.” I resist kissing her knuckles. I don’t know what she’s said to her mother about us, if anything. “Christian, it’s lovely to meet you finally. Ana has spoken very fondly of you,” Mrs. Adams says, with a charming smile. “Really?” I glance at Ana, who’s blushing. Fondly, eh? This is good news. The waiter places my gin and tonic in front of me. “Hendrick’s, sir.” “Thank you.” He serves Ana and her mother fresh Cosmopolitans.
Published on Jun 2, 2016