“You said yourself you frequently stay all night. You’re obviously your own supervisor. Irving
ninety-three, he’s got no family, and I know the Arthur W. Nelson Fine Arts Library would be thrilled if he made it the heir to his collection. For that reason alone, you could be forgiven for leaving two hours early.” Aaron’s dashing charm hadn’t impressed her at all, but that didn’t stop him from trying. With an appealing smile, he said, “Irving’s house is a quick cab ride away.” It was actually in the Upper East Side, and in Manhattan, that translated to miles of start-and-stop traffic.
No need to bring that up, either.
He picked up the cover for her worktable and carefully placed it over the stone tablet and the pile of notes. “If you’ll grab your stuff, we’ll run up there, you can talk to him and decide if you’re interested in working with him on this prophecy he’s after, and I’ll personally deliver you to your home in time to get ready for that date. I mean, heck, if you wanted, you could go as you are!”
He may have oversold that one, because she pushed her glasses up on her nose and stared at him coldly.
He lifted his hands as if to stop her from charging him. “Or you can change your dress first.” Glancing at his watch, he said, “If we go now, we’ll be done in a jiffy.”
“Well . . .” She visibly wavered.
“It’ll be fun.” He offered his hand—and enjoyed incredible satisfaction when she placed her hand in his.
“All right,” she said. “Let’s go.”
osamund let Aaron tow her toward the door. She shouldn’t let him push her around.
But he was that kind of man.
He exuded presence and authority from the top of his well-cut black hair to the tips of his well-shined black shoes. His dark eyes watched her with a hint of patronizing impatience, and his outfit—black suit, starched white shirt, and red tie—made her think of Mr. Perez, the wealthy, honorary head of the library board, and how he was always pushing her around.
Explain this expense on your report, Dr. Hall. Speak at the annual fund-raiser, Dr. Hall.
Except Mr. Perez was middle-aged and rotund, and Aaron Eagle was too tall, too strong, and too stern.
That was why she liked Lance Mathews better. He was like her—not concerned with worldly matters like designer watches and expensive shirts.
Although she vaguely remembered reading something one time when she was stuck on a plane without a decent book . . . something about the golf shirt with the alligator being expensive . . .
This man, this Aaron Eagle, was corporate America and high society . . . except he wasn’t. His tanned skin held a hint of red, and he had the proud, high cheekbones, narrow nose, and broad, stubborn chin of a North Plains Indian warrior. His body was whip-cord strong. His hands were broad-palmed and long-fingered, with the dexterity of a man who handled weapons and horses and women. . . .
Scrub that thought.
The point was, he wore the clothes well, but although they’d been tailored to a perfect fit, somehow, they didn’t . . .
Aaron pushed her into the elevator and punched the button for the main floor, and still he held her hand as if she were a rebellious child.
And as a matter of fact, he did make her feel rebellious. He just looked so . . . so superior.
“Where did you say this Irving’s house was?” She twisted her hand.
At once he freed it. “Have you heard of Irving Shea?”
“I’ve done more than hear of him. I’ve met him!” At one of the incredibly boring, stuffy, scholarly get togethers her father had attended in the name of raising funds. Irving Shea was tall, dark-skinned, white-haired, very old and bent with the constantly increasing burden of years, yet he had given off an air of vitality that charmed her. “Irving Shea is
“He’s the one.”
Her father had told her Irving was the head of some successful corporation, one of the first African-American men to take such a position, and obviously Daddy had respected him for both his achievements and his knowledge of antiquities. “He is the ex-CEO of that company that blew up.”
“That’s right. The Gypsy Travel Agency.”
“Wow. I’ll bet Mr. Shea is upset.”
“Upset, yes. He’s also determined to get to the bottom of the matter.”
She could add two and two and get four. “So you want the prophecy for more than just yourself? You want it for Mr. Shea.”
“He’ll want to personally fill you in on any details.” The elevator doors opened and Aaron walked ahead, totally unconcerned whether she followed him. “I am surprised Irving hadn’t heard of your father ’s death.”
“I haven’t placed the obituary or planned the memorial service or anything because . . . because I still don’t know if I
it.” Now why had she confessed that to, of all people, this man?
He stopped so fast she ran into the back of him. “Why not?”
She rubbed her bruised nose. “Because Father texted me and said . . . It was this weird message.”
“Then perhaps we should talk about it when we’re out of here.” Aaron gestured around the short corridor and down toward the desk where Jessica’s head bobbed out to observe them.
“Why? Because of
? Jessica’s harmless.”
“Perhaps. But this is a secure area. Someone might be listening, someone more than just me.”
“Right.” There. Such a thought had never occurred to her. And that comment—it was exactly the type of thing that made her think her hunch was right. Beneath his debonair sophistication, this gentleman hid a predator ’s instincts.
They exited through the electronic gate, and while Aaron signed out, Jessica said, “You’re leaving early today, Rosamund. I didn’t know you could ever tear yourself away from your research long enough to play hooky. So I guess you’ve got some antiquities emergency, huh?” And she smiled at Aaron as if they would obviously consider funny little Rosamund a diversion.
Normally Rosamund didn’t care; Jessica and Rosamund were about the same age, but there the similarities stopped. Jessica was pretty and popular. Rosamund was . . . not. Jessica was always kind in her own way, inviting Rosamund to the after-work outings, bringing her lunch and scolding her for neglecting herself, and most recently, making Rosamund sew the sagging hem on her skirt. Rosamund barely noticed Jessica because Jessica’s main area of expertise seemed to be what she learned from beauty magazines.
But with Aaron by her side, Jessica’s amused assumption that Rosamund must be leaving, not because of him, but because of work . . . Well, that irked her, especially since it was true.
An almost unrecognizable impulse made Rosamund lean across the desk. “Guess what I’m doing tonight?”
Jessica’s amusement deepened. “I don’t know. What?”
“I’m going on a date.” Vaguely, Rosamund realized she sounded like a high school sophomore who’d been invited to the senior prom.
“With who?” Jessica’s smile faltered, and she looked between Rosamund and Aaron disbelievingly. “Not . . . ?”
“No, silly. Not him.”
Jessica relaxed and smiled. “No, I didn’t think so.”
“Do you remember my first appointment?” Rosamund heard that giggly, breathless tone in her own voice, and wondered at herself. Not that she cared, but she did wonder.
“Lance Mathews?” Jessica’s smile disappeared again, this time for good. “You’re kidding.
going out with Lance Mathews?”
“Yes!” Rosamund knew she was grinning like a madwoman. “Can you believe it? He asked me out and I gave him my number and he gave me his and he’s got his own car and he’s going to pick me up for drinks and dinner and—”
Aaron hooked his hand under her arm and jerked.
As he towed Rosamund toward the door, she yelled, “And he told me to dress up and I’m even going to try that anti-frizz stuff you gave me for my hair.” Rosamund’s last, satisfying glimpse of the library was a snapshot of a dozen older, low-voiced, academic library patrons scowling at her, and Jessica, gaping like a big-breasted fish.
“Happy now?” Aaron hailed a cab and stuffed her inside.
“Yes,” Rosamund replied to the back of his head as he leaned forward to give the driver directions.
“Central Park. Drop us off by the zoo. Double the fare if you hurry.”
aron settled into the cab beside Rosamund, and in a tone that clearly expressed his disgust, asked, “Is there anyone else you want to tell about Lance Mathews? Would you like me to roll down the window so you can stick your head out and yell his name while we ride?”
“No! Head and arms inside!” the East Asian driver said, and put his foot on the gas pedal all the way to the floor.
Rosamund drew her dignity around her. “I’m perfectly happy now.” Then she ruined the picture by grinning. “Did you see her? She was so jealous.”
The tires squealed as the kamikaze driver rounded a corner. Horns honked as other cabs slammed to a halt to let them pass.
“I can’t wait to see this Lance Mathews,” Aaron said. She wasn’t sure, but she thought he added, “To punch his face in.”
Conversation stopped as the cab careened north on Madison Avenue, crossed three lanes of traffic to take a left along East Sixty-sixth, cut another left to travel south on Fifth, and parked at the curb by the entrance to the zoo.
Aaron tossed the cabbie the money, pulled her across the seat and out the door, and told the driver, “Now leave as fast as you came.”
Rosamund watched the cab zoom back across the oncoming traffic, and said, “Wow. He seriously wanted the double fare.”
“Greed makes the world go ’round.” Aaron hustled her toward the park. “Come on. If we hurry we can get a good view of the four o’clock sea lion feeding and presentation.”
“How do you know there’s a sea lion feeding and presentation at four?”
“I like the zoo.” He tossed a crumpled twenty at the cashier, got their tickets, and hauled her toward the gates.
Rosamund ogled him. “You do? You don’t seem the type to . . .”
He turned his head and looked down at her.
“To . . . to, um . . .” Under his dark gaze, she was having trouble remembering what she meant to say.
“I like watching families together, human and animal.”
And just like that, it occurred to her that, before she let him drag her around to any more places, she should ask a few questions. “Are you married? Do you have children?”
“Do you even know the meaning of the word subtlety?” But he chuckled, a nice sound, deep in his chest. “No. And no.”
“Oh. That’s weird.” Because she didn’t need her glasses to figure out that he probably had to fight off the opposite sex, and possibly some of the same sex. “Have you ever been married?”
“Never. Why?” He still held her arm, but he slowed down, strolling along as if they were a couple.
“I don’t know. It seems that when people—men—like to watch families, it’s because they miss their own family.”