“Pack for what?” he asked.
“For leaving this city. After we see Barrett tomorrow, I’m free, remember? You aren’t going back on your word, are you? You are going to give me the money, aren’t you?”
He opened his eyes fully. “Yes, I’m going to release the money if you visit Barrett with me. But, Sam, where are you going? Do you have anyone to look after you?”
She jerked her hand from his grasp. “I don’t have any relatives, if that’s what you mean. I’m afraid I wasn’t blessed as you were with a relative on every street corner. I—”
“Cursed,” he said. “Relatives are a curse. Always spying on you. Always—”
Suddenly, she came off the bed and glared down at him in anger. “You have no idea what you’re talking about! You take everything for granted. You saunter into a store like Saks and expect your cousin to stop working and help you out. Your cousin Raine first came to your house to make sure I wasn’t a gold digger out to rob you out of house and home. Your family cares about you, and I’d give anything in the world to have…” She stopped, realizing she was revealing too much about herself.
“To have what, Sam?” he asked softly.
“To have you stop calling me Sam,” she spat at him, avoiding the issue. “Now go back to sleep. Tomorrow we visit your gangster.” She turned to leave the room.
“What did you and my cousin talk about?”
You, she almost said, but caught herself. “Oh the usual, life and love and all the things that matter.”
“What did he tell you about me?” Mike’s voice was getting weak; he was falling asleep again.
“He said that all the Taggerts were rather poor, but that your family was excellent at breeding children and all of you could add and subtract very well.”
Mike smiled sleepily, his eyes closed. “He was right about the kids part. I’ll give you a free demonstration any time you want.”
Trying not to smile, but failing, Samantha said, “Go to sleep,” and left the room.
Samantha was dressed primly and properly in a beautifully cut Italian suit that she had no idea had cost Mike over four grand. Sitting in the back of the stretch limo, she kept pulling on the short skirt until Mike picked up her hand and kissed her fingertips while giving a look that asked her to please stop fidgeting. The man across from them glanced from one to the other but made no comment.
“The man is your grandfather,” Mike said. “There’s no reason to be nervous. And, besides, darling, I’ll be there to take care of you.”
Samantha shot him a look that said, “drop dead,” and snatched her hand away. She wasn’t nervous about meeting an old man who claimed to be related to her; her nervousness was caused by her asking herself what she was going to do after she left New York. This morning a groggy Mike had asked her if she was packed and if she’d made her plane reservations. It was her turn to lie and say that she had. Plane reservations to where? she wondered. There was nothing in Louisville for her; there was certainly nothing in Santa Fe. Maybe she’d go to San Francisco. Or maybe she’d travel for a while and see something of the world. After all, she was free to go and do whatever she wanted. But the idea of traveling alone didn’t send any great charge of excitement vibrating through her.
Now she sat on the plush leather seat of the long limousine and wondered what she was going to do with her life. After this meeting, after Mike got what he wanted from her, there’d be no reason to stay in New York. No reason at all.
They rode through the country in the long, black car that Mike’s old gangster had sent to pick them up. She and Mike had done little talking this morning, because Mike had walked into the kitchen with what Samantha could tell was a prepared story about the cut on his head. “If what you’re about to tell me is a lie, I’d rather hear nothing,” she’d said. She’d watched him struggle as he tried to form words, but at last he’d said nothing about his injury. Instead he had asked her if she knew how to make coffee. She said she didn’t and had no intention of learning. She had been so furious with him that she’d spent the morning in the garden pulling weeds.
After a deli lunch that she’d refused to share with him, she’d dressed for the meeting with Barrett. At one-thirty there had been a call, and Mike came to tell her that the car would be on time.
“Why are you so angry with me?” he’d asked.
“You spied on me and you started to lie to me about what you’d done. I think that’s reason enough for anger.”
He hadn’t been in the least contrite. Instead, he’d said smugly, “There are some things that you shouldn’t know.”
That had infuriated her more than what he’d done, and she was determined not to speak to him again, but then the long, black car stopped in front of the house. Mike had picked up her hand and started to slip a ring on it. Instinctively, Samantha drew back from him.
“If you’re my fiancée you need a ring. Will this do?”
In his hand was a gorgeous diamond ring that was about five carats of a pale yellow. She knew without being told that this was what was called a canary diamond. “Is that real?” she said under her breath.
“It belonged to my grandmother, and as far as I know, it’s real.”
She stared at it as he tried to slip it on her finger, but it stuck above her second knuckle. When the doorbell rang, she started to draw away from him, but to her consternation, Mike put her ring finger in his mouth and moved it around. Sam’s eyes widened, for she’d never before experienced anything as utterly sensual as her finger inside this man’s warm mouth. She watched Mike’s lips, those lips that fascinated her, as he slowly pulled her damp finger out of his mouth then easily slipped the ring over her knuckle.
“That’s better, isn’t it?”