The Enemy's Daughter

By: Anne Marie Winston


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The coffee shop was surprisingly busy for the middle of a Wednesday afternoon.

Selene Van Gelder paused just inside the door of D&D's, an upscale coffeehouse located on a bluff above the river's edge in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia. The air conditioning felt wonderful, since the heat was still oppressive in early September. She took several deep breaths, feeling the jittery unease in her stomach increase. This was foolhardy. She shouldn't be here.

She had told herself she needed to go shopping today, but when she'd found herself standing outside the wood-and-brass doors of D&D's with their frosted window panes, it was time to admit to herself that after two months she finally couldn't resist the urge to find out more about Adam Danforth.

So this was his business. At least, partly his, she thought, recalling that he'd said his cousin and his oldest brother were his partners. Breathing deeply of the rich blend of coffee aromas, she looked curiously around the interior.

It was as elegant as she'd expected, but the atmosphere was one of warmth and invitation. Rich dark-paneled wood set off gleaming brass, and café curtains spanned the wide windows on which the Danforth & Co.'s stylized logo, intertwined D's with a lavish ampersand, appeared in gilt letters. Along one wall was an enormous fireplace, though she wondered how often they actually got to use the thing, with a climate as mild as Savannah's.

Strangely, the sight of the fireplace calmed her nerves. It reminded her of her youth growing up in European boarding schools. Roaring fires were more a necessity than a luxury during the chilly northern winters on the Continent. And though one didn't normally think of boarding school as a great place to be, for Selene school had meant comfort and security.

But you're not in Europe anymore, Selene, she reminded herself. No, she was home—if she could really call Savannah home. She supposed it was as familiar as any other place stateside, and at least she had some connection to Savannah, however tenuous it felt. She'd been born here in the heat of a summer evening. And her mother's grave was here, beneath the live oaks in one of the stately old cemeteries where the city's first families routinely were interred.

Her mother. She sighed, wishing she'd known the woman who had given her life. But Elisabetta Home Van Gelder had died mere hours after the birth of her only child, breathing just long enough to give Selene her name and bid farewell to the husband who had loved her so dearly. How different, she wondered, might her life be today had her mother lived?

Pulling herself from introspection that she knew from experience would prove painful, she crossed to the counter and ordered a tall cup of D&D's special Brazilian mocha blend to go. She looked around the room at the waiters and the staff working the sophisticated machinery, but she didn't see Adam.

A wave of disappointment swept through her, and she told herself not to be ridiculous. The co-owner of the business, particularly an entrepreneur as wealthy and successful as Adam Danforth was reported to be, would hardly be working behind the counter.

Besides, the last thing either of them needed was a public meeting that could be witnessed by someone who might identify them. Wouldn't that make a nice tidbit for the gossip columns?

It was time to go. She was half regretting the impulse that had brought her here. Hadn't she been telling herself since July that she couldn't get involved with Adam?

Not to mention that it was terribly arrogant of her to assume he would still be interested if she did look him up. After all, she hadn't heard a word from him since she'd received a lovely bouquet of roses and lilies the morning after the dinner-dance where they'd met.

As she turned with her drink in hand, she nearly bumped into a blonde in a trim navy suit behind her. With a quick sidestep, she murmured, "Sorry."

The other woman barely acknowledged her. "Honey," she was saying to her companion, a brunette who looked to be a member of the downtown business community as well, "he is the most gorgeous hunk of man I've seen in ages. Think Josh Hartnett mixed with a healthy dose of a young Tom Cruise. Except Adam's six feet tall." She sighed. "I'd like a piece of that action."

Adam? Selene's attention sharpened, even though she felt as if every person in the place suddenly knew she was eavesdropping.

"Maybe—until he opens his mouth," her friend said. "I won't argue with the hunk definition, but the man is a dead bore. I went out with him once, years ago, and I am tellin' you, my eyes positively glazed over after the first twenty minutes."

The first woman shrugged. "I don't need them to be real bright," she said with a sly laugh.

"That might be the problem." The brunette who'd gone out with the man in question dug her wallet out of her purse. "He's too smart. Once he gets rollin' on the ghosts and legends stuff, you might as well order another drink and get out your earplugs. Every time you think he's windin' down he heads off in a new direction."

Selene could barely contain her amusement. The pair had to be talking about her Adam.

No! Not your Adam!

Adam Danforth. She supposed that to many women, his fascination with history and local legends might be a trifle boring, but to someone who'd actually enjoyed her university years studying dead languages and ancient literature, he couldn't have been more interesting.

She threaded her way past the other waiting customers toward the door. It was a good thing she hadn't seen him. This had been a stupid move and she would have regretted it had they met again.

Of course she would have.

She had to wait for a large party to enter just as she reached the door, and while she did so, her attention was caught by the spacious bulletin board on the nearest wall. One message read: "SWF seeks SWM to share frangelica cappuccino and opera. Must love small, yappy dogs." There was a phone number beneath. Another was a boldly drawn heart: "Elena, will you marry me?" She smiled and kept reading, even though the entryway had cleared. Apparently this message board had become something of a dating service!

She read another couple of messages, including one extended exchange that the couple involved apparently added to each day. And then she saw it.

To S., my flower garden ghost: I'm wilting without you. Call me. A.

Her breath caught, her heart stuttered. Flower garden ghost? Who else could have written that? And who else could it have been intended for?

Adam. Adam had written that. For her, Selene. Only him. Only her.

Her hands were shaking as she pulled a pen and a notepad from her purse. Without giving herself time to think of the wisdom of what she was doing, she unpinned the small piece of paper and placed it in her pocket. Then she wrote on the notepad.

To A. from your flower garden ghost: The lovely flowers you sent have wilted, too. My thoughts of you haven't. Shall we meet? S.

Quickly, she pinned up her response, then fled the coffeehouse before common sense could prevail. She was halfway down the block before she realized her cell phone was ringing.

Digging it from her pocketbook, she flipped it open. "Hello?"

"Selene!" The voice was rich, husky and deeply accented by the speaker's native French tongue. "How are you, ma petite? I am very angry that you have not called to ask me all about the wedding plans."

"Guillemette!" Joy rushed through her. Her boarding school roommate and dearest friend in the world was the daughter of a French family of noble lineage. Willi had recently become engaged to a distant cousin of the queen of England. "How are you?"

"Glowing, dear girl. I want to hear about you."

Selene realized she was shrugging. "There's nothing to tell. Life in the States is staid and dull. My father's campaign is chugging along, but I'm staying well out of it. I have no desire to become fodder for the American press."

"What? No handsome men? Shame on them all."

Selene hesitated as Adam's lean features leaped instantly into her head.

"Selene! There is a man, isn't there? You can't fool me! I'm the closest thing you have to a sister, and I can read you like a spread book, darling. Now spill."

"That's open book, Willi. Get your similes straight." Ahead of her, there was an empty bench in a small park just off the street. Heading for it, she spoke again. "It's not exactly a relationship."

"Start from the beginning," her friend demanded. "I want to hear everything."

She thought for a moment. "The beginning? Well, that was actually back in July, about five days after I arrived in Savannah, Do you remember I came home at Father's request…?"

* * *

"Try to look more cheerful, Selene. If you go to this fund-raiser looking like that, people are going to notice you, I can guarantee it." John Van Gelder's voice was filled with censure.

"I don't want to go, Father. It would be one thing to attend a function to support your senate campaign, but this is nothing more than spying on Abraham Danforth. I'm terrible at things like this. Someone is going to find out." Selene concentrated on shaking out the folds of her white silk evening gown, avoiding his eyes. Maybe he'd relent.

But her father brushed aside her concern. As he'd brushed her aside her entire life. "No one will find out if you don't call attention to yourself. And how would they know you? You've been out of the country for years. I don't even know when the last public photo of you was taken."

She did. She'd been nine, home for a visit with her father in America. Overwhelmed and missing the familiar environs of the exclusive Swiss school where she lived, largely ignored by her surviving parent, she'd been crying when the picture was snapped.

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