The Enemy's Daughter(10)By: Anne Marie Winston
Years ago, he'd thought he was in love with Angela. But he'd created an ideal image in his mind that had been nothing like the self-centered, shallow reality. Selene, he knew, was the real thing.
"Adam?" Her voice was tentative. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. It's just that … we have to wait until the election is over. I don't want to do anything that might affect my father's campaign."
He couldn't see how the two of them being together would have any impact one way or the other on either of the candidates, but she sounded so desperate that he couldn't disagree. "All right," he said soothingly. "I promised you we'd wait, so we'll wait. But the day after this damned election is over, we're visiting both your father and mine and announcing our—our relationship."
"Okay. Thank you." Again, she sounded as if she might be crying.
"Where are you?" he asked. "I promised you a picnic and I never break my promises."
She laughed, a small, precious sound that lodged squarely in his heart. "I'm waiting in the little garden near the parking lot.
He couldn't see the parking lot from where he was standing. "Don't move. I'm on my way."
* * *
The next day was Sunday. When they'd finally had their picnic yesterday in one of the city's pretty squares, Adam had asked her to go out to Tybee Island with him.
She went to church with her father, then headed straight for her room to pack a bag. Her bathing suit went underneath her clothing. She grabbed a beach towel, sunscreen, her small bag of toiletries so she could shower off if she needed to afterward and went down to see if the cab she'd called had arrived.
"Where are you going?" Her father came down the hallway from the kitchen. "Lunch will be served soon."
"I told them not to set a place for me," she answered, turning to look at herself in the large gilded mirror over the marble-topped table in the foyer. "I'm going to the beach."
"You were gone all afternoon yesterday."
She turned, exasperation rising. She'd come home to help with his campaign. He'd never cared before where she was unless he needed her; in fact, he'd made it plain he didn't want her underfoot constantly. Maybe that was it. "What did you need me for?" she asked politely. "You could have called and left a message on my phone."
"I just wondered where you were," he said in a quarrelsome tone.
"I had lunch downtown and then I went shopping," she said, summoning her most reasonable tone. That was true enough. She had gone shopping after the luncheon picnic. "Do you need me for something today?"
Her father eyed her from beneath brows drawn together in a fierce line. "No," he said shortly. "Not today."
A horn beeping out front saved her from further interrogation.
"All right," she said. "Then I'm off to the ocean for the day. I don't know when I'll be back."
As the cab carried her to the little restaurant where she'd arranged to meet Adam, she wondered what her father would do if he found out who she was involved with. It almost seemed sometimes as if he hated Abe Danforth, but she couldn't imagine why. Adam's father seemed to be a middle-of-the-road candidate whose military service would make him look attractive to the voters. He'd never done anything heinous or illegal, and although there was one irrefutable instance of an extramarital affair, it was hardly shocking enough to ruin him. According to recent media reports, Abe had been surprised to learn that he'd left a daughter behind after his service in Vietnam and was intent on helping her fit into his family here. What would it be like to find out you had a sister you'd never known existed?
Adam was waiting by his parked car when she stepped out of the cab. She wanted to run to him and throw herself into his arms, but she contented herself with a warm smile as he touched her elbow. "Hello."
"Hi." He saw her into the car, then came around to his side. "Are you ready to head for Tybee Island?"
"More than ready. I adore the beach."
He shot her a surprised look. "Have you vacationed at the ocean regularly?"
"Not with my father," she said, understanding his confusion. "My best friend from school is French. Her family frequented the Riviera and since she was always dragging me home on holiday with her, I went along."
"The Riviera." Adam's eyebrows rose. "The Atlantic coast is beautiful but I'm not sure it can compete with that."
"Is there sand? Surf? Sun?" She grinned at him, her spirits soaring. "It will do just fine if it has those things."
"This is a good time of year to visit," he told her. "The summer is over and most kids are back in school so there are a lot fewer tourists around."
He was right, she saw when they arrived.
The beach was wide and white, and medium-sized breakers rolled gently to shore in a mesmerizing rhythm. They found a spot away from the few family groups and Adam spread out a blanket, set down the cooler and opened a small folding chair for each of them.
"You've thought of it all," she said, smiling.
"I even ordered good weather." He tilted his face back to the sky and she watched for a moment as he soaked up the warm rays of the sun that beat down on them. Then he shrugged out of his shirt. She couldn't keep her gaze from lingering on his hard, flat chest and stomach and the surprising bulge of muscle in his arms. A line of dark hair spread across his breastbone and then headed south, swirling around his navel and disappearing beneath the waistband of the royal-blue swim trunks he wore.
When she met his eyes, he was smiling, a slow, warm smile that unfurled a ribbon of heat from her head to her toes. "Your turn," he said softly.
Her breath caught in her throat. Slowly, she unbuttoned the oversize shirt she'd paired with casual shorts. She stepped out of the shorts without looking at him, then slipped the shirt off and laid it across the back of the chair he'd set up.
Adam made a sound deep in his throat. "You're beautiful," he said hoarsely.
"Thank you." Flustered, she turned to conventional courtesies to hide her pleasure at his words. Sinking down into the low chair he'd set up, she patted the second one he'd dropped on the sand beside it. "Come and sit."
She rummaged in her bag for her dark sunglasses, very conscious of the proximity of his nearly naked body. She'd never felt self-conscious in a bathing suit before, but today she had to stifle the urge to reach back for her shirt.
"Tell me about your new sister," she said, trying to distract herself.
"Lea?" He sounded startled. He dropped into the chair beside her. "What do you know about her?"
"Only what the press has printed." She smiled wryly. "And I imagine the real story is probably very different."
He nodded, his mouth set in a grim line. "Yeah, the media likes nothing better than to take an innocent situation and make up a good, juicy story to go along with it. Who cares if it's true or not? Who cares who it hurts?"
"You sound like that's a personal statement." And indeed, there had been some note in his voice that told her there was more to the story.
"If you'd like to talk about it, I'm a good listener," she offered.
He sighed. "It was years ago. I had a study session planned with a friend who was in one of my college classes. I stopped by her house to pick her up, but when she started to walk out of the house, she fainted. It turned out she had the flu."
"I caught her before she hit the ground. Her family is very wealthy and often is a media target. That day there happened to be a photographer who got a juicy shot of me holding Karis. Unfortunately, her fiancé wasn't the most trusting man in the world and it very nearly ruined their relationship. Not a real big deal, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Making up stories about people without knowing any of the facts should be illegal."
"Have there been stories made up about your new sister?"
"I imagine her sudden appearance has been difficult for your family," she said carefully.
He shrugged. "Not difficult, exactly." He sighed, reaching across the small space between their chairs and twining his fingers with hers. "We were surprised, for sure. Dad had no idea Lea existed."
"I imagine it was a bit of a shock finding out that your father had feet of clay," she said, trying to empathize.
"We knew that before." His voice was matter-of-fact. "He wasn't much of a dad when we were growing up. His military career came first. After my mother died, he didn't have a clue about how to deal with five rowdy kids."
"I suppose I meant that it must have been a shock to find out he'd had an affair," she said.
"It was a bad set of circumstances." He shrugged. "It wasn't as if he set out to cheat on my mother. He suffered a head injury in Vietnam and lost his memory. A group of villagers took care of him and he got involved with Lea's mother but he was rescued without knowing she was pregnant. Then, before he could get back to her, her village was torched and he was told there were no survivors."
"Oh, how awful."
He nodded. "The Viet Cong didn't take kindly to anyone helping Americans. And," he added, "it wouldn't have been much easier if he had found out about the child. After all, he was married with several legitimate children already."