The Enemy's Daughter(3)

By: Anne Marie Winston



"Nothing good in life comes easy," Guillemette said firmly. "Look at me. I had to be vetted by the queen."

Selene laughed. "So tell me all about it. I'm dying for details. Did you curtsey correctly? What did her crown look like? Did you have to kiss the glove?"

* * *

Lea was going to kill him if he was late for lunch again. The thought of his petite half sister's eyes sparkling with ire made him grin as Adam Danforth breezed into D&D's with the weekly payroll envelopes. He handed them off to the manager of the coffeehouse, checked the mail and his messages, and rushed back out again.

He checked his watch. He might just make it. He'd made a habit of getting together with his newfound sibling once a week or so as she adjusted to being a part of the large and loud Danforth clan—

It was gone! He stopped inside the entryway, his cursory scan of the bulletin board halted. For weeks after he'd first posted the note, he'd checked that board several times a day. But as the days passed and he never heard another word from Selene Van Gelder, anticipation and hope had shriveled and died.

He'd given up on finding a woman who liked him for what he was—a dorky guy who liked to talk about history and ghost stories. He'd had women chasing him for years but none of them really wanted him. They wanted his family's prestige, they wanted his money, some of them even wanted his body, to which he honestly couldn't say he objected—but not one of them appealed to him on an intellectual level.

And then he'd found Selene.

He'd been amused by his mistake that night at the fund-raiser, and initially assumed she would find him quaint and rather boring just like every other woman. He'd launched into the ghost tale more to get rid of her than because he thought she would really be interested.

It was a technique he'd perfected over the years since he'd overheard Angela DuFrayne laughing at him. He'd actually dreamed of marrying Angela until he'd realized he was nothing more than a cash cow to her. And a boring one at that. He should probably thank her one day, he thought bitterly. She'd taught him what women really thought of him. These days, he got a perverse pleasure from seeing a woman's eyes glaze over after she thought she'd snagged herself a conquest. He supposed he had a really sick sense of humor.

But Selene had been different. He'd never seen her in the light so he wasn't sure, but he imagined her eyes were a deep, dark blue. She was pretty in an old-fashioned kind of way, with a demure presence and a surprising, delightful sense of humor. Her nose was small and straight, her lips full and bowed like a doll's and there was an irresistibly cute little cleft right in the center of her chin. Her heart-shaped face had been emphasized by her upswept hair, which left wisps of curl dancing along her cheeks and forehead. Those great big eyes had fastened on his face attentively, and within moments he'd forgotten he was boring old Adam, the dull Danforth brother.

They'd talked, and then he'd asked her to dance, feeling he had to get his arms around her or die trying. She'd fit into them as if she'd been made to rest there, with her head on his shoulder and her face turned into his neck, and he'd felt the small gusts of her breath warm on his throat. He'd wanted to kiss her, wanted it badly, but he'd sensed that she was as skittish as the high-strung mare he'd ridden while visiting his cousin Toby in Wyoming a year ago, so he'd restrained himself. The last thing he'd wanted to do was scare her away.

And then he'd asked her name.

* * *

"Van Gelder? Related to John?" He didn't have the acting ability to hide his shock. This beautiful young woman was related to that—that slimy piece of work?

Her little chin lifted defensively and the glittering earrings and necklace she wore sparkled in the moonlight. "His daughter."

He couldn't help it; he laughed. Of all the ridiculous coincidences…!

Her chin hitched even higher. "Care to share the joke?"

He stopped laughing. "I'm Adam Danforth."

She recoiled. There was no other word for it. "Danforth." It was so faint he barely heard her. "Oh, God."

She looked even more appalled than he'd felt a moment ago, and it irritated him. "Look," he said, "there's no reason our last names have to matter, right?"

She didn't answer.

"I want to see you again, Selene." He savored the unusual name. It suited her.

"No." Her voice trembled. "That wouldn't be wise."

"It can't be that big a deal," he said, feeling stupidly panicked. God, he'd just met the woman. "You're acting like we're the Hatfields and McCoys."

"More like the Montagues and the Capulets," she said, and he realized she wasn't kidding.

"Selene—"

"I have to go now." She took a step back, and her hand lifted. He felt small, cool fingers cup his jaw and rest along his cheek. "Thank you for a lovely evening, Adam. I'm sorry I can't see you again."

It wasn't until later that he'd wondered what she was doing at his father's fund-raiser, and then it was too late to ask.

* * *

Adam shook himself out of reminiscence, realizing he was still glued to the spot in front of the bulletin board. He'd tried to call her twice the day after the fund-raiser, but she hadn't been in either time, and he hadn't wanted to leave a message and get her in trouble with her father. He'd sent her flowers that same day, and then he'd left a note at the coffeehouse a few days after he'd received her very correct little thank-you note for the flowers. Her card had been so dry, so devoid of anything other than the barest social nicety, that he had finally realized that she truly didn't intend to contact him again.

He wasn't a stalker, and if she didn't want to see him, he had to respect that. But perhaps one day she'd read the message on the bulletin board and change her mind. Couldn't she see how perfect they were for each other?

Cautiously, he reached out and traced the writing on the small sheet of paper that had replaced his note. The lovely flowers you sent have wilted, too. My thoughts of you haven't. Shall we meet?

Shall we meet? Had he just died and gone to Heaven? It was signed "S." Could it really be her?

His heart was actually hammering with excitement. Slowly, he detached the little note, a million fragmented thoughts bombarding him. Should he call her? He whipped out his little cell phone, then realized he could hardly call her father's house and identify himself. Not after the way that jerk had treated his father, doing his damnedest to ruin Abe Danforth's good name. And that reminded him of how difficult her decision to leave the note for him must have been.

After a long moment, he decided not to rush her. It had taken her two months to make contact with him; the last thing he wanted to do was frighten her away again.

He took one of his business cards from his pocket and turned it to the blank side, reaching for the pen inside his suit coat.

So what if he was a few minutes late to lunch? The girl of his dreams had given him the high sign and his response had to be just right.


 


Two

« ^ »

Three days went by and every time her cell phone rang, she crossed her fingers, hoping she would hear Adam Danforth's deep tones through the connection. She didn't always keep her cell phone on since she got so few calls but since she'd pinned that message and her hopes up on that bulletin board, she'd been carefully charging it and keeping it with her.

But the call she was waiting for never came.

Maybe Adam hadn't gotten the new message, Selene thought. Maybe it was a sign that this was a bad idea.

And yet she couldn't convince herself to forget about him. Maybe it was simply that he didn't want to call her father's home. He had no way of knowing the number she'd left was for her personal cell phone.

She'd just take one little trip by the coffeehouse, she decided, to make sure her note hadn't fallen off the bulletin board, or gotten hidden beneath others. And while she was there, she could add a line that the number she'd left was her cell phone number. That way, he would be able to reach her without concern.

But when she stopped in front of the bulletin board at D&D's, her note was gone. And in its place was a business-size card.

Her heart began to pound and her mouth went dry. Slowly, hardly daring to believe she might get to see him again, she reached up and plucked the little card from the bulletin board. Turning it over, she saw it was indeed Adam's business card, inscribed with the elegant D&D logo in gold.

Here was proof. It hadn't been just a dream, or a message meant for someone else that she had misunderstood. Adam wanted to see her again. Even after she'd dismissed him when he'd sent those lovely flowers, he still wanted to see her again. Her fingers shook, making the little card tremble as she read the note on the back.

To my flower garden ghost: Meet me in front of the statue in Oglethorpe Square

on Monday at 3:00 p.m.

Monday? Today was Monday! And it was half-past one already. But … which Monday did he mean? Well, she supposed it didn't matter. Today or next Monday, she'd be there waiting both times. She was going to meet Adam.

She reread the message. Oglethorpe Square

. Where in the world was Oglethorpe Square

? She had to get a map of Savannah right away!

An hour later, she not only had discovered that Oglethorpe Square was only about five blocks from the Cotton Exchange, where the coffeehouse was located, but that Savannah's historic district was a fascinating place. The proximity of the square left her plenty of time to browse through some of the shops in the area.

Also By Anne Marie Winston

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