The Enemy's Daughter(5)By: Anne Marie Winston
She nodded, aware of how very odd that sounded. "But I loved school. I made some wonderful friends and I usually spent the holidays with one of them. I didn't miss home."
"I did." Adam's cheery manner sobered a bit more. "I hated being away from my family and being separated from my brothers. We also have three cousins we're very close to, and I missed them and my aunt and uncle like crazy. We always spent school holidays and vacations with them."
"What a big family!" She didn't like seeing him sad and she sought to distract him from the unpleasant turn the conversation had taken. "Where do you fit?"
He smiled again. "Smack-dab in the middle. I have two older brothers, Ian and Reid, one younger brother Marcus, my half sister Lea and my other sister Kimberly, who's the baby of the family. My cousin Jake is older, his brother Tobias is my age and Imogene is younger." A shadow crossed his face.
She was so tuned in to him that she sensed his mood had suddenly changed. "What are you thinking? You look so sad."
"I am," he admitted. "I have another cousin, the youngest of all of us, who disappeared five years ago."
"Disappeared? Was she kidnapped?" It sounded like something off Court TV, something she'd discovered she loved watching since she'd come to the States.
"If she was, we've never been contacted with a ransom demand." Adam sighed. "She went to a rock concert with a friend. There was a miniriot and when everything was sorted out, her best friend was located in the hospital but Victoria, my cousin, was missing."
"What did the friend say? Surely she could tell you where your cousin went."
"She suffered some injuries." He shook his head. "Tanya never recovered any memory of what happened that night."
"Not ever? Sometimes things come back as people grow older."
He shrugged. "She's not still in the area, I don't believe. But if she'd remembered anything helpful, she would have contacted us. I hope. She wasn't exactly the most reliable person."
She was aghast. "But … people don't just vanish."
"That's what we thought, too." Adam seemed to shake himself. "Life goes on and we all want to believe there's still hope she'll turn up eventually, but some days it's harder than others to stay hopeful."
"I imagine it is," she said softly. Without thinking, she laid a comforting hand on Adam's arm. He immediately placed his free hand over hers and squeezed her fingers.
"I don't think about it every minute anymore," he said. "Sometimes I feel guilty for that, but another part of me realizes that the rest of us have to continue to live as normally as we can."
"Do you see your brothers and sisters and cousins often?"
He smiled again and she felt a sense of relief that her question had lightened his heart a little. "I see most of them at least once a week," he said. "And that's excluding all this campaigning that we're doing for Dad."
"I always thought it would be so much fun to have brothers and sisters," she said. "Do any of them live close?"
"They all do. And most of my cousins do, as well. I think I told you my cousin Jake and I co-own the D&D chain, so we work together every day. And then there's Jake's best bud Wes, who's sort of been unofficially adopted by the Danforth clan—"
"Gracious! How do you keep them all straight?"
He grinned. "When you grow up with it, I guess it's ingrained." Then he pointed to another of the lovely little squares they were passing. "See that big boulder? It marks the grave of a local Indian chief. This is Wright Square
. It's named for James Wright, who was the last man to govern the colony of Georgia before the States became independent."
"I wish I knew a tenth of what you know about Savannah," she said.
"I could give you a moonlit walking tour of the haunted spots around the historic district some evening." He hesitated and she was surprised by the flash of vulnerability that she caught in his eyes. "If you think that would be interesting."
The conversation she'd overheard at the coffeehouse on her first visit rose to the surface of her memory, and she knew a surprising anger at the shallow women who had hurt this intelligent, interesting man. "It sounds fascinating," she assured him.
"How about tonight?"
Her face fell. "I can't. Daddy needs me to attend a fund-raiser at a place called the … the Crab Shack?" She smiled. "He told me to dress down. I have visions of a small one-room cabin with a latrine in the back."
Adam laughed. "The Crab Shack at Chimney Creek. It's informal but not that bad."
"You've dined there?"
"The food is excellent and it's very picturesque." He took her hand from where it still rested on his arm and linked her fingers with his. "How about tomorrow night, then?"
"Tomorrow evening would be fine," she said. "Where would you like me to meet you?"
"I could—" he began, but he stopped as she shook her head. "No," he said, "I guess picking you up is out of the question." He snapped the fingers of his free hand. "Could you meet me at about 6:45 at the ferry dock? There's a dinner cruise that begins at seven," he said. "It's two hours long and afterward we could walk for a while."
"That sounds lovely," she said. "Where is the ferry dock?"
He smiled. "I'm going to have to remember this city is new to you." He squeezed her fingers. "That will give me an excuse to spend lots of time showing you around."
* * *
She was beautiful, Adam thought the following evening. He watched as she smiled and thanked the captain for the cruise. The man was at least two decades older than she was, but he sucked in his stomach and actually bowed over her hand with the silliest smile on his face that Adam had ever seen.
Adam figured he probably looked just as dazed when she smiled at him.
She'd been beautiful that evening in the garden, her white gown had seemed to glow in the moonlight, but it had been a dreamlike beauty, in gentle shades of shadow. At first he'd thought she was a ghost but in truth she'd looked more like an angel.
But yesterday, in vibrant Technicolor, she had come alive, her eyes not the blue he'd imagined but a deep, mossy, unforgettable green. Porcelain skin, roses blooming just beneath the velvety surface of her cheeks, her nose a pert little slope upon which he could barely resist dropping a kiss. Yesterday her hair had been down, floating around her shoulders, but tonight, like that first night, she'd worn her shining chestnut hair in a pretty twist in deference to the river breezes. She'd donned a nautical-themed skirt and top and she looked … perfect.
He gave up trying to find adequate words to describe her. As she turned and took his arm, she smiled at him and his heart gave a funny little leap. She seemed too good to be true. Beautiful, intelligent, great sense of humor, she even seemed to genuinely enjoy his penchant for spouting historical trivia and ghost stories. She was poised and confident enough to deal with the pressures of being a Danforth— Whoa! he cautioned himself. Slow down. You haven't met a woman yet who likes the real you. But in his heart, he didn't feel he was moving nearly fast enough.
"Thank you so much," she said. "No one should ever visit Savannah without taking a cruise on the river."
"And you didn't even get seasick," he said, smiling at her enthusiasm.
She smiled back, rather smugly. "I took motion sickness medication. Experience has taught me well."
"Aha," he said. "So you do have a flaw!"
Her eyebrows rose. "Plenty of them." She started to laugh, leaning her head against his arm, "But I don't plan to share them with you. Now where are we going on this walk?"
"We'll start with the pirate's house," he told her. "For years, rumor had it that a tunnel led from the rum cellar out to the river, and unsuspecting patrons of the tavern were sometimes drugged and carried aboard ships that needed a full complement of sailors. One Savannah policeman who stopped in for a drink woke up on a China-bound schooner. It supposedly took him two years to get home. Some people dismissed it until the tunnel was found during renovations."
"Can you imagine being one of those poor men conscripted in such a way?" she said. "And isn't this the building that Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have described in Treasure Island?"
"Yes!" He knew he sounded as astonished as he felt. And he felt the last of his doubts sliding away. "You're the first woman I've ever met who knew—or even cared about—a detail like that."
"Maybe you just haven't met the right women," she said, slanting him a shy smile.
"Until now." He gently removed her hand from his arm and then placed his arm around her, hugging her close to his side. "That's better."
"Yes," she said, letting her own arm slide around his waist. "It is, isn't it?"
They walked for nearly an hour as he regaled her with stories of Savannah's history and a few ghostly sightings as well. As they passed the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts and a building said to be haunted by the ghosts of two of Low's ancestors, she asked, "Have you ever seen one of these ghosts?"
"No," he said slowly. His family home immediately sprang to mind and he wondered if she'd think he was crazy if he told her. "I've never seen a ghost."