The Enemy's Daughter(7)

By: Anne Marie Winston



"I hope so," her father said with relish.

Not for the first time, she wondered what her mother had been like. Why she had married John Van Gelder. Had he been kinder, gentler, more human once? He'd been handsome as a younger man, though time and temperament had taken away most of his good looks and left him looking calculating and less than pleasant. "Father," she said suddenly, "how did you and my mother meet? What was it about her that you fell in love with first?"

Her father went still. Every muscle in his body froze. "Why would you bring that up?" he asked, a fleeting expression of anguish twisting his features before he wiped it away.

"I know nothing about her, nothing about her family," she said. "I just wondered…"

"Well, don't wonder," he said abruptly. "There's no sense in talking about the past." He swallowed, then, almost reluctantly, he added, "You look like her, you know. Damn near a dead ringer."

"I do?" She was thrilled. "Do you have any pictures of her?"

To her surprise, her father didn't answer. In fact, he didn't even appear to hear her. As she'd been speaking, he had turned and disappeared into his study again, his shoulders slumped, his eyes unfocused.

Slowly, she turned and made her way up the stairs, treading lightly on the lovely runner that echoed the soft colors in the upstairs hall. Unless she was very much mistaken, her father was still grieving for her mother. Still! After twenty-three years, he could hardly bear to speak of her.

And another realization swept over her as his words echoed in her ears. You look like her, you know. Damn near a dead ringer. She, Selene, reminded him of what he'd lost.

As she entered her suite, decorated in subtle shades of lavender and spring-green with dainty, feminine touches provided by an interior designer, her eyes began to sting and a true feeling of hopelessness crept into her soul.

All these years she'd told herself her father was merely busy, a single man with a political career who probably thought boarding school was the best option for his on]y child. But now she had to face the truth. Her father had sent her away deliberately. Because he couldn't stand to have her around, reminding him of what he'd lost.

A sob hitched her breathing and she bit down hard on her lower lip to contain others. Her father didn't love her. Didn't want her. The only reason he'd brought her home, she saw, was because her presence was good for his image in this campaign.

Another sob threatened and she swallowed it, nearly choking on the lump in her throat. She would not cry, she told herself fiercely. She didn't need her father. He'd never allowed that.

But now … now she had Adam. The ache in her chest lessened a little and she focused on thoughts of him, of the warmth in his striking amber eyes when he smiled at her. Unless she was completely reading him wrong, he was feeling the same things she was. Attraction, both physical and intellectual. He made her laugh. Made her think. Made her wonder at the strength of the desire that had swamped her when he'd kissed her tonight.

She wanted him to kiss her again. Soon. Wanted more of the magical sensations he sent racing through her system. She hugged thoughts of him to her and carefully avoided thinking of her father, of the hurt he'd inflicted on her over the years. In two days, she would see Adam again.

* * *

The two days took forever to pass. Every minute seemed to have hours built into it.

But finally, finally, she stepped out of the taxi and walked into Oglethorpe Square

, and there he was.

He was dressed in a finely woven patterned sport shirt and khaki pants and his eyes lit up when he saw her walking toward him. No, they didn't light up so much as they caught fire, she amended, her heart skipping madly at the heat that blazed a trail over her short, flirty sundress and finally landed on her mouth.

He opened his arms as she reached him, and when he drew her to him for a kiss, she couldn't have objected if she'd tried. All she could do was wrap her arms around his wide shoulders and kiss him back, delighting in his obvious pleasure.

When a passing tourist whistled at them, Adam chuckled and loosened his arms. "I can think of better places to be doing this," he said, smiling. "Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon," she repeated, unable to prevent a silly smile from curving up her own lips. How could he make her so happy with one little kiss?

He took her hand and led her to a sporty little American car. "I thought we could drive over to Hilton Head for lunch," he said. "It's less than an hour away, and it's a pretty drive."

He could have taken her to the moon for all she cared, as long as she could be with him. On the drive out, he regaled her with stories of the area through which they were passing. They lunched at a charming little restaurant by one of the Savannah River's last fingers before it reached the sea. Their waiter showed them to a table on a shaded deck and brought them steaming plates of lobster with dishes of butter. There were white aprons to protect their clothes and Adam teased her about setting a new fashion when the apron extended below the hem of her dress, making it look as if she wore nothing beneath the apron. They cracked lobster claws, drank a bottle of white wine, and once again she realized how comfortable she was with him.

"Tell me about growing up in Europe," he said after he'd finished telling her about Hilton Head Island's evolution into a golf mecca. "You must be getting tired of hearing me talk."

"Not at all," she assured him.

"Well, I'm getting tired of hearing myself," he said, grinning. "Your turn. Where was your school?"

"There were two, actually," she said. "I began in Zurich and was there for seven years. My best friend was French, and when her family decided to transfer her to a school in Geneva for secondary school, I begged Daddy to do the same. After I finished, I attended Oxford. What else do you want to know?"

"Which country did you like better?"

"Switzerland," she said promptly. "It's far too dreary in England to suit me."

"What did you study at Oxford?"

"Classical languages and Greek literature."

"So you speak other languages?"

Her eyebrows rose. "Well, I spent a lot of time with my friend Willi's family on holiday, so I learned French quite young. I'm also fluent in German—it's hard not to be when it's one of the national languages the Swiss speak. Other than that, I've studied Latin. But that's a dead language, of course."

Adam laughed. "I've always thought that sounded so morbid. Wouldn't it be better to say, 'languages that have passed away,' or, 'deceased languages'?"

Now it was her turn to laugh.

While she was still chuckling, he said, "When I met you I thought you had an interesting accent. Now I know why."

"I don't have an accent," she said indignantly. "Not like y'all do." The sentence was a perfect imitation of a slow Savannah drawl.

"There you go," said Adam. "Now you sound normal."

She was about to answer him when she caught sight of a familiar face. She froze.

Two tables away, one of her father's chief campaign workers was being seated at a table with three other men. She couldn't see the faces of the others, so she had no way of knowing whether or not she might recognize them also.

Immediately, she shifted sideways so that Adam's body was blocking her from view. "Adam," she said in a low voice. "Don't turn around, but there's a man behind you who knows me. He's working on my father's reelection and I've spoken to him several times at events."

Adam's eyebrows rose. He had rinsed his fingers with lemon and he laid aside the napkin with which he was drying them. "And you're sure that telling your father about us is such a terrible thing?" His voice was very neutral, very careful and she realized she had hurt him with her insistence on hiding their meetings.

She leaned across the table, searching for words to explain. "My father has spent his whole life in politics. This race is terribly important to him… If he—I don't know what will happen if he doesn't win. I don't think he's ever even imagined what life without politics would be like."

"There are a lot of other ways to contribute to the democratic process than by being an elected official." For the first time since they'd met, his eyes were cool and distant, and she couldn't tell what he was thinking.

"You don't know my father," she said in a small voice.

There was a brief, tense silence at the table.

"Well," he said at last. "If you're so eager to get out of here, we may as well go."

He rose and came around the table to pull out her chair. She noticed that he stayed between her and the man she had recognized as much as he could, and she used the opportunity to duck her head and put on the huge dark sunglasses she had with her.

Shortly afterward, he handed her back into the car and they set off for Savannah again. She'd expected it to be a long and painfully quiet drive, but Adam began to tell her stories of some of the scrapes he, his siblings and his cousins had gotten into when they were all younger. She was fascinated and her imagination ran wild trying to picture being part of such a tribe of children. She told him of school escapades, though they generally were much milder than some of the tales Adam had to tell. She enjoyed it so much that she forgot the change in his behavior over lunch, forgot the disagreement, if that's what it even had been, that they'd had.

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