The Enemy's Daughter(9)By: Anne Marie Winston
Adam chuckled. "Aha. The truth comes out."
Ian was grinning, too. "Sounds like Katie's been giving Larissa pointers on how to manage a husband." Both Ian and Jake had only been married a few months.
"Give Katie a kiss for me and tell her hello," Adam said to Ian.
"With pleasure." Ian's eyes lit up with warmth at the mention of his wife and Adam stared at his older brother for a moment. Would he ever be that transparently in love with anyone?
Selene. Her face was in his head even before the thought had passed. Whoa, he thought. There's no point in even thinking long-term until this stupid election is over. He thought of her expression when she mentioned her father. He might not particularly enjoy his, but he certainly didn't have those conflicted emotions that she so clearly did. What had the man done to her to make her resent him and yet feel compelled to obey him?
"…and give this to Peter," Ian was saying to Jake as Adam tuned back in to the conversation. His older brother withdrew a small package of candy from his pocket and handed it to their cousin.
Jake laughed. "Larissa will kill me—and you."
"Then you'd better not let her catch you," Adam said.
« ^ »
The tennis match was vicious. Adam was dripping with sweat as he walked to the net and shook hands with his opponent, a player from the country club with whom he had a match every other week from April through October. Then he turned and walked to the door leading off the tennis courts, a warm feeling of anticipation burgeoning within him.
Selene stood just outside the fence. She had arrived in time to watch the final set of the match and Adam knew a sense of satisfaction that he had beaten his buddy six-love that time.
"Hi," he said, taking her hand. He wanted to kiss her, wanted it badly, but he was conscious of his less-than-enticing appearance. "I'm glad you could make it. Do you mind waiting while I grab a quick shower? I stink."
She smiled. "I don't mind at all."
"I'll hurry." He squeezed her hand, wishing he didn't have to let go. "Did you have any place special in mind for lunch?"
She shook her head. "Wherever you like."
"Okay. You can sit on that bench while you wait. I'll be right back." He'd called her yesterday on her cell phone and invited her to have a picnic lunch with him after his match. It pleased him that she'd come a little early and watched him play.
With a final wave, he entered the building where the locker rooms were located. Stowing his equipment, he rushed through a shower and dressed, then headed back outside.
He smiled as he saw her still seated on the bench where he'd left her. She was so lovely—
"Adam! Hey, what's happening?"
He turned automatically as he recognized Jake's voice. From the corner of his eye, he saw Selene get to her feet.
"Hey, Jake." His expression warmed as he saw his cousin's best friend, Wes Brooks, as well. Wes had lived with Uncle Harold's family when they were teens and was practically another cousin. "Wes. How's married life treating you?"
"Excellent," Wes answered, gripping the hand Adam extended. His dark skin gleamed with chestnut highlights and his teeth were a white slash in his dark face. "You're soon going to be outnumbered by us happily married folks."
Selene's face flashed through Adam's mind. "You never know," he said. He wanted to turn and beckon to her to join them, wanted to introduce her to his family so badly he could almost taste it. But he knew how upset she would be, so he forced himself not to even glance her way.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Jake demanded, alert to Adam's cryptic comment.
"He's got a lady," Wes proclaimed. "Adam has found himself a woman, my friend."
"Okay, spill." Jake punched him lightly in the shoulder. "You can't keep a secret like that from us.
"Wanna bet?" Adam grinned. Then a couple walking toward the clubhouse caught his attention and the smile faded. "Oh, hell, there's Dad."
Jake and Wes both turned.
"He's got Nicola with him," Jake observed. "Maybe you can sneak away—"
"Adam!" For the second time in a few minutes, his name was called.
Slowly, he turned fully to face his father, wishing he had, indeed, been able to sneak away. "Hi, Dad. Hello, Nicola."
"Hey, Uncle Abe, Ms. Granville. You remember Wesley Brooks?"
"Of course." Nicola smiled as she shook Wes's hand, although Adam thought she looked distracted. "Good to see you."
"Are you two having lunch?" Jake asked and Adam silently blessed his cousin for initiating the small talk. He never knew what to say to his father. Consequently, there were a lot of awkward silences when they met.
"Yes," said Abe.
"No," said Nicola at the same instant.
The couple looked at each other and immediately looked away again. Adam was astonished to see a faint rise of red color climbing his father's neck, while Abe's normally unflappable campaign manager was looking everywhere but at her candidate.
"Ooo-kay." Adam gestured toward the court, simply for the sake of having something to say. "I just finished a match."
"And we just arrived to begin one." Jake made a show of checking his watch. "Wes, we're going to miss our time if we don't hurry."
Wes nodded. "We'd better go." He extended a hand first to Abe, then to Nicola. "Good luck with the campaign."
Jake followed his lead, giving his uncle and Nicola a hasty handshake. It was clear to Adam that the two men had picked up on the odd tension between the pair and didn't want anything to do with it. He couldn't blame them.
There was a brief, uneasy silence in the wake of their departure. Adam searched for something to say. But what was there to say to a man who'd been around so rarely during your childhood that you barely knew him?
"Adam," said Nicola, "I have a list here of some upcoming events we'd like you to attend." She balanced her briefcase in one arm and set her hand on the latches, but when Abe's hand came down over hers, she froze, still looking down at the satchel.
"We can get those to you later," said his father.
"That's fine." He tried to ignore the way Nicola stepped a pace away from Abe, but he wondered just what in hell was going on. "Just stick 'em in the mail or fax them to my office. I'll show up at whatever you want."
"I really appreciate your help," his father said. "Would you like to join us for lunch?"
"We're not having lunch," Nicola said, her face darkening as she looked up at Abe. "I told you I won't be staying."
"Ah, thanks, but I already have plans," Adam demurred. Jeez, what was going on with these two? "In fact, I'm running a little late myself."
"We won't keep you then," his father said. He opened his mouth as if to say something else, but then closed it again without speaking. "It was good seeing you, son."
A similar response was in order. But as his father hesitated and the silence grew again, he couldn't bring himself to echo the words. "I, ah, I'll be at those events you mentioned." He directed the words to Nicola.
"Thank you." She nodded once at him and moved on.
Abe looked after her, then back at Adam. "I'd better go." And he strode off after her.
Adam stood where he was. Okay, that had been weird. Really, really weird. Was he imagining it, or was his father personally involved with his campaign manager? Or maybe he wanted to be?
He shook his head as the two disappeared inside the clubhouse, then turned toward Selene. He was more than ready to get out of here and find a quiet spot to picnic with her.
The bench where she'd been sitting was empty.
His heart sank. Glancing around, he realized that she hadn't simply moved farther away. She was nowhere to be seen. Frustration rose. Was she going to cancel on him?
He wanted to see her, dammit!
Whipping out his cell phone, he punched the button that would automatically dial her cell number. He'd programmed it in the very day she'd told him it was her personal number. The line rang once, then twice. And then someone answered.
"Hello?" Selene's voice sounded slightly breathless.
"Why did you run off?"
"I saw your father. And Nicola Granville. I was afraid one of them might recognize me."
"And that would have been the end of the world?" he demanded. The moment he said it, he was sorry. The last thing he wanted to do was upset her.
She didn't say anything.
He sighed, not caring if she could hear him. "My family isn't full of ogres. Okay, my father's a little clueless when it comes to how to be a father, but he's not—"
"It's not your family, Adam." Her voice sounded thick, as though she was on the verge of tears.
"If you won't even let your father meet me, how can you predict what he's going to do?" he demanded. "Selene, I—"
Love you. He caught the words just in time, as shocked as she undoubtedly would be if he'd said them aloud.
Holy hell. He was falling in love with her. Despite the awkwardness of their family situations, she was the woman whose face sprang to mind when someone talked about marriage. Marriage! Good God, he barely knew her.
But as he thought of the discussions they'd had, the interest she'd shown in the things that he enjoyed sharing with her, the gentle smile that lit her face when she first caught sight of him, he realized that deep inside, where it counted, his heart recognized its other half.