Home > Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(14)

Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(14)
Author: Catherine Bybee

Shannon put an arm around Trina as they wound their way to their suites.

Datu met them in the hall. “Good evening, ladies.”

“Hello,” Avery said.

Lori opened her door, ushered the others inside.

“Can I assist you tonight?” Datu asked.

“A bottle of red and a bottle of white. You pick,” Lori told him.

“Yes, ma’am.”

She winked and closed the door.

“She left you everything?” Shannon asked.

Trina stared at Lori. “Tell them.”

Lori tossed her purse on the desk, moved to open the balcony door. “Everything. I’ll learn the details when we get back.”

“Why would she do that?”

Avery put her hand in the air. “Okay, someone bring me up to date.”

“Alice, my mother-in-law, was from a prominent family big in oil. Her estate was always separate from her ex-husband’s.”

“That didn’t mean that Ruslan wanted it that way,” Lori said.

“Ruslan is your father-in-law?” Avery asked.

Trina nodded. “Before Fedor took the easy way out, he’d tell me that his father was working hard to get on his good side so when Alice died they could merge their money and build an empire.”

“Daddy said it that way?” Avery asked.

“No, but there was a lot of manipulation on Ruslan’s side. Fedor despised the man. Fedor felt that if he were married, not only would it help his mother pass peacefully, knowing he was taken care of, but Ruslan would ease off. And it worked. About a month after we married, Ruslan’s calls were less frequent and Fedor was more relaxed.”

“What did Alice think of her ex?” Shannon asked.

Trina stared at the ceiling. “She called him a manipulative bastard she was wise enough to fear.”

“It sounds as if you had a healthy respect for the woman,” Shannon said.

“I didn’t know her long. But we did laugh and share a few moments.”

“Do you think she guessed about your arrangement with Fedor?” Lori asked.

“I don’t know. Fedor would hold my hand when we saw her. Put on a show of a loving marriage.”

The women nodded. Each of them understood the need to pretend and pull out their best Oscar winning performances for their fake marriages.

“So how much money is this estate?” Avery asked.

She blew out a breath. “Three hundred and fifty . . . million.”

Trina grew pale and Datu arrived with the wine.

He lost the woman on the stairwell between the fourteenth and fifteenth floors. Midlength dark hair, olive skin. He hadn’t seen her face, not all of it. Unless she wore the same outfit again, he’d be hard-pressed to recognize her a second time. Was she a spy? Or did she recognize Trina?

And why was Miguel standing above them, watching so intently? How had the woman noticed Miguel? Were they working together?

A byproduct of being a private investigator was observing others around you and assuming they were PIs, too. Or had hidden agendas at the very least. If someone hired him to spy, it was safe to assume others were watching as well.

His initial investigative target had been Shannon, and Reed’s attention landed on Lori, admittedly because of their attraction. And of all four of the women, Lori had been the most skittish, hovering . . . like she was hiding something. Yeah, it could be nothing more than the lawyer in her trying to keep her clients from unwanted attention while on vacation. But Reed wasn’t buying that theory. It didn’t sit well in his head.

Ever since seeing Miguel watching, spying . . . or whatever he was doing, Reed questioned the Spanish duo’s chance meeting at the singles mixer the first night on the ship. Was that meeting as “chance” as Reed’s?

Reed sat in the small bar in the center of the suites and waited.

“There you are.” Miguel took a seat beside Reed. The Spaniard wore a full kilowatt smile. A man who never frowned couldn’t be trusted in Reed’s book.

He shook his hand. “Where is Rogelio?”

“Probably with Avery.”

No, Reed had seen the women disappear into the crush of people enjoying the show.

“He might need to save his energy, the week is young.”

Miguel patted Reed on the back and signaled the bartender. “Can I get you a drink?”

He shook his head. “Pacing myself.”

“I don’t know what that is.” Still smiling, Miguel ordered a top-shelf whiskey. “You and Lori seem to be getting along well, eh?”

“I think so.”

“The adventure of the chase,” Miguel said. “Almost as sweet as the win, don’t you think?”

“And Trina? How is that going?” Reed didn’t think the woman was available, but perhaps he was mistaken.

“The quiet beauty. I will wear her down. I always do.”

A strange need to protect the recent widow pulled at his collar. “She is guarded.”

“Most are, but we have our ways to get what we want.”

Reed suddenly felt the need for a straight shot of something. The smirk and the wink sat on the wrong side of his stomach. This man was a predator, Reed would bet his next paycheck on it. “What was it you did for a living?” Reed asked as if making conversation.

“Marketing.” He muttered something in Spanish as a woman wearing a skintight black dress sauntered by.

“Interesting. For what company?”

Miguel smiled. “Many. How do you say it . . . I work with many companies.”


“Sí . . . yes. I freelance. And you? What is it that you do?”

“Data processing.” The lie came easy.

Miguel narrowed his eyes, looked at Reed’s hands. “Those look like fingers that work, not fingers that type.”

“Things are not always as they seem.”

Miguel’s drink arrived and he toasted the air. “To the mirage, then.”



She turned to find Reed fighting the flow of people leaving the ship for the day.

“Hey.” He stopped in front of her. “Sorry about last night. We had a slight female emergency.”

“Oh?” Reed looked concerned.

“Yeah, we drank too much wine and had a slumber party instead of hitting the club.”

“So everything is okay?”

“Yeah.” Well, no, but she wasn’t going to gossip or talk to anyone about Trina other than the women. “Are you headed off the ship?”

He shrugged, looking a little lost. “Are you?”

The invitation to spend the day with him hung in the air. The desire to do just that was too hard to pass up.

“We’re getting a slow start.” She was going to do her best to get Trina off the ship and keep her mood light. The progress she’d made in the first few days was swept away with one phone call.

“I can wait if it means I can spend time with you.”

Thoughts of Trina fled, and the girlie part that had been attracted to the man in front of her made her feel playful. She reached her hand out. “Give me your phone.”

He reached into his back pocket and hesitated.

“I’m not going to steal it,” she teased.

Reed handed it over.

She placed her number into his contacts and typed in a name before handing it back to him.

After glancing down, he said, “Hot chick on ship?”

She giggled. “Send me a text so I have your number, and I’ll let you know when we’re leaving.” She turned to walk away. “Oh, have you seen Rogelio and Miguel? Avery was asking about them.”

Reed hesitated. “No, actually.”

Lori shrugged. “Probably for the best.”

An hour and a half later, Lori texted Reed and suggested he meet them on the dock.

Trina left the ship reluctantly with the promise of Shannon returning early with her if she couldn’t take it.

On the dock, Reed stood alongside Antonio. Miguel and Rogelio were nowhere to be found. Much as Lori wanted Trina distracted, she didn’t think an interest in a member of the opposite sex was the diversion she needed.

Antonio greeted all four of them with kisses on both cheeks. “How lucky are we, Reed, to escort these beautiful ladies around the city of love.”

Avery rolled her eyes. “I thought that was Paris.”

Antonio spat something in Italian before painting on a smile. “Paris has a tower . . . we have the Colosseum, where gladiators fought to the death.”

“He has a point,” Lori told her.

“What is more romantic than that?”

“More romantic than death?” Avery asked.

“She has a point,” Reed told Antonio.

They boarded the ship’s transportation to ride into the city. Lori smiled at a man dressed as a gladiator who escorted them onto the bus. Once inside she turned to Reed as he took the seat beside her. “You should get one of those outfits.”

“You like playing dress up?” he whispered.

Her cheeks warmed.

“That’s what I thought.”

Lori glanced over to see Trina hiding behind massive sunglasses while talking to Avery, and Shannon kept a cordial smile as Antonio attempted to charm her.

She’d been to the Colosseum before but never failed to stop and stare at the massive, decaying structure that once held fights to the death. The macabre nature of it all fascinated and repulsed . . . and now it was simply a tourist attraction. Sure, there was history to learn, but tourists forked over money for that special trinket to mount on their wall at home or place on their fridge door. And the men dressed as gladiators were happy to let you take a photo so long as you paid them for their efforts.

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