Home > Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(15)

Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(15)
Author: Catherine Bybee

Trina walked ahead with Avery and played tour guide. Antonio and Shannon lagged behind, leaving Reed and Lori in the middle.

“Do you know your Roman history?” she asked him.

“I know what they did here. Barbaric.”

“Did you know there were female gladiators as well?”

Reed narrowed his eyes. “Seriously?”

“Not many, but that’s what I was told the last time I visited. Sometimes they were told to fight dwarfs, and other times each other.”

“Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like to see women fight.”

“I don’t like watching men do it either.”

She looked down at the stage of the structure, imagining it filled with screaming, bloodthirsty Romans. “I’d like to think that the human condition has grown from the times this arena was used, but I’d be lying to myself.”

“How so?” Reed asked.

“From reality television where we thirst for the fight, to watching endless loops of violence on the evening news, we’re completely desensitized to pain and suffering of other people. We turn off the TV, go to bed with our bowl of ice cream, and get up the next day, tuning out what we’ve witnessed the night before.” She shook her head. “Makes me understand a little better how the Romans allowed the fighting here for so many years.”

“You’ve given this some thought.”

She was a lawyer; she fought all the time with words as her weapons. “Everyone fights. It’s the how of the fight and how far they’ll push their moral barometer that often determines the winner.”

He leaned against the rail that kept people from walking farther down the crumbling path. “What about strength?”

“If you’re talking a physical fight, yeah, strength comes into play, but often will and determination is what takes the win.”

He stared at her for several seconds. “What do you do for a living?” he asked.

She thought of her office, shut her eyes. “I told you.”

“Yeah, I don’t see the pole dancer in you.”

“Then you’re not using your imagination.” She took his hand and dragged him toward the others, who had all moved ahead of them.

“You didn’t answer your phone!”

Hours later, Reed stood in his room in nothing more than a towel as he prepared for the evening.

“I was preoccupied.”

“And what have you found out?”

“Ms. Cumberland is Ms. Redding’s divorce attorney.”

“That isn’t news.”

“They are vacationing together.”

“Hmmm, why?”

“Ms. Cumberland is also the attorney for one of her other companions on the ship.” And even though Reed knew Trina’s name, he wasn’t going to reveal that information quite yet.

“What is the significance?”

“I don’t know, yet,” Reed said.

“Has Shannon opened up at all about her ex?”

“Not yet. She either has nothing to say or has excellent control of keeping her emotions and opinions to herself.” Not that he’d prodded her overly much so far.

“Have I wasted my money sending you there, Reed?”

“No. There is something at work here, I just haven’t figured out what it is yet. And I’m not the only one on this ship watching them.”

There was a long pause. “Are you sure?”


“Are they watching Shannon?”

“Hard to say, the women travel in a pack.”

“Well then, we need to find out who this other person is and who they work for.”

“What do you think I’m doing?”

“One never really knows, Reed.”

He looked at his reflection in the mirror. “I’ll be in touch. Don’t call me.”

“I’m paying you.”

“And your calls interrupt my investigation.”

“Find something.”

Chapter Ten

The ship was like Vegas and New York City all rolled into one. Between the different nationalities and the party atmosphere, the cruise ship never slept. Reed had to remind himself he was working more than once.

Reed read Lori’s text about going to the dance club they’d played in the first night and responded by showing up half an hour later. His eyes took some time to adjust to the scene because of the flashing lights on the dance floor. He considered his plan to arrive late a win until he reached the table she occupied with her friends to find Miguel and Rogelio whispering Spanish sweet bullshit into Avery’s and Trina’s ears.

Lori waved him over.

Her honey blonde hair was down. Something he wasn’t used to seeing. So far their time in the Italian sun had her pulling her long strands away from her face in a clip or a band. But this, this soft look around her high cheekbones, he liked. Her blue eyes sparkled in the lights, the color of her skin from the Mediterranean sun offered a healthy glow that wasn’t hidden by excessive makeup. She really was a beautiful woman. He might have fabricated a few things to get her attention, but his platitudes about her appearance were all from the heart. Or whatever organ it was that had created the warmth in his stomach.

He waved. “Hello,” he said as he approached.

Trina smiled and Avery listened to whatever Miguel was saying.

Reed took the liberty of sliding a hand along Lori’s waist and pressing his lips against her ear. “You look ravishing.” Between the hair and the off the shoulder top that displayed enough creamy flesh to make his mouth water, Reed wanted to stare.

She smiled and mouthed the words thank you.

“Where is Shannon?” he asked, realizing she wasn’t there.

Lori pointed to the dance floor.

The former first lady of California was spinning around with Antonio, who was putting his moves on. Harmless fun. The kind he didn’t mind being a part of when he wasn’t working.

He glanced at Lori.

Or even when he was working.

Trina laughed at something Rogelio said, and Miguel leaned over the women to translate to Avery.

At face value, it looked like any normal night in a club where two best friends were finding a couple of girls with whom to get naked. Only Reed picked up on Trina’s tense shoulders and tight smile when Miguel pushed into her personal space.

“Miguel?” Reed directed his attention to him. “Where were you guys today? We missed you in Rome.”

“I’ve seen the city many times and decided to rest my morning away to have my energy for tonight.” He said something in Spanish and turned to Trina. “Let’s dance.”

“Oh, I don’t—”

“You didn’t come here just to drink. I won’t bite.”

Avery pulled Trina from the chair. “C’mon.”

From where Reed sat, Trina seemed to reluctantly fall into the pressure of her friend and moved from the table to the floor.

Reed positioned himself on the other side of Lori so he could watch. “No slumber party tonight?” he asked.

“No. We wanted to get her out.”

He looked around. “Trina, or Shannon?”

“Trina. She’s had a hard few months.”

He wanted to ask why but held back. “A week of nightclubs and dancing should help.”

Lori didn’t look convinced. “Why aren’t you here with a friend?”

“I’m here with you.”

“No, I mean on the ship? Seems a little strange that you’re traveling alone.”

“Actually, I planned on a buddy of mine coming. But he got a job at the last minute and couldn’t get away.” His lie was easy. He’d used it before when asked why he was somewhere alone.

“That’s too bad.”

“Not really. I might not have latched on to you and your friends if we were one over the needed testosterone dose.”

“Is your friend a nice guy?” Lori watched the dance floor closely.

“Yeah, unless he’s watching football.”

Lori smiled, turned her attention toward him.

“Are you a sports guy?”

“Take it or leave it. The big games are fun because of the party they create. You?”

“My younger brother was All-American in high school, played college football, but then tore his ACL and was out. We watch the games during the holidays, but that’s about it.”

“You’re close with your brother?”

“Yeah. What about you? Brothers or sisters?”

“Two sisters.” Which was the truth. “One older, she’s married with two of her own, and then the baby in the family.” Who was twenty-three. His parents had a whoops kid. The kid that surprised everyone when his mother announced she was pregnant. Reed was fourteen when his baby sister was born.

“I always wanted a sister,” Lori confessed. “I guess that’s why I have so many girlfriends.”

He followed her gaze, found it landing on her friends.

“You’d have been the best older sister.”

She grinned. “You saying I’m old?”

He didn’t take the bait. “I’m saying you hover.”

“You keep saying that.”

He stopped a cocktail waitress and ordered a beer, asked Lori if she wanted something. She waved him off.

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