Home > Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(5)

Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(5)
Author: Catherine Bybee

“Most wonderful. I’ll see to unpacking your things. Might I suggest you enjoy our cocktail of the day with your companions before we set sail? Perhaps you can plan your evening. I’m happy to make any reservations on your behalf, or bring you anything you might need.”

“Thank you, Datu. That would be wonderful.” She pointed to her laptop case. “Please leave that case out so I can get some work done.”

Datu narrowed his eyes. “Work, Miss?”

“Sadly. No worries, I plan on playing quite a bit.”

“Wonderful.” Datu opened her suitcase as she moved past him.

“Oh, Datu?”

He turned. “What is your cocktail of the day?”

“It’s called rebellious fish. One of my favorites.”

“What’s in it?” The question no sooner left her lips than she waved off any answer he might have. “Never mind, I don’t want to know.”

With her room key tucked into a small clutch, Lori made her way to the exclusive bar.

She found Avery already flirting with two young male passengers, her glass half-full.

“There you are.” Avery had managed to don a pair of tight shorts and a tank top destined to give the tops of her breasts a tan before they left port.

“It’s been less than thirty minutes since we checked in,” Lori told her.

Avery offered a flirty smile at the bartender, as if the two guys talking to her weren’t enough. “She’ll have one of these. It’s a rebel something.”

“Let me go out on a limb and say you know a thing or two about being a rebel,” said the man to Avery’s right, who had a thick Italian accent and equally thick hair.

“Why would you guess that?”

“I’m Lori,” she chuckled and introduced herself.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Lori, this is Mr. Married, and this is Mr. Engaged.”

Lori lifted an amused eyebrow.

Mr. Married lifted both palms in the air as if apologizing. And Mr. Engaged, the one who nailed Avery as a rebel, flirted with his eyes. “We will have to find you Mr. Single, Miss Rebel.”

“It’s a big ship, and I’m going to need more than one.” Avery sipped her drink.

The bartender put Lori’s colorful drink on the bar and moved away.

“So that’s how it is?” Mr. Engaged said.

Avery played with the straw using the tip on her tongue. “Yep. At least two for me and one for each of my friends.”

“That didn’t take you two long,” Shannon said as she joined them. Trina walked beside her with large sunglasses hiding her eyes. Those sunglasses had become a shield in the past month, whether to keep the media from recognizing her or to hide the pain in her eyes, Lori wasn’t sure. She made it a goal to see those glasses gone by the end of the week. Or at the very least, put away when the sun wasn’t shining on Trina’s face.

“The rooms are phenomenal,” Shannon told Lori.

“I can’t imagine we’ll spend much time in them,” Avery said.

Lori finally sipped her cocktail. Rum, she thought . . . and a bunch of other stuff. It went down way too smooth.

Avery did another round of introductions, keeping with the theme of Mr. Married and Mr. Engaged. Something told Lori that she’d never remember the men as anything other than that. More drinks were ordered, and before she knew it, her shoulders started to relax.

This might be a working vacation, but Lori was determined to enjoy herself.

When Mrs. Married and Miss Engaged found their men, the eye flirting ended and resulted in Avery looking around the deck in search of a fresh catch. The space slowly filled up as passengers made it from their rooms to the bar. Two kids, both boys, ran past them en route to the pool in the center of the deck.

“You look familiar,” Mrs. Married told Trina.

Both Lori and Shannon tensed.

“My first time in Barcelona, so I doubt we’ve met.”

“You’re American, right?”

The married and engaged party of four was from Sicily. All of them spoke English.

“Oh my God, Shannon, I almost forgot. We were supposed to meet those French guys on the main pool deck when we pulled out of port.”

Shannon caught on quickly. “Oh, that’s right.” She put her arm through Trina’s and turned her away from the Italians. “Lovely meeting you. I’m sure we’ll see you again.”

Lori held back to sign for the bar tab.

One of the Italians muttered something about the French before they took their drinks to another part of the lounge.

By now, the barkeep was elbow deep with orders. With tractor-beam eyes, she watched the man in hopes of gaining his attention.

“The death stare usually works faster.” Lori felt her lips peeling back in a smile before pivoting her head toward the amused male voice.

She took him in from the ground up. Slacks, not jeans or shorts like many of the men milling about on deck. Trim waist that bloomed into thick shoulders covered by a pullover, three-button shirt. Arms that spent some time holding something other than a pen flexed under the short sleeves and made her wish he was sunbathing by the pool instead of standing at the bar. Strong jaw, freshly shaven, could only be described as chiseled, or maybe that was the faded scar that slid along his left cheek, a little more than an inch long. His eyes were dark with thick lashes most women would pay to have. His chestnut hair was a little long, and not as well cut as the rest of him. She thought, briefly, that his hair didn’t fit. Then she shook off her odd thoughts and realized she was staring.

Lori forced herself to look away only to find the bartender on the other side helping out a gaggle of early twentysomethings wearing as little as possible.

“The key to the death stare is never letting your eyes wander away,” Lori said, and when it appeared the bartender was turning around, she lifted her hand in the air.

He didn’t see her.

“I messed you up, my apologies.” He pushed in closer, their shoulders brushed against the other’s.

“I can have him put your drink on my room.” The realization that he was hitting on her created a swirl of chaos inside her. Lori’s job was to acclimate the First Wives into their new single life, not trying to get lucky on her weeklong cruise.

Lori turned to find him watching from a good five inches above her head. She liked them tall. “That would be rude of me, seeing as I don’t even know your name.”

He extended his hand, his palm warmed hers with a spark. “Mr. Single.”

Lori hesitated and then laughed. “You were listening.”

“Three beautiful women show up at the bar, and men watch.”

Lori cocked her head. “There were four of us.”

“Three beautiful and one captivating.” He squeezed her palm before letting go.

Her cheeks warmed. “Are you a salesman, Mr. Single?”

“I can be.”

She looked him up and down, made sure he knew she was sizing him up this time. “Personal trainer?”

“Every day but Sunday.” He met her eyes with a full kilowatt of charm.

He was joking, but she liked the flirty banter. “What’s wrong with working out on Sunday?”

“Nothing. I prefer to take my workouts outside of the gym on Sunday.” He had a decent tan, so she assumed that meant the beach, or maybe a hiking trip. “What about you? Professional model?”

Lori rolled her eyes. “Really? Your lines were better a minute ago.”

“You’re right. You seem much too put together for such a flighty profession. Doctor?”

Lori played along, mainly to avoid him asking the next question and suggesting lawyer. Because for some strange reason, announcing she was a divorce attorney while on the cruise with three of her female clients didn’t feel right. Besides, the less this stranger knew about her, the better. “You guessed it. Doctor.”

“Of?” He didn’t believe her.


He snickered.

“What, I could be. Especially in a bar on a cruise ship sailing the Mediterranean. Lots of great people to study here.”

“That would make me an anthropologist in training, since watching people is my greatest strength.”

The bartender walked by and Lori shouted out the need for her check.

“Body language is important when selling used cars.”

His smile slid, but his eyes did that twinkle thing. He sized her up slowly. “I bet you’re into yoga?”

“Only on Sunday,” she said with a laugh.

“Why only Sunday?”

“Because the rest of the week I’m shimmying up a pole and collecting one-dollar bills all night.”

If she had to guess, the way he shifted his hips meant her comment made his mind go there.

“Now that I’d like to see.”

The bartender handed her the bill and walked away. She wrote her room number and scribbled a signature.

“Next time you’re in Vegas, let me know. I’ll hook you up.”

Mr. Single leaned back as their flirting came to a close. “A pole dancing stripper needs to work a lot of hours to afford a cruise like this.”

“Nawh, she just needs a sugar daddy, now if you’ll excuse me, my friends are waiting.”

He turned as she walked away. “Until next time, Miss Single.”

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