Home > Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(8)

Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(8)
Author: Catherine Bybee

“I see you found my note,” he told Lori once Trina left.

“I did. Great suggestion.”

Something in her voice told him something had changed since the night before.

“And here I thought your line about yoga was a fabrication.”

“It was.”

Short answers with an edge to her voice. Her eyes kept moving past him. Yep, something had changed.

“By the way, how did you know what room I was in?” He couldn’t tell if the question was curious or accusatory.

He considered lying but didn’t. “When you signed for the bar bill.”

“Ahh.” She started to frown. “I’m not sure if I should be flattered or creeped out.”

He thought of his sister and wondered how he would feel if someone had obtained her room number the way he had. “I’m harmless,” he lied, “but you might want to be more careful.”

She paused. “I will.”

Miss Swedish took that moment to walk past. She eyed Reed, then turned her attention to Lori. With a lift of her eyebrow, she parted with a swaying of her hips.

He caught Lori laughing under her breath. “Enjoy your day, Reed.”

Yep, something was definitely off. “You too, Lori.”

The conversation from the night before played in his head. Did he say something to put her off?

No. He’d flirted, she flirted back.

Time to switch things up. Avery was the party girl. Reed needed one of Lori’s crew on his side and he’d be where he wanted to be. He paused, wondering exactly what his goal was again.

There were many things to enjoy on a cruise ship. Sitting poolside with a fruity drink that’s sporting an umbrella before noon was only one of them.

Buried in a sea of bodies on the main pool deck with the sea breeze was better than being huddled in the exclusive pool on the Haven’s deck. Seemed as if more eyes were watching the four of them in their private “haven” than on the most populated area of the ship. It was probably all in her mind. Her concern for the women she’d taken under her wing on this trip was becoming a moving force in her brain. One she couldn’t ignore.

The ladies pulled up four lounge chairs, grabbed a few towels, and settled in.

“What did you think of Rogelio last night?” Avery asked after they’d lathered up with suntan lotion.

“The sexy Spaniard who didn’t speak a lick of English?” Shannon asked.

Avery smirked. “Yeah, that one.”

“He doesn’t speak English,” Shannon said as if that answered Avery’s question.

“That man drips with charisma,” Trina said from the sidelines.

Lori turned toward the woman she assumed was sexually dormant, surprised that she’d noticed Rogelio’s sex appeal.

“And he was into you last night,” said Trina.

“He doesn’t speak English!” Shannon didn’t want to let the language barrier go.

“It’s a cruise,” Trina reminded Shannon. “What happens in the bedroom doesn’t need words.”

“I’m starting to really like you,” Avery told Trina.

The two women clicked their umbrella-sporting drinks together.

“And what’s with you and Reed?” Avery asked Lori.

“The gambler?” Lori asked as if that defined him. Sexy man of chance . . . she dreamt of him the night before and woke frustrated.

“The hot guy from the casino, the nightclub, and the gym this morning,” Trina said.

She rested her sunglasses over her eyes and lay back. “Nothing.”

“Didn’t look like nothing last night.”

“You see something in everything, Avery,” Lori reminded her.

“She has a point, Avery,” Trina agreed.

“That man is into you,” Avery said.

Lori tilted her sunglasses. “He snagged my room number from the bar bill.”

All three sets of eyes zeroed in on her.

After explaining what she meant, Lori turned her attention to the people bobbing in the pool. “Besides, I’m here for you three this week.”

After several quiet seconds, she turned to find all three of them staring.

“Last time I looked,” Shannon started, “we’re all adults. And while you may have brought us together, that doesn’t mean we’re your charges. You’re not Aunt Lori.”

“You’re not even our lawyer on this trip,” Trina said.

“I’m always your lawyer.” Lori whispered the last word and looked around as if she’d said a dirty word.

Avery pointed to her chest. “I’m not paying you five hundred dollars an hour this week . . . what about you, Trina?”

“Nope . . . you, Shannon?”

“My bill has been paid.”

Lori rolled her eyes.

“Guess that means you’re just one of the First Wives. No more or less than any of us.” To Avery, everything was that simple. Lori wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or bad. Was she right?

“We are here on behalf of Alliance. And I’m the ambassador. You’re my priority, not a hard-bodied, charming gambler.”

“Oh, please. When was the last time you got laid?” Avery asked.

A woman in a chair in front of them responded by taking her child by the hand and leading her away with a dirty look.

“I manage,” Lori said quietly.

“Nice diversion, Counselor,” Shannon said.

“I’m fine.”

Lori’s terse response halted the conversation for a few moments.

“I tell you what,” Avery broke the quiet.

Lori was almost afraid to ask. “What?”

“If two out of the three of us hook up, then you let your hair down.”

Lori lifted a hand to her ponytail, her eyes landing on Trina. Yeah, Trina wasn’t looking at her. Then there was Shannon. The chances of her letting loose were slim . . . and Avery? Yeah, Avery was a sure thing for hooking up. The woman was beyond ready. If two out of the three of them did manage to find some male companionship, then Lori’s idea for this weeklong trip would have been worth the effort.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

“I’m not a gambler, but I’ll take that bet.”

“I haven’t been pressured into going on a date by a woman since high school,” Shannon said.

Trina raised her hand. “College, and he was French.”

Avery giggled. “The one language you don’t speak.”

“There are a lot of languages I don’t speak.”

The women spoke of college and friendships as they soaked up the sun while Lori closed her eyes.

“Hola, ladies.”

Miguel and Rogelio from the dance club stood shirtless and smiling.

“Hello, boys.” Avery flirted without effort. She scooted her legs off her lounge chair. “Sit.” She patted the space next to her.

Rogelio took her offered spot, his eyes sweeping her skimpy bikini.

“We hoped to see you again,” Miguel said, sitting on the edge of Trina’s lounger.

Trina was smiling. Reserved, but smiling.

Miguel said something to Avery in his thick Spanish accent as he lifted her hand, kissing the back of it.

Shannon leaned over and whispered. “I hope you weren’t counting on winning your bet.”

Rogelio spouted off in Spanish, and Miguel spoke beside him as if finishing his sentences. “Do you think we can win the competition?”

“Really, both of you?” Trina asked Miguel.

“What?” Lori asked, missing some key words in the conversation.

“They’re entering the Mr. Epic contest,” Trina translated.

“What’s that?” Shannon asked.

“A male body pageant. They want us to join them,” Trina said.

“Join? As in parade onstage?” Lori saw that as a great way to be noticed when they were trying hard to blend.

Trina shook her head.

“I’ll be the oil girl,” Avery offered.

Miguel started laughing, and translated for Rogelio.

Rogelio leaned over Avery, rested a hand on her leg. There was heat between their eyes.

Oh, yeah . . . someone was getting lucky before dinner.

“Sounds like fun,” Lori said.

Trina sat forward, grabbed her wrap. “What the hell. It’s like Vegas, right? What happens here stays here.”

“That’s right,” Shannon encouraged her.

“Let’s go, Miguel. Lead me to the oil.”

Miguel flashed a smile. “Would you like to join us?”

Lori didn’t get a chance to respond.

“Go, six is a crowd,” Shannon told him.

Trina and Avery wasted little time following Spanish Playboy Number One, and Spanish Playboy Number Two to the stage.

“Oh, boy,” Lori sighed.

“That’s what we’re here for, right? Reconnect with life?”

“It is,” Lori said.

“So what are you worried about?”

Lori lifted her sunglasses from her eyes. “I’m paid to worry.”

“Good thing you can afford Botox, then. You’re gonna need it.”

She rolled her eyes.

One of the rotating cocktail waiters covered them in shade. “Can I get you something?”

Shannon answered for both of them, “How about two of your specials.”

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