"Do you think he fell in love with Julie Mathison while they were together?"

"No," he said with absolute finality. "Besides the fact that he'd have had much more pressing things on his mind at the time, Zack is … almost immune to women. He enjoys them sexually, but he doesn't have much respect for them, which isn't surprising given the sort of women he's known. When his acting career was going strong, they stuck to him like flypaper, but when he became a director—with juicy movie roles to dispense to lucky actresses—they swarmed around him like beautiful, sleek piranhas. He was completely inured to them. In fact, the only real tenderness I've ever seen him show is to children, which is the main reason he married Rachel. She promised him children, and she obviously reneged on that as well as her vows." Shaking his head for emphasis, he finished, "Zack wouldn't fall in love with a pretty young schoolteacher from a small town—not in a few days, not even in a few months."

Chapter 50

Against the setting sun, the tall man walked down the dusty road that led from the village to the busy docks, a newspaper and several magazines in his hand. As he headed down the pier, he spoke to none of the fishermen who were unloading the day's catch or mending their nets, and none of them spoke to him, but several pairs of curious eyes followed the stranger toward his boat, a forty-one-foot Hatteras with the name Julie stenciled on the stern in fresh blue paint. Other than the boat's name, which was required by marine law to be displayed on the stem, there was nothing to note about the craft. From a distance, it looked much like the thousands of boats that glided through the waters off the coast of South America, some of them chartered out to sports fishermen, most of them used strictly as fishing boats, all of them returning each night to unload their catch, then leaving each morning when the stars were still twinkling in the predawn sky.

Like the boat, there was little that stood out about its owner as he strode down the dock. Instead of the shorts and knit shirts preferred by the charter captains, he wore plain fisherman's garb—a white, loose-sleeved shirt of rough cotton, khaki pants, soft-soled shoes, and a dark cap pulled low over his brow. His face was tanned beneath a four-day growth of dark beard, though if anyone had looked closely, they'd have noticed that his skin was not nearly as weathered as the other fishermen's and his boat was actually better equipped for cruising than fishing. But this was a busy, competitive island port, and the Julie was merely one of thousands of boats that put in here—boats that often carried cargo that wasn't edible or legal.

Across the pier, two fishermen aboard the Diablo looked up as the Julie's owner went aboard. Moments later, the boat's generator purred to life and the cabin lights went on below. "He wastes fuel running that generator half the night," one fisherman observed. "What does he do that he needs that engine?"

"Sometimes I see his shadow at a table through the curtains. I think he sits and reads."

The other fisherman looked meaningfully at the five antennas that spiked high above the Julie's upper helm. "He has every kind of equipment, including radar, aboard that boat," he observed meaningfully, "yet he never fishes and he seeks no charter customers. I saw him anchored out near Calvary Island yesterday, and he didn't even have his lines in the water."

The first fisherman snorted in disgust. "Because he is no fisherman and no charter captain either."

"He is another drug runner then?"

"What else?" his companion agreed with a disinterested shrug.

Unaware that his presence was causing any comment along the busy docks, Zack studied the maps he'd spread out on the table, carefully charting various courses he could take next week. It was 3 A.M. when he finally rolled the maps up, but he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep even though he was exhausted. Sleep was something that had eluded him almost completely for the last seven days, even though his escape from the United States had gone off without a hitch—thanks to Enrico Sandini's connections and a half million dollars of Zack's money. In Colorado, the small chartered helicopter had appeared, as expected, to pick him up in a clearing 200 yards away from the house, a clearing that existed for precisely that purpose, except that it had been intended for use by the house's owners and their invited guests. Carrying skis and dressed like a skier, complete with large, tinted goggles that covered most of his face, Zack had climbed aboard and been flown to a small ski lodge an hour away. The pilot had asked no questions nor shown any surprise at what was, Zack knew, a fairly ordinary means of transportation used by wealthy skiers who preferred to own their own mountains and ski on someone else's.

A rented car had been waiting for him in the parking lot of the ski lodge, and from there he had driven south to a small landing strip where a private plane was waiting, as scheduled, on a cleared landing strip. Unlike the helicopter pilot, who'd been perfectly innocent and legitimate, the pilot of the four-engine propeller plane was not. The flight plan he filed each time they landed to refuel was not the one they followed as the little plane headed on a course south by southeast.

Soon after they left U.S. air space, Zack had fallen asleep, waking only when they landed to refuel along the way, but from the time they landed until now, he'd only been able to doze for a couple of hours at a time.

Standing up, he went down to the galley and poured brandy into a glass, hoping it would help him sleep, knowing it wouldn't, then he carried it up to the small salon that served as living room and dining room in his sea-going "home." He turned off the cabin's main lights, but he left the small brass lamp lit on the table beside the sofa because it illuminated the picture of Julie that he'd torn from the front page of a week-old newspaper and put into a small frame taken from the wall of a forward berth. Originally, he'd assumed it was probably her college graduation picture, but tonight as he studied it and sipped his brandy, he decided the picture had more likely been taken when she was dressed for a party or perhaps a wedding. She was wearing pearls at her throat and a peach-colored dress with a modest neckline, but what he most liked about the picture was that she was wearing her hair much as she'd worn it the night they'd dressed up for their "date."

Knowing he was torturing himself and yet unable to stop, he reached out and picked up the picture frame, then he propped his ankle on the opposite knee and laid the picture against his leg. Slowly, he ran his thumb over her smiling lips, wondering if she was smiling again now that she was back home. He hoped to God she was smiling, but as he gazed at her picture, what he saw was the last image he had of her—the wrenching look on her face when he'd ridiculed her for saying she loved him. The memory of that haunted him. It tore at him along with other worries about her, like whether or not she was pregnant. He tortured himself constantly wondering if she'd have to endure an abortion or endure the shame of unwed motherhood in a small town.


Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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