Something inside him hardened with determination. “I don’t quit.”
“Good. I’m not suggesting you drag her off against her will, by the way.”
“Good to know.”
“I’m just saying that for once in your life, you might have to work a little harder to get the woman you want. That’s all.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Tony!” she snapped. “Does the woman want you or not? Yes or no?”
“Yes,” came the honest and immediate answer. “She wants me. I can feel it.”
“Then figure it out.”
“Oh, figure it out. Brilliant. And how am I supposed to do that, O wise one? My suggestion box is open.”
“No idea. But you’ll think of something. Mama, God rest her soul, and I didn’t raise you to be a fool when it comes to women.”
That ringing endorsement made Tony laugh for the first time in hours.
Talia was already at the studio the next morning, looking at the brochures her travel agent had given her, when Gloria arrived, half an hour early. Although she was wearing a familiar expression of grim concern, she had armed herself with coffee and for Talia, her favorite daily treat: a jumbo cappuccino with extra foam and extra cinnamon. Without a word, she handed it to Talia, who flashed her a grateful smile. These days, Talia was happy for any fortification she could get, and it didn’t matter if it was emotional or caloric.
They leaned against the nearest worktable and sipped for a few minutes. Then Gloria, who’d miraculously managed to delay the questioning till this moment, launched into the inevitable interrogation.
Shrugging, Talia tried to keep it light and airy, which would have been an easier proposition if her sister hadn’t known her so well. “Tony’s a friend. I met him when he picked up his nephew from one of my classes. He was about to return overseas. I wrote to him.”
Gloria waited for the rest, brows raised.
“He was presumed dead for a while,” Talia added.
“He ain’t dead.”
More silent sipping ensued. Gloria stared at her.
“What?” Talia demanded, her nerves fraying at the edges. “That’s it.”
No one did skeptical like Gloria. She had a way of giving her lips a derisive twist that said it all. “That’s it?” she said dubiously.
“Bullshit,” Gloria pronounced.
“Okay.” Talia slammed her cup down, shoved away from the table and, flustered, looked around for the catalogue on African safaris. “You know what? This conversation is over. O-V-E-R. In other news, I’m thinking about Kenya—”
“Here’s what I don’t get,” said Gloria, who had never yet allowed a discussion to end before she had the last word. “Why are you so upset? You’ve barely said two words since Tony left. If it’s so cut-and-dried, and there’s nothing to you seeing your pen pal—” she made quotation marks with her fingers “—again, what’s the big deal?”
“There’s no big deal,” Talia lied.
Once again, Gloria waited.
Once again, the pressure-filled silence caused Talia to blather when she should have kept her big fat mouth shut. “Well, okay, he wants to be more than friends, but that’s not a good idea. For obvious reasons.”
“Right. Because he’s obviously a troll.”
Well, there it was. Tony’s physical appearance had made an impression on Gloria.
It’d made quite the impression on Talia, too.
Tall and dark-skinned, with the clean-shaven, hard-jawed, square-shouldered look of a man’s man—a military man—Tony was leaner than he’d been the only other time she’d seen him, but was still blessed with the perfect amount of toned muscle and butt power. He’d worn crisp khakis and a blinding white tunic, a summery combination that brought to mind ocean breezes, rum drinks and slow-swinging hammocks. He was vital and intense, strung tight with an energy that emanated from his brown eyes and filled the air around him.
Captain Antonios Davies was, in short, a walking, talking, breathing jolt of electricity to the female body.