She stepped out, gasping.
The mural stretched along the hallway opposite several enormous windows that let in every possible beam of sunlight. The view included a stretch of lawn leading to the pool, which, in turn, led to a path through the dunes and to the beach on the other side. She could only imagine how powerful the storm’s fury must have been to break these windows (they’d since been replaced) and damage the wall with water.
Even pockmarked and water stained, the mural was breathtaking, with vivid colors, meticulous strokes, and scenes that seemed to leap off the wall: Odysseus and the cyclops; Odysseus and the Sirens; Odysseus caught between Scylla and Charybdis.
“Oh, my God,” she breathed.
“You got your work cut out for you, don’t you?” Mickey asked cheerfully. “I hope you’re up for the job.”
More bravado kicked in, which was good because she had the feeling Mickey would eat her alive if she showed any signs of weakness. “Of course I’m up for the job.”
He raised one brow. “You sure about that?”
“Yeah, I’m sure about that. So you can stop busting my chops.”
He chuckled. “Well, what can I do you for? Do you want to get settled? Unpack?”
“I want to get started.”
She stepped up to the wall, smoothing her hand over Odysseus’s face, ideas flowing through her the way they always did at the beginning of a project.
“First I need to get this wall primed and repainted. Do you have supplies?”
He jerked his head toward a corner where, sure enough, there was a worktable loaded with cans of paint, primer, rolls, brushes, drop cloths and anything else she might possibly need.
“You just let me know if you need anything. The boss told me to put myself at your disposal.”
At this mention of Tony, her heart skittered. “Where is he?”
Despite all her best efforts, there seemed to be a plaintive note in her voice, as though Tony had disappointed her by not being here as part of her welcome committee. Which was ridiculous.
Mickey’s shrewd gaze narrowed. “He’s not here. Why do you ask?”
“He might have some instructions for me.”
“Like I said—if you need anything, I should get it for you.” He shrugged. “I’m not even sure how much the boss will be here in the next couple of weeks.”
Mickey waited, a wicked glint of amusement shining in his eyes.
Talia gritted her teeth. “And why’s that?”
“He’s got an auction house to run back in the city, doesn’t he?”
Yeah, but she’d hoped—
Don’t go there, Talia.
“And where’s everyone else? Sandro, Skylar and his son—Nikolas, isn’t it?”
“They took off for D.C. Sandro’s starting a new job down at the Pentagon. They need to pick out a house, don’t they?”
There went another tiny stab of disappointment. She’d hoped to meet Tony’s family. “Oh.”
The muffled bleat of a cell phone startled Mickey. Reaching inside a pocket on the side of his wheelchair, he pulled out his phone and hit a button.
“Yeah?” he barked.
Was it Tony? The mere possibility made Talia’s idiotic heart race with excitement, which was irritating.
Maybe it was Tony. So what? Big deal.
Look at the mural, girl.
She did, trying to appear engrossed. Her eardrums, meanwhile, strained so hard for any remote sound of Tony’s voice that it was a wonder they didn’t rupture.
“Yeah,” Mickey was saying. “Yeah. Okay. Sure. Okay. Got it.”
She moved farther down the wall, studying another portion of the mural.
“Okay,” Mickey concluded. “Later.”
Working hard on her nonchalant act, which needed some serious practice, Talia turned back around, brows raised, in case it had been Tony and he had some message for her.
“So. Where were we?” Mickey scratched his head. “Oh, yeah. Just let me know if you need anything. And no one expects you to start until Monday, so don’t go working overtime. There’s no bonus for trying to be the busiest beaver around.”
“Good to know.” She paused, losing the battle with her curiosity. “So, ah…any idea when Tony will be back?”