“Pippi…she’s a nice girl, isn’t she?”
Acheron slowly nodded.
“You were a nice boy once, too.” She turned to her side as she pulled the covers up to her chin. “And look what I turned you into.” Amelia let her eyes slowly drift close, and her voice deliberately took on a sleepy tone as she mumbled, “Don’t make the same mistakes I did.”
He didn’t answer, but the sound of his sharply drawn breath was all she needed.
Her words had taken root, and if everything fell into place, he would realize the truth.
Men like him would only ruin nice girls like Pippi.
Back in Isla de Flores, the grandfather clock in the living room chimed out a heavy, melancholic tune. It was one of the few Jones heirlooms the family had left, and growing up, Pippi had always been just a little fearful of it. At ten foot tall and made of heavy oak, the clock had seemed like an ominously omniscient figure, one that seemed to portend bad tidings every time its hand struck twelve.
But that was then, and this was now. She was no longer a child but a grown-up woman of twenty-three years. She should know better already, and yet a part of her wanted to cry the moment she heard the clock’s haunting melody play in the air.
One o’clock, Pippi thought.
And he still wasn’t home.
“And that was it?” Mairi Tanner-Leventis exclaimed incredulously. “You told him Gareth Evans wants you to work for him for six more months, and he just said yes?”
Pippi gave her a small nod, and Mairi’s astonishment turned to disbelief. Even she knew who Gareth was. The man was one of Miami’s most infamous womanizers, and for Acheron Simonides to simply say yes to such an arrangement…
If Damen had been in Acheron’s position, her own Greek billionaire husband would’ve thrown a fit. She had expected Acheron to do the same since both men were made of the same mold, but perhaps she had misjudged the other man incorrectly this whole time?
Pippi uneasily stirred her juice at the older woman’s worrying reaction. “I guess he’s being understanding?”
“I…suppose.” Mairi did her best to sound convinced but knew she had failed when she saw the way Pippi winced ever so slightly. She was about to say something reassuring – anything, really, to stop the girl from worrying – when her phone suddenly rang, and she had to excuse herself from the table.
Pippi watched the men in the restaurant gaze admiringly at Damen Leventis’ wife as she walked away. It didn’t make her feel a single bit of envy, but it did make her wonder rather wistfully if she could ever inspire Acheron to feel jealous about other men’s attention.
She used to think she could, but he had just grown so distant these days they might as well be back to being CEO and lowly secretary.
Weeks had passed since the day she had accidentally heard Acheron speak to Amelia on the phone, and so much had changed since then.
For one thing, he had stopped sleeping at Mariposa House and had instead checked into a hotel next to Excalibur Park’s construction site. It would’ve been a reasonable move…if he had done the same thing to all the other properties Simonides Inc. had previously developed. Moreover, Excalibur Park was neither the company’s biggest nor most expensive real estate project to date.
Knowing this, she couldn’t help thinking that he was deliberately avoiding spending time with her.
But if he was – why?
“I’m back,” Mairi said as she returned to their table, but her smile faded when she saw Pippi’s strained expression. “Oh, Pip.”
“Could you—” Just thinking of what she was about to ask made Pippi’s hands perspire and she found herself looking away, not wanting to see Mairi’s eyes as she heard herself say, “I just need you to be honest.”
Mairi bit her lip hard, the woman part of her knowing right away what it was the girl was trying to find the courage to ask, and that same part of her was already crying.
“I don’t think he’s having an affair with his ex,” Mairi said softly.
But even if Acheron wasn’t, it wasn’t right that Pippi felt the need to even ask such a thing.
The pain in Pippi’s heart eased a little at Mairi’s words. Maybe she was being willfully blind, but she truly believed the older woman was saying the truth.
So that was one worry taken care of, which only left about 999 more…
The thought made her want to laugh and cry.
Look what you’ve turned me into.
“You know…he once thought I had feelings for Mr. Evans,” Pippi surprised herself by confiding.
Mairi’s brows shot up. “Are you saying he thinks you’re the type to cheat?”
“It was the circumstances,” Pippi said, feeling defensive on Acheron’s behalf. “I used to refuse all offers of transfers, you see, but a month ago, I had this…this school loan to pay off so when the offer to transfer to Mr. Evans’ department came up, and it included a hefty pay raise, I had to say yes.”