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Excerpt for The Deceiver's Secret by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The

Deceiver’s Secret

BY

J.A. JACKSON

Smashwords Edition 
Copyright © by Jerreece A Jackson

The Deceiver’s Secret

Smashwords Edition



This is a work of fiction .

Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual person, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.



For Rossi , Daddy & Mommy always…

Acknowledgments

To All My Readers & Fans,

I Say Thank You!



Prologue

Eve Lafoy sighed heavily as thunder and lightning cut across the sky. She watched eagerly as a faint radiance of rain danced on the car’s windshield. In a few weeks, the showers would cause the brown, dry hills to turn a deep green.

Sitting quietly, her thoughts preyed upon her. She nibbled her lip as she struggled against the images trying to force their way into her mind. She burned with humiliation remembering that night. It had all started with a dare.

She remembered… The Grand Isles Christmas Ball 1993.

“My God, I hate this dress. Carina Sinclair rolled her eyes. “It’s the last time I’m taking my mother with me to pick out a dress.”

Eve Lafoy lifted a brow. “I told you it wasn’t a good idea. The Grand Isles Christmas Ball is by far the biggest event of the year. And you trusted the dress you were to be seen in to your mother,” Eve spoke, in a huff. “But you wouldn’t listen to your best friend.”

The Grand Isles annual Christmas Ball brought together all the families who had moved from Louisiana or had old family connections with the lustrous old state. Their primary purpose was the debutante ball and to raise money for charity.

Carina adjusted her dress and sighed. “Do you want to go and get a glass of punch with me, Evie?”

“Not now Carina.”

Eve Lafoy had one thing in mind that night and it wasn’t a glass of punch. She came to the party to dance with him.

“Why not?” Carina Sinclair asked.

Eve annoyingly breathed out, “Because we agreed tonight we are both drinking a glass of champagne.”

Carina shrugged. “Look, Evie, I prefer punch,” she wrinkled up her nose. “This champagne taste funny.”

“That’s because it’s not the good stuff your parents buy for their parties.”

Carina whined and took another sip. “Yuck! This stuff tastes terrible. You can have my glass. Why are you drinking this stuff, anyway?”

Eve looked back at her.

“Oh! I almost forgot,” Carina said in a nervous voice. “Tonight’s the night you’re trying to get your courage up and ask Hawke Deville to dance with you, aren’t you?”

Edwina Johnson squealed closing the distance between them. “I heard you. Say that wasn’t the bet. The bet was you had to get him to kiss you, Evie. Here, you’d better drink my glass of champagne. You’ll need it.”

“Don’t call me Evie, Edwina Annie Mae Johnson,” Eve snapped. “You wouldn’t want me running around this debutante ball yelling Annie Mae at the top of my lungs, now would you?”

Edwina blinked rapidly. “No, no I wouldn’t.”

“Say, who invited you into the conversation, eavesdropper?” Carina snapped.

"Say, who are you calling an eavesdropper, Carina?" Edwina snapped.

"You…You big ear heifer!" Carina injected.

Eve wished a big hole would just open and swallow her. Carina and Edwina could argue all night about nothing.

“Oh, don’t worry about her, Edwina, that's Carina code for I wish my ears were as big as yours,” Eve joked, taking Edwina’s champagne. “Besides, Edwina, you can’t even keep the bet straight in her own mind. I only have to dance with him.”

“Whew,” slowly Edwina breathed out, looking past Eve as her eyes were rapidly blinking nervously. “There he is! The man himself. Damn Hawke Deville is man pretty.”

Carina snapped her head around. “Edwina there’s no such word as a man pretty. Hawke Deville is sexy, fine and handsome.”

“Whatever Carina, Dawg you’re like a dog with a bone sometimes,” Edwina replied.

“And you’re like that kid that’s always hanging around your house just, so they can steal something.”

“Stop it you two, before someone gets their feelings hurt,” Eve commanded.

Edwina coughed and cleared her throat. “Don’t look now, I think he’s coming this way.”

All at once Eve swallowed the glass of champagne, arched her brow, straightened her shoulders, and glided over with an exaggerated sway of her hips and met Hawke Deville halfway. She leaned over and whispered in his ear.

Hawke Deville and Eve Lafoy walked to the dance floor.

“Damn, would you look at that?” Edwina Johnson asserted. “They are dancing so close. They only have eyes for each other.”

“Pay up Edwina!”

“What?”

Carina snapped her head around and stared back. “You owe Edwina! Eve and I won the bet. She’s dancing with Hawke. I want our money.”

“Gee whiz don’t get your panties all in a bunch. Follow me. I have to go and get my purse,” Edwina replied.

Carina looked back at Eve and waved to get her attention. She gave Eve a high five wave before strolling off with Edwina.

Funny, Eve thought it was the last thing she remembered about that night. After that, her inhibitions must have been lowered by the effects of the champagne. She remembered flinging herself into Hawke’s arms, and with no regrets telling him that she loved him.

Even now she could feel her body responding just thinking about it.

That night had been so amazing, and she felt warm and cozy when she woke up that morning. She rolled over and felt something warm.

She froze.

“Good morning Eve. So, did I take you to the sexual adventure of your life?”

“What?”

“I was your first, right?”

Eve blinked slowly. The meaning of what he was saying shot through her brain. “Oh my God, I was only supposed to kiss you.”

Then she remembered. Eve stiffened at the shock of intimacy. Her heart started fluttering strangely.

Hawke lowered his head and pressed a hard kiss to her lips. He tasted her slowly and thoroughly. “There, now I’ve only kissed you.”

He was a master kisser.

A knock sounded on Eve’s bedroom door.

“Who is it?”

“Eve it’s me, Carina. Your mother is on her way upstairs right now. You’d better get Hawke out of your bedroom now.”

“Oh my God Carina, what should I do with him?”

Carina shrugged. “Oh, for goodness’ sake just hide him in your closet like all sixteen-year-old teenage girls do.”



Chapter 1

10 Years later, October 2003

Saturday Night –In the hills of Oakland, California

Cars were lined up on both sides of the street of Skyline Boulevard. The neighborhood of stately mansions with majestic views of both Oakland and San Francisco bay skyline had long been the enclave of the elite and wealthy.

The mansion belonged to Xavier Newhouse. He was a self-made local business man and part owner of Newhouse Enterprises, a company that he’d owned with several of his cousins.

Carina Sinclair sighed slowly. “It’s a good thing Xavier said I could park in the driveway. This street is packed full of cars.”

“My God Carina, you drive slower than a turtle walk. We’re late for the party,” her best friend Eve Lafoy snapped.

Carina rolled her eyes. She could never get mad at Eve.

The first time she ever laid eyes on Eve she knew they would be best friends. To her Eve was an angel, a special gift sent from heaven to be Carina’s best friend. “Oh, quit being so bossy Evie.”

Eve sighed heavily reaching into her purse for her compact. “Turn on the light. I want to fix my make-up.”

Carina did as she was told. “You’re lucky I was raised to respect my elders.”

Eve touched up her mascara. “Too bad this elder didn’t teach you how to drive faster. We would have been here a long time ago.”

Carina sighed. “Evie Lafoy it was raining cats and dogs. What did you want me to do? Kill us both on the drive here?”

“Don’t make jokes like that, they aren’t funny Carina Sinclair. And do not call me Evie while we’re at the party,” a scowl marred her expression as she lifted her chin. “Call me Eve. It sounds so much more worldly and mature.”

Carina made grunting noises. “Aw you make me want to start drinking sometimes.”

Eve rolled her eyes. “Don’t you dare; you know you are our designated driver.”

“You mean your designated driver,” Carina blurted out. “Look Eve it took us almost an hour to drive here and I want to enjoy myself too,” she paused. “So, don’t get mad and want to leave. You know who I mean.”

Distracted with her thoughts, Eve stared off into the distance. She looked completely lost.

Thoughtfully Carina’s eyes glittered with concern. “Evie please don’t worry about that lizard Izard Moulard showing up. I don’t think a rat like him will ever show his face again,” she said caringly. “If that old snake ever shows his face I’ll show him what I’ve got waiting for him in my purse.”

Eve shuddered at Izard’s name. She stared back at her best friend and wished she’d shut up. Carina was right Izard was a lizard and a snake. Too bad she hadn’t figured that one out in advance.

It had been two years, but the memory of that night would forever be etched in her mind. That night there had been a party at an old mansion. Eve had done something she’d never done before, gone into an isolated part of the old mansion all alone. It was her realtor instincts that had led her to explore the old place by herself. To her shocked surprise Izard Moulard had somehow followed her into the empty room unaware to her.

The next thing Eve knew she looked up and Izard was watching her with the hooded gaze of a snake. He’d called her a stupid good for nothing whore that deserved what he was about to do. Eve remembered being pushed to the floor screaming. The next thing she remembered was the door bursting wide open and Izard Moulard being beaten and left lying sprawled out on the floor.

Carina laid her hand over her best friend’s hand caringly. “I wish I could make it all better Eve.”

“Don’t worry,” Eve stammered out, letting her thoughts come back to the present. She quickly changed the subject. “Gosh, I wish you would get a pair of contacts Carina. You’re hiding that beautiful face behind a pair of old gold framed glasses,” Eve said softly.

“These are new. Besides, everybody can’t look like you Eve. You were born with smoldering good looks. You’re so lucky your father was handsomely attractive. I wonder which side of his family he got it from. Was it the Mexicans, the African Americans or the Asians?”

“Dad always said it was a combination of his mixed heritage,” Eve said smiling softly. Her deep green eyes were courtesy of her mother’s French and Creole ancestry.

Eve turned her attention to Carina’s face and studied her. She was tall, rail thin, and gorgeous. Her hazel green eyes with flecks of gold running through them could melt a man’s heart. “Well baby girl, speaking of mixed heritage beauty, you didn’t do too badly in that department yourself. That rich pale caramel skin color of yours was on the envy list of every girl we went to school with.”

Carina rolled her eyes. “Yeah right.”

“No really Eve shrugged. “Do you remember that girl in high school, Patricia Whittington? She spent a fortune on tanning booths trying to get your coloring.”

The two friends laughed remembering.

Carina’s glasses gleamed in the car’s light.

“God Carina if you only had contacts,” Eve shook her head. “You’d get a man to marry you in a heartbeat with one of those come hither looks of yours,” she shrugged. “If you had contacts they would just add icing on the cake.”

“I thought you said these glasses were more flattering on me?”

Eve shrugged. “Oh! No what I said was that pair of glasses only looked good on Sara Palin, but they look fantastic on you.”

“That was a compliment, right?”

“My very best!” Eve said. “Come on Carina, let’s get out of the car.”

“Thanks,” Carina’s voice was muffled as she closed the car door behind her. She played with her hair. “You can be nice sometimes. Now stop worrying. I promise I’m going to have a great adventure tonight.”

“Now I’m worrying. I never said I wanted you to have an adventure. I said be nicer to Grant Godeau tonight. I think he really likes you. The guy just needs more encouragement from you,” Eve replied.

Carina smothered a yarn. “Yeah sure I’ll be nice to boring old Grant Godeau. Did you know I’ve been very patient with that man? In just the last two weeks we’ve been on the phone at least six times trying to set up a lunch date and we haven’t decided on a restaurant yet?”

Eve grinned amused. “Oh, and I’m sure you were keen on rearranging your work schedule to lunch. Am I right?”

“Well maybe I did have a couple of meetings that I just couldn’t get out of,” Carina said.

“Apparently you couldn’t,” Eve said, checking her lipstick. “Look Carina, I know you are interested in getting married someday. A guy like Grant is perfect for you. Yes, he’s a couple of years older than you. But the guy has his own wealth, even without the business he has with his cousins. Grant owns several exclusive office parks. Plus, he owns the Godeau building in downtown Oakland California. He has polished manners, impeccable lineage, and he has an Ivy League education. What more could you ask for in a husband?”

“An outgoing personality, for a start,” Carina said feeling like a noose was tightening around her neck. “Besides once Hawke shows up he’ll be the life of the party.”

Carina’s chattering started getting on Eve’s nerves. She stopped abruptly.

“Stay away from Hawke Deville!” Eve commanded.

The moment was awkward.

Carina stood for a moment and stared at her friend, stunned speechless.

“I’m sorry I yelled Carina, what I meant…” All at once she got an inspiration and lied. “He’s hiding something. Most people like Hawke Deville are always hiding something.”

“But Hawke has always been a good friend to us both. Remember you said yourself. I don’t understand it Eve. For the last few months you’ve done nothing but bad mouth Hawke. You said he was a good guy.”

Eve shrugged and kept walking.

“Gosh Evie you so dislike Hawke now. Why?”

Eve sighed softly. She thought for a moment. She didn’t want to upset her friend. “Yes, I did say that Hawke was a good person, but that was a long time ago. I have my reasons for wanting you to stay away from him. I just think that guys like Hawke Deville don’t want but one thing from a woman. And once she gives it up. He doesn’t see her as anything but a whore or a slut.”

They continued walking in silence.

Carina looked up at her friend thoughtfully as she played with her hair.

All at once Eve reached out her hand tenderly and pushed back a loose strand of hair. “God’s sake Carina don’t go messing with your hair. It looks fabulous, as long as you don’t start playing in it.”

Carina swallowed hard. “Evie why do you always treat me like a kid? I only play with my hair when I get bored.”

Eve chuckled softly and glanced at her friend. “I don’t mean any harm pumpkin. I guess it’s’ that elder part of me that makes me want to protect you. For some reason I always feel protective of you. You’re the baby sister I never had.”

Carina smiled back. Eve always did know what to say to calm her. “Okay, big sis, you know I can never stay mad at you for long.”

“Come on let’s go inside. And don’t get bored. Help me find my next client with potential,” she said excitedly. “Oh, and make sure he has a big one.”

“Shhhhh Evie! God, I swear sometimes you say the word client like you’re a prostitute, or something.”

“What? You know I meant a fat bank roll,” Eve smiled softly with an intrigued glint in her eye. “Besides, if I was a call girl, I’d be the highest paid and yummiest call girl around. Then I’d get myself one of those Nicole Anna girl boob jobs,” she laughed softly.

“Her name was Anna Nicole,” Carina said straightening her glasses.

“Whatever. Come on Carina let’s go inside. I need to find my next John, I mean client.”



Chapter 2

Party Hearty who says we were tardy

The bright lights on the front porch of the old mansion beamed across the grand front door. Loud music echoed as the two friends crossed the threshold.

Carina smiled gingerly at the host as they entered.

Xavier Newhouse’s expressive brown eyes smiled back. He was a local kid that had made good. He was a businessman, a former jock and a self-proclaimed gift to all women.

He reached out and pulled Carina into an embrace like the sister he’d always wanted. “Hey there Miss Cutie, so glad you could make it, oh and your best friend Evie too.”

Eve looked up at the tall man standing in front of her. His jet-black curly hair shone against the light. His dark eyes surveyed her in a way that put her on edge.

“Well, well, well, Miss Eve you are on my territory now. Want to pay your toll fees now or later?”

Eve frowned. “Screw you Xavier, and don’t call me Evie.”

“I’ve been trying to screw you, but you just won’t let me,” Xavier chuckled.

More people pushed through the front entrance.

Xavier’s tone changed. “Guess what? I’ve got four rooms set up for your dancing pleasure. There are a few folks here from our old high school.”

“Really,” Carina’s gray eyes danced excitedly. “Who?”

“Nicholas La Cour and Quinn Rolandis, you remember them,” Xavier replied.

Eve’s mouth dropped opened. “Really? I had home room class with both of those guys. They were a lot of fun.”

“Nicholas and Quinn were way older than me,” Carina said. “But I was good friends with Nicholas’ sister, Lacey La Cour. Is she here?”

Xavier shook his head. Carina was like a little sister to him. “Sorry sweetness, I haven’t seen Lacey or that big mouth friend of hers Maëlle Mallard,” he smiled softly. “Speaking of big mouth friends, Evie, that red lipstick really looks sexy good on you tonight.”

Eve’s lips curled up into a devilish smile. She flung back her long wavy jet-black hair. “Why thank you Xavier,” she cooed. “Now what about that tall guy Kienan Egan, he was good friends with Nicholas and Quinn, is he here?”

Xavier lifted a brow. “I think I saw him come in,” he hesitated. “Is that what you like Eve, tall geeky guys. What about us solid rock-hard jock looking guys? You know jocks are known to be non-stop grinding machines. We can go all night if a woman needs us too.”

Eve feigned innocence and leaned in close and cupped his face. “So, Xavier, my red lipstick is really turning you on huh?” She leaned in close and kissed him hard on the lips.

The kiss broke out of control. Xavier groaned and tilted his head devouring Eve’s lips.

Eve took a step back and pushed out of his embrace. “My luscious red lips are as delicious as a red velvet cupcake, aren’t they Xavier?”

“Yes indeed,” Xavier said grinning wide.

Eve’s face glowed with mischief as she tore herself away from him and ran her finger down his lips and under his chin, she licked her lips and cooed softly in a smoky sexy voice. “Well then Xavier darling, when is big daddy going to put a ring on it?

“What?” Xavier asked like a quiet marriage scared man. Embarrassment and remorse flooded him. He took a step back.

Eve closed in for the kill and slowly caressed her fingers down his chest. “Wow Xavier, who knew you were husband material.”

“Marriage?” Xavier froze.

“Why yes of course, Xavier darling,” Eve whispered hoarsely. “What did you think I was after, your body?”

Someone muffled a laugh.

Xavier made a face at Eve and then quickly put some distance between them.

“Great to see you Eve,” a woman’s shrill raucous voice sang out. “By the way I like the way you handled Xavier.”

“Kitty Kennard, it’s wonderful to see you again!” Eve exclaimed.

Kitty, a pretty, petite almost fifty-something with a wavy cap of ginger brown hair cut fashionable to frame her face. Kitty was the editor, publisher, and co-proprietor of Talk is Cheap, Events, Announcements and Other Gossiping News. It was a local gossip column and website. They were famous for knowing the goings on of local people to know. They knew if you were in or out or going up or down in the social scene in the South Bay area. Better known at the Silicon Valley or Geek Nation, as many locals joked.

Kitty giggled. “Same here, so where is baby sister?”

“I’m right behind you Kitty and you know I was hoping we’d see you tonight,” Carina said. “Have you got any hot gossip?”

“God you know I do, are you two all ears?” Kitty asked.

“We are. Start talking, and ladies move in close,” Eve murmured.

Kitty giggled. “Well Charlene Baptiste is screwing Jacob Whitefield.”

“Everybody knows that,” Carina shrugged.

“Yeah but Jacob’s wife caught them screwing in her bed, and instead of throwing Charlene out on her arse She climbed in bed and joined them. She said seeing the two of them together made her horny again for the first time in years.”

“What?” Eve and Carina said simultaneously.

“Yes, and his wife had nerve to tell Charlene that Jacob was so boring in bed. She stopped having sex with him. She was glad he’d started having an affair with her just so that she could watch them. That woman is a total freak.”

“You know Kitty it always amazes me how you know so much dirt on people.”

Kitty smiled and nodded. “Yes, it’s a gift I have, folks like to tell me things, and I let them do the talking. Plus, I’m a good observer.”

“Eve!” Suddenly Xavier’s voice sliced the air. “Sorry to interrupt ladies,” he said. “Oh Eve, can I talk with you about something private?”

Eve shook her head. “Not now, I’m in the middle of a conversation here.”

“Later then?” Xavier asked. “And don’t forget to save me a dance.”

“Sure, later,” Eve mumbled.

The three friends watched as Xavier moved away.

Kitty shook her head disapprovingly. “You should have said no Eve.”

Eve and Carina looked at Kitty with disbelief.

“Eve shouldn’t talk with Xavier, huh?” Carina said. “I get it because you think he’s a player?”

Eve scowled. “Wait a minute you two. I’m the one who gets to decide who Eve talks to.”

“Hang on a minute Eve. We should find out what Kitty knows,” Carina said with deep concern. “Okay Kitty what do you know? Spill it.”

Kitty’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. “Just be careful Eve, Xavier can be possessive and old fashioned in his dealings with women. I’ve heard he believes it’s okay to hit a woman to keep her in line.”

“Oh really,” Eve said in disbelief.

“The bastard,” Carina murmured.

Kitty sighed heavily. “Let me give you a word of advice. You two ladies should always remember Prince Charming only exists in fairy tales. And most of all remember what is walking around today among us disguised as men, are really devils…All devils every last one of them. Oh except for the ones that are just plain dogs.”

“Ah, you know Kitty it was great talking to you. But Carina and I need to talk to someone. Good bye,” Eve said hastily grabbing Carina’s arm and pulling her out of ear shot.

“Eve, we don’t have anyone to meet.”

“Shhhhh Carina don’t let Kitty know that. That old bird gets loonier every day,” Eve shrugged. “Come on there’s got to be intelligent life at this party somewhere.”



Chapter 3

Beware of the Mayan Clark Kent, Pink Cats, and Get away from the bar…

A half hour later the throngs of people seemed to multiply. The place started to smell of cigarette smoke.

Carina and Eve stood by the hostess bar set up in the formal dining room and studied the people as they sipped their drinks.

Carina could not help but notice the small petite woman of mixed race, who sat at the bar. She had good bone structure, but she had to be at least forty, judging by the crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes. Her hair was a bronze shade of blond, and she wore a deep red short dress.

“Who are you staring at?” Eve asked and followed her best friend’s gaze.

The two friends watched as a man walked over and sat right next to the woman, in the red dress at the bar. He openly gazed at her with great interest. The man looked like a handsome Mayan Clark Kent.

The man pushed back his glasses to get a better look at the woman.

The woman in the provocative dress shifted and uncrossed her legs. Her hands slid gracefully inside her thigh. The invitation wasn’t lost on the man.

“Wow, that’s an unlikely pair,” Carina finally said. “Isn’t he someone we know?”

All at once it hit her. The Mayan Clark Kent was Quinn Rolandis. She had gone to school with him. He still looked the same.

Carina tilted her head to the side. “Is that Quinn Rolandis, Eve?”

Eve sipped her drink. “Yeah, it sure is!”

“Hi Carina, Hi Eve,” Quinn said watching them checking him out. He looked back at them with naked lust.

Quinn Rolandis stood up and pulled the woman in the red dress close to him. He nuzzled her neck. It was obvious he felt the need to put on a display.

She scolded him lightly giggling softly. “Oh, Quinn you are such a bad boy.”

Quinn reached out and cupped the woman’s buttocks. The woman moaned.

“God Quinn, why don’t you get a room?” Eve said.

“Quinn, ask her.” The woman in the red dress giggled.

Quinn’s eyes lit up with sensual fire. His voice chuckled raucously. “Say Eve, my girlfriend wants to know if you’re up for a threesome. She said the pleasure would be all hers if you’re interested.”

Eve’s brow rose with a flare of anger. “Why you little horny heathen bitch, I ought to kick your ass for that remark,” Eve scoffed.

Quinn Rolandis chuckled rich and throaty. He closed the distance between him and Eve. He reached out his finger and ran it gently down Eve’s face. He whispered. “Eve…Eve…Eve darling, you remember how gentle I can be. Don’t fight over me. There is plenty of Quinn to go around. He chuckled softly. Besides, while I’m touching her, I’ll only be thinking of you.”

“Quinn you’re a rat bastard and no I don’t remember how gentle you can be. Because I never let you and your ratty paws touch me,” Eve hissed slapping his hand away.

“Eve do you want me to go call Xavier or someone,” Carina nervously asked.

Quinn took a step back nervously and pushed back his glasses. His manners held a pleading stance. “Relax Carina. I didn’t mean any harm.”

He turned back and looked at Eve. “Look Eve, please accept my deepest apologizes. I’m sorry about that,” his expression was appealing. “You can’t blame a horny guy that finds you very attractive, for trying.”

Eve made a grunting noise. “I see you’re still a gentleman asshole Quinn,” she said pulling on Carina’s arm as they walked away.

A few minutes later Carina pushed open the door to the great room. “Xavier must have invited over three hundred people here tonight.”

“Yes, it looks like he did.”

Carina and Evie slowly made their way down the corridor. Carina said, “Eve do you think Hawke is here?”

“God, I hope not! Hawke Deville has major ego problems just like Quinn Rolandis. Besides the way Hawke pops in and out of our lives is like he’s hiding something. Ever since when I was sixteen….” Eve hesitated and realized she was bringing up the past. The past she’d much preferred to stay hidden. “Anyway, I really don’t want to be bothered with him tonight.”

“Eve, you do remember Hawke was sent to some kind of boarding school. Right after that night the two of you got caught having sex together.”

Eve abruptly stopped walking and turned to her friend. Her signature smile disappeared. “I don’t want to talk about that Carina. Not tonight or ever.”

“Sorry Eve. But anyway, I heard Hawke has moved back. In fact, I heard he’s been living here for well over a year somewhere.”

Eve pretended to ignore Carina. But she heard every word she said. She continued walking. Carina followed close behind. The archway of the great room loomed in front of them. They entered.

Carina sighed heavily and pulled out her cell phone. Evie was starting to really get on her nerves. The light was blinking on her cell phone. She pushed the button. The caller ID said it was from Grant Godeau. She smiled seeing his name. Memories invaded her mind. She thought about the last time they’d been together. She thought about him a lot more than she let Eve know she did. She pressed the button and put the phone to her ear.

“Hello Grant, where are you? We’re in the great room,” Carina yelled into the phone.

A familiar laugh sounded behind her. “Well if you two aren’t the hardest ladies to find in a house full of people.”

Carina recognized the rich resonant voice of Grant Godeau immediately. Her body tingled at the sound of his voice. She turned around immediately and looked up at him. She played with her hair.

“Carina stop playing with your hair,” Eve whispered.

Grant Godeau stood over six feet tall. His olive complexion and dark hair made him the stuff of what movie legends were made of. He wore black. Black leather jacket, black jeans and a V-neck black sweater. He held a drink in one hand and smiled revealing a dazzling smile.

“Hi Grant, you look great as usual,” Carina said staring at him thought the lingering fog of her mind.

Grant gazed back at her. His gaze quickly took in her face and then lingered on his lips before he pulled her into his embrace.

“God, you two are hopeless,” Eve said lifting her wine glass and moving a short distance away.

Carina pulled out of the embrace. Her heart quickened a beat as she stared back at his handsome face and attractive grey eyes.

Distracted by the way the light hit her hair, a devilish smile curled on his lips. “I’m sorry I’ve been so busy lately.”

Relief flooded Carina. “I thought you didn’t want to go out with me,” she said linking arms with him.

“I’d be crazy if I didn’t,” he smiled admiring the glint in her eyes.

“The noise level in this place is getting out of hand. Looks like folks are starting to make this room a dance floor.” Carina said. “I almost can’t hear you.”

Grant cleared his throat. “Come have a dance with me, Carina.”

Carina quickly looked around for her best friend. “Eve, you don’t have a dance partner.”

Eve rolled her eyes in annoyance. “Go on kid and enjoy yourself on the dance floor. Don’t worry about me. I heard there was some jazz playing out on the patio,” she grinned. “I’m going to go check out the rest of the party.”

Eve turned and headed for the door. Just as she walked through she collided with a man. She reached her hand out to steady herself. Her eyes stared up into the face of a man that looked as handsome as an angel or a prince. She loved the way his soft mustache was lined above his lip. And the way his chiseled beard gave him a commanding presence. The man had to be over six feet tall she guessed.

“You should watch where you are going,” Eve said trying to pull off a dignified act of pretending she didn’t notice how handsome the man was. She pushed past him and kept walking.

XXX

A few minutes later, with a fresh drink in hand. Eve walked across into the marble patio. Her tall patent leather pumps clicked softly on the gleaming marble floor. Live jazz music filled the air. The music drew her closer into the room.

Eve felt her head sway a little and her eyelids droop. She tried to count how many drinks she had had. All at once her feet hurt. She felt like she was losing her balance.

“Young lady you need to sit down. Come on let me help you to the table,” a woman’s smooth voice said.

The stranger led Eve to a table in a corner. “There now,” she said softly. “It’s a good thing they put a pitcher of water on every table. Here you have a drink,” the woman smiled pouring Eve a glass of water.

The water felt good going down Eve thought as she took another gulp of water and looked back at the woman. The woman had a kindly face. Her eyes glistened. She looked familiar, Eve thought.

“Thank you,” Eve smiled. “I guess I was just a little parched.”

“Or you had too much to drink,” the woman’s soft blue eyes sparkled. “Hi, I’m Glenda D’Goodwrench-Jackson, of San Juan Bautista, California.”

“Hi Glenda, I’m Eve, nice to meet you.”

“Same here darling,” Glenda replied.

Eve chuckled softly. “You know for a moment your name almost sounded like Glenda the Good Witch. You know like in the kid’s movie.”

Glenda’s face didn’t move a muscle.

Eve chuckled louder. “You should see the expression on your face. What? You don’t believe in that hocus pocus nonsense, do you?”

“I believe ladies should not stand too close to the bar for too long,” Glenda laughed out. “Anyway, child you know ancient ways of old can exist even on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland California, if you know where to look.”

In a lighting motion Glenda waved a hand with a large ruby red ring on it. Instantly a black cat materialized out of thin air and sat in the middle of the table.

Eve stared back at the cat. She watched it as it changed colors right before her eyes. First the cat’s color was a black. Then it turned to a blue green before changing to a deep purple. When Eve looked again the cat was a pretty pink.

The cat opened its mouth and yawned and then changed to snow white. It looked back at Eve, purred loudly, and then smiled and with a springy step bounced off the table.

Eve was speechless. Her face was transfixed on Glenda’s.

“I think pinky likes you,” Glenda’s eyes sparkled with a strange iridescent light. A slow secret smile grew on her face. “So, Eve are you a virgin?”

“Excuse me?”

“No Eve, I meant a virgin in the sense that this is the first time you’ve seen a cat that can change colors.”

“Yeah…Yeah, I guess I am,” Eve said watching Glenda with a keen fascination.

Glenda chuckled with amusement. “Aren’t you curious about me?”

“Yeah, I guess I am. What kind of witch are you? A good witch or a bad witch?” Eve asked.

“I’m not a witch at all. You don’t have to have power to be a witch. But I guess folks like you must think that’s what I am. My mother was hoodoo high priestess from New Orleans Louisiana,” she said narrowing her eyes at her. “But I’m not a high priestess either. I come by my talents and skills naturally. I was born into them. But I guess if you had to ask was I a good witch or a bad witch, in the sense of being a good person or a bad person. I’d have to say I’m a good witch, I guess,” Glenda said shaking her head. “I specialize in love potions you know.”

“Love potions. Are you serious?”

“Yeah, and I’m good at it. You know I have a specialty. A drink that I designed, it has a powerful effect in awakening the desires of the heart of whoever drinks it. It’s guaranteed to get you married, if that is what you desire.”

Eve sighed. “Really? I have a friend who could really use it.”

“Oh, not yourself?”

Eve shook her head. “No, I don’t believe all that hocus pocus nonsense.”

Glenda looked quietly at her. “Why not?”

Eve shrugged. “Well I guess because… Look Glenda, I don’t have an answer, okay.”

Glenda’s voice was reassuring. “Okay let’s go back to talking about your friend. Does your friend have the most important elements needed for a good marriage to survive? Such as loyalty, honesty, compassion and passion for the man she wants to marry?”

Eve breathed out slowly. “I think she does. How much does something like that cost?”

Glenda glanced around making sure the coast was clear.

All at once twinkling bells carried around the wind.

Startle, Eve looked around her. “Did you hear that?”

Glenda shrugged. “Hear what?”

“It sounded like wind chimes or something.”

“I didn’t hear a thing,” Glenda said. “Give me your hand,” she said, pulling out a small bottle.

Eve gasped at the sight of the beautiful translucent crystal bottle placed in her hand. “It’s lovely, look how clear the liquid is.”

Eve stared closer. Something was inside the bottle. “Do I see my reflection? What is it?”

Glenda grinned. “Sometimes a person sees what they cannot live without.”

Smoke swirled around the small bottle. The clear liquid quickly changed colors. Just as the cat had done earlier, the clear liquid slowly turned pink. The bottle was cold to the touch.

Eve could feel something strange happen. “Glenda, you know how I said I didn’t believe in hocus pocus earlier?”

“Yes.”

“Does that cloud of smoke say anything about me?” She looked closer at the small bottle in her hand. The smoke clouded and changed. She thought she saw a face. “I mean what’s happening? What is that?”

Glenda blinked as if she saw her thoughts. Slowly she glanced around again, then leaned over and whispered. “Eve I know you can be a skeptic but there’s something you should know,” she leaned forward and studied the smoke. “Love is in the smoke. True love, but Eve there is danger, conflict and jealousy. You will face them all before you find the man who belongs only to you,” she paused. “But in the end, true love will conquer through the conflict.”

“Does it say the same for my friend Carina? What does it tell for her?” Eve asked.

Glenda smiled quietly. “Make sure you put a drop of the liquid in your friend’s drink and the drink of the man she wants to marry.”

Glenda rose. “Now go and if for any reason you need me just go to the Bart Station off Shattuck in Berkley and call my name three times,” she said walking away into the shadow. She stopped abruptly and turned and stared back at her and murmured. “Oh Eve, you must remember to first close your eyes before you say my name three times, you understand?”

Eve nodded.

“Now please go,” Glenda said softly moving further into the shadows until she was well hidden.

Eve clasped the small bottle in her hand and stared hard at it. Then she placed it in her evening bag, stood and walked back the way she had come earlier.

Glenda lingered in the dark shadows and waited and watched Eve walk away. She smiled and chuckled softly. She walked back into the light. She turned around.

A gorgeous man appeared out of nowhere. He was dressed in a classic black double-breasted blazer and turtleneck.

Glenda looked up at him. She saw the glitter in his dark green eyes. “You were watching. I could feel your eyes on us the whole time. Well what do you want?”

His lips curved into a devilish smile. “Let’s just say humans are creatures of want.”

Glenda’s laughter filled the air. “There are many things in this world and most think they are human. But I will agree with you. Humans are creatures of want,” she said. “Now I ask again. What is it that you want?” she asked sternly looking up at the man.

She raised an eyebrow. For once she was speechless. The smile on Glenda’s face faded. She waived her hand. “No! Don’t tell me. I already know.”

The sardonic good looks of the man were starting to rattle her nerves. “Oh, merciful heavenly father, I’m going to need patience with this one.”

“I didn’t know hoodoo high priestess’s daughters prayed.” The man said.

“I’m a good catholic daughter I am,” Glenda shrugged. “Just a little twisted in my beliefs just like most of the world,” she said. “You wouldn’t by chance be willing to give me a name?”

The attractive man ran his fingers through his dark curly hair. His dark green eyes glistened as he shook his head.

“I thought not,” Glenda said.



Chapter 4

A Brighter day…New Beginnings ...

The next day, the sun shone brightly through the window. Something was interrupting Carina’s peaceful dream. All at once she figured out what it was. Someone had opened the blinds to her window.

“Good morning Carina. Smell that nice hot fresh coffee? I brought you a cup,” Eve’s voice sparkled with sunshine. “It’s a beautiful day. Come on get up and take a shower. I’m making brunch,” Eve said cheerfully.

“Go away Eve, I haven’t finished sleeping late,” Carina yarned.

“Okay…If you’re sure I should. But we’ve got company coming over in about an hour.”

There was a slight hesitation as Carina pulled her pillow tighter over her head. “Tell them to go away,” she hesitated. “Who is it anyway?”

“Grant is coming over this morning.”

Grant?” Carina blurted in a surprised voice. “Oh my God, he can’t see me like this I’ve got to take a shower.”

Eve smiled watching Carina race for the shower. Her lips twitched. Soon she would put her plan into action.

XXX

Almost an hour later, Carina helped Eve arrange the white linen table cloth and napkins. The table arrangement was impeccable. Royal Doulton cups and saucers and crystal stem-ware lent the table a classic elegance.

The brunch menu was in keeping with the season, fresh produce. Apricot topped French toast was layered in a rectangular baking dish. Fresh fruits consisting of strawberries, blue berries and sliced peaches looked appetizingly appealing in a crystal truffle dish. Eggs Benedict sat warming in a chafing dish. Honey-Lemon muffins with peach butter sat nestled in a napkin covered basket. Sausages and Bacon slices didn’t get over looked along with a baking dish of country potatoes.

“Pardon me Eve but did you cook enough food this morning?” Carina jokingly asked.

“You know men can eat. I just wanted to make sure we had enough.”

“Well don’t worry Eve, we could feed a small Army with this faire,” Carina grinned.

“Ladies, I didn’t mean to interrupt your inspection. But everything smells so good. I was wondering when we could eat?”

Eve and Carina turned to see Grant Godeau standing in the doorway. His dazzling white smile was irresistible.

“Now is as good a time as any Grant,” Eve said. “The plates are right behind you on that table.”

XXX

A half hour later the three of them chatted easily and enjoyed the meal.

“Everything tastes wonder,” Grant said reaching and pouring more coffee. “Frankly I’m amazed. You have such great talent in the kitchen.”

“So, does Carina. In fact, I’ve taught her how to make the cranberry champagne mimosa I’m about the serve,” she said rising.

“I can get that Eve. You’ve done so much already. That’s the pitcher on the buffet table right next to the china hutch, right?” Carina asked.

“No!” Eve yelled abruptly. Nervously she glanced up. “I mean yes that is the pitcher. It’s just that it hasn’t been enough time for the ingredients to mix completely yet.”

Two pairs of eyes turned and stared.

“Good thing I’m not ready for a mimosa yet,” Carina said.

“Neither am I,” Grant agreed.

Flushing nervously, Eve quickly sat back down. “Ohhhh, I’m sorry Carina. I didn’t mean to yell. I just wanted you and Grant to enjoy the meal first. I’ll get the pitcher of mimosas later,” she said clearing her throat and hoping they didn’t see through her lie.

The loud bong of the front door bell suddenly rang out.

Eve shook her head. “I wonder who that could be. I wasn’t expecting anyone.”

“I’ll get the door,” Grant said. “In fact, I invited a friend. I hope you don’t mind?”

Carina interrupted. “No, Eve doesn’t mind. She likes to entertain. Besides she cooked enough food for an army.”

Quickly Grant marched to the front door.

Muffled voices could be heard from the hallway.

Grant returned to the dining room and flashed a big grin. A man followed closely behind him. “Hey Carina and Eve, this is Malak,” he said quickly.

“Thank you so much for inviting me Eve,” Malak said.

Eve looked up her face contorted into a look of deep surprise and pain. “Oh my God! It’s you!”

Carina turned her attention to stare at the man that had just entered. She didn’t recognize him. But she was sure Eve had from the look of pure shock that registered on her face. Slowly she studied the man.

He was a tall man with broad shoulders. He was at least an inch taller than Grant. He had an attractive stance that few men are born with. His jet-black curly hair was combed back from his face. He wore a beard and a moustache.

He gazed back at Eve with an inviting glint in his strange dark eyes. His lips cocked into a half grin. “Eve please forgive me for being a little late. I brought you a little token to show my appreciation for your inviting me over,” he said letting a gold necklace dangle from his fingers. A pendant hung from the necklace.

Eve gasped. “Wow! You shouldn’t have,” she said closing the distance between them and letting her fingers carefully reach out to take the necklace. She marveled at it as it caught the light. “It’s exquisite the diamonds are so intricately formed into the shape,” she said studying the pendant.”

A mysterious elegant medallion diamond pendant sparkled in the sunlight.

“My gosh I see an angel,” Eve’s excited voice filled the air. “But you can’t tell unless you look closely. My God this is beautiful.”

Carina shrugged. “Gosh Eve that looks very expensive.”

“A beautiful necklace for a beautiful woman,” Malak said.

Squaring her shoulders Carina turned and stared back at Malak. Strange dark eyes sparkled back at her. She was captivated by his eyes. She wondered.

Malak hummed softly as he stared back at her.

“Carina please stop giving Malak the evil eye,” Eve shrugged. “This is just a beautiful friendly gift. Malak please help me put it on.”

“Sure,” he said turning to clasp the necklace on her neck.

“Malak you are welcome to join us,” Eve said turning around and facing him. Her fingers touched the pendant at nape of her neck at the same time she stared into his strange dark eyes. She felt energy radiating from him sending an intense sensation though out her body. Suddenly an erotic image of Malak flashed in her mind. She rubbed her face. “You…You are welcome to join us,” she repeated vaguely, as she stood there staring.

Time stood still.

Grant opened his mouth to say something. “Eve….” he paused. “Are you going to let Malak have a seat?”

Malak interrupted him. “Ahhhh…I see I came at the right time. Eve you’ve made cranberry champagne mimosas,” he said spotting the pitcher.

Eve took a deep breath. The man smelled wondered. His cologne smelled woodsy. Deep layers of sandalwood and citrus tickled her nose.

Malak sat down at the table.

All at once recognition hit her. Eve’s mouth dropped opened. “You!”

“Yes, Eve it’s me. I was wondering when you were going to recognize me.”

“Hawke Deville?”

The man ran his fingers through his jet-black curly hair. “No, I’m Malak Deville, Hawke’s cousin. You met me the other night.”

Grant’s face brightened with a big smile. “You two have already met? Wow that’s great.”

Eve sat down to compose herself. She stared back at Malak Deville intently. She remembered back to the night before and recalled the soft perfect lined mustache and chiseled beard that outlined his jaw and those strange sparkling dark eyes. It gave him a commanding presence.

Eve sat in somber reflection. “You have the Deville family resemblance,” she said speaking out without realizing it. “I mean expect for the whole hair, eyes coloring,” she said muttering.

Carina studied Malak intently. She crossed her arms. “I don’t think so,” she said her shrewd eyes narrowing. “In my opinion Hawke Deville’s deep green luminous eyes makes him way more handsome than Malak. No offense Malak.”

“None taken,” Malak smiled.

Eve lips curled into their signature smile. “Yes, but I think Malak’s eyes hold an inviting glint in the depths of their exotic darkness.”

Malak smiled. “Thanks Eve, I’ll take that as a compliment,” he said. “Eve it looks like you could use a drink. I’ll make us both one. Is it okay if I refill your teacup?”

Eve nodded in a dazed somewhat bewildered look. She felt like she was in a fog.

Malak walked over and poured from the pitcher of cranberry mimosas. He immediately put the teacup into Eve’s hand.

“Please pour us one too,” Grant said pointing to his tea cup.

Malak did as he was told.

Without paying attention Eve took a big gulp of her drink.

“Hmmmm this tastes really good,” Carina murmured.

“It reminds me of cranberry tea,” Grant interjected.

“Hmmmm, it tastes prefect,” Malak said.

“Wow, will you look at! Carina exclaimed.

Her loud words jarred Eve from her fog. “What! What is it?”

Carina giggled. “My teacup is empty. Malak you must pour me some more.”

Grant sympathetically nodded his head in agreement. “What did you put in this stuff Eve? It’s fantastic; I’ll take another cup also.”

“Carina the pot of tea is right next to you,” Eve replied.

Grant shook his head. “It’s not tea. I’m out of your cranberry mimosas.”

Eve blinked rapidly. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. She cast her eyes across the room to the table where she left the pitcher of mimosas. She looked back at Grant and Carina for help. “What? You haven’t been drinking my mimosa?”

All at once Malak fixed Eve with a blank stare. “Yes, we all have been drinking your mimosas. And I must say they have been quite delicious don’t you agree?”

“Did I drink some too?” Eve whispered frantically.

Carina laughed. “Eve I’ve seen you drink worse and still act sober. What are you worrying about?”

Grant laughed. “Carina’s right, Eve.”

There was a moment of stunned silence.

Malak broke the ice. His eyes lit up. “Excuse me Eve but when are we going out on our first date?”

“No!” Eve’s voice boomed. She stared back horrified then rose and ran across the room to the table, where the pitcher of mimosas had sat. She ran her hand across the table. Her fingers clasped around the miniature crystal jar. She stared at it and then she did something strange. She laughed out loud.

“Listen Eve I’m sorry if my asking you out offended you,” Malak said defensively.

Eve laughed harder. “When I said no that wasn’t what I meant.”

“Good,” Malak said with a cheerful tone. “Then madam get ready because I plan to woo you.”

Carina grinned. “Woo hoo, let the wooing begin. This I want to see.”

Eve laughed out harder.

All at once a loud, boisterous chuckle erupted from Malak.

“What joke did I miss?” Grant asked.

Eve smiled triumphantly. “Grant, you didn’t miss a thing. More mimosas anyone?”



Chapter 5

Committed relationships say what…

Two weeks later, that Sunday morning. Carina watched Eve walk over to her favorite seat at the table, by the window. Beneath her smoldering good looks, her deep green eyes showed signs of tension.

“Eve don’t you think it’s strange that you never have a committed relationship with a guy?” Carina asked, lifting the rose pattern teapot back on to the tray. She carried the laden tray over to the table.

Eve glared back at her. Quickly she turned her attention back to the window. The view from the window looked right into her back yard. She smiled warmly. The wicker chair and love seat were a perfect combination under the big tree. It was her favorite spot in the back yard. “You know I don’t think much about things like that,” she said trying to change the subject. “We should have sat outside, under the tree. It looks beautiful outside.”

“Don’t try and change the subject with me Eve,” Carina replied. “Here’s your tea.”

The fragrant scent of fresh brewed tea filled the air. Eve took a deep breath. “Finally, you made my favorite. Orange spice tea,” Eve said taking sip.

Carina smiled softly and walked back to the stove to retrieve a tray of perfectly baked scones. Her thoughts wondered back to that Sunday brunch. The minute Malak walked into the room his eyes searched out Eve. Carina was certain about two things she saw in Malak’s eyes. The first was that he wanted Eve and the second was she was sure she saw a high level of admiration in his eyes for her best friend. She suspected it was something she needed to watch more closely.

Carina cleared her throat. “Guess what, I finally perfected my cinnamon raisin scone recipe. Here taste this.”

“MMMMMM that’s good,” Eve grinned.

Carina sat down across from Eve. “Now back to what we were talking about earlier. You are afraid of being in a committed relationship and I think it goes back to the fact that your mother caught your father cheating on her with that bleached blond bimbo secretary of his.”

“Why are we talking about this? I know all about my Dad and his affairs.”

“Keep an open mind Eve. I’m just saying. You never gave it a thought. That’s why you’re afraid to let Malak woo you. It’s been two weeks and you keep avoiding the man’s calls. You’re afraid to go out on a date with him because you’re afraid he might be the one. The one you fall in love with.”

Nervously Eve laughed. “Gosh, you have such crazy notions sometime Carina.”

“Well, find out if my notion is crazy. Go out with Malak. Quit hiding from the man, return his phone call and go out with him.”

Before Eve could respond her telephone rang.

Carina rose. “Before you get that Eve, I really need to get going. Elena Chan promised to drop by and give me a few ideas on redecorating a couple of rooms. There’s really not much to clean up,” she headed for the door. “Don’t worry, I’ll let myself out. Oh, and Eve, I’ll call you later.”

The phone kept ringing.

She sighed heavily before rising to answer it.

“Hello.”

“Eve, it’s me, Malak,” his voice was resonant and warm. “Please, we need to talk?”

Eve grimaced. “Okay but we haven’t even had our first date yet.”

Malak was silent for a moment. “That’s the reason we need to talk,” he hesitated for what seemed like minutes. Then his voice breathed out enthusiastically. “God, I’d love to see your beautiful face Eve.”

Eve’s heart began to pound at the thought of him.

“Hear me out Eve. All I’m asking is that you go out with me. Forget that wooing stuff, and that having sex stuff. We don’t have to do any of that,” his words tumbled out pleading. “In fact, I just read this book on how to change your life and I’m afraid I don’t want any more one nighters of passionate meaningless sex.”

“Let me get this straight. You read a book on how to change your life and from it you decided to cut having sex out of your life?”

Malak hesitated. “Yes, unless that scares you off. All I know is that you are a perfect fit for me. But if you’re not looking for a lasting relationship, I understand. I will take what I can get. If it lasts, great. If it doesn’t last, then oh well. Please let me just take you out.”

Eve’s resolve weakened at his words. “No, that doesn’t scare me off. When?”

“Tonight, tomorrow night, the next night,” he replied excitedly. “Lady, you just say the word.”

“Okay how about Saturday night.”

Malak laughed warmly out like a strong breeze. “Great! You’ve just given me all the positive response I’ll ever need.”

Eve took a deep breath. She felt in control of her feelings. “Oh, and Malak about that wooing part, I’m okay with it,” she hesitated. “So where are we going?” Eve asked.

“It’ll be a surprise. I’ll pick you up at seven. Oh, and Eve if you have something formal, like a cocktail dress, you should probably wear it?”



Chapter 6

Eve a damsel in a black dress...

That Saturday, promptly at seven, Eve opened her front door.

Immediately Malak raised an eyebrow. “Damn, you look beautiful in that gown.”

Eve looked delicious in a black sequined shimmering, slinky, curve hugging, spaghetti strap gown.

She smiled back at Malak. “Thank you. You clean up well too. Boy am I loving that tuxedo on you.”

“Come on Eve, our limo is waiting.”

Eve smiled at the chauffeur as he opened the rear door for her.

“Exactly where are we going Malak?”

“I hope you like the San Francisco Opera Theatre,” he smiled, leaned over and let his lips brush her ear. “Did I tell you, you look stunning in that gown?”

“Yes, to loving the San Francisco Opera Theatre and yes you told me about my dress,” she smiled.


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