Provocative Attraction. AlTonya Washington
curbed his desire to question further. He knew there was only so much the detective could share. “Why’d you want to see me today?” he asked instead.
Sophia tugged at a lone curl that dangled from her updo and debated before answering. “I want to secure V someplace impenetrable until we can convene a grand jury. We don’t know if we can indict Dean on what we have now, but we’re determined to pull in as much ammunition as we can.”
“And you’re okay with that? Letting Viva put her ass on the line like this?”
“I don’t need my sister to wrap this, Rook.” Sophia’s voice held the slightest edge. “Viva came to me with this. What she’s got to share could tip the scales a lot more in our favor.”
“What’d you mean about putting her someplace impenetrable?”
Sophia’s shrug momentarily wrinkled her tailored short-waist black blazer. “I’m sure someone in your...line of work would know of such places. You or your men,” she quickly qualified. “I’m not trying to put you on the spot here, Rook. You could pass this on to one of your guys. Everyone around here will attest to the great work you guys do. I’m at the head of that line. I need to know my sister’s someplace safe if she plans on being involved with this thing.”
Rook stalked the spacious office, having resumed his jaw massage. He drew to a complete halt at Sophia’s next words.
“Tigo said something about you going to Italy.”
It seemed that only Rook’s facial muscles were capable of movement then. He used them to fix Sophia with a stunned look.
* * *
“This all seems so unreal,” Veronica Hail cooed while holding her eldest child in a rocking embrace.
Viva enjoyed the feel of being secure in her mother’s arms while her father’s arms enfolded them both.
“I know this was sudden,” Viva said when her parents allowed her to move out of the embrace just a fraction. “Me just showing up out of the blue, but when I heard about Sophia—”
In unison, the Hails were shushing their daughter.
“It’s forgotten, baby.” Gerald Hail dropped a kiss to the top of Viva’s head. “You never have to apologize for coming home.”
“You never had to apologize.”
Viva heard the stress her mother inserted. “Thank you both.” She hugged them again. “You guys were right, you know?” She drew back to fix them with solemn looks. “You warned me against jumping for the first brass ring tossed my way. Hmph. I not only jumped, I threw away my future while I did it.” Viva saw the look her parents exchanged and read it well.
“I’ve seen Rook,” she told them.
Gerald Hail looked pleased. Veronica Hail looked elated.
“Stop.” Viva raised her hands to ward off their glee. “There’s no reason to get all crazy happy here. We didn’t rush into each other’s arms either time.”
“Tell us about these ‘either times,’” Gerald urged.
The Hails listened intently as Viva recounted the meeting at Sophia’s condo days earlier and the party in Sophia’s honor the night before.
“Are you sure it means nothing, honey?” Veronica asked.
“I’m sure and it wouldn’t matter either way since he’s about to head off to Italy.” Viva quickly shared the details of Rook’s travel plans.
“And how do you feel about this trip?”
Viva shrugged, hesitating to answer her mother’s question. “I’m in no position to complain. I’ve been out of his life for six years.”
“I don’t know, Roni, I’m not so sure she answered your question,” Gerald Hail teased.
Viva smiled, fought back the urge to laugh. “Hearing him discuss travel plans was like an arrow through my heart. Am I terrible for saying that? Dramatic and terrible?”
“Oh well.” Gerald squeezed his daughter close and put a kiss to her temple “I’d say yes to the dramatic. You’re an actress, after all.” He sent her a sly wink. “I don’t think we could convict you of being terrible, though.”
“Last night, I wished his business deal would fall through so he wouldn’t have to go. Sounds pretty terrible to me.”
Gerald caught his wife’s eye, smiling when she nodded. “I’m gonna go get our coffee, sugar pea. Smells like it’s done,” he said to Viva after inhaling the air that held the aroma of rich cinnamon.
“Honey, you know you’re entitled to have those feelings about the man you love,” Veronica was saying once her husband had left the den.
Viva’s expression was then playfully stunned. “How do you and Sophia do that? Just assume love is still involved?”
Veronica pulled Viva with her to a time-worn love seat positioned near the fireplace. “I remember that a wedding seemed to be the way things were heading before all those ships started rolling in for you.” She put a hand on Viva’s knee and squeezed. “You left to follow opportunity, baby, not because you’d fallen out of love with Rook.”
“And that has so much to do with it right there. I chucked it all for fame. How shallow could I get?” Viva leaned forward to scrub her face against her palms. “Rook would be an idiot to forget all that and just take me back on faith.”
“But would you want him to?”
“He wouldn’t, Mama. I’m sure the man certainly has no shortage of women who’d be willing to stay put for anything he’d ask of them.” Viva flopped back against the love seat, a dreamy tint softening her eyes. “You should see him, Mama.”
“Oh, I have.” Veronica gave a coy smile. “So have several of my friends.”
The suggestion roused laughter from both women.
“Listen, sugar pea,” Veronica said as she slapped Viva’s knee then. “There’s only one thing wrong with all these women in Rook’s perfect life.” She tapped her daughter’s nose. “He doesn’t love any of them, because they aren’t you.”
* * *
“Take her with me? You’re serious here?”
“Oh, please stop, Rook.” Sophia rolled her eyes. “I’ve just given you first dibs at an offer every man in the hemisphere would jump to claim.”
“She’d never go for it.”
Sophia shook her head as if pitying the fact that Rook truly seemed to have no idea of his appeal to the opposite sex. “You know, I’m sure you could find all sorts of ways to persuade her.”
“I’m sure I could,” Rook said, finally acknowledging a certain level of his power. “But she’s also got a job to get back to. Or has her decision to offer testimony against her agent robbed her of her desire to act?”
“She’s between projects, and filming for the show won’t resume for another five months.” She gave him a teasing look. “Are you trying to tell me you’re afraid to be alone with a sexy thing like my sister?”
Rook massaged the bridge of his nose and sighed. “You can still be such a brat sometimes.”
“I’ll have you know that I don’t answer to ‘brat’ anymore, only Chief of Ds.” Sophia gave an indignant sniff.
Rook was moved. “I knew you as ‘brat’ first.”
“Level with me, Soap,” Rook said once their laughter had eased. “How serious is this? Do you think someone might go after her?”
“I promise you this is only about me erring on the side of caution here.” Her gaze turned steely.