Authors: Lisa Fernow
A TANGO MYSTERY
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2013 by Lisa Fernow
Originally published by Booktrope
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
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Editor: Cynthia White
Cover Designer: Loretta Matson
This title was previously published by Booktrope; this version has been reproduced from Booktrope archive files.
To My Family
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Atlanta
THE ELEGANTLY SUITED ANTIQUES DEALER
stood on a slab of bedrock jutting out into the Chattahoochee River and gazed out at Devil’s Race Course Shoals. The water level had been unseasonably low that July so he had been able to walk out practically into the middle of the channel without wetting his dress shoes.
In a few minutes the sun would set and the park would officially close. The water enthusiasts would pull their rafts from the rapids and the hikers would turn back on their trails to return to their cars and eventually, reluctantly, to civilization. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
Getting out into nature, far removed from his normal milieu, normally helped him to clear his mind but the Argentina business was different. Shameful. What should he do? Calling in the police was out of the question. He tried to play out the alternatives, weighing the consequences of each.
The thunder grew louder.
He pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket and dialed a number he knew better than to call but the unaccustomed wine he’d drunk at dinner overrode his better judgment. The phone rang five times. Finally a message came on instructing him to leave his name.
He said, “I need to talk to you. It’s important. Pick up. Pick up.”
He rambled into the phone at length as darkness fell, failing to notice that the river had begun to rise.
ANTONIA SETTLED HAPPILY
into Eduardo Sanchez’ arms and closed her eyes, giving her body time to know his again. His freshly shaved cheek felt warm and tacky from the humidity. She took a deep breath and caught the faint notes of bergamot and tobacco from his cologne. Her heartbeat quickened, but he didn’t move. She could tell he wanted to. She wanted him to. But Eduardo always took his slow, sweet Argentine time: it drove her crazy in all the right ways. They took a breath together and he drew her an exquisite millimeter closer.
Calo’s orchestra played the first few melancholy notes to “Que Falta Me Haces,” the violins, piano, and
each contributing their thread of the sad conversation. She and Eduardo stood together for the first introductory bars, allowing their connection to build.
Antonia felt Eduardo inhale, this time more deeply. He shifted his weight, bringing her onto her left foot. On his exhale he took one deliberate sidestep, the quality of his movement expressing the lushness of the music. She went with him, a split second too quickly, although no one but an experienced
She felt the muscles in his cheek flex against hers. Her friend was smiling.
He stepped again, placing his foot softly, and this time she followed to the end of the beat, taking the full intimate, intoxicating moment.
The tenor crooned, looking for the woman who was no longer there, the longing and torment in his voice almost too much to bear.
Eduardo led a compact, unhurried turn, transmitting the music through his body into hers. Sensing her response he replied in kind with another soulful, tender
and she lost track of where he ended and she began and there was nothing but the music and their shared, ecstatic heartbreak—
She flinched and Eduardo relaxed his hold. The spell was broken. She opened her eyes and Eduardo’s features came gradually back into focus: ebony hair flecked with silver, brooding eyes, his lined face bearing witness to a life filled with both great happiness and deep sorrow. Then the room: the black and white publicity stills signed by her favorite tango masters, the DJ station, the vintage Carlos Gardel poster her students had given her for her thirtieth birthday, bistro tables dotting the perimeter. And on the nearest one, the phone, still ringing away.
Eduardo said, “Aren’t you going to answer that?”
She glared at the offending appliance. “No.”
“Then I will. I can’t concentrate with this racket.”
“No you don’t.” Antonia laughed and drew him close again. Eduardo had been called home unexpectedly to Buenos Aires, something to do with a patient, and unless she stowed away in his suitcase it would be her last chance to work with him until Trasnochando, Atlanta’s annual tango festival. Only a week away, it felt like years as far as she was concerned.
“Let’s compromise.” He took her back into the embrace and danced her over to the phone. Still holding her, he picked up the receiver with his free hand. “Velocity Studio.”
She could hear the man’s voice on the other end asking for Ms. Antonia Blakeley. She shook her head miming she was out.
Eduardo just handed her the receiver.
“Ms. Blakeley? This is Donald Porges from the Department of Housing at Georgia Tech. I hope I’m not disturbing you, ma’am, but I’m calling in regards to Christian Cookerly. You’re his guardian?”
“Yes, his aunt.”
“Well ma’am, it seems your nephew’s hacked into the university computer system again and made a few executive decisions.”
She grinned. “Has he?”
“I’m afraid so, ma’am. This time he’s bumped the President’s Scholars out of Caldwell residence hall and reassigned young ladies to the men’s floor.” Mr. Porges sounded almost wistful and Antonia wondered if he’d ever enjoyed a good old-fashioned panty raid. “Also, it would appear he’s given himself a female roommate even though he’s not actually signed up for campus housing this fall.”
Dear Christian, he’s really outdone himself this time. Antonia buried her face in Eduardo’s shirtfront to stifle her laughter. “I see.”
“What we have here, ma’am, is a buddin’ case of nonacademic misconduct. He’ll have to go before the UJC if I report him.”
And we can’t have that, can we, Antonia thought. “How about a deal? I’ll have Christian put everybody back where they belong if you forget this happened. Save you the pain of doing the data entry yourselves, or whatever you have to do. I’m so terrible at computer science, it’s not just a matter of an ‘unsend’ button is it?” She looked up at Eduardo and winked.
“Christian is a very talented young man, Ms. Blakeley, and we like him a lot here but you understand we can’t have him messin’ with our systems.”
“He’d be fixing them,” she countered, knowing she could talk Mr. Porges around as she’d done with all the other Georgia Tech staff who’d called to complain about some antic or other of Christian’s in the year since she’d taken over as his guardian. The last time he’d hacked the online course catalog it had taken the administration three weeks to realize they were offering Game Design for Geeks as a subject. “No harm, no foul—what do you say? Maybe he can throw in a few upgrades.”
The earnest official exhaled noisily into the phone. “Ma’am. This is the last time. Remind him the President’s Scholars are supposed to have priority.”
“Thank you so, so much, Mr. Porges.” She put down the phone and turned back to Eduardo. “It’s funny but it isn’t really. Christian spends all his time on the computer, night and day. I worry about what it’s doing to his social skills. You read about all those Romanian orphans and how they have trouble with attachment.”
“Does he seem alienated? Withdrawn?”
Of course, she should have realized the minute she used a term like attachment to a psychoanalyst it was bound to spark a professional reaction. She considered his question and decided whiz kids were that way by definition. “No more than you’d expect.”