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Authors: Delaney Diamond

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BOOK: Private Acts
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“The soup will soon be finished.” Samirah took ice water to each of them. “What did the therapist say about your progress?”

“She said I’m coming along well and maintains six to seven more weeks of therapy should suffice. I can hardly wait. The pain is unbearable, and I absolutely hate the therapy sessions.”

Thomas mumbled something. “What was that?”
asked sharply.

“Nothing, my love.”

The corners of Samirah’s lips lifted upward. “I’m glad to hear your recovery is going well.”

“Yes, it’s unfortunate what happened. As we get older, we become clumsier, and the old bones are not what they used to be.”
sighed heavily. “Oh, after you left this morning, we saw our neighbor, the artist. He’s back from his trip to

No kidding. “How well do you know him?”

“Not well, my dear. He’s not the friendliest chap, but we’ve spoken a few times. He seldom has company, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him have a woman over there, unless he scuttles them in at night. His mother’s the only woman I’ve seen him with, and that was about two years ago when she and his little brother came for a visit, wasn’t it, Thomas?”

Thomas nodded his agreement.

“I met him last night at the bar where I go to sing karaoke, but I didn’t know he was the artist you referred to as Delgado.” Samirah’s contract required her to be available to the Hills at night should they need her, but they did allow her the indulgence of going to karaoke once per week for a couple of hours.

She went to the kitchen to finish the dinner preparation.

“At karaoke?”
asked in an incredulous voice.

Samirah smiled at the woman’s tone. “He said he and Seth are friends.”

“Oh, that makes more sense. I couldn’t imagine him participating in Karaoke Night.”

Thomas chuckled. “Certainly not. He doesn’t strike me as the type.”

“True. He tends to keep to himself—a very low key young fellow. His sculptures are wonderful, though. The large ones are my favorites, Samirah. They’re huge and depict the life of the indigenous people of
. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”

Samirah retrieved dinner rolls from the oven and set them on a cooling rack on the counter. “How much do his pieces sell for?” she asked, as she brushed melted butter and honey across the tops of the hot bread.

“It’s obscene. Absolutely obscene,”
said, though Samirah could hear the adoration in her voice. “I heard he sold one of his pieces to a private European collector last year for almost a hundred thousand dollars.”

Samirah’s movements stilled. “No way.”

“It’s true,” Thomas confirmed. “The deal was struck in
, and apparently a bidding war broke out between the two collectors, which inflated the price. The European collector won, and he had his personal curator fly into
to complete the purchase and accompany the sculpture back to…
, I think.”

“I’m in the wrong business. I shouldn’t be cooking, I should be sculpting!”

“You and me both!”

The three of them laughed.

From the corner of her eye, Samirah saw
nudge Thomas.

After clearing his throat, Thomas said, “Samirah, my dear, I have an awfully big favor to ask of you.”

“Thomas, if you begin like that, she’s bound to say no.”

He sighed. “We told you about the fundraiser at the
to benefit the arts. Well, we had purchased two tickets before
’s accident. It’s little more than a week away, and she won’t be up to attending, of course.” Regret filled his voice.

“But he can go,” his wife added.

“I’d rather not go without you and leave you here alone.” Samirah smiled at the sweetness behind Thomas’s words.

“I’ll be fine.”
took over the conversation. “Samirah, my dear, we thought you might like to go to the event with Thomas—keep him company, and then we won’t waste the other ticket. You can keep an eye on him for me to keep the floozies away.”

Samirah choked back a giggle. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d heard the word floozy—if ever. “I would love to go.” She halted her preparations. “I’m guessing it’s a formal event?”

“Black tie is required, so you’ll need a nice cocktail dress or a gown.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem. I could go to the mall and shop for an outfit.”

She was almost four hundred dollars richer after her karaoke win, which meant she could afford to splurge on herself. The last time she’d been to an event that required she get dressed up was when her sister and husband renewed their vows four years ago. It might be fun to get dressed up and mingle with a different crowd.

said. “But since we’re asking such a big favor of you, take time off tomorrow to go shopping.” She beamed happily. “You’ll have such a lovely time, Samirah. We’ve gone the past few years, and I must say I’m always impressed by all the lovely art the students produce. They donate original pieces, and at the end, they’re auctioned to raise money. The auction has grown quite a bit, and this is the first time it’s taking place at the university. Someone knew someone who knows the chair of the art department, and he agreed to allow the event to take place there.”

“Sounds like fun, and I don’t mind going, but what about you,
? Will you be all right here alone? In your condition?”

“I have to agree with her, my dear,” Thomas piped up. She could well understand the concern etched in Thomas’s face.

“Poppycock! I’ll be just fine, and Samirah, I’m sure you’ll find something suitable at the local mall. Thomas, you will go and have a good time. I won’t hear another word about it.”

“My dear—”

shook her head stubbornly. “Go, have a good time, and bring back something we can hang on the wall.”

“Well…if you think you’ll be all right…” He looked doubtful.

“If you’re sure,” Samirah began, “I’m fine with it. I’ll keep the floozies away from him.”

“It’s settled,”
said in a resolute voice.

After dinner, Thomas began the arduous task of helping his wife up the stairs to their bedroom since she refused to set up a bed downstairs. Samirah knew they wouldn’t be back down for the rest of the evening, but if they needed her, they could call the private line in her suite. She washed the dishes and straightened up the living room before going to bed.

Her mind strayed to Miguel next door. She’d managed to keep thoughts of him at bay during most of the night, but now those thoughts encroached, and with them the reminder of his touch and the way his long fingers had stroked along the inside of her arm.

Lucky for her she didn’t have any reason to interact with him again. If
was correct about him keeping mostly to himself, it would be easy to steer clear of him. She probably didn’t even have to concern herself with cooking a meal for him. All she had to worry about right now was finding a dress for the fundraiser.

Miguel Delgado was the least of her worries.

Chapter Five

On Wednesday, Samirah ran some personal errands in town before catching the bus to the mall late in the afternoon. She hated shopping, though, and finding a dress she liked might be difficult. She tended to be picky, preferring to wear clothing she felt expressed her individuality and personality.

Dressed comfortably in a pair of tennis shoes, shorts, and a T-shirt with a rhinestone design on the front, she visited several stores before wandering into a boutique. She explained the type of outfit she needed and the occasion. The salesperson, who turned out to be the owner, showed her several black dresses, but Samirah didn’t like any of them.

“I’m not going to a funeral,” she said to the woman in Spanish. “Do you have anything with brighter colors? Maybe red or blue, or even green?”

The woman pursed her lips and looked Samirah up and down. “I have a few you might like.”

She took her over to a rack and one by one withdrew dresses in different styles, holding up each one to get Samirah’s approval. Before long, they’d chosen three and Samirah went into the small dressing room to try on the first one. A few minutes later, she emerged and stood holding up the bodice of the too-large strapless dress. It would have to be altered, but she liked the way the fabric felt against her skin and the ankle-length hem made her feel elegant.

“What do you think?”

“Absolutely beautiful,” a male voice said. She whirled around to see Miguel against the wall. The sight of him made her heart slam against her chest so sharply she didn’t doubt the next day her ribs would be bruised. He looked like he was holding up the wall with one shoulder, in a pair of faded jeans covering his long legs, casually crossed at the ankles. “It looks too big for you, though.”

“Are you following me
?” Samirah asked.

With an indolent smile, he straightened and came toward her. His clear blue eyes held a bit of mischief, and she realized she would be in trouble before he opened his mouth. “I was passing by when I saw you go into the dressing room to change. I thought I might be able to offer some assistance.”

“How kind of you,” Samirah said, her voice edged with sarcasm, “but I don’t need any assistance.”

“It would be helpful to get a male point of view, don’t you think?” He asked the question in Spanish and looked at the shop owner for concurrence, which she readily offered.

“Another opinion is always helpful,” the woman said, watching them with interest.

Helpful for whom?
Samirah wanted to know. Miguel said something to the woman in Quichua, the second most popular language spoken in
. It dated back to the time of the Incas, and Samirah didn’t speak a word of it. The woman laughed and responded to him.

“What did you say to her?” Samirah demanded.

“Nothing important.”

“It is important, or you would have said it in Spanish so I could understand. It’s very rude of you to speak in another language so I can’t understand.”

He spoke again to the boutique owner, and she giggled. She said a few words back to him, bestowing a smile on both of them, similar to that of a doting grandmother.

Samirah swung back to him and rolled her eyes. “Okay, what did you say

“Well, if you must know…”

“Yes, I must.”

“I told her we had a lovers’ quarrel, and you’re angry with me, but I can help you pick your dress from here.”

Samirah swung back to the woman, making sure to clutch the slipping gown to her chest to maintain coverage over her breasts. “
No es verdad
Él es un mentiroso

He didn’t seem to mind that she called him a liar. He gave a self-deprecating shrug, as if to prove his point to the owner, and then spoke again in Quichua. The two of them carried on a conversation, none of which Samirah comprehended. She tapped her feet, waiting for them to finish. At the end of it, the boutique owner walked away.

BOOK: Private Acts
12.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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