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Deadly Little Lies
By Jeanne Adams
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Jeanne Adams
All right reserved.
Chapter One"It's about time," Dav Gianikopolis said jokingly as his former security expert and longtime business partner, Gates Bromley, arrived for their meeting. "I was beginning to think Ana had tied you up and chained you to the computer."
"Well, she does have this sexy new program running," Gates said, and grinned. "It's designed to dig out large transfers from accredited U.S. banks to banks in Central America. It's for one of those clients." He made air quotes around the word "those" as he said it. Ana, his new wife, had retired from the CIA, but her contacts had drawn four government clients for their new business before the ink on the incorporation papers had dried.
"That's good. Those clients pay the bills better than most. So, how does it feel to be the CEO of your own budding empire?" Dav asked, motioning Gates to a seat. He sat as well and poured coffee for them both.
"Co-CEO," Gates corrected. "It feels good. Surprisingly good. You were right," he said, then stopped when Dav laughed. "Yeah, yeah, you laugh. Go ahead and gloat. I'll say it as many times as you need me to—you were right. I needed to get out on my own again, and I'm glad I did."
"Excellent. Your incentive was quite impressive," Dav said, referring to Ana. "Not to mention an excellent choice as a business partner. How's the other venture?"
"The one we were working on before I left? It's going well," Gates replied, sipping the coffee appreciatively. "The Colombian government decided they would indeed let us send them two of our colleagues to bring their tax system into the twenty-first century."
"I thought we only promised to get them as far as the twentieth. Didn't we decide the twenty-first would require a second contract?" Dav joked.
"Considering they were operating at about the level of the Sheriff of Nottingham with an abacus, we'll do plenty of work just to get them to the twentieth," Gates replied with a laugh.
"True. Getting them all the way to the twenty-first century would require rewiring their entire capital."
Gates smirked. "I think you offered to arrange that too, for a price."
Dav grinned. "I think you're the one who offered that. Either way, we got the deal. Did the check clear?"
"It did. So I've got two specialists and two guards going down next week." Gates pulled a roster out of his briefcase and they started setting up the rotation of staff.
They spent the next hour discussing the job—the placement of their team and what kind of information and bribes they were going to have to pay to be sure their team was protected. It was still somewhat dangerous to put personnel anywhere in Central or some countries in South America, though most of the governments had stabilized. There were still plenty of desperate people who would risk death to ransom Americans. This was one area where being Greek rather than American worked in Dav's favor. He might not like payoffs, but outside the United States, they were fairly standard procedure, and he knew how to employ them to good effect.
"Good. So, you're coming in when the new security geek starts, right?" Dav asked. He knew, of course, but it was a way to get the unspoken out into the open. It was far harder than he'd imagined not having Gates around. He'd put off replacing his security chief for months, only beginning the hiring process at Gates's actual departure. He'd put off a hiring decision for several more months.
"I'm so easily replaced." Gates pantomimed great sorrow, then laughed. "Don't comment on that. Seriously. Don't." His grin dimmed a little. "I miss being here, you know. Not so much that I want to give up Ana and the new business and come back, but I miss it." He sighed. "And that's not what you asked. Geddey, the new guy, as you so slanderously labeled him, starts next week. And you know that too."
"Yes, but it's good to review it and to have you here," Dav admitted, and saw that Gates understood. As was the way with longtime comrades, no more needed to be said, so Dav changed the subject. "I've sent a request to your assistant, whom you stole from my employ." He put on a frown, though he knew young Alexia was thrilled to be the assistant to the new co-CEOs. "For a quote on several business matters. I've also sent her the dates that the cottage in the Hamptons is available, as well as the place on Maui."
Gates looked surprised. "That's gracious of you."
"The contracts? Oh, you'll earn those."
Gates rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean." A speculative look stole over his face. "Ana would like the Hamptons."
"You would know," Dav said, giving Gates a sly look. He both enjoyed and envied the satisfied smile that lit his friend's face.
"Speaking of Ana, did I tell you that she had a lead on the other culprit in our caper last year? The rogue agent who took out her friend TJ," Gates explained, evidently seeing the puzzlement Dav felt. So much had happened since last year's whirlwind events that he'd forgotten the stray thread that had never been snipped.
"Hines?" Dav pulled the name out of his memory. "Didn't he go to Canada?"
"So we thought, but Ana has a lead on him in Central America, Belize or Guatemala. McGuire's been digging."
"Speaking of rogues," Dav drawled, remembering the retired agent who'd helped solve both the original case and assisted in unraveling the puzzle of the art theft and all the events that cleared Carrie's gallery. Ana had invited him to her wedding to Gates, and to everyone's surprise, McGuire had come.
Gates grinned. "I don't know if he'll go hunting or not, but I've heard the Gold Coast in Central America is nice in spring."
"Hmmm. I've never had any ambitions to visit. Perhaps you and Ana can investigate it and suggest some investments there." Dav waggled his eyebrows, teasing his friend.
"Not a bad idea," Gates said, taking the jibe with ease.
Dav checked his watch. He had an appointment with a beautiful woman, and he wasn't going to miss it, so he said, "Come and walk me out to the car. I've got to go into the city. I'm having several pieces reframed and Ms. McCray has finally agreed to have lunch with me."
He said it casually, knowing the comment wouldn't slip past, but always willing to give it a try.
"Oh-ho!" Gates exclaimed, rising along with Dav. He landed a manly punch on Dav's upper arm. "She finally agreed to go out with you? What did you do, bribe her?"
"Riiiiiight," Dav drawled, slipping into his impeccably tailored jacket. "I do not have to bribe women to go out with me."
"No, not women in general. Just this one," he joked. Dav enjoyed their banter all the way to the car. "Hey—" Gates brought him back to the moment. "Have a good ride in and a good lunch. She's a nice woman. I like her."
"I do too," Dav said, wondering if he should confide how nervous he was. Seeing Gates grinning at him, he decided not to. He knew it was just lunch, but it had the weight and feel of something far more serious. "Maybe I'm reading too much into it."
His concern must have shown because Gates set the teasing aside and shrugged. "You never know," Gates temporized. "It's been nine years for her since the lying, cheating husband died. Then it was all dug up, fresh—no pun intended—last year. Maybe she realized it was time to move on."
"Maybe," was as far as Dav would agree.
Gates smiled, evidently understanding that Dav didn't want to discuss Carrie's motives. "Either way, enjoy it. We'll get you those figures."
Dav pondered the Colombian deal on the drive to the city. It kept him from focusing on his impending lunch with the elusive Carrie McCray. They'd met years before when Carrie and her husband, Luke, had just opened Prometheus, now one of San Francisco's foremost art galleries. Dav had just begun to build his business empire from the ashes of his father's mistakes, choosing to locate his headquarters in San Francisco rather than Athens.
Trying to keep the family together, he'd hired his half brother, but that hadn't worked out. They'd fought over Niko's less savory tendencies and Dav had sent him off to make his amends or die trying. Then their father had died, leaving everything to Dav. At the funeral, Niko swore out his hatred and vowed never to come home again.
Truth be told, Dav still wished the old man had given it all to Niko. Dav had built the foundation of his own businesses by then and didn't want to be dragged back into the dark family dramas his father so enjoyed orchestrating. As an adult, he refused to play the games, but his father fooled them all in the end, dumping everything on Dav.
When Niko had died in Somalia four years ago as part of a mercenary troop, Dav had genuinely mourned. He still wondered if Niko had gotten the business—the prize—would he still be alive?
Not the way he did business, Dav decided, as he usually did. He'd have been killed early for some of the stunts he was pulling. Or been jailed in any country that caught him. Dav had always tried to help Niko, but it never worked.
"Are we picking Ms. McCray up, sir, or are you going in?" Damon's question broke into his murky thoughts as they reached the outskirts of San Francisco. The young man was a superb driver and Dav welcomed the distraction. He shook off memories of the past and focused on how much he was looking forward to lunch with a beautiful, intriguing woman.
"I'll be going in. You'll probably have to circle the block," Dav told the driver, checking the time. He hated to be late, but you never knew how long the trip over the bridge would take.
"Very good. And no worries on the circling. I know a good spot to use as a holding pattern."
Dav eyed the cloud bank over the bay. It didn't look like rain, but this late in the spring, there could be fog. It was warmer than usual this year. The previous spring, he'd been hip deep in the art fraud investigation that brought Ana and her brilliant skills to his door. She'd unraveled the mystery of the missing paintings, and the devious involvement of Carrie McCray's late husband in the case.
Clearing Carrie and her gallery was an unlooked for bonus, and somewhat balanced out Ana's subsequent theft of Gates's heart. It also brought Carrie more closely into Dav's life.
"Always a silver lining," he murmured, checking his watch again. They cleared the bridge and he saw the sun shining on Coit Tower. Good. It would be a nice enough day to walk to the restaurant he had in mind.
Gates and Ana made him realize he needed to pay attention to more than business. He'd done a lot of soul searching in the last few months. He had money, status and the empire he'd built, but none of it mattered. Not really.
Family, though, that was permanent. Family required personal attention, involvement on a human level. People needed tending, especially children. It was time he had children in his life.
"Looks like it's still nice in the city," Damon spoke again, "and we've made good time over the bridge. Will you want to go on to the gallery?"
"Yes, I'll let Ms. McCray know we're earlier than we thought." Pleased at the timing, he called Prometheus.
As the phone rang, he remembered the first time he'd gone into the gallery. It had been a day like this, sunny and bright. He'd been gloomy, however, brooding over his future, over his father's machinations. His father was testing both his sons unmercifully to make them fight for the company, fight to be his heir.
Walking and thinking, he'd seen the sign going up outside the old building that housed the gallery. Their symbol, the Greek demigod who brought fire to mankind, had been portrayed carrying a flame and a paintbrush.
In that moment, desperately homesick for Greece, he'd seen Carrie.
She'd stood, framed in the window, a pale, dark-haired wand in the middle of the huge space, flanked by massive, colorful paintings. He didn't even see the art, though he'd later bought two of the pieces she'd been hanging that day. The image of her, her raven hair pulled away from sharp features and highlighting startlingly blue eyes, was etched on his memory. He'd been instantly captivated, feeling his heart lift at the sight of her slim beauty.
Then Luke had come around the corner and given her an absent pat and a peck on the cheek and he'd seen her smile. His heart had plummeted. He'd known in an instant, by her response to the man, that she was out of his reach. Now Luke was dead, these nine years, and he and Carrie were both free.
"Prometheus Gallery." A young voice answered the phone, jarring him back to the present. He didn't recognize the female tones, but he knew Carrie frequently employed interns so he paid it no heed.
"This is Davros Gianikopolis, calling for Ms. McCray. Is she in, please?"
"Certainly, sir. If you'll hold a moment, I'll get her."
As the music-on-hold droned in his ear, he continued to remember. The art fraud scandal had nearly broken the gallery. Luke had bailed out on both Prometheus and his wife. He'd run, and died, leaving a cloud of suspicion hanging over Prometheus and Carrie.
A breathless voice came on the line and he smiled. "Dav? Hello?"
"Hello, Carrie," he replied, enjoying the sound of her, the hint of laughter in her voice. That came more easily now, he realized. "I'm afraid I'm a bit early. I hope that's not inconvenient."
"No, no, not at all." He heard the smile in her voice. "I'm ready whenever you are."
"Really?" He grinned, delighted at the opening. They'd been bantering, and enjoying this verbal play for months now, on and off. She'd continued to put him off about a date. Until today.
He needed to determine if she was interested in him as a man or a client.
Today would give him a better idea. Or shoot him down. Not that he would give up, however.
"For lunch, Dav," she said, but he heard her laugh. "Hang on, let me tell Inez...." She paused, then said, "Drat, the girl's on her cell phone. Well, I'll tell her in a minute that the timetable's moved up a bit."
"Inez?" He frowned. He didn't remember an Inez.
"She's moved to working days. I'll tell you all about it when you get here."
"Excellent. We'll arrive in less than ten minutes." He hesitated, wanting to continue the conversation, even though it was commonplace, meaningless. "Well, good-bye for now, then," he finished, clipping the words so his foolish reluctance wouldn't show through. She replied in kind and he cut the call.
"Damon, who's on duty today?"
"Dec, Thompson, Queller, Georgiade. Oh, and me, of course."
Dav smiled at the eager young man. "Of course."
The first thing he noticed when he got out of the car was the new bronze plaque on the building. It listed Luke's birth and death dates. Since Ana had proved Luke's relative innocence in the art scheme and uncovered that he'd been murdered to ensure his silence, Carrie had put up the plaque in memory. It helped, she'd said, that the gallery was in the clear at last, thanks to Ana.
He'd greatly admired that Carrie had held her head high, maintained her equilibrium and had been the epitome of grace under fire. He'd always been attracted to her, but kept his distance. Even so, he never failed to attend an event if she invited him. She never failed to show an artist he recommended.
But she never let him get close, not until Ana came along. The events of last year, the deaths, the danger, put things in perspective for him. Life seemed very short and very precious.
Sometime in the middle of everything, in the chaos, Dav had decided that Carrie was what he wanted. More, she was what he needed.
That decided, he went on the offensive, just as he would in business. He'd sent flowers, arranged meetings, asked Carrie out point-blank.
She'd turned him down on every occasion. He'd persisted.
Excerpted from Deadly Little Lies by Jeanne Adams Copyright © 2011 by Jeanne Adams. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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