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"Do you want your life back?" Grant Robinson asked Lana Corday as he stared intensely into her big brown eyes. Lana swallowed hard and lowered her gaze.
Grant, impeccably dressed in a tailored suit, was her attorney and one of the few men she still trusted.
He sat behind his cherrywood desk while Lana, too restless to sit, stood. He observed her as she mentally wrestled with his question. She had a sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose and wide-spaced eyes that made her face, if not classically beautiful, very appealing. Her nose was strong, which gave her character, and her full mouth with a plump lower lip made him wonder about her stamina in bed. An inappropriate thought, since he was her attorney. But he
was also a man. She was five-nine, had mocha-colored skin, her eyes were a warm brown with gold striations in them, and she had chin-length burnt-auburn hair—a shade of which Grant had never seen on any other woman. Once he'd asked her where she'd gotten that shade of hair, she'd laughed and said her great-grandfather was Scottish.
Lana sighed and walked over to the huge picture window in Grant's San Francisco office.
She could see the Golden Gate Bridge from there. A few luxury yachts were in the Bay along with commercial cargo ships. San Francisco was her dream city. She adored the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Loved traipsing all over Fisherman's Wharf and often ending her visit with dinner at Alioto's. And she never tired of the luxury of the Palace Hotel. But now the city had lost its charm for her.
She turned back to face Grant. He was watching her with a quizzical expression on his handsome, tanned face. In a gesture of frustration he ran his hand through his thick, dark brown wavy hair that had begun to gray at the temples. Sighing, he asked, "Are you ever going to answer me? He abandoned you, Lana. It's time you admitted that."
"He was blown up on his boat. That's not abandonment, that's death," Lana said, still sticking to her assertion that Jeremy was deceased and not a criminal on the run as Grant and any number of other people, including the FBI, believed.
Looking out over the Bay again, her mind took her back to that fateful day nearly six months ago when Jeremy had kissed her goodbye and left for an outing on their yacht. "Just a few hours to clear my mind, babe," he had jauntily said before disappearing from her life forever.
Minutes later she was racing down to the dock next to the boathouse at their Bay-area home and looking in horror at what was left of the yacht, smoldering, listing leeward in the water. It had blown up with Jeremy aboard before it had even gotten fifty yards from the dock.
"There's no evidence Jeremy was onboard," Grant reminded her doggedly. "Believe me, if he had been killed aboard that yacht, forensics would have found at least some of his DNA. In two days he was going on trial for fraud, and if he lost his case he was going to be locked up for a very long time. He didn't want to go to prison so he blew up his own yacht and disappeared, hoping that desperate act would convince the authorities he was dead."
Lana stubbornly shook her head. She clasped the gold locket around her neck, a gift from Jeremy. "No, he loved me. He wouldn't have intentionally left me to face this on my own. He has to be dead."
Grant had seen this before, the loyalty of abandoned women who clung to any shred of hope where their worthless husbands were concerned. Although with Lana Corday, her husband had been worthless on a monumental scale. He'd allegedly bilked nearly half a billion dollars from investors who had trusted him with their hard-earned savings, many of them retirees hoping to make their golden years easier. Since Jeremy had "blown up" on his yacht, the authorities had successfully tracked down a small portion of the pilfered funds. The bulk of it was still missing, though.
As for Lana, she seemed to subsist on the belief that her husband was dead and that had been the only reason he was not around now facing the music and defending that he was not the villain the press had painted him to be.
By virtue of her connection with him, she was also being vilified. Before her husband's legal problems, Lana had been a successful interior designer. Now her client list was dwindling at an incredible rate. With Jeremy's assets frozen, she had to depend on what little savings she had prior to this whole mess. Plus, whatever she earned.
With clients abandoning her left and right, she could barely pay her bills anymore.
Grant gestured to the leather chair in front of his desk. "Sit down, Lana, and listen to me." He watched as she sat down, a lithe figure in a slim-fitting off-white sleeveless dress whose hem fell just above her well-shaped knees. Her style was classic yet casual.
She crossed her legs and hugged herself. Grant noticed that she'd lost weight since the last time he'd seen her. Tall and athletic, Lana had a healthy, fit body that she kept in shape by running, weight-lifting, and yoga. He feared that she'd started exercising at the detriment of her health: running away from her problems. Her arms, formerly well-formed and muscled but feminine, were now looking a bit masculine. His biceps weren't even that defined and he worked out nearly every day.
He continued in a gentle voice. "I've drawn up divorce papers for you to sign, Lana. I'm your friend. Have been since we met more than five years ago; before you met Jeremy, I might add. I wouldn't suggest you do this unless I was sure it's the way out of your financial problems. In the state of California you are within your rights to divorce a husband on grounds of abandonment."
"I didn't ask you to draw up divorce papers!" Lana cried, clearly upset by the notion. Her brilliant brown eyes sparked angry fire at him.
"Now, hear me out," Grant pleaded. "Divorcing Jeremy would send a message to everyone concerned that you're separating yourself from him and everything he's accused of. Let's be practical, Lana. The house and everything else of value has been seized by the government. You're living in a one-room apartment. You have very few clients anymore. You can't live on air. Sure, you were doing very well before you met him and you could do well without him once again, if only your association with him didn't taint you, but it does! You have to send a clear message that you're washing your hands of him so that you can reclaim your life."
Lana stood up suddenly. Tears sat in her eyes. "I'll have to think about it," she said with finality.
"You do that," said Grant, keeping his tone soft so as not to upset her further. "But I've got one more thing to say. Stop punishing yourself. You've lost weight, chopped off your hair and I suspect you're also overdoing the running, am I right?"
He waited, his eyes remaining on her stricken face. He knew he'd struck a nerve.
"It's the only thing that gets me tired enough to sleep," she mumbled in her defense. "I'm trying not to resort to pills."
"Kudos on that," Grant said. "I don't want you going anywhere near pills. But I do want you to take a good look at yourself in the mirror when you get home and ask yourself why you're putting yourself through hell over a man who never deserved you in the first place. You come from a lineage of tough North Carolinians. I remember you telling me about your great-grandfather who was a rescue-station commander in the Outer Banks in the late 1800s, and how your father, Aaron, rescued a family after their boat sank off shore near his Pea Island home. How would he react if he saw you right now?"
He could see the horror at that prospect mirrored in her eyes. He laughed softly.
"Have you even told your father what you're going through?"
"I gave him the basics," Lana allowed. She took a deep breath. "He told me to come home."
"Why don't you?"
"Because I can take care of myself," she said, as if that were explanation enough. Then, as though their conversation were over, she added, "Thanks, Grant. I've got to be going."
She hurriedly pulled on her jacket. The March morning air was a bit chilly in the city.
"Don't wait too long to make a decision about the divorce," Grant warned. "You could go visit your dad for a few months and come back a free woman and ready to start your life over."
Lana found herself laughing softly at Grant's ludicrous suggestion as she hurried to the bank of elevators in the elegant building in which Grant had his offices. The building boasted plenty of glass and steel, the former allowing in lots of sunshine to brighten up the modern interior of marble floors, sparse, ultra-modern furnishings and colorful paintings on the walls by local artists, a breed that in Lana's opinion, San Francisco never seemed to run out of.
She continued to laugh. Grant was such an optimist. If only it were that easy to start over again. But, how do you go on when the love of your life turns out to be a criminal? It might have appeared that she was the long-suffering widow, but her father had not raised a fool. She knew a little about boats, having been raised on them by a fisherman father. She had known that yacht like the back of her hand. She knew how to pilot it. She had been the one to teach Jeremy. There was no way that boat could blow up without being sabotaged. She had had it inspected less than a month before the incident. Jeremy, of course, had not known that. He left such things to her. The boat mechanic had gone down his semi-annual checklist. The fire inspector had said the explosion had been caused by a faulty fuel system. There was a leak and upon ignition, a spark had lit the fuel thereby causing the yacht to explode. But the boat mechanic was a man Lana had trusted the past four years to do a thorough job of maintaining the yacht. He had checked for leaks, corrosion, and crack-free hoses—even if there was adequate slackness to account for any vibration that could cause the hoses to wriggle loose. Of course the mechanic had been interviewed by the police and had sworn that he had given the yacht a complete inspection and had found nothing at all wrong with the fuel system.
Lana suspected the fuel system had been tampered with. And the only person who could have done it was Jeremy. The question was why? That had been the first instance in which her faith in her husband had been shaken. Since then, in retrospect, she realized that a lot of things Jeremy had done had been suspicious.
She laughed again, and this time she wasn't alone. The man in the elevator with her laughed nervously along with her. She supposed he thought it was best to humor an insane person.
Lana looked at him and said, "Sorry, something just struck me as funny and I had to laugh." To keep from crying, she thought.
Why had Jeremy faked his death? Because he was guilty of the charges leveled against him, that's why. He was a slimy con artist. If she hadn't been so blindly in love she would have spotted the characteristics that were so apparent to her now. He could charm anyone. It didn't matter if the victim was male or female. Inside of two minutes he would have you eating out of his hand. But while he could extract every little secret out of you, and appeared to be pouring his heart out to you, he actually revealed very little about himself. He said he was an orphan who grew up in the system so there were no relatives who could corroborate his claims. Another one of his lies, as it turned out.
On the street, Lana walked with purpose. She was scheduled to meet a potential client at a coffeehouse only a few blocks from here. Over the phone, Gia Burrows had sounded enthusiastic and honestly impressed with Lana's past projects in and around the city. Gia said she was a friend of a long-time client of Lana's and said that client had suggested she meet Lana. Curiously, she had not told Lana the name of the person who had referred her.
Minutes later, she was standing in front of the trendy coffeehouse. Suddenly nervous, she smoothed her dress down in an attempt to hide the fact that she was wiping her sweaty palms. Taking a deep breath, she entered the establishment and her eyes scanned the place. Young professionals, mostly, populated the tables and booths. The delightful smell of fresh-roasted coffee assailed her nostrils and relaxed her. She could use a cup of java.
A petite brunette wearing designer jeans and a sleeveless silk top in jade stood up and waved her over. "Lana?" she called.
Smiling, Lana crossed the room and shook hands with the woman who appeared to be in her early thirties. Sitting down, Lana said, "Hello, Gia, nice to meet you"
Gia smiled. "Thanks for meeting me. I'm at my wit's end trying to get our place done before July. Derek's parents are supposed to come for a month-long visit and his mother hates me, totally hates me. The last time she visited all she did was complain about the amateurish way I'd decorated the house." She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Her family owned a mansion on Nob Hill. She and my father-in-law live in Montecito now. By comparison, I come from the ranch-house set. She never lets me forget how lucky I am to have landed Derek."
Lana's first impression was that she liked Gia Burrows. However, lately, due to what she'd gone through with Jeremy, she reserved judgment.
"I feel for you," she told Gia with a smile. "But if you don't mind me asking before we go any further, who was it that referred you to me?"
Posted August 6, 2013
The story between Ten and Lana was really down to earth and heavenly at the same time.
Their interaction was truly loving and then at times comical. The events that brought them together
were very realistic and just made you cheer for them to be together.
You will not be disappointed as Ms. Sims delivers every time!!
Posted April 7, 2013