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One month later
"Yes, call me back just as soon as you have some information on flights." I hung up the phone on my travel agent and turned to face my two curious cats.
Well, Pretzels was curious. And a bit apprehensive. He could always sense it when I was thinking of leaving him for any length of time. Not that I did it very often. Peanuts, his sister, had a more complacent nature. Though they looked very much alike, a pure silvery-gray with white paws, they had very different personalities.
Right now, both cats were seated on the wide window seat of the small apartment I kept in the mansion my aunt Cass had inherited from her father. The house was huge, and it took a lot of money to keep the place going, so about four years ago the family had decided to renovate it into apartments. My brothers and I each paid rent on our own places, and my dad and new stepmother, Helena lived in the gardener's cottage. When we eventually moved out, Aunt Cass could continue to make a good income by renting the apartments out.
"I'm going to go to Greece," I informed my two pets. Saying the words aloud helped make my plan more of a reality, and a little thrill moved through me. I hadn't told anyone yet, so Pretzels and Peanuts were functioning as my test audience. It was a role they often played. My family tended to be a bit protective of me, and I wasn't sure how they'd react to my trip. Of course, now that I'd made my decision, I was going to go to Greece no matter what, but I'd have a better time if they weren't worrying too much.
Pretzels immediately leaped off the window seat and joined me on the couch. His apprehension had escalated into high anxiety. I lifted him onto my lap and began to stroke him. "You'll be with Aunt Cass and Kit." I pictured first one apartment and then the other in my mind. Then I pictured Aunt Cass and Kit. Almost immediately he began to calm. "They'll take good care of you."
With a sigh, Pretzels settled himself firmly on my lap as if to keep me there. He was a bit possessive of me. Peanuts remained on the window seat cleaning her paws. I sensed she was already anticipating the extra treats she would receive from Aunt Cass and Kit.
Of all my brothers, Kit was the one who most loved animals. He had a huge dog named Ari who often stayed with me when Kit was working on one of his P.I. jobs. Luckily my cats loved Ari, and vice versa. Kit would be the primary caretaker of my animals while I was away, and Aunt Cass would serve as backup.
As soon as I told them of my plans.
Pretzels was already snoring, so I eased him off of my lap and, after stopping to scratch Peanuts behind the ears, let myself out of my apartment. The cats had taken it pretty well. I hoped the news would go as well with the rest of the family.
As I climbed the stairs to the third-floor tower room where my aunt Cass spent much of her time, I tried to gather my thoughtssomething that I was finding increasingly difficult to do since I'd walked out of Roman's hospital room a month ago. I'd vowed that day that I was going to get him out of my system once and for all. My utter failure to accomplish that was what had triggered my decision to go to Greece.
In the past month, Roman and I had only run into one another once, at the wedding reception my father, Spiro, and his new wife, Helena, had given at the Poseidon. That had been two weeks after I'd left his hospital room for the last time. I couldn't avoid attending my father and Helena's party; neither could Roman. But we'd managed to steer clear of each other.
What I couldn't shake were the feelings he stirred up in me. All he'd had to do was walk down the steps to the main dining room of the Poseidon, and I'd realized that I wanted him even more desperately than I had before. Nothing had changed. Frustrated and angry with myself, I'd thrown myself into my work, but that hadn't helped, either.
Dr. Wilson at the vet hospital had begun to depend on me to help him diagnose what was troubling the animals he saw, and recently he'd commented on the fact that I'd seemed distracted. That's when I'd decided that drastic action was required. I was going to Greece.
When I reached the door to the tower room, I hesitated, once more gathering my thoughts. Aunt Cass had raised my brothers and me ever since I was four and her husband and my mother had been taken from us in a tragic boating accident. In many ways, she was the only mother I'd ever known.
The door swung open and Aunt Cass smiled. "I've been expecting you."
I glanced over to a sitting area and spotted a teapot and cups on the coffee table. Of course she'd been expecting me. Aunt Cass had been one of the most well-known and successful psychics in the San Francisco area even before my older brother Nik got himself engaged to J. C. Reilly, the mayor's daughter, and her business had increased by almost fifty percent.
Next to the tea tray, I saw the crystals that Aunt Cass frequently used to help her see into the future. Over a month ago she'd foreseen the dangerous adventure that my brothers were going to have on one fateful weekend and she'd known that they would each meet the woman they were destined for.
Oddly enough, my brothers' good fortune in finding their true loves had had a ripple effect on other members of the Angelis family. My dad had finally gotten engaged to Helena, and my aunt Cass had met and begun to date two menMason Leone, who headed up security for the Oliver family, and Charlie Galvin, the police commissioner. Roman and I seemed to be the only ones romantically unaffected by the events of that weekend.
Aunt Cass drew me over to the couch. While she poured tea, she said, "You're hurting."
"Yes." I took the cup she handed me and set it down. "But I don't want to be. I hate the fact that I am."
"This is about Roman."
I glanced at the crystals, then at Aunt Cass. "You know."
She nodded as she sipped tea from her cup. "All wounds heal."
I opened my mouth and then shut it. If anyone had the experience of that, Aunt Cass did. She'd lost her husband, Demetrius, the one true love of her life, nineteen years ago. And her son, Dino, had been gone for two years serving in the navy.
"Okay. I can accept that. But I want to hurry the healing along. I can't concentrate. I mixed up two dinner reservations at the Poseidon last night. And this morning I couldn't focus when Mrs. Trumble brought her cat, Esmerelda, in to see Dr. Wilson. Neither she nor Esmerelda were happy campers when they left, and Dr. Wilson had already told me that I seem distracted lately. I want to get Roman Oliver out of my system and get on with my life."
With a smile, Aunt Cass studied me. "Of all Penelope's children, you've always been the most impatient. Have you told Roman how you feel about him?"
"Yes. A month ago, I told him I wanted to make love with him."
"Of course you did," Aunt Cass murmured. "You're always so decisive."
I looked at her then and for the first time I saw a trace of uncertainty in her eyes. Aunt Cass never seemed to be uncertain. "What is it? Do you think I did the wrong thing?"
"No, I wasn't thinking about you. I was thinking that I wish I could make decisions and act on them as easily as you do."
"This is about Mason Leone and Charlie Galvin, isn't it?"
Cass sighed. "I can't keep juggling them foreverit's not fair. And I can't seem to see anything in the crystals."
I studied my aunt with interest. She was blushing, and she actually looked flustered. I took both of her hands in mine. "I don't think you should pressure yourself. You haven't dated anyone since Uncle Demetrius died. Take your time. Enjoy both of them. I'll bet that's why you're not seeing anything in the crystals. When the time is right, you will."
Cass leaned over to kiss my cheek. "Thank you. Now tell me more about Roman. What did he say when you told him you wanted to make love with him?"
Temper and frustration streamed through me as it did whenever I let myself recall what had happened in Roman's hospital room that day. Rising, I strode to a space near one of the long, narrow windows where I could pace. "He said that his feelings for me were brotherly. And even if they weren't, we couldn't have a sexual relationship because I'm Kit's sisteror something stupid like that. He didn't want to hurt me."
"It sounds like he cares a great deal for you."
I turned and strode back to the sofa. "He cares for me the way he cares for his sisters. And I know what they mean to him. Sadie and Juliana have told me how he stepped in and tried to fill their parents' shoes after their mother died. They hardly ever saw their father, but Roman was always there for them. The problem is that my feelings for him aren't sisterly at all. They never have been. And I refuse to be the kind of woman who spends her life pining away for a man who doesn't want her. Stuff that."
Aunt Cass picked up her tea and took a sip. "So what's your plan?"
For the first time since I'd entered the room, I felt some of my tension ease. Of course, Aunt Cass would know I had a plan. I sat back down on the couch next to her. "I've decided to go to Greece and have a fling with a sexy Greek man."
Aunt Cass didn't bat an eye. "Why Greece?"
I leaned forward. "Because that's where you and mom found Uncle Demetrius and Dad. It was love at first sight. And that's where Dad met Helena, so there must be something magical about Greece when it comes to our family. I figure that if anything can get me out of this rut I've fallen into with Roman, a trip to Greece will do it."
Cass took another sip of tea, and this time I joined her.
"So you want to go to Greece to find your true love."
I frowned. "No way. I just want to find someone very sexy to have a fling with so that I can forget Roman Oliver. I spoke with a travel agent today and she's looking for a cheap flight. The sooner I get this taken care of, the better."
Cass Angelis leaned back and once again studied her niece. How wonderful that Philly's plan coincided so perfectly with her own. A little vacation, a trip to Greece, was just what she'd seen in her crystals last night. "I have a suggestion. Why don't I call your father's cousin Miranda? She operates a little hotelthe Villa Prosperoalong the coastline of Corfu."
Philly's eyes lit up. "Isn't that the place that Dad and Helena just visited on their honeymoon?"
Cass nodded. "I'm sure she'd love to have you." And being family, Cass knew that Miranda would look out for Philly. Her niece had a tendency to rush headlong into things. And Philly's father and brothers would feel better about the trip if she visited family.
"How soon can I leave?"
Cass shook her head and smiled. "You never were one to let the grass grow under your feet. As soon as I check with Miranda, you can book your flight."
Philly wrapped her arms around Cass and hugged her hard. "Thanks, Aunt Cass."
Once her niece had left, Cass picked up a few of the crystals that had been sitting on the table. She could only hope that she hadn't made a mistake in suggesting the Villa Prospero to Philly. At midnight, she'd seen in the crystals Philly standing on a white sand beach. But she'd also seen blood and sensed danger much the same things she'd seen a month ago for her nephews.
But Cass had also sensed very strongly that Philly was meant to go to Corfu. In the mists that had pulsed and eddied in the depths of the crystals, she'd glimpsed other imagesa white bird soaring into a blue sky, and a man she'd recognized immediately. She suspected that he was the one Philly was fated for. But both of them would have to decide if they would accept what the Fates were offering.
Tears pricked at the back of Cass's eyes. If they did, Philly would find her true love in Greece just as she and Penelope had.
With a frustrated sigh, Roman dropped the papers on his desk. This was the third time he'd tried to read through Gianni Stassis's business plan and the third time he'd drifted off in his mind.
He'd been out of the hospital for a month and physically, he was almost back to normal. There'd been no permanent nerve damage from the fall, and the doctors were amazed at how quickly his body had responded to therapy. In another month or two, he'd be able to beat his sister Sadie at tennis again. In the interim, she was thoroughly enjoying each one of her victories, and the exercise was good for him.
The problem was, his mental recovery seemed to be lagging behind his physical recovery. He couldn't concentrate. Running his hands through his hair, Roman leaned back in his chair.
Working with his father and eventually running Oliver Enterprises had always been his dream. The company dealt primarily in commercial real-estate development and before his accident, he'd been pouring every spare minute of his time into the project that Stassis, a Greek entrepreneur, had proposed to him. Even though he'd been working with his father almost 24/7 to close a deal for a prime strip of land in Orange County, he'd found time for the Stassis proposal. It involved Oliver Enterprises and Stassis Ltd. acquiring a stake in a select number of small independently operated Greek hotels. They would help them modernize and then share in a percentage of the profits. Within five years, they hoped to own a string of small exclusive hotels throughout the Greek Islands.
If he and Stassis could come to terms, this would be the first time that Oliver Enterprises would be operating outside of the United States. Roman's goal had been to take the company global for some time, and the project had been his baby. He didn't just want to run the company his father had founded, he wanted to expand it.