Stuart was on the boat and inside the cabin when he heard footsteps on deck.
Minutes later, Shandra stepped inside the cabin. “Hi.”
“What are you doing?” she asked glancing at the books on the table.
“I was just doing some research.”
“Are you writing another book?”
“What’s it about?”
“I found out that secret passages loomed underground. So, the idea occurred to me to write about secret passages or tunnels used hidden routes used for stealthy travel, escape, or movement of people and goods.”
“Sounds very intriguing.”
“Yes. I was reading about passages and tunnels used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War and political organizations to smuggle goods and people or conceal their activities. Very interesting stuff.”
“I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
“How come you’re so dressed up?”
He glanced down at his shirt and trousers. “Dressed up?”
“Yes. You’re usually in a tee shirt or sweater and jeans when you’re on the boat.”
“Oh. I had a book signing at the library. I came here straight after.”
“I didn’t know that you wore glasses.”
“Only for reading.”
“You look very intellectual.”
“Thank you…I think.”
She smiled. “So, have you eaten as yet?”
“No. We can order take in. What are you in the mood for?”
“All right. Make yourself at home while I make the call.”
“Here, use my cell.”
While he made the call, she sat down on the ground. She liked being on the boat. It was a good size. Cozy. And it was just the two of them.
“They’ll be here in about twenty minutes,” he said as he handed her the cell.
“How’s your new secretary working out?”
“Lydia is great. I feel as if I’ve known her for years.”
“Is she married?”
“Is she beautiful?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I’m just curious.”
“Well, is she?”
“Is she what?”
“I suppose so. She looks a little like Jennifer Lawrence.”
“Jennifer Lawrence? Humph.”
Stuart looked at her. “Admit it.”
“I am not!” she denied vehemently.
“There’s no reason for you to be, you know.”
“Why? Don’t you find her attractive?”
“Why did you hire her?”
“She’s highly qualified.”
“All right. We’ll leave it there.”
“Shandra…” he was about to tell her that there was no reason for her to be jealous because of his growing feelings for her when his cell rang. He grabbed it. “Hello?” It was his agent. “I’m sorry, I need to take this. Excuse me.” He went up on deck.
While he was talking, Shandra chided herself for her jealous reaction to his new secretary. She didn’t want to be like Natalia whose jealousy had caused a rift between them. Shandra didn’t want to jeopardize her friendship with him. As soon as he returned, she would apologize.
“Stuart, I’m sorry for the way I behaved about your secretary,” she said when he rejoined her. “The important thing is that you found a good replacement for Sophie.”
“Yes, I did and not need to feel bad.” He sat down in the chair, facing her. “That call was from my agent. She wanted to confirm the date and time of my live conversation at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington.”
Shandra’s heart sank. “You’re going to Washington?”
“Yes. I will be at the Thomas Jefferson Building – Coolidge Auditorium.”
“When do you have to be there?”
“The event is next week Tuesday.”
“How long will you be gone for?”
“Not long. I’ll be back on Wednesday.”
“Have you ever been to Washington?”
“Why don’t you come with me, then?”
She stared at him. “Are you serious?”
“Of course I am. Why don’t you take Monday to Wednesday off and come with me?”
“I guess I can book those days off. I still have vacation time to use before the end of the year.”
“We can leave Friday night or on Saturday morning.”
“Let’s make it Friday night.”
“All right. Let me know if you were able to get the time and then, I will book the flight.”
“What about accommodations?”
“My agent has already taken care of that.”
“Yes, but she doesn’t know that you’ve invited me to go.”
“I will ask her to make a reservation for you.”
“I hope she won’t mind.”
“Why should she?”
“No reason, I guess.”
“If you prefer, we can forget about asking her to book the room and we can share the suite she booked for me.”
Shandra’s heart skipped a beat. “You can’t be serious,” she exclaimed. All sorts of thoughts and images of him coming out of the shower, wearing just a towel flooded her mind.
“I am serious.”
“It’s out of the question, Stuart.”
He watched her closely, his expression tense. “Are you afraid of what could happen between us if we were to share a suite?” he asked quietly.
Before she could answer, they heard footsteps on the deck. It was the delivery guy with their takeout. Stuart excused himself and left. She hugged her knees and released a shaky breath as all sorts of emotions churned inside her. No, she wasn’t afraid of what could happen between them. What she was afraid of was what would happen afterwards.
Sources: Wikipedia; Library of Congress; Penguin Random House