'The media make a big deal out of nothing.'

'It's not exactly nothing.' She kicked off her rabbit's-head slippers and tucked her feet under her. 'I don't get it. You've always been the poster boy for pro athletes. You don't drive drunk or beat up women. You show up early for practice and stay late. No gambling scandals, no grandstanding, not even much trash talk. Then all of a sudden you freak out.'

'I haven't freaked out.'

'What else can you call it?'

He cocked his head. 'They sent you up here to spy on me, didn't they?'

She laughed, even though it compromised her role as a rich bitch. 'I'm the last person any of them would trust with team business. I'm sort of a geek.' She made an X over her heart. 'Come on, Kevin. Cross my heart, I won't say a thing. Tell me what's going on.'

'I enjoy a little excitement, and I'm not apologizing for it.'

She wanted more, so she continued her exploring mission. 'Don't your lady friends worry about you?'

'If you want to know about my love life, just ask. That way I can have the pleasure of telling you to mind your own business.'

'Why would I want to know about your love life?'

'You tell me.'

She regarded him demurely. 'I was just wondering if you find your women in international catalogs? Or maybe on the Web? I know there are groups that specialize in helping lonely American men find foreign women because I've seen the pictures. 'Twenty-one-year-old Russian beauty. Plays classical piano in the nude, writes erotic novels in her spare time, wants to share her dandy with a Yankee doodle.' '

Unfortunately, he laughed instead of being offended. 'I date American women, too.'

'Not many, I'll bet.'

'Did anybody ever mention that you're nosy?'

'I'm a writer. It goes with the profession.' Maybe it was her imagination, but he didn't look as restless as when he'd sat down, so she decided to keep poking. 'Tell me about your family.'

'Not much to tell. I'm a PK.'

Prize kisser? 'Pathetic klutz?'

He grinned and crossed his ankles on the edge of the coffee table. 'Preacher's kid. Fourth generation, depending on how you count.'

'Oh, yes. I remember reading that. Fourth generation, huh?'

'My father was a Methodist minister, son of a Methodist minister, who was the grandson of one of the old Methodist circuit riders who carried the gospel into the wilderness.'

'That must be where your daredevil blood comes from. The circuit rider.'

'It sure didn't come from my father. A great guy, but not exactly what you'd call a risk taker. Pretty much an egghead.' He smiled. 'Like you. Except more polite.'

She ignored that. 'He's no longer alive?'

'He died about six years ago. He was fifty-one when I was born.'

'What about your mother?'

'I lost her eighteen months ago. She was older, too. A big reader, the head of the historical society, into genealogy. Summers were the highlight of my parents' lives.'

'Skinny-dipping in the Bahamas?'

He laughed. 'Not quite. We all went to a Methodist church campground in northern Michigan. It's been in my family for generations.'

'Your family owned a campground?'

'Complete with cabins and a big old wooden Tabernacle for church services. I had to go with them every summer until I was fifteen, and then I rebelled.'

'They must have wondered how they hatched you.'

His eyes grew shuttered. 'Every day. What about you?'

'An orphan.' She said the word lightly, the way she always did when anyone asked, but it felt lumpy.

'I thought Bert only married Vegas showgirls.' The way his eyes swept from her crimson hair to linger on her modest chest told her he didn't believe she could have sequins in her gene pool.

'My mother was in the chorus at The Sands. She was Bert's third wife, and she died when I was two. She was flying to Aspen to celebrate her divorce.'

'You and Phoebe didn't have the same mother?'

'No. Phoebe's mother was his first wife. She was in the chorus at The Flamingo.'

'I never met Bert Somerville, but from what I've heard, he wasn't an easy man to live with.'

'Fortunately, he sent me off to boarding school when I was five. Before that, I remember a stream of very attractive nannies.'

'Interesting.' He dropped his feet from the coffee table and picked up the pair of silver-framed Revo sunglasses he'd left there. Molly gazed at them with envy. Two hundred and seventy dollars at Marshall Field's.

Daphne set the sunglasses that had fallen from Benny's pocket on her own nose and bent over to admire her reflection in the pond. Parfait! (She believed French was the best language for contemplating personal appearance.) 'Hey!' Benny called out from behind her. Plop! The sunglasses slid from her nose into the pond.

Kevin rose from the couch, and she could feel his energy filling the room. 'Where are you going?' she asked.

'Out for a while. I need some fresh air.'

'Out where?'

He folded in the stems of his sunglasses, the motion deliberate. 'It's been nice talking to you, but I think I've had enough questions from management for now.'

'I told you. I'm not management.'

'You've got a financial stake in the Stars. In my book that makes you management.'

'Okay. So management wants to know where you're going.'

'skiing. Do you have a problem with that?'

No, but she was fairly sure Dan would. 'There's just one alpine ski area around here, and the drop is only a hundred and twenty feet. That's not enough challenge for you.'


She concealed her amusement.

'I'll go cross-country, then,' he said. 'I've heard there are some world class trails up here.'

'Not enough snow.'

'I'm going to find that airfield?' He shot toward the coat closet.

'No! We'll-we'll hike.'

'Hike?' He looked as if she'd suggested bird-watching.

She thought fast. 'There's a really treacherous path along the bluffs. It's so dangerous that it's closed off when there's wind or even a hint of snow, but I know a back way to get to it. Except you need to be really sure you want to do this. It's narrow and icy, and the slightest misstep could send you plunging to your death.'

'You're making this up.'

'I don't have that much imagination.'

'You're a writer.'

'Children's books. They're completely nonviolent. Now, if you want to stand around and talk all morning, that's up to you. But I'd like a little adventure.'

She'd finally caught his interest.

'Let's get to it, then.'

They had a good time on their hike, even though Molly never quite managed to locate the treacherous path she'd promised Kevin-maybe because she'd invented it. Still, the bluff they crossed was bitterly cold and windy, so he didn't complain too much. He even reached out to take her hand on an icy stretch, but she wasn't that foolish.

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