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Tangled Truth

By´╝ÜDelphine Dryden

Chapter One

Drew narrowed his eyes, barely resisting the urge to lick his lips. “Come on. I dare you.”

“To go out with you? That really doesn’t bode well, Mr. Brantley.”

God, he loved it when Eva called him Mr. Brantley. Over the past few weeks, spending far too much time hanging around the Swift Gallery, he had learned the best way to encourage it. “It’s Drew, remember? Come on, I can’t stop calling you Miss Godfrey until you start calling me Drew.”

“Mr. Brantley.” Eva smirked as she said it, and Drew counted that a minor victory. She was willing to flirt just that much. “I’m working. Can’t you find anybody else to bother? There’s quite a crowd this evening. Take your time, look around. I’m sure there is at least one willing, unattached woman here who would love to give you the time of day.”

It was true, the gallery was packed. And for once, Drew actually had a somewhat legitimate reason for attending an exhibit, other than to hit on the lovely gallery manager; one of the featured artists was his brother’s girlfriend’s cousin. It was a slim connection, but he wasn’t too proud to exploit it. He had no interest in any of the other unattached women in the crowd, willing or otherwise. Ever since he’d met Eva Godfrey through some mutual friends the previous month, he had been a man on a mission.

“Your lips say no-no, Miss Godfrey, but your clipboard says yes-yes. Actually, what does your clipboard say? Is there really anything on there?”

Eva clutched the long, well-worn clipboard closer to her chest. Drew knew the board was mostly a prop, a piece of armor. He’d sneaked a peek at a previous gallery event and found only a heavily annotated list of caterers and business contacts. Was it habit that made her carry it around all the time, he wondered, or was she really that much on her guard? But at least she hadn’t simply walked away.

“The dare itself isn’t to go on a date,” Drew went on. “It’s to take a bet. Just answer a trivia question. About art. If you get it wrong or I stump you, then you go out with me.”

Her skepticism was apparent. “A question about art? You’re really expecting to win that? What if I get it right, what do I win?”

“If you get it right, I will walk away brokenhearted, never to trouble you again,” Drew assured her. He placed a hand over his heart, confident enough to risk a little drama. He knew she couldn’t resist this hook. In the brief time he’d known her, he’d seen that her knowledge of art was as deep and broad as her love for it. She didn’t talk much, but when she did, it was about art.

But he also knew she would get this one wrong. It wasn’t exactly a question about art, although close enough that she couldn’t accuse him of cheating. He hoped.

With a sigh, Eva nodded. “Okay, it’s a bet. Let’s hear it. Quickly, because I really do need to get back to work.”

Restraining a whoop of joy, Drew stepped closer. Just inside the boundary of polite conversation, so he could pitch his voice a little lower. His heart leapt when she stood her ground, and he had to swallow before posing his stumper.

“Okay, in the late eighties the punk band Wire released a song called Madman’s Honey. One of the lyrics to that song was a quote from a caption on a painting by a famous fifteenth century painter. Who was the painter?”

He had to bite his lip to keep from grinning at the look of disbelief that transformed Eva’s face.

“That’s not…oh, you are evil.”

“Is it a date?”

“Wait, wait.” She mulled it over, tapping her pen against the clipboard as she considered. She looked slightly panicky. “Tell me the quote.”

“Oh, that might give it away. ‘Master cut the stone out, my name is Lubbert Das’.”

“Das. Fifteenth century? It sounds German, maybe. Or Dutch? Albrecht Durer.”

“Wrong.” He couldn’t quite believe it. When she’d said “Dutch,” he was sure the next name out of her mouth would be—

“Wait, no. Lucas Cranach the Elder.”

“Still wrong.” He was astonished, but he didn’t want to give her any more time to throw names at him. “You’re guessing now. That’s it. I win!” He had no idea how she could have guessed wrong twice. How many fifteenth century Dutch painters were there, anyway?

“No, but—”

“Do you want to know the answer?”

After a pause, during which Drew feared the clipboard might be crushed to bits in Eva’s delicate white-knuckled hands, she let her shoulders drop and conceded defeat.

“Oh fine. Who was it, then? I can’t believe this!”