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Undercover Love(10)

By:Lucy Score

The thrill.

Even as she thought it, Ashley’s cheeks flushed. She had never felt like that before. For a few seconds, she was the center of someone else’s world. It was a dangerous rush to play Jason’s game, whatever it was.

Shaking it off, Ashley patted her hair back into place and squared her shoulders. Hoping that the guilt wasn’t written all over her face, she went in search of Steven.

She was halfway down the hall when two older men deep in conversation stepped out of a room in front of her. They paused when they noticed her.

The taller gentleman on the right seemed vaguely familiar to Ashley. He was broad-shouldered with a full head of white hair.

“We’ll talk later, Gil,” he said to the man at his elbow, dismissing him. “Excuse me, my dear, have you seen my grandson?” His voice filled the hall with a hint of New England.

Ashley smiled. “It’s possible. Who is your grandson?”

Then she noticed his eyes — the familiar shade of emerald — and Ashley felt her smile falter for a second.

“His name is Jason. And he’s —”

“Usually frowning? Hates parties?”

He raised his eyebrows. “That’s a very accurate description of my grandson.”

Ashley smiled and hoped she didn’t look like a party guest who almost let his grandson get to third base. “You must be Mr. Baine.”

“Please, call me Eli.” He extended his hand.

“Ashley Sapienza.” He had to be in his mid-70s, but his grip was strong, vital.

“Italian?” he asked.

“On my father’s side. My mother’s family is Irish.”

“You certainly got the Italian looks,” he gestured toward her dark hair.

“And unfortunately the Irish temper.”

Eli laughed. “My Sophia, may she rest in peace, was Irish. We went through all of our wedding dishes the first year we were married. And I won’t even tell you what happened to the cutlery.”

Ashley laughed.

“Now you were about to tell me if you knew where I could find Jason, weren’t you?”

“There you are, Grandfather. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

Ashley knew without turning that it was Victoria. And had she not been watching Eli’s face she would have missed the very subtle tightening in his jaw. Victoria’s tone was degrees warmer than usual, almost nearing human temperatures.

“I’ve been discussing dishes with Ms. Sapienza,” Eli winked at Ashley.

Victoria tossed a fake smile in Ashley’s direction. “How nice.”

“Was there something that you wanted?” Eli asked.

All warmth and charm again, Victoria put her arm through his. “I just thought you would want to know that dinner will be served shortly. I put you at my table with a mix of partners and associates. I know how you like to know everyone who works for you.”

“That I do, Victoria.” His eyes held hers for what felt like an uncomfortable moment to Ashley.

Victoria smiled brightly and patted his arm. “Well you should probably get back to your party. I’d hate for you to miss any of it, Grandfather.”

What the hell was going on? Ashley felt like she was watching a Spanish soap opera. Understanding just enough to know there was trouble, but not enough to figure out why everyone was yelling. All they needed was bigger hair and a fast-talking, shirtless Latin lover.

“I suppose so. Ms. Sapienza, it was very nice to meet you. And if either of you see Jason, please tell him I’d like to speak with him.”

“He’s probably busy ‘entertaining’ one of the female guests, Grandfather. You know how he is.” Her silvery laugh stabbed through Ashley.

Eli frowned.

“I’m only kidding, Grandfather.” Victoria patted his arm again. “He’s probably closeted away working. He’ll turn up for dinner.”

Eli nodded. “All right then. Ms. Sapienza, would you care to accompany me back to the festivities?”

“Actually, Grandfather, I need a word with her if you don’t mind. You go on ahead,” Victoria said, ushering him in the direction of the party.

Uh-oh. Since when did Victoria ever want a word with her? Did she know about Jason?

Victoria was blatantly studying her, and from her expression, Ashley was pretty sure she didn’t like what she saw.

“I don’t know what he sees in you,” Victoria said finally, her words were short and clipped.

“Excuse me?” Ashley felt her eyebrows skyrocket off her brow.

“Your fiancé.” Victoria sneered at the word.

For all of .5 seconds Ashley was relieved. Her secret was safe. Then relief bloomed into bloody-murder pissed.

“You don’t know what Steven sees in me?” Ashley repeated carefully.