“No. Were you planning to call me every day?”
He gave her a look of disbelief. “You don’t think I was going to send you into a town full of Montgomerys and not have daily contact with you, do you? Do you think I’m a fool?”
“And what would we talk about? Doc?”
Laughing, Mike reached out to touch her hair. “Sometimes, Sam-Sam, I think there are parts of your education missing. What do all boys and girls who have the hots for each other talk about for hours at a time?”
Turning red, Samantha looked down at her hands. It was the first thing he’d said that made her actually consider going to Maine. She recovered herself. “I am going to remain here and look for my grandmother,” she said firmly. “And anything you—”
She quit talking because Mike had put his hand behind her head and drawn her mouth to his. He kissed her with such hunger that Samantha could feel herself beginning to tremble as she put her hands on his ribs, feeling the thick pad of muscle there.
“Don’t you think I want you to stay here? Don’t you think I love having you here with me? You’re the only person besides your father who’s shown any interest in my biography. My dad nags me about finishing my dissertation so I can get a doctorate. But for what? I don’t want to teach and I don’t want to work in an office somewhere. My brothers laugh at me and talk about my ‘old gangsters.’ Sam, maybe I don’t want to do this biography just for Uncle Mike. Maybe I want to do it for myself because it’s so difficult for me. In college, math was easy, too easy, but spending days alone in a library, up to my neck in falling-apart old books, then some girl in a short skirt walks by and she’s got a rear end on her that…”
He grinned. “Anyway, writing has been a challenge, and I get distracted easily, but it hasn’t been much fun until you came along. You sit with me and type my notes and we talk about things and I can bounce ideas off of you and—” Lifting first one hand then the other, he kissed her palms. “And sometimes you let me kiss you. It’s been great, Sam, really great.”
“And it will continue to be great,” she said, squeezing his hands in hers. “Mike, we can work together on this. I like libraries; I like—”
“Yeah, and I like having you alive.”
She pulled away from him. “You’re going to lose this one. I am going to remain in New York and I’m going to search for my grandmother. As far as I can see, you have two choices: One, I stay here in this house with you and we look together, or two, I move to another apartment and I look by myself.”
“This is too serious, Sam. This is too dangerous. Why are you doing this? We can drop this now and from the looks of him, Doc will be dead in a few years, then we can—”
“But that’s just it, Mike,” she said enthusiastically. “Don’t you see? If Doc is still alive, then my grandmother might still be alive.”
“That doesn’t follow.”
She looked at him hard. When she’d first met him, he’d been able to tell her lies and keep secrets from her without her detecting his deception, but now he couldn’t. Right now there was an insincerity on his face, a tightness about his mouth that she was beginning to recognize. “You’re holding something back,” she whispered. “I can see it in your eyes.”
Mike got off the couch, but Samantha put herself in front of him. “What do you know?”
“Nothing,” he said angrily, turning away from her.
“Michael Taggert, if you don’t tell me what you know I’ll…I’ll…”
“What?” he asked in disgust. “What else can you do to me? Put your life in jeopardy? Blackmail me? Run around in front of me in white shorts and T-shirt and yell rape when I touch you?”
“I’ll kiss Raine Montgomery,” she said. “I’ll date him. I’ll go out with him every night. I’ll—”
Turning on his heel, Mike started to leave her apartment.
She caught his arm. “Mike, wait, please. Can’t you understand? What if you found out that your uncle Mike wasn’t dead, after all? Or that there was a chance that he may not be dead? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to find him? To see him just one more time before he was gone? My grandmother is eighty-some years old, I don’t have time to wait. Please tell me what you know. Please.” Putting her hand up, she touched his cheek.
He caught her hand and kissed her palm. “Sam, you do something to me. You turn me into a kid again.” He took a deep breath. “Your father told me that as of two years ago your grandmother was alive.”
Samantha checked herself in the mirror in the foyer, making sure her clothes were straight and that her hair was arranged the way the hairdresser had taught her, then she put her purse on the narrow table and made sure that she had her new credit cards and cash. When she couldn’t think of another thing to check or anything to do that would enable her to postpone what she planned to do, she put her hand on the doorknob, straightened her shoulders, and opened the door.
She was going to go out into New York all by herself. This time she was going farther than just around the block; this time she was going to spend the entire afternoon in the city by herself.
After locking the door behind her, she started down the stairs. This morning Mike had told her that her grandmother was alive as of two years ago. He’d explained that two years ago her father had received a postcard from his mother, and it was the card that had made David Elliot decide to try to find his mother. The postcard had been simple, saying only that she loved him, had always loved him, and that she hoped he’d forgive her. At the bottom, it had been signed “Your mother.”
At the time he’d received the card, Dave had had his accounting office to run and couldn’t so much as take a vacation to New York, but immediately upon receipt of that card he’d started making preparations to take an early retirement so he could search for his mother.
Then, by a stroke of luck, fate, kismet, joss, or whatever one wanted to call it, six months after he’d received the card, Mike had appeared at his door and asked if Dave’s mother had once had an affair with a gangster by the name of Doc.
That simple meeting had started a friendship that had eventually resulted in Dave turning the guardianship of his daughter over to Mike. “Ownership,” Samantha had muttered when Mike had told her the story.
“Some ownership,” Mike answered in mock weariness. “The deed’s kept in a safe deposit box.”