Desperate times call for desperate measures, but surely I can do better than this.
Seated at her Queen Anne writing desk, Delinda Westerly tapped her perfectly manicured nails absentmindedly and studied the bold redhead across from her. “You don’t look like a detective.”
The woman pursed her wine-colored lips in a childlike pout that didn’t diminish the intensity of her gaze. Her tan pantsuit was understated but tailored to fit. Expensive camouflage. She reminded Delinda of a Siamese cat she’d once had who purred and preened but pounced mercilessly and without warning. “That’s the goal, wouldn’t you say?”
“Victor Andrade said you’re the best.”
“He said you work with Dominic Corisi. Considering his reputation, that’s hardly reassuring.”
The detective maintained unblinking eye contact. “And yet, here I am.”
Delinda sighed. “Yes.” She picked up a black card that had only the woman’s phone number written in white. “It’s a delicate situation. No one can ever know I was involved in this part.”
“A secret assignment. My favorite kind,” the woman said with a smile.
“Cockiness leads to sloppy mistakes, and I have no tolerance for either, Alethea Narcharios.” The redhead arched an eyebrow. “Did you think I didn’t know your real name?” Delinda tapped her nails again. “Rule number one in any engagement: never underestimate a person’s connections. The Andrades are close friends of mine, and they consider Corisi one of their own. I know all about you. The background report your friend Jeremy gave you about me? I helped him write it.”
Alethea’s eyes widened, then she threw back her head and laughed. “It felt too perfect. Well played, Delinda. Not many people surprise me.”
“I really don’t see what you find amusing.” Delinda narrowed her eyes. “According to Victor, you are dangerously curious, often manipulative, and consider yourself above the law.”
Looking more intrigued than insulted, Alethea leaned forward. “Something tells me those are traits we share.”
After pressing her lips together briefly, Delinda circled back to her concern. “I can’t afford another mistake. I need to know I can rely on your discretion. Money is no object if this is done well.”
“You’ve been misled if you think I care about the money.”
Delinda wanted nothing more than to dismiss the brash redhead. Unfortunately, I need her. “It’s about my grandson, Spencer. I thoughtlessly said something last year that hurt him deeply. I hoped that reconciling with his mother, Stephanie, would be the bridge back to him, but as personally cathartic as that reunion has been, it hasn’t helped with Spencer. He is distancing himself from the whole family, determined to prove he doesn’t need anyone. His older brother, Brett, is getting married soon, and Spencer has announced he won’t be attending. I want him at that wedding.”
With a look of amusement, Alethea said, “How exactly would you like me to change his mind?”
Delinda took a photo out of her desk drawer and laid it down, facing Alethea. “Hailey Tiverton. She and Spencer dated in college. Stephanie said it ended abruptly, and Spencer pined for her for a long time. She’s the only woman his mother thinks he’s ever really cared about. I want you to find out why they broke up and bring me a full report on her. If I approve of her, you’ll arrange for her to come work for me.”
Alethea smiled slowly. “Delinda Westerly, you’re a romantic at heart.”
In response, Delinda touched the tablet on her desk to wake it and then turned it to face Alethea. She gave the woman a moment to absorb the headline of the online article, as well as the photo of Spencer leaving a club, looking as disheveled as the scantily clad woman on his arm. “I want my grandson back—he’s a good boy. Not this. He’s miserable.”
“He doesn’t look miserable.”
Delinda spun the tablet back. “Are you interested in helping me, or not?”
The PI took a moment, as if she were debating the same question. “I am.” She paused, then asked, “When you said I’ll ‘arrange for her to come work’ for you, what did you mean?”
“This is where your skills come into play. You’ll close every door around her until I’m the only choice she has.”
“That’s a dangerous game.”
Delinda stood. “And here I thought dangerous was your forte.”
“It is.” Alethea rose to her feet. “I’d just hate to see you hurt by this.”
Raising her chin, Delinda answered, “My dear, at my age, pain is a friend of mine. Time is the enemy. It has been a year. My grandson needs a shake-up, and if he felt half as much for this woman as his mother thinks he did, I’ll have him married and in my life again by the holidays. First, though, we need to get him to attend Brett’s wedding. It’ll break Brett’s heart if he’s not there.”
Alethea whistled. “I have to admit, I admire your confidence.”
Confidence or desperation? It didn’t matter. “Michael,” Delinda called out to her butler, “please show Ms. Narcharios out.” Before the detective left the room, Delinda added, “I’ll expect that report by the weekend.”
Alethea nodded before turning to leave.
Alone, Delinda sank back onto her chair and picked up the photo of the woman she’d sent Alethea to investigate. Bring Spencer back into my life and you’ll have everything you’ve ever wanted—in abundance.
Hurt him again and you’ll discover exactly how much fight is left in this old broad.