Christine Carroll -

Excerpt from The Senator's Daughter

Excerpt Two

"Sorry to be late." The voice came from behind Lyle, but he knew in a heartbeat to whom it belonged.

Hearing a note of coquetry, his irritation increased. "I don't think you're the least bit contrite; keeping me drumming my fingers on the bar for forty . . ." he checked his Rolex, "seven minutes."

Though his irritation started to ease at seeing Sylvia up close, a schoolboy's wet dream in a low-cut leather sheath, he did shove her now-warm martini across the bar a little energetically.

And watched it slosh over the rim. "Our reservations for fresh seafood at the Pearl have gone away."

Sylvia's huge dark eyes swept down to focus on the mess and back up at him. With a little slam in his chest, he took in smears of mascara on her cheeks above a high flush. Though they were brightly rouged, her full lips looked like she'd been biting them. Funny though, how the under-an-arctic-sea lighting seemed to flatter her complexion when it was cruel to Corinne Walker.

Unsteady hands cupped, Sylvia picked up the glass and stopped before she got it to her mouth. "I really am sorry," she said in a normal no-nonsense tone. "When you told me about the Pearl's Puget Sound oysters, all fresh and briny, I was ready for them."

Lyle's heart rate edged up, for he had frankly proposed them for their highly touted aphrodisiac properties. He ought to suggest they have a drink here and go on to the Pearl, sit at the bar, and have some of the raw shellfish.

Sylvia's hands trembled while she put her drink down, spilling a bit more of it. "I shouldn't tell you, maybe it's as catty as what they were doing." She drew in a breath that sounded like a sob.

"What happened?" His fingers tightened on the stem of his glass.

"Some women were gossiping, making fun of me being spurned by Rory. I just . . . couldn't come out of the stall until they left."

It was Lyle's turn to be sorry and to glance around for his prime suspect, Corinne Walker. She wasn't in sight.

"Look . . ." But how could he tell Sylvia she brought notoriety on herself? Certainly, she knew and did outrageous things by design.

With a sigh, he shifted gears. "Do you still want oysters?"

He could have sworn she gave him a look of genuine hurt, but it flashed by and her chin lifted. "Would you rather cancel? Not be seen with me?"

"I didn't say that." Despite his resolve not to bring up her fame, he heard himself say, "Maybe I'm off base, but you don't seem the type to dance bare-breasted with a boy toy."

She matched his look with a sharp one. "Did you see the 'On the Spot' in question or just hear about it?"

"I just . . ."

"Fell for hearsay, counselor? If you saw the show, you'd know there was footage of me and the girls laughing with the dancers, and the voice-over, 'A little later, the Senator's daughter got into the spirit of the club and did a dance herself.'" Sylvia slapped her palm on the bar top. "I was fully clothed."

She couldn't know how glad he was to hear it, but before he could reply, a commotion at the door accompanied a glare washing out the blue atmosphere.

Turning, Lyle saw the familiar figure of roving reporter Julio Castillo out doing nightly recon for "On the Spot." The athletic, dark-haired thirty-something sported a black suit and a lavender open-necked shirt.

"Bad news," Lyle told Sylvia. He'd been enjoying the scene, but now it was starting to look like he should have asked her on a drive to someplace remote and rustic.

With a look toward the camera crew, she favored Lyle with a view of her chiseled profile while her lips expelled a four-letter epithet. He slid what he hoped was a reassuring hand onto the smooth skin of her forearm. "Ignore them."

"Easy for you to say, Mr. DA." Beneath his fingers, he felt her tension.

Castillo, black eyes intent in a face made for being on TV, advanced on them.

"Tell them we have no comment," Lyle insisted. "It'll be all right."

Her laugh managed to be both mocking and warm. "You think that's all it takes? If you don't look at the mariachis they won't play at your table?"

Even as adrenaline started to pump, Lyle let his hand tighten on her. Sylvia's eyes slammed into his, and he had a sudden below-the-belt problem.

"They'll keep shooting," she purred, "until they have what they think are the goods. And they'll twist it into whatever they want."

"Come on," he argued. "How much trouble can we get into?"

Sylvia's answer was immediate. She kissed him.

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Christine Carroll -