Neal took every turn of the winding Ocean Drive with expert precision. One would assume, or at least hope, that a surgeon would have pretty damn good control over a car, and this doc certainly did.
Along both sides of the road now were gigantic mansions or Tudor homes or quaint-looking cottages the size of skyscrapers. The place really was for the rich and famous.
Before I knew it, the sign said Bellevue Avenue. We’d made a gigantic circle on this tour. Then again, the section for the rich and famous really wasn’t that large although it bordered the ocean on one side. There wasn’t much more to this town other than small, mostly one-way streets with houses from the 1700s and 1800s. I actually preferred them to the mansions. They were so colorful and so New England.
“Hungry?” Neal asked.
I was famished and figured he’d heard my stomach growl a few times over darling Sting, but thought better than to mention that. “I could eat.”
“Perfect.” He took a right off of Bellevue Avenue. The residential section sure didn’t look like a place where a restaurant would be located, but I figured Neal knew best-until he turned into a drive with a gigantic PRIVATE sign guarding the entry and wrought-iron gates that were shut until he poked a button on the dashboard.
“I’m guessing you’ve been here before.”
He chuckled. “A few times.”
No other explanation, but when an imposing Tudor structure came into view, I guessed this was home sweet home for the doc.
And the family crest of FORSYTH hanging from the gates was a bit daunting and impressive.
Was I out of my league or what?
“You should have been a tour guide instead of a doctor,” I teased as Neal showed me around his “place.”
Despite the size (at least thirty rooms, although I couldn’t make it around the place to count), it felt warm and cozy, until a butler appeared and offered to get us drinks. For a gal from Hope Valley, having a butler, no matter how nice he was, did not say cozy.
My mouth wouldn’t work so Neal ordered us each another glass of wine. Not being a connoisseur, I had no idea of even the color, but figured it wasn’t going to be Sangria.
The butler-Pierre, who else?-excused himself while Neal ushered me into a tiny little room off the foyer.
Suddenly it was my favorite room in the house-although he hadn’t shown me the upstairs…yet. Yikes.
Mahogany paneling covered the walls, which had built-in bookshelves filled with what I guessed were first editions. A small section near a stained-glass window had some current paperbacks so I figured at least Doc Neal wasn’t some eccentric. There was a flat screen television in the center with mahogany doors, which I guessed covered it to show proper Newport good taste.
Neal guided me to the burgundy leather couch, and when I sat, I thought I’d fallen onto a cloud. I ran my hand along the arm and had never felt such buttery soft leather in my life.
Having a fraud case in a place like this was actually fun.
Neal refilled my glass despite my protests-well, fake protests. I didn’t want him to think I was some lush, but expensive wine was delicious. Okay. Okay. I couldn’t help but take advantage of the freebie.
He sat next to me on the couch and smiled. “Wait a minute.” He leaned forward, brushed the hair off my forehead and said, “That look. Worry.”
He waved his hand at me and said, “Hang on.”
I sipped at my drink while he took out his cell phone and made a call. Trying not to eavesdrop, I started to hum and looked out the window.
“Ms. Wisherd, how’s Mr. Perlman doing?”
I swung around and held my breath.
Neal winked at me, causing a whoosh of air to blow out of my mouth. Then he smiled and all was right with the world. “Okay, Jackie, let me know if he needs anything that’s not ordered.”
When he hung up, I leaned forward, grabbed him by the shoulders and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you,” came out in a rather hoarse, sexy tone.
Guess Neal noticed, since he leaned closer, took my face in his hands and kissed me. Gently. Softly. And on the lips.
And here I thought the wine had given me an internal glow.
After several more kisses Neal eased back. “Nice,” he whispered.
All I could manage was a nod of agreement. How pathetic was I? Actually, this guy was perfect for me to take my mind off my case for a few moments and recharge my “female” batteries. Neal the Igniter. I chuckled.
“What? What’s so funny, Pauline?”
I sipped my wine. “Nothing. This is delicious.”
“Speaking of delicious, let me check on dinner.” He stood, planted a kiss on my cheek, and walked out the door.
Who knows how long I sat there, touching my cheek. I sure didn’t until I noticed the black, obviously expensive briefcase on the floor near the couch.
Don’t even think about it, Pauline.
I was on a job though.
Everything and everyone needed to be checked out.
Slowly I leaned over, to see it slightly open. A sign from above. I took my glass of wine, sipped, then started to put it down when I sipped it again-and then polished it off.
Accidentally, my foot reached out about three yards away and bumped into the briefcase.
I eased closer to that side of the couch and looked down. Several papers spilled out onto the wooden floor. When I leaned down to put them back into the briefcase, my eyes widened.