He smiled. “As always.”
Though he had given in, Sam didn’t like the note of victory she detected in his voice. It meant the discussion wasn’t over. “Listen, if it’s all right with you,” she rose from her chair. “I need to get back to work.”
Taking no comfort in the concession, her mind launched into high gear. Something was going on around here. Like a pirate too close to the plank, she knew something was lurking beneath the surface. But what?
Good sense evaporated. “Raul, is there something—”
“Yes?” he asked with soft expectation.
The glimpse of premeditation staring back at her sent Sam’s body shock-still. His tone was too cool, too deliberate. There was more to this—more than his pretense of helpful unity among associates, the man had an agenda.
She held his gaze. “Nothing, Raul.”
He pulled his hands from the ebony desktop and set them on the smooth leather armrests of his chair. His smile was nothing if not gracious, accommodating, befitting that of a patriarch. “If you’re sure.”
Sam wasn’t sure about anything at the moment. But she knew how to avoid a trap. “I’m sure.”
Without another word, Raul waited for her to make her exit. No more arguments, no more questions, he was giving her lead time. For what, she didn’t have a clue, but experience taught that he’d be back.
As Sam headed back to her office, speculation consumed her. Had Diego miscalculated? Was that what bothered her? Maybe she was ornery because Raul had interfered with her caseload, veered into her lane like oncoming traffic, blind-siding her with a full blast of headlights.
Passing her secretary with an absent nod, Sam strode into her office and rounded the corner of her desk. She stopped short. Unable to indulge in her prized view of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, glittering like a sheet of aquamarine crystals out the thirty-second floor windows, suspicion gnawed. Something wasn’t right. She shuffled through a stack of new phone messages, interested by none.
Maria Jimenez breezed into her office, the tight maroon skirt wrapped around her hourglass hips moving with unbelievable ease as she carried a stack of files hugged close to her chest. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing.” Ditching the pink sheets of paper, Sam glanced about the office. Regal blue lampshades and plush navy carpeting, diplomas organized on her wall, it looked like any other in the firm.
Maria dropped the folders onto the edge of the desk. “These are the files you requested.”
“Thanks.” Sam whipped a hand to her hip and asked, “What’s up with Diego’s schedule? I thought he and Stevens were almost finished, but Raul says they’re still deep in it.”
“I don’t know.” Saucy eyes sharpened and her Spanish accent thickened. “You want me to find out?”
Sam shook her head. “Don’t worry about it.” She wasn’t sure what she wanted or from whom. No sense sending Maria out unarmed.
“So what did Raul want?”
She looked at Maria, the question crystallizing in her brain. What did he want? Was he setting her up? Did he have an agenda? Sam’s gaze wandered to the red leather chaise sequestered in the corner. A bit loud and far outside the dignified image Raul was cultivating for the firm, it was the only piece of décor in her office that hinted to the woman within. She insisted it gave fire to her thought process and was largely responsible for her wins. Who could argue with such logic? Certainly not Raul, so he allowed the one item to stay.
Why was he challenging her now?
“Never mind. None of my business,” Maria murmured, but her black eyes blazed the third degree.
“Actually,” Sam sighed. “I have no idea.” Had he wanted to revoke confidence with her performance? Express disapproval at her budding interest in Vic? He frowned upon office romances, but over the years had come to allow her some wiggle room on the subject. But pushing another associate on her, overriding her authority...