"As long as I can sit by Marina, I think I'll get the hang of it."

Marina glanced at him to gauge his sincerity, but now he was soberly studying the menu card.


All three of them looked up and Marina's mouth dropped open.

"Gene Luke!" Trey exclaimed in delight and hopped up to shake his hand, then withdrew it with a pained grimace. "Apologies. What brings you by?"

Mr. Luke was possibly the most handsome man Marina had ever seen, with black hair, brown eyes, and olive skin. He'd turn any girl's head and that included a girl whose head had been turned two days before by someone else. He was dressed as finely as Trey, which, along with his coloring, would ordinarily make Marina think he was Sicilian.

Father had frequently lectured on the evils of Sicilians, who brought Satan with them wherever they went, along with the guns, the alcohol, and the girls. Marina wasn't quite sure what was wrong with them bringing their families, but she didn't dare ask. Father tolerated Dot's place in Marina's life. He would not tolerate a Sicilian anywhere near Marina.

But with a name like Gene Luke, he most definitely wasn't. Gene Luke was also not comfortable at having caught Trey's attention, and his sober expression was not inviting.

"Ladies," Trey said cheerfully, "this is my associate, Gene Luke. Gene, that is Miss Marina Scarritt and that is Miss Dorothy Albright."

Gene inclined his head. "Miss Scarritt," he said, his voice as sober as his expression. "Miss Albright."

Marina and Dot traded wary glances then murmured their hellos. Marina noted that Dot wasn't her bright and bubbly self, which meant she was as wary of this man as Marina was, which might bother her more if she hadn't been just as wary of Trey two days ago. Now they were chatting about religion as if they were friends.

"Hey, join us!" Trey said, clapping his uninjured hand on Gene's shoulder and practically pushing him into the seat next to Dot, who scooted toward the wall so fast she knocked the napkin holder over with her elbow. "Careful there, Dorothy. Sodas and onion rings. On me."

"Uhhhh ... " Gene said with the faintest glare at Trey.

Marina didn't know about this. Dot was uncharacteristically quiet and withdrawn. Dot's cheeks were a little flushed and she wouldn't look at Gene. "Hey, Dot, c'mon over here and sit with me so Trey and Gene can sit together."

Dot started. "No, no!" she said brightly. "Trey, you stay there with Marina. I, um, I ... " Marina had never seen her so discombobulated and she didn't like it. Dot mumbled, "Um, hi. Gene. Nice to meet you." Oh, of course. Sitting next to Gene meant she didn't have to look at him.

"Likewise you, Miss Albright," he mumbled in return, barely glancing at her. This was normal male behavior around Dot. What was not normal was that he clearly did not want to be here at all, much less sitting next to her.

"So! Gene!" Dot said with fake gaiety that Marina didn't like. "What do you do?" Even if Dot hated a boy, she wouldn't be mean. She wouldn't ignore him. But she wouldn't go to any extra trouble to be sociable. This was altogether something different.

"I work for Trey, Miss Albright," he replied.

"He's one of my salesmen," Trey clarified as he gestured for their waitress. None of them spoke while Trey ordered for Marina and Dot and himself, then gestured to Gene, who said,

"Vanilla phosphate, please."

"Anything to eat, sweetie, or are you sharing the basket?" the waitress asked in a suspiciously flirtatious voice.

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