Natalya wanted to contribute in at least some small way toward their trip, so Art asked her to go online and find accommodations. She found an available two-bedroom suite at a chain hotel located along San Antonio's famous riverwalk. The suite was a last-minute cancellation, and she was able to negotiate a price that ended up being less expensive than if they had booked two single rooms.
Another cost-saving measure, thanks to Natalya, she suggested they take a cab from the airport instead of renting a car, because the Lobo Dorado offices were located a couple blocks from the Alamo within easy walking distance of their hotel.
Art appreciated her thoughtfulness and concern over his finances.
Jen and Anya agreed to share responsibility for taking care of Joey during their absence and coordinated schedules. At first, Art felt apprehensive over whether they would get along, but he detected no negative vibes between the two ladies when they met.
After the long, boring flight, and two layovers in Atlanta and Dallas, Art was whipped and told Natalya he would take a short nap. When he woke, he showered and left the room thinking he would find Natalya in the suite's common area, maybe watching TV. Instead, she sat on their third-floor balcony overlooking the canal and pedestrian walkway. She held an empty, stemmed wineglass and had her feet propped on the railing.
"I bought the wine at the bar downstairs," she explained. "It's so beautiful here. It put me in the mood for a drink."
Art pulled up a chair beside her and sat. The sun had dipped below the horizon. In the twilight, the various shops, eateries, and clubs below were lit up in a decorative fashion displaying myriads of colors. Couples strolled the riverwalk arm-in-arm, and a swan floated along, her babies trailing behind. The birds seemed content, worry-free. They didn't even mind a gondolier rowing past, ferrying a young bride in a wedding dress along with her lucky groom.
From a restaurant below, the aroma of a pasta dish wafted their way making Art's mouth water.
Natalya took a deep breath, savoring the aroma. "I've never been here before."
"Neither have I."
"In a way, it reminds of Venice."
Art regarded her. "You've been to Venice?"
"Once," she said. "Vince and I honeymooned there."
"Nice. Ellen and I honeymooned at Niagara Falls."
She giggled. "Venice and Niagara Falls. Two honeymoon clichés."
"Does that mean you didn't like Italy?"
"No, I loved it." She stared at him. "But I think this place is just as romantic."
Art stood. "I think you need another glass of wine. I'll make a rare exception and join you."
He found a room service menu, called down, and ordered a whole bottle. After the attendant arrived, Art poured two glasses and rejoined Natalya on the balcony. Her eyes had been closed, but she snapped awake. Art handed her the fresh glass and took his seat.
"Thank you," she murmured.
"Are you tired?"
"A little. I've been wondering about tomorrow. What's Mr. Santos going to say when I tag along. He's not expecting me to show up with you."
Art sipped his wine and found it to be a bit too sweet for his taste. "I'm hoping to catch him off balance. His reaction could reveal a lot."
Natalya tried her wine and downed a whole lot more than Art did. "This wine tastes good."
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