Back to Reality

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"I wish we'd never left the island

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"I wish we'd never left the island." I stare out the window of the hired car at the sprawling Miami skyline. It's culture shock, going from the serenity of the tropical Turks and Caicos to the heart of a frenzied, car-clogged city.

Rafa reaches across the seat and picks up my hand, pressing his lips to my fingers. "We'll go back. I promise. Spend more than forty-eight hours. We'll stay as long as you want. Hell, we can buy a villa if that's what you desire."

I nod, feeling empty in the pit of my stomach. Rafa's phone rings—it's been ringing almost non-stop since we landed in the private jet two hours ago, and he's talked to at least five people in Spanish and English during our hour-long commute to his condo in the most hellacious traffic I've seen in years.

Fiddling with the oversized sunglasses that Rafa bought me at the hotel boutique, I stare at the canyon of glass skyscrapers. Jesus, I wish I could be beamed back to St. Augustine, back to my little bungalow and my tired newspaper. We're in the middle of finding a new location for the paper. I grit my teeth because there's so much to do at work.

But Rafa needs me, more than ever.

"That was Andrew," he says. I don't respond. "Justine?"

"Oh! I thought you were still on the phone. Andrew who?" I shift so I'm angled toward him now. He's in navy blue shorts and a white polo he'd bought at the hotel, but somehow he's slipped into real estate mogul mode, all clipped words and the cool, businesslike, thousand-yard stare.

"Andrew. My lawyer. He's meeting us at my house. We'll talk, and then the agents will come over."

I glance down at my tanned, bare legs, made all the more bronze by the white-and-gold shift dress that stops just above my knee and is cut in a slight A-line so my stomach isn't showing. The dress was part of the boutique haul Rafa grabbed that night at the resort, and with my hair swept up and the strappy gold sandals, I'm the picture of a spoiled, rich man's girlfriend.

"I wish I had something more professional to wear," I mumble.

Rafa leans over and kisses me on the cheek. "You look beautiful. Don't worry. No one's expecting you to be a businesswoman today."

Something about the way he phrases that makes me lower my sunglasses down my nose and glare at him.

"I'll play the role of submissive wifey, don't worry," I say sarcastically.

"Don't get worked up. I didn't mean it like that. This is about me and my problem. What you wear isn't important. And yes, the lawyer and the authorities probably will ignore you. But I want you to ask questions, all the questions you want. Tell them anything you think is relevant. Okay? We're a team, remember?" He presses another small kiss to my hand, and my heart stutters a little.

I'm silent until we get to Rafa's condo and then for the excruciating hour we have to wait for the lawyer. I don't think Rafa notices my nervousness, because he's busy showering and barking orders into the phone.

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