The Fifth Avenue Series Boxed Set

The Fifth Avenue Series Boxed Set by Christopher Smith Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Fifth Avenue Series Boxed Set by Christopher Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Smith
to spend time with her while everyone else paid attention to Celina—the daughter who showed promise.   Leana always would love him for it.
    She started in their direction.   The crowd shifted and she saw Harold push back his chair, stand and kiss Helen on the forehead.   The lighting above him accented the deep lines on his face, the dark circles beneath his eyes, suggesting an age well past sixty.   And yet Harold Baines was fifty-one years old.
    Leana waved to him but Harold didn’t notice and stepped into a nearby washroom.   He seemed thinner, older than when she saw him last and Leana noticed he was carrying himself as if the very act of moving required the coordinating of muscles he didn’t have the strength to control.   When the door swung shut behind him, she wondered if something was wrong with him.   Was he sick?   She was about to walk over and ask Helen when Michael Archer appeared in the crowd.   He approached her—and held out a hand.   “Dance?” he asked.
    The band was playing “I’ll Be Seeing You.”   As they danced with the other couples on the dance floor, Leana looked up at Michael and decided to ask a question that was certain to catch him off guard.   “So, tell me,” she said.   “Why did you really spend $100,000 to come here?”
    The question took Michael by surprise.   “I thought I already explained that,” he said carefully.   “I wanted to help your mother raise money this evening for HIV.”
    “Bullshit.”
    “Excuse me?”
    “You’re going to have to do better than that,” Leana said.   “That’s an explanation my mother would believe, not me.”
    Michael felt a start, but stilled it.   She couldn’t know why he was really here.   That was impossible.   Still, he was wary.   She seemed to be looking straight through him.   “A lot of my time is spent with the creative community,” he said.   “Some of my friends have the disease, which no longer gets any attention in the press.   It’s great what your mother’s doing.   She’ll put HIV back on the front page.”
    Leana studied his face.   “All right,” she said.   “I’ll buy that.   But you’re here for some other reason.   No one gives $100,000 to charity without having some other motivation than mere kindness.   Kindness went belly up in the ‘40s.”   She looked around her.   “Is there somebody here you wanted to meet?    A producer, perhaps?   A publisher?”
    His arm tightened around her waist.   “I’ve got those covered,” he said.
    “Then why are you really here?”
    “Why do I have to be here for any particular reason?   Can’t I just be a nice guy?”
    “No one is nice anymore, Mr. Archer.   Look around you.   See that man over there, the one with the cigar?   Next to him is his wife, who knows that lit cigar goes other places.   Now, what’s the reason?”
    He saw the humor in her eyes and he softened.   This is a game to her , he thought.   She knows I’m lying and is just having fun with it.   Relax.   “Alright,” he said.   “I’ll tell you—but on one condition.”
    “Name it.”
    “You have to tell me something you’re not proud of.   Quid pro quo.   Deal?”
    “Deal.   Now, what is it?”
    “I don’t like giving money to the government,” he said, the idea still fresh.   “When I learned your mother was raising money this evening for children with HIV, I saw a chance to write off a hundred grand from my taxes.   Better to help children than to hand it over to adults who behave like children, wouldn’t you say?”
    Leana nodded.   “Now, that I believe.”   She accidentally brushed up against the woman dancing behind her.   Both turned and smiled their apologies.
    “Your turn,” Michael said.
    “I don’t think you can handle it.”
    “Try me.”
    Her eyes challenged his.   “I’m an addict.   I don’t use anymore, but I’m still an addict—that’s the label they give you when you leave rehab.  

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