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Dez Romano watched Michael DeSanto pace his office.

Weve gone over this, Michael said, but theres got to be something Im missing, you know?

Dez decided to say nothing.

Michael kept pacing. When my wife met her last year, she said her name was Isabel Bristol. She said she was a lawyer who moved here from L.A.

Did you have someone check the California Bar records?

Yeah. No one with that name.

Dez reached forward to his desk and picked up a program from the Naples opera house, which hed gotten on his trip there two weeks ago. The opera had been Puccinis Turandot. He leafed through the program, remembering the heat in the opera house, the women waving fans in front of their faces, the swell of the orchestras music, the lone, clear note of the alto that cut through the heat and made everyone think of no one but her.

Michael kept pacing, kept talking about the redhead. Even though he was out on bail for the money laundering hed done for Dez and the Camorra, the case, from what Dez had heard, was nearly lock solid. Michael would most likely be heading to a federal pen for something like ten years. Dezs source had also told him that although the authorities could prove Michael had been laundering funds for a company in the suburbs called Advent Corporation, they couldnt tie the ownership of the company to Dez or anyone in the Camorra. The attorneys Dez had originally paid to structure Advent Corporation had charged him astronomically, but theyd been worth every penny.

As far as Dez could tell, it was only Michael, and his word, that could bring Dez down, and so Dez wanted to keep Michael as happy as possible, until he could pat him on the shoulder and tell him hed see him after prison. He had promised Michael that he would always have a job with him, a place in Dezs system, and a hell of a lot of money when he got out. And Michael was happy to be a cog in the wheel.

So now Dez watched Michael stalk and talk in front of his desk. It was tough to take Michaels energy. Dez tuned him out. He was thinking of that alto, and yes, he was thinking of the redhead. In fact, hed been thinking of little but her since Sunday night when hed first seen her at the bar, her head dipped down toward her cell phone, her face grimacing at what she read there, the way the purple silk of her dress had slipped down one shoulder. At that moment, she struck him as exactly the kind of woman he wanted now that he was divorced. She looked educated, well brought up. But she also looked like a hell of a lot of fun.

And hed been right. Dinner was a blast. And a turn-on.

But sex wasnt why he was thinking about her now. No, not at all. Another emotion drove his thoughts, one just as primal, but much more violent.

| Red, White & Dead | c