Ike kicked the door behind him shut with his boot and gave her what was certainly a nervous smile. "What a nice surprise."
Dora looked beyond him to the closed door and then back up at Ike. "I've interrupted something."
"Just a meeting," he hurried to say. "Actually, not a meeting I'd planned. I had someone come in unexpectedly, and we were just discussing what I could do for her."
At the word her
, Dora's dark eyes narrowed. "Anyone I know?"
The question left him looking for a good response. Knew? No. Knew of? Absolutely.
"I see," she said in that tone he'd learned meant trouble.
Before he could get a word out, the pretty brunette pressed past him to open the door and step into his office. To her credit, Dora's expression never changed, even when she spied Annie.
"Miss Walter," she said in a completely neutral tone. "Ike didn't tell me you were back in Austin."
He stepped into the office in time to watch his past and his present shake hands.
Annie was standing now, her posture straight and her expression friendly. "Isaiah could not have known until I showed up without an appointment a few minutes ago." She shook her head. "I'm sorry. Forgive me, but do I know you? I cannot recall that I do."
"Theodora Rampling." She gave him a sideways look. "I don't suppose Ike has mentioned me."
"No, but then, he hasn't had the chance. I only just arrived." Annie's gaze moved from her to him. "I shouldn't have assumed you would be available upon my whim, Isaiah. I will have my secretary set a proper appointment. Now, if you'll excuse me."
"No," Ike and Dora said in unison.
"There's no need," Dora said. "Continue your meeting. I'm only here to delivery an invitation for Ike to join Papa and me for dinner at the governor's mansion tonight." She fixed him with a look. "If you're free, that is."
"Of course I am," Ike told her as he recalled a similar dinner at the mansion some years ago. He'd ended up with Annie in the garden and had been severely chastised by Mrs. Ireland, their hostess.
He'd also missed out on what might have been a memorable kiss under the stars.
Dora placed her hand on Ike's sleeve, redirecting his thoughts. The smile on her face did not match the look in her eyes. "Excellent. Then why don't you walk me out?" She turned to Annie. "I do hope you'll have a nice stay in Austin. Are you planning a lengthy visit?"
"I'm not certain," Annie told her. "It all depends. I am here on a matter of urgent business, so one never knows how long these things take."
"Yes, one never knows," Dora echoed. After saying her goodbyes to Annie, she led Ike to the door. This time it was Dora's foot that slammed the door behind them.
"What is that woman doing here?" she demanded.
"I have no idea other than what she said. She's here on business, and she just walked through the doors a few minutes before you did. That's all I can tell you."
She shook her head. "Get rid of her."
"I was trying to when you walked in," he said, not certain that was the truth. He'd been curious as to why she'd chosen him for whatever project she and Granny had in mind, but he certainly hadn't committed to helping her.
Listening, yes. Helping? Probably not.
"No, you told me you were finding out what you could do for her." She paused, and Ike realized her silence was more powerful than her words. "Have you decided what that is, dear?"
"Probably nothing, but I won't know until the conversation is finished. As I said, I was trying to get to the end of what she was there for when you came in."
"Then go and finish trying," she said sweetly. "Pick me up at seven tonight. Papa will likely be at the capitol until just before dinner, so he plans to walk over. Wear that nice dark suit, please. You look so handsome in it."
Her voice was a purr now. It was also loud enough to be heard on the other side of the door.
Dora Rampling was nothing if not insistent that she be the center of Ike's world. A world made up of no one else but her, Ike, and anyone else who could further the political and social aspirations she held for the two of them.
"Seven it is," he said, offering her a kiss on the cheek. "Do you need me to escort you to your buggy?"
This excerpt ends on page 18 of the paperback edition.
Monday we begin the book Driftwood Dreams by T.I. Lowe.