Burn (Chapter Six)

Part Two


Chapter Six

Seven years later

"WE HAVE A SITUATION DEVELOPING," THE FAMILIAR voice said on Cael Traylor's secure, encrypted cell phone.

Cael could put both a name and a face to the voice, because he'd made a point of being able to do so. Finding out what he wanted to know had required a cross-country drive, but driving had kept him off the radar, which he wouldn't have been if he'd flown. Any time his name showed up on a passenger list, certain elements of the U.S. government learned of it. Not Homeland Security, not the State Department, but certain people who handled black ops, such as the man who was currently talking to him on his phone.

"Details," he said briefly, turning off the television and wheeling away from his computer so he could concentrate. He didn't take notes; a paper trail could come back to bite him on the ass. He did take precautions to make certain he was never hung out to dry, but notes weren't part of his routine.

"We've picked up some transmissions from the North Koreans that make us suspect they've established a source for some technology we'd rather they not have."

Cael didn't ask what that technology was – not yet, anyway. At this point he didn't need to know. If at some point he decided he did need to know, then he wouldn't proceed without that information. "Who's the source?"

"Frank Larkin."

Cael's interest level shot up several degrees. Larkin was a multimillionaire who was one of the behind-the-scene powers in Washington, D.C., with a lot of friends and contacts in high places. He had jumped on the green bandwagon with so-called environmentally friendly businesses and products that were questionable at best, and were probably outright cons. Cael didn't get emotionally involved in causes, but in his opinion it took a particularly sleazy type of bastard to take advantage of people who were trying to do something good.

"He pulls a lot of juice" was all he said, his tone neutral. Because of Larkin's connections, anything they got on him would have to be ironclad – and even then there was no guarantee that anything would ever be done. On the other hand, in a lot of these cases no formal charges were ever brought. The "problem" was taken care of, and would look like a heart attack or a stroke, at least on paper, while the bullet hole in the back of the head would somehow escape the medical examiner's notice.

Cael had done his share of wet work, but that was for another country, in another decade. His true specialty was surveillance, so what he was being called on to do was get the goods on Larkin, not take him out.

"Specifics," he said.

"Larkin is one of a consortium that's expanding into luxury ship cruises. The first ship, the Silver Mist, is scheduled to go into service very shortly. Before that, however, her maiden voyage will be a special two-week charity cruise to Hawaii. The passengers will all be the super-elite, all the proceeds from the cruise will be donated to charity, and there's a huge public relations push going on. Larkin will be the host of the cruise. We think he'll be meeting with the North Koreans while he's in Hawaii, but the place and time won't be set until shortly beforehand. We need to know when and where."

Cael mulled that information over. The computer age had changed espionage; actual prototypes or products didn't have to be stolen. Instead, the specs could be transmitted in the blink of an eye, and the receiving country or agency could proceed from there. The North Koreans were famously paranoid; a face-to-face meet, especially on foreign soil, posed far more risk to them than a simple file transmission.

"Something's off," he said. "Why would the Koreans agree to that? Why the need for a face-to-face meet?"

"We don't know. There may be something else going on that we haven't unraveled yet. What we do know is enough."

Cael gave a mental shrug. In the end, it didn't matter why the Koreans would agree to such a risky move, just that they had. "When's the cruise?"

"Two weeks."

Not much time then. "Can you get me and my people booked? We'll need the suite next to Larkin's."

"How many rooms do you need?"

"Two," he replied. He and Tiffany would take one room, Ryan and Faith the other. In fact, the best arrangement would be Ryan and Faith in the suite adjoining Larkin's. This cruise was just the type of thing they would do, so their presence wouldn't be in any way remarkable. "And I'll need two people embedded in the ship's crew."


He provided them, his thoughts already moving ahead. He would also need someone on the security staff, and putting one of his people there at this late date was probably impossible. Therefore, he needed to buy someone who was already on staff. He relayed that requirement, too.

"I'll have everything set up. Get your people ready."

They both hung up. Cael left his chair to get more coffee. He'd been awake and at the computer for more than an hour, but it was barely five o'clock in the morning, California time, too early to call any of his people and put them on alert. Instead, he took his cup out onto the porch and sat in one of the comfortable rocking chairs, stretching his long legs out to prop them on top of the porch railing. Dawn hadn't yet rolled across the mountains to the east of him, but the birds and insects were producing an anticipatory symphony. He listened to them, enjoying the songs and solitude, the soft feel of the early-morning air on his bare chest.

His house was the only one in sight, and he liked it that way. The house itself was two-story, made of timber and rock so that it blended into its surroundings, not so big as to attract notice but large enough that he could be comfortable. The security array was more extensive than normal, but not immediately apparent. He'd installed at least half the precautions himself, so no company would have a set of schematics that could be used to breach his defenses. Maybe he had a touch of paranoia himself, but the way he looked at it, he'd rather spend some extra money than be caught with his pants down. He was in a dangerous business – not as dangerous now as what he'd done before, but in his type of work you didn't win many friends.

Trust was the keystone in his relationships, both professional and personal. Professionally, he didn't trust the people he worked for, but he did the people he worked with. He had a good group assembled. They didn't work together exclusively, but more and more the others were turning down jobs that hadn't come through him.

He hadn't set out to be the head of anything. For that matter, he hadn't set out to work in the world of black ops. A combination of birth, circumstance, and natural talent had gradually led him to where he was now, and he had to admit the job was a good fit.

He'd been born in Israel to American parents. His mother was a nonpracticing Jew; his father a laid-back Mississippi Delta boy who didn't give a hoot one way or the other. The fact that his mother didn't practice the religion she'd been born into was a sore spot with Cael. "If you aren't willing to follow the customs that pertain to you," he'd once groused to her, "why the hell couldn't you have left my foreskin out of it?"

"Stop complaining," she'd retorted. "You didn't need it."

"But I might have wanted it, and now I'll never know, will I?"

Just as a matter of principle, he didn't like the fact that one of his body parts had been removed without his permission.

He'd lived in Israel until he was ten, and had grown up speaking three languages: Hebrew, English, and Southern. Later on he'd added Spanish and German, with a smattering of Japanese that he was gradually expanding. Moving to the United States had been a big culture shock to him, but one he liked. He may have spent his first ten years in Israel, but he'd always been aware that he was an American. This was where he belonged.

Even so, he retained a deep fondness for Israel, and because he'd been born there he had dual citizenship. When he was eighteen he'd decided he wanted adventure, and he'd served a stint in the Israeli army, where he'd exhibited certain talents that brought him to the attention of Mossad. He'd done some jobs for them, before maturity and a desire to live brought him back to America, where he'd belatedly gotten a college degree in business administration.

There was no getting away from fate, he mused. His degree had come in handy, with the string of car washes, Laundromats, and other cash-rich businesses he owned. He'd built a fortune for himself – smallish, but still a fortune. The truth, however, was that those cash-rich businesses provided a convenient way for him to launder the money he earned from his real livelihood, which was mostly finding out things that other people wanted to keep hidden. The people who paid him didn't exactly provide 1099s at the end of the year, and he had to have some way to account for his money to the IRS. He did have some of it salted away in Switzerland, but the whole point of money, to him, was to put it to work. To do that, he had to have it in the United States. Thus the low-rent businesses, which had turned out to be a gold mine. No matter what, people washed their cars and clothes.

While he'd nursed his coffee, dawn had gradually arrived. He could see the mountains now, the deep green forest around him, see the birds that sang. His stomach reminded him that he'd been up for hours, and it was time for breakfast. After breakfast, he'd start calling his people, and get a plan put in place.

CRYSTAL CHANDELIERS GLITTERED OVERHEAD; in fact the entire ballroom seemed to glitter, from the chandeliers to the crystal glasses on the tables, to the jewelry decorating hair and ears, throats and hands, to the sequins and crystals on gowns and shoes and evening bags. Everything glittered.

Jenner stifled a sigh. She was so damn tired of glitter, so bored with these endless charity functions even when they were for a good cause. Why couldn't she just write a check and be done with it?

Even if she'd enjoyed the social aspect of these things, wine tasting, followed by an expensive dinner, which was then followed by an auction for overvalued objects she didn't want or need wasn't Jenner's idea of fun, and yet here she was. Again.

It was Sydney's fault, of course. Sydney Hazlett was Jenner's only real friend among the south Florida elite, and Syd often begged Jenner to attend these things to give her support and backup; in an odd reversal of circumstance, nature – whatever – the young woman who had been born to a life of luxury, coddled and catered to all her life, suffered from an almost paralyzing lack of confidence, while Jenner, who had come from nothing, could stare down anyone and shrug off any slight, which meant the one doing the slighting was, at best, unimportant to her.

That was how Jenner had survived these seven years after leaving Chicago. She had to admit that, by and large, people here had been polite, even gracious, but they hadn't welcomed her into their inner circles. She had many acquaintances, but only one friend, and that was Syd.

According to Syd, her attendance was mandatory, which meant Jenner's was, too. So as much as she wished she could just write a check to the children's hospital and call it done, she had to endure these tedious events – and she'd still end up writing a check.

She didn't even like wine, which she supposed was an indication of her very red blood and her low-brow, blue-collar upbringing. Give her a beer and she was much happier. She barely managed to keep from shuddering at each sip, and thank God she could spit the nasty stuff out. At least with dinner she'd be able to get her favorite drink, a teeter-totter, which was a delicious blend of half champagne and half sparkling green apple juice. She couldn't stand champagne on its own, but mixed with apple juice it was great. All the servers and bartenders at these events knew what she drank, without having to ask.

Where was Syd, anyway? They'd be sitting down to dinner any minute, and after being coerced into attending this thing, she'd like to have someone she could talk to. Jenner was feeling decidedly grumpy that she'd endured this to give Syd company, and her friend wasn't even here. She should have expected it; Syd was often late – partly, Jenner suspected, because she dreaded these functions even more than Jenner did, but her tardiness was usually about fifteen to thirty minutes. This time, she'd missed the entire wine-tasting, which had lasted for over an hour.

Jenner was thinking about slipping outside and calling her when Syd said behind her, "You're blond again. I love the shade."

Jenner turned, smiling wryly. "You're late. If I'd known you were going to miss the entire wine-tasting, I wouldn't have shown up, either."

"I just couldn't – " Syd looked down at herself with a sigh. She looked fine to Jenner. Her gown was classic in line and construction, the cream color looked great with Syd's honey-blond hair and golden skin, and Syd herself was very pretty, with her natural sweetness evident in her expression. But Syd was hypercritical of herself, always fearing she didn't measure up to her father's exacting tastes, afraid people were making fun of her, second-guessing her clothing decisions, which of course meant she never wore the first thing she tried on – at least not without trying on several other outfits before, in despair, she went with her original choice.

On Syd's behalf, Jenner would have hated Mr. Hazlett, except he so obviously adored Syd and tried in a number of ways to prop up her fragile self-esteem, and was hugely relieved and grateful to Jenner for being Syd's friend. J. Michael Hazlett did indeed have impeccable taste; he was handsome, urbane, and completely comfortable in his skin, as well as being a formidable businessman. But he never said anything the least critical to Syd, and would have fought tigers to protect her. It was hard to hate someone who not only wasn't a villain, but who actually, in his own endearing, slightly clumsy masculine way, tried to show his daughter how special and lovable she was. She and Mr. Hazlett had become coconspirators, always trying to make certain one of them was available to lend Syd support if she needed it.

Just like now.

"You look great, as always," she said to Syd. "But leaving me to handle a wine-tasting on my own just isn't right."

"I'd rather talk about your hair than my tardiness," Syd replied, smiling. "I still say blond is the most flattering for you, it makes you look so alive and bright. Though the auburn was striking," she added hastily. "And the black was very elegant. What is your natural color, anyway?"

"Dishwater blond," Jenner retorted. Though she hadn't seen it in years, she recalled the exact, unexciting shade. A psychiatrist could probably have a field day on why she changed hair color so often, but it was her hair, and if she wanted to change it she could, so who cared what an analyst might think? She'd loved having black hair, loved the edgy, kick-butt feeling it gave her. The red hair had been surprisingly sexy, and she'd liked that, too. When she got bored with this pale blond, she'd probably go back to the red for a while.

There was a signal for everyone to take their seats at the elegantly decorated banquet tables, each seating eight. By Jenner's count, there were fifty tables, which meant four hundred people were in attendance. An orchestra, seated in the balcony, began softly playing, providing a pleasing background without being so loud they intruded on the conversation below.

As Jenner took her seat, holding the slim skirt of her long black gown so she wouldn't catch her heel in it and pitch face-forward into the table, she remembered her first charity dinner, almost seven years ago. She'd done her best to mingle beforehand, to introduce herself to people, but she'd felt enormously out of place and uncomfortable. No one had spat on her, but neither had she been made to feel welcome.

At dinner, she'd found herself sitting at a table with seven strangers and a daunting array of silverware and glasses, which had all but paralyzed her with uncertainty. She'd thought, "Holy shit, five forks!" What was she supposed to do with five forks? Use a fresh one for each bite? Defend herself from the others at the table?

Then the pretty young woman across the table had caught her eye, given her a friendly, conspiratorial smile, and very discreetly lifted the fork on the outside of the setting. There hadn't been anything derisive in her attitude, just an honest offer of aid, which Jenner had gratefully accepted. She'd gotten through the dinner, realized that the order of utensil use was very simple, and in the course of that dinner also realized that the young woman across the table was genuinely sweet and friendly. Afterward, they had gravitated toward each other so they could really talk, and by the end of the event each had found a friend.

Strange how much she'd changed since then, Jenner thought, and yet one thing hadn't changed: She still didn't truly fit in here. She'd left Chicago behind, and in truth no longer felt like the girl she'd once been, the one who had been so bitterly hurt by family and friends alike, but her sense of not belonging was as strong as ever. Here she was, thirty years old. She'd lived in Palm Beach for six years. In those six years, she'd attended a hundred or more of these charity events, gone to cocktail parties, pool parties, whatever – and to the others of this social set she was, and would always be, the working-class meat packer who'd gotten lucky and won the lottery. She would never be one of them, no matter how casually friendly they were to her. If not for Syd she probably would've moved on, looked for somewhere else to live, but instead she'd made a home here.

She'd filled those seven years by staying busy. Al had warned her, years ago, that most people who win the lottery end up broke within five years. Jenner had been determined not to be one of those people. With Al to help with the investments, a good accountant, a couple of attorneys – and, oddly enough, a head for handling investments herself – Jenner was richer than she'd been the day she claimed her winnings … over twice as rich. Even with the recent stock market tumble she was financially sound, thanks to her diverse portfolio. The market might be drastically down, but her own losses were less than twenty percent. These days she even managed a portion of her investments herself, through an online account – though Al, who was now a senior partner at Payne Echols, took care of the rest.

Managing that much money took a lot of time, much more than she'd imagined way back when she'd first picked Payne Echols out of the yellow pages. Add in the charities she supported, the ever-changing list of classes she took – in art, in gourmet cooking (French and Italian), in cake decorating, judo, skeet shooting, ballroom dancing, pottery, computers, snorkeling, even parasailing – and her days were full enough. Occasionally aimless, but full.

She'd tried gardening and knitting as well, but she hadn't enjoyed either of those. Though Jenner often felt as if she still didn't know who she was or what she wanted to do, she definitely knew that she was not Suzy Homemaker. She was good in the kitchen, but she'd rather be surfing the Web. And except for the occasional lunch she'd prepared for Syd, who was she going to cook for? If she was the only one there, she'd rather pick up something from the deli down the street and save herself the trouble.

She had a luxury condo with all the security bells and whistles, and someone to clean it. She had great clothes. She had a great car, a beautiful little BMW convertible. She dated occasionally, but not very often. If a man wasn't in her financial league, then how could she ever truly know whether he liked her for herself or if he was just interested in her money? Her experiences with Michelle, Dylan, and her dad had definitely left emotional scars.

She knew she was unduly critical of the people she socialized with, knew that most of her uncertainty stemmed from herself, but protecting herself by holding most people at a distance was a damn sight easier than dealing with the hurt and repairing the damage if her suspicions were proved correct.

They were actually pretty nice people, she thought, looking around the table. They gave millions and millions to worthwhile charities every year, and it wasn't because of tax deductions, either. Jenner had made the horrifying – to her – discovery that, at her financial level, almost nothing was deductible. She didn't even get a personal deduction. So these people gave because they wanted to do good, to make a difference, and not because it in any way benefited them financially. That they combined social events with their giving wasn't a horrible thing to do. Why not get together with friends before writing those huge checks?

She liked most of them, but she wasn't close to any of them, except for Syd. Syd also suffered from Jenner's dilemma when it came to men; she, too, wondered if someone wanted to go out with her because of her father's money rather than being interested in her. And regardless of how sweet Syd was, how genuinely friendly and nice, how could Jenner say she was wrong in feeling the way she did when Jenner suffered from the same doubt?

After dinner, the auction part of the evening began. She and Syd went into the adjoining room and walked among the tables where the donated items were on display. Nothing there called to her, though she supposed she'd do her part and bid on at least a couple, whether she wanted them or not. There were small white envelopes and thick, rich paper for the attendees to use to place their silent bids. After a quick perusal of the items, Sydney bid on a facial and massage at her favorite spa – for much more than she would have paid by simply booking the services – and Jenner bid on a pair of unexciting pearl earrings. If she got them, she would donate them to a center for abused women. She passed a lot of stuff on to the center. Sometimes, even a piece of jewelry could do a lot for the self-esteem of a woman who had been beaten down to the ground.

After the auction was over – neither of them won, but they both wrote checks anyway – there was dancing, which was as far removed from the dancing Jenner had learned at Bird's as caviar was from tuna. As they watched the elegant couples sway and twirl, Syd asked, "Are you excited about the cruise?"

Jenner racked her brain, but drew a blank. "What cruise?"

"What cruise?" Syd echoed, staring at Jenner was if she were insane. "The charity cruise. Didn't you read about it in yesterday's paper? You are going, aren't you?" She looked suddenly anxious. "Dad has to be in Europe for some meetings at the same time, or he'd go, so I have to go in his place."

Okay, Jenner could already see where this was heading. Everyone who was anyone would be expected to go on this cruise, as the charity circuit took to the high seas. And if Syd went, then she'd want Jenner to go along for company and support. And, what the hell, she'd probably go. She hadn't been on a cruise before, but she liked the water, liked her snorkeling and parasailing lessons, so why not?

"I didn't read the paper yesterday," she said – a lie, because she'd read the stuff that interested her. "Fill me in."

"It's the maiden voyage of the Silver… Something. Or maybe it's a Crystal Something. I don't remember." Syd waved away the ship's name, because it truly didn't matter. "It's the most luxurious boutique ship in the world, and before it goes into service its maiden voyage is being used to raise money for charity. All the proceeds from everything will be donated, from the passenger fees to the casino take. There'll be an art auction, a masquerade ball, a fashion show where you can actually buy the garments and they'll be tailored to fit you … oh, all sorts of stuff. Doesn't it sound like fun?"

"At least it sounds interesting," Jenner allowed. "When is it, and where is it?"

"Um … I'll have to get back to you on the 'when,' but the 'where' is a two-week cruise in the Pacific."

"Hawaii? Tahiti? Japan?"

"Uh – farther south than Japan. Does anyone cruise to Japan? Anyway. Hawaii or Tahiti. One or the other. Or both. I don't know. They're both pretty, so who cares?"

Jenner had to laugh at Syd's reasoning, because she was absolutely right. They could be cruising up and down Lake Erie, and they'd still go, because it was for a good cause and that was what they did.

"Okay, I'm in. Tell me more."

Syd's expressive face filled with relief. "Thank goodness," she breathed. "I was afraid I'd have to go by myself. Dad booked one of the penthouse suites, so from what I understand we'll each have a private bedroom. This ship is supposed to be gorgeous; every stateroom is at least a mini-suite, with a balcony, but there are way more true suites than there are on any other ship in the world – for right now, at least."

"Which line owns the ship?"

"I don't think there's a line. I think it's a consortium of people, because one of the co-owners, Frank Larkin, is hosting the voyage. Dad knows him."

That wasn't surprising; J. Michael Hazlett knew everyone.

Still, two weeks of isolation, of peace and quiet, sounded very nice. She would sleep, see new places – something she'd discovered she loved to do – and eat great food. On the flip side, there would be many nights like this one, nights where she rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful who would make up the very exclusive passenger list. And after all, she was now one of those rich and powerful.

Two weeks … Maybe she didn't want that much peace and quiet. She felt suddenly uneasy. "I don't know about being out of touch that long," she said.

"Silly. There are phones in all the rooms, and Internet access. Most ships just have an Internet cafe, but this ship has full wireless service."

So long as she could get to a computer, she could keep on top of things, so Jenner relaxed. She was a little paranoid about staying informed, maybe because she hadn't actually earned her money and she was always, in the back of her mind, afraid it would slip away as easily as it had come. She didn't have survivor guilt, she had dumb-luck guilt.

"Maybe we'll meet a couple of someone specials while we're at sea," Syd said, smiling wryly.

"Yeah," Jenner said, "like the ship won't be filled with people we already know, and this set is lousy with young, handsome, straight, available men who don't care one way or another that between us we could fund our own small country."

Sydney covered her mouth and coughed to hide a laugh. "You're so jaded."

"And so right."

Syd's smile faded, became a little sad around the edges. "Maybe it's just us. No one else seems to worry about being married for their money, they just go ahead and live their lives."

"And get divorced," Jenner pointed out, then wished she hadn't, because Sydney's mother and father had gone through an extremely bitter, acrimonious divorce when Syd was twelve, a terribly vulnerable age, and that had surely played a part in making her so unsure of her own worth as opposed to her material worth.

It hadn't helped that, after less than a year, her mother had relinquished custody of Syd to her father and moved to Europe with her new husband. Syd's whole life had been full of emotional upheaval, including a broken engagement.

By contrast, Jenner considered herself heart-whole. She'd had crushes, sure, and a couple of times when she was younger thought she was in love, but that was it. Since she'd won the lottery, she'd been way too wary to let anyone get close to her, and perhaps that was more a reflection on her than it was on the men who might have shown an interest in her if she'd been more approachable. Perhaps she was the one who couldn't forget she'd been a meat packer, maybe she was the one who thought no one would want her for herself.

The stray thoughts made her impatient with herself. It wasn't that she'd entirely given up on men, or that she believed every man on the planet was either greedy or snobbish. But how did a woman in her position go about finding the men who were neither, and how could she tell? She hadn't figured that out, yet.

A week later, their arrangements were made. The cruise ship Silver Mist was sailing from San Diego, and the publicity surrounding a ship full of millionaires, billionaires, and assorted glitterati was at fever pitch – at least in their circle. Jenner imagined the average Joe couldn't care less about a bunch of rich people taking a cruise and the ship's owners donating all the proceeds to charity. Unless it directly impacted them … well, big hairy deal.

Realizing that didn't stop her from looking forward to it. This was her first cruise, and she was vaguely excited.

Sydney was truly excited about the cruise, though she suffered her normal anxieties about the social events onboard. But she had a friend from college who lived in the San Diego area, and she decided to fly out ahead of time for a visit beforehand.

"You should go with me," she cajoled Jenner. "You'd really like Caro, and she'd love to have you. If you're uncomfortable staying at her house, though, you could always get a suite at the Del Coronado. It's a great old hotel, and the Navy SEALs train on the beach right in front of the guest rooms. If you just happen to run into one, you wouldn't have to tell him right away about the small country thing."

"Now, there's a match made in heaven," Jenner retorted. "He could overtake the small country, and I could buy it. We'd have all bases covered."

Navy SEALs notwithstanding, she resisted Syd's arguments. For one thing, Caro hadn't invited her, even though she was fairly certain Syd had already broached the subject with her friend before asking Jenner. She could imagine Caro's agreement with the plan had been fairly tepid, hence she'd left the actual invitation to Syd.

But she and Al had a face-to-face meeting scheduled, which they didn't often have an opportunity for these days. She and Al had become good friends, and she wanted to catch up on how things were going in Al's life. All things considered, she'd rather visit with Al than suffer through a slightly awkward vacation with Syd's college friend.

It wasn't lost on her that her two best friends were single women named Al and Syd. How weird was that?

"Thanks, but I need to make this meeting with Al. Her flight back to Chicago is Monday afternoon, so I'll have that evening to finish packing, then I'll take an early flight out and, with the time change, arrive in San Diego in plenty of time to meet you at the port. You enjoy your visit with Caro, I'll do the same with Al, and then you and I will spend two nice, lazy weeks cruising around the Pacific."

"I can't wait to see the ship," Syd said, hugging her knees. They were on the balcony of Jenner's condo, watching the sky change as the sun set behind them. "All of the suites are decorated differently, and the one Dad reserved is gorgeous, all white and silver with touches of blue. It looked really serene and calming, at least in the pictures on the Internet. Not that I imagine we'll be spending a lot of time in the suite, other than sleeping there."

"Then who cares how it looks?" Jenner asked what she considered a very practical question.

"I don't want to sleep in an ugly room," Syd said indignantly. "Anyway, there's something planned for every night, and plenty to do during the day."

"You've been on a cruise before, right?"

"Of course. It's a lot of fun. All sorts of classes, which you'll like, plus things like spas, movies, dance contests, and unending food. We'll need a different gown for every night."

"Packing will be a bitch," Jenner said, thinking with horror of how many suitcases would be required. Not only would she evidently need fourteen evening gowns, but the shoes, the evening bags, and the jewelry that went with them. "Gaaa."

"Who cares? It's all for a good cause. Bring that gorgeous strapless black gown you bought last month, just in case you meet that handsome, straight, nonjudgmental available billionaire we're always looking for."

"The SEAL sounded more likely."

"But you have to be prepared, just in case. You never know what'll happen."