Straightening, Leticia locked her gaze with Eduardo. “I'm grateful for any help you can give me. I know better than to have unrealistic expectations. Men who want to hide
can disappear in the States, too. It's sad they feel compelled to desert their children.
“I've often wondered what the children think, how they feel. Normally, I only deal with the distraught mothers.”
Her words sliced through his secret pain. The children, how do the children feel? His real father had abandoned him, and he knew how the children must feel.
He rose and stepped around the desk. He didn't want her to leave. For the first time in years, he wanted to spend time with a woman. He liked hearing her talk, enjoyed watching her expressions, and yearned to touch her.
“Would you have dinner with me tonight?” he asked.
“I appreciate the invitation, Señor Villarreal. But…”
“I would consider it an honor, Señorita Rodríguez.”
“Your invitation isn't about business. Is it?” She retreated to the door and placed her hand on the doorknob. She shook her head. “I don't accept dinner invitations from married men.”
She faced him, trying to remain calm, not wanting to alienate him. Her initial reaction to his unexpected invitation had been astonishment and revulsion. Unfortunately, she needed his help, but not enough to compromise her standards.
“You said you knew nothing about me,” he reminded her.
“I know very little, but my friend mentioned you were married.”
He perched himself on the edge of the desk and crossed his arms. “So you think my invitation is sordid.”
“I didn't say that… but you are married. What else am I to think?”
“You should get your facts straight before you throw them around.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“I'm no longer married; my divorce came through last year.”
“I'm sorry, I didn't know…” She let her apology trail off. Was he telling her the truth? Could she believe him?
“You don't believe me, do you? Why would I lie to you?”
“Because…” she stopped again, feeling the heat rise to face.
“Because your friend, Mercedes, told you I was married,” he finished for her. “And you think I'm a wolf in sheep's clothing.”
At his succinct summation, her face flamed hotter. “Mercedes has no reason to lie to me.”
A strange look came into his eyes, flickered and then was gone. He opened his mouth, then closed it and shook his head. “But I would lie to you?”
“If you're not trying to deceive me, then you're purposely being obtuse.”
He scowled and rose, retreating behind his desk, where he fiddled with a stack of phone messages.
“I think I'd better be going. You can contact Mercedes and give her your findings. But I want to thank you again for your help.”
He raised his head. “Don't go. I want to be honest with you because you appear to be a sincere person. I am divorced. Mercedes and I are business acquaintances. She doesn't know everything about me.”