At Timpano on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Monday afternoon, December 15, 2014
Gabriella Delaveccia sat across the table from her boss, Miguel Juan Carlos Gatto-Alba. Normally she loved the ambiance and the great food at Timpano. The restaurant was located on the beautiful tree-lined shopping street in downtown Fort Lauderdale where a mix of high-rise office buildings, quaint shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants delighted tourists and residents alike. The well-known street was a gathering place for people strolling in the evenings and congregating along the Riverwalk for jazz and art festivals.
Gabby shifted in her seat. Having to sit so close to Miguel made her stomach jumpy. He both frightened and excited her. She usually kept as much physical distance from him as she could manage without being rude. She had worked for him for over two years—ever since his election as the Broward County State’s Attorney. She had been surprised when he had kept the current staff on and hadn’t brought in all of his own people. To date she had been unable to figure out just what it was about him that made her so nervous. She had stared down murderers and drug dealers in the courtroom, and not a lot scared her. Something about Miguel…
Was it his stunning good looks or the fabulous body that was not disguised by his custom-made European suits? Was it the testosterone that seemed to roll off him in waves? She could never quite put her finger on it. The man was seriously gorgeous with slightly wavy black hair and ice-blue eyes one wouldn’t expect to see on a Latin male. And, goodness, the way he filled out a pair of slacks.
Miguel ordered a bottle of wine, and they glanced at the well-known menu. When their lunches had been ordered, he sat back, and she felt his gaze running over her body. He wasn’t undressing her with his eyes as the romance novels said, but his glance felt like hot fingers running over her skin. Maybe she was just hypersensitive to anything that had to do with Miguel Gatto.
“Gabriella, you did an excellent job sitting second chair on the Baker trial. I know you thought you were ready to handle it all on your own, but I did not agree.”
“Gabriella, let me finish. And, please, call me Miguel. This is a social occasion after all. I now think that perhaps you are ready to handle the next big case solo. You can bring in your own second chair, of course. The Mara Toros Rojas trial is coming up in February. Do you think you are ready to prosecute that one on your own?”
“Yes. I know I’m ready. That is going to be a very high-profile case. Are you sure you…”
“Gabriella, I know everyone thinks I jump on the big cases as a form of self-aggrandizement, but in fact, that is not true. I have not felt any of the Assistant State’s Attorneys in the office have been ready to try the big ones alone. It is a political fact of life that I have to keep my face out there. As a prosecutor, I have to maintain my reputation for being tough on crime. I do have to get re-elected after all. If I don’t, all of you ASAs might find yourselves out of jobs when my replacement brings in his own people. I chose not to do that, but to take the office as it was. Also, our win-loss ratio has some bearing on our funding. Success begets success. The higher-ups won’t admit that, but that is another fact of life.”
“I know you have pressures that the ASAs don’t share.”
“I’m glad you recognize that fact.” He smiled at her. When he smiled a genuine warm smile it changed his face from slightly forbidding to truly stunning. He had the most striking bone structure. His campaign literature had disclosed that his family had been in Puerto Rico for over four hundred years but traced their lineage back to Medieval Spain.
“I’m going to let you take over the Toros Rojas prosecution, but I am going to oversee the file. I’ll expect you to keep me in the loop as the case progresses. You will have to be on your toes on this one, Gabriella. The defendant, Ramón Gonzalez, is a very dangerous man, and the Toros will pull out all the stops to hamper our prosecution. Also they have some cartel backing and a nearly unlimited budget for his defense. If we can put him away, the power of the Toros will be severely compromised for the foreseeable future. His only possible successor is his younger brother, Rafael, and he is not seasoned enough to command the respect of the other gang members. They don’t have another capo ready to step up and take Ramón’s place if he is convicted, just a rag-tag bunch of thugs.” Miguel frowned and continued. “We might be able to sweep them all up. I am reluctant to let a woman take over this case.”
“That is entirely unfair and unjustified, Miguel. I can handle it.”
“Again, Gabriella, you didn’t let me finish. I am reluctant only because the rivalry between the El Salvadorans and Hondurans is vicious. Their turf war has been heating up for a couple of years now. It could be dangerous, and I don’t like to put a woman in their crosshairs. It goes against my grain, even if that is not politically correct.”
“I’ll be careful. I want this case, Miguel.”
“Yes, I can see that, Gabriella. I am assigning this case to you against my personal better judgment because of the danger involved.” He paused as if gathering his thoughts and abruptly changed the subject. “I was wondering if I might ask you out to dinner one night soon. I would like to get to know you better.” He reached across the table and took her hand and squeezed it briefly.
Oh, no. This was what she had felt coming for a while now, and she had done her best to keep out of his way. She had to admit she found him dangerously attractive—sort of like getting too close to a volcano and looking over the edge into the lava pool. It was hot. It was mesmerizing, but a girl could get burned. “Miguel, I don’t know if that would be a good idea given that we have to work together.”
“I think we are both adult enough to handle any problems that might arise. Give it some thought. I’ll ask you again in a few days.”