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Chapter 13

His picture didn’t do him justice at all. That was the first thought that popped into Megan’s head at the sight of Ricardo.

Thing is, while he looked very much like in the picture she had seen, she realized to her surprise that some of his features had been greatly underwhelmed by it.

His eyes, for one, Megan thought. The picture had made them seem black but they were actually sharp brown in reality, with a little highlight of black that shone with intelligence not especially common to every individual, even some so-called geniuses that Megan had met during the course of her psychology career. It’s like they can see much more than just the physical, she appraised; and on some level, she believed they could.

She also noted that his hair had gotten an upgrade. Because of tonight’s function, she guessed.

Gone were the curls and in their place was a almost perfectly straightened, gelled brown strands packed into a small knot behind his head. His rough stubble had also been shaved into a goatee so smooth that a quarter could be bounced off it without any problem.

Now, to be honest, those features in themselves didn't really mean much to Megan- she was never one to be taken in just by a nice look- but seeing them combined with a body-fitted, tailored grey suit and a charismatic stance that somehow had her thinking of notable aristocrats in history, she couldn’t help but feel attracted to him.

Or I would if he wasn’t the boss of a shadowy, chaos-causing group who attacks covert storage facilities to steal secret things from them, she quickly corrected her thought and snapped back to the mission at hand.

“I’m sorry if I startled you,” Ricardo said just then- Megan noted that he didn't have an accent and she wondered if perhaps he had spent a lot of time than was known in the United States- and took a step towards her with a smile. “Hi, I’m Rick.” He extended a handshake. “Ricardo.”

“DiSanto,” she completed for him with a return smile that came on almost automatically; returning the handshake almost automatically too. “I know who you are.”

“I figured.” His smile widened. “Perks of the job, I guess.”

Megan couldn’t figure out why but her heart began to thunder in her chest. It could have been fear or excitement that triggered it, she guessed- facing one’s first espionage mission in the flesh would certainly do that to a person- but somehow, she knew it was more than those. Perhaps it’s just a culmination of the two mixed with the fact that I’m still not sure exactly of how to play this, she thought, but even that didn’t satisfy her.

In truth, Megan simply seeing Ricardo in front of her had her body behaving in weird ways; and some of them she would rather not think about.

“Megan, are you okay?” Adolf’s voice suddenly came over the comms device and snapped her back to the present again. “Your heart rate’s through the roof.”

“Yeah, Meg, you're affecting my readings," Kei added. "Please stop whatever silly thing you’re doing or I swear-”

Megan cut off the rest of the statement as she muted the comms device with a discreet sweep of her hand around her ear; finishing the move with a flip of her hair to one side to cover the device altogether. Can't afford to have a screaming backseat driver in my ear right now, she thought.

In truth though, Kei's word had helped Megan to reground herself. She really had had her thoughts derailed since she came face to face with Ricardo; and she wasn't even sure why yet.

He though, seemly oblivious to what was going on in front of him, said, “I have to say that you don’t look like a usual attendee for this type of parties, Miss…”

“Months,” she picked up on his trail. “Megan Months; and yes, this is my first time attending this type of party. A friend of mine was the one who urged me to come.”

That’s the truth, she added in her head. It was her first time attending an open house party, especially the “combined activities” type he was throwing, and someone- she wasn’t sure if she could categorically call Dennis her friend though- had urged her to come.

Megan looked and saw that she had been correct in anticipating that Ricardo was fishing. His sharp brown eyes had gone even sharper and their intelligence alert at her words. He’s trying to glean every inch of information about me, she realised. Well, Rick, two can play the game.

“Mr. DiSanto,” she moved to the glass railing directly overlooking the party and he followed her; the few seconds allowing her to gather herself for what came next, “I'm guessing that you throw these parties a lot. Correct?”

“Actually, this is my first time,” he returned, shrugging with a smile. “You see, a lot of my friends have been bothering me for months to host them for their business meetings and I’ve refused. But then I thought, what the hell?” He shrugged again and they both smiled at it.

Megan noticed that his eyes showed honesty when he was speaking, but she also noted that was a certain clouded part of it and she knew immediately that he wasn't completely telling the truth. He's playing the conversation just like me, she realized, telling selective truths to keep up a facade.

She extrapolated that the party really had been at his friends' behest- that fitted with the numerous deals going on in the party's arena- but he too had a personal reason for giving in at the time he did.

And that reason can be Item 13, it dawned on her.

Megan made to ask another question to push her investigation forward but Ricardo stopped her with a raise of his finger. “My turn,” he said and she nodded him to proceed. “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a psychologist,” she replied. “I originally ran a small counseling firm on my own but a few days ago, I received a very convincing offer for a new job with higher pay, unfortunately with more work than I’m used to.”

Also the truth, she confirmed with herself. She did run her own counseling firm until Arthur Dean's offer came, unsavorily was, to work at Olympus; and the organisation's daunting task was evident even then.

Ricardo looked pleased by the explanation and he nodded it.

“What about you?” she asked. “How did you get to be so high on everyone’s list?” Including Olympus’ most wanted list, she added in her head.

“Well, I’ve always done freelance work from the start of my career.” He made a face as he presumably recalled the memory. “Freedom and truth is my watchword, if you don’t know that already. So, everything I do is geared towards that; and everyone I work with has that same vision too.”

That’s fairly fits with Os Buscadores’ M.O., Megan noted, which led her to wonder in what way Item 13 could possibly fit it too.

However, before she could carry on the conversation to figure it out, Ricardo suddenly waved his hands for a stop. “Enough of the twenty questions from both sides," he said and out of nowhere, an interesting look came on his face. "Tell me, Miss Megan Months, the psychologist, can you dance?”

The question took Megan completely by surprise and she was stumped for a minute.

Thing is, out of every direction the conversation could have proceeded, a dance was the least possible in her mind. It’s a test, her head began to ring alarm bells. He’s on to something and he wants to confirm it with the dance.

But the truth was that she wasn’t sure if it really was a test, or what Ricardo would supposedly want to confirm with it, or even if there was a way to use a dance to confirm anything about a person besides said person’s capability on the dance floor.

It’s got to be something else, Megan, a part of her mind offered up.

Before her silence could drag on for too long though, Megan smiled. “I think the better question, Mr. Ricardo DiSanto, tech genius, is, can you keep up with me?”

Now, Ricardo laughed; a really open and charming sound that Megan felt shouldn’t be coming from someone with a nefarious heart. “Alright then,” he said as he beckoned to a waiter whom she noticed had stayed close by since they had begun to talk as if for that very moment.

He took two champagne flutes from the tray, gave one to her, and they raised them for a toast to what was apparently the next phase of their first night together. “Let’s go find out.”

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