Los amantes de Acapulco
A/U set in January 1978 spun from Beginnings by Paige
"Blake stood up and removed his reading glasses. As he waited for Carla to come in, he thought back on their brief but tumultuous relationship. They'd met in October in Vail at a party given by a mutual acquaintance, and the physical attraction between them had been immediate and intense. They'd stayed at the party long enough to be polite, but as soon as possible they'd made their excuses and gone straight to her hotel room where they'd spent a decadently debauched night together. Over the next three months, they'd gotten together whenever they could, either in Denver or at her place in L.A. They'd even spent a weekend together in Las Vegas, but eventually the demands of their respective careers and their incompatibility outside of the bedroom had led to several arguments. Other than sex, they had absolutely nothing in common. She went through money as fast as she made it, while he carefully invested every dime he earned. Her only goal in life was to have a good time, and while he liked to have fun as much as anyone, he had a much more serious, disciplined approach to life. Work was his first priority, and they clashed frequently because she expected him to drop everything to satisfy her every whim, something he absolutely refused to do. He'd been on the verge of breaking things off with her, but at the beginning of the year she'd left on a two-month trip to Mexico to shoot her first movie. He'd half-heartedly agreed to join her there for a weekend if he could find the time, but he'd never made it down. "
Other than sex, they had absolutely nothing in common. She went through money as fast as she made it, while he carefully invested every dime he earned. Her only goal in life was to have a good time, and while he liked to have fun as much as anyone, he had a much more serious, disciplined approach to life. Work was his first priority, and they clashed frequently because she expected him to drop everything to satisfy her every whim, something he absolutely refused to do.
He'd been on the verge of breaking things off with her, but at the beginning of the year she'd left on a two-month trip to Mexico to shoot her first movie. He'd half-heartedly agreed to join her there for a weekend if he could find the time, but he'd never made it down. "
But what if fate had other plans?
"Blake...Can you hear me...This line is far from brilliant." Carla managed to infuse her disdain for her less than plush surrounds even down a crackly line.
Sighing as he tried to inject some enthusiasm into his voice Blake reminded himself it was hardly gentlemanly to break up with a lady over the phone. "I can hear you but the line is rather noisy."
"Good...Now are you going to make it down this weekend…"
"I don't think so I do have a late meeting on…"
"Blake!" Carla's annoyance was clear. "This is the third time you have used that excuse…"
"Then when are you going to do something about it? I mean its not like I'm not short of offers down here, I've been invited to a fancy party this weekend, some international fossil fuel magnate is having a large party for his birthday at his villa in Acapulco…What's his name…"
"Not Dr Charles Kingston?" Blake asked his interest in the conversation finally picking up.
In truth he had been tuning out her winging, mentally counting down how long he could wait before citing another appointment. Yet at the mention of the elusive Dr Kingston Blake was all ears. In the last ten years Blake had tried on numerous occasions to get a business meeting with the oil and gas magnate yet every time he had been politely but firmly turned down. Now mostly retired Dr Kingston spent much of his life jetting around the world, living off of his immense personal fortune and the income from the many lucrative leases he held the rights to.
In particular the leases in the Indian Ocean that if Blake was right, and he usual was, would come up for renewal in a few months. It would be quite the coup for Denver Carrington to get those leases. It would certainly put a certain Colby nose out of joint even if Blake managed to get in on the bidding.
"Blake….Blake are you still there?" Carla's annoyed voice cut through Blake's thoughts.
"Honestly I don't know why I bother…"
"Wait Carla, you're right." Blake was suddenly all charm as he plotted how to squeeze in a weekend romp with his supermodel and do a little business as well.
"I can't cancel my Friday meeting but I can fly down first thing in the morning…If you still want me that is?" He added suggestively, yet as Carla purred in his ear and began to heatedly suggest all the things they could get up to Blake let his mind wonder, the prospect of those Indian leases more than enough to get him all excited.
Leaning back in the chauffeured convertible Blake enjoyed the warm breeze in his hair and the rays of the setting on his face. It had been a wonderful idea to come down here, the day had been pleasantly passed in Carla's bed but as far as Blake was concerned the best was yet to come.
"Honestly Blake why did you insist on coming to this dratted party…We could have had far more fun staying in." Carla muttered fluttering her long dark lashes at Blake her hand sliding up his leg in an attempt to sway him to her way of thinking.
Reaching down Blake stopped her hand in its tracks. "You said on the phone this party was the highlight of the social calendar."
"Down here." Carla retorted sniffing disdainfully as she removed her hand and tried to rescue her windblown hair.
"But considering that means aging gossipy socialites and boring old businessmen past their prime; it is hardly going to be "my" sort of thing."
Bristling at her comment, in particular the "boring old businessmen" which Blake was almost certain was a jibe at him, he chose not to comment and let her stew in her own juices whilst he enjoyed the lush scenery as they pulled into the Villa Rosa's vast estate.
Set just outside of Acapulco proper, the villa enjoyed its own stretch of coastline, a private cove visible from the winding drive that was only accessible from sea or the stairs cut into the cliff. Set up on the top of the cliff the house could be seen through the terraced gardens and scattered trees, its every balcony and terrace decorated with gently glowing lanterns; the noise of salsa music, the babble of voices and the occasional tinkle of laughter spilling into the night air.
As their car came to a halt at the bottom of a series of stairs Blake experienced a sudden sense of déjà vu. Yet the moment those memories sprang to mind Blake viciously suppressed them.
Walking into the house it was obviously packed and as Carla handed her wrap to a waiting attendant Blake retrieved them both a glass of champagne from a hovering houseboy.
"Dr Kingston is receiving on the main terrace."
Heading in the general flow of the partygoers Blake offered Carla his arm and they found themselves on the terrace when the white tie wearing birthday boy was indeed holding court. The gray haired magnate was seated at the piano, having booted off the pianist and was entertaining his guests by jamming with the band.
Starting to sing a popular rat pack number before breaking off. "It's no good this song is a duet and where the hell has my accompanyment disappeared to? Someone find her and drag her out here if you have to?" He called out causing his friends to laugh.
Sensing an opportunity Blake pulled Carla with him, enjoying the envious looks of some passing gentlemen as they caught sight of the supermodel on his arm. Yet not sooner was he a couple of feet away from the piano than a very familiar voice rang out.
"Honestly Charles where is the fire?"
Freezing on the spot, Blake's grip on Carla's arm tightened; convinced that he had to be hearing things it couldn't be her. Yet Charles Kingston's next words blew that possibility out of the water.
"There you are Alexis…How could I possibly carry on without my singing partner?"
As the music started up Blake caught sight of her.
The lies and fantasies that he had built up over the years apart, warping her beauty and making her as ugly as her deeds, they shattered instantly. If anything the years had matured her beauty, accentuated it, and now in her prime Alexis wasn't merely beautiful she was stunning.
Suddenly the crowd started clapping and Blake woke as if from a dazed sleep. He had missed the performance and as people pressed in around him in order to praise the performers Blake felt the need to escape claw at him. He couldn't do this…He couldn't face her.
"God Dammit Blake LET GO you're hurting ME!"
Carla's sharp exclamation carried far in the sudden lull of conversation causing heads to turn in their direction, eyes widening in surprise.
None more so than a pair of startled emeralds, whose owner gasped as she caught sight of the new arrivals. "Blake…"
"I can't believe you Blake, we only just got to this damn party and now we have to leave?" Carla snapped pulling her arm from Blake's grasp as he paced into the lobby, demanding a car as soon as possible.
Resisting the urge to shout at her, knowing it would do no good, Blake thought reason might work and failing that his charm would prove irresistible. "Just half an hour ago you didn't want to come to this "boring party", I am just accommodating your wishes."
Snorting Carla flicked her long dark hair over her shoulder. "If that were true we would never have left the hotel…It's not because of me we are leaving its because of "Her"!
"I don't know what you are talking about…"
"Fine keep your damn secrets, but don't expect me to follow your whims like a trained puppy. Go back to the hotel but don't expect me to leave with you."
"No Blake, now I am here I might as well see who is here and perhaps I will find out just who that woman is who has got you so spooked."
"Carla…" Blake tried again calling after her but it was too late she had vanished back into the party.
Sighing Blake ran his hands through his silver hair. She was wrong he was not running away, he was just avoiding an unpleasant confrontation.
"I never took you for a coward Blake." A familiar honeyed voice commented clearly amused by his agitation.
"Your opinion of me ceased to be of any interest years ago Alexis." Blake bit back; hoping coming out all guns blazing would drive her away.
Yet if anything his aggression seemed to bait her.
Smiling as sweetly as an alligator Alexis sashayed down the steps, kitten heels clipping on the marble flagstones, the swish of expensive silk as she came closer; close enough that he caught the scent of her perfume. It was the same and the memories it evoked caused his stomach to clench.
"You look well Blake."
Clenching his jaw as Alexis circled him, appraising him like a predator from every angle, Blake waited on a knife-edge for her to pounce.
"What no reciprocating "You look wonderful Alexis"…"
"Since you seem so sure of that it's any wonder you need me to confirm it." Blake retorted snidely, unable to resist her baiting even when he knew it was best to shut up and get the hell out of there.
"So you do think I look well." Alexis teasingly replied taking the message she wanted from his words and discarding the obvious sarcasm. "So why are you here…Not a burning desire to talk about the old days I take it?"
"It's a party. Obviously I didn't know you would be here…"
"Or you wouldn't have come? Oh Blake I'm hurt."
Snorting at her faux distress Blake finally turned to face her, his eyes automatically raking over her admiringly. He was a man who appreciated and valued beauty, even in the most deadly of adversaries, and Alexis was a most definitely a beautiful and deadly adversary. In the white one shouldered Grecian dress that clung to her curves Alexis looked every inch the goddess.
"What do you want Alexis?"
Pausing for a moment before answering Alexis shrugged. "Just satisfying my curiosity. How my ex-husband who has been so careful to avoid me over the last thirteen years suddenly appears at a party in Acapulco?"
"You think I've been deliberately going out of my way to avoid you?" Blake scoffed.
"Haven't you?" Alexis asked, her eyebrow raising in disbelief.
"Believe it or not I have better things to do with my time than keep tabs on you…If we haven't met before now I can only thank my very good luck and the fact that I prefer not to attend "your" type of parties."
"Fun ones you mean." Alexis countered with barely a pause for breath. "You always did prefer those more staid political fundraisers or those pathetic excuse for business networking affairs…" She trailed off, eyes lighting up suddenly as it clicked.
Frowning at the abrupt topic change Blake turned and stared at the suddenly serious Alexis, she finally had his full attention. His annoyance growing as she smiled and began to laugh, her emerald eyes glinting knowingly.
"Oh and here I thought you might have changed in your old age…But you're not here enjoying a vacation…You're not even really here to show off that supermodel, and honestly at your age Blake you really should be ashamed at yourself…You are here on business. The almighty goddess that is Denver Carrington strikes again."
Scowling as absorbed Alexis's scorn and cryptic mutterings Blake was just about to tell her to lay off the champagne as the bubbles clearly had gone to her head when Alexis shut him right up.
"You're sniffing after Charles's Indian leases…Oh please Blake could you be more transparent?" Alexis added laughing, her amusement increasing, as he couldn't deny it, and the fact that he couldn't, that she was right vexed him more deeply than anything else she could say.
And Blake Carrington hated loosing, even a war of words, but loosing to Alexis that was simply unacceptable.
For a long moment neither spoke, each eyeing their adversary now that the first blood had been drawn. On points Alexis had won the first round, but Blake was determined that that was down to home turf advantage, and now that the initial surprise was over he would show her just why nobody played mind games with Blake Carrington and came out smiling.
As if sensing he was preparing to fire Alexis immediately went on the offensive. "I didn't realize I still have that much power over you Blake…"
"You have power over me?" Blake scoffed, dark eyes glinting dangerously, she was pushing him close to the limits of his patience and they both knew it.
Pouting as she toyed with the delicate gold bangles that her adorned her left wrist Alexis paused before answering, her voice low yet the underlying steel was obvious even beneath her honeyed tone.
"Well what else would you call it? I mean you came all this way for a chance at those leases and now you're leaving without even meeting Charles…If that isn't power?" Alexis trailed off lifting her eyes to meet his gaze, holding it even when Blake's face clouded over and his eyes hardened.
"As fascinating as this all is." Blake scoffed breaking off as a car finally arrived and he sought to escape without looking liking he was running away. "So if you'll excuse me, I really do have better places to be…"
"It's a shame that's all…" Alexis cut in before he could disappear down the steps and out of her life once more. "I mean to come all this way and give up without really trying, that's not the Blake Carrington I remember, but then again maybe age has affected you more than it appears at first sight."
Surprised by her turn of phrase Blake stopped suddenly, turning to face her one eyebrow raised suspiciously as he waited for the other shoe to drop; during their marriage he had spent years learning to read what she actually meant from what came out of her beautiful mouth. If he was reading her correctly now, in between those insults there was a carefully worded offer. Or if not an offer per say, a challenge, and Blake Carrington had never backed down from a challenge.
If she was uncomfortable under Blake's intense gaze Alexis didn't show it, smiling sweetly as she loaded up her next verbal spar.
"Besides since your charming companion is staying for a while longer there seems little point in leaving now; nothing to rush back to an empty hotel room for…Unless of course you've developed a passion for Dominos in the last thirteen years; I hear the senior's have a game going most nights…You'd fit right in."
"I think I'll pass."
"On the dominos?" Alexis asked innocently, unable to completely suppress a victorious smirk as Blake waved away the car and slowly made his way back up the steps, slowly and reluctantly like a condemned man walking to his execution. She had stopped him from fleeing, when it was clear he wanted nothing more than to put as much distance between them as possible, round two to her as well.
"Well then." She added suddenly all sweetness as she slipped her hand into the crook of Blake's elbow, relishing the way he tensed at the unexpected contact, yet didn't dare to pull away. "I suppose I'd better introduce you around…"
"I am sure I could manage…"
"Oh tosh, you need my help Blake, more than even you realize." Alexis cut off his objection. "You see I'm afraid Uncles Charles can be somewhat protective, that and he has a memory like an elephant."
Coming to a sudden stop Blake brought a stunned Alexis to a sudden holt as well. "Uncle Charles?" He asked confused.
Smiling like a cat who had caught the canary Alexis all but purred her reply. "Oh I forgot the two of you never did meet…We're not blood related after all but Charles did see Cassey and I grow up, so he's been an honoree Uncle since I was a girl."
"I see." Blake muttered and for the first time he truly did, now all those polite little refusals for meetings suddenly made sense, any 'Uncle' of Alexis would hardly look favorably on her ex-husband. It hardly seemed worth the effort anymore, if it wasn't for the fact that Alexis seemed to be on his side, of if not on his side at least she wasn't an obstruction. Yet why she seemed happy to help caused him concern.
"And you are happy to introduce us?" Blake asked incredulously
"I am." Alexis answered simply stepping forward, surprised when Blake remained motionless.
Snorting in derision Blake shook his head. "You'll forgive me if I find this sudden generosity a little hard to swallow Alexis, like cyanide it tends to burn on the way down!"
"It's hardly sudden." Alexis snapped back her eyes flaring with hidden anger. "Despite what you may like to believe, Denver Carrington would not be the success it is today if it were not for my connections and networking talents Blake."
"Or my hard work and sweat and tears…"
"Let's not forget my tears, it was the cause of enough of them." Alexis snapped back, her rein on her temper slipping just a notch before she took a deep breath and was suddenly all glacial charm once more. "Besides Business is Business. I've always wanted Denver Carrington to be a success…"
Raising an eyebrow in disbelief Blake waited for her to continue.
"I did and do…It is my children's inheritance after all. Why wouldn't I want to help make it as successful as possible?"
Stumped by her usual use of logic Blake decided it was safest not to answer and risk exposure, surprising her by accepting her reason at face value and matching her pace as they headed back into the party. Instead he reasoned it would be sensible to take advantage of her unexpected generosity whilst it lasted, it rarely lasted long.
Yet he would keep a watchful eye out just in case of bear traps.
That was what he convinced himself he was doing as he walked half a pace behind her, allowing her to lead them through the crowd, watching her closely out of the corner of his eye. She walked the party like a big cat did their territory. Confident she cut her way through the masses, expecting people to move aside to let her pass, and what was more amazing they did. Couples and groups would side step or part to allow them to walk by, all turning and greeting Alexis with smiles or calling out greetings; their excitement growing when she deigned to pause and grace them with her company all but fleetingly.
"Ah there he is." Alexis muttered jarring Blake from his internal musing and he turned scanning the crowd for a familiar grey-haired head. It took him a moment but following her gaze he found Dr Kingston twirling a partner about the dance floor.
"Shall we?" Alexis asked innocently, offering Blake her hand; emerald eyes glinting with suppressed amusement as if daring him to refuse.
"You have got to be joking…"
"I never joke about something as serious as dancing Blake…What's the matter, not afraid of dancing with little old me?" Alexis scoffed her hand hovering mockingly. "What's the worst that could happen, you trip over your pride?
Gritting his teeth as he weathered yet another jab at his masculine pride, Blake quickly realised he would only have to endure it long enough to lead her across the floor and gain an introduction. So reluctantly he took her smaller hand in his own, momentarily surprised how easily she slipped into his arms; falling into a rhythm as if it had been weeks not years since they had last danced together.
Standing so close, hemmed in by the other couples, it was impossible to ignore the scent of her perfume or the way she still fitted neatly against his shoulder, her petite frame making him seem giant like in comparison. The pounding salsa music setting a faster beat yet Blake preferred to keep it simple, always conscious that he was a clumsy dancer, yet Alexis responded lightly and easily to his lead and always made him feel less lead footed.
They were half way across the floor to Dr Kingston when a drunken reveller span his partner too wildly and loosing his balance careened into them. Smashing into Alexis's back so she grabbed wildly at Blake's shoulder as he pulled her close, pivoting them out of the drunk's path.
"Bloody idiot." Alexis hissed, eyes flashing as she scowled over her shoulder at the drunk now sprawled out on the floor.
Swallowing Blake could only nod his agreement, his throat suddenly dry and constricted, even as his pulse quickened and he found himself momentarily light-headed as the blood rushed elsewhere. Her body was pressed firmly along the length of his, breasts rising with every breath brushed teasingly against his chest, her motionless thigh pressed against a part of him that hadn't been this close to her in many years and clearly had missed her.
In pulling her close the hand that had rested innocently in the small of her back now pressed against the soft skin exposed by the low drape of fabric and it took all of his dwindling control not to stroke it.
As if sensing the sudden shift in mood and the rapidly building tension Alexis gazed up at him through her lashes, her breathing speeding up teasing his cheek as goosebumps broke out across her body. Feeling the pointed signs of her arousal through the thin silk of her dress Blake finally met her gaze, startled emerald eyes darkening rapidly especially as Blake's eyes dropped momentarily to her lips.
Yet Blake paused, lust warring with his better judgement, and he barely managed to stifle a groan as an amused Alexis pressed her well-positioned thigh against the growing bulge in his trousers, a barely concealed question and invitation in her glinting eyes. Growling low in his throat Blake tried to regain control, a fact made more difficult by the teasing circles Alexis was drawing along his shoulder her fingers creeping over his collar to slide into his hair.
Momentarily closing his eyes as he savoured her touch Blake's grip on her tightened, the hand on her back sliding down her spine caressing her skin before cupping her bottom and pulling their hips into full contact, savouring the startled gasp his sudden gesture elicited.
Opening his eyes Blake found Alexis's face dangerously close, her eyes now pools of darkened desire as she tilted her chin up, lips parted slightly waiting for him to lean down and claim them.
"Very cosy for two people who have only just met!" Carla's angry voice was like a bucket of cold water and Blake shuddered at the contact, jarred from the heady private world of his and Alexis's attraction.
"Do you think I'm an idiot Blake?"
"Oh so you do at least remember who I am, for a moment there it seemed like you had forgotten all about me." Carla snarled slightly unsteady on her heels the cause of which became all too apparent as she swigged greedily at her red wine.
"Carla you're overreacting." Blake insisted choosing to ignore the snort of amusement from Alexis yet even he couldn't pretend their little threesome wasn't attracting some interested onlookers. "Let's go inside and talk about this calmly…and soberly."
"A little late for that don't you think." Alexis sniggered as she stepped out of Blake's arms, finally drawing Carla's attention.
"Shut up grandma."
Raising an eyebrow at that less than inspired put down Alexis smiled sweetly before replying in her most cultured tone, the English accent so clipped it could have cut glass. "I don't believe we have had the pleasure of an introduction."
"Carla Lombardi." The long limbed model retorted, fluttering her long dark lashes and flicking her dark hair over her shoulder as she stared down at the more petite Alexis; surprised when instead of being intimidated by the young beauty her rival's smile merely increased.
"Of course you are…" Alexis answered, shooting Blake a cryptic look that made Carla bristle.
"And you are?"
"Oh do forgive me. I'm Alexis…Alexis Carrington." Alexis parried expertly, her single blow causing Carla to stagger back in surprise. "Don't tell me Blake forgot to mention me?"
"You're married?" Carla gasped turning on Blake who tried to placate her.
"Divorced! Thirteen years ago." Blake added quickly shooting Alexis a look that could have scorched if she hadn't already gotten her armour back in place.
Shaking her head Carla backed away stumbling into a few other partygoers who had been surreptitiously trying to listen in without appearing to be doing so. "Yeah right because everyone dances with their ex-wives like that."
"Carla please…" Blake tried again, sighing as he realised he was starting to sound like a broken record, irritated by the fact that he was stuck in position of having to explain himself. It was little wonder he had chosen to steer clear of a serious relationship in the last thirteen years if this was the sort of hassle he had to deal with.
"Alexis is everything alright?" Dr Charles Kingston suddenly asked having appeared at Alexis's elbow, hazel eyes narrowed in concern.
"Everything is fine Charles. Someone's had a little too much to drink and started jumping to conclusions." Alexis explained succinctly, and for once Blake almost envied the way she could turn a situation to suit herself. In the past it had often frustrated him, how she could twist any argument and make herself into the innocent party.
"Carla nothing happened we were just dancing." Blake insisted trying to reclaim control of the situation.
Snorting Carla shook her head, "You must think I'm really dumb…"
"Well if the cap fits." Alexis muttered lowly, but not quietly enough as Carla whirled on her staggering slightly, her dark eyes wide and unfocused.
"You bitch…" Carla hissed pitching the remaining contents of her wineglass at a stunned Alexis, the red wine staining Alexis's long white dress, trailing down the silk like spilled blood.
Standing still as a marble statue Alexis simple raised a sculptured eyebrow accepting the handkerchief that Charles offered yet she made no attempt to mop at the stain. "I think Miss Lombardi you should consider your invitation to this house revoked."
Searching the gathered crowd for any flicker of support Carla caught Blake's gaze, her frustration giving way to a petulant tantrum, as he remained stony faced. Turning on her heel she stormed back into the house scattering onlookers in her wake.
Shaking his head Blake turned apologetically to Alexis and their host. "I am so sorry…"
"Don't worry Blake it's only a dress, I have others." Alexis deadpanned.
"Dr Kingston my apologies for the disturbance. It's been an interesting evening." He added starting towards the house.
"Blake wait…" Alexis called out catching his arm. "You really shouldn't leave without talking to Charles…It wouldn't do for the evening to be a total wasted opportunity." She added raising an eyebrow playfully.
"Blake…" Alexis countered meeting his stern gaze, watching as he struggled with himself. Smiling as she saw him give in, turning his back on the house. "Charles may I introduce Blake Carrington."
"The Blake Carrington?" Charles answered clearly surprised yet if he had any particular objection he chose not to mention it shaking Blake's hand.
"Now if you boys will excuse me I really need to change…Enjoy the rest of the party Blake." Alexis added leaning forward and pressing a kiss to his cheek before Blake could object, then pulling away she cut a striking figure stalking through the throng, many heads turning as she passed.
"Well I must admit I am somewhat surprised to see you here Blake, I wasn't aware you and Alexis were on speaking terms." Charles spoke once they were alone, accepting a drink from a passing waiter before offering one to Blake.
Shaking his head Blake passed on the drink, "We…" Blake began unable to define just how the current state of his relationship with Alexis could be classified. "It's complicated."
"What isn't?" Charles quipped sternly yet his eyes softened in concern as they flickered towards the house into which Alexis had vanished. "I do hope you are not here simply to cause mischief."
"That was not my intention, actually I had no idea Alexis would even be here…I was hoping to meet you and when she offered to introduce us it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass by."
Intrigued Charles took a deep sip of his drink waiting for Blake to continue.
"I was hoping we might do business together." Blake added awkwardly.
Nodding Charles actually seemed to consider it. "Alright, if Alexis truly has no objection, why don't you call by tomorrow morning, sometime after breakfast and we'll talk? For now I must attend to my other guests." He added politely leaving Blake to amuse himself.
Taking a drink from a passing waiter Blake downed it quickly; he should be celebrating he had accomplished what he had hoped for after all. Yet somehow Blake couldn't help but suspect these chance meetings would have more lasting consequences than just a few oil leases.