Page 17 of An Amazon Affair

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He nods. “They’re both owned by the same company. Two cruise ships and three hotels here in Manaus.”

“Sister properties.”


“And you’re a tour guide, as well?”

“Sí.” His posture relaxes a little. “You’ll see me in action tomorrow. I’m the best! I’m leading the morning tour.”

Although part of me wishes he was, he’s not flirting with me when he says this. He’s just cocky as hell and owns himself completely.

“And what exactly will we be doing?”

“Oh, Miss Yara from New York, I’ll tell you.” He leans his elbows on the railing, gesturing over the water. “Tomorrow, just before sunrise, we will set out by canoes to explore Lake Janauacá and the waking forest. As we paddle you to the shore, you will keep your eyes open for the white-throated toucan and the king vulture.”

“The king—” I wrinkle my nose. “—vulture?”

He nods at me, his eyes sparkling in the moonlight. “Oh, yes! It looks like, um—not the penguin, but the, um... the puffin!”

“A vulture that looks like a puffin?”

“Yes! It has a white and black body with a very bright orange and yellow beak. It is a great sight to see!”

“I’ll take your word for it,” I say, my lips twitching. His enthusiasm is contagious. “What else?”

“If you are lucky? We might see the famous pink river dolphins!”

I grin at him. “I’ve read about them.”

“And you know the legend?”

“I know they’re endangered.”

“Yes. True. But they’re also enchanted.”

“Okay. I’m game. How, exactly, are the pink dolphins enchanted?”

He winks at me. “In traditional Amazonian folklore, the pink dolphin becomes a handsome young man at night. He comes ashore in a white hat, seduces a girl, impregnates her, then returns to the river in the morning and becomes a dolphin again.”

I stare at him, waiting for a redeeming conclusion to this awful tale, then shake my head back and forth when I realize it isn’t coming.

“Another horrible, misogynistic fairytale!”

“What? It’s charming!” he insists, furrowing his brow and staring at me likeI’mthe crazy one.

“There is nothing sexy about a shapeshifting dolphin rapist.”

“No, no, no!” Rio insists, holding his hands palms-up between us. “The encounter is consensual...and very sexy.”

“Seduction, impregnation and abandonmentaren’tsexy.”

I grip onto the railing and look down at the dark waters, wondering how many shady dolphins with bad intentions are swimming beneath us.

He takes a deep breath and sighs. “You are a tough girl, Yara Marino.”

“I just say it like I see it.”

“And you see it all bad.”

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