Page 26 of An Amazon Affair

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“You care about me?” I blurt out, hating myself the second the words leave my lips. They sound so cloying, so desperate.

“I care about all of the passengers on boar—”

“Right,” I mutter, plopping down in an empty seat, embarrassed and annoyed.

After a moment, he sits down next to me, sighing heavily. When I look up at him, his eyes are fixed on mine.

“That was a lie. I care,” he says softly, “aboutyou.”

“You do?”

He nods, his cheeks pinkening just a touch.

I can’t help the way my heart leaps at his admission.

“That’s inconvenient.”

“It’s a feeling. You can’t help feelings,” he whispers, reaching up to tuck a stray curl behind my ear. “I missed you last night. I kept waiting for you to appear. And you didn’t. And...”

“And what?”

“It bothered me... which surprised me,” he finishes, caressing my cheek before dropping his hand. “You know, I traded the Joneses for you... to have you in my boat today. And they’re very good tippers.”

His admission makes me warm all over.

“Lucky Lucas,” I say, smiling at him.

He grins back at me. “Lucky me, I think.”

I chuckle to myself, watching as he springs up to help an arriving couple onto the boat.

I’m glad to see Rio, too, but yesterday afternoon, after a cry and a nap, all I wanted to do was research CCM. Since it’s a private foundation, there was little about it on-line, but the documents Don’s assistant sent via email proved a treasure trove of information.

CCM has been responsible for gifts in excess of six million dollars over the last three decades; and while six million dollars over thirty years might not impress Wall Street types, $200,000 a year had gone a long way in helping the people of Brazil’s Amazon. I was astounded by how my father and Don had managed to meet so many pleas for help. I was humbled. But mostly, I was proud.

The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to ask Don for a recommendation of somewhere I could go near Anavilhanas National Park to see evidence of my father’s benevolence.

I was grateful for his quick response:

If possible, Yara, make a stop at the Unidade Hospitalar de Juruá. It’s located on the Juruá River, which winds through Anavilhanas. Take a guide with you and have them ask for Director Almeida or Dr. Lacerda. Either would be honored to give the daughter of Fernando Marino a quick tour of their facilities.

I glance up from my phone to catch Rio staring at me. He narrows his eyes. “What’s going on in that head?”

“I was just wondering... will we be going anywhere near Juruá today?”

“We stop there for lunch before turning around.”

Of course we do.Thanks, Dad.

“How far is the restaurant from theUnidade Hospitalar de Juruá?”

He plants his hands on his hips, his face suddenly worried. “You’re sick?”

“No,” I rush to reassure him. “No, no. Not at all. I’m fine. I just... I’d like to see it. The hospital, that is. Would you take me?”

“You’re... not sick?”

“No,” I say. “It’s a long story, but... could you take me? Please? While the rest of the group is at lunch?”

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