Voilà! The first of more than one hundred chapters from The Perfect 10. May this little taste whet your appetite for a much bigger bite! ~ EOK
these were the words that people in polo used to describe Juan Harrington. To his fellow Argentines, he was Juancito. But to the rest of the world, he was the Argentine Adonis — his tanned limbs, rugged jaw line, and trademark stubble instantly identifiable on six-story billboards that towered over Times Square, Piccadilly Circus, and the Ginza. Women worshipped the man. Men longed to be like him. His daily comings and goings as the honored guest of any number of world leaders invariably ran front and center in the tabloids that mesmerized Buenos Aires.
One summer, during the British Season, the long lens of London’s paparazzi caught Juancito leaving Mark’s Club with a duke’s daughter one night and the Prime Minister’s daughter the next. On the third night, the world’s greatest polo player escorted both ladies off the premises. In the States, Juancito’s unexpected appearance on the arm of one of Hollywood’s hottest stars at the Academy Awards confirmed the ugly rumors that her on-again, off-again marriage was most definitely off again. The final word belonged to the editors of People, who dubbed Juancito the World’s Sexiest Man:
Which is precisely why Harrington always looked forward to playing in Palm Beach. The locals were so blasé. The ones with money knew it and couldn’t care less. The ones pretending they had money? Too self-absorbed to pay attention to anyone else. Some might recognize his famous face, but for the most part, everyone let him be, including the Jamaican valet, who greeted him late Tuesday morning as Juancito arrived at the Brazilian Court in his silver Range Rover, or the hotel’s Kenyan gardener, who met Juancito’s happy-go-lucky grin with a gracious bow and a long sweep of an arm as his hotel’s most famous guest made his way through the lush Fountain Courtyard. The many pleasures of the Brazilian Court were always at his service.
The only one who paid Harrington any mind was a plump-cheeked turndown maid. Late that afternoon, she began making her rounds, going from room to room in a bright yellow frock. She rang the bell to the Lancaster Suite but got no response. She unlocked the door, announced herself, and stepped inside. A quick pass through the guest bedroom revealed a throw pillow lying askew on the loveseat. She righted it and proceeded to the living room.
Then she spied shiny gold flecks on the beige carpet. She bent down to pick them up and recognized them as the remnants of the wrapper from a bottle of Champagne. More pieces littered the sofa.
An empty Champagne bucket?
She reached for her handheld and radioed Café Boulud to send a porter to come clean up the mess.
Wait — this doesn’t make any sense.
Glancing down at her clipboard, her worst fears were confirmed. Not only was the Lancaster Suite supposed to be vacant, but a VIP check-in was on the books for that very evening. She took another step, and her heart sank.
Don’t tell me!
The corner of a shirttail was poking out the door of the master bedroom. The rest of the shirt, a boot — actually, a pair of tall leather boots — a pair of socks, and riding pants lay scattered on the carpet.
What’s going on here?
"Housekeeping," she said in her firmest, friendliest voice. She peeked in the master bedroom. That’s when Juancito startled her. The warm glow of the early evening light barely illuminated the suite, but it was still bright enough for her to see him clearly. He had the king-sized bed all to himself.
"Oh, pardon me, Mr. Harrington," she said, and she reached for the knob to shut the bedroom door. Then she paused.
The handsome man with the famous face had yet to stir. Slowly, she turned and took a second look. Despite the fading light, her well-trained eye was drawn to a beet-red stain on the Frette pillowcase. Then she caught sight of the entry wound on Juancito’s temple.
Then the porter from Café Boulud heard her screams.