by Nora Peterson
Romantic suspense with an edge. Casey vows to learn the truth, but the rich and powerful Mason family will do anything to stop her.
ISBN 1-59431-352-0 Romantic Suspense/Mystery
Cover Art by Maggie Dix
Also available in RTF and HTML formats.
Sunday, December 18
A superstitious person might have taken the day’s events as a bad omen. I don’t have a superstitious bone in my body. Neither did I have a warm one, as I hurried toward the queue of taxicabs spewing steamy exhaust at the curb.
Flying off to Boston one week before Christmas had been an impulsive decision. It was also exactly the kind of thing that my mother claimed I did just to drive her nuts—a fact that might go a long way toward explaining why I still refused to admit, even to myself, that it had not been one of my more brilliant ideas.
If I intended to be home for Christmas—which I did—I had exactly seven days to untangle the web of lies that had been Angie Drummond’s life. I had just wasted the first two hours of them shuffling from one customer service desk to another in a futile search for my missing luggage. Meanwhile, the winter storm that had settled over the eastern half of the continent had descended on the city, burying it under a thick blanket of snow.
I slipped into the backseat of the first open door and quickly compared the identification photo on the dashboard with the face checking me out in the rear view mirror. Convinced that cabbie Bob Langley was in fact behind the wheel and not hog-tied in the trunk, I offered him the name of my hotel. The precaution didn’t go unnoticed.
As the cab eased from the curb, the driver voiced his approval. “That’s a smart move, you know. I bet ninety-percent of my fares don’t pay attention to who’s doing the driving.”
“The other ninety-percent don’t have a mother like mine,” I replied. Crediting Mom for the handful of phobias I’d developed in recent years wasn’t entirely accurate, but it was less complicated. “Can you pump a little more heat back here? A polar bear could freeze to death at these temperatures.”
“Sorry about that. Blew the heater core this afternoon. I called the problem in, but dispatch says they can’t get to it until tomorrow and every unit they got is on the street.”
“Well, then how far is it to the hotel?”
“Normally? Ten minutes. Tonight?” He shrugged. “That’s anybody’s guess,” he added, as the heavy sedan skated to an awkward stop inches from the silver Mercedes in front of us. He laughed off the near miss. I didn’t. I pulled the collar of my brand new camel hair coat up over my cheeks and warmed my face with my breath, assuring myself with more hope than certainty that a hot shower and a double cheeseburger would fix everything.
“This ain’t nothing,” he extolled with a cavalier grin and an unspoken hee-hee. “Just bad enough to give folks an Excedrin headache by the time they get home tonight. Now, a Nor’easter—well, that would be a different story. You here on business?”
“Nor’easter?” I echoed, my memory switching into search mode. I was not much of a student of meteorology, but somewhere in the depths of my mental filing cabinet, I did recall something about a severe winter storm dumping two feet of snow on much of New England last year. That, I presumed, was a Nor’easter.
“I knew it,” he chortled with self-satisfaction. “You’re from somewhere out west. I’m guessing somewhere warm. Los Angeles, right?”
I ignored the probe into my personal life and guided him back to the question at hand. “You were telling me what a Nor’easter is.”
“Sorry, Miss. It’s a game I play – trying to guess where people are from. It helps to break the monotony of driving in circles all night. A Nor’easter is when the weather blows in from the northeast. Packs a punch, I guess you could say, ‘cause of all the moisture it picks up over the ocean. But this ain’t no Nor’easter and a little snow don’t do much to slow down folks around here. You watch, life will be back to normal by seven, eight o’clock tops.” Then as an afterthought he added, “Still you must be living right, Miss. I just heard on the radio that Logan’s been shut down ‘till maybe midnight. If your plane had been an hour later, who knows where you’d be spending night.”
It was my turn to laugh, even though his comment struck me as anything but funny. There was one thing I had learned from firsthand experience and that was that any correlation between “living right” and good fortune was tenuous at best and most probably unadulterated hogwash. I would have told him that and a whole lot more, except that I really didn’t want to talk about it and I was equally certain he didn’t want to hear it.
Hoping he would take the hint, I turned my attention to the blur of holiday lights that decorated the rows of quaint shops and stately townhouses that lined the Back Bay boulevards. It must have worked because he allowed me to ride the rest of the way, in a kind of frigid numbness that let the minutes pass uncounted, while he concentrated on the icy streets.
When we rounded the corner onto Commonwealth Avenue he jolted me from my reverie. “That’s the Pembrooke right up there, Miss,” he said, pointing to a brightly-lit portico that stood like a welcoming beacon on an otherwise miserable night.
As the cab slowed to an uneasy stop at the curb in front of the hotel, a uniformed doorman hurried down the steps, opened my door and extended a hand to help me out. He motioned to the cabbie to pop the trunk so he could retrieve my luggage.
I braced myself against a powerful gust of wind and waved him off. “This is it,” I said, holding up my briefcase and a small overnight bag.