Happy Easter to all who celebrate.
I'm sharing another snippet from the 2nd Alex O'Hara mystery novel, The Case of the Fabulous Fiancé. Alex is a P.I. in the small Lake Michigan resort town near Grand Rapids. I'm continuing from where we left off last week, when Alex had to referee between her good friend and computer geek, RJ, and the mysterious Pete, who claims he's her new receptionist. RJ stormed out, leaving Alex with Pete.
Some changes were made to the original.
As Pete walked around me, he patted my shoulder. “Let me fix you a nice cup of tea.”
When I followed him into the kitchenette, I realized he’d cleaned before RJ came in. The small table had been wiped, and the stainless steel sink sparkled, as did the faucet. The little dots of coffee spray on the counter in front of the Keurig had disappeared. Even the debris on the ceramic tile floor was gone. In fact, the kitchenette smelled clean.
I groaned as my housekeeping had gotten another black mark, more subtle than his comment about the dust under the desk. “What did you do?”
After he programmed the single-serve brewer for hot water only, Pete glanced over his shoulder. “You need me, my darling.”
And the rest of the scene:
His last two words were said with no sexual connotation. In fact, a vision of Bruno Tonioli from “Dancing With The Stars” flashed through my mind.
I slanted him a look. “What did you call me?”
“Forgive me.” He put one hand over his heart as he added a teabag to the mug of hot water. From the aroma, he’d chosen chai tea, my favorite. “I feel as if we’ve known each other for a long time.”
“Not that long, like about an hour.” I accepted the mug and dunked the bag several times to hasten the steeping process.
Pete took the mug from me over to the wastebasket to dispose of the teabag. “Here you are, Alexandra. Be careful not to burn your tongue.”
“Nobody calls me Alexandra.” Except a certain rat, when he wasn’t calling me Lexie in that sexy voice of his. “And how do you know that’s my name?”
“It’s on the credit card in your desk. You should lock that drawer.” He walked out into the hall. “Come, let me show you what else I found in your desk.”
Clutching the mug of tea, I followed. I knew exactly what was in the receptionist’s desk drawers. Unpaid bills, catalogs, and ads that I’d shoved inside to clear the desk in anticipation of new clients.
He’d sorted the detritus from the drawers into neat piles. After handing me the bills, envelopes neatly slit, he said, “You need to take care of the one on top. It is due tomorrow. Also—” He pointed to the wreath on the visitor chair. “—I took that off the front door. It’s well past the holidays.”
He was right about that, more than a month past Christmas. I hadn’t taken the wreath off the front door because I kept hoping Nick would return and see it as a welcome. Fool. Now the wreath looked tattered, thanks to the winds that whipped off Lake Michigan and banged it against the door.
“If you tell me where you store it, I will put the wreath away. A new bow, and it will look like new."
This guy was efficient.
Before I took a sip of the tea, I inhaled the aroma that always relaxed me. “Why do you want this job? I certainly can’t afford to pay you what you must have earned before. My God, your suit alone costs more than you’d make here in a month.”
With his expensive clothes and precision haircut, Pete Cuddy looked like he belonged in New York City, not small town Far Haven.
“Set your mind at ease,” he said. “I used to work for a clothier who wanted the sales staff to wear the product, which he provided.”
“Why aren’t you still working there?”
His mouth turned down. “He was my partner, my soulmate. When he ended our relationship, I couldn’t bear to work for him anymore.” Pete looked like he was about to cry. Then he brightened. “He let me keep the clothes, though. Now, my darling, you understand why we are perfect for each? I need a job and you need me.”
She’s at it again. Alex O’Hara just can’t say no to a new investigation. What do a 45-year-old boyfriend, a deadbeat dad, and a teenage runaway have in common? All new cases. With no receptionist, phone and internet problems, and her own boyfriend in the wind, Alex has no idea how she’ll manage. But the question for the past three months is why did Nick disappear. Is this the end of O’Hara & Palzetti?