Dangerous Curves Ahead
by Kelly Ann Fitzpatrick
“But we’re not talking about it.” She leaned against the clear glass refrigerator door of the beer cooler.
“What?” Burt remained bent over, examining beer labels through the glass.
“You told him we were talking about it.” Blythe watched a tower of Guinness six-packs glide by on a dolly.
“Who?” The cell phone in his pocket vibrated.
“You said we’re talking about it.”
“What?” He rested his hands on his knees as the toe of her narrow boot began tapping the linoleum.
“You know.” Staring at the ceiling, she wondered if she had misread him. She thought he loved her. Really loved her. She had changed so much for him, even her hair. She had been a blonde, a blonde for whom men opened doors.
Burt watched the pointed toe of her stiletto boots bounce up and down. God, what a turn on. She wears ‘em everywhere. They were the reason they met. He had been following her out of the Bohemian coffee shop, watching what the boots did for her legs. He stopped hearing the clinking glasses and whirring coffee machines when she stopped abruptly, turned around, and plowed into him.
“Oh, shit.” She jumped back as his coffee ran down the front of her suede jacket.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Here.” He handed her his napkin.
She pressed the napkin against her chest as they made eye contact, her hazel eyes twinkling. Chatting easily, they strolled to a boutique around the corner where he insisted on replacing her jacket, they had lunch, caught a movie, which turned into dinner and then, well, that was the beginning of his new-and-greatly improved sex life. A sex life of every man’s dreams. His groin stiffened. Nothing like making love to a woman who likes jumping out of airplanes.
Remembering he was in trouble, but for what didn’t know, he cocked his head and slowly looked upward. Taking in her long sinewy legs, fishnet stockings, tight short top, firecracker red hair, he finally made eye contact. God, she had a great body. He had asked – more like begged, if he was going to be honest – past girlfriends to wear stilettos, but they refused. And here was Blythe Willow satisfying his longing without even being asked.
She leaned forward, as though she could force her words downward giving them greater impact. “If you don’t know…I’m not going to—” An overhead page for a price check overrode her words.
Burt closed his eyes and stood, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Look, whatever it is that we’re not talkin’ about that we’re supposed to be talkin’ about, could we please not do it in the liquor store.”
She crossed her arms, slowly tucking her hand behind her other arm with her purse dangling.
He stood, pushing his hands into his thighs, knees cracking. “Just help me find the damn beer. I’ll talk about anything you want on the way.”
“I hate that sludge. Won’t they drink something else?”
“It’s his birthday. We–”
He watched her animal-print skirt bob as she headed toward the domestics. What a day for her to be mad. And about what? He searched the sea of dark labels until he found his friend’s favorite German beer.
He reached out for her hand as they left the store. She gave his hand a squeeze and then dropped it when they reached the parking lot. “I’m disappointed. That’s all.”
His mind raced as fast as his wheels spun. Disappointed. Disappointed in what? Last night? Normally driving the Mercedes’ top down made Burt feel alive, especially when the rubber squealed as he pulled the steering wheel, hugging the bends of the hilly oceanside road. Not now though. Not with her being so upset. What’s wrong?
He slowed the car. “Honey, please. Just give me a–”
His cell phone rang so he checked the caller ID: Lockhardt, Frankie. He pressed, “Ignore” to stop the ringing and snapped the phone shut so Blythe wouldn’t be able see the glowing panel.
She crossed her arms. The leather squeaked as she settled into the bucket seat. She pursed her lips as though she could seal them. Was it time to move on? We had an agreement. An agreement to “move things forward,” as he was fond of saying, making us sound like one of his damn business deals.
Slowing down at a stoplight, he asked, “Can’t we just talk about it?”
Although it wasn’t windy, her fingers pressed her purple scarf against her forehead like when she got migraines. She swiveled to face him and squinted behind her sunglasses, as though trying to decide something of greater importance than simply whether to continue the discussion.
“We’re almost there.” He accelerated slowly. “Should I pull over? There’s a lookout comin’ up. Do you want to talk about it before we get there?” He tapped his left pocket. Not a good time. Tonight.
Biting her lips, turning her skin white, she shook her head and watched the craggy cliffs pass by. He’s probably hoping for a quickie. No more freebies. No ice, no dice.
His phone rang again. Again, caller ID read: Lockhardt, Frankie. He wondered why she was calling him. She had already provided her completed report and he had already paid her. He had paid cash so there would be no records, not even a receipt.
He pressed the gas hard, harder than he needed to, feeling the acceleration. Everything had been in order. What could be wrong? Must be because he worked late last night and missed dinner. There were others who had gotten tired of waiting. That’s not going to happen this time. Certainly not after People labeled him the most “Ineligible Business Bachelor” controlled by his multi-million mistress he had started in his basement.
He tapped the flickering red light. “The brake light’s acting funny again. I’ll have the shop take another look at it.”
“I thought you said they fixed it.”
“They said the brakes are fine. The wiring’s bad. They’re going to replace it next time I take it in.”
She was so cool, collected. She’s definitely not like the others. She had even agreed to sign the prenup. No questions. Without blinking. That had torn apart two other relationships. She had said, “No prob. I’m not after your dough. Money’s easy. It’s the rest of what we got that’s tricky. Now, that’s somethin’–somethin’.” She nibbled his ear and then said, “I think insurance would be a good idea. No?”
He agreed and had already taken care of it. Now what is she so upset over? He patted his pocket. Net yet. Not until she cools down.
She studied the curved road ahead. If he wouldn’t commit, she’d move on. She’d be forced to. Before she gave up, perhaps she would try one last desperate measure – jealousy. She couldn’t wait much longer.
He parked under a palm tree around the bend from his friend’s house.
She flipped the visor down and, using the mirror, outlined her lips with a blood red pencil. She untied the scarf and fluffed her silken red hair glistening in the sun.
Then, she gave him her smile. He reached out to kiss her hand, but missed. She had opened the car door and slipped out. After gathering the beer from the back seat, he tried catching up with her, but she picked up the pace, staying a half step ahead.
As she stepped onto the porch, his friend opened the door. “Hey, glad you guys made it. Get in here.”
Burt’s friend accepted the brown bag from him and peeked inside. “How can you stand this stuff?”
“This stuff.” He lifted a dark brown bottle.
“I thought you loved it.”
“But your bar fridge is full of it.”
“The wife got it on sale. She heard it was good so she bought two cases of the damn stuff. My son won’t even drink it.”
“This whole time I thought it was your favorite, so I’ve been gettin’ it for you.”
“No way, Man. I thought you liked it, so I’ve been giving it back to you.”
“Geez, you mean for a year we’ve been passin’ the same damn beer back and forth?”
While the men chatted, Blythe stepped down the hall in search of a cool drink and a target for drumming up jealousy. She gasped, spotting the back of a bald head on top of a thick neck. Shit. She jumped to a side hall and leaned against the wall. Was it him? No way. Couldn’t be. He was in Vermont. What if it was? Relax. She’d changed everything –everything – her hair, walk, accent, makeup, clothes. And, these damn boots.
She took a deep breath, leaned through the arched doorway, and peeked around the corner. The man turned and faced her. It wasn’t him. Pressing her hand to her chest, she pursed her lips and then slowly exhaled.
The Vermont cop had pointed his finger in her face. “You don’t fool me. I’ll be there waiting in the shadows, waiting for you to slip up. I’ll catch you. If not this time, then the next time because with your sort there’s always a next time. You’ll spend your life looking over your shoulder. I know what you did. I’ll get you. Just wait.”
Well, she couldn’t wait. Not after that. They had staked out the house and followed her everywhere, even to the hair salon where she had had her hair dyed red and gave them the slip, ready for her next target – Burt. She had researched him, knew his fetishes and fantasies. She had been fully prepared. The only surprise was how hot the boots were. For the next one she’d wear cooler footwear.
The cop had been right. A day didn’t go by that she didn’t do double-takes when she spotted bald men with thick necks. She felt like they watched her at the grocery store, in shopping malls, and bars. She had gotten careless, made a few too many mistakes. Not this time. This time she’d been cautious, probably too cautious, which was part of the reason things were taking too long. He should have proposed by now. They’d talked about flying to Vegas in his jet. She had snooped through his desk to confirm he’d signed the insurance papers, making her his beneficiary. But still, it had been stupid to futz with his brake light, making it flicker. She wanted him to begin distrusting the warning light so it would look like an accident. That’s where she went wrong last time.
She accepted two flutes of champagne from a passing tray and turned but stopped abruptly. A moment later she turned back around, returned the bubbling flute to the waiter, and said something. Satisfied, she slinked toward the veranda, smiling as though stepping onto a stage.
Still in the foyer, Burt turned. “Blythe?” but she was gone, swallowed up in the mix of people spilling out onto the back porch overlooking the ocean.
His friend leaned into Burt. “So, have you popped the question yet?”
“No, tonight. We’ve been talkin-” He smacked his forehead. That’s it. In the liquor store. What had she said, “But we’re not talking about.”
Burt grabbed his friend’s arm. “Oh, god. Thanks. I’ll see ya.” He squeezed the small square box in his pocket. This was it.
A waiter appeared, handing Burt a champagne flute that beaded in the heat. He bowed slightly. “Compliments of the lady.” Burt accepted the glass.
His friend slapped him on the back. “Good luck, man. You got yourself a fine woman there.” His friend pointed at him while walking backward. “I should mingle. Let me know what she says.”
Burt sipped the cool champagne and then saluted his friend using the flute. He shook his head, as though to wake himself. He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed for messages. Listening to it ring, he gulped the golden liquid, feeling the bubbles pop against the roof of his mouth.
There were three voice messages from Frankie. The first one was merely, “Where are you? Call me.” The second one, “Call me…Now.”
Her voice in the last message was uncharacteristically breathy. “Look, I hate to leave this kind of thing in a message but you’re in danger. The target you asked me to investigate, the one I told you washed out fine, well, that was an alias she gave you. I told you there was something that bothered me so I put more feelers out, which lead to a Vermont cop. And he says your little Miss Stiletto is one serious homicidal gold digger. He wants to talk to you today. As in right now. She’s wanted in three other states. It doesn’t look good. You be careful. I mean real careful. Don’t take any meds. Don’t accept anything to eat or drink from her. I mean nothing. Don’t turn your back. And, stay away from those cliffs you got out there. Got it? Now, stop listening to this and call me.”
He stared at the bubbles rising inside his half-empty glass.
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