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Her Dream Lover
©Copyright 2010 by
ISBN 13: N/A
Edited by Rose Brungard
Cover Art by Izzy
Cover Model Bill Freda
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by
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It is an infringement on the copyright of this work and prosecutable under the laws of copyright.
Novel Copyright © 2010 by Kate Hofman
Cover art by Izzy
Cover model – Bill Freda
Edited by Rose Brungard
First published by:
Romance At Heart Publications
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and email, without prior written permission from Romance At Heart Publications, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Romance At Heart Publications
First Electronic Edition By Romance At Heart Publications: March 2010
Other Books by Kate Hofman:
A Greek Love Story
A Greater Love
A Sensual Seduction
A Christmas Dream
My thanks, as so many times before, to
Mary Everett, my critique partner,
who so generously helped with her expertise.
~ ~ ~
Many thanks to Bill Freda, for
depicting my hero with his usual charm
Her Dream Lover
Ocean Breeze, Florida.
Angela Thorne unlocked the door of her condominium, and marvelled that she was finally here, free of the hassles of her former life in New York City. The quiet community, the secure building, her apartment, as well as the beach right outside the building’s back door, seemed like heaven compared to her unhappy life with the ex-husband she had left behind.
Only her mother and her sister Lisa knew she was in Florida, and of that she was glad. She mused over the last year, free at last, after her divorce from the abusive, philandering Brandon—meeting Ethan, and coping with his untimely death—and now this change of scenery.
Today was her first day in her new place, and her fortieth birthday. A look at Ocean Breeze, finding a place for a nice lunch, would be a good way to celebrate her birthday, and her new freedom.
The muted ringing of the phone interrupted her thoughts. She picked it up, wondering whether it would be her mother or her sister Lisa.
~Happy birthday, Angel-girl.~
“Who is this, please?”
~Darling, I’m crushed that you didn’t recognize my voice. It’s me, of course, Brandon. You can’t have forgotten that I always call you Angel-girl…~
“Yes, I had forgotten. What do you want?”
~To wish you a happy birthday, of course, Angel-girl, and to talk to you. It’s been ages…~
Not nearly long enough, Brandon. I had hoped never to hear from you again.
“Not all that long, surely. And you seemed so preoccupied with Brandy or Candy…”
“~Merry. Her name is Meredith. And if you were trying to imply that I had married a bimbo, no way. Merry was my secretary…~
“Of course. That’s why you had to spend so many evenings at your office, due to enormous pressure of work. Well, thank you for your birthday wishes. Goodbye, Brandon.”
~Hey! Not so fast! I told you I wanted to talk to you. In fact, I was thinking, would you like to have lunch with me? A birthday lunch with all your favorite things?~
“No, thank you, Brandon. Goodbye.” Dear God… Is he here, in Ocean Breeze? How else could he have lunch with me?
~Wait. Wait. I have something to tell you. I’ve filed for divorce from Merry…~
“I’m sorry to hear that. Goodbye, Brandon.”
~Angel-girl, don’t be so cold and cruel to me, after all, we were married for …uh…~
~Yes, exactly. You can’t just write that off with ‘Goodbye, Brandon’.~
“Evidently you could with ‘Goodbye Angela,’ when you asked me to divorce you quickly so you could marry the love of your life. I did that for you. What can you possibly want now?”
~Angel-girl, this is so difficult over the phone. Please, come to lunch?~
“No, thank you, Brandon. I really must go now. Goodbye.”
~Wait! Okay, I’ll tell you over the phone. I want us to get back together… What do you say, Angel-girl? Honey, marrying Merry was a ghastly mistake, I must’ve been temporarily insane to let you get away from me…~
“If memory serves, you couldn’t wait to get away from me. In fact, you asked me to move out of the Park Avenue duplex, because you couldn’t wait to move Merry in. I did that, too, for you. I’m through doing things for you, Brandon. I have my own life now, and I like it just fine. Goodbye, Brandon. I hope you find another Merry soon.”
~Angel-girl, don’t be like that. It was so good between us, always. And it can be again, if you’ll come back…~
“No, thank you Brandon. And since you mentioned how good it was between us… I certainly did my best to make it good for you, a courtesy you never returned. ‘Honey-will-you-hurry-up-for-God’s-sake’ is not foreplay.”
~Oh sure, throw into my face the occasional time when…~
“Ah, no. ‘The occasional time’ was every time. You never made love to me; you had sex with me. And I have no wish to repeat my initial mistake, marrying you. You, who thought your vow to be faithful meant that you might as well be faithful to me whenever there wasn’t some slut available to make you feel like one helluva stud. Well, you weren’t. And you’re not ever going to get a chance to make me suffer your oppressive presence again. I’m going to hang up now. I want to enjoy my fortieth birthday. Goodbye, Brandon.”
She replaced the receiver with trembling fingers, closing her eyes. Hastily, she fumbled with the switch putting the phone on answering machine only. I’m not going to let him spoil my birthday. He wants me back... the arrogance of him. No way. Thank God this condo has doormen, and good security. Which reminds me, I had better go down, tell them I am divorced and I don’t ever want them to let my ex into the building. Because if he went to the trouble of finding out my phone number, he’ll also have my address. And Brandon doesn’t like to lose...
She went into her bedroom and checked her appearance in the full-length mirror on the door of one of the walk-in closets.
Blonde hair—glossy with soft waves.
Topaz eyes with long lashes—bright.
Face unlined, but a little pale—daily walks on the beach ought to fix that.
Nose—fine-boned and straight.
Lips—full and soft-looking, thanks to the rosy lip gloss.
Body—slim and willowy. Could use a glow of tan.
All right. Not bad for a forty-year old broad.
She stepped out of the condo, locking the door carefully behind her, and went to the elevators. Once she arrived in the lobby, she said to the doorman: “My name is Angela Thorne, Seven-South. I would like to have a word with the head of Security. Could you tell me where he is located?”
“Why yes, Ma’am, if you’ll step this way. See that door there that has a ‘Private’ sign on it? That’s the Security office. By the way, my name is Mike, at your service.”
The doorman gave her a friendly smile and saluted, when Angela said “Thank you, Mike.”
She went to the office door and knocked. A burly man in a dark gabardine suit, with a ‘Security’ badge on the breast pocket, opened the door to her.
“Help you?” He stood aside and gestured for her to enter.
Angela stepped into the small office, with a wall of television screens, showing what was going on in all the public parts of the building. The Security officer gestured to Angela to sit down in what was evidently the visitor’s chair. He seated himself at his desk again and looked at her expectantly.
She smiled. “My name is Angela Thorne. I have just bought the south-side condo on the 7th floor.”
“I’m Dave Hillman, Ma’am. Head of Security. How can we be of service to you?”
“I wanted to explain to you that I am divorced. Thorne is my maiden name. My ex-husband is Brandon Burke. He mostly uses the surname Burke-Livesey. I came here to ask that you never—no matter how he blusters, tries to bribe with very big gratuities, or whines about some family disaster—never let him into this building, please.”
“Ma’am, it will be our pleasure to keep you safe from Mr. Burke’s unwanted attention. Can you give me a description of him?”
Angela thought for a moment, her eyes straying to the window that showed the great glass entrance doors.
To Dave’s surprise, she ducked, showing every sign of panicky alarm, as she gasped, “That’s him… That’s Brandon Burke… Oh, dear God. The doorman won’t let him in, will he?”
Dave smiled reassuringly. “No need to worry, Ma’am, you can sit up, this is one-way glass, the outside is mirrors. And isn’t that obliging of the gentleman to show me his face. I’ll quickly take a few shots of him, which will be circulated to all the staff, with the instruction that this man is not to be allowed on the premises.” Dave grabbed his camera, quickly taking some shots of Brandon, who had by now passed through the entrance and, most fortuitously, walked up to the mirrored glass to tidy his hair. Dave took a close-up.
“If you’ll kindly listen, Ma’am, you will hear how we handle people who try to bluster their way into this building.” A finger to his lips, he quietly opened a louvered slot in the door.
“I’m expected,” Brandon said arrogantly to the doorman. “Mrs. Burke-Livesey.” Brandon began to walk past the doorman’s desk, behind which stood Mike, who said, “One moment, please, Sir. We have no lady of that name living here. You must have the wrong condominium building.”
“I most certainly have the right building. Release the door lock so that I may keep my appointment with Mrs. Burke-Livesey. Seventh floor.” The doorman didn’t budge.
“As I told you, Sir, we have no one of that name living here. I must ask you to leave.”
After a little more blustering, Brandon experienced the humiliation of being asked, “Do you wish me to call the Head of Security to have him confirm what I just told you, and make quite sure you vacate these premises?”
Furious, Brandon had no option but to walk out of the building again. Angela beamed at Dave. “Oh, I feel so much better. Thank you for reassuring me. I decided to live in a condo with excellent security, and now I know that my choice was the right one… Thank you so much, Mr. Hillman.” Much reassured, Angela went back to the 7th floor.
When she returned to her condo, the phone was ringing. I thought I’d switched it to answering machine? Probably didn’t do it right… She hastily went over to look at its caller ID. She was only partly reassured when she realized the caller was her mother. She lifted the receiver.
~Angela, darling. You were very tardy getting to the phone. Try to be a little more considerate of your callers in the future.~
“I just came in the door, mother, when I heard the phone ringing. Did you have any particular reason for calling, or did you just want to check how fast I answer the phone?”
~Of course not, Angela, darling. Always so suspicious and prickly. Small wonder that Brandon divorced you…~
“Mother, Brandon didn’t divorce me because I was, as you put it, ‘suspicious and prickly.’ He asked me for a divorce so that he could marry his secretary, which he did, over a year ago. Now, mother, was there something in particular?”
~Well yes, of course, Angela, darling. I was going to say Happy Birthday, but I fail to see how your fortieth birthday can make you happy. Except, I had a most interesting call from Brandon, who told me that he has filed for divorce from that vulgar little person, and he asked for my help in getting back together with you again. Now, that will make this a happy birthday for you, I would think…~
“Mother, you’d do me a great favour if you’d please not discuss me with Brandon. He is history, past history, which I have no wish to drag up again and relive. No, thank you. Once around the block with him was once too often, believe me.”
~Angela, you always were so incredibly difficult. When I had everything arranged for you to go to that exceptional finishing school in Switzerland, no. You got your father to help you go to the university in Phoenix, of all places, to get some silly degree in art, wasn’t it? What good did that do you? None at all. I never had such problems with your sister Lisa, who…~
“Mother, Lee and Justin divorced quietly because they realized they would be better friends if they weren’t married to each other. When you urged Brandon on me, you deliberately ignored all the warnings about him given us by people who knew him for what he was, a total bastard.”
~Angela! How dare you speak to me in that tone of voice, using a vulgar expression. I think it’s wonderful of Brandon to show so much patience and forbearance with you. Good gracious, the way you hurried through that divorce. If you had been sensible, as I suggested, and dragged your feet a little, Brandon would probably never have married that common little conniver… But you never listen to the voice of reason, you just blast ahead with your own ideas, which are usually not the most level-headed, as I’m sure you will admit… I beg of you, when Brandon contacts you, hear him out, and count yourself lucky that he is willing to take you back…~
“Take me back? As if I had been the one to leave the marriage, time and again, for sordid little affairs, to which he confessed only when he realized I had found out and he couldn’t lie his way out of yet another squalid mess. Mother, Brandon is a common philanderer, a dreadful womanizer, a cheat and a liar. I am so very glad to be free of him. Now, please, will you realize that I am a grown woman, entitled to live my life my way. Get it through your romance-befuddled head that I detest Brandon and will never, never, again allow him to darken my life. Is that quite clear?”
~Angela, this is no way to talk to your own mother, who only wants what is best for you. Before you, yet again, throw the baby out with the bathwater, think very carefully about the kind of life Brandon can give you and…~
“I’m sorry to interrupt you, mother, but I am very familiar with the kind of life Brandon can give me, and I don’t want any part of it. One infidelity after another, he is a pathological liar, literally incapable of telling the truth. Vicious and cruel in private, he sees everything only from his point of view. Right now, he is rattling around in that huge co-op, and bored with having to deal with staff, bills, and letters. And he thinks how much easier his life would be if he could get me to do all those things for him again, and he can get back to chasing bimbos. Never, mother, never. Do you hear me? I hope you do, because if you insist on taking Brandon’s side, I’ll have no option but to sever all relations with you. Is that what you want? Because you’re going the right way about it. I never want to hear Brandon’s name again.” Angela tried not to let her mother hear her agitation at the thought of ever having anything to do with Brandon again. Taking a deep breath, she went on. “So you decide, mother, whether you want to play Brandon’s game, or whether you want to be my mother and allow me, forty years old today, to make my own choices. If you choose Brandon, then we’re through. Through for good. Am I making myself clear enough? Thank you for your good wishes, mother. I have to go now. Goodbye.”
With a shaking hand, Angela replaced the receiver. She went to her balcony, and sat down in one of the patio chairs, leaning back, and taking a few deep breaths of the balmy sea air to calm herself. Well, I certainly told mother.
After a while, she went back into the living room, switching the phone to the answering machine more carefully. Moments after she had done so, a muted burr announced another call. A glance at Caller ID showed her that it was the Hilton Hotel.
I don’t know anyone at the Hilton Hotel. Oh, wait, that must be where Brandon is staying while he is starting his damn campaign to get me back. Fat chance.
Angela decided to go for a drive to investigate the village, maybe have a celebratory drink if she saw a funky place where Brandon wouldn’t dream of being seen. She went back into her bedroom, picking up her handbag and the matching jacket to her yellow sundress, and caught an elevator down to the garage. When she was walking to her car, she saw a handsome couple, somewhat younger than herself, she thought, who had just got out of a beautifully maintained Cadillac Biarritz. As Angela passed them, she nodded politely with a little smile, and went to her own car, a sporty two-door white convertible.
“You must be our new neighbour?” The woman, elegant, beautiful, with pale, perfect skin and red-gold hair, walked over to Angela, holding out her hand. “Hi, I’m Luz Eagle, and this is my husband, Jared Eagle.”
Angela took Luz’s hand and shook it, saying, “I’m Angela Thorne. I just arrived yesterday… oh… Did you say Jared Eagle? The famous playwright?” She turned to Jared. “I’ve moved here from New York. When I lived there I never missed an opening night of your plays. I love your work, and I am so delighted to meet you.”
Hesitantly, she held out her hand to Jared, who shook it with a friendly smile, asking, “Angela Thorne? Luz, those mysteries you love to read with the fascinating recipes, aren’t they written by Angela Thorne? Are you that Angela Thorne by any chance?”
“Yes, I am,” Angela admitted quietly.
“It’s a pity you’re just going out, otherwise we’d invite you to our place for a drink, because there’s something that has always puzzled me about mystery writers. Which end of the story do you start at? Luz, why don’t you persuade Angela to postpone her errands, and come back with us for a drink?”
“You heard Jared? It’s quite true. He has always wondered which end of the story a mystery writer starts at…the end, and then works backwards sprinkling a few clues here and there…or the beginning, bearing the ending in mind? Oh, I do wish you’d come back for a drink with us?”
“Well, actually I didn’t have any urgent errands, I was just going to explore the village a little—maybe have a celebratory drink. I’ll be glad to come back with you, thank you,” said Angela, with a grateful look at Luz and her very handsome husband.
Talk about tall, dark and handsome... That great tan, and so naturally, casually elegant. For that matter, Luz is a lovely woman...
“Celebratory?” Luz asked. She raised a delicate eyebrow to Angela, walking beside her to the elevators. Jared was on Luz’s other side.
“My fortieth birthday,” said Angela calmly.
“Many happy returns,” Luz exclaimed spontaneously.
“And you know what they say—‘life begins at forty’,” grinned Jared. “Happy birthday, Angela.”
“Thank you both,” Angela smiled. An elevator came, and they entered. Once they arrived at the 7th floor, Jared opened their front door, waving both women through ahead of him.
Luz took Angela to their comfortable sitting room, indicating the two big chairs to one side of the sofa. Luz sat down in the sofa’s corner, close to Angela, and gave her an encouraging smile.
“What will you drink?” Jared asked. “We have wine…” As Jared mentioned ‘wine,’ Angela raised her hand slightly. “Say no more… I’d love a glass of wine, please. Thank you.” Jared raised a black, winged brow at his wife, who said, “Same for me, Jared.” Handing the wine to the two women, he took his own glass and sat down next to his wife.
“If you’re sure you don’t mind divulging professional secrets, I really would very much like to find out how mystery writers proceed, from the top down, or backwards?” He smiled encouragingly to Angela, suspecting she might be a little shy with two total strangers.
Angela smiled back. “I suspect that no two mystery writers work in exactly the same way. For me, the easiest approach is to set down the story I’ve got in my head in very broad strokes. Then, I start at the beginning, making sure that the culprit looks innocent, but planting a few careful, subtle clues.
“Also, I like to play fair with my readers. There are some mystery writers who, at the last minute, add another clue, which is told in retrospect. I think that’s cheating. But, having said how I proceed—I must tell you… by any chance, Luz, have you read ‘The Silver Talisman’?
“Yes, I did. I loved it.”
Angela leaned forward, with an almost conspiratorial air. “Well, I had originally intended that the nephew would be the murderer, because he believed he was his uncle’s legitimate heir… until, of course, the murdered man’s own son showed up.
“I was writing away with this in mind, when suddenly my characters took over, and I sat there, astonished, watching the mildly unsympathetic character of the nephew become nicer. And the victim’s sister, the mother of the nephew, became craftier and nastier with every page… If you recall the story well enough, she ended up as the murderer. But all through the book as I originally wrote it, she had been nice; she had an alibi for the time of the murder, all that sort of thing. So then I had to go back, painstakingly turning phrases just slightly… And I had to remove her alibi carefully, so that she still seemed to have one, but it wouldn’t hold up under closer scrutiny, in the last Chapter but one. Then I had to lay a few clues as to her not-so-niceness.”
She smiled at Luz and Jared. “I realize that you’re now exactly as far as before I started telling you how mystery writers shape their stories. Because the truth is, sometimes we write them one way, and sometimes another. And then there are the occasions when the characters start writing the story themselves…”
Jared nodded and smiled. Luz said, “Yes, isn’t that most disconcerting.”
Angela looked up, surprised, asking Luz, “Are you a writer, too?” And, with a little frown, “I’m sorry but I don’t recall ever seeing a book by Luz Eagle?”
“That’s because I write under my maiden name of Kirkpatrick…” She got no further.
“Lucinda Kirkpatrick? Oh, I love your books… But you said your name was Luz?”
“That was the name Jared invented for me, and in no time flat everybody called me that. And when I’m introduced as Jared’s wife, Luz Eagle, there’s no chance of my getting harassed by an angry husband who is annoyed at what his wife learned from one of my books, which shows him up for the insensitive, selfish oaf he has been all their married life…”
“Honey, you’re playing my song,” said Angela, grinning. When Luz raised a sympathetic eyebrow, “Oh, it’s old history now, in fact, he is history… We were divorced well over a year ago.” She smiled at Luz.
“I hope that your life will soon take a tremendous turn for the better.” Luz raised her glass. “Shall we drink to that?”
“Yes, indeed,” said Jared.
“Thank you. Yes, I’d like to drink to that, too…”
The threesome sat together a little while longer, then Angela took her leave. She decided to go to her condo instead of exploring the village. She’d make herself something to eat, maybe with another glass of wine.
And, since it is my birthday, maybe I should check the answering machine.
She was glad she did, because there was a call from Lisa, her sister. There were also four more calls from the Hilton number. She hastily called Lisa back.
“Lee? It’s me.”
~Thanks for returning my call so quickly, Ange, I thought you might have the phone on answering machine so that you could avoid calls from the appalling Brandon, or from his most recent comrade-in-arms, mother… Anyway, happy birthday, sis. And don’t let anyone give you a hard time about the big four-oh. It’s just a stupid number, and with that blonde hair and those topaz eyes, you don’t look anything like your age.~ Angela sensed more than heard her sister’s grin, as she went on,
~Funny, how mother always gives you a hard time about being divorced, taking your own name back legally, wanting to live your own life. I’ve done exactly those same things, yet she practically oozes sympathy for me. Carries on as if Alex were my husband instead of the lover with whom I live… Whereas, when you met Ethan…oh God, Ange, I didn’t mean to remind you of…~
“I know, Lee. Don’t feel bad over mentioning him—it’s getting easier… After all, we hadn’t been together very long, when that drunk ran a red light, killing him. Anyway, what really upsets me is the way mother is trying so very hard to force me back into Brandon’s greedy clutches. Never, not in a million years. When I tell her what a bastard he was, all his affairs, his lies, not to mention the very unsatisfactory private life he led me… she just shrugs as if to say ‘boys will be boys,’ and if I had gone to that stupid finishing school in Switzerland, I would know how to handle such things with dignity and charm. I don’t want to handle Brandon’s many transgressions with dignity and charm. I want nothing more to do with him. And I finally told mother, if she persists in playing Brandon’s game, then I will sever all relations with her.”
~Ah, sis, she doesn’t understand you, and you’ve always shown your independence, followed your own star, which infuriated her… I never showed my independence, I said ‘yes, mother,’ and did precisely what I wanted… Anyway, tell me about your new condo?~
“It’s just wonderful, Lee. I wish you’d come over, if only for a weekend, so that you’ll know where I live, and when we’re talking you can imagine where I’m sitting. Is there no way you could get away, even for a little while?”
~W-e-l-l, I’d love to, but Alex—you know what a whiz he is, his own PR firm, four years ago, at age thirty-three… His firm has been hired to work on the re-election campaign of Senator Birkenhead, but the wily old Senator wanted Alex to mastermind the whole thing. So, I like to be there for him when he finally comes home, at the weirdest hours.~ Lisa’s voice turned whimsical for a moment, then she became serious again. ~In that respect I’m a whole lot luckier than you. Alex has a most faithful heart, and he wouldn’t know how to tell a lie… But it’s a long time until November…~ Her voice turned pensive, then she said, ~Anyway, when they start their travels around the State, I’ll take a leave of absence at The Mag, and go with Alex.~
“Can’t you talk Alex into coming with you for a weekend? He’ll burn out if he keeps up this crazy pace…”
~You know that, and I know that, but Alex seems to think he leads a charmed life, and the rules that apply to ordinary people don’t apply to him… But I’ll see what I can do, sis. Anyway, you have a great day, and be careful not to pick up the phone spontaneously, you never know which creep is at the other end. And be very careful about opening your door. Make sure it’s on the chain.~
“Of course I will, but I’m ahead of all that. I went downstairs and saw the head of Security—made sure that all the lobby staff will know I am divorced and do not want my ex to be admitted to the building. So I think I’m really safe here.”
~Yes, I agree, that love-child won’t be able to harass you there… Well, sis, have a great time.~
Angela smiled. “Actually, I already did. I met my immediate neighbours… there are two condos per floor. Guess who they are? Jared Eagle and his wife, who is Lucinda Kirkpatrick.”
~Oh, my. Maybe they have some interesting, slightly unattached friends, with whom you might enjoy a friendship, a fling, whatever… hmmm?~
“I would just enjoy meeting their friends, period. Right now, Lee, I’m not really in the mood for Meeting Men… Anyway, thanks for calling. Bye for now, and don’t forget to try coming out here with Alex.”
She broke the connection, and immediately the phone rang again. As expected, it was another call from the Hilton. Angela switched the phone back to the answering machine, and decided to go for a walk on the beach. It was past five o’clock, and this far north on the Florida peninsula, it wasn’t that hot yet in April. Seventies today, she had heard the radio say, but it would probably be a little cooler, because there was a heavy cloud deck. She decided to put on a hyacinth blue bathing suit with a matching filmy cover-up.
When she had found the door to the patio, the pool and the steps to the beach, she was surprised to see Luz and Jared in conversation with another couple on the patio. The woman was beautiful, a natural blonde, and the man was simply stunning— evidently part Native American. She looked a little closer. Surely this man is the famous writer Adam Stewart. She frowned and shook her head, determined not to intrude on her neighbours, nodding pleasantly, circling around them to the beach steps. Luz and Jared would have none of it.
“Angela, come here a minute, and meet your neighbours from the penthouse,” said Luz.
Slowly, Angela approached the foursome. When she got close enough, Luz took her hand and drew her nearer.
“Angela, meet our friends, Adam and Mimi Stewart. Adam, Mimi, this is Angela Thorne…”
“Angela Thorne, the mystery writer?” said Mimi, astonished.
Angela nodded, and smiled at Mimi. “Yes, I am. How do you do?” She turned to Adam. “Adam Stewart, the Nobel for Literature winner a year or so ago… Oh, I have all your books. In fact, when I came onto the patio, I recognized you from the photos on the dust jackets. I love your books, and I’m honoured to meet you.”
“And I am delighted to meet one of my favorite writers,” said Mimi. Adam added, “I’ve been working so very hard the past year, I haven’t had much time to read other people’s books, but I’ll be sure to read one of yours very soon. Mimi loves the recipes you put in. Am I right in thinking the sleuth is a chef?”
“Yes, you’re right, but my books are just for amusement, not great literary works of art, like yours—or Jared’s plays—or Luz’s very deeply textured novels.”
Jared smiled. “It’s taken us quite a while to make Luz stop denigrating herself, and valuing her own books properly. Recently, she has started to do that, and now, we’ve got another too modest writer on our hands… Believe me, Angela, if your books were as mediocre as you’re trying to make out, Luz and Mimi wouldn’t read them so avidly. But tell me, were you going to swim or to walk the beach?”
“Walk the beach… I haven’t done that yet.”
“Why don’t you walk with us, then? More fun than walking by yourself?”
“If you’re sure? Four’s company, five’s a crowd…”
“No way, you’re coming with us,” said Mimi and Luz.
Adam nodded at Angela. “By all means, walk with us.”
“Well, if you’re all sure…” said Angela, overcome with sudden delight at meeting these charming and so very talented people. She wondered what Mimi did. Another writer? Life suddenly looked a lot brighter and pleasanter than it had earlier, when she was so preoccupied with avoiding Brandon.
By tacit agreement, apparently, the women walked together, and so did the two men. Smiling at Angela, Luz said, “Mimi, today is Angela’s birthday. Perhaps we could all go to the Casa for dinner? Because she doesn’t yet know a soul here.”
“Really?” said Mimi. “Many happy returns, Angela. Let me just sidle up to Adam and Jared, and inform them that they’re to take us out to dinner.” She walked over to the men, and as soon as they saw her approach, they slowed their pace.
While alone with Luz for a moment, Angela said, “I meant to ask you, that stunning, great painting of the Arizona desert on your back wall, is that a Blackhawk?”
“You’ve got a good eye, yes, it is.”
“He’s a genius. I’ve always thought, merely ‘talented’ doesn’t begin to describe him.”
Luz nodded. “Yes, I’ve always thought so, too. Adam and Mimi have a lot of Blackhawks. They’re close friends of his and his wife’s. One of these days, you’ll see them, I’m sure.”
Mimi returned, giving Luz and Angela a thumbs-up sign. “All arranged.”
“It will be extra-good for Angela, because her ex has been bothering her all day,” said Luz to Mimi.
“Bothering you in what way?”
“This morning, he phoned, and stunned me with the news that he wanted me back… No way will I ever go back to him. But the problem is that he doesn’t like to lose, and he’ll start a campaign of near-terrorizing me. Just this afternoon, when I was talking to Dave in the Security office, Brandon came up to the entrance doors, and began blustering his way into the building. But he didn’t get in, I’m glad to say. And since about lunchtime, there’ve been four calls from the Hilton, where he is apparently staying. Anyway, for today I feel so safe from him, walking with all of you. And the prospect of him stalking and harassing me doesn’t scare me anymore.”
“Good thing we’re not walking in the direction of the Hilton, that’s the other way,” said Luz.
Mimi and Angela agreed with her. Mimi said, “Now, about tonight. When we get back from our walk, we’ll all pretty ourselves up and meet at, say, six-thirty at our place — that’s the penthouse. PH on the elevator board, Angela. We’ll make sure you have a great birthday.”
“I don’t know how to thank you,” said Angela, overcome by so much kindness and friendliness.
“De nada,” said Mimi, “and that is all the Spanish I know.”
As Angela took her leave of the two handsome couples, she shook her head in wonder. Astonishingly, she had made a number of friends. She’d never have done that as easily in New York. Ocean Breeze was, apparently, a great choice, and she knew she was going to love living here.
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