Title: Killer Calories
Author: Nancy good
Genre: Mystery& Detective/Woman Sleuth
Book Heat Level: 2
BLURB: Killer Calories
EXCERPT: Killer Calories
I hovered at the door, looking for Daniel. A six-foot-high poster of Brian’s book jacket was plastered on one wall with a ‘before’ picture of a heavy woman wearing a babushka. Next to the before photo was an ‘after’ picture of a thin woman wearing a babushka. We were bonding with the Romanians over cabbage soup, the hot way to lose weight. Brian was not a close friend of mine but he’d been an ally to Daniel, which was why I was here.
A few people in the crowd glanced my way. One of them, dirty-blond hair with a slight hint of silver, great abs judging from his flat stomach, tweed jacket, priest collar shirt, made his way toward me. The charged air I felt was startling and familiar. It was Devon, the twice-in-one-day guy who had grabbed me away from the biker.
“So here you are again. I’d say you were following me, but it looks like you’re catering this party,” he said with that amused smile. His blue twinkling eyes gave me an approving look. His rugged midwestern aura and his voice exuded sexual pheromones more than any man I’d encountered in a long time.
“I thought you were following me. Maybe our life lines are colliding?” I looked at my palm. He laughed. Flirting with him suddenly flowed naturally. It had been a long time since I’d wanted to interest a man. “Belinda likes to have too much. And no, I’m not catering. Just cheese.” I held up the by now pathetic looking bags. The contents had warmed and I could smell the nauseating mixtures.
“So, you’re Upper West side.” He smiled and I had an instant picture of basking in that glow over a long candlelit dinner. What the heck was going on? I felt flushed and unsettled around him and a sense of danger.
“Not hard to figure out with Zabar’s bags. I guess you’re not a psychic. Do you work with Belinda?”
“Psychic is one of the few jobs I’ve never had. Freelance journalist, novelist, once in a while do a travel piece for Belinda. Let me reintroduce myself. Devon McIntire.”
He held out his hand which clasped mine warmly for a confident long moment. I began to sweat under my shell and was tongue-tied. “Melanie Deming,” I finally blurted out.
“Are you related to Daniel Deming?” he asked cautiously.
“Only by marriage,” I quipped. I watched hesitation quickly come and go as he glanced away and back. He returned to looking at me, possibly more intrigued than before.
“Melanie, you’re here, finally. Where’s the cheese?” Daniel’s booming voice and large presence overwhelmed my tête-à-tête. Daniel pecked me on the cheek and grabbed the bags.
“I see you’ve met Devon. Great guy. Remember I told you I met a writer downstairs last week? That was Devon. Come over and say hello to Belinda.” With his free hand Daniel took my arm and pulled me through the party. Was this jealousy? Devon was the freelancer who had to hustle to make money.
How often had I ever felt blasted by heat three times like this from a man? Never. I allowed myself a seductive wave at Devon. I wanted to get back to talk to him. Had meeting me affected him the way it affected me? He probably threw out sexual vibes to every woman he met.
With Daniel at the helm, I sailed through a sea of black. Black shiny nylon sheaths, black leather and suede blazers, black turtlenecks, black lace, black silk suits. This crowd would never have to stand in front of their closets worrying about what to wear to a funeral.
“Melanie. You’re an angel. Daniel told me. Do you have a drink yet?” And there stood Belinda. Neon fuchsia silk pantsuit, black hair so short you could see her scalp. An endless mouth and earrings that appeared to be two acrobats in the missionary position.
“Do you know Melanie, Daniel’s charming wife?” she addressed the three people gathered around her. One was an older—for this crowd that meant over forty-five—woman with a grey pageboy in a grey silk suit. A tall young guy in regulation black pants, crew neck sweater and black rimmed glasses. A Black woman in a voluminous brown and black caftan. I smiled. We all nodded. Belinda said the names so fast I’d forgotten the first one before the next introduction. The smile faded off Belinda’s face by the last name. She glared at someone. I shifted my gaze and saw her husband and a gorgeous blonde wearing a black furry micro mini skirt in a serious conversation. John held her by the elbow and openly leered.
“Oh John, can I see you a minute?”
Belinda raced off, fuchsia flying, to remind him of his marital status. I turned to Daniel, who stood like a sergeant waiting for orders, with the bags.
“Where can I get a drink?” I asked.
Daniel blinked like he had awoken from a trance, a state he was often in around Belinda. Probably brought about by total terror.
“Over there. I’ve got to give this to the waiters.” He peeked into a bag and looked up, his face stricken with shock. “You got Danish fontina instead of Australian?”
“Wow. That’s terrible?” I guessed Carey’s expertise was limited, but who would give a damn.
“By the way,” Daniel whispered, willing to forget the cheese disaster, “the grey pageboy is an agent. Maybe you should talk to her. Get some ideas about what’s selling.”
Well, this was new for Daniel. Thinking about me writing something. His mouth got tense. “But no mention of the murder to anyone, agreed?”
Why in the world would I want to tell strangers about a wonderful man like Ralph? Why did Daniel even have to remind me? He left with the smelly cheese, I looked for the bar, not that sparkling water with cranberry juice would help my mood. I made my way through the chattering crowd.
“Can you imagine? They sent a five-page piece back with ten pages of notes? Then they expect her to redo it for no money.”
“Those editors should be tarred and feathered.” A tall white-haired man with deep worry lines lit his pipe. Really, he could smoke here?
“Paul’s in Paris for the fall shows to do a piece about which models eat at what restaurants. You know the angle.”
“That’s a joke. Paul doesn’t care about food. Unless he can have a young designer for dessert.” Two young women laughed.
“Models don’t eat, do they?” I commented as I walked past. They just stared at me, or at my clearly out-of-style jacket.
It was downright enlightening to walk through this group. The bar, with a crowd around it, was a masterpiece of cherry wood and black slate that said these premises were meant for serious drinking and partying. Necessities for the magazine world.
I sipped my cranberry cocktail and tried to think of a clever way to start a conversation with the literary agent. Daniel had disappeared as usual, leaving me on my own. I had time to assess the footwear of the female population. I realized that my shoes, Ann Taylor pumps, were hideous and wrong. Chunky and high or four-inch stilettos were the only possibility in this downtown crowd, or any clog type thing could pass. My shoes announced to the room that I was an out-of-work mother who hadn’t had a creative thought in years. Barefoot would be cooler. Or I could run downstairs and buy anything that cost hundreds of dollars.
“You the identified driver?” Devon and his come-hither eyes had returned.
“Nope. Too many calories in alcohol. I like to save myself for food.” Devon was making a move here despite Daniel. He clearly remembered our moments on the street. Maybe he got turned on by married women. Was he here with someone? No one was running up to grab him away. I felt flushed and like a teenager at her first dance.
“Devon, how are you? Haven’t seen you since Frankfurt last year.” It was the agent with the grey pageboy. I stood there smiling stupidly while Devon went through repeat introductions and said her name. Susan something.
Susan turned to me. “How many children do you have?”
The shoes. I knew it. They were a dead giveaway.
“Just one daughter. She’s nine, a great age.”
Wrong answer. Better to say I had had my tubes tied. The agent’s mouth turned up in a polite smirk. She and Devon proceeded to do a publishing chat. Who’d been fired, rehired at which house, which companies merged or were bought, how much everyone got. What was selling: apparently any book by a celebrity who had a spiritual awakening after being addicted to drugs and alcohol. An abusive childhood or a jail sentence thrown in wouldn’t hurt. Any world-coming-to-an-end fiction thriller with a main character hell bent for destruction and heroism, but first held captive inside a UFO. Or could it be celebrities who were held captive by UFOs? Devon had forgotten I was so alluring.
I stood there becoming the incredible shrinking woman soon to be stomped on by a stiletto heel. The feeling grew like a balloon that this was my last chance before I remained forever frozen as an unsuccessful writer in the wrong shoes tagging after a chunky husband who got acclaim. The thought became stronger and horribly urgent. With a final desperate push, I was off the diving board head first into bottomless water.
“I write too,” I announced to no one in particular.
“Really?” Devon turned his eyes back to me with that same warmth, but now with slightly more respect and a hint of competitiveness. Or was that my imagination?
“What have you written?” asked the agent in her professional tone. After all you never knew where the next Bridgesof Madison Countymight be.
“Just some screenplays still sitting on the shelf.” Their faces immediately glazed over. Boring. I was still shrinking.
“But,” I said loudly, “I have this great idea for a mystery.”
The agent perked up. Devon was attentive. I had my audience now. I proceeded to tell the story of the murder of an African-American boxer, now a caretaker. They liked the playground setting and really got into the homeless guy with the bat, the white girlfriend with a secret, the ex-wife who baked for the Waldorf, the boxing coach who stood to inherit but was in trouble with the mob, the teacher who discovered the body. The amateur sleuth who was followed by suspects, and finally an attempt on her life. This was fiction.
“Melanie,” a voice that I didn’t want to hear at this moment interrupted me.
I swiveled my head around enough to confirm it was indeed Daniel, but I kept looking at Susan. She seemed upset I had stopped telling my story. Which was a good sign.
“Sorry,” Daniel apologized. “I have to steal her away to meet someone.” He smiled through clenched teeth that only a wife would notice.
“What’s the rush Daniel? Let her finish,” urged Devon protectively. “We have to know how it ends.”