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Think you can trust your husband? Think again!
That's what the gossipy types at Erica Bentley's new job say. Even her (multi-divorced) mom agrees. But Erica's sure she knows her husband, Tom, better than that. He says he loves her, and shows it in a million ways. Except...he has been working extra-late these days. And he's been kinda quiet. Even secretive.
Happily married Tom Bentley never thought his head could be turned—until he saw Clara. Her sleek body has him longing, and he can't get her 127" wheelbase out of his mind. That's right. Erica's "competition" is...a car.
The beautiful Buick has Tom completely car-crazy. And Erica's sleuthing is making her just plain crazy. One of them needs to come clean with their newest obsessions, before Clara drives their happy marriage into a ditch!
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Pamela Morsi is a bestselling, award-winning novelist who finds humor in everyday life and honor in ordinary people. She lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband and daughter.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
For Tom Bentley it was love at first sight. She was beautiful, there was no denying that. She was graceful, sophisticated, enticing. Her long sleek lines were unmarred by even the tiniest defect. It was as if everything about her had been designed to catch a man's eye, to lure him to her, to make him want to possess her. To make him want to take her home. And that's what Tom wanted.
His heart beat faster and he verbalized his thoughts with a loud wolf whistle.
"Gorgeous," he declared as he took a step back to get a better perspective.
"Yes, she's still a mighty pretty girl," the older woman beside him agreed. "But she's not as young as she used to be."
Tom nodded. The hints of her age were visible, but somehow her beauty was unaltered, timeless. And just the sight of her tugged at something in him, something buried deep but which now sprang to the surface, causing the blood to tingle in his veins and his breath to catch in his throat.
"Just gorgeous," he repeated. "How many miles has she got on her?"
The elderly woman chuckled. "Isn't that as unwelcome a question as asking a woman her age?"
Tom managed for a moment to tear his eyes away from the car to grin at the little old lady who'd invited him here. Gladys Gilfred, Guffy to her friends, was at least eighty, a few inches short of five feet and weighed about as much as Tom's toolbox. Her steel–gray hair was clipped in what could only be described as a crew cut. In the day's slightest nip of fall weather, she was clad in a couple of thick, heavy sweaters, some men's gray trousers and a bright orange beret. She was a bit hard of hearing, but made up for it with a quick wit.
He smiled at her. "My apologies, ma'am," he said. "I didn't mean to offend you or your Buick."
"You are forgiven," Mrs. Gilfred said. "Neither Clara nor I were ever very good at holding a grudge."
"Clara?" Tom asked. "Is that what you call her?"
She nodded. "I named her for my best friend from childhood," she said. "Clara was always pretty and fun."
Pretty and fun. Tom's eyes were drawn back to the car. What more could a guy want?
He hadn't expected to fall in love that afternoon. He'd spent the entire trip across town in a state of annoyance. Cliff, his best friend and most dependable employee, had just disappeared in the middle of the morning with no real explanation. Tom wasn't able to leave the shop until he got back. And that had made him more than an hour past when he'd said he'd be here. People never remember when you show up on time. But they never forget if you made them wait. That wasn't the impression he wanted to give of himself or his business. But sometimes things happened that you couldn't anticipate. And they affected other things in ways you couldn't predict.
"She's a real beauty," Tom said as he walked slowly around the car, taking in every view of the vehicle with appreciation.
He hadn't wanted to come out on a house call. He preferred his customers to come to the shop. But his business was less than two years old. He still had to take work where he could find it. And this morning it was in Leon Valley, a small Texas town that had become part of San Antonio's urban sprawl.
Tom stopped just behind the car and reached out to run a hand along the sweep of chrome on her side.
"Nice, really nice," he said almost under his breath. "Her body couldn't be in much better shape."
"She's not just nice to look at," Mrs. Gilfred assured him. "Back when she was running, Clara purred like a kitten."
Tom smiled. The Buick Roadmaster convertible was an all–around top–of–the–line machine. Sleek styling, lots of chrome and just a hint of fins in its future, this particular model was exceptionally appealing. She had a two–tone color palatte, the upper third and the convertible top was a deep royal, almost navy. Beneath the curved chrome and the four characteristic ventiport holes, she was powder–blue. The huge jet–plane hood ornament and shiny grill dominated the front. Between the fuselage–like headlights was a stylized circle with the year 1956 impressed into the emblem. The extended back bumper sported the "continental kit," a chrome–and–metal cover to carry the spare tire in style.
"How long have you had her?" Tom asked.
"I drove her off the showroom floor when she was brand–new," Mrs. Gilfred answered. "I've done every lick of maintenance on her myself. Clara and I have been through our whole lives together."
The Buick was certainly a feast for the eyes, Tom wouldn't deny that. But there was something else, too, something that tugged at him in some primitive snippet of desire or memory. It spoke to him on a level that was the totality of his whole life's yearning.
"She's been here in this garage for ten years or more. My vision has gotten so bad I can't even see enough to change the oil, and I sure wasn't about to get her out on the road."
Tom couldn't resist another minute. "Can I open her up?" he asked.
When Mrs. Gilfred nodded, Tom slipped his fingers into the grill and released the latch. He lifted the hood to gaze inside, holding his breath for an instant of anticipation.
"Not too bad," he announced.
Tom bent over the big 322 V–8. The engine, known among its adherents as the Nailhead, definitely looked its age. The belts were rotten and the hoses cracked. Of course all that would have to be replaced, but that was easy.
"Once I can get her started I can give you a better idea of the shape she's in."
Tom unscrewed the wing nut atop the breather and removed it to get a better look at the carburetor. Using the flat tip of a screwdriver he pried open the choke plate. Inside the throttle valve looked fine and it was clear of debris. But it would probably have to be rebuilt anyway. Neglect was a carburetor killer.
"Mrs. Gilfred, I'd love to get a chance to work on her. I'll try to get her running again as inexpensively as I can."
"Good," the older woman said. "Clara needs to be driven. There is a lot of life in her yet."
"Let me get my phone out of my truck and I'll call to have her picked up."
"You're going to tow her to your shop?" Mrs. Gilfred asked.
"We'll put her on a trailer," Tom assured her. "It's never good to tow one of these old automatic transmissions."
"Yes, she is automatic."
Tom nodded absently. "Variable pitch Dynaflow," he said in a whisper that was almost reverent.
Mrs. Gilfred nodded in agreement.
Tom walked the length of the driveway toward his own vehicle. The Ford pickup that he'd bought a couple of years before he married was a fun, functional little truck. Stenciled on the doors was his business name, Bentley's Classic Car Care, and the logo that his wife, Erica, had drawn. It was a winged emblem harkening to the luxurious and historic British car company Bentley Motors. But rather than the graceful winged B, Tom's B3C logo was cartoonish and featured the less awe–inspiring feathered span of a domestic chicken. He always smiled when he saw it, because it reminded him of his wife. Erica was down–to–earth and self–effacing. She had a clear–eyed view of the world and a great, good humor that came out in very unexpected ways.
Quickly Tom made his phone call. From the lock–bin in the truck bed he retrieved the spare battery that he always carried and lugged it back to the Buick. The cables were corroded almost solidly onto the old posts and it took him several minutes to get them loose. Once he'd put his battery in place he cleaned up the connectors as best he could and then connected them tightly.
As Mrs. Gilfred watched, he tried the ignition.
The key clicked on, but nothing happened.
"We're not getting a spark," he told her. "The plugs may be just too dirty."
Mrs. Gilfred leaned beside him, squinting under the hood's dark interior. Even her poor eyesight couldn't inhibit the desire to see the engine in action.
"I know you can get her running again."
"Oh, she'll run," Tom assured her. "She's going to need some work, but I can get you back to driving her for sure."
The old woman smiled slightly at him and then sighed. "No, I can't see to drive anymore," she said. "I'm getting Clara fixed up to sell her."
Momentarily Tom's excited heart skipped a beat. Then rational thought came over him in a wave.
"I'm sure you won't have any trouble lining up a buyer," he said.
Mrs. Gilfred straightened to her full height. "I'm not willing to sell her to just anybody," she said. "Half the tattooed hoodlums in this town have tried to buy her. My good–old Clara deserves a better fate than to be glass–packed and hot–rodded into somebody's muscle machine. She may be able to do a hundred, but she's not a fast woman, she's a lady."
Tom laughed at the description. His heart was beating quickly again. Once more he forced mature thinking to crowd out the kid inside him. With a business barely two years old and a son who'd just started first grade, the last thing his family needed was for him to spend good money on a cool car.
"My shop attracts a lot of collectors," he told her. "They're guys who really love these vehicles just like they are. I can put the word out that you're looking to sell. I'm sure the right person will step up."
"That's what I was hoping," Mrs. Gilfred said. "That's what I was hoping exactly. And I'm willing to pay you a ten–percent commission."
Tom nodded, pleased. He and Erica could always use the money.
"Husbands are just like used cars. You can get them all over town, they're cheap and unreliable."
The women around the cafeteria lunch table at University Hospital hooted with appreciation at Callie Torreno's joke. Erica Bentley, seated at the edge of the group, laughed, too. The camaraderie at the table was contagious, even if the jokes were old.
"Yeah, you know I used to think I should date older men because they were more mature," Rayliss Morton chimed in. "Then I realized none of them are mature, so I might as well just enjoy the younger ones!"
The women liked that one, too.
Erica was the "new girl," still trying to fit in. Though she wasn't really new. She'd come to work here the first time when the ink wasn't quite dry on her credentials as a Registered Health Information Technician. But she'd quit work when her son, Quint, was born. Now after six years as a stay–at–home mom, this was her second week back on the job.
"It wouldn't be so funny if it wasn't true," Darla Ingalls said. "My husband, Kyle, is such a kid. If it were up to him, we'd eat pizza seven nights a week and he'd decide what to wear to work based on which dirty shirt stinks less."
"But at least you can trust Kyle with the kids," Lena Wallace declared in a case of one–upmanship. "I leave the kids with Aiden to go shopping and he lays down on the couch for a nap. He takes a nap while he's supposed to be watching a three–year–old!"
"Kyle is good with the kids because he's like one of them," Darla told her. "There is nothing positive about that."
Callie turned her attention down the length of the long cafeteria table.
"What about you, Erica?" she asked. "Is your husband an idiot? Or are you married to Mr. Perfect, like Melody here."
The last was said with heavy sarcasm. Erica glanced over at Melody. Melody Garwin was the sour apple in their tasty dessert dish. The least popular member of the group, she typically evoked eye rolls as she described her husband, Gabe, as either "a genius," "a hero" or "someone I look up to."
"Tom isn't perfect," Erica answered. "But that works out well for us, cause neither am I."
The self–deprecating humor was a good response. The group seemed to like her. And Erica was eager to make friends at the office. Having work buddies was, in her memory, one of the nice bonuses of full–time employment.
The cafeteria at University Hospital was a huge expanse of tables and chairs set next to a wall of two–story windows. Glancing around the room provided a short course in the diversity of the community. The majority of the people were Hispanic, but there were almost as many Anglos. A good number of African–Americans. Some Asians. And other people who by virtue of heritage or home country didn't quite fit into any of the large designations. They were all together eating lunch in little groups here and there. The groups were not divided by race or creed or color. At the hospital cafeteria, people were self–segregated by job description.
The housekeeping staff clung together in noisy good humor in the southwest corner, never sharing a word with laundry personnel just across the aisle. The X–ray techs perhaps recognized each other by the radiation meters they wore. And the nurses always found lunch companionship with other nurses. Doctors, of course, whether in lab coats or scrubs were given a wide berth by everyone.
And the women from Medical Records, attired more or less chicly in business attire, sat every day between noon and twelve–thirty at the table parallel to the east wall's brick facade. It had been the same when Erica had worked here before.
She didn't know what occurred at other tables, but Erica imagined that over lunch the doctors discussed patient protocols. And the nurses mused about the prognosis of the sweet old man just admitted from the emergency room.
However, transcription and coding was basically translating Latin names of diseases and technical descriptions of procedures into a classification of numbers. Not the kind of interesting stuff people wanted to chat about over salad. Instead they filled their lunch break with family news and hospital gossip.
Callie and Darla were the ringleaders of the group. Callie, in her mid–forties, was happily divorced and funny to the point of caustic.
Darla was a couple of years younger than Erica. She obviously admired Callie's power and freedom and lived vicariously though the stories of her dating life.
Rayliss had never been married, but was an expert on the subject. Lena was pretty and peppy, wrapped up in her home life with husband and kids. Melody, despite being married to the self–described "perfect man" was humorless, ill–at–ease and tended to overeat. And Mrs. Converse, the supervisor of the department, had the good sense to take her lunch at her desk every day.
Erica imagined herself eating alone, but she didn't want that. She'd just spent the past six years being home full–time. She'd eaten thousands of lunches alone. Though mostly she'd eaten with Quint. In memory she could see him negotiating over squash.
"You need to eat five bites to know if you like it," she informed him.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Mira, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110778329852
Book Description MIRA, 2011. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0778329852
Book Description Mira, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Original. Seller Inventory # DADAX0778329852