Friday, September 30, 2016

Aim for the Heart - Chapter Four

Yeah, it's Friday! Time for another segment of my 1920's romance...

If you're just starting to read this, look back through my blog posts and you'll see the other chapters.

If anyone had told Monica a week ago she’d be meeting Michael Zambino in person, she would have called them liars to their face. But here she was, putting on her most conservative, non-form flattering dress, very little make-up, and wearing no jewelry. The less flattering she looked, the better. Strange thing was…this disguise wasn’t very different from how she usually appeared. Regardless, for her interview with Michael Zambino, she wanted to be the plainest Jane he’d ever seen; no fancy beads, lace or feathers. She’d styled her hair into a bun to appear like she was the Librarian at her school. Monica even borrowed a hat from the old bird, Mrs. Jenkins, next door. How else was she going to convince Mr. Zambino she took her job as a nanny very seriously, and would only concentrate on his children?
The drive to the Zambino mansion made her palms sweat as she gripped the steering wheel. Taking deep breaths to calm her erratic heartbeat wasn’t working as she’d thought, but there was no way she would back down. Securing a position in the Zambino household was top priority, and the first step to finding her stepfather’s killer.
As she came upon the mansion, she sucked in a deep breath. Only at night had she driven by this house, and in the daylight, the place was magnificent. Blue trim decorated each window frame of the Victorian style white house. Arched doorways and a steeply gabled roof were other highlights of the structure. Red bricks lined the large wrap-around porch and steps. The second story also had window balconies as beautiful green vines decorated the boxes.
A ten-foot fence circled the property and a guard stood at the main gate. The man was as tall as he was round, and by his scruffy expression, she knew he would not let anyone enter unless they had an appointment.
He came forward with a clipboard in his hand. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Monica… Jewell.” It took her a moment to remember that the last name on the application was her birth name, Jewell. The school records made her register with her birth name, and for the first time, she was extremely thankful they had. “I’m here for my interview with Mr. Zambino.”
He glanced at his list then nodded and moved back to let her enter.
She drove to the front, parked the car and climbed out. Her legs trembled as she made her way up the steps to the double doors with brass knobs. After she knocked, a butler answered the door and showed her into an office, just off from the main hall. Decorated in green and brown, the room definitely gave her the feeling of being somewhere professional.
And dangerous.
She swallowed hard, knowing she was actually inside a mobster’s house.
Two high-backed leather chairs with clawed wooden legs stood in front of the large desk. It was then when she finally noticed the man behind the desk because he stood and sauntered around in front to greet her.
He didn’t look dangerous. He was tall with a muscular body. Then again, any man that worked with the mafia would have to be incredibly strong. His square face held a pleasant expression and his eyes warmed when he smiled. Perhaps in his mid-fifties, the man had very little gray highlighting his receding brown head of hair. Very few wrinkles marred his face, except when he smiled, and then they were only around his eyes.
He held out his hand in greeting. “Good afternoon, Miss Jewell. I’m Eddie Larrendino, Mr. Zambino’s secretary.”
Taking a deep breath for courage, she smiled and shook his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“I’ll interview you first, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
He motioned to one of the brown leather chairs in front of the desk. “Please, take a seat.”
After she had positioned herself in her chair, he walked back around his desk and sat. He picked up a piece of paper and glanced at it before meeting her gaze.
“Miss Jewell, tell me about yourself.”
She held her hands together tightly in her lap and began an incredible lie. Well, most of the story was true, but she would build herself up if she had to. “I’m twenty-three and I’ve been attending the University for three years now. I have only four more months to go before I graduate. I have been taking classes in child psychology and teaching, and I have received good grades with high honors. When I was still in high school, I took a part time job watching the neighbor’s children in the evening. I’m very good with children. On one occasion, I rescued a child who had slipped into the small pond near their home, and I saved him from drowning.”
“How commendable.” He nodded. “What kind of social life do you have?”
Shyly, she lowered her eyes and looked at her folded hands. “I’m sorry to report I don’t have much of a social life. I spend too much time with my studies to have many friends.”
He looked at the paper, then up at her again. “Would you be able to give me the name of the family who you watched after school…for reference, of course.”
“Well, they moved out of town the year I graduated high school, but I’m sure if I asked around, I could find people who might know where they are living now.”
“All right. That would be fine.” His eyes riveted back to the paper again as his eyes scanned the page. When he was done, he placed the paper on the desk and stood. “Excuse me for a minute. I’ll be right back.” He walked around the desk and out another door that was joined to the office.
Nervously, she jiggled her leg in a fast rhythm. She couldn’t blow it. She had to impress them somehow. As she glanced around the room, pictures of classic cars hung on the walls. Norman would have gone hog wild for sure. Then again, if Norman were still alive, she wouldn’t be risking her own neck by being here.
Time seemed to pass slower, but soon the door opened and Mr. Larrendino entered, followed by another man who wore a pinstriped suit and had the body of a brick wall. Another man walked behind him, and right away Monica guessed him to be Michael Zambino. Not only was he dressed nicer than the other men, but he held a certain kind of power as he waltzed into the room as if he were King Midas. Immediately, his gaze zeroed in on her.
Arrogance surrounded Michael Zambino by the haughty tilt to his head, the lift of his chin, and the way he arched one eyebrow. The head-honcho was also a large man, but not as tall as his secretary. He also had wide shoulders, and a broad chest and legs that were designed like tree stumps.
This man fit his Italian heritage through and through, and unfortunately, he had the good looks of an Italian as well. He appeared to be in his early forties, but looked younger than his wife Mary, because his face held fewer wrinkles. His hair was midnight black and thick, cut short. His eyes were so dark they looked black, also. Still, no matter how good-looking he was, danger lurked about him like an evil shadow. She shuddered inside.
Mr. Larrendino and the other man stood by the large bookcase at the back of the desk, each on the opposite side of their employer. Michael sat behind the mahogany roll-top desk, linking his fingers together and resting them on the hard wood.
“Miss Jewell,” he began. “I’m Michael Zambino. I have a few questions to ask you. Do you mind?”
Her heart beat wildly and she tried to act calm. “Of course I don’t mind. This nanny position is after all for your children. Is it not?”
He nodded. “Yes, of course.” He leaned back on the chair, resting his chin on his steepled fingers as he studied her.
It was quite unnerving to have this powerful, dangerous, and yes, possibly corrupt, man assessing her, but she sat through the agonizing torture, anyhow.
“Miss Jewell? May I call you Monica?”
“Yes, you may.”
“Monica, the question that appears in my mind is why you would take a nanny position and possibly lose the chance of finishing school when you only have four months left before graduating?”
Panic grew inside her like an inflatable balloon. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Of course the people who were with the mafia would think that. Oh, dear.
She glanced from one man by the bookcase to Michael Zambino’s secretary. Were they ever going to leave? “Uh, well,” she stumbled nervously.
Michael motioned his hand in one of his guard’s direction. “Don’t worry about them. They are here at my command. Just regard them as pictures on the wall, if you must. They will not bother us.”
She nodded. “All right.”
Knowing she had to tell another lie, she silently prayed God would forgive her and understand why she had to do this. “As much as I regret the possibility of not finishing school, it is more important for me at this point in my life to find a job so that I can find a place to live. I am currently living with my cousin and would rather not burden her any longer. Besides,” she tried to smile again, “school is not completely lost for me. I can always go back and finish later.”
Michael studied her for a few minutes longer. “What is the reason you are living with your cousin now?”
Swallowing hard, her hands squeezed together tightly. “I was living at the college, but after my father died I no longer had the money he was paying for my room and board. My cousin let me live with her until I found a place on my own.”
Michael glanced back down at the page in his hand. “Yes, your father, Kyle Jewell, died five months ago of heart disease.”
He did? Monica knew the look of surprise registered on her face, so quickly thought of a way to cover it. “Yes, he did. But how do you know that?”
Mr. Zambino grinned. “It’s my job to know everything about the people I interview.”
She nodded, but kept quiet. She was relieved to know Kyle’s death worked perfectly for her plans.
His focus moved back to the page in his hand and remained there for only a few moments longer before he put it down on the desk. His gaze lifted and met hers. “Are you interested in working for me, Monica?”
“Yes, very much, sir.”
“You would be required to live here in this house with the children. You would be their nanny, not their teacher, although you would be allowed to play some teaching games with them, if you like.” He paused before adding, “Do you still want the job?”
She smiled big, not believing he’d actually chosen her, and that she’d get the chance to avenge her stepfather. “Oh yes, thank you, sir. Thank you so very much. You have no idea what this means to me.”
He still remained in his chair as he looked at her. It took him a few seconds before a grin appeared on his face. “Monica? What would you say if I told you that you can finish college and still work for me?”
She lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “I can? How?”
He grinned in that all too arrogant way Monica was used to seeing by now. “Oh, I can pull a few strings. Don’t you worry about it.”
“Indeed? You can do that?”
It was at this time when the other two men in the room chuckled. Monica had almost forgotten about them being there. Michael laughed too.
He stood from his chair, walked around the desk, and sat on the corner right in front of her. “You’d be surprised what I can do.” He reached out and took her cold and clammy hands in his, pulling her up out of the chair. “Come. I’ll introduce you to my wife.”
He dropped her hands and walked with her to the door. The other man whom she hadn’t met yet, opened the door for both of them.
“Mary?” Michael called as they stepped into the long hallway.
Monica recognized Mary from the other night, and she hoped that Mary didn’t recognize her. Mrs. Zambino smiled brightly.
“Hello,” Mary greeted nicely.
Monica studied the other woman’s expression closely. Mary’s eyes twinkled when they met Monica’s, and a wide smile tugged on the corners of her mouth. Mary’s obvious acceptance made her feel at ease. She could get to like Mrs. Zambino, she decided.
“Mary. This is Monica Jewell, our new nanny.”
Mary took her hands and clasped them with Monica’s. “Oh, really? I’m so very happy to meet you. I know you’ll just love the children and I’m sure they will love you, too. In fact, they are outside. Let me go—”
“Mary.” Michael stopped her with a strong voice. “Let us allow Monica to return home and pack first. She can meet the children tonight after supper.”
Mary quietly stepped away from Monica and dropped her hands. “That would be fine,” she said, meekly.
Michael turned to Monica. “I’ll send my chauffeur home with you to help you get your things together.” He turned to the man standing next to him and nodded. The guard swung around and hurried out the front doors.
Monica’s heart dropped as panic suffocated her. How had she forgotten about that man? She for certain hadn’t stopped thinking about their kiss. “Oh, please don’t. I have my own car. I can go by myself.”
“Monica,” Michael said sternly, yet sweetly, “your first lesson will be learned quickly. When I offer you my assistance you should be wise and not turn it down.”
If Monica were not acting right now, she would have told Michael Zambino what she thought about his bullying tactics, but she needed to hold her tongue. She glanced at Mary who silently communicated with her eyes that Monica better do as Michael says.
Monica looked back at him. “I…I would just hate to impose.”
Michael’s stern expression left his face and he laughed merrily. “Monica, you are now a part of the Zambino household, so you will not be imposing, I assure you.”
The front door opened and the gorgeous chauffeur sauntered inside. This was her first time seeing him in the light, and he was even better looking than he was in the shadows. He strutted right past her and stopped by Michael without giving her a second glance.
Michael clasped the driver on the shoulder. “Tony, I would like you to meet the newest member of my household.” Michael turned and pulled on her arm, making her step forward more. “This is the new nanny, Monica Jewell.”
Tony glanced at her and nodded. Just as he started to look away, his attention snapped back to her as he gave her another once-over. When his eyes widened, Monica silently groaned. He recognized her.
The corner of his mouth stretched into a wide smile. “Hello, Miss Jewell. Happy to make your acquaintance.”
Monica’s heart beat in a fast rhythm, and wished it wouldn’t act this way whenever this particular man smiled. Her knees also weakened slightly, but it was a completely different weakness than she had felt earlier before coming here.
She returned a smile, although shaky. “Nice to meet you too, Mr.—”
“Kelly. Anthony Kelly is my name, but everyone just calls me Tony.”
“Tony?” Michael spoke up. “I need you to take Monica to her apartment and help her pack her things. She will be moving in tonight.”
Without taking his eyes from her, he nodded. “Yes, Mr. Zambino. I will be most happy to assist Monica.”
Michael turned toward her. “Tony will take good care of you. When you return, Mary will have your room ready and instruct you on what needs to be done.”
Monica smiled the best she could at the over powering and domineering man. “Thank you, once again.”
He gave her a nod, and then turned and walked away from them, making their conversation final.
She switched her attention back to Tony. From the gleam in his eyes, she knew their ride to her apartment would not be relaxing at all.

**READERS - if you would like to read more, I have the next 16 chapters on Radish, which is a free phone app.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Aim for the Heart - Chapter Three

Here I am again, with another action-filled chapter!! ENJOY!

Before she had time to think about what was happening—or why—he pressed his lips against hers. She hitched a breath, startled by the electrifying and tender contact.
His lips were supple and moved over hers in a gentle manner as if hesitant of his own actions. Instead of trying to push him away or slapping his face at his boldness, her resistance disappeared and pleasure filled her. Beyond her control, a sigh escaped her throat. Closing her eyes, she returned the kiss the best she could since this was her very first time kissing a man so intimately.
The pressure of his arms changed. No longer was he just holding her up. Instead, he was embracing her so very sweetly. His large hands moved in slow but tender circles on her back. Cautiously, she slid her palms up his arms and hooked her wrists around his neck. The moment brought them closer together.
Only in her dreams could a man kiss this wonderfully. Dizziness assailed her, yet she didn’t want this dream to end. Her mind wouldn’t work yet, either, because all she could concentrate on was the unfamiliar sensations flowing through her body right now. She’d never felt so hotsy-totsy in her life.
He shifted and his arms tightened around her. But in the midst of the dream she floated in, his gun pressed hard against her side. Quickly, she snapped to awareness. He must have a gun hidden under his chauffeur’s coat. Finally, her mind made her realize this man was part of Zambino’s mobsters!
No matter how hard it would be, she must break the kiss! She needed to get away from him and never look upon him again.
Slipping her hands between their bodies, she pushed against his chest to free herself from his embrace. This time she was able to feel the outline of his gun a little better, which scared her even more. She stepped back and met his warm gaze. He grinned. The beat of her heart was out of control, and she tried breathing slower.
“Are you all right, miss?” he asked, his voice husky.
“I…um, I—” she stuttered in confusion as she looked around her. They were now the only two people on the sidewalk. What happened to the stampede a minute ago?
His hand cupped her chin and turned her face toward him. “What’s wrong?”
Her body shook from his touch, and her knees weakened. The sensation of his warm hand touching her sent tingles throughout her body. “Nothing is wrong. I’m just swell. But…what just happened?”
He presented an earth-shattering smile, the kind that stops women dead in their tracks and makes them swoon. In fact, she was close to losing consciousness herself.
“What happened?” He chuckled. “We kissed and the earth stood still, my sweet temptress.”
Her heart fluttered over his endearment. “I know that, but why did you kiss me?”
Leaning back against the car, he folded his arms over his wide chest. “I don’t know. I liked the way you felt in my arms and the way you gazed at my mouth as if you were mesmerized.” He shrugged. “I felt the urge and I took it.”
She shook her head. “So what happened before that?” She looked up the street again. “The commotion—you grabbing me and pulling me aside…”
“Oh, that. Well, there was a group of hoodlums who were almost upon you. I had seen them lurking around before you came out of the restaurant, and I suspected what they had planned.”
She met his stare, and tried not to melt again. “And what did they have planned?”
“They were going to bump into you and steal your purse.” He shrugged. “I’ve seen it before and I just didn’t want to see it happen to you.”
“But you don’t even know me.”
“No, but I figured since I knocked you down a week ago, that this was the opportunity to get to know you.”
Oh, no, he remembered! She wrapped her trembling arms around her middle to hold them still. “Thank you for saving me, but why would you go out of your way to protect a stranger?”
His devastating smile grew. “I felt bad because your date stood you up in the restaurant. And, I happen to think you are a strikingly beautiful woman.”
Her face heated, and she hoped he wouldn’t be able to see in the shadows since she wasn’t directly under the streetlight. But although his comment made her blush, she didn’t believe a word he said. She wasn’t considered pretty by any means, especially to good-looking men, and he was definitely the lead in that category.
“Thank you, but—” she stopped, not really knowing what to say.
He lifted her chin with his fingers until their eyes met again. “It was my pleasure.”
He winked and her stomach flipped. He was so incredibly charming, but she had to remember who he worked for and what he carried underneath that chauffeur’s jacket.
She took another step away. “Thank you again, but I’ve got to go.” She spun around. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw him reach out to grab her. Luckily, feminine voices floated from the front doors of the restaurant as the Zambino women exited.
Monica hurried to her car, and then looked back at him. Doing his job, he opened the door and helped the ladies in the Rolls Royce.
She breathed a sigh of relief and said a little prayer. Now that she had her mind back, she had to think of a way to get into Michael Zambino’s employ as his nanny. Even that devastatingly handsome driver would not distract her from her goals. At least she hoped he wouldn’t.
* * * *
Anthony Kelly watched the blue-eyed dame with the silky blonde, glorious hair practically run down the street. He would have given anything to go after her. She intrigued him not only with her beauty, but because he’d now run into her twice in a week. Unfortunately, his job came first, and at this moment he had to open the car door for the Zambino wives and drive them home.
Mary Zambino stopped in front of him before climbing in the car. “Tony, dear. Who was that young woman you were with just now?”
“I have no idea.” He glanced back down the street in the direction she’d gone. “She was almost attacked by some hoodlums. I think they were purse snatchers.”
Mary huffed and planted her hands on her hips. “I should talk to Michael about these capers who roam the streets after dark. This is a respectable restaurant and we don’t need hoods lurking around waiting to pounce on an innocent person.”
“You’re absolutely right, ma’am.”
The youngest of the Zambino brothers’ wives leaned closer to Tony and ran her bejeweled hand along his arm. “And you just had to be the one to rescue the girl, didn’t you?” She batted her long, false eyelashes.
He shrugged. “I do what I can, ma’am. Besides, I couldn’t just stand back and watch, especially since it would have happened right in front of me.”
“That is why we have this big, strong man with us, ladies,” Another Zambino wife commented in a flirtatious manner.
“So true, and Michael wouldn’t have it any other way,” Mary added before climbing in the car.
When the elder Zambino wife, Elizabeth, passed in front of him, she patted his cheek and gave him that motherly smile of hers. “Keep up the good work, my boy.”
He chuckled and shut the door. He’d only been in Michael’s employ for six months, but the women treated him like family. Well, the older women did, anyway. The younger ones gazed at him as if he were some kind of exotic Sheik made of nothing but passion that was put on earth for their gazing pleasure.
Tony knew it was only a matter of time before he got promoted from being a driver to working beside Michael Zambino as one of his men. Driving had been a good job for him to start out with, but Tony was trained for bigger and better things. Knowing Michael as he did, Tony figured his boss watched him closely, waiting until the moment he could finally trust him.
It would happen. Tony would make certain of it. He’d wanted this promotion for a very long time.
As he drove the chatting wives back to their home, he couldn’t stop thinking about the dame he met tonight. Actually, he hadn’t really met her, although their lips had met. He grinned. He definitely liked the way they were introduced. Words wouldn’t have been any stronger, that’s for certain.
He didn’t really know why he kissed her. She’d gazed at his mouth with eyes full of interest, which made him want to sample her sweetness. She was certainly worth the effort.
When he first noticed her in the restaurant looking all alone, he’d felt sorry for her. Obviously, she’d been stood up by her date, the stupid sap. What man in their right mind would leave a beautiful woman like her alone? But the more he watched, the more he realized she wasn’t there just to eat. He could tell from when the Zambino women had first arrived, that the doll was interested in them more than she was her food. It wasn’t a normal interest, either. Sometimes she had been straining her lovely neck to hear what the Zambino women were discussing.
Tony had been trained well, and his instincts were screaming at him that there was more to this young lady than he first thought. When she’d run into him by the drugstore, he never had a second thought to be suspicious. Seeing her tonight, however, his suspicion grew.
In fact, he was just about getting ready to walk to her table and introduce himself when his food had arrived. He had no other choice but to take his dinner outside and eat in the car. Then when she hustled out of the restaurant and headed his way, excitement built in his chest as he thought of a way to talk to her. Those hoodlums arrived at the perfect time.
And speaking of perfect…that kiss nearly knocked him speechless. Never had a woman’s innocent kiss made him want to cuddle her against him and hold her there forever.
Then again, he wasn’t used to kissing innocent women. That was probably why he found the kiss so exciting and made him breathless.
Now he wanted to know her better, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he suspected her of spying on the Zambino women, either. Unfortunately, unless fate intervened again, his job came first and he couldn’t look for the beauty that would be hard to forget.
When they reached home and he helped the women out, Michael Zambino walked through the opened door of the house toward him. Looking dignified, as always, the boss took leisurely steps. Mary hurried to her husband’s side, but she was brushed away. Rejection was an expression Tony saw too often on Mary’s face, and his heart went out to the wife who was always ignored by her husband. Michael had always put his men first. Shoot, even Michael’s mother was put above Mary.
Tony leaned back against the car, waiting for his employer to reach his side. Michael’s wealth showed in his pinstriped suit, hat, and the jeweled rings around his fingers. But it was more than that. Michael’s Italian heritage bespoke his every move and expression. People knew right away not to mess with the Big Zambino Cheese.
The only way for Tony to reach his goal was to get closer to Michael. One way or another, he was determined to get that promotion he deserved.
Zambino stopped in front of him, and his dark glare met Tony’s. Gulping, he hoped his boss didn’t notice the unease running through him right now. “Do you need me to take you someplace, Mr. Zambino?”
“Yes. I’ve just arranged an emergency meeting at the drugstore. We’ll need to pick up Donald and Campbell along the way.”
Tony opened the car door and motioned. “Ab-so-lute-ly!”
As Michael climbed in, Tony couldn’t wait to see what the important meeting was about. He hoped this would be the meeting Michael would finally allow him to attend.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Aim for the Heart - Chapter Two

It's FRIDAY!! And do you know what that means? It's time for another chapter of my 1920's romantic suspense story!! (If you haven't read the first chapter, check the previous post.)

Monica smiled wide as she exited the police station. It helped having one of Norman’s friends work here. She didn’t tell him about who she saw enter the drugstore, but discovered some helpful information nonetheless.
Apparently, Michael Zambino was the true owner of the drugstore, and the person who managed it was Damien Chiappa. The surname, Zambino, was well known around Chicago, mainly because of his wealthy Italian family. They owned a joint called The Pasta Cottage. She’d heard of this restaurant, too. Although the name gave the impression it would be more laid-back, the upper-class people dined there which made the place very ritzy. On the weekends, there would be a full band to jazz up the atmosphere.
Although she shouldn’t do it, determination controlled her thoughts. She would go to this restaurant tonight in hopes of hearing some important information.
Dolling herself up had always been a chore since she was as plain as any woman could be, but tonight she tried to dress as feminine as Anna. Monica chose one of Anna’s hand-me-down-because-I-lost-weight dresses; a lovely pastel blue with white trim that showed more of her knees and thighs than she’d wanted. At least the color accented her eyes, and the black-heeled shoes were the style all the girls wore because it made their ankles appear slim. She left her hair long and flowing down her back, but she pulled back the sides away from her face with fake diamond-studded combs. Most girls cut their hair in a cute bob-style, but Monica couldn’t bring herself to do it. Norman had always told her how much he loved her long hair. When she was younger and he’d read her bedtime stories, he’d always compared her to the fairy tale character, Rapunzel. He told her one day her prince would come to rescue her and they’d live happily ever after. Norman meant well, but she thought he was up in the night for believing in such nonsense.
It took only a half hour to drive to the restaurant, and another fifteen minutes before she walked into the establishment, and was seated. It was rather busy for a Tuesday night. The atmosphere was cozy; a place where families could come and enjoy themselves. The violin player walked from table to table, making his instrument sing beautifully which slightly relaxed her mood. The many pots of hanging plants didn’t take away from the brown and gray decorative wall colors in the room.
A waiter, dressed in black pants and a white shirt handed her the wine list. “Are you alone tonight?” he asked.
Embarrassed, she shook her head. “I’m actually meeting someone. He should be here any moment.”
“Take a look at the wine list, and order when you’re ready.”
“Actually,” she quickly stopped him before he left her table, “my friend and I would just like water to drink.”
He nodded. “As you wish. Here’s the menu.”
As she studied the menu, the waiter turned and left. Her heart hammered crazily, and she hoped nobody noticed how nervous she was. She also prayed she didn’t look too conspicuous sitting by herself. Then again, it had been the story of her life for many years, so she should be used to it.
She lifted the menu to hide her face, but peeked around it. As she glanced from table to table, she strained to listen to the many conversations circling the room. She waited to hear Michael Zambino’s name. Two minutes later, the waiter came back with her ice water. Instead of putting him off again, she ordered a salad and a turkey sandwich.
Sitting back in her chair, she took the opportunity to study the occupants in the restaurant. Nobody looked familiar, thankfully. Then again, her circle of friends didn’t frequent places like this, mainly because they couldn’t afford it. Neither could she, but she’d splurge just this once.
The front door opened and a group of women entered. Monica closely studied the five well-to-do women. They wore designer dresses with shiny pearls hanging around their necks—nothing but the Cat’s Pajamas for these ladies. Apparently, they came from wealth, and they were not ashamed to show it off.
Behind them, a man followed. Monica hitched a breath. It was that chauffeur she’d run into from the drugstore. Quickly, she rubbed her forehead, trying to hide her face so the chauffeur wouldn’t recognize her. Thankfully, she was able to peek between her fingers to watch.
The host of the restaurant greeted each woman with a hug and a kiss on each cheek then led them to the table right next to hers. Her gaze flew back to the chauffeur. He sat on one of the chairs in the waiting area and picked up the newspaper. Monica breathed a little easier. With any luck, he wouldn’t remember her at all since it had been nearly a week since they had their run-in behind the drugstore.
Out of the five women who were seated, only one could be considered really old. The silver-headed woman was possibly in her late sixties or early seventies, and although her body looked aged, her eyes did not. They were very much alive and extremely alert. For what her family did for a living, it was no wonder the woman was so observant.
Two of the other ladies were probably in their forties. The small wrinkles around their eyes and mouth, and the streaks of silver in their hair gave away their slightly older age. They were still very beautiful, and Monica was sure their money made them look that way. The final two women didn’t appear much older than Monica. Although passively pretty, their expensive clothes, hairstyles, and jewelry made them very attractive.
Monica glanced back at the chauffeur. Over the top of the newspaper, he kept his eyes on the women circling the table. Now she saw him in the light, it surprised her to see how young he was when just the other day she thought him to be older. If he was older than thirty, she’d be amazed. Beneath the brim of his chauffeur’s hat, his hair was black. Other than that, she couldn’t tell much more about him.
“Here is your meal, miss.”
Monica yanked her attention away from the chauffeur and to the waiter beside her.
“Would you like anything else?” he asked. “Or did you want to order for your friend?”
Sighing heavily, she frowned. “It looks like my friend isn’t going to show. Maybe he’ll come later.”
He gave her a dismissal nod before turning to the ladies at the next table. Monica lightly picked at her salad with her fork as she listened to their orders. When the waiter left, she slowly leaned closer, hoping to hear their conversation better. At first, the women were just beating their gums about nonsense, but Monica continued to listen for something—anything that seemed important.
One forty-year-old lady sighed heavily as she glanced at the older woman next to her. “I’m so upset with Michael. He fired my nanny today without any reason. I thought she was working out well, but then all of a sudden, Michael says she’s not good enough for his children, and she’s out the door. He made her leave before the children or I even had a chance to say goodbye.”
The woman with the silver hair patted the other’s hand. “I know my son, and he wants what’s best for his children. Not to worry, Mary. He’ll find another nanny very soon.”
“I just don’t know what to do with the children until then.” She moaned. “Six children are so very hard to handle alone.”
“Mary?” One of the younger women spoke. “George has told me that Michael put out an ad for a nanny, already. He’s going to make certain the woman has a lot of experience and is very educated. He thinks that will help make a better nanny for your kids.”
Mary threw up her hands. “I just wish he would communicate with me a little better. They are my children, too, after all.”
The silver-haired woman laughed. “Oh, Mary, how long have you been married to Michael? Don’t you understand Zambino men yet?”
As the women around the table chuckled, Monica’s mind took on a different path, and she didn’t hear anything after that. As she pieced together the conversation, her heart thundered in her chest. Michael Zambino was looking for a nanny. Some of her classes at the University were along the lines of child psychology and teaching children. Not only that, she had babysat for some of her neighbors while living with Norman, and she was paid pretty well for it. She’d be perfect for the job. The bonus of getting this position would be that she’d be closer to the man who was possibly responsible for Norman’s murder.
Moisture gathered in her palms as fear pumped through her. Six children were going to be hard to manage, but she must do it. No matter how scary, she had to meet the Big Cheese, Zambino. If he hired her, she’d be in a position where she could overhear any conversation. She could even do a little snooping. Of course, she wouldn’t do it right away. She’d earn the Zambino’s trust, first. But first things first, she had to do all she could to get this job.
She didn’t remember eating the rest of her salad and sandwich, or even when the waiter brought the check to her. Wheels in her head spun out of control, helping to formulate her plan. She would have to use her real last name instead of the name she’d used since she was six years old. But she had to make them believe she was Monica Jewell from Michigan, instead of Monica Lange from Chicago. As much as she hated her biological father’s name, she’d use it until it got her what she wanted.
Although she was not an actress, she’d definitely have to put on a performance of a lifetime. She must act as if she liked the Zambino family, hiding the deep hatred she had for them and all those who worked for him.
The waiter passed by Monica and brought her out of her thoughts. He served the women at the next table, chatting pleasantly while he handed them their plates of food. When he left, he returned to the kitchen and within seconds, came back carrying a brown paper bag. He walked to the chauffer and handed it to him. The chauffer nodded to the waiter, and then turned and left the restaurant.
Apparently, the chauffer was considered such an outcast that he was not allowed to eat in public. It did seem rather strange…or was there something else in the brown bag besides food? Monica’s over-active imagination went wild as she tried to come up with some answers.
When the waiter kept looking her way, she decided not to draw further attention to herself. It was time to leave. She pushed herself away from the table and walked up to pay for her meal. Hesitantly, she turned and exited out the front door, wishing she could stay and listen to Michael Zambino’s mother and his wife, Mary. But then, she didn’t want to get caught spying.
The first thing she noticed after exiting the restaurant was the 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost parked right out in front. The chauffer was out of the car, leaning up against the side, reading the newspaper underneath the lamp post.
Inwardly, she groaned. Walking by him to get in her car gave her the heebie-jeebies. Hopefully, he was so engrossed in the newspaper he wouldn’t notice her from last week.
Taking a deep breath for courage, she started on her way. She tried to keep her eyes on the sidewalk, watching her feet take careful, yet hurried steps. As she neared him, heavy footsteps pounded on the ground behind her, nearly sounding like a stampede.
She turned to glance over her shoulder to see who—or what—was coming her way, but a strong pair of arms wrapped around her waist. Before she knew what was happening, she was pressed against something solid, and incredibly male.
Tilting her head back to see who was holding her, she recognized the chauffeur. She gasped as fear immobilized her. He stepped back against the car, just underneath the streetlight. Now she was able to see more of his face.
He was the most handsome man she’d ever seen. Although she couldn’t detect what color his eyes were, she sensed danger. He was rugged and looked as if he could tackle a grizzly bear and win.
A smile slowly stretched his mouth. Suddenly, all of her previous thoughts disappeared. The image of his gorgeous face was imprinted in her mind, and for a moment, she hoped it would never leave.
His expression relaxed as he gazed down at her. His nose was straight, and his face sculpted by the Greek Gods themselves. When his attention moved to her mouth, all the danger she’d felt earlier came rushing back. This time, however, it was a different kind of danger. His full lips slowly turned up into a pleasant grin. She’d never seen such an incredible mouth in her life and she couldn’t look away. Never had she experienced the out-of-control desire to kiss a man like she did at this moment.
Within seconds, his grin softened. Slowly, he leaned his head towards her, his mouth inching closer and closer. 

**READERS - if you know me well enough, you'll know how much I like to tease. So, if you can't wait another week to read the next chapter to see what happens, I have uploaded the next five chapters on RADISH (or get the app for your phone - it's FREE, just search for Radish Fiction). It would be great if you can all support my writing by buying chapters. The chapters are really cheap on Radish, I promise! 

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