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An Angie Amalfi Mystery
A fat, salty tear trickled down Stanfield Bonnette's narrow cheek. He pulled a Kleenex from its cellophane packet. The tissue tore apart and he ended up with half in his hand, the other half still stuck in the packaging. A metaphor for his life.
Real men don't cry. He'd heard that often enough from his father, and believed it, even as he fought to stop his tears while walking down the steep hills away from his top-of-Russian-Hill San Francisco apartment.
Real men especially didn't cry out of self-pity over losing girlfriends they never had who were engaged to men they didn't like. Men who were more macho, more sexy, and definitely more exciting.
They didn't even cry when they had a job they despised, a father who scorned them, and they received no respect from anyone, ever.
Another tear formed in the corner of his eye and he wiped it away, even more disgusted with himself.
Outwardly, he had everything -- a well-paying job at a bank, good looks, a nice apartment, and access to his father's money whenever he needed it. He was in his early thirties, single, slim, with silky brown hair, brown eyes, and boyishly handsome looks. Back in the days when Hugh Grant was young and wildly popular, people said Stan reminded them of the English actor. Now both seemed a bit dated.
As he crossed Union Street he faced San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz -- old, solitary, and squalid, much the way he felt.
At the foot of Russian Hill, where the ground became level and flat, past the old red brick Cannery that had been converted into tourist shops and eateries, he reached Jefferson Street, the heart of Fisherman's Wharf. To his right were famous restaurants and tourist attractions, but where he stood the buildings were wooden, single-story, and windowless, with company names painted over doorways or garages, all a part of the real world of fishing boats, warehouses, and fisheries.
Many of the area's restaurants featured Italian food, yet another reminder of the woman he was mooning over, Angelina Amalfi. Okay, maybe it was true that they'd never seriously dated, and she'd never indicated that she felt anything for him other than friendship. But as she talked about her upcoming engagement party, he suddenly realized how much she meant to him. He had no doubt her engagement party -- being planned by her mother -- was going to be the biggest and most lavish ever held in the city of San Francisco.
If his mother were to plan an engagement party for him, it would probably consist of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hostess cupcakes. To say his mother wasn't thrilled with him or the way he was living was an understatement. And her disappointment was exceeded only by his father's.
At times like this, he couldn't help but think his parents were right. After all, he'd lost Angie, and now he would never have a chance to convince her that their relationship might become more than friendship.
No, that wasn't exactly true, either. He'd tried. More than once. She'd never noticed. What did that tell him?
He sighed woefully. She would have been perfect for him, too. Beautiful, smart, ambitious ... rich ... and a g reat cook. He loved food. Loved to eat. Day. Night. Midday. Middle of the night.
Angie's kitchen was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. He could knock on the door to her apartment right across the hall from his, she'd invite him in, and he'd head for her refrigerator. It was like a magic box, filled with the most delectable leftovers the world has ever known.
And soon, once she was married, this wonderful, scrumptious, mouthwatering phase of his life would be over.
Tears threatened again.
Not that he cared about her only for her culinary skills. She understood him. She never nagged or pressured him, but just accepted him for what he was. Or wasn't. In fact, he had a longer relationship with her than he'd had with any other woman.
Maybe something was to be said for not dating women he liked.
With a heavy sigh he wondered what delicious feast Angie's mother would serve at the engagement party. At least he had that to look forward to.
For some unknown reason, still thinking about Angie, Stan turned down one of the small roadways off Jefferson Street that led back to the rough wharves where fishing boats were docked. It was an area where tourists never ventured and homeless people sought shelter -- smelly and dingy, with gulls swooping overhead and salt water, oil spills, and worse at his feet.
A small building, separate from the others, caught his eye. Asign in Greek-style lettering proclaimed athina restaurant. One story with a flat roof, the once-white paint was now gray and peeling. The windows had scrolled bars over them in a pretty design, but bars nonetheless. In the window, a cardboard sign read fresh fish! greek specialties served here.
Stan stepped closer to the Athina and sniffed. A blend of lemon, cinnamon, and clove wafted over him. All his thoughts about Angie's kitchen had made him hungry. Perhaps a little nourishment would help allay his sorrows.Courting Disaster
An Angie Amalfi Mystery. Copyright © by Joanne Pence. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.