Read an Excerpt
By Mary Leo
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLove was highly overrated, Lucy Mastronardo thought as she yawned and set her alarm clock for 5:00 a.m. All that spooning and mooning crap was for romance novels and love songs, not for real life.
She had always dreamed of the logical mate: a man who had the same goals as she did, a man who found happiness in schedule and conformity, a man who planned out every detail of his life, their life, a man who happily sent her off to another continent a week before their wedding because it was "good for your career."
Yes, she could sleep quite soundly knowing that computers made the world go round, not love.
* * *
By the time Lucy awoke at six, having managed to sleep right through the alarm clock's annoying buzz, she was already running late.
The drive on Interstate 280 out of San Jose, California was not what she had expected. Normally, on a Sunday morning it was an empty freeway, but there had been two minor accidents, turning the quick forty-five-minute jaunt into a tedious hour-and-a-half drive.
Then, as if that wasn't frustrating enough, she needed to call her mother to tell her where she was going and why. But the thought of talking to her mother while she tried to maneuver a crowded freeway gave her an immediate stomachache. She decided to put the call off until later, way later, when she was stationary and had some control over her emotions. If she phoned now, she would probably end up causing accident number three and totally miss her flight. Definitely not an option.
Parking at San Francisco airport should have been a snap, but, of course, she had to circle and circle and circle the lot some more, driving up one aisle and down another, until she ended up following a middle-aged man and his white standard-sized poodle through the maze of cars as though she was on stalking detail for the FBI.
When the poodle-man finally found his vehicle, he messed around inside playing with his dog until Lucy was ready to get out and slug him.
Finally, she tapped her horn.
He turned around to look at her.
The poodle turned around to look at her.
They both gave her the evil eye before he drove away.
Fine, she thought, I'm starting my trip out with a curse from a guy and his dog.
The scene inside the airport wasn't any better. From the moment she rolled her suitcase onto the speckled high-grade linoleum, it had been a test of will. Long lines choked the airport, turning the whole travel experience into a nightmare journey.
Fortunately, Alitalia's line seemed to be shorter than the others, which was a good thing, considering she had less than an hour to board her flight to Rome.
While she stood in line with the hundreds of other harried souls in the crowded airport, trifling with the prospect of making that phone call to her mother, and once again deciding to do it later, a young girl in some kind of blue uniform handed out cookies from a silver tray. Like a cookie was somehow going to sooth nerves and make the wait a more pleasurable experience. On the other hand, Lucy mused, if cookie-girl were handing out day-long passes to a spa or vouchers for free housekeeping, now that would most definitely turn this wait into something worth waiting for.
Silly thoughts made the time pass quickly and after Lucy got her prized boarding pass, she had to sprint to the gate, nearly knocking down a few people along the way, until she caught up to a guy who stood in front of her on the moving walkway. He wouldn't step to the right so she could get around him. An annoying guy, with a Giorgio Armani black suede jacket slung over his shoulder, carrying a totally "now" Louis Vuitton brown bag, wearing obviously Italian sandals. The man was an ad for high fashion, who remained ahead of her right before the X-ray line.
He took forever to put his things up on the conveyor belt, as if each item were something sacred, something precious.
Lucy thought about going to the other line, but it was even longer. She wondered why she had hesitated. Why she had stayed to watch when she was in such a hurry. She drew in a deep breath while leaning slightly forward and immediately knew the answer. It was his scent of garlic, not the kind that repelled, but the fresh kind. The aroma that permeates the air when you cut into a really sweet clove.
He went to the tray and removed a small ladle from his shirt pocket, a few dollar bills from another, a garlic press and a head of garlic from his jacket. The security guard immediately confiscated the garlic press.
Lucy stood right next to him while he emptied his pants pockets of change, car keys, a silver money-clip, a clump of fresh basil and a handful of pistachios.
After he finally walked through without a beep or a buzz, and the guards were satisfied that a garlic press couldn't be used as a weapon, he stuffed everything back into his pockets, one item at a time. She never got a good look at him because he never quite turned around, but it didn't matter. It was the familiar scent that had lured her - garlic, the scent of romantic dinners and passionate love.
Seth, her fiancé and soon-to-be husband, was allergic to garlic. It gave him diarrhea and cramps.
Frustrated with the whole spice adventure, Lucy flew past Garlic Man without so much as a question from the guards or a beep from the metal detector; she had been very careful packing.
Suddenly, there was less than ten minutes to catch her flight. If it hadn't been for Mr. Garlic's scent, and the fact that he looked oh-so-sweet from behind, she would have pushed him aside and yelled out her annoyance. Garlic mixed with a little basil were foods she had learned to live without. Like onions, all they did was give you bad breath and indigestion. But for a moment, a twinkle in time, she had enjoyed the ambiance.
She ran the rest of the way. Fortunately, the boarding gate wasn't very far. Her momentary foolishness about a common herb had almost cost her the flight. She and someone running up behind her were the last two people to board the plane.
Lucy found her row and sat next to the window. Just as she secured her seatbelt and let out an I-made-it sigh, the Italian Garlic Show walked up, boarding pass in hand.
Before she had time to react to the amazing coincidence he said, "Scusi, signorina, but you are in my seat."
She turned. "I don't think so," Lucy said, annoyed. "I always sit next to the window."
"Yes. It helps from getting nauseous," he said, standing in the aisle, looking down on her.
"No. I don't get sick. I just like the view."
"And what a beautiful view it is," he said, obviously flirting.
She blushed and pulled out her ticket. Sure enough, she was in the wrong seat. "I'm sorry. I just assumed -"
"An easy mistake," he said and just stood there. Waiting.
She waited, thinking he would be the gentleman and tell her to stay where she was.
"Please take your seats," a male flight attendant said.
Mr. Garlic smiled.
Lucy smiled, but no one moved.
"Is there a problem?" the attendant asked.
"No. No problem," Lucy said.
"We'll be taking off shortly. Please be seated," the attendant repeated.
"Certainly," Mr. Garlic said, smiling. But he didn't budge.
Excerpted from Stick Shift by Mary Leo Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.