Got Your Numberby Stephanie Bond
"Stephanie Bond proves to be a masterful storyteller and GOT YOUR NUMBER is her latest winner. A definite keeper!" -The Best Reviews
You can run, but eventually your past will catch up with you...
Wrong-side-of-the-tracks Roxann and her silver-spoon cousin Angora have never had anything in common-until now. Now adults and estranged
A fast-paced romantic mystery!
"Stephanie Bond proves to be a masterful storyteller and GOT YOUR NUMBER is her latest winner. A definite keeper!" -The Best Reviews
You can run, but eventually your past will catch up with you...
Wrong-side-of-the-tracks Roxann and her silver-spoon cousin Angora have never had anything in common-until now. Now adults and estranged for years, both women are on the run, one a reluctant witness to a crime, one just jilted at the altar. With each harboring her own secrets, the cousins decide to hit the road to tackle items on the Life Lists they created in college. Along the way, they let their hair down and are forced to face their pasts, unleashing fun, sex-and murder! Just when the two women start to become friends, their futures are suddenly looking very, very dim...
"Stephanie Bond provides readers with that rare humorous yet suspense laden novel that leaves the audience wanting more from a delightful author." -BookBrowser
"Bond fills her story with enough witty repartee, red herrings and romance to keep readers guessing." -Publishers Weekly
"Author Stephanie Bond has hit the perfect combination of humor, intrigue, emotional baggage and romance. This book is a hoot." -Romantic Times Book Reviews
For a rollicking good read, get GOT YOUR NUMBER!
- Stephanie Bond, Incorporated
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- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)
Read an Excerpt
Roxann Beadleman's scalp roasted, and she realized with a start that she was still wearing the red wig. Puffing out her cheeks at her carelessness, she yanked off the remainder of her disguise as she wedged her van Goldie into a parking space at Rigby's Diner, home of the Big Daddy Crab Plate. Rigby would fire her for sure. Waiting tables had never been her favorite gig, but the job had great benefits (Rigby's brother-in-law sold health insurance), and the schedule was flexible enough to accommodate her obligations to the Rescue program, Until this morning.
She jumped out and bent at the waist to give her real hairshort and dark and plastered to her heada lick and a promise with a vented brash. Biloxi, Mississippi, was celebrated for its sweltering heat, but she'd sort of expected a break by the twelfth day into the month of October. She slammed Goldie's door twice before it caught, then sprinted to the employee entrance of the diner. Shuttling the Lindberg family to the bus station had taken longer than she'd expected, mostly because the twin five-year-old boys had stripped down to their skivvies and tossed their clothes out the van windows. Twice. According to her travel watch (two faces to accommodate dual time zones), she was exactly an hour late.
"You're an hour late," Helen, the head waitress, confirmed when Roxann slid into the kitchen.
"Car trouble." Not the first lie she'd told for a good cause.
Helen clucked and balanced a third plate on her arm. "Imagine that, a twenty-five-year-old van giving you trouble." Helen was sixty, with the wit and legs of a coed.
"Is Rigby angry?"
"Yeah, but I covered for you. Still, you'd better get shakin'. I need a couple of étoufée platters." Helen disappeared, then stuck her head back in, winking a mascara-laden eye. "And I almost forgotthere's a Steve McQueen type at table nine waiting to see you. Been here goin' on a half hour."
Anxiety twinged low in her stomach. She peeked around the divider between the blistering kitchen and the crowded dining room, but her view was obstructed by the weekly gathering of the Morning Glory Ladies, sporting straw gardening hats and lingering in the aisle to say their farewells. Roxann ducked back to dish up the étouffée for Helen, her stomach growling at the tangy aroma of shellfish and cracked pepper.
She didn't have a clue who the man might be. That one call Melissa Cape had made to Roxann's cell phone still had the potential of landing them both in the bayou if the woman's private investigator ex-husband made the connection. But in truth, any of the men in Roxann's life would have elicited the same gut-clutching response as Frank Cape.
Her father? The sole reason Walt Beadleman left his La-Z-Boy in the tiny living room of the tiny house in Baton Rouge was to cast for channel cats in the Mississippi River. He'd never think of floating on down to Biloxi to see his only child who was such a monumental disappointment, unless someone in the family had dropped dead.
Her most recent lover? The last time she'd seen Richard Funderburk, he was spitting mad that she'd dare to confront him about his drinking. Then he'd simply disappearedto a twelve-step program she'd hoped. Wasn't there a step about seeking forgiveness from those you'd wronged? He still owed her fifty bucks, the mooch. And at least as many orgasms.
Her neighbor? Mr. Nealy had been hovering ever since her roommate and Rescue coworker Elise had wigged out, forcing Roxanne to ask Elise to move out. Roxann cringed when she imagined what the old man had picked up with his hearing aid pressed against the kitchen wall. Any doubts that he'd overheard Elise's stunning proclamation of passion had been erased when Mr. Nealy had "run into" Roxann at the trash Dumpster and proceeded to spin an unlikely tale whose moral seemed to be that just because a woman was a tomboy, it didn't mean that all her neighbors thought she was "you know."
Of course, none of those men resembled Steve McQueen even if she'd swallowed the worm at the bottom of a bottle of Mezcal.
At last the chatty garden ladies dismantled, giving her an unobstructed view of the dark-haired stranger sitting alone at table nine. Relief pulled at her shouldersaccording to Melissa Cape's description, her ex was a slim blond. This fellow was fortyish and brawny, with a jutting profile. His blocked jaw was clean-shaven, and his hair well shy of his collar. His khaki shirt was J. Crew sturdy and dry cleaner starched. An unlit cigarette dangled between his lips as he moved the saltshaker and aluminum napkin dispenser, probably looking for an ashtray. Finding none, he frowned and settled back against one of the hard wooden bench seats Rigby's teenage son's shop class had made over the summer, and opened a worn paperback. An obscure thriller that she'd already readquite good.
Helen reappeared at her shoulder. "New boyfriend?"
"No." And not at all her typealthough granted, she could barely remember her type.
"So where do you know him from?"
Her memory for names wasn't keen, but she was certain she'd never seen this man's pensive face. And the agency always let her know when to expect a clientnot that this guy looked as if he needed help from anyone. In fact, he looked about as approachable as a Doberman. He might be a reporter who'd tracked her down from that Clarion-Ledger exposé of the Rescue programone failed relocation in the hundreds she'd facilitated over the years, and she'd made the front page. Or rather, the description of her disguise had. She squinted. Frankly, though, the man didn't look like a reporter.
Then one side of her mouth slid back in a wry frown. Of coursehe was a cop, chock-full of questions for her about something or someone having to do with the Rescue program. Nervy, considering the organization would gladly dismantle if the police would do their jobs.
"Roxy?" Helen probed.
"I've never seen him before."
"Want me to tell him you won't be in today?"
"Nohe'll just come back. I'll see what he wants."
"Holler if you need backup." The older woman spoke casually as she rang up a sale, but Roxann knew Helen had noticed the handful of nervous women who had shown up with shaky kids in tow, asking to be seated in Roxann's section.
"You running some kind of charity?" Helen had ventured once.
"I don't know what you mean," she'd said, and Helen hadn't pressed.
Roxann slipped around the divider, instantly bombarded by the low roar of diners talking with their mouths full. Forks clinked against stoneware plates, and glasses scraped against wooden tabletops. Zydeco music jostled out of mounted speakers in far corners.
When she saw the man at closer range, she was tempted to keep walkingshe didn't need the hassle of a cop on her back. Still, she'd danced around a herd of lawmen over the years. And in her experience, they weren't nearly as bright as they looked, although at least this one didn't move his lips while he read.
"Good afternoon," she offered. "What can I get for you?"
Still chewing on the unlit cigarette, the man scanned her slowly from her dubious hairstyle to her red polyester blouse and skirt to her bare legs and sensible black lace-up shoes. At his slight grimace, she bit back the retort that she had better-looking shoes at home, because she wasn't sure she did. His hair was dark auburn, as thick as a pelt, and touched with silver above his ears. His skin was tawny, his eyes brown, his lashes paleunusual coloring for a redhead. Striking, but a scowl short of good-looking.
He yanked out the cigarette. "You Roxann Beadleman?"
No Saint Christopher's medal. No academy ring. No badge. Still, she'd bet a week's pay that he was a uniform. "Yes. And you are?"
"Got an ashtray?" He spoke with enough of an accent to betray him as a home-grown Biloxi boy. He wore faded Levi's and black Tony Lama boots. The only question that remained was whether his king-cab pickup truck was a Ford or a Chevy.
"This is a nonsmoking section, sir."
"Hell. Trying to quit anyway. How about coffee?"
"Black, hi-test. And make it quick."
Roxann bit her tongue at his tone and walked to the coffee station. She certainly wasn't in danger of the man charming information out of her.
Rigby rounded the corner, his big face purple. "Where the heck have you been?"
She pulled an apologetic face. "Car trouble. Sorry, it won't happen again."
He wagged a finger. "I got girls lined up wanting to work here, Roxy. I don't have to put up with you coming in late." He looked down. "How come you're not wearing black panty hose?"
"Rigby, it's two hundred degrees."
His head periscoped. "The hose are part of the uniformcustomers don't like bare-legged women serving them vittles."
She didn't dare laugh. "It won't happen again."
"I'm warning you, the very next time"
"I'd better get back to my customer," she cut in, holding up the coffeepot.
He frowned, then snapped his fat fingers in succession. "Well, don't just stand therecan't you see we're swamped?"
The things a woman put up with for major medical. She returned to her mysterious customer and filled the white mug in front of him. "One black coffee."
He drank deeply and swallowed hard. "Not bad."
"Will there be anything else?"
He set down the cup. "I need to ask you some questions, Ms. Beadleman."
She glanced around at hungry customers who shot daggers her way. "Unless it's about the menu, sir, I'm a little busy at the moment."
"What time do you get off?"
She frowned. "I'm not interested."
His frown mirrored hers. "I'm not hitting on you."
"Then who are you and what do you want?"
"Detective Capistrano, Biloxi PD." He gave her a sardonic smile. "I'd show you my badge, but I'd hate for the people you work with to think you're in some kind of trouble."
Despite the spike of her pulse, she manufactured a plausible laugh. "Am I in some kind of trouble?"
"Could be. I'm looking for Melissa Cape."
Two weeks had passed since she'd escorted Melissa and her daughter to the airportall along she'd had a bad vibe about the case, but she'd finally started to relax.
"Roxy!" Rigby jerked his thumb toward a six-topper waiting to be served.
She looked back to the detective and shook her head. "Sorry, the name doesn't ring a bell. And I really have to get back to work."
His hand snaked out and encircled her wrist loosely before she could reacta fact that distressed her much more than his gesture of intimidation. "Not before you explain why the last call Melissa Cape made before she disappeared was to your cell phone."
Roxann wet her lips. "I get lots of wrong numbers on my cell phone. Now, Detective, unless you want your hand amputated, I suggest you let go."
His casual smile belied the pressure of his wide fingers. "Not until I get a straight answer."
Having worked most of her life with bullied women, she conceded that she was a tad more sensitive to being manhandled than the female population at large ... but it was one of her character flaws that she could live with. Roxann returned his smile and dumped the "not bad" contents of the coffeepot in his lap.
He did indeed let go, punctuated by a howl that silenced the entire diner. Roxann called upon one semester of high school drama to feign innocence. "Oh, I'm so sorry."
Rigby trotted over and gawked at the man's wet pants. "You're fired, young lady!"
"But he grabbed me." She looked at Capistrano. "Tell him."
But the detective was frozen in a half-standing, half-hunkering position, his face a mask of agony.
"Get out!" Rigby yelled at her. "And don't even think about filing a dental claim."
Roxann glanced at a tearful Helen, then turned on the heels of her sensible shoes and walked out, fighting a rare attack of tears herself. Over the years, she'd worked almost every kind of job imaginable to accommodate her commitment to the Rescue programtutoring college math, selling mortgages over the phone, delivering flowers, modeling for art studentsbut she'd never been fired. Graduated top of her class at Notre Dame, and she'd just been sacked by a fat guy with one name.
A too-clean, too-new black Ford Dooley pickup in the parking lot caught her eye, and she smirkedDetective Capistrano's ride, no doubt. She indulged in a half second of victory before surrendering to the spiraling sensation in her gut as her situation sank in. No income, no insurance, no prospects.
Bad memories plucked at herestrangement from her father, the nasty breakup with Richard months ago, the bizarre encounter with her roommate Elise. The only good thing she had in her life right now was her work with the Rescue program, but lately ...
She climbed behind Goldie's wheel, her mind spinning in a hundred directions. Turning the key, she cajoled the van to life with a series of thumps on various surfaces that had nothing whatsoever to do with combustion, but usually worked. Sure enough, the engine sputtered to life and, as a bonus, she received a face full of blistering air from the vents. Goldie had been retrofitted with air-conditioning circa 1990, but the blower had pooped out one week after the two-year warranty expired, and Roxann hadn't gotten around to having a new one installed.
"I'm getting too old for this," she murmured, hating the unease that stirred in her empty stomach. Thirty-two and still trying to fix the world one broken family at a time. Ironic, considering she hadn't seen a member of her own family in ... hmm. A long while. In fact, some might look at her involvement with the Rescue relocation program and label her a fake. Or worse, a fake fighting an unwinnable battle.
Some things just can't be fixed, Roxann, no matter how much glue you put on 'em.
At the age of eight, holding the teacup her mother had given her, now broken into a dozen pieces, she'd tearfully fended off her father's cynicism with an entire jar of Elmer's paste and a roll of Scotch tape. But lately she'd begun to wonder if she were fooling herself. After all, she hadn't been able to drink out of that cup again.
A lifetime agosixth grade, to be precisea school counselor had asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. "A judge," Roxann had answered without hesitation. Wearing a black robe and wielding a wooden mallet to protect the good people from the bad people had seemed like the most perfect job imaginable. But somewhere between puberty and maturity, she'd decided to bypass the flawed legal system and put her summa cum laude political-science degree to no good use whatsoever by driving around the deep South, whisking fleeing women and their children to their next checkpoint.
No black robe, no red cape, no laser-firing gold-plated bracelets. Just a woman, a van, and a suitcase full of wigs. This is your life, Roxann Beadleman! Applause, applause. Not exactly what she'd had in mind in middle school.
So what am I doing here?
Everything in her body quieted, like the stillness after an echo, but no response materialized. She angled the rearview mirror and studied herselfwide-eyed, pale, and still sporting rebel hair. The last time she'd worn her hair long was 1975, B.D. (before divorce). Before her father's lawyer had wrangled her away from her mother. The day of the custody judgment, she'd cut a lock of her long hair to give to her mother, and the gap in the dark mane her father adored struck her as so wickedly satisfying, she'd simply kept whacking. Her parents had been appropriately horrified, and she'd kept her hair short ever since. As if she had something to provethen and now.
Roxann bit down hard on the inside of her cheek, attributing her bout of self-doubt to the heat and to the newspaper article and to being fired. What she needed was time to think. She pointed Goldie in the direction of the Y. Maybe a cathartic run on the track would help her work through the mess that had become her life while she was otherwise occupied.
In college, her plans had seemed so simple and so right. Devote her time to a worthwhile cause, make enough money to get by, share her life with a righteous man ... then again, in college, there had been Carl.
Dr. Carl Seger, professor of theology. She hadn't seen him since graduation, but over the years his face had had a way of floating into her mind when she needed to remember that goodness did exist. He was uppermost in her mind because he'd left a message on her machine a few weeks agoa shock. Her foolish heart had fluttered, then zoomed back to earth when he explained in a businesslike voice that he was calling because her name had come up during an alumni board discussion about this year's recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award. But they didn't want to draw undue attention to her if it would somehow compromise the program or her anonymity. Then his voice had changedhe had his own selfish reasons for wanting her to come back to campus to accept the award during Homecoming week. He ... missed her.
She'd left the message on her recorder for days and replayed it, oh, about two dozen times. But in the end, she hadn't returned the callas much as she yearned to see him again, she couldn't very well do it under the guise of accepting an award that she didn't deserve, even if she was only one of two people who knew why.
Dr. Carl ... a renaissance man. Handsome. Wise. Noble. And in the end, his nobility meant they couldn't be together. Deep down she knew she'd always measured the men in her life and, to some extent, her own behavior, up to Carl, the moral compass. And suddenly, sadly, she rememberedCarl was her "type."
She offered polite nods to familiar faces as she walked through the gym, but stopped short of engaging in conversation. With her mobile lifestyle, she usually didn't go out of her way to form friendshipsgirlfriends were complicated, and goodbyes were messy. A blast of laughter from a corner of the bustling locker room caught her attentionsmiling women with normal lives, normal loves. How ... enviable.
She'd sacrificed so many everyday trappings that other people took for granted, although she'd never missed those mundane attachments. Until lately. Swathed in a fog of rising panic, Roxann changed into running gear. Where had the last ten years gone, and what did she have to show for them? A twenty-page résumé, a gas-guzzling van, and a few dozen acquaintances scattered to the ends of the map.
She hit the footpath at a fast jog, sucking in fresh air, then exhaling forcefully. A quarter of a mile flew by quickly, then a half mile. The comforting thunk, thunk of her running shoes hitting the packed dirt lulled her into a more peaceful place, where women and children didn't have to be rescued from abusive spouses, where fathers and daughters cherished each other, where families lived intact and happily ever after.
"So, what are you going to do now?"
At first she thought she'd spoken aloud to herself. Then she jerked her head around to see Detective Capistrano jogging calmly behind her, still wearing his stained pants.
Roxann bit back a groan. This day did not appear to be improving anytime soon.
Excerpted from Got your Number by Stephanie Bond. Copyright © 2001 by Stephanie Bond Hauck. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Stephanie Bond was five years deep into a corporate career in computer programming and pursuing an MBA at night when an instructor remarked she had a flair for writing and suggested she submit material to academic journals. But Stephanie was more interested in writing fiction-more specifically, romance and mystery novels. After writing in her spare time for two years, she sold her first manuscript, a romantic comedy, to Harlequin Books. After selling ten additional projects to two publishers, she left her corporate job to write fiction full-time. To-date, Stephanie has more than sixty published novels to her name, including the popular BODY MOVERS humorous mystery series. For more information, visit www.stephaniebond.com.
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