Is the third time the charm?
Because I can think of three good reasons not to let Nick Sullivan back into my life.
FIRST, I got over my infatuation with him – cold turkey. So what did he have to offer anyway? Mystery? Adventure? A sexy grin and a killer sense of humor? All of the above, if I think about it. Which I don’t. Ever.
SECOND, he had the nerve to come back! After fifteen years, he shows up looking (better than ever) for a place to hide, with a story about being framed for murder. Only problem is, there’s no corpse. As if I’d fall for that old line…
THIRD, I’m now old enough to know better – and smart enough not to be seduced all over again by the warmth in his eyes. I should give him the boot. But it is murder. And he does need a place to stay. This time it’s strictly business. Nothing personal. Just harboring a fugitive. For old times’ sake. And just maybe to satisfy my own craving for a little adventure...
So what does that add up to? THIRD TIME LUCKY.
“A cross between a Julia Roberts romp and an episode of Seinfeld!”—The Romance Reader
An excerpt from Third Time Lucky:
I was drunk on the night it began.
But then, that’s not really true. It wasn’t so much beginning as continuing, though I didn’t immediately get that part.
As far as whether this whole mess should have ended already, or whether it should even have begun in the first place, well, that’s an entirely different issue. I’m sure my mother has an opinion about it, and I’m equally sure it’s not one that I want to hear. You’re welcome to ask her, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Beginning or continuing, though, there was no doubt that I was pickle-dee-dee. I had the world on a leash – one of those pink rhinestone-studded specials that even poodles find embarrassing – but I had felt that way before Veuve Clicquot and I made our acquaintance. A critical distinction, even if it was a bit blurred in that moment.
You see, getting drunk was a first for me.
Now, don’t be too incredulous. You have to respect your genetic weaknesses, in my opinion, otherwise they’ll ambush when you aren’t looking. I had resolved long ago that I would never join the family galley of lushes.
But this had been a special, special day and my partner Elaine does have her persuasive moments.
It was about eleven on a Tuesday night, not a respectable time to be dancing on air and champagne bubbles, but there it was, and there I was. Fa la la. All the proper brownstones scowled down at me as though they would rat on me in the morning, when all their proper occupants – who were now properly tucked in and properly sober – had risen to properly face another day.
There’s something irresistibly frivolous about pink champagne. It looks like a party in a glass – Barbie’s victory drink of choice – and it does the fandango on your tongue in starlight slippers.
Make that sequin-studded fuchsia slingbacks.
Which was why Elaine insisted we had to have it. No mere sparkling wine or even those pedestrian golden bubbles would have done for us. No, sir. Only the rosé champagne was good enough to celebrate such a coup – though it was humbling to learn just what a cheap date I was. All those years of guzzling herbal tea had taken their toll – one tall skinny glass of froth and I was completely toasted.
Fortunately Elaine is made of sterner stuff and had no quibbles with polishing off the rest of the bottle. No chance of our treat going flat. She even looked sober after it was gone, which might have been sobering with any other companion. But I’ve known Elaine long enough to understand that she’s not one to waste any of life’s goodies – she even laughs when I call her a regular little martyr to the pleasures of the flesh.
But that’s another story.
We had succeeded where others have failed and lo, it was very good. Lady Luck was smiling down on us and nothing could ever go wrong again. Life was full of opportunity and possibility, success was ours for the taking. All those years were finally paying off.
Have you ever flailed away at a dream? You begin because it seems such a terrific idea that success is inevitable – not to mention all the fame and fortune that will fall into your lap as a bonus-pak – but you learn the error of that thinking in a hurry. It gets tough, the dream loses its luster and eventually, you run on the refusal to admit you’re wrong.
Which doesn’t pay well, in case you aren’t sure. I’ve eaten more mac-and-cheese over the past few years than I’d like to think about and I’m not talking homemade cheese and noodle comfort food like Mom used to make. I mean the kind out of the box.
You can make it with water, you know, and it’s not all bad.
Sometimes it’s startling how far we’ll go to conquer dreams, even further than we might have guessed ourselves. But then, the alternative is even less pretty than mac-and-cheese fusing overnight with the unrinsed pot.
The urge to avoid failure is powerful stuff indeed. Even as you smile that big confident grin and slog onward, in some hidden corner of your heart you wonder how long it will take you to fail, how long it will take your dream to fall so far into the scrap heap that there’s no hope of salvaging it at all.
And if you have a family like mine, well, there’s the added bonus of a line of helpful souls constantly calculating the odds against you, just in case you get the math wrong.
I always get the math wrong, much to the amusement of my three brothers who snarfed up all the math genes before I was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye. For example, on this particular night, after being ambushed by success and bamboozled by the champagne, I over-tipped the cab driver and made a friend for life.
Maybe not quite that long. The moment I steadied myself enough to stand without clinging to the roof of the cab, he was gone, leaving the Last Generous Tipper in Massachusetts wobbling on her heels in the middle of the street. Good thing all the neighbors were safely tucked into bed, because I must have looked like a dope trying to reach the curb before I caught it with my chin.
I decided, right there on Mr. McGurvey’s chemically enhanced golf course green boulevard, to avail myself of the one mythic perk of being self-employed. Everyone otherwise employed assumes that working for yourself is an excuse to lay around, sleep in, catch up on the soaps, scoot out of the office early and take many many lunches-of-no-return.
Ha. Truth is, my boss is the worst slave driver ever – and she’s me. I’ve put in more hours, night and weekends working for myself than the any legitimate employer could have demanded. I’ve bedded annuals and double-dug roses and moved trees and laid interlock.
I’ve built decks, for God’s sake, when workers disappeared into that great void where contractors seem to go without warning or return. I’ve tiled porches and walls, caffeinated myself for another night of drafting plans without the decadent luxury of sleep, then marched out the door to do it all again.
I’ve talked a blue streak that I didn’t know I could, I’ve weaseled better terms from skeptics, I’ve supplied impromptu therapy for divorcees removing “all signs of him”, I’ve endured the caprices of women who can never make up their minds.
And it was finally paying off.
The pink bubbles tingling through my veins couldn’t touch that giddy feeling of triumph, though they did give it a hefty boost. I did a little soft shoe on the sidewalk and tripped over my own feet. Fortunately, those champagne bubbles broke my fall – the drunk, as any cop will tell you, have no bones at all.
I felt pretty cocky once I had scaled my neighbor’s drive to the sidewalk and even imagined that I approached the house with a measure of my usual insouciance.
As if. Somewhere someone is snorting their beer at the idea of me even having insouciance.
The thing is, if I had had any, it wasn’t destined to last long.
I was about twenty feet from the porch, admiring the little crocuses poking their yellow heads through the soil and congratulating myself on doing a decent job of installing a porch light with a sensor. The light was on, so I hadn’t completely screwed up the wiring, though Number Two Son – my brother Matt – would have issues with my uncompensated, unauthorized improvement of a leasehold facility.
And then I saw him.
There was a man sitting on my porch.
Even stinko, I was pretty sure I lived alone.
Excerpt from THIRD TIME LUCKY ©2000, 2012 Claire Delacroix, Inc.