Chelton, New York
Walking up the path to my house, I think about Annemarie’s love and encouragement. The best of friends, she’s always buoyed my spirit and helped me through crisis after crisis. Setting up the library after Gran’s death was a major undertaking, one I’d felt incapable of handling. There were thousands of books. Whole rooms to remodel. Furniture and lighting and wallpaper to choose. So many times I thought I’d go insane. But with Annemarie’s help, we met every obstacle with determined positivity. And now here I am with a gorgeous mansion that feels more like a home with enormous playrooms.
Smiling, I climb the stone steps to my door and reach into my pocket for the key.
“Excuse me, are you Brigid Cleary?”
My heart stutters and I whirl with a gasp. A pleasant looking man stands by the steps, slightly hunched in his winter coat. “By all the gods!” I yell. “Ye startled the crap out of me.” I wince at the hint of Irish in my voice.
“Beautiful and Irish.”
“Of course I’m Irish.”
He steps closer. “They said you were, but—”
“They? They who?”
“My publisher. Well, his assistant. So you are Brigid Cleary.”
I lean against the door to my house, my heartbeat beginning to slow. He doesn’t look like he’s going to attack. “Who wants to know?”
“Andrew. Andrew Connally.”
Not the Andrew Connally. No, it can’t be. I shiver as a gust of wind bites through my clothes. “Well, Mr. Connally, why are you here?”
“Do you suppose we can continue the Inquisition inside? It’s freezing.”
So he’s not immune to the cold. “I’m not in the habit of inviting strangers into my home.”
“That’s understandable, and certainly fair, but . . .”
“But it’s freezing.” And five more seconds might turn us both into icebergs. “Go around to the library entrance.” I point to the right. “I’ll meet you there.”
When he leaves, I unlock the door and walk inside, my toes stiff and painful. What I really want is a hot drink and a warm fire, but somehow I’ve picked up a stray man. Wouldn’t it be interesting if he were the famous mystery writer? What a story I’d have for Annemarie.
With that, I hang up my coat and scarf and make my way through the library, turning on lights as I go.
Cold gusts of air follow when I let him in. He stamps his feet loudly, the heels of his shoes thudding against the thick carpet. “This is the last time I’m coming here in the winter.”
“I’ve been imagining the tropics all day. Care to go with me?” I can’t believe I’ve issued an invitation. To a complete stranger.
“I just might do that,” he says with a smile that looks so honest, so pure, and so familiar.
I stare and he matches my stare. Open. Inquisitive. And a little mischievous. I have to ask. “Are you the Andrew Connally?”
“The Andrew Connally? Well, now, I’m not sure.”
He’s playing with me. “You know, the mystery writer.”
“Ah, that Andrew Connally.”
“Yes, that one. Because you look like him. I mean, I’ve never seen him up close, just on the back of book jackets. And his smile is so . . . well, professional yet engaging. As if he’s inviting you to come closer, to get to know him better, to have a conversation. And your smile just then, it was . . .” I’m rambling. To a stranger. I never ramble. I never talk to strangers either. But now, with Andrew, my mouth is literally a fountain of words.
I shake my head to clear whatever unfortunate clutter has collected and realize we’re still standing by the entrance. Where are my manners? “I’m so sorry. Would you like to sit down?” I move through the lobby and into Hush Hush, the cozy area for adults with long couches and a wide fireplace just perfect on this frosty night. Crouching before the fake logs, I turn on the gas and watch the flames come to life.
Post a Comment