Deadly Alliance is still available for the preorder bonus price of $0.99. Excerpt from Chapter One:
“You know I love your sportswear designs, right?”
“I’m glad you do.” Amy Kintyre sat opposite a buyer, none other than Kira Radner, at a coffee shop in Lake Arrowhead, California. This sudden opportunity to re-launch her sportswear designs gave rise to the jitters, and Amy clutched her hands under the table.
Kira pressed her face forward, Amy’s sketches drawn on figures in action poses. With the portfolio spread between them, she flipped it sideways to examine the fabric swatches stapled along the sidebar. Their earthy tones blended with the marred wooden table.
Amy stilled the chatty urge.
“You know your presentation is in two weeks.” Kira was giving her the green light with Recreational Sportswear, Incorporated.
“I appreciate this, Kira.” To get her business back on track, she needed blocks of time to sew mockups. Amy inhaled the spicy aroma of the raw cedar wood. The under-construction décor of wide, timber planks on the walls made her think of her new self. Crazy how thirty felt like seventeen when embracing life and freeing her artistic side.
“Then I beg you,” Kira said, “please, please, please have your product samples ready. Deadline is the first Monday of November.”
“Got it.” Fear over the tight time frame tasted sour in her throat, but this break called like no other.
Kira leaned forward. “Impressive functionality with the shorts. Who would have thought this pocket holds a Swiss Army Knife!” The buyer’s fingertips traced the pick-stitch hem, made with thread matching the fabric, appearing invisible. “Nice detail.”
Amy’s only mock-up kept their face-to-face meeting running like the hum of the fluorescent lights above.
“Oooo,” Kira said and raised both her eyebrows. “Classic nostalgia with a twist. A pocket knife for hikers!”
“Useful, I think.” The bright light flickered over associates who’d worked together in the past, but Amy didn’t share the difficulty of making the deadline. Her breathing shortened, and panic carved a hole in her chest.
Kira rested her chin on her open palm. “If RSI accepts your spring line, I’ve got a manufacturer in Los Angeles. So, I’ll handle production, okay?”
“It’s a deal.” Amy trusted she would do right by her. If Kira benefited by handling the step, she had another reason to bring Amy’s brand to completion.
“Great, Amy. Gotta bounce. Glad our evening meeting worked.” Kira, a Los Angelino up for the weekend, viewed Thursday as the new Friday.
“Your timing fit my schedule.” Amy’s taxi driving shift had ended ten minutes before meet time. Driving a cab gave her flexibility, ideal for taking care of her near-comatose ex-boyfriend. Her dedication ended with his death, but stagnation set in. After Kira’s phone call, Amy’s backbone solidified.
“Coming?” Kira gathered Amy’s portfolio and slid it into her valise.
The bell on the café door jingled, and Amy looked up. A suited man wearing a fedora low on his face stormed in.
About to stand up, Kira braced a hand on the table, but Amy grabbed her sleeve and yanked. “Don’t look up.” She placed a finger over her lips.
Kira whispered, “I take it the dude’s not fueling a cookie binge.”
To Amy’s left, the man’s briefcase lowered to the floor next to the counter. She recognized the distinctive signature clasp of the Irish Claddagh.
“Excuse me,” he said to the owner. “I lost the sheath for my knife. Know what I mean?”
The manager pushed a stack of bills forward.
“He’s an Irish mobster.” Kira spoke in a hushed tone. “This can’t be. Pacific waterfront, yes. Never here.”
Amy cringed. A few years before, her boyfriend had been shot in a Los Angeles drive-by. Was their high-end community no longer spared?
The mobster was counting the money.
The muscle in Kira’s jaw flinched. “This is as good a time as any.” In another second the buyer flew out the door without blowing her usual kiss.
The man in the fedora folded his arms over his chest as though he was king of the world.
Everything hinged on Amy’s ability to be nearly invisible. Looking down, squeezing her eyes shut, she froze. The bell rang. Air escaped her lungs.
Out the window, the mobster steamed around the corner in the neon haze.
Amy collected her keys and belongings, took a deep breath, and headed to the counter.
The owner tallied up the bill and then grumbled about Mafia protection. “I don’t make waves. If I did, I’d drown.” His face contorted in agony.
Amy stared at his wary expression. Her mood shifted from empathy to anger. His passiveness churned in her stomach. “Sir, it’s a terrible threat. That’s the truth.”
“Miss, do you know what truth is?”
“It’s what a guy believes. If I want to be friends, I ask what he believes. He tells me, and I say, ‘Ain’t it the truth?’”
“You can’t protest the mobster’s truth?”
“I foresaw a beating. A whacking would follow.” He shook his head.
“Oppressive.” Out the door to the empty street, she searched over her shoulder. Her knowledge of the area was absolute, but at this late hour she gritted her teeth at the thought of walking two blocks to her taxi. She froze with indecisiveness. Muted laughter and conversation came from the building next door. Instead of going home, she headed into Burlie’s Jazz Club for a glass of wine.
Inside, she waved to Burlie who was as friendly as her granddad with a talent for learning names. He waved back. “Here for the usual, Amy?”
“Sure am, Burlie.”
She made her way deeper into the club, passed couples, and found a solitary spot on the edge of a couch. With work to do, she willed the sax man, back on stage, to immerse her in a state of bluesy creativity.
Soon a waiter delivered a sparkling Cabernet. Between sips, she focused on her hiking shorts design and ripped a page from the back of her sketch book. It wasn’t long before blips of excitement added to the wine’s buzz.
As she hummed to the jazzy beat, she made a to-do list ending with the file with various size patterns. After a half-hour of regrouping and rethinking, Amy stopped tapping her foot. Kira Radner took a chance on her, but to turn this chance into a reality, she needed evenings and weekends to make the deadline.
Last Sunday while pouring over Craigslist classifieds, she’d zeroed in on Finbar Donahue’s bookkeeping ad. After her inquiry, his head accountant sent her a message. She still favored the toe she stubbed after her in-box pinged.
Thanks to what happened, the call from Kira, she needed Finn’s job. Her mind raced to her third interview for his nine-to-five. Tomorrow morning, if all went well, she’d land the regular-hours job, tailor made for her time frame. She ran a hand through her hair, picturing the arrogant know-it-all with a never-ending string of women hanging on his arm.
Handsome wasn’t the word to describe Finn, her late, ex-boyfriend’s partner. She’d been around Finbar Donahue enough to know he looked at his world as if he were the Almighty himself. The former Army Ranger made her way too nervous. She tensed up to such an extent, her voice broke.
Romance wasn’t part of this equation. Her dream to launch herself, stitch by stitch, came down to landing the job. On a mission, her goal was simple. She closed her eyes and prayed tomorrow she’d nail it. Otherwise…