Subscribe
Check out our Specials

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter for periodic updates and valuable coupons.

Email Address:
HTML   TEXT-Only

The Promise Chapter 1

 
Prologue
 
 
 
 
Claire Tremont throttled back the engine of her Ferrari F12 Berlinetta to answer a call via Bluetooth. “Grams, it’s been ages. How are you, and more to the point, why are you calling me in the wee small hours?”
 
“I needed to be back in the city for a meeting early this morning, and the red-eye was the only flight available. I arrived home an hour ago.”
 
Claire rolled her eyes. “Ah, the terrible red-eye flight.”
 
“Darling, are you free Sunday for lunch?”
 
“Sunday lunch is always tight. I do have a hectic social life and Racheal is very demanding.” She grinned.
 
“Hmm, you girls and the demands of the social world, I want to see Racheal too.”
 
“Okay, okay, I’ll…no, we will be over on the weekend.”
 
Claire negotiated a tight turn onto Fisher Street and drew to a screeching stop outside Checkers Club. “Grams, I have to go. What was it you said you wanted? Right, right. Racheal is leaving for Europe on Monday for three months, so I can do that. Yep, love you too, Grams.”
 
She was about to hang up when her grandmother spoke again. “Sure, yes, it’s a promise, Grams. I promise a whole month of my time.”
 
With the call finally ended, Claire stepped out of the car and locked it, then threw a glance at the gaudy neon lights flashing in front of her. She smirked at the long line waiting for entrance to the club and moved to the right and the VIP line, which was empty with only a couple of hours before the club closed. Most of the VIPs turned up after the official closing time.
 
“Ms. Tremont, a pleasure as always. Stella said the champagne is on you tonight.”
 
Claire tilted back her head and winked at Binky Sykes, one of the bouncers. His beefy body made him look like he could tackle twenty bulls. But if you saw him with his puny boyfriend making mincemeat of him in their regular verbal sparring matches afterhours at the club you might think again.
 
“Darn, I thought I’d nailed that bet about Reggie getting laid. Is Howie still studying hard? Which classy place did he go to in the end? I’ve forgotten.” Claire walked past the line with a jaunty glance at the staring eyes.
 
Binky chuckled. “Yep, majoring in plastic surgery. Only another six months and he’s fully qualified. Got to say my kid brother has all the brains. He’s been accepted to Dartmouth, an Ivy League college. Still can’t believe it myself.” Binky shook his head, and his shaggy hair appeared to move as if it were infested with something.
 
“Hey, if he can get into an Ivy League college it’s more than I could do. One day you are going to have to bring him to meet us. We’ll be good. Who knows when we might need his particular skills for all those chin and tummy tucks in the future? See you later, Binky.” Claire waved and entered the club.
 
The music boomed out as she strode past the people filling the entranceway and walked up the stairs to position herself on the balustrade that enclosed the dance floor. She narrowed her eyes as someone below caught her attention, then moved in sync with the petite, buxom blonde who was strutting her stuff to an oldie beefed up by the DJ, “Hippy Hippy Shake.” Wow, did that woman’s hips shake, not to mention the rest of her.
 
As the music stopped, Claire glanced around. As usual, the club was packed with barely enough room to circulate. Turning her gaze back to the blonde, she grinned as the woman sashayed off the floor.
 
Within minutes the blonde arrived on the upper level and slid across the vinyl seat of one of the booths.
 
Claire made her way over to it. “Do you dance professionally?”
 
Green eyes snared hers. “I might. What’s it to you?”
 
Claire negligently leaned against the wooden frame of the booth. “I thought so. You are one sexy dancer. Want to dance with me?”
 
The green gaze seemed to x-ray her inner being. “The last song of the evening is my favorite and sums me up.”
 
Claire laughed and held out her hand. “I’ll take my chance. Though I’ve never been here for the last dance. What is it?”
 
“‘Wild Thing.’”
 
“Perfect. I’m Claire. Wild Thing, do you have any other name?”
 
“Avery.”
 
They entered the throng of the dance floor.
 
 
Claire struggled to walk to her car and unlocked it after two attempts at pressing the button on her key chain. I must be dog-tired. I feel like I’ve had a gallon of booze.
 
She snaked into the driver’s seat and turned the ignition. The deep purr of the engine as it came to life was music to her ears. She glanced at the apartment building she’d exited, then at the dashboard clock—4:00 a.m.
 
On automatic, she set the car in motion and sped up the road, her natural GPS taking over, as her brain seemed somewhat befuddled.
 
Her thoughts were filled with the young woman, Avery. She was, for sure, a wild thing and was up for anything in bed. Claire’s alarm on her watch had alerted her to the need to get out of Avery’s place. Racheal would be wondering where she was. Pissing off her fiancée, even if they did have an open relationship, wasn’t in the cards days before Racheal left for Europe.
 
Claire grinned as she negotiated a corner. I can have all the uninhibited fun I desire when she’s gone—can’t wait.
 
The faraway noise of bells punched through her thoughts. She passed them off as another part of the city in the distance. She continued forward and was amazed when she saw red lights flashing in front of her.
 
The blast of a train’s whistle, parallel to her was the last thing she recalled as she plunged into oblivion.
 
 
 
Chapter One
 
 
Melissa Jackson walked steadfastly toward the curb and watched the relatively quiet flow of traffic pass her by. In New York City that was a rarity; however, she was in a middle-class area where most were at work. The neighborhood wasn’t exactly a rat run connecting to a more popular district. People didn’t come here unless they had business or lived here.
 
She glanced at either side of the road twice and took a chance the large, white transit van heading her way was going at a pace she knew she could beat and stepped into the road. She stumbled into a hole, twisting her ankle and landing on the street. Disorientated at the unexpected fall, she frowned and looked at her feet just as the blare of a horn alerted her to the oncoming traffic. Then amazingly strong arms gripped her and pulled her out of danger.
 
“That was a close call.” Melissa looked up into concerned, pasty brown eyes. “Thank you,” she mumbled, smoothing down her exclusive purple Mark Alexander overcoat, which now had earthy patches in several places.
 
“I figured you tripped on that cracked part of the road. Did you hurt yourself? I’ve seen a few people do that. It should have been fixed months ago. Glad I could help though.”
 
Melissa heard what she thought was sincerity and turned to her savior, a woman who couldn’t have looked any more nondescript. She had the plainest features, and that long nose could definitely do with help. Her brown hair matched the color of her eyes, and she could benefit from a gym to shed those extra pounds around her hips.
 
“I’m so grateful too. Please, where did you come from and whom do I have to thank for saving my life?” Melissa asked with a smile.
 
“Kris, Kris Lake. I wouldn’t say ‘saved your life’ exactly.” She shrugged. “I work for Pritchard Insurance.” She motioned with a finger toward a row of buildings. “It’s my lunch break. I decided to treat myself to a coffee and savory muffin at Maggie’s Bistro, well two actually. I wouldn’t have been here otherwise.” An engaging grin accompanied Kris’s explanation.
 
Melissa liked the sound of this woman’s voice and most importantly the inflections. They were honest, and that was refreshing. “Well in that case, even more reason to thank the fates for sending you my way. How would it be if I bought you lunch today—my treat?” A frown cast over Kris’s face. “I insist, and besides, you were going to lunch, correct?”
 
Kris nodded. “I can’t let you pay. I did what anyone else would do under the circumstances.”
 
Melissa inwardly shook her head. If only you knew the circle I live in, you’d change your mind. “It’s a thank-you from a very grateful old woman. Please, I’d like to, and believe me, I can afford it.”
 
Kris shuffled from one foot to another for ten seconds and then stopped. “You don’t look that old, but thank you, I’d enjoy the company.” She gave a wide smile.
 
That smile had Melissa reflecting on her previous description of this woman. She was beautiful in a way that some would call soul-deep.
 
Melissa took Kris’s arm. “Lead on, my new friend.”
 
 
Kris settled into her usual chair at table sixteen in Maggie’s Bistro and smiled at the people around her, mostly regulars. She didn’t need to see the single-sided menu to know what she wanted and rocked in her chair. The woman she had helped had gone to the bathroom. Today hadn’t been such a good day at work, but at least her noble deed had saved the day.
 
“Hi, Kris. Same as usual?” Kris watched the older woman weave in and out of the tables rather awkwardly. Obviously her ankle was giving her trouble.
 
Kris looked at Perry, the waitress. She was around fifty-five with a ready smile and hundreds of stories to go with the tattoos she wore with pride. “Yep, thanks, Perry.”
 
Perry prepared to leave as she scribbled down the order.
 
“I’m with someone today, she’s…well, coming now,”
 
Perry glanced in the direction of Kris’s gaze and frowned. “I know her from somewhere. Who is she?”
 
Kris bit her inner lip. “Well, I—”
 
“Ah, I’ll have mint tea, and do you have a double-chocolate cookie?” the woman decisively spoke as she approached the table
 
“Sure.” Perry scribbled on her pad.
 
“Excellent.” Melissa sat down.
 
Perry left, looking decidedly perturbed.
 
“So, Kris, this is a lovely place. I have to admit that though I’ve been in this area many times, I’ve never partaken of the local eating establishments.”
 
Kris digested that statement and exhaled slowly. “I hope you don’t think this is too forward, but I told you my name—”
 
“My manners. I’m so sorry, Kris. Melissa Jackson. I forget sometimes that people…. I want to thank you again. You said you worked for an insurance company. Do you enjoy the work?”
 
Kris picked up the glass of water on the table and sipped it. “I did, but at the end of the month, I’ll be looking for another job. All this Internet insurance business made Stan, the owner, decide to retire and shut up shop. No point in selling the client list. It’s been dwindling big-time for the past two years.”
 
“Do you have other work to go to?” Melissa asked, staring into her eyes.
 
“No, I’m thinking of going home.” At Melissa’s expression of curiosity, she added, “I’m originally from Broome. My dad is a carpenter at the largest construction company in town. I’m the only child. Guess going home to Mom and Dad isn’t as bad as living on the streets in New York. I don’t have any savings. The rent and basic living expenses take all my salary.”
 
“You don’t sound happy about going home.”
 
Kris looked down at her glass, then shrugged. “I’m not. I left because my parents didn’t understand my orientation.” She sucked in a deep breath and took a chance. “I’m a lesbian. I can’t for the life of me think they have changed their minds since I left ten years ago. Sorry, I shouldn’t have—”
 
Melissa took her hand in a warm grasp. “I’m glad you did.” She gave Kris an intense gaze. “My granddaughter is a lesbian too. Her parents weren’t impressed at first, but when she introduced them to very wealthy, prestigious clientele in her circle of friends, they changed their tune.” She sighed heavily. “Claire has had a tough time for the last eighteen months.”
 
Kris was intrigued by the conversation and the woman named Claire. They were at least a respite from her current problems. “Do you mind if I ask why she’s had a tough time? You don’t exactly look like a person from a family who would fall on hard times.” Melissa’s clothes would have taken two months or more of her salary.
 
Melissa cocked her head and stared at Kris. “Hmm, perhaps. However, money does not buy happiness, wisdom, or health.”
 
“I’m sorry I….” Kris knew her cheeks were red from the blazing heat that surged through her face. Damn, I can’t finish a sentence. She’ll think I’m an idiot.
 
Melissa smiled. “I like you, Kris. You are not only forthright, but sympathetic. It is refreshing in this day and age. Claire was in a rather horrible accident; a train hit her car. She’s very lucky to be alive. It’s not, of course, what she thinks most of the time, but we are working on that aspect. Depression is a terrible thing.”
 
Kris’s eyes widened. “She was hit by a train! Whoa, I’m so sorry. I think I’d be depressed as well.”
 
“Yes, well, my dear, Claire was responsible for the accident. She’d indulged in excess. I never understood why her life took that direction.” Melissa dropped her gaze.
 
Kris saw the tears forming, and she reached across and touched the older woman’s hand.
 
“Younger people don’t always understand,” Kris softly said.
 
“‘Younger,’ my, I wish. Claire was thirty-three! She knew better.”
 
Perry returned and deposited their beverages on the table. “Be right back with the goodies.” She winked at Kris.
 
“She likes you,” Melissa said, stirring her tea.
 
“No, no. She’s just being friendly. It’s part of the job. Most people don’t even notice me.” Kris shrugged, depositing a sachet of brown sugar into her coffee and stirring vigorously.
 
“Does she call you by name when you come into the café?”
 
“Well…yes.”
 
“You don’t come every day or even every week, right?” Melissa insisted.
 
Kris frowned. “Well, no. I only come in here as a treat. I can’t really afford anything else. Today was special. You can’t let life get you down, right?”
 
Melissa grinned. “No, you can’t and—”
 
“Here you go, ladies. Your goodies.” Perry placed their food on the table.
 
“Thanks, Perry.” Kris smiled.
 
“Perry?”
 
The waitress looked at Melissa, and Kris did the same thing.
 
“Yeah?”
 
“You won’t remember me if I come in the café again, will you? My friend here uses your establishment infrequently, so why do you remember her?” Melissa stared at Perry.
 
Perry frowned and then slapped a hand to her brow. “Oh now I remember you. You’re Mrs. Jackson, who helps the women’s mission on Smith Street, and when I mean help, I do mean that big-time. My sister—”
 
“Thank you, my order looks perfect.” Melissa waved Perry away.
 
Kris watched Perry leave. She looked uncomfortable as she muttered, “Enjoy.”
 
“What was that about?” Kris asked.
 
“Nothing, my dear, nothing. I may have a proposition for you. Would you be willing to listen?”
 
Kris picked up one of her muffins, and before she took a bite, she replied, “Sure.”
 
 
Kris stroked Knight’s sleek, black hair as he lay across her lap. She gazed blindly at the TV screen. If anyone asked her what the program was, she wouldn’t have been able to answer. Her fingers tickled Knight’s ears, and she smiled as he purred gently and snuggled closer, wanting more.
 
“She offered me a job for a month, Knight. Not long in the grand scheme of things, but the pay is more than I get in six months.” She dropped her head and nestled it close to Knight’s head. “What do you think, puss?”
 
Several purrs later, Kris spoke again.
 
“Dad taught me carpentry. He said if I put my mind to it I’d be better than he was.” Kris shrugged and laughed. “Yeah, and I took that advice to become a carpenter.” She scanned the apartment. “I know I refitted the kitchen cabinets and they look good, but that was out of necessity.” The midnight-colored, shorthaired cat simply gazed at her. “Knight, you are no help.”
 
Knight jumped off her lap and ran to the kitchen window. Kris dutifully walked to it and opened it. Knight gave her a cursory glance and vaulted out onto the small, enclosed balcony where his litter tray and playthings were located. She half closed the window and sighed heavily.
 
“Melissa said Knight will be taken care of in a superior cattery until I come back, but I’d need to see it first.” Kris scratched the side of her head and frowned. “I love Knight. He’s my only family. I need to be sure this place is good enough. If everything checks out, at least this option is better than going to my parents’. They hate pets. I’d have to find him a new home—never going to happen.” Kris drew in a huge breath.
 
That’s it, decision made. I’m in.
 
Click here to purchase eBook
Content

Affinity Rainbow Podcasts

Listen as our authors read from their books.



Zen4dummies, our web-mistress