Mummy Dearest (2 стр.)

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“And I have a letter and permission from Dr. Solvani.” I knew I was wasting my breath, but on top of my genuine frustration with not being able to accomplish what I’d traveled a thousand miles to do, I really,

“You could come back Sunday,” Babe offered. “You can have the museum all to yourself.”

Like that would be an issue? The place was a tomb. Literally.

“I’ll be in San Francisco on Sunday. I have a garden party to attend.” I winced inwardly even as their expressions altered. I didn’t mean it to come out sounding like Lord Whipplesniffle looking down his long nose at the serfs. As a matter of fact, the last thing I wanted was to go to this fucking garden party. But Noah had basically made it an ultimatum.

“Of

He smirked, and I reminded myself that pleasant, reasonable people do not punch each other either, even if one of them was totally begging for it. The funny thing was, I’d sort of had the impression that

Oh yeah, I’d’ve dearly loved to smack him in that rosebud-shaped mouth of his. He had perfectly straight little white teeth. Almost like baby teeth. They were too cute—like I imagined he was, hosting his god-awful TV show. Now that I thought about it, I did sort of recognize him from the obnoxious ads for his stupid show.

“Now, now,” Babe said nervously, reading my expression correctly. “I’m sure no one needs to get nasty. Mr. Fortune, maybe you could let Mr. Lawson—”

But that really didn’t do me any good because it just made him all the more determined to thwart me. “Sorry,” he was saying, shaking his head. “Can’t help you. Nothing personal.”

I stared at him. He stared right back. Enjoying his moment of triumph.

“Fine.” I said to Babe, “If Dr. Solvani

Swell. Now what?

I left the museum and stalked out to the small shady parking lot. There were a total of five vehicles including a battered white van at the far end which looked like it hadn’t moved in a decade, a small blue Prius, and my rental car. My rental was nearly boxed in by a large black van which had the words

What the hell was I supposed to do with myself for the next twenty-two hours? Walsh seemed pretty limited in its entertainment options. My motel didn’t even offer pay-per-view.

I stared across the street at the feed-store sign swinging lazily in the autumn breeze. On the other side of the museum was a small park. Through the wall of trees I could hear childish voices shrieking something that could have been pleasure or could have been outrage.

If it wasn’t for Noah’s mother’s garden party, I’d change my flight reservation, but missing that shindig was

In fact, if anyone should be feeling insecure—

But neither of us should feel insecure because we loved each other. We were just going through a rough patch, and the disapproval of his family and the doubts of some of our colleagues didn’t help.

One of the girls standing by the van smiled at me. I smiled back automatically. She perked up.

Oops. Enough of that. I hunted for my keys and continued briskly on to my car. Maybe I could use my stay in Purgatory to catch up on some other work. I’d go back to the hotel, treat myself to a decent lunch, maybe have a nap, and then I’d see if I could get any work done. It seemed like I was always running behind on some project or other these days.

And this evening I’d find something to entertain myself. I’d noticed on my drive through town that their little theater was showing a vintage double feature of Boris Karloff in

I climbed in the rental, turned the key in the ignition and began the slow process of maneuvering my way out from behind the equipment van. No way in hell was I asking them to move for me, although I wasn’t sure

The girl who had smiled at me came around and mimed asking the truck to move. I shook my head decidedly.

At last I was clear. I threw one last reluctant look back at the ivy-draped front of the museum. Fraser Fortune stood on the porch beneath the faded sign that proclaimed

He put his hand up in unspoken command, came down the steps and started briskly across the shady lot. He passed his crew, and they called out various smart-aleck comments. He grinned good-humoredly and tossed back equally unflattering observations.

As Fraser reached my car, I pressed the button and the automatic window rolled down. He leaned into the car, resting his hands on the window frame, his head level with mine.

“Uh, look,” he said.

I looked. His lashes were very long and gold-tipped, his skin smooth and lightly tanned. His beard was the color of ripe wheat. He smelled surprisingly nice, although I couldn’t quite place the scent. White tea and lemon blossom and sunlit ocean? Clean.

“Maybe we can help each other.”

“How’s that?” I asked warily.

“It just occurred to me…”

I watched him narrowly. He was right in my personal space. His lashes flicked up, he met my eyes, his lashes flicked down. My unease grew.

“She’s right. Babe, I mean. You’re…probably pretty photogenic. You’ve got that cheekbone thing. Assuming you don’t turn into a total dweeb on camera, we could use you. We like to interview experts for each segment, and you clearly think you’re an expert.”

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