Gracie by Amy Wallace (From Ransomed Dreams)
Read it at her blog http://peek-a-booicu.blogspot.com
With a shudder, Gracie surveyed the small museum room filled with colorful Native American pottery. Other than the frigid air and imposing metal gates which enclosed the small group of seven, she would have loved this fascinating tour. Her students, James and Susannah especially, would have been enthralled by the docent-led exploration of pottery, tools and ancient art.
As it was now, she didn’t plan on ever returning. Too many unpleasant memories. She watched the now very obtrusive security cameras whirr to catch all movement, every person but Quinn a study in controlled fear. Had the video captured the theft?
While Marina, the outspoken and opinionated lieutenant, raked poor Jessica over with veiled accusations, Gracie crossed the room to stand by Maxine.
Quinn continued his discussion with Tiffany, no flirting smiles but pure male interest still smoldered in his eyes. His stiffened posture and quick glance at her movement signaled she was next and blared his displeasure with her choice of companions.
“Maxine, I’m… I’m really sorry for my earlier accusation. I’m a little skittish with the confinement and want this over with as soon as possible.”
“Don’t we all.” Maxine smoothed her fly-away red hair and narrowed her eyes. “You seem pretty bothered by the gates, something got you spooked?”
Deep breath. No need spilling the upside down story of her recent problems to a complete stranger. Time with her FBI AGENT beau and his partner had taught her the value of limited words. And cold showers. But she didn’t need those thoughts making everything worse. Getting ahead of God’s timing with Steven had ranked high on her “to be avoided” list.
Now she was minutes away from possibly being accused of theft and adding museums to her black list.
“I’m beyond cold and a tad claustrophobic, that’s all. Can I ask you something?”
Gracie pulled out a small, mostly white business card. “On my way in here, I picked this up near the empty display case in the other room. I’d planned to return it to Tiffany, assuming it was hers, but I wanted to ask you about it first. Didn’t you mention needing to get back in shape to keep up with your friend Desi?”
Maxine snatched the card. “American Gym? Not on your life. I have two little ones that keep me hopping.”
“But didn’t you say—”
“Mrs. Lang? Can I ask you a few questions?” Quinn’s lazy once-over had her wishing again for Steven’s company on this excursion. Then he could defend her to Quinn while she concentrated on decoding the mystery at hand.
Maybe if she could piece together the clues for Quinn, he wouldn’t bother her long or question her too much. With her recent assistance in solving her family’s cold case murder, this problem should be easily overcome.
After all, she’d survived much worse than this.
Tiffany by Trish Perry (From The Guy I’m Not Dating & Too Good To Be True)
Visit her website at www.trishperrybooks.com
Now, really. Why would I steal a book? I mean, I won’t claim I’ve never stolen anything—I’ll be honest with you about that. And I’m truly sorry for what I’ve stolen in the past. I’ve stolen clients from other trainers at the gym. I’ve stolen other girls’ boyfriends without hardly trying. I even tried . . . well, I’m not proud about any of these things, but the worst black blotch next to my name in the Big Book of Pluses and Minuses is probably that I tried to steal a husband once. A long time ago. People, see? I’ve stolen people.
But a book? Puh-leeeeze. Do I have time for book reading? When I’m too old to mingle with the singles, I’ll consider reading books. For now? Maybe People magazine once in awhile. So if someone steals your copy of People, you go on ahead and come looking for me. Ha! Again, I’m willing to admit I steal people. People, get it?
I’ve got to say, though, this museum is like Fort Knox in the SECURITY department. How did they manage to lose a book? I wandered away ever so slightly from that schoolteacher chick—Gracie—and that cute guide, Quinn, and you’d think I was Obie-Wan Kenobi—
No, wait, that’s wrong. Osama Bin Laden. You’d think I was Osama Bin Laden, the way the guards all hopped-to and shuttled me back to the group.
See, what happened was I thought I was going to be able to just wander around on my own when I came to the museum. But they make you go in groups here. So I get put with a bunch of women and this old guy, who turns out to be really kind of sweet. He was part Indian—not the Bollywood kind, but the other. Like Cher. He reminded me of my granddaddy when he smiled. I really miss my granddaddy—he died when I was just a kid, and absolutely no one will ever take his place. So, this Indian guy—oh, that’s right, it’s Native American, sorry. He seemed to know a lot about all of the things we were looking at, almost as much as Quinn, our guide. I decided to tag along and listen to what he said, but I don’t think he knew how closely I was listening to him. Not that he said anything mean about me; he just didn’t seem to notice me much.
I was also sticking pretty closely to Quinn, because, of course, he knew a bunch of stuff, working for the museum and all. To be honest, I stuck close to him because he was good looking, too. And flirty. No ring on the finger, plenty of confidence, securely employed—definitely worth a mild pursuit. But then I noticed he was flirting with that schoolteacher, too. Gracie. Guess he was into how we both looked. She has long hair pretty close to my color. She’s in pretty good shape, too. But I think she said she had a boyfriend, and she ignored him, as far as I could tell.
Still, I needed to play less than available after seeing that kind of behavior—Quinn’s flirting with both of us. So I wandered. Nothing sinister, just an effort at nonchalance. So he wouldn’t think he was some kind of gift. I just wanted to drop out of his line of vision briefly and see if he missed me. I thought it was working, and he did seem troubled that I wasn’t with the group for every minute he was in charge of us.
I can’t say whether or not I even noticed that book they’re talking about. I was looking at other things and was able to, you know, absorb culture on my own, the way I had hoped to. I didn’t go far, just out of Quinn’s sight for a while, and I can even tell you what I saw. Some of the paintings were modern, which I thought was just plain awful. No people in them. Or even dogs or cats. And I caught a glimpse of some sculptures. Also modern. What’s up with that, anyway? One thing I learned is that I like art to look like real life. I wonder if that’s okay, culture-wise.
The only reason I’m even here in the museum is because I figured I needed to get a little more sophisticated. I certainly wasn’t exposed to museums and such down home in South Carolina. Mama and Daddy just aren’t that kind of people. But I hear my co-worker, Kara, and her best friend, Ren (another schoolteacher, like that Gracie girl, sheesh), when they get talking sometimes. It’s a little intimidating when they talk about stuff I don’t get. Just once, I’d like to surprise someone by knowing something about art or whatever.
Thing is, I seem to attract men as easily as that Maxine lady seems to attract static electricity with her hair. But I’m a little weak in the relationship-longevity department. And I’m not particularly gifted with making friends with women, either. I’m wondering if I need to broaden my horizons. You know, smarts-wise.
I thought I came off well in Quinn’s eyes, despite my having to gracefully shrug off a few catty remarks that Marina woman threw my way. I swear, the woman could make a sarcastic remark without even opening her mouth. Just by looking at you and using her eyebrows. She was one tough broad, I think.
I just hope they get us out of here soon. Sometimes I’m kind of claustrophobic, and I’m nervous about everyone sucking up all the air, especially that big girl, Jessica. Man, I wish she’d come to the gym and let me whip her into shape. She wouldn’t look half bad. I offered her my card, but I think she’s in denial. At least I tried.
So, come on, museum people, and get us out of here. My shoes are killing me. And I have a manicure in a couple of hours; my nails are looking wicked ugly.