“Are you ever going to ask me?”
Bill and I stood in his sparse and boyish bedroom at the Racket mansion. I had just come from work and he came from… well, he took a “sick day,” blew off work, and went to the movies. Sometimes I couldn’t wrap my head around why I was “into” Bill. He was a playboy, a loafer, and a slob with little sense of humor and a weird obsession with wearing sunglasses at all times to appear cool. Even during lovemaking… sometimes… Tonight, thankfully, he had taken the shades off.
I, on the other hand, was ambitious and driven, and getting deeper and deeper into the hole of lies built on a house of cards. Some days I thought I was digging my own grave.
It didn’t take much to convince my boss to build a trauma ward at Twinbrook Foundation Hospital, the favor for Nick Knack. Dorthemeir wanted to bring more tourism to town, and if he couldn’t do that, he’d settle for a big name physician or surgeon. I called my contacts in New Simoleans and managed to find someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew Dr. Wizard to film a few of his medical shows at our new trauma ward next spring.
I was friends with Mia Simm’s agent, Harriet and managed to convince her to come to the opening ceremonies of Bachelor Stadium – if I’d do karaoke with her. A small price to pay. Harriet had been trying to get me to sing in public since college. Favor #2 taken care of.
Favor #3 was a little harder. Dorthemier’s wife didn’t want to give up the property she owned – which Pattina Knack needed for her house expansion. Harriet mentioned she knew a contractor out of Modern Heights who would cut the Knacks a substantial deal if they expanded upward (building on a third story) instead of out. However, he could only cut the deal if he came to work in Twinbrook in Simcember. They would have to wait nearly six months because he was still doing a job out in Appaloosa Plains. In the meantime, I could possibly convince the Dorthemeir’s to sell their property.
Favor #4 was proving to be the most challenging. I wasn’t actually related to the Colt firearms people. I did some research online to find out a contact, but couldn’t get anyone from the company to call me back. After two weeks of phone calls and emails, I decided I’d probably have to go there in person. Cascade Shores was a long drive away up the Eastern seaboard. But once I got there, what was I going to say? “Hi, I’m Rachel Colt… quasi-related to the Colt family… and I’m looking to hook you up with a crime family from way down South.”
I shook my head. I needed to work on my pitch.
“Baby, are you listening?” Bill asked, nuzzling my neck.
I closed my eyes and smiled. He smelled like pipe tobacco and a cinnamon cologne. Those were beginning to be my favorite scents in the world.
“Ask you what?” I breathed into his ear.
“If I can move in with you,” he replied.
I frowned. Move in with me? My house was tiny, barely large enough for myself, and it certainly lacked the type of comfort and class I wanted. If anything, I’d hoped he would ask me to move in with him – into the Racket mansion.
Marigold loved me. Granted her biscuits and whiskey tradition was a little strange, and her ranting all over the house about paint swatches and bumble bees and sugar in the salt shakers made little sense, but she was kind-of lovable herself in spite of her oddities.
Max was a different story. He was gruff and rough around the edges, but in his older age, he had taken a step back fro the family business and spent most of his time working out in the garage and strangely had taken a job working as a towel boy at the local spa. I surmised he was looking for easy marks, but I didn’t question him. He made one to two word comments to me when I was at the house. I learned quickly how to get on his good side and now I was the only one in the house who could make coffee the way he liked. He still only gave me few word answers, but that was better than getting a snarl…
…like he gave Dennis. Poor Dennis! Bill’s brother. He seemed decent… too decent for a guy running the weapons smuggling racket, but who was I to question? Max didn’t seem to like anything the guy did… not that he really seemed to like anything Bill did either, but he seemed to accept Bill as a screw-up. He expected more from Dennis, on the other hand, and it didn’t matter what Dennis did, it was never quite good enough.
This evidently caused tension between Dennis and his wife, Silver, my former boss. They argued loudly. The arguments always ended the same. He went the warehouse to blow off steam and she ran up more debt on her credit card. She always came home with the most useless stuff – a silver tortilla holder, a silver toothpick holder, a silver nameplate… come to think of it, she liked collecting holders and I wondered if they were substitutions for the things she really wanted – mere placeholders.
I suspected she was having an affair. Who wasn’t in this town? It was only fitting for a member of the criminal family to be cheating on their spouse. I caught her getting out of “his” car a few times though I never knew who it was. The only reason I knew about it is because I would see the car on my morning run when no one else was supposed to be “awake.” She’d prance right into the house like nothing was wrong and squeeze Dennis some fresh orange juice and claim she had just stepped out to get the paper. This was about when the teenagers would descend into the kitchen.
Shark, well, he was a whiner. He whined about his lack of friends. He whined about the loss of his girlfriend (Shakira went back home to her parents). He whined about his shoelaces… because apparently, every teenager needs “gold shoelaces” to look “cool” enough. He whined about homework, and usually, Lolly, his sister, ended up doing it to get him to quit. He whined about me “ruining his life” but this was usually met with a “Shut up, Sharkie” from Marigold.
All and all, everyone pretty much avoided everyone and that worked best for keeping the peace. It was a large and beautiful Southern mansion with plenty of room for me should I move in.
“Why do you want to move in with me?” I winced. “My little hole-in-the-wall place.”
“Well, I bet I can get Pops to spring some funds for us to upgrade or get a nicer place across town,” Bill said.
“Yeah, but the plumbing hardly works and the refrigerator whines and my bed creaks…” I complained. “What about here?”
“With my parents? We’d have more privacy at your place and the rent’s cheaper.”
“They seem to like me. And what do you mean the rent’s cheaper? You aren’t paying rent right now. It’d be better to live here and eliminate my housing bills.”
“Yeah but my bro and his brood?”
“You already have this room and there’s a nice suite down the hall that isn’t in use. And that bathtub shower combo with the fireplace is divine.”
“We can build one at your place.”
“But it’s so much work when this place has already got everything we need. And why would we want to spend unnecessary money? You’re always looking to shave a dime here and a quarter there. This would be cheaper in the long run until we can save up for a grand place of our own.”
Bill leaned his head back, taking my hands in his, and swinging our arms back and forth.
“Ever the practical one, chickadee,” he sighed.
“Yes, but practical will get us places. We don’t need extravagance, but we can certainly make better use of this place than my dumpy house,” I added. “I can give you free massages.”
“You already do,” he said, his eyes twinkling.
“More of them because I won’t need to occasionally commute back to my place… and breakfasts in bed because I’ll save time without commuting,” I said, trying to sweeten the pot.
“Leftover spaghetti in bed?” he pushed.
“Sure,” I lifted my shoulders and exhaled.
Bill preferred dinner for breakfast.
“And we’ll skinny dip in the pool when the teens are away at summer camp,” he added.
I laughed. “Won’t that scare the hell out of your Ma and Pops if they catch us?”
“Sounds like fun,” Bill grinned.
“Okay,” I agreed.
“Then it’s a deal. We should get out of these clothes to celebrate,” Bill said, leaning closer to me.
“What? Doing what we always do in here?” I asked.
“How about down the hall in the suite? We can mark our territory since you’re moving in with me,” Bill suggested.
“How romantic!” I rolled my eyes.
“I’ll carry you and then feed you nothing but champagne and order in cheesesteaks from the bistro for supper since it’s your favorite,” Bill offered, swinging his hands behind my back and pulling me in for a kiss.
“I think I could… love you,” I sighed and melted into his embrace and lips.
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