Miranda Sutter is a vegan, a bartender, and a writer – not necessarily in that order. She knows that the next Great American Novel is rolling around inside her head, if she can just find the right inspiration… The solution? Consult with one very dead writer by the name of Ernest Hemingway. When a handsome stranger saves a choking woman, Miranda knows she’s found a hero she can base her book on, but when she begins stalking him to learn more about his life, she’s in for more than she bargained for. Along the way, she will have to deal with long-buried grief and fear, a crisis of faith, an unwelcome housemate, a clingy gothic poet, the hero’s ex-wife, and a very hairy dog. Her crazy antics are sure to land her in jail… or in love!
If you're new, read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 part 6 and part 7 first.
Wednesday, April 18 (continued)
Outside, I open the passenger door and coax Hank in then circle around to the driver's side and get in. Starting up Chad's rattletrap of a truck, I wonder how I've come to this -- borrowing a clunker and hijacking a dog to further my writing. Seriously, though, my car is simply too conspicuous for undercover work. An old Saab convertible with a vanity plate that reads, "SNAABBY" is going to draw attention and stick out in a person's mind, for sure.
As I drive to Magnuson Park, I realize I don't really have a plan at all. What am I going to do once I'm there? Sit in the truck and just stake out Foster's house? I decide to take Hank out and play with him in the park where I can casually observe the house instead. Though he needs a bath, Hank does seem friendly enough. He's rested his head in my lap as I drive. Maybe we can be friends after all.
I park across the street from Foster's place and find, to my delight, that there is a huge off-leash area in the park. Who would have known? Well, dog owners, probably, but I had no idea. Perfect. Hank and I make our way around the fencing and I throw the softball a few yards away. I survey the house while Hank chases the ball. The minivan is gone and in its place is a red Toyota 4Runner. Now, that's a manlier vehicle, isn't it? points out Papa. I wonder if Suzie is at work.
Because I am watching the house instead of Hank, he nearly topples me as he races back with the ball. "Hank!" I yell as he races past me. "Hank, give me the ball." He lowers his head and charges at me again, the ball still in his mouth. This time, I am quick enough to jump out of the way, but he circles around for another run at me. What in the world? This isn't fetching; it's bullfighting.
Whatever it is, it doesn't fly with me, that's for sure. I plant my feet and put my hands on my hips directly in Hank's path.
"Stop!" I command. Thankfully, he stops, eyeing me carefully, head slightly lowered.
"That's better. Now give me the ball," I coax, reaching for it. He tightens his clamp on the ball and starts pulling away. We're playing tug-of-war with the ball and Hank is clearly enjoying himself.
I dig my heels in, leaning back, but last night's dew has left the grass slick and in a moment I am on my ass, soaking my yoga pants in the cold lawn. Hank drops the ball at my feet and I swear he's laughing at me as I sit most ungracefully on the wet grass. Stupid dog.
Getting to my feet, I pick up the softball and chuck it as far as I can. Hank immediately races after it and I turn slightly so that I can get a better view of the house, where two children, a girl and a boy, are exiting the front door, wrapped in windbreakers. Foster follows them into the yard and wipes the mist off the swings with a towel he's carrying. I suck in my breath. Even in his athletic pants and sweatshirt, he's a damned fine specimen of a man.
I realize I'm staring as Hank's galloping gait nears and this time, I head him off before he can tackle me. Ha! I'm getting better at this. "Drop it!" Hank drops the ball. Hey, this is pretty easy, once a girl knows what she's doing. I throw the ball again and Hank shoots off after it.
Foster picks up the little girl and places her on one of the swings. She's adorable in her pink jacket and lavender sneakers. Dark, loose ringlets spill over her shoulders and take flight as Foster pushes the swing. She must be about five years old, the older of the two children. Squealing with delight, she cries, "Higher! Higher, Daddy!" Foster gives her one more big push, and she's flying, laughing the entire time.
The little boy is tugging on Foster's pant leg. "I wanna slide, Daddy!" He's probably three or four years old, with his dad's dark hair as well. Foster uses the towel to dry off the slide attached to the end of the swing set and helps the little guy up the ladder. "Catch me, Daddy! Catch meee!"
Foster positions himself at the end of the slide and catches his son as he reaches the bottom, scooping him up and lifting him high in the air. The little boy is giggling as his dad spins him around, still holding him high.
As he turns, Foster looks across the street. Straight at me. Straight at me staring straight at him. Oh, shit. He flashes me that make-a-girl-melt smile.
Before I have time to respond, something large and solid hits me in the thigh, knocking me over into the soggy grass. Looking up in surprise and indignation, I see it's Hank. He drops the ball on my chest. "Daddy, I'm cold. Can we go in?" drifts from Foster's yard.
Suddenly, I am convinced that Hank is not my perfect undercover partner. Besides that, I have to work the afternoon shift today. Chancing another glance at Foster's house, I watch as he escorts the children back inside. As the door closes, I can almost swear Foster's captivating face appears in the window to steal another glance at me. Maybe he recognizes me from McArthur & Schultz. Maybe he thinks I am a stalker. I will definitely have to be more careful if I am going to play Nancy Drew.
Hank and I get back into the car and head for the house. As we spill in the front door, I see Aiden is up and sitting in the living room with Chad. Without speaking, I drop Chad's keys, Hank's leash and the waterlogged softball onto the coffee table. Chad reports, "I didn't get a chance to look at your car…"
"Fine," I sigh.
Aiden quips, "Rough morning, Sis? You look a little upset."
Collecting myself, I respond, "No, I'm fine. Just a little wet."
Chad cheekily retorts, "Yeah, I have that effect on women." He's laughing, cracking himself up at his wittiness.
"Don't flatter yourself, Sweetheart. It was Hank that got me so wet, not you."
Heading up the stairs, I can clearly hear Chad whistle, "Damn, your sister's into some kinky shit, isn't she?" He's cracking up again. Clearly, there is no end to his cleverness.
* * *
PART 9 HERE
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