Killer Curves - Roxanne St. Claire
Roxanne St. Claire - Killer Curves
Roxanne St. Claire
The weight of her new engagement ring seemed to slow Celeste Bennett’s steps to a rhythmic thud as she crossed Fifth Avenue. En-gaged…en-gaged…a-gain…a-gain. Why had she accepted the diamond last night? Not wanting to disappoint the people who loved her was a cowardly excuse.
En-gaged. En-gaged. A-gain. A-gain.
As soon as she entered the coffee shop, Jackie Dunedin waved from their usual corner booth. The din of New Yorkers enjoying their Saturday morning coffee and bagels surrounded Celeste as she navigated the crowded tables. Slipping into the booth, she smacked her hand flat on the table and braced herself for the predictable two-word response.
Predictable was comforting. A little crass, but comforting.
“I’m giving it back,” Celeste replied.
Jackie slumped against the vinyl booth and gave her auburn curls a saucy flip. “You know, I feel a little like Suellen O’Hara here.”
“Scarlett’s little sister.” She drawled, “ ‘Scarlett’s had three husbands and I’m gonna be an old maid!’ ”
Straightening her silverware, Celeste smiled. “Three fiancées. Jackie. Huge difference. Anyway, I’m giving this one back before another person ever sees it. I only wore it today because it made me nervous to leave it at home.”
Jackie grabbed her hand for a closer examination. “I don’t blame you. This sucker is at least three carats.”
“Three and a half.”
“And white as snow.”
“Tiffany’s.” Celeste whipped her hand free. “How do you know so much about diamonds, anyway?”
“Certainly not from left-hand-wearing experience.” Jackie sighed. “It’s the curse of all us advertising types. I know a little about every business.”
Celeste flipped her mug right side up, hoping Becca had brewed her incomparable butterscotch mocha blend. But the middle-aged waitress was beaming at a male customer at the counter, and from her look of utter enchantment, Celeste wouldn’t be getting coffee anytime soon.
“So? How did it happen?” Jackie asked. “Mark did the hansom cab thing in Central Park. David popped the question at the top of the Empire State Building. What was left for poor Craig?”
Celeste shook her head. “Exactly what you’d expect. He asked me—no, he informed me—in front of my parents at their country club in Darien.”
“Oh, boy. Elise probably has the wedding planner on her cell phone speed dial.” Jackie held her hand up to her ear and dropped into a dead-on Elise Hamilton Bennett impression. “Raphael, dahling? It’ll be December this time. Put every white poinsettia in the Northeast on order. Book the Plaza. Call Vera Wang.”
“No, Mother was oddly subdued. But not Daddy. He was nearly delirious.”
“Of course. Who wouldn’t love a son-in-law whose lineage can virtually guarantee your father a Senate seat?”
“It goes both ways. Daddy’s promised Craig the moon and the stars if he gets elected.”
“So how did he do it? A ring in the bottom of a champagne glass?”
Celeste shrugged. “He got down on one knee.”
“The better to shine your father’s shoes, I suppose.”
Celeste managed a laugh and toyed with the ring. “You’ve got that right. Craig is just as enamored of marrying into my family as he is with me. But I just couldn’t tell him no. Not with Daddy beaming from the sidelines.”
Before Jackie could launch into her rant against emotionally unavailable fathers, Becca arrived and plunked the coffeepot on the table, splashing the contents over the spout.
“Do you know who is sitting at the counter?” Her blue eyes were enormous circles, a flush deepening the creases on her cheeks. “You’re going to die. Just die.”
Jackie immediately turned toward the counter, but Celeste just held up her coffee mug. “Is it the butterscotch, Becca?”
“No.” Becca raised the pot, rapture radiating from every makeup-encased pore. “It’s Beau Lansing. The race car driver.”
Celeste’s cup hit the floor with a shattering crash.
Becca jumped, and more coffee splashed out, this time on Celeste’s ivory silk pants. Her gasp stuck in her throat.
“Oh, honey, are you burned?” Becca’s voice rose to panic level, and she stuck a napkin in Jackie’s ice water and slapped it on the splotch bleeding across Celeste’s trousers. “It was my fault. I’m so jittery with him here. Are you okay?”
Celeste put her hand over Becca’s and squeezed. “Yes, I’m fine. I…the cup just slipped out of my hands.” Her arms and legs went weak and heavy at the same time, and she felt light-headed. What in God’s name was he doing here?
She stole a glance at the counter, but the restaurant manager, hustling toward her with a broom and dustpan, blocked her view.
“So sorry, Miss Bennett,” he apologized, shooting an