Photo my own:
The final scene (at least for the first draft) from Breaking Bread, Book Five in the Bucks County novels by Margaret Sorick. Find the previous excerpt here.
As is often the case, both Kiki and her cousin started throwing blame at one another, especially after learning that there were police officers who witnessed the whole exchange among the three of us. Jack said the District Attorney was ready to throw the book at them. The only thing that might save them from life behind bars would be providing evidence against Uncle Gianni for all the evil he had perpetrated over the years.
We heard through the grape vine —that is to say, gossip exchanged at Juan Paolo’s salon— that Ray Curtis-Stevens was filing for divorce and distancing himself as quickly as possible from his young trophy wife. It wasn’t going to prevent him from being party to the civil charges that Michael, Brad and myself had filed against Mrs. Katarine Curtis-Stevens. The three of us sat across from the car magnate and his lawyer in the conference room of Thomas Quinn, Attorney at Law. Tommy Quinn had helped me when I first set up my business nearly two years ago and he’d helped Olivia protect her inheritance from her greedy ex-husband. We waited while Ray’s lawyer placed a document in front of Tommy and frowned. Ray looked positively ashen.
“This is your final offer?” Tommy asked.
“I believe this is more than generous considering Mr. Curtis-Stevens had no knowledge of his wife’s actions against your clients.”
“We’ll need to discuss this,” Tommy said rising from his chair. “We’ll be in touch.”
When Ray and his lawyer had left the room, Brad asked, “Well, what did they offer? What do you think?”
Tommy smiled. “I think it’s a good offer. Of course no one can put a value on the life of a sister, wife and mother but…”
Michael gave him a reassuring nod. “It’s alright. I think we all understand that.”
“The offer is this: Ray agrees to pay each of you $1.5 million and sign over the building he bought for Kiki, as-is with an estimated value of $925,000.” Tommy turned to me. “If you get Leo in there right away, you can reopen Le Boulangerie in it’s new location before the holidays.”
I clapped my hands to my cheeks. “Tommy! You’re a miracle worker!”
He laughed. “I don’t know about that. But it would sure be a shame to let that great location go to waste. Now, here’s how I’d recommend you handle this among yourselves…”
We worked it out so that the building would go entirely to me and the difference would be made up by adjusting the cash payments made to my brother-in-law and Brad. I would have enough to start the business up again without going into debt.
After concluding our business with Tommy, Brad and I walked out to the car together. He said, “You know, this still doesn’t solve my housing dilemma. I can’t stay out at Leo’s place forever. But now I’m at your mercy. I don’t suppose you’d consider renting out the apartment over the new building. You know, since you already have a place to live…”
“Hmm, yeah, but it doesn’t make sense for me to rent an apartment when I have one available in a building I own. Especially considering the convenience it would be for work.”
“You know what the perfect solution would be?”
“Yes, but that would be complicated, Brad.” I was only now getting back in my parents’ good graces. Tanya’s trouble making went farther than just my business. She’d been poisoning my parents’ against me for the last ten years. Moving in with Brad would tear open all the wounds that had started to heal. “It’s not the right time. You know that.”
He put a hand on my arm and stopped me. “You didn’t even hear what I was going to suggest.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry. What do you think we should do?”
He reached into the pocket of his coat and I drew in a breath. When he produced an envelope, I exhaled. He held it out to me. “Go ahead, open it.”
I slid a finger along the crease to open the seal. I pulled out a sheet of paper with an itinerary. “Paris. Two round trip tickets, leaving April second,” I murmured as I read the type. “April in Paris?” I asked and looked up into his eyes.
He nodded. “Yeah, things should have settled down by then. The business will be back on track.”
“You want to take me to Paris?” I repeated. “How does this solve your housing dilemma?”
“You haven’t heard the rest of the plan,” he said, smiling.
“What is it?”
“You marry me first.”
A scene from Breaking Bread, Book Five in the Bucks County novels by Margaret Sorick. Find the previous excerpt here.
Despite my terror, I kept my grip on the two-by-four. I took a chance that in the darkness, the gunman wouldn’t see me lift it from the dumpster. I gently set it on the edge before slowly turning around. The man holding the gun was in silhouette —he wasn’t tall, but he was bulky– the weapon in the right hand of his outstretched arm. How had I missed the big black SUV parked in the shelter of the new addition?
“Sweetheart, you sure do have some terrible luck,” the gunman said. “A few more minutes and we’d have been outta here. Nothing for you to see. But now we got a problem.”
He kept saying ‘we’ but I didn’t see another person. I swallowed hard. “I didn’t see anything. Honestly. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He laughed softly. “Maybe. Maybe not. But we can’t take the chance that you did.”
The driver’s side door on the SUV opened and a figure emerged. A woman. Slim, blonde, tall. She strode purposefully over to the gunman’s side. “Carlo, this is taking too long,” hissed Kiki Curtis-Stevens. “Hurry up.”
“Relax, Keek,” he said. “Nobody can see us back here.” Then to me he said, “Come on over here, sweetheart. We’re going to go for a little ride.”
A ride from which I would never return, undoubtedly. Taking the chance that they still couldn’t see me in the dark, I raised my hand to rest on the two-by-four. “You won’t get away with this, Kiki. You’ll be the first person they look at if anything happens to me.”
She laughed. “There’s nothing to connect me to you. Nothing. Just because I was friendly with your dear sister? That’s not a crime.”
“What about the money?”
“Cash, darling. And none of it from any of my accounts. There’s no way to trace it back to me.”
I had to keep her talking. Where the hell was Brad? “Why? Why did you go after my business?”
“There’s not enough room for two French cafes in Doylestown, my dear. If I was going to make a go of it, I had to eliminate the competition.”
“But you could have done something, anything else… why a cafe?”
She sighed. “I have to admit, hearing Tanya whine about your success and her dismal little failures, I felt some pity for her. My mistake. I never thought about the consequences of her taking things too far.”
“Her taking things too far? What do you mean?”
“It was all fun and games when she was calling in the exterminator and the health inspector. Releasing the mice in the cafe —that was a stroke of genius.” She shook her blonde mane. “But when she tossed the block through your front window and hurt herself, she blamed me. Said it was my fault she almost lost her baby. She was nearly hysterical. I gave her an extra ten grand just to calm her down.”
The gunman spoke up. “Unfortunately, money only goes so far. We couldn’t take the chance she’d come looking for more or that she’d decide to squawk to the cops.”
“Getting rid of Tanya and the cafe? Kills two birds with one stone. Well, it’s been nice chatting, Ms. Kaminsky, but it’s time to go. Move it,” Kiki said, turning to go.
“What about Cissy Landis?” I asked desperately.
She glared at her cousin. “That was a stupid move. Cissy knows nothing of consequence. Now come on, dammit!”
Carlo waved the gun at me. “Let’s go.”
Grasping the two-by-four with both hands, I stepped from the shadows. I swung the board like a golf club up toward Carlo’s gun hand, sending the weapon flying. He spat out a string of obscenities and clutched at his wounded hand. I shoved him hard and ran past him toward the walkway that led back out to Court Street. The sound of running footfalls followed me. With a cry of rage, Kiki tackled me from behind. I landed hard on the cobblestones, knocking the wind out of me and snapping a bone in the arm I used to break my fall.
Kiki got up quickly and grabbed me by the ankles to drag me back into the alley. I managed to yank one foot free and with it, I kicked with all my might, sweeping her feet out from under her. As she hit the ground, her head smacked against the hard pavers and she lay stunned. I scrambled to my feet and clutching my broken wrist stumbled to the street where red and blue flashing lights awaited me. Four police officers rushed into the walkway with flashlights raised and weapons drawn. Jack Staley stepped forward to put a supportive arm around me and lead me to where a furious Brad waited with Nicki Penske. I fell into his arms.
“Please don’t be angry with me,” I said. “I know it was stupid to go back there…”
He pulled me close. “Oh babe, I’m not mad at you. I’m just mad that I didn’t get back there in time to help you. Thanks to these guys,” he growled.
“Come on, Brad,” Jack said. “It was bad enough Maya got past us. If you hadn’t had to park the car…”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, confused.
“I’ve had a couple of my officers watching Kiki’s building since Cissy got shot,” Jack told me. “Just in the offside chance someone would show up. When you hopped out of the car and ran into the alley, my team was just about to go in after Kiki and her cousin Carlo.”
“Oh, shit, I screwed things up, didn’t I?” I asked.
Jack shook his head. “Almost. But alls well that ends well. Anyway, we were able to stop Brad from rushing into the mess at least. My guys were coming up the alley right about the time you tee’d off on old Carlo. I’m just sorry you got hurt, hon.”
“I thought you were going to be waiting for Kiki at the airport.”
“Yeah, they changed their flight home, got here earlier than we expected.”
“What was she doing meeting her cousin behind the building?”
Jack laughed wryly. “Looks like she was doing them a favor for a change. Carlo was giving her the gun to get rid of. Probably bury it under her new patio or something.”
We turned at commotion coming from the building across the street. Carlo Cassetori and his outraged cousin, Kiki Curtis Stevens were led from the walkway to the waiting police cruisers in handcuffs. Kiki was spouting off about police brutality, calling her lawyer and demanding to see her husband. “Don’t you know how I am?” she shrieked as they tucked her into the back seat and slammed the door.