LAN PARISH DREW BACK and kicked the aluminum can high in the air, mindless of damage to his shiny formal shoe. Hands deep in his pockets, he watched the can bounce and tumble on the deserted rain-soaked sidewalk in front of him, gleefully imagining it to be John Sterling's head each time the metal collided with the pavement.
His mouth twisted with the ballooning urge to curse, but he couldn't think of an appropriate expletive to describe the basically nice guy who'd just happened to steal his fiancÃ©eâat the altar. Right now the only adjective for the man that came to mind was...smart.
Glancing around, Alan looked for something else to kick, suddenly wishing it were physically possible to make contact with his own backside. He should have asked Josephine to marry him months agoâno, years ago. Instead he'd taken their relationship for granted and she'd fallen in love with one of her clients, then canceled her marriage to him before his mother, perched on the front pew, had time to work up a good cry.
At this very moment, his friends and business associates were no doubt toasting the happy impromptu couple, at Alan's expenseâliterally. He winced, remembering that he'd made sure a case of his favorite champagne would be sitting behind the bar in the reception hall.
The sound of a speeding car approaching behind him, along with a telltale beeping horn, made him turn just as the vehicle zoomed through a curbside puddle and showered him from head to toe. Alan raised his arms in a helpless, deep shrug as the cold, muddy water seeped under his white shirt collar and dripped down his back. An aged white Volvo sedan jumped the curb a few feet in front of him and lurched to a lopsided halt, with one wheel up on the sidewalk.
Oh, well, he'd actually seen
parking out of Pamela KaminskL
“Sorry,” she yelled, fighting and tugging her way out of the death trap she drove. “The hem of this damned lampshade dress got tangled in the pedals.” She slammed the door and limped toward him. “Broke a heel, too,” she reported.
Alan rubbed a finger over the lenses of his glasses to remove the water blurring his vision. Pamela should have looked ridiculous in the peach organza bridesmaid dress with the armful of stiff chiffon around her bare shoulders, but she didn't. With her typical irreverent air, and her remarkable good looks, she carried off the eighties prom-dress knockoff with panache.
From her alarmingly low-cut neckline, she dragged out a handful of white handkerchiefs. She then shoved back a strand of dark blond hair that had escaped her topknot, and began to swipe at the water streaming from his chin. “Sorry 'bout that,” she murmured.
“No problem,” he said tartly. “I needed to cool off.”
She grimaced. “I was talking about the wedding.”
“Oh.” Trying to keep his eyes averted from the bosom of his ex-fiancÃ©e's best friend, Alan decided he'd never been more miserable in his life than at this moment. He stood completely still and allowed Pam to continue a woefully inadequate job of soaking up the water. “I can't believe Jo actually selected that dress for you to wear,” he said sourly.
“She didn't,” Pam said, painfully sticking the end of a hankie into his ear before moving on to swab his forehead none too gently. “Someone mixed up the order, but when it arrived, Jo seemed so stressed-out, I didn't want to bother her with it.”
Alan scowled. “Since she only had eyes for John Sterling today, I'm sure she didn't even notice.”
“It appears she did have a lot on her mind,” Pam agreed.
Inhaling, then expelling his breath noisily, Alan said, “I suppose they got married.”
Pam kept her eyes averted and nodded. “I heard Jo breaking the news to her mother just before I left.”
“And you didn't stay?”
She pressed her full, brightly painted lips together and shook her head. “Between Jo, the groom and his three kids, I figured there were already enough people at the altar.”
Grunting in frustration, Alan sputtered, “I can't believe after all these years of saying she didn't want children, Jo just up and marries a man with so much baggage!”
“Mmmnn,” Pam said sympathetically.
carryons.” She tossed the ruined handkerchiefs into a nearby trash can and pulled out her neckline, presumably to look for more.
Alan swallowed hard. He'd never thought about Pamela Kaminski romantically, but he was in the same pool as the rest of Savannah's male population when it came to admiring her generous physical gifts. The glimpse of a wildly inappropriate black strapless bra beneath the innocuous dress was enough to dry his tux from the inside out. When she plucked out two more hankies, he pulled a finger around his suddenly too-tight shirt collar. “Were you planning to shed a few tears, Pam?” he asked wryly.
She frowned and waved a hankie. “They were for Jo. The poor girl was crying like Niagara all morning..”
Pam glanced up and smiled sadly, her hands stilling. “I'm sorry, Alan. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I know how much you love Jo.”
Anger, hurt and frustration welled up anew, so he cleared his throat and changed the subject. “Why did you follow me?”
She tossed the last two soiled handkerchiefs. “Thought you might need a friend. Where's your best man?”
“My guess is he's two choruses deep into the Electric Slide.”
“Where were you headed?”
“To the airport.”
She angled her head at him and laughed. “That's quite a walk.”
“My flight to Fort Myers doesn't leave for four hours.” He smiled tightly. “I allowed us plenty of time to celebrate at the reception.”
“You're not serious,” Pam said cautiously, as if she wasn't sure she was dealing with a sane person. “You're still going on your honeymoon?”
“Sure.” He shrugged, then lifted his chin. “Why not? It's paid for. I'll drown my sorrows in buckets of margaritas on the beach. I plan to eat enough limes to stave off scurvy for a lifetime.”
Pam stared at him, the blue of her eyes startling against the wide whites. Then she blinked and looked up as a large raindrop dripped down her cheek. Within a few seconds, the rain was pelting down.
Which Alan didn't mind since his day couldn't possibly get any worse.
Suddenly a bolt of lightning streaked through the sky and struck a stand of trees several hundred yards away. On the other hand, perhaps he shouldn't tempt fate.
Pam was already tugging him toward her car. “I'll give you a ride. Where's your luggage?”
“In the back of the limousine at the church. I'll buy everything I need when I get to Fort Myers.” He opened the passenger-side door, lifting it out and up at its awkward angle, then gingerly lowered himself onto the dingy sheepskin-covered seat. Once inside, he turned to look at Pam, who barked, “Buckle up,” as she started the engine.
With a teeth-jarring jolt, they descended from the curb in reverse. Then Pam peeled rubber on the wet pavement, and made an illegal U-turn. As they sped toward the highway, Alan winced at the sound of her stripping gears, then braced an arm against the cracked vinyl dashboard. A dislocated shoulder was the most minor injury he could hope for when the rescue team extracted them with the jaws of life.
She glanced over at him, turning the steering wheel in the same direction. He gasped as the car ran off the shoulder, then sighed in relief when she jerked it back to the pavement. “What?” she asked, oblivious to his alarm.
“Never mind,” he said hurriedly. “We'll talk when we get to the terminal. Do you know where you're going?”
She scoffed and made a heart-stopping weave across the yellow line, then yanked the hem of her dress above her knees. She was barefoot. “Alan, you know I practically live in my car. It's my
to know where I'm going.”
Alan now realized why Pamela was the most successful real estate agent in Savannahâafter a ride with her, prospective home buyers were probably too rattled to refuse.
To his horror, she reached over to tune the radio, and after enduring a full fifteen seconds of her not once looking at the road, Alan lurched forward and offered to find a station. He tuned in to some light rock and eased back in his seat, trying to relax.
Pam made a disapproving sound. “Is that all you can find? My
plays that stuff, as if the sound of a drill isn't torturous enough.”
Alan sighed and found a more trendy station, assuming Pam was satisfied since she began singing alongâbadly. Suddenly he focused on the windshield wiper on his side and pursed his lips. “Is that a man's sock?” he asked. “Yeah,” she sang, weaving and shrugging. “The wiper blade fell off and the sound of that metal arm scraping against the windshield wore on my nerves.”
She turned a dazzling smile his way. “The black sock is hardly noticeable and it works great.”
He begged to differ, but he didn't dare. He briefly wondered which of Pam's admirers had left the handy souvenir, then pushed the thought aside. Instead, he closed his eyes and conjured up visions of sandy beaches and unlimited quantities of alcohol. He'd buy and finish the entire set of a new science-fiction series he'd been yearning to read. And Mrs. Josephine Montgomery Sterling, mother of three, would be far, far away...wiping runny noses.
Pamela respected his silence, humming and singing along with the radio, but not pressing him into conversation. After several minutes, he opened his eyes and glanced at her. Her profile was almost classically beautifulâthe tilt of her nose, the curve of her pronounced cheekbones. Except Pam's upper lip protruded slightly over her lower lip, giving her the appearance of having an upside-down mouth. Combined with large blue eyes and a mane of dark gold hair, she was stunning to the point of being intimidating. She had the braver half of Savannah's bachelors running to her bed, and the smarter half just plain running.
He'd heard the stories in the locker room at the clubâPam's exploits in bed were legendary. But he'd often wondered how many of the rumors were rooted in fact and how many were pure conjecture based on Pamela's background. She'd grown up in the Grasswood projects, the black eye of Savannah's otherwise beautiful downtown face. Grasswood was notoriously populated with several generations of dopeheads, prostitutes and petty thieves.
The first time he met Pamela, he'd peeled her off another girl's back in the hallway of his private high school and she'd rewarded him with a sharp kick to his shin. In response to public pressure, Saint London's Academy had extended scholarships to a handful of families from the projects, and Pamela's was one of the lucky ones. He remembered her two brothers being hoodlums and she herself being garish and unkempt, mouthy and irreverent, courting fights with girls, boys and teachers alike. One by one, the Kaminskis had all been expelled.
When he'd started dating Jo several years later, he'd been amazed to learn the girls were best friends, and more stunned still when he discovered that dirty-faced, sparring Pamela had become a top-producing agent for Savannah's largest realty company. Jo took Pam's flamboyance and reputation in stride, and soon Alan had grown more relaxed with Pam's company, despite her unpredictable and scandalous behavior.
The first time Jo had asked him to accompany Pam to a charity benefit as a favor, he'd been slightly uncomfortable, hoping desperately his high-bred mother didn't get wind of it because he didn't want to listen to her reproof. But he'd watched with fascination as Pamela the sexy siren had morphed into a sleek and charming conversationalist as she worked a roomful of potential clients. As a bonus, she'd even procured him a few introductions that had proved beneficial in advancing his computer-consulting business.
She was as different from his reserved, proper ex-fiancÃ©e as night and day. Jo was a quiet reading bench, Pam was a tousled bed. Jo was a contented house cat, Pam was a prowling lioness.
Alan frowned. The woman was a little scary.
“I'll wait with you,” she announced as she veered into long-term parking.
“That's not necessary,” he said, hanging on while she took him on a harrowing ride through the parking garage.
They lurched to a crooked halt one-eighth of an inch from a four-foot round concrete pillar. “I'll buy you a drink,” she said, and lifted herself out of her seat with the force of putting on the emergency brake. “Let me get some decent shoes.”
Hiking up her skirt, she walked around to the trunk in stocking feet. Alan got out of the car and followed her. She unlocked and lifted the lid to reveal an unbelievable array of footwearâpumps, sandals, boots, tennis shoesâhe guessed there were fifty or more pairs scattered to the far corners of the trunk, no doubt from her perpetual careening.
“Do you moonlight as a traveling shoe salesman?” he asked.