As I race to the restaurant, I scowl knowing Mom’s going to have my head. Actually, she’s probably used to it by now. I’m surprised they don’t give me fake arrival times knowing I’m always ten minutes behind.
I rush through the revolving door of the restaurant, through the bar, and smack into a woman. She brushes against my bum shoulder and the pain burns right through me. Minding the manners Mom hammered into me from a young age, I mutter, “Sorry,” when I’m honestly not. I look down and notice something familiar about her.
“Hi, Garrett,” she says, sharing a small smile. “It’s been a long time. How are you?”
“Um. I’m fine.” My brows furrow as I wrack my brain trying to figure out who the hell this woman is. She’s short, about five two and roughly my age. I glance down and notice full, round breasts, slightly wide hips and thick thighs. Not my usual type, so I’m pretty sure I haven’t slept with her. At least I don’t have to worry about that embarrassing scene. She’s got chocolate brown eyes, looking at me with warmth. “And…how are you?” Shaking my head I am still trying to place her.
“I’m doing well,” she replies, her smile growing.
“I’m glad to hear that,” I say, trying to be polite and end this awkward reunion that clearly has me clueless.
“Well…I guess I should go.” She turns back and waves to a woman sitting in a far booth of the restaurant. On further inspection, she’s waved to Lindsay, my sister, who of course made it to our family lunch on time. Seated with her are my parents, with Mom frowning at me and shaking her head. Like she didn’t expect I would be late. Marcus isn’t here yet either. Guess the twin thing really does run deep.
“You know Lindsay?” I ask her.
“Uh, yeah,” she says, with a small chuckle and a noticeable hint of sarcasm.
“Of course,” she says, shaking her head slightly like it’s hitting her I have no damn clue who she is. Then she confirms my suspicions and just lays it on the line. “You don’t know who I am, do you?” Her eyes are alight with humor.
“Umm. I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” I splutter, rubbing my hand behind my neck — my tell — before flashing her my most charming, dimpled smile. Before she can respond, a lady in her mid-sixties with salt and pepper hair wearing an outfit appropriate for someone twenty years younger — but this is LA after all — walks over.
“Pardon the interruption,” she begins. “I would just be kicking myself if I got home and didn’t take advantage of telling you what a big fan I am.”
“My husband and I loved your book.” The lady turns fully toward this mystery woman. “I wish I had it with me for you to sign. Maybe I could get your autograph on something else?” I cock my head to the side and watch Mystery Woman. She turns back toward the elderly lady and smiles sincerely.
The lady reaches into her oversized zebra-print bag and produces a pen and small notepad. She hands them to Mystery Woman and turns to me, smiling.
“Donna and Frank. Your dear friends, Donna and Frank.”
“My…dear…friends…Donna…and…Frank,” Mystery Woman murmurs aloud as she writes a note. Watching her autograph the note, I can’t help the grin spreading across my face. Once she finishes, Donna reads through the note, her eyes widening with delight.
“Thank you, Charley,” she says.
“My pleasure,” replies Charley — Charley? — who looks tickled.
“Charley?” I say, racking my brain to no avail.
“Yes,” replies Donna with pride. “You are standing with the brilliant novelist Charley Windham.” She turns back to Charley before walking away. “Thank you again, dear.”
“Uh-huh,” responds Charley, giving me a look like I should piece it together.
“Charley Windham. Why does that name sound so familiar?” I rub my hand on the back of my neck while Charley looks at me with amusement. “Wait, you’re Charley Windham. Who wrote The Crossing Guard?” Charley shakes her head and laughs.
“That’s me.” Charley giggles, unable to control the wide smile spreading across her face.
“Yes. Now I know. I read your book. In fact, everyone on the tour read it. You couldn’t walk around a locker room or airport terminal without seeing someone with it in their hands.”
“That’s nice to hear.” She grins at me with her head tilted and nodding her head slightly up and down, giving me the impression she’s waiting for me to say more.
“That explains who you are, and I get you would know who I am, but how do you know my family?”
“That is the question of the moment, isn’t it?” she says, smiling smugly.
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“Immensely.” She is grinning unabashedly.