Cat got your tongue, p.1
Cat Got Your Tongue, page 1
Cat Got Your Tongue
The 9 Lives Mystery Series
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Table of Contents
Meet the Author
The music pounded from the stereo. An electric guitar whined while the drummer laid down a beat that surged through the blood. The lead singer's voice was rough and deep. He sang about life's downside with an earthy charm that had entranced millions. The group was called SledgeHammer and they were Christy Jamieson's favorite band.
The band was playing in the background as she stared at the screen of the laptop she'd placed on the kitchen table. She hoped that having the music on while she job searched would give her heart and take her mind off the dreary task of discovering how few employment skills she had.
I was down, Sledge sang. Down and out till you came along. You made me whole. You made me strong.
Not the world's most articulate lines, Christy thought, as she stared at the job posting for a secretarial position at one of the local universities. Sledge pulled it off, though, because he sang with such intensity that he sounded as if he was singing to her and her alone.
Very sexy, she decided, using the thought to divert herself as she considered the job skills required of a secretary. Keyboarding: check. She could type pretty quickly, though she'd never timed herself. She tended to go back and erase when she noticed a mistake, rather than go on and fix it later, so that slowed her down, but hey, she was accurate and that was a good thing.
Experience with the standard office suite of software. Yup, she had that too. She'd taken a night course through the school district after Christmas. She even had a piece of paper to prove she'd passed. So far so good.
The next requirement was good organizational skills. That she had in abundance, so a big check there. Through her charity work and the parents' council at Noelle's schools, she had a lot of experience organizing events. She could even get references, if she tried. She could also use her volunteer experience for the next requirement, the ability to interact successfully with clients and staff.
She thought rather cynically that she could also parlay her years as the wife of the Jamieson heir for this one. Playing well with others was probably the most transportable skill from her old life. Amusement swiftly followed the critical thought. She wasn't sure that dressing in designer gowns and trading air kisses with people you saw far too often and didn't like at any time constituted a transportable skill for the office setting. Still, it was all in how the information was spun, wasn't it? That's what air kisses and false smiles were all about. Darling, we're such wonderful friends, but the moment we part I'll be putting you down to anyone who will listen.
The final condition was where she ran aground. It was computer skills again, this time requiring that the successful candidate be expert in the use of a page layout program and a photo manipulation one. Christy frowned. What was that all about? She knew the programs. That is, she'd heard about them. Both were way too complicated for her limited computer skills. She glowered at the screen, her disappointment keen, then she sighed and moved on to another posting. There was no point in applying when she couldn't do the job. Maybe she should be looking for a clerical position, one that wanted someone to file paper, not publish brochures and posters along with all the other duties a secretary fulfilled.
On the stereo one SledgeHammer song ended and the next one on the CD began.
I left my home to travel far. I had my friends. I had my music. I was alone. Then she found me and I knew she was the one. She completed me. She completed me. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Behind the simple words Hammer's drumbeat drove home the promise in Sledge's rough, masculine voice. The music flowed over Christy and washed away the frustration of her job search.
There was something incredibly erotic about a man focused on a woman, she thought. She pushed the laptop away and put her elbow on the table, then propped her chin on the heel of her palm. This was one of her favorite SledgeHammer songs. Sledge crooned a sensual melody for the first two dozen bars with Hammer laying down a steady drumbeat behind, then Hammer increased the tempo, until the song tightened into a potent dance that mirrored the sexual battle between a man and the woman he desired.
You completed me. You made me strong. The words echoed in Christy's mind as she allowed her thoughts to drift away from depressing ones on job hunting to much more pleasurable ones about Quinn Armstrong. Since she'd met Quinn, she was stronger than she had been before, and, yes, she was beginning to think he completed her.
She envisioned him in her mind's eye. Tall, with a muscular body. Thick black hair that fell over his forehead in an undisciplined way, no matter how hard he tried to tame it. Gray eyes that saw more than most people could—or even wanted to. An angular face and a mouth designed for kissing. She sighed with pleasure, then laughed a little at herself. She was smitten. She wasn't sure if smitten would lead to something deeper, like commitment, but right now it was enough to have his light in her life.
She went back to the job search feeling much less stressed and for another half hour she perused job descriptions. She saved one for a receptionist that stated the successful applicant would dress well, have knowledge of modern telephone systems, and provide clerical computer support when needed. She figured she had the dresses well part down pat and the clerical computer support probably meant knowledge
The job posting closed at the end of the month, which was perfect, since Quinn was taking her and Noelle down to California for a Disneyland vacation during Spring Break. They'd be back by the time the job posting closed, so there would be no problem making an interview, if she got one. She sighed.
Bringing in an income to supplement the money she received from the Jamieson Trust each month was not yet a necessity, but she was very aware that could easily happen. The huge Jamieson fortune had been embezzled at the same time as her late husband Frank Jamieson was murdered. What was left was a fraction of the original. The amount was enough to provide Christy with an income that she used to pay the everyday expenses. Later, it would stretch to paying for her daughter Noelle's university education. There was no contingency for emergency expenses though, which was why she was looking for a job.
There was a possibility—slight at best—that the Jamieson fortune could be recovered. One of the men who embezzled the money was working with a court appointed accountant to try to rescue it and return the funds, but the way was tangled. Now, almost six months after she and Quinn had proved that Frank was dead and not responsible for the embezzlement, the Trust was still a shadow of its former self.
Thinking about the Jamieson Trust had her frowning and checking her e-mail. Recently, she'd started helping Isabelle Pascoe, the Trust's office manager, handle some of the day-to-day details. In the past, the woman always had a trustee to turn to for decisions. Now that three of the former trustees were facing criminal charges, she only had Frank's aunt, Ellen Jamieson, and Christy to use for guidance. And she preferred talking to Christy.
There were two new messages in her box. One was from Quinn. Are you home?
She typed yes and pressed send, then turned to the other post, which was indeed from Isabelle asking whether she should reinvest a bond coming due or cash it in. Christy read over the details, then told her to designate it as part of Noelle's university fund and reinvest it. She was not going to dribble away her daughter's future by using capital for day-to-day spending now. That was why she needed to get a job. For today's expenses. The Jamieson Trust might be little more than a nest egg now, but if she managed it carefully the money would give Noelle the head start she deserved.
She put the laptop to sleep and turned off the SledgeHammer CD, then she went outside to wait for Quinn on her front porch. She sat on the top step and turned her face up to the sun.
The winter had been one of rain and cold winds blowing off the ocean. The raw weather meant the spring flowers were slow in coming out, and she was still wearing her winter clothes. Today she had put a jacket on over her jeans and the long-sleeved V-necked sweater she was wearing. The sweater was thin, made of silk and wool, and clung to her curves. It was surprisingly warm on this lovely spring afternoon. She smiled as she basked in the weak sun. This was one of the first days that it was warm enough to sit out on her porch and enjoy her world.
When a shadow blocked the light, she opened her eyes and straightened. Quinn was standing in front of her, tenderness in his expression. He bent and kissed her, then sat down beside her on the step. "Hi," he said.
His voice was husky and the word had been spoken with a low sensuality that reminded her of a SledgeHammer song.
"Hi yourself." Her eyes searched his face. "Do you want to go for a walk?" They usually walked along the woodland path that traversed the greenbelt behind the townhouse complex where they lived. At this hour of the day the path was largely deserted and the shadow of the trees provided privacy for passionate kisses.
Quinn's mouth quirked up into a half-smile. "Maybe in a bit. There's something I need to talk to you about first."
"Okay. Shoot." There were any number of things Quinn might have to discuss with her. A journalist of international repute, he'd written a book about Frank's murder and the embezzlement of the Jamieson Trust that had been the cause of it. He'd sold the rights to a multinational publisher and the book had been optioned by a big name movie producer. He was using part of his advances for their upcoming vacation to California. He might need background information for the revisions he was now working on. Or he might want to let her know that he'd included some personal details they hadn't discussed before. She was sure that whatever it was, they'd talk it through.
He pulled a white envelope out of the inner pocket of the leather jacket he wore over his own jeans and sweater. She stared at it, surprised. This wasn't what she'd been expecting.
She flicked one corner lightly. "This looks just like the envelope Gerry Fisher gave me the day he told me I had to attend the IHTF fundraiser as the Jamieson representative." She smiled faintly. The gala dinner had been a trial, but Quinn had come with her that evening and made it easier for her.
You complete me. You make me strong.
He looked down at the envelope. There was satisfaction in his expression. "This is much better than the IHTF event." He handed her the envelope. "Open it."
She laughed. "What is this? Like a present?"
"You could say that."
The envelope wasn't sealed, so she flipped open the flap. Inside were two tickets. She looked up at Quinn, frowning.
"They're for us," Quinn said. "Or you and Noelle, if you think it's appropriate. I can get another."
She shot him a bewildered look as she reached inside and drew out the tickets, then she could only stare in amazement. "Oh," she said at last.
"A good 'oh' or a bad 'oh'?" he asked, sounding worried. And maybe a bit amused.
She turned to him, her eyes wide. "SledgeHammer tickets," she said, awe making her voice breathy. "This show was sold out months ago. How did you get these?"
Quinn grinned. He looked pleased, and also a bit relieved. "Trevor gave them to me."
Christy slipped the tickets into the envelope, careful to make sure they were safely stowed. She looked back at Quinn. "Why would Trevor have SledgeHammer tickets?" She stopped and waved a hand, thinking about Trevor McCullagh, friend of Quinn's free-spirit father, the well-known author, Roy Armstrong. "Why did I say that? Why wouldn't Trevor have tickets?" Just because Trevor was part of the older generation, didn't mean he wouldn't enjoy SledgeHammer's brand of modern rock.
"The tickets are for the SledgeHammer suite," Quinn said. His lips twitched as Christy stared at him, wide-eyed again.
"The SledgeHammer suite? You mean, the band's personal suite?" Her voice rose in a squeak she couldn't quite control.
Quinn nodded, amusement dancing in his eyes. "Sledge told Trevor to bring whoever he wanted. Trevor invited us—my dad, you and me, Ellen, and Noelle if you think it's okay—to be his guests. Hammer is inviting his family, and there will be some music people as well."
"But why would Sledge, the lead singer in a rock band, give Trevor McCullagh tickets to his box? Did Trevor defend him at some point?" Though that seemed unlikely. The band had a squeaky-clean reputation and had been known to compare their tours to a salesman's business trip. There had never been any hint of the kind of charges Trevor tended to defend.
This time Quinn laughed aloud at the confusion on Christy's face and in her voice. "Why? Because Trevor is Sledge's dad."
"I think this is it." Roy Armstrong peered at the tickets, then up at the number posted above the suite.
It was the night of the SledgeHammer concert. The McCullagh party, consisting of Trevor, Ellen, Roy, Quinn and Christy, had entered through the VIP gates on one side of the arena. While this meant they didn't have to fight the huge crowd flooding through the main doors, they did have to walk almost all the way around the second level of the arena to reach their destination.
Roy studied the doorway critically. He was dressed as he almost always was in jeans and a comfortable front button shirt. "The name plate says it's the general manager's suite." Then he shrugged. "May as well try it. We can't go any further."
Trevor put his hand on the doorknob and turned. "The arena isn't going to say it's the SledgeHammer suite. They'd get fans and paparazzi crashing the place." He threw open the door and guided Ellen, who'd been standing beside him, into the room.
The others followed in their wake. Inside they were greeted by a man of average height who smiled toothily and ushered them into the compact luxury of the arena box with an encouraging wave. "Trevor! Wonderful to see you again!" he said. To the rest he added, "Welcome! I'm Vince Nunez. I manage SledgeHammer."
Christy judged Vince to be somewhere between forty-five and fifty. His black hair was combed back from his forehead and held in place with gel. His jeans were designer and the plum-colored shirt he wore under a bespoke jacket was silk.
He and Trevor shared a manly hug, then Trevor said, "We're all looking forward to the concert, Vince. Let me introduce you. Christy and Ellen Jamieson. Roy Armstrong and his son, Quinn."
They all nodded. Vince's eyes brightened and he focused on Roy. "Roy Armstrong, the author?"
Roy nodded, his expression blank. Christy knew that he was here to enjoy the concert, not to promote one of his best-selling books. He hated having his celebrity horning in on his private moments.
by Louise Clark have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes