Welcome to our stop on the Just the Way You Aren't blog tour.
Just the Way You Aren’t
by Lynda Simmons
What happens when an everyday Cinderella makes a play for the prince?
A moment of madness. That’s all muralist Sunny Anderson expected when she donned a glittering mask and a fabulous gown to crash the gala at Manhattan’s newest boutique hotel. Project manager Michael Wolfe has no idea that the beauty staring up at the mural on the ballroom ceiling is also the artist who painted it. He’s captivated and she’s willing, but when their moment of madness on the sofa in his suite comes to an abrupt end, his princess is off and running, leaving nothing behind but a pair of earrings. He’s determined to find her again, but all he has to do is look closer at the woman painting the mural in his office to see that the one he needs is standing right in front of him.
“The lovebird is back!” Fluffy calls from the top of the bookcase.
The Calico twins say, “Told you so,” and dash to the window, squeezing in on Old Tom’s left while Lola makes room for herself on his right.
I stay where I am, stretched out under a chair with Boots and Annie. We planned to remain calm, hope for nothing. But Boots’ head is up, Annie’s tail is twitching and I hear myself asking, “What’s he doing?”
“Tapping on the kitchen window.” Fluffy looks down at me. “And the neighbour is at her sink.”
“Is the orange cat out there?” Annie asks.
“Not that I see.” Lola looks over at her. “Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
I have to say, things have been much calmer around here since we found Bernard’s stash of food. Full stomachs will do that, I suppose. Tom apologized for his blind obedience to Mr. Large and in Charge as Scruffy liked to call him, but it still bothers me that none of us had any trouble eating even after we found the little guy’s body in Bernard’s room. I guess the instinct to survive is stronger than the need to grieve.
Bernard is downstairs, yowling in the laundry room, the only door he can’t open. We weren’t easy on him but he’s still walking. A few wanted to starve him the way he tried to starve Boots and me, but as Fluffy said, if we resist revenge, we can leave with a clear conscience one day.
She looks down at me again. “The neighbour sees the bird!”
I know she’s trying to get me to come up there, and I’m tempted more by the light in her eyes than by what’s going on outside. But Boots was here long before me, and even if he wasn’t who knows where we’ll end up if that bird makes this work. No point making everything harder.
Lola perks up. “Neighbour’s coming outside. This could be it.”
Annie heads for the door. “Boots, come with me. Somebody holler when she’s on her way to the front door.”
“Newcomer, what is wrong with you?” Lola asks. “All of this is happening because you insisted on getting the window open. So why aren’t you up here watching?”
Because I’m an idiot.
I jump up on the window, Fluffy purrs and I wish we’d met sooner, or maybe later.
“Neighbour’s holding a finger out to the bird,” Old Tom says. “The bird’s getting on. . . neighbour’s looking up, everybody make some noise. . . .and she’s heading for the front door.”
The bunch of them take off for the stairs, hollering, “she’s coming, she’s coming,” to Annie and Boots.
“We should stay put,” Fluffy says.
I lean closer. “In case the neighbour comes back.”
She purrs louder. “Or the orange cat shows up.”
“Neighbour’s at the door,” Lola hollers up to us. “She’s looking through the glass. . . she’s spotted Ophelia’s body. . . hand goes to the mouth. . . and bingo, she is on the phone! Rescue is imminent!”
“Along with the cages,” Fluffy whispers.
“Unless we go out the window.”
“Sadly, there’s no way down.”
“There are bushes in front of that kitchen window. It’s worth a try.” She puts her forehead next to mine. “What do say? Cages or bushes?”
The next thing I know, there are sirens outside. Someone says, “No one’s seen her in over a week,” whatever that is, and we are clawing at the screen.
“What’s going on?” Annie asks from the door.
“We’re making a run for it,” Fluffy says.
“I’m coming too,” Lola says. “Let me at the screen.”
Her claws are powerful and that screen is shredded before the police pull up out front.
The neighbour is heading back to her side door with the bird on her shoulder. I lean out through the screen. The bushes look farther away than I thought.
“What are they doing?” Boots asks.
“Running away,” the Calico twins say. “Isn’t it romantic?”
“Come with us,” Fluffy says to Boots.
“You know me and heights. But you go.”
The front door crashes open.
Trucks pull into the curb.
People with cages pour out.
“Animal control,” I tell Fluffy.
The twins dash into the hall. “We’ll hold them off.”
The neighbour spots me at the window. Glances over at the trucks. I’m sure she’ll call for them, but she holds out her arms instead. “Come on, sweetie. I’ll catch you.”
“Let me go first,” Fluffy says and turns to Annie. “Come with us.”
Heavy footsteps in the foyer. A voice saying, “I’ve got an old cat here. You see what’s upstairs.”
“I’ll be fine,” Annie says. “You go.”
“See you on the other side,” Fluffy says to me.
The woman holds up her hands. “Come on baby.”
Fluffy leaps. I can’t breathe. Then suddenly she’s safe in the woman’s arms. “Good girl,” she’s saying. “Good girl.”
Lola’s turn. “Come on beautiful,” the neighbour coos.
“I could like her,” Lola says, and jumps. Another safe landing.
“I’ve got Calico twins on the stairs,” someone says. “They’re so cute.”
“Yes we are,” they say together. “And very affectionate.”
Strangely enough, I’m going to miss them.
“Take care of her,” Annie says.
“Or I’ll find you,” Boots adds.
“I will,” I promise.
“Come on sweetie,” the neighbour calls.
I let myself fall. Feel the rush of air and then her arms around me.
We made it.
She looks back at the trucks. “We should get inside.”
The bird lands on her shoulder again. It’s like a Disney movie only it’s real, and that door is waiting.
I hear Old Tom being loaded into a truck, the Calico twins negotiating with a driver and it sounds like they’ve located Bernard. Annie and Boots are nowhere to be seen.
“Three cats,” the neighbour says as she closes the door behind us. “Does this make me a Crazy Cat Lady?”
“Nope.” Lola rubs against her legs. “But it’s a start.”
Sunny’s feet moved of their own accord and she stared straight ahead, horrified and thrilled at the same time. Wondering what she was playing at and not at all surprised when he fell into step beside her.
This was why she wasn’t ready to leave, she realized. She was enjoying herself too much. Enjoying the fact that as Sonja she could do anything or say anything. Be shocking and sexy, and make Michael Wolfe sit up and take notice.
She glanced over at him as they walked, feeling beautiful, powerful, but most of all desirable. Because if that wasn’t hunger she saw in those dark eyes, then she’d been out of circulation for far too long.
Which was a distinct possibility given that her last sexual encounter had been almost a year ago in the back of Vince Cerqua’s convertible when the top wasn’t the only thing that wouldn’t go up. She’d spent the drive home assuring him that it happened to men all the time; at least that was what she heard in the tearoom.
She felt her face warm, knowing instinctively that Michael’s top would never let him down. Not that she wanted to find out. Not really. Not now, at any rate.
“Where will you be going in the morning?” he asked.
He drew his head back and she laughed. “There’s a theater group I’m rather fond of. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. I’m just a wanderer. Never in one place long enough to plant a garden as they say.”
“Is that what you’d like to do? Plant a garden?”
“Yes,” she said, slipping in a touch of Sunny, but staying true to Sonja. “Of course, with so many emerging artists, I’m not thinking about that right now.”
He stopped and took her hand. “What are you thinking about?”
Trouble. And sex. Mostly sex. For all the good it did her.
Truth to tell, Sunny wasn’t the kind to have a one-night stand. She was conservative in her thinking and cautious when it came to matters of the heart. She was the kind who delivered hampers at Christmas, painted faces at the community center on Halloween, and made sure her organ-donor card was signed. No question about it, she was Sunny the good: Balanced. Friendly. And utterly predictable.
But Sonja? Now there was a real vixen. A woman who traveled the world, took risks every day, and was never, ever predictable. It seemed a shame to make her leave the ball so early when she was only in town for one night. And Sunny had the rest of her life to spend being good.
Michael ran his thumb across hers and the pull was stronger than ever, bringing her back a step. After all, it wasn’t as though he was a total stranger, some masked man she picked up at the sushi bar. This was Michael Wolfe, Beast of Brighton, Terror of the Tradesmen. And she already knew he looked good without a shirt.
Maybe Hugh was right. Maybe a moment of madness was good for the soul.
The music changed again, the singer launching into a slow, sultry torch song that begged an answer to the question women had been asking for centuries: what is it with men and commitment?
Sunny had wrestled with that issue herself for years, convinced that the boy she’d loved too much would come back for her one day. Pale and contrite, wanting nothing more than to love her the way he should have all along. But commitment wasn’t on her mind at all when she twined her fingers with Michael’s and gave him Sonja’s best come-hither smile. “I’m thinking we should go to your place,” she said, and was sure she was floating as they headed for the door.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Lynda Simmons is a writer by day, college instructor by night and a late sleeper on weekends. She grew up in Toronto reading Greek mythology, bringing home stray cats and making up stories about bodies in the basement. From an early age, her family knew she would either end up as a writer or the old lady with a hundred cats. As luck would have it, she married a man with allergies so writing it was.
With two daughters to raise, Lynda and her husband moved into a lovely two storey mortgage in Burlington, a small city on the water just outside Toronto. While the girls are grown and gone, Lynda and her husband are still there. And yes, there is a cat - a beautiful, if spoiled, Birman.
When she's not writing or teaching, Lynda gives serious thought to using the treadmill in her basement. Fortunately, she's found that if she waits long enough, something urgent will pop up and save her - like a phone call or an e-mail or a whistling kettle. Or even that cat just looking for a little more attention!
Prizes for the tour are as follows:
• One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.
• One randomly chosen host will receive a $25 Amazon/BN.com gift card.