Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Balancing Act" a romantic little jewel theft story

Seeing as it's close to Valentine's Day, I decided to post this bit of light romantic fluff for Sample Sunday. It's about a klutzy woman, a charming man and a the theft of a jewel. The question is whether the fellow was just a bit too charming....

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by Camille LaGuire

"MY GOD, THAT'S gorgeous!" said Minnie. She clutched Lisa's hand hard as she admired the ruby ring. Lisa didn't mind. She hadn't seen Minnie since high school, and it was fun to show off her hard-won success, especially since Minnie had been the one who always seemed to have everything. And now, at the company's charity ball, Lisa could shine a bit. Minnie ogled the ring and kept talking. "It's huge! Where did you get it? A fiancé?"

"No," said Lisa. "No, I've been too busy working to have relationships. I bought it myself, with the bonus I got for saving the company so much money this year."

"Hmm?" said Minnie, unimpressed by Purchasing Agent of the Year. The ring, though, was impressive. "I am so jealous, Lisa."

She looked up from the ring, eyes wide with admiration, but then she saw something beyond Lisa that made her squeeze Lisa's hand harder.

"Ow!" said Lisa, but Minnie kept her tight grip and looked beyond her, eyes going wide with even greater admiration.

"Now I'm really jealous over him," she said, lowering her voice. Lisa turned to see a very good-looking guy across the room, watching them. Minnie clutched her arm and leaned closer. "Is he yours?"

"No," said Lisa, although frankly she wouldn't have minded if he was. "I've never seen him before."

"He's had his eyes on you ever since you came in." Minnie let go of her arm and gave her a little shove toward the man. "If you don't introduce yourself to him, I'm going to hit you."

Lisa murmured a protest, but she had to admit she was interested. It had been a long time since she had paid attention to her social life, and here she was dressed beautifully, coiffed and bejeweled, and there he was ready and waiting.

He was good looking. Tall, with dark hair and eyes that moved and took in the whole room--not nervously, but intelligently. He looked at her again and caught her looking at him. He gave her a crooked smile. Crooked smiles were her downfall.

She took a breath and headed across the room. Unfortunately she was concentrating so hard on her elegant walk that she didn't see the waiter who was rushing across her path. She stopped short and tried to draw back. The waiter did the same and managed to sidestep her, but she was off balance. She waved her arms, one foot in the air, and tried desperately not to tip into the buffet table.

Luckily Mr. Gorgeous, as she'd come to think of him, dashed forward, nimbly avoiding any accidents of his own, and not even spilling a drop of his drink. He grabbed her hand and pulled her upright.

"Thank you," she said, blushing and closing her eyes in absolute mortification. I look like a complete idiot, she thought.

"Glad to help," he said, crooked grin and all. But before she could actually die of embarrassment, or reply, he tripped. Thank god, she thought, as she reached out a hand to help right him. He weighed more, and it took more effort to steady him, and he ended up almost leaning on her.

"Oh, sorry," he said. "I guess 'Pratfalls Are Us', eh?" They both laughed, and he gestured toward the corner. "Maybe we should sit down before we hurt ourselves." But then his smile went away. "Oh, wait, I...can't. I've got to talk to somebody. I'll be back. I promise."

He headed off across the room, his head raised to look over the crowd, but somehow he seemed to be heading toward the exit. She laughed at herself. I'm not that scary, she thought, even when I do my Daffy Duck impression. She sidled to the buffet and thought if she did see him again, she'd have to flash her ruby at him quick....

She looked at her hand. The ring was gone.

She looked at the ground, but didn't see it on the clean white carpet, but she realized it couldn't have fallen off. It fit too well. It had been stolen--pulled off her hand in a wild grab.

She wheeled and looked across the crowd. He was moving purposefully but not fast, but he was almost to the exit. She dashed across the room, not looking elegant, but she didn't care. She grabbed his arm, and he turned and looked surprised.

"That trip was fake," she said angrily. "I can't believe I fell for it."

"I'm sorry," he said, looking contrite, but the crooked grin was still there. "You looked so embarrassed, I thought it would break the ice if I tripped too."

"And then you took my ring!"

"Ring?" He cocked his head, and looked down at her hands, as if interested. "You weren't wearing a ring. I would have noticed."

"Oh yes I was!"

"Did you shake hands with anyone? Maybe a stranger who claimed to know you?"

"Just you," she said. "And it was on my hand just before that, when I showed the ring to my friend Minnie...."

She could see the realization in his face as he looked up and quickly scanned the crowd.

"Minnie the Moocher," he said, almost to himself. He reached into his jacket for something. It was only then that she noticed the lump under his dinner jacket--a shoulder holster.

"You're a cop," she said.

"Yeah," he replied. He pulled his identification from his pocket and flipped it open, still looking for Minnie. He was a cop all right. And Minnie.... Minnie had grabbed her hand and then distracted her. Minnie whom she didn't know that well, but the police apparently did. Lisa had always thought Minnie was rich, because she always had everything the other girls admired. But there were other ways to have everything.


Sorting it out took forever. Minnie was caught with a purse full of jewelry that didn't belong to her, and there were statements to be made. At least Lisa got his business card and name--Detective Brian O'Brian--and he had her phone number on her statement. Still she waited around until he had a moment so she could apologize for calling him a thief.

"Okay," he said, before she could speak. "I tripped so you wouldn't be embarrassed about your fall. Now what can I do to balance out you calling me a thief?"

"Maybe you shouldn't," she said. "We have too much trouble with balance. Take me out instead?"

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For Tomorrow: I'll post some story notes about this one. I may also talk a little more about trunk stories, and the benefits of filling your trunk. I may even disagree a touch with Heinlein. (No, not with the infamous Rule #3, but Rule #2.) Some good writing done today too, btw.

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I don't have a related book to mention. The Wife of Freedom is a romantic adventure, but hardly a fluffy romance. Think of it more as an old-fashioned melodrama. (Not for kids.)

Available at the Amazon Kindle Store, as well as at Amazon UK, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble's Nook store. (Sorry not available in paper at the moment.)

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