Read A Fare To Remember: Just Whistle\Driven To Distraction\Taken For A Ride Online

Authors: Vicki Lewis Thompson; Julie Elizabeth Leto; Kate Hoffmann

Tags: #Historical, #General, #Romance, #Fiction, #Love stories, #Adult, #Single Women, #Romance: Modern, #Contemporary, #Romance - Contemporary, #Fiction - Romance, #American Light Romantic Fiction, #American, #Taxicab drivers, #Romance - Anthologies

A Fare To Remember: Just Whistle\Driven To Distraction\Taken For A Ride

BOOK: A Fare To Remember: Just Whistle\Driven To Distraction\Taken For A Ride
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Praise for these bestselling authors
VICKI LEWIS THOMPSON

“Vicki Lewis Thompson is one of those rare, gifted writers with the ability to touch her readers’ hearts and their funny bones.”


New York Times
bestselling author Debbie Macomber


Talking About Sex
…sizzles with sexuality and will have you turning up the AC to cool down.”


Writers Unlimited

JULIE ELIZABETH LETO

“Nobody writes a bad girl like Julie Leto!”


New York Times
bestselling author Carly Phillips

“Sizzling chemistry and loads of sexual tension make this Leto tale a scorcher.”

—Romantic Times BOOKclub
on
The Great Chase

KATE HOFFMANN

“Kate Hoffmann traverses the minefield of relationships…and comes up a winner.”

—Under the Covers

“Kate Hoffmann pens an amazing story!”


Romantic Times BOOKclub

VICKI LEWIS THOMPSON
JULIE ELIZABETH LETO
KATE HOFFMANN

A FARE TO REMEMBER

JUST WHISTLE

Vicki Lewis Thompson

CHAPTER ONE

I
F
H
ANNAH HADN’T PACKED
twenty-seven cans of tuna in her suitcase, she would have taken the bus from JFK.

She’d researched it, and the bus stopped a mere two blocks from her hotel.
Her hotel.
Just knowing she had a room reserved in a New York City hotel almost gave her an orgasm. She’d flown in on a red-eye, which had two things going for it—the el cheapo price and the 7:00 a.m. arrival, which meant she wouldn’t have to worry about muggers.

Besides, muggers weren’t a problem if you walked with purpose and didn’t wear your hair in a ponytail they could grab hold of. She’d left her hair loose and she always walked with purpose, so she wasn’t the least bit afraid. But the flowered suitcase weighed close to fifty pounds thanks to the tuna, and wrestling it on and off a bus didn’t fit her picture of how she wanted to make her Big Apple entrance.

Logically she should be exhausted after being up all night, but she was wired and ready for the adventure of a lifetime. She, Hannah Robertson, was lining up at the taxi stand outside JFK, waiting for a bright yellow cab to take her to the place she’d dreamed about ever since reading the
Eloise
books as a kid.

She’d finally made it! So what if she wasn’t staying at the Plaza? Her hotel was in Manhattan, and that was all that mattered. So what if her first deep breath of genuine New York air made her cough? She wasn’t expecting clean, dry Arizona air. She’d had her fill of clean, dry Arizona air.

She wanted this place, gasoline fumes and all. She wanted Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue, the Statue of frickin’ Liberty! It was all she could do not to spread her arms wide and shout
Hey, New York! Hannah’s here!

O
UT-OF-TOWNER
.
After spending all his sixty years in NYC, Mario Capelli could spot a newcomer with one eye closed. But any fool could see that the redhead wearing a taxi-yellow sundress and pulling a flower-print suitcase hailed from somewhere other than New York. For one thing, she was smiling. New Yorkers didn’t smile while waiting for a cab, especially coming off the red-eye.

For another thing, she had all that color going on—yellow dress, blue-and-yellow purse, gaudy flowered suitcase. Mario counted the cabs in front of him and the people standing in front of the redhead. Unless he’d miscounted, she’d be his fare. Perfect. From the minute he’d seen that smile and that cloud of dark copper hair, he’d started thinking of Zach.

Mario didn’t believe in coincidences. He did believe in fate. For six months he’d wanted to find somebody for Zach, somebody who could save him from becoming a jaded corporate hack, somebody whose glass was not only half-full, but seriously overflowing. Mario thought he might be looking at her.

As he inched up to the head of the line, so did she. The more he studied her, the more he could see her with Zach. She was stacked, and Zach liked stacked women. It didn’t hurt that she had a pretty face, either. Mario even liked the way she stood so straight, with her shoulders back. Too many women slouched these days, trying to look like a magazine model or a bored superstar.

Her red hair was a bonus. Adrienne was blonde, and Mario didn’t want to introduce any echoes of Adrienne into the equation. Anyone who’d dump a guy like Zach for somebody with a bigger bank account wasn’t worth remembering, but Zach was sensitive enough to remember, and he might be off blondes for the time being.

Of course, Zach would object if he knew Mario was trying to fix him up. He would hate it, in point of fact. So Mario would have to be sneaky about the whole deal. He could do that. He hadn’t spent thirty-five years with the NYPD for nothing.

Reaching for his cell phone, he speed-dialed Iris, who would have opened her coffee stand by now. Iris Rivera made the best espresso in the city, but that wasn’t what kept Mario coming back. It was more about the whiteness of her teeth against her olive skin and that dimple when she smiled at him.

She was a kind person, so he wasn’t sure if she really liked him, but he thought she might. That was a miracle, that a woman like her could be interested in a guy with more gray than black in his hair and the beginnings of a paunch. He hadn’t decided what to do about his feelings for Iris, so until he did, buying coffee was a good excuse to see her a couple of times a day.


Sì,
Mario!” She always yelled into her cell phone because she couldn’t believe the thing worked in the first place.

He didn’t care if she yelled. He just loved hearing her Puerto Rican accent, which made him think of swaying palms and swaying bodies. “Has Zach come by for his espresso yet?”

“No! But I expect him soon!”

“When he comes by, can you stall him until I get there? I want to talk to him about something.”

“I’ll try! Zach, he’s in such a hurry these days!”

Exactly. That’s why Zach needed a girl. “Sell him a
pastelito
and he’ll have to stick around to eat it.” Thinking of those pastries made his mouth water.

“Okay! Are you trying to fix him up?”

“I am, but don’t you dare tell him.” The taxi in front of Mario pulled away from the curb, so Mario eased his foot off the brake and coasted to the front of the line. “Gotta go!” Snapping his cell phone closed and throwing the cab into Park, he jumped out and came around to help the redhead with her flowered suitcase.

“Be careful,” she warned. “It’s really heavy.”

Mario had guessed as much. “No problem.” He gave the redhead an indulgent smile. Out-of-towners always overpacked. They hadn’t caught on to the concept of basic black, which meant you could get away with a much smaller wardrobe. Flexing his knees, he lifted the suitcase.

Shit, it really
was
heavy. A little flowered job like this wasn’t designed for this much weight. “You got bowling balls in here?” he asked.

“No. I just brought—”

She was interrupted by the rip of fabric giving way and the clatter of cans hitting the pavement. Tuna cans. Mario dropped the suitcase and grabbed a couple before they rolled under the cab. By the time he stood, the redhead was frantically trying to stuff the cans back through a fifteen-inch-long tear along the seam.

Her face was the color of a stoplight. “It wasn’t an expensive suitcase.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Mario ignored the impatient honk from the cab behind him as he adjusted his Giants baseball cap and surveyed the situation.

“We’re holding up the line.”

“I know. Don’t panic. If I lift the suitcase up flat, it’ll go in the trunk without spilling. When we get to where you’re going, I’ll throw some duct tape on it.”

She blew out a breath in obvious relief. “Thank you.” Still blushing, she stood back while he maneuvered the ripped suitcase into the trunk of the cab. He only lost one can.

Snatching it from the pavement, she threw it in the trunk before he closed it. “Okay, let’s go.” She wrenched open the back door and got herself into the cab in short order.

Mario hurried around to the driver’s side.
Tuna?
As he pulled into traffic, he wondered if his instincts had been off. He didn’t want to saddle Zach with a nutcase. “Where to?” he asked.

“The Pearson Hotel, please. It’s on—” She gasped as Mario cut across traffic.

“Hey, don’t worry.” Mario usually had to reassure first-timers. “I know what I’m doing.”

“I’m sure you do.” She took a deep breath. “They say that New York City cabdrivers are the best drivers in the world.”

“And they would be right. Anyway, I know where the Pearson is.” Her choice of hotel told him a little more about her. The Pearson was on the seedy side, but safe enough for a woman traveling alone. The combo of the Pearson and the tuna meant that his passenger was pinching pennies.

In the backseat, the redhead cleared her throat. “Uh, Mr. Capelli?”

That startled him, until he realized she’d taken the time to read his name on the license displayed on the dash. “I usually go by Mario.”

“Okay, Mario. You—”

“I know. I changed lanes kinda fast back there, but trust me, it’s how you have to do it if you want to make good time.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything about your driving. I thought you must be wondering about all those cans of tuna.”

“I’m sure you have a good reason for them.” He hoped to hell she wasn’t a skinflint. A skinflint wasn’t the right personality type for Zach.

“They’re for the homeless.”

“Oh.” Okay, so she had the generosity gene. That was good, although most of the street people he’d known would prefer a fifth of vodka to a can of tuna.

“See, I knew that I’d want to give them something, but if I gave them cash, they might use it to buy booze. At least the tuna’s nutritious.”

“Provided they can get it out of the can.”

She sighed. “I know. I thought of that, too, but I couldn’t afford to buy a can opener to go with every can of tuna, so I hope they can figure that one out.”

“It’s a nice idea, cans of tuna.” Mario wondered what Zach would think of such a thing. He’d probably say it was impractical to be hauling tuna cans all over creation, but Mario hoped the generous impulse behind it would impress Zach. Still, Mario decided that when he mentioned this woman, he wouldn’t lead with the tuna.

“They were having a big sale on it at the Safeway near my apartment in Phoenix.”

Phoenix. Mario made a mental note. Zach might be intrigued by somebody from Arizona. If Mario remembered his geography, Phoenix wasn’t too far from the Grand Canyon. Surely Zach had some interest in the Grand Canyon. Everyone did.

Time to trot out one of his stock questions. “What brings you to New York?”

“I’m interviewing for a job in publishing.”

Mario smiled. She wasn’t a tourist. She intended to get a job and stay, which meant his instincts were still working. “Who are you interviewing with?”

“I was able to get appointments at two of the houses, and the others I’ll try to set up while I’m here. I just got my English degree at ASU. I probably seem a little old to be graduating, but I had a few interruptions. Oh, look! The
skyline!

Mario’s heart squeezed at the reverence in her voice. He didn’t have to ask if this was her first trip. Or whether she had the faintest idea how competitive the job field was. He was no expert on publishing, but this time of year a hoard of Ivy League graduates descended on the city looking for jobs. And they all had connections.

“Do you know anybody here?” Mario hoped she knew somebody. Or maybe Zach had clients in the publishing world.

“Nope. I’ve lived in Arizona my whole life. My brother and sister thought I was nuts to want to move here. But I love books, and if you love books, New York is the place.”

“That’s a fact.” Mario decided that even if the redhead didn’t take to Zach, or vice versa, she could use some help with this job quest. “I know somebody who might have a connection at one of the publishing houses.” That was stretching things a bit, but odds were it was true. A glance in the rearview mirror told him the redhead was smiling again.

“Look at that,” she said. “I’m already networking.”

“This guy I know is an investment counselor. Name’s Zachary Evans, but he mostly goes by Zach. I’m pretty sure one of his clients works for a publishing house.” Put that way, it sounded kind of lame. Mario wondered if she’d question the value of talking to Zach.

Instead she seemed eager. “Great! Do you have his number?”

“Not on me, but I should be seeing him this morning. I can give him your name and have him call the Pearson.”

“That would be terrific. My name’s Hannah Robertson. I don’t have any business cards, but I could write it down for you.” She rummaged in her purse.

“That’s okay. I’ll remember.” As a cop, Mario had been famous for his recall. He still prided himself on that.

“All right, then. I’ll look forward to hearing from Zach Evans.”

They rode in silence for a while. Mario could have asked a bunch more questions, but he’d learned that too many questions could make a passenger suspicious of his motives. So he waited for her to make the next conversational move.

Finally she spoke again. “You know, it’s nice that you have pictures of your family taped on your dash. It makes the cab look homey and cheerful.”

“They’re not exactly my family.” So she’d been studying his pictures. Ordinarily Mario was happy to talk about his matchmaking hobby, but not when he was in the process of trying to hook people up. People got hinky if they thought he was doing that. “Just a bunch of good friends.”

“Well, that’s still nice. Everybody looks so happy in those pictures. You must have a lot of good-natured friends.”

“Life’s too short to have bad-natured ones.” Mario only matched up people who were pleasant. Maybe that was why he had such an astounding success ratio, ninety percent.

“Is Zach Evans in one of those pictures?”

“No, I don’t happen to have a picture of him yet.”
But if everything works out the way I’m hoping, I will soon.

I
RIS DIDN’T USUALLY GIVE
Zach a hard sell, so he wondered why she was suddenly pushing the
pastelitos
and urging him to buy a second cup of espresso. He hoped she didn’t have money troubles. A woman as fiercely independent as Iris would die before admitting that she had problems in that area, but she might increase the sales pressure to generate better cash flow.

What the hell. He’d started going into the office an hour early, so it wasn’t like he’d be late to work if he hung around the coffee stand a little longer. There’d be another bus along later. And two espressos might be exactly what he needed today to nail his monthly quota and secure his move to that corner office Drake Medford had promised him.

An image of Ed, the guy currently in that corner office, flashed through his mind. Ed had been around for years and no longer seemed to care about his monthly quota. If you worked for Drake Medford, that was a bad thing. Zach told himself not to think about where Ed would end up. That wasn’t his responsibility.

BOOK: A Fare To Remember: Just Whistle\Driven To Distraction\Taken For A Ride
12.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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