Book excerpt

The Right Wrong Number

A Short Story

Barbara Delinsky

St. Martin's Press

The Right Wrong Number: A SHORT STORY


Clearly, she couldn't go to the Kleins' country place as she'd planned. The four-hour drive might have offered good thinking time, and Bibi and Hank were very dear friends. But she couldn't deal with four kids, five dogs, and a parrot. There would be zero thinking time in that. And she had no desire, whatsoever, to meet the farmer whom Bibi and Hank swore she would adore. A lawyer gone to seed, they kidded her in the most positive way. A city boy rediscovering his roots. A gentle giant.

Carly was five-three and slim, she had seeds aplenty here in her own apartment, and the few run-ins she'd had with lawyers had been of the get-me-out-of-here variety.

Bibi and Hank wouldn't be happy with her. The sooner she got it done, the better.

Fishing into the pocket of her jacket, she pulled out her cell and punched in their number, one of the few she knew by heart and the absolute easiest to dial. When Hank answered, she launched right in.

"He-ey, it's me. You are totally going to kill me, but I can't come this weekend. I know we were doing the late-movie thing tonight, and a hike in the morning and dinner by the fire tomorrow night once the kids are in bed, but something's come up, and I just can't do Stowe. I mean, this is life changing. The biggest store here wants to buy me out." Even verbalizing it made her nervous; she jumped up from the bench and made for the kitchen. "Can you believe it? Me. With my teeny-weeny store. I mean, I'm a sole proprietor. I can't compare with them." Grasping the handle of a bucket that contained the brew of worm castings and molasses she had mixed with water the night before, she returned to the bench. "Only I can. See, that's the secret. I offer the kind of personal service that they don't, and it isn't just waiting on clients when they come in. It's picking up plants and containers that I know will work in their rooms. Mayer's?" Snorting, she tucked the phone between shoulder and ear; holding the bucket with both hands, she tipped it toward the Ficus benjamina. "Mayer's doesn't do that, but they want to, because their business is static right now. They want me to move right in there and be the centerpiece of their store, and, you know, it might work. I could bring people in, only they won't go any farther than my plants unless the rest of the place is exciting, which right now it is not." When the phone started to slip, she pushed it back up and began on the Ficus lyrata. "They're planning to renovate and remerchandise, and all of that's actually starting in two weeks, but then they had this, quote unquote, brilliant idea that I should be there, and I have four days to decide." Frantic, she set the bucket on the bench. "Four days. That is not fair, but sometimes good things happen that way. So is this thing good or bad? I don't know, but I have to decide this weekend. I have a satchel filled with their reports and plans and papers, and now I have to try to make sense of it all." She grew apologetic. "So I can't come." She grew pleading, "Can we make it another time?"

The voice on the other end held an audible smile. "I think I would love that. Who is this?"

That quickly, Carly went from relief that she'd said it all to mortification--because now that he'd spoken more than just a hello, she could hear that the man on the other end wasn't Hank. This man's voice was deeper. It was slower and more relaxed. Definitely more sexy.

"Oh dear," she said, totally mortified. "And my speech was so good."

THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER. copyright 2013 by Barbara Delinsky

BARBARA DELINSKY is a New York Times bestselling author with more than thirty million copies of her books in print. She has been published in twenty-eight languages worldwide. A lifelong New Englander, Delinsky earned a B.A. in psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in sociology at Boston College. Delinsky enjoys knitting, photography, and cats. She lives in Needham, Massachusetts.