Tom Riley sells insurance policies while privately daydreaming about being a private detective. With fantasies much livelier than his real life, into his life walks Marla Meyers, a six â foot tall semi â supermodel. Accident â prone Marla has been ordered to get insurance for her face after she tripped into a dress dummy and got a black eye. Before she can collect on the policy, Tom must watch Marla's face for the next 30 days.
What a strange man. Marla laughed once, but it hurt too much to laugh again. Her hand went up protectively to her painful eye. It was her own fault for not giving herself more time to do this task, but she sure couldn't wait around while he chatted on the phone. She had to make that one-thirty hosiery ad call. Mr. Riley would have to wait. He could get the paperwork together and get back to her.
Her time with him had been productive in one way -- she'd definitely have to put Mr. Riley in her next book. The poor man looked like he was living out some crazy fantasy of being a private detective.
She recalled the scene. His door had those black letters painted On it: THOMAS RILEY -- GRANITE INSURANCE. The office must have been decorated once, in the 1940s: black phone, old wooden desk, the metal desk lamp, a curvy sofa with wood and metal claw foot legs. Those claws had a glass ball in each of them. Too bad the moths had won the war with the upholstery.
She did like the poster of Hawaii, all dog-eared and dusty. He didn't reek of whiskey or anything, but the place smelled like baloney. Maybe he was living in his office. There was a six-month stack of New York Times issues in the comer. No socks drying on the radiator, though.
Then there was the plant. An angel-wing begonia, if she wasn't mistaken. She'd killed a few in her time, and his was huge and well cared for. It just didn't match up with the rest of the picture, that Mr. Riley would baby his begonia. Very odd. The rest of him was so ... not cared for.
Actually, he had an incredible physique under his bad clothes. She was used to seeing great bodies, and his biceps filled up his short-sleeved shirt just as well as those on her personal trainer, Lars. Not to mention his big strong shoulders.
And the dark wavy hair, not bad, but she'd have to shoot his barber. Her mind whirled with book ideas. Maybe that would be the crime for her next story.
The moon-phase calendar, though. Now, what was that about? Maybe Tommy boy was superstious.
Marla punched the down button, but nothing lit up. The elevator must be out of order. Geez, it had worked on the way up. She shuddered to think of that: the plunging elevator. That could be the method of death. Her next novel was taking shape, all right.
Great. She and her face had to make it down fourteen flights of stairs. Oh well, Rita was always bugging her about getting some definition in her calves.
She'd better get her Tom Riley details down on paper before they vanished. Marla dug for her notebook and pen in the black leather Chanel tote she had slung on her shoulder as she balanced down the stairs. In the middle of that, her heel caught in the loose stair runner and snapped right off -- and down she went.
How predictable, she thought as the last dozen years of her life flashed before her. The floor loomed up quickly. She did a yoga miracle move to keep herself upright and grabbed the rail for all she was worth, bending painfully into the rough stair top.
Her bag flew down the stairs to the landing, scattered six gold tubes of lipstick, three compacts of various types, a brush, a comb, her wallet, her writing notebook, the five black Uniball pens she kept in the bottom, a pair of tennis shoes, and various unmentionable feminine products.
Slumped on the stair, she rubbed her twisted, skinned knee. Maybe Rita was right about her being accident-prone. She'd been a bit of a klutz ever since her body shot up to nearly six feet. She didn't mind being tall, but she'd expected to outgrow gawky.
"Oh God. Miss Meyers! Are you all right?" She turned to watch the insurance guy take two stairs at a time behind her. He got to her, sat down on the same stair, and "steadied"...