“Thanks for giving me a ride, guys,” said Jenny, jumping into the back of my convertible blue ’67 Impala. Jenny works with me at Carrie Mae.
“No prob,” I said, checking traffic and pulling away from the curb.
“Did they tell you what was wrong with your car?” asked Z’ev, turning to look at Jenny. Z’ev is my boyfriend. He works for the CIA. He’s dreamy. Yeah, I said dreamy – deal with it.
“Alternator or something. I think I stopped listening after I heard how much it was going to cost me.”
The wind whipped her long blonde hair around her face in a way that made her look like a Ralph Lauren ad and I sighed enviously. My red curls were always in a giant rats’ nest by the time I got out of the convertible. “I’m serious! I really think…” Jenny’s thought was cut off when both our phones rang at the same time. I made eye contact with Jenny in the rear view mirror. I know about Z’ev’s job, but Z’ev doesn’t exactly know about mine. The last thing I needed was a work call to interrupt one of our rare weeks together at home in LA.
There are several problems with working for Carrie Mae. First, everyone assumes that I sell make-up. I understand. Carrie Mae is most well known for their millions of independent beauty consultants. The Carrie Mae Foundation, the non-profit charity branch and my employer, isn’t as well known and has the extremely simple goal of “helping women everywhere.” The Carrie Mae founders realized early on that helping women sometimes requires a silk glove of diplomacy and sometimes an iron fist of enforcement. Basically, the Carrie Mae Foundation is part non-profit, part black ops force. My second problem with working for Carrie Mae is that I can’t tell my family, or my boyfriend, that I’m part of the iron fist.
“It’s Ellen,” said Jenny, flipping open her phone. “911 to her place right now!”
I nodded and pushed my foot into the gas pedal.
Ten minutes later, I had barely parked before Jenny was out of the car and running up the front walk of Ellen’s townhouse. I followed slightly more cautiously, taking in the scene, looking for bad guys, wishing I was carrying. The door burst open and Ellen stepped out dressed in a slip, her short silver hair in curlers. Ellen, our team’s sniper, was usually the calm to our storm. Periodically, she’s been known to lose her cool. With Ellen if you behave like a misogynistic, racist jackhat, don’t be surprised if you suddenly end up with a bullet in your butt. Anyway, she didn’t appear to be raging, she appeared to be having a panic attack.
“You have to help me. This is. . . I can’t do this.” She flapped her hands, breathing heavily. “I have nothing to wear.”
Z’ev was half way out of the car, but froze in place at Ellen’s announcement.
“I’ll just wait in the car,” he said. I gave him a thumbs up and went in. I came out a few minutes later.
Z’ev had turned off the motor and was watching clouds maneuver across the sky like wide-bellied sailing ships.
“What’s up?” he asked, leaning back to look up at me.
“Ellen has a date,” I said. Z’ev made ‘so what’ sort of gesture. “It’s her first date since her husband died. And she doesn’t know what to wear.” Z’ev’s faced sucked in like he’d chomped down on a lemon.
“Ah. It’s one of those issues.”
“Jenny is in there now on tissue and dress patrol. I’m going to go in on make-up. We’ll double team on hair and shoes and be out in no more than 24 minutes.”
“Why 24 minutes?” asked Z’ev, automatically synchronizing his watch.
“Because he arrives in,” I flipped over my wrist and checked the time on my watch, “25:20.”
“I’m going to turn the car around. I’ll be parked in front, motor running,” he said.
“Good man,” I said, nodding approvingly. I looked with dread at the house – some missions were tougher than others. “All right, I’m going back in.” I marched toward the door.
“Duck and cover, baby. Duck and cover,” Z’ev called after me.
Twenty-four minutes and forty-two seconds later Jenny and I sprinted out of the house and leapt into the back seat. Z’ev threw the car into gear and launched us down the block, just as a black sedan turned the corner.
“Z’ev, slow down, we want to see what he looks like!” said Jenny. I leaned over the passenger seat to pull a set of binoculars out the glove compartment. Z’ev slowed down and we crouched in the back peering over the trunk.
“Not bad,” I said, handing over the binoculars to Jenny.
“Car’s a Lexus, but four door. Says stable, with good taste. Khakis and button up,” said Jenny, adding her assessment.
“Fashionable without being trendy,” I agreed. “Looks fairly fit.”
“Full head of hair,” commented Jenny.
Ellen opened the door and the man went inside.
“We’re not going to follow them on their date, are we?” asked Z’ev adjusting the rear view mirror so that he could watch the action.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” said Jenny.
“We would never spy on our friend,” I added.
“Uh-huh. Do you want me to put the binoculars back?”
Jenny and I dissolved into giggles, which only caused Z’ev to roll his eyes. I continued to laugh, but inside I was worried. Sometime soon, Z’ev and I were going to have to talk. How much longer was he going to believe I was a project manager for a regular non-profit? Who always keeps binoculars in her glove box?
High-Caliber Concealer is the third book in the “Carrie Mae” mystery series, published by Blue Zephyr Press, November 2015.
Q: What do you get when you cross Avon Ladies with Charlie’s Angels?
A: A world-class intelligence organization run by women who really know their foundation.
You get CARRIE MAE.
Nikki Lanier is a top level Carrie Mae agent with everything under control – except her life. Her relationship is on the rocks, her mother is pestering her to come home, and her teammates just made an unexpected blunder that put them all on suspension. Nikki takes the opportunity to visit her grandmother’s farm in rural Washington State, but her simple, easy vacation is complicated by dangerous drug smugglers, the childhood sweetheart who broke her heart, and the sudden arrival of not only her mother (who is obviously hiding something) and teammates, but also her current boyfriend, CIA Agent Z’ev Coralles. Now Nikki must discover what her family is hiding, whether or not she still has feelings for her ex, and how the smugglers are getting their drugs across the Canadian border, all while keeping her family – and Z’ev – in the dark about what she really does for a living. But soon Nikki must choose between doing what’s right and keeping her secret if she wants to keep her family alive. Nikki might be a high-caliber concealer, but this time it might not be enough.
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Meet the author
Bethany Maines is a native of Tacoma WA, who is actually very much like her fictional heroines: she travels to exotic lands and has the ability to kick some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate. And while her travels may not necessarily include fighting super agents of evil so much as eating spicy foods and hiking to the tops of mountains (okay, really big hills), her black belt skills are mainly employed in teaching karate to a classroom full of kids (although there was that one time in Paris. . .), and her day job is something she actually enjoys (graphic design is fun!), she’s pretty much a secret agent in her own right. Visit Bethany at bethanymaines.com.
Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win an e-book (Nook or Kindle) of High-Caliber Concealer. The giveaway will end February 25, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!
All comments are welcomed.