Sunday, April 10, 2011

April Features #3

Welcome to my new blog! I am continuing the features I began on my former site today with author Bettye Griffin.

Here's a little bit more information about Bettye that I stole from her web site:

Bettye Griffin was told by her English professor that she had a gift for writing and might want to consider pursuing writing as a professional career. She promptly dropped out of college and started crafting stories...and just 22 short years later sold her first book. Bettye writes both contemporary romance and women's fiction. A native of Yonkers, New York, Bettye has also lived in Florida and Illinois, and now crafts her compelling, drama-filled tales from her home in the great dairy state of Wisconsin. Bettye thoroughly enjoys Wisconsin's contributions to the American diet and often nibbles on cheese while writing, and she celebrates a good day of writing by having a glass of the beer that made Milwaukee famous.

Since 1998, Bettye has written 6 novels of women's fiction, including Once Upon A Project (2008) and A New Kind of Bliss (2009); and 11 contemporary romances, including A Love For All Seasons (2007) and Save The Best For Last (2009). Her 18th novel, the contemporary romance The Heat of Heat, was released in late 2010. Visit her web site at , and befriend her at Facebook.

Bettye Griffin

The Heat of Heat by Bettye Griffin

If there was anything Sinclair hated, it was the round-trip drive from the Hamptons to JFK. She actually found herself envying her clients for being able to sit back and relax, watching any of the collection of DVDs, listening to the satellite radio, talking on their cell phones, or simply reading the Wall Street Journal or USA Today. But of course that was the privilege of being a client. The people who booked Shore to Shore Limousine paid well to be driven rather than renting a Chevy from Hertz or Budget and making the drive themselves. It was her job to keep their ride hassle-free.

Her good friend Yolanda Jones hated to hear her hometown criticized, but the truth was that Sinclair disliked New York City. She much preferred the suburban setting of Tarrytown, where she settled with her sisters after Hatch took the job as Miss Hattie’s caregiver. That was well north of the traffic snarls and the tailgating at high speeds that practically defined driving in the city. That and the fact that she’d never really gotten comfortable driving the somewhat unwieldy stretch limousine—she’d barely passed her chauffeur road test—made for an uneasy ride, and she’d had to do it twice today.
Her revenues would look marvelous for the busy weekend, but the cost to her nerves was tremendous as well. Her first passengers had been a party of four young women returning from Europe, boisterous, rich, and spoiled. It had been a pleasure to close the partition, not that it kept out all of the noise.

Her notes said she would be picking up a party of one, a Mr. Ivan Price. Of course, people tended to make last-minute travel arrangements and bring friends or family members along, so a reservation for one could easily turn into three or four. Not that it mattered. This particular limousine she drove could seat six.

A call came into her cell phone, which she had mounted on the dashboard. She’d forwarded company calls to her cell phone, and this was likely her client calling to state he’d arrived and was ready to be picked up.

She answered with a professional greeting, purposely omitting her name. “Hello, Ivan Price here,” a masculine voice stated crisply. “I’ve got my bag and am heading for the exit.”

“Fine, Mr. Price. Your driver will meet you at the taxi stand.” Sinclair never let on that she was the driver. She spoke to clients the same way she always did, whether she was in the office or behind the wheel.

That Mr. Price sure had a sexy-sounding voice. It was the best sound she’d heard all day, and most welcome, after those brats she’d driven. She found herself curious to know what he looked like. Was he black? Something about the timber of his voice suggested he could be.

Her lips formed a circle, as if she were about to whistle, as she pulled up to the stand where a tall fair-skinned man stood, a folded garment bag hanging from his shoulder. He had curly sable brown hair. His eyes were concealed by dark-lensed sunglasses, but his nose certainly didn’t get in his way, plus he had a generous mouth that she felt certain could kiss a woman senseless. Was this her passenger? Damn. If she’d known she’d be picking up someone who looked so good she would have at least put on some lipstick.

She braked to a halt, grabbed her official black chauffeur cap from the seat beside her, and perched it on her head. The cap gave all the drivers a more professional look. Sinclair wore the driver’s standard Hamptons casual summer uniform of Shore to Shore employees: a short-sleeved white polo shirt emblazoned with the company name and logo in black, black Bermuda shorts, extending to just above her knees, white anklets, and plain black lace up flats.

Her last move prior to getting out was to press the trunk release button. “Good afternoon,” she said pleasantly to her client, forcing herself to forget how insanely good-looking he was. “May I have your name, please?” She always asked this question to make sure she had the correct passenger. Who was to stop some slick traveler from parking their behind in her limo and giving a different address, saying they’d changed their destination from the original, leaving the bill to go to the actual reservation-holder?

“Ivan Price.”

“Welcome to New York, Mr. Price. My name is Sinclair, and I’ll be driving you to Amagansett this afternoon.”

He removed his sunglasses, revealing sexy bedroom eyes light brown in color that made Sinclair’s breathing halt for a full five seconds. He briefly but openly apprised her figure, his lazy grin telling her he liked what he saw. Meeting her eyes, he said, “Thank you, Sinclair. It’ll be a pleasure to be in your hands.”

Sinclair swallowed, at a loss for words. This was the first time a client had ever flirted with her, and he had a melodious type of voice that sounded as good as her brother-in-law, Skye Audsley, or any of the other network broadcasters. She didn’t trust her voice, so she said nothing, merely nodded, then reached for his bag.

Ivan Price planted his hand firmly on the handle of his suitcase. “Oh, I couldn’t let a little thing like you carry my bag.”

Her eyebrows shot up. With that statement, Ivan had moved from the flirtatious to the ridiculous. She might have a slim build, but at just a shade under five foot nine, she was hardly petite.

“I’m a lot stronger than I look,” she said sweetly. But when she lifted the trunk lid, he hoisted his bag and placed it inside.

She decided to be gracious about it. After all, she could hardly fault him for acting like a gentleman. “Thank you.” She slammed down the trunk and tried to beat him to the back seat to open the door for him, but he was too fast and got there first.

“Mr. Price, you’re not letting me do my job,” she said lightly as she stood beside him. His hand was on the door handle, poised to open it, and she tried not to quake at being close enough to him to smell his cologne, a lightweight summer scent of grapefruit and vanilla, but her legs felt a little wobbly. Most of the clients she drove were either middle-aged men and women or their barely legal offspring. This man didn’t appear to be much older than she was. Sinclair tried to figure out if she’d seen him before. She kept up with all the rap stars and fine young actors, but neither his face nor his name evoked anything.

“I’m not trying to make it impossible for you to do your job, Sinclair,” he said, his eyes locked on hers.

“I’m not comfortable with a woman lifting my suitcase or opening doors for me…especially a woman who looks like you. I’ve got half a mind to open your door, but I don’t think you’d permit it.” He opened the door and got in, pulling it shut after he was seated, leaving her to do nothing but double check that the door was securely closed, like the operator of an amusement park ride. She crossed over to the driver’s door—going around the rear rather than the front—and got back behind the wheel, taking a deep breath before pressing the button to slide open the partition and going into her standard welcome speech.

“Mr. Price, my records show that you’re a first-time patron of ours. I’d like to take a moment to acquaint you with the―”

“Call me Ivan.”

There he went again with that lazy grin of his; she could see it through the rearview mirror. Once more Sinclair took a deep breath. “That would be highly unprofessional of me, Mr. Price. But thank you just the same.”

He directed his reply to her reflection in the rearview mirror and his next words came out in a slightly deeper voice. “I’d really like to be on a first name basis with you.”

“Mr. Price, I am your driver,” she said with just a touch of impatience. Did he have any idea what he was doing to her with that seductive, intimate tone? It was like being caressed without hands. If he kept talking like that she’d get into a collision for sure…

He shrugged. “You have to come out from behind that wheel some time.”

He might be a decade older than her previous passengers, but it occurred to Sinclair that he was just as spoiled as if they were. Clearly, Ivan Price was a man accustomed to getting his way. And as charming and handsome as he was, he was beginning to annoy her just a little bit.

“You’re not accustomed to people saying no to you, are you, Mr. Price?”

“I’ve been told I’m very charming. Some people would even say irresistible.”

Sinclair suppressed a smile. If she weren’t working and was in a position where she could ride in the back with him, he’d probably charm her right out of her clothes. Ivan Price was the type of man who could make a woman dare to indulge in adventurous behavior, talk her into doing things she’d never done before…like having sex in the back of a limousine.

“Why don’t we try it a different way?” she suggested. “If there’s something you’re looking for and don’t see, or if you have any questions at all, just hit that little black call button near your armrest.”

“Wait a minute. You’re not going to close the partition, are you?”

Her finger was already poised on the button. “That was the plan, yes.”

“But if you do that, how can we talk?”

“That’s just it, Mr. Price. We don’t talk. I’m sitting up here so I can drive, and you’re sitting back there so you can get the comfortable ride you paid for.” Was he kidding? How was she supposed to concentrate on driving if she kept glancing at his handsome face in her rearview mirror?

Without waiting for him to respond, she hit the button and closed the partition. Sinclair found that she rather enjoyed exchanging banter with her passenger, especially now that she didn’t face the danger of letting his good looks distract her. It had been a long time since she flirted with anyone so charming, devilishly handsome, and apparently quite successful…unless, of course, mommy and daddy were picking up the tab for his limo ride. She looked forward to continuing their flirtation when he no doubt rang for her.

Except he didn’t.

Sinclair steered the limousine out of the airport and toward the expressway. She kept expecting the buzzer to go off at any moment, but all she heard was silence. She tried to tell herself it was for the best, that she needed to concentrate on her driving. Fortunately eastbound traffic wasn’t nearly as heavy as she feared. Perhaps people headed for the Hamptons for the weekend planned to come out late this evening, or even early tomorrow morning, like Hatch.

Traffic was thick, as it usually was in Nassau County and the earlier parts of Suffolk, but not more than usual. She surmised that many people had probably taken the day off from work to enjoy the last unofficial weekend of summer.

Sinclair began to relax when traffic began to lighten after she crossed into Suffolk County. She could enjoy this part of the drive. And she’d almost forgotten about her handsome passenger, from whom she hadn’t heard a peep. But she’d done what she had to do. She was responsible for the operations of Shore to Shore Limousine, and therefore was required to treat the clients with dignity and respect. Coyness had no place with the role she played. But it had been fun.

Her hips twitched against the leather seat when the buzzer finally sounded as she approached Exit Fifty-Nine. She hit the intercom button. “Yes, Mr. Price?” She always preferred using clients’ names rather than addressing them as ‘sir’ or ‘madam.’ She had no problem with making her living from a service industry, which she felt was respectable, honest work, but nor did she want to feel like anyone’s maid.

“I’ve never been to the Hamptons before, Sinclair. I was hoping you’d be able to tell me a little about it.”

“Well…I don’t know a whole lot about Amagansett.”

“Where do you live?”

Sinclair hedged. He was getting a little personal, but at least he wasn’t insisting she open the partition.

“I live in Westhampton Beach, Mr. Price.”

He nodded. “Can you recommend a good restaurant there?”

“Starr Boggs is excellent.”

“Is that one of your favorites?”

“Actually, yes, it is.”

They rode the rest of the way in silence. Sinclair’s GPS instructed her to a shingled mansion in Amagansett. She drove through the circular driveway and came to a stop at the front door. A butler promptly opened the door, and a woman in her mid-sixties soon emerged, followed by a man of about seventy. The couple were black, and Sinclair could tell from the way they both greeted Ivan that this was their home. The handshakes they exchanged told her they weren’t his family members.

This L-shaped two-story home was substantially larger than the simple ranch houses and cottages she’d seen in the enclave of Sag Harbor where many successful African-Americans kept summer homes. What did these folks do for a living, she wondered. They obviously had more money than the doctors, dentists, attorneys, financiers, and, well broadcasters like Skye who owned much more modest property on Eastern Long Island. She presumed they were some kind of businesspeople…they were too old to be athletes or music producers.

Sinclair alighted from behind the driver’s door, pressing the trunk latch as she did so. Ivan’s reservation had been prepaid, so all that was left to do, since he’d gotten out of the back seat without waiting for her to open the door for him, was retrieve his bag from the trunk.

Her efforts to do that were intercepted by the butler, who took over, and as she was closing the trunk Ivan appeared at her side and spoke in a low voice only she could hear, as his hosts hovered in their doorway. “I enjoyed the ride, Sinclair…but I must admit I would’ve enjoyed it more if you were sitting with me instead of driving.”

“I’m afraid that would be impossible, Mr. Price,” she said as professionally as she could, given his proximity to where she stood.

“Yes, well, I do love a challenge.” He pulled his wallet out of his hip pocket and removed a bill. Until we meet again, Sinclair.” He smiled at her, then turned back to his waiting hosts. Sinclair watched as the woman took his left arm and the man rested his palm on his right shoulder. Ivan turned one last time to look at her, and he winked.

Not until they’d disappeared inside and Sinclair was back behind the wheel did she look at the bill Ivan had given her.

Fifty dollars.

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