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From Dying for Gold
I screamed as someone grabbed me from behind.
The light in the Wine Jug was nonexistent. Okay, you
could see, but barely. I always did better after my eyes had a chance to
adjust, but Ginger and Wendy tackled me before that happened.
Ginger giggled. “What are you so skittish about?” she shouted over
the band, Oro Ignited, which was playing on the small stage in the
corner of the bar.
Wendy dragged me to their table and poured me a glass of a local
white Zinfandel. The golden hills of California were fast becoming a
mecca for small wineries that couldn’t afford the high real estate
prices in Napa and Sonoma counties. It seemed that every day a new
tasting room was popping up, and we were the happy beneficiaries.
The wine was a bit too sweet for my taste, but it was cold, and I
wasn’t in a complaining mood.
“I found a bloody shoe in Jason’s trash.”
Ginger frowned. “Was it an old shoe or what? What do you mean
“It was a man’s shoe. New shoe. Expensive. It looked like there
were drops of blood on it. I told Jason about it, and when he went to
check it out, it was gone.”
Wendy refilled her wine glass. “Who cares about an old shoe?
What happened with Jason? Did he pop the question or what?”
I shook my head, suddenly feeling self-conscious.
Ginger reached for my hand. “It’s going to happen, honey. Be
I nodded, trying to hide the disappointment that was surging in
my body. I swallowed hard, and before tears could come, I decided to
change the subject back to safe territory. “The whole shoe thing is
pretty weird, huh? I can’t believe Jason didn’t find it. I have to go look
again myself,” I said over the music. Suddenly, the band took a break
and I found myself still yelling, “Will you come with me?”
My face flushed as all eyes turned toward me. I smiled at the
neighboring tables and then sipped my Zinfandel.
The crowd got noisy again, and Wendy leaned in. “You mean go
back to Jason’s and poke around his trash? No way!”
Ginger flashed me look that I interpreted as she’d go with me later
when we dropped off Wendy. I nodded at her, and she winked at me
Wendy was too delicate to go digging in someone’s trash. Even if
that someone was my intended, or soon-to-be intended.
“Come on, you’re good at digging,” I teased her.
“Gold digging maybe.” She smiled and batted her false eyelashes
“Or digging for gossip,” Ginger added. “She’s great at that.”
“A girl has got to have special talents in life,” Wendy said.
I grabbed a couple of peanuts from the bowl in the center of the
table and a strange sensation tingled through me.
What if Jason was in danger?
Ben, the lead singer of Oro Ignited and friend to everyone in town,
sauntered over to us. “Evening, ladies. Evening, Frannie.” He flashed
me a strange, shy look that I couldn’t interpret, then turned his atten‐
tion to Ginger. “I heard your jewelry designs are the hottest fad in
town.” He took an empty chair from nearby, spun it around, and
seated himself at our table with his arms and chest resting on the back
of the chair.
Ginger grinned as wide as the Cheshire cat. “Who, pray tell, told
“My Aunt Jeannie was at the sale today. She brought a flashy
pendant, and now my mother is scheming to steal it . . . I mean,
borrow it from her.”
While Ginger made small talk with Ben, Wendy leaned over to me.
“So, what’s up? Why do you think Jason didn’t propose tonight?”
Her question poked at a sensitive part of my heart, and I suddenly
felt hollowed out. I would have much preferred to dwell on the
mystery of the bloody shoe than the mystery of the missed proposal.
I’d been so sure. All signs pointed to go, and yet . . .
I shrugged and felt my eyes start to fill.
Wendy grabbed my hand. “Oh, honey! Come on.” She pulled me to
my feet and led me to the ladies’ room. Under the fluorescent lights, I
looked like the wreck of the Hesperus.
“No wonder he didn’t propose! Look at me!” I yelped.
Wendy laughed and smoothed down my hair. “You be quiet. You
While Ginger had always been my closest girlfriend and had
nursed me through my shares of broken hearts, Wendy was a more
recent addition in my life. Being that she was married to my brother
and we worked together on a daily basis at The Nugget, I was finally
starting to feel like I could confide in her.
I collapsed onto the chaise in the ladies’ room and sighed. “I’m not
giving up. I’m still sure he’s the one, but he’s under a lot of pressure is
all. I think next week, after he gets the promotion . . .”
Wendy ran some tap water and wet a paper towel. She quirked a
brow at me as she pressed the towel to the back of my neck. “You can
have anyone in town, darling. I don’t want you to settle.”
I frowned. “I’m not settling! I love Jason.”
She nodded. “Of course you do. What about Ben? Have you
noticed the way he looks at you?”
I felt a surge of defensiveness. “I love Jason. He’s the one.”
She dabbed delicately at her lips. “Right. Ben and I were talking
earlier. He and I made a deal.”
“What about?” I studied Wendy’s reflection in the mirror, wondering
what was coming next. Ben had been best friends with my first husband,
but they’d parted ways more or less about the time of our divorce.
“He wants me to use my power of influence with Dale Myers to get
his band back on the main stage for Living History Day.”
I snorted. “What power of influence?”
Wendy laughed. “Well, I am in charge of all the costumes. Don’t
you think the threat of having everyone dance around naked is
We giggled. The kind of infectious, delirious laughter bubbling
through us after a stressful day was enough for us to slump together
and wipe the tears dry.
Taking advantage of her good mood, I said, “Come with me to
have a look in Jason’s garbage can.”
Wendy scrunched up her nose. “I told you. I’m not digging through
“You don’t have to dig through his garbage. I just want to see if the
shoe is there.” She looked unconvinced, but I laced an arm through
hers and pulled her out of the ladies’ room. “What are sisters-in-law
“Not this!” she protested, but she didn’t untangle her arm from
“I won’t tell,” I urged.
She snickered. “Your brother would die if he knew I was digging
through someone’s trash.”
“I know, I know. You’re a gold digger, not a trash digger,” I teased.
She pinched my arm. “Shut it, sister.”
I laughed, but she only pinched harder until I said, “Ouch! Okay,
okay, I take it back, humorless.”
Back at our table, the entire band had joined Ginger for cocktails.
She was flirting outrageously with all of them, sitting on someone’s
lap while another guy rubbed her feet. I knew I’d never be able to
convince her to leave with us. Instead, I wiggled my fingers at her in
farewell. She made a phone receiver out of her hand and gestured that
she’d call me later.
Wendy and I exited the Wine Jug, the cool night air a reprieve
from the stifling atmosphere of the bar. We walked down the streets
of Golden arm in arm, Wendy chatting about the costumes she was
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