"The thing is," I say, "just because I picked these books doesn't mean—"
"Nora worked at Lineage Holdings," says Frankie grandly. "A boutique auction house," he adds. "Very prestigious."
I try to think of something to add. "But they aren't valuable, I wasn't—"
"Two thousand, done," says Evelyn. "Except I'm not—"
"Oh, no!" Frankie presses a finger to his chin. His eyes twinkle. "Nore, have you already placed these books with another client?"
"No," I answer. "Not...at this time."
"Then finders keepers," says Evelyn.
It feels too easy. Money—my evergreen worry—is just falling into my lap.
"Poor you," says Evelyn when, books packed, I meet her up front. "Poor me, why?"
"I'm adopting all your book babies."
"They're going to a good family." I try to match her breezy tone. I feel dazed by my windfall. But she's right—I'm sorry to give up my books.
"Promise I'll make it up to you." She takes one of my hands, binding our fingers so tight that it feels like she's stitched them together. "I owe you."
Here's when I should assure this almost-stranger she doesn't have to promise me anything. At the same time, I can't shake my sense that whatever she believes she owes me, it's real to her. Maybe it's the champagne talking. Or the way Evelyn is staring at me, like I'm her long-lost family. But now I've got an ache in my throat, and so I keep silent. Holding her grip. Allowing the moment, whatever she needs, until she lets me go.
She's magic, obviously. She could read my mind." I blow out the match I've used for our tealight candles and look over at Jacob, who is busy in the kitchen. "How else would she know how I feel about the books?"
"Dunno." Jacob slides two turkey burgers from the skillet onto our plates and brings them out to the table in our front room. "She sounds like a lot."
"Did I tell you she was flying to Italy?"
"Did I tell you she was going for only three days?"
"But I don't think it's the last I'll hear from her. What do you think?"
"I think, What a day." We sit, and Jacob raises his beer—he's even poured it into a pilsner glass.
"Including you making everything perfect. Look at this, and with flowers—so special. Thank you."
"Hey, it's worth celebrating. Cheers to your biggest commission ever."
As happy as I am about that, even better is how Jacob lets me keep circling Evelyn. Like a seventh grader with a first crush, I've related pretty much everything—but I don't want to stop talking about her just yet. She's too deep in my head. So I tell him again about her low, dirty laugh. The way she sailed around in her lingerie. Her wonderland body. The seven nautical stars scattered down her lower back to mark Xander's seventh birthday. The winged St. Mark's Lion at her pubic bone, from after she spent that month in Venice.
"She's like someone from another era, but I don't know if I mean from the past or the future. Frankie said she's like if joie de vivre were a person."
"And no chance she's coming back tomorrow, a la Marjorie Gangle?" Jacob smiles as I give him the look of anything but Marjorie Gangle, aka "I'll Have Sevenths" because of her penchant for returning everything she bought the day before. But we're both reveling in a conversation about money that, for once, isn't tense and depressing. This past year, debts forced us to sell our Honda Accord, Jacob's Peugeot racing bike, and the emerald earrings he'd given me on my thirtieth birthday.
"Evelyn doesn't have that excess-spare-time Marjorie energy," I say, "so I'm counting on the whole forty-five-hundred-dollar commission."
"What's her family fortune, anyway?" Jacob's tipped so far back in his chair I used to panic he'd fall over—athlete that he is, he never does. "Guessing you and Frankie went online sleuthing. Gold, oil, Big Pharma? Rock, paper, scissors?"
"Steel! She's descended from some railway mogul. T. Rutherford Fitzroy."
"Now that's a name. T for Tycoon."
This excerpt ends on page 16 of the hardcover edition.