5.0 out of 5 stars This is one Amazing Story,
"...very intense. Early in the Book I knew I had to put my seat belt on, I was sure this was going to be one hell of a ride, and boy it was. One thing I especially appreciated in this author's Book is just how he was able to bring the story across with so many twists and turns that all came together masterfully. I'm glad I purchased the hard copy, anything else could not have handled the grip I had on the book as the plot thickened. Political thrillers have always interested me, unfortunately most of the one's I have read were big let downs or just mediocre. I also can appreciate the sense of reality in Jack Canon, He's absolutely a character I feel I can relate to in so many ways, His moral's and positive traits, the things he believed in like the redistribution of wealth being hoarded by the few. I'm sure others who have read this book felt the same unless you are the Koch Brothers or somebody like them.
Long story short, Best book I have read so far this year, I remember one of the reviews I read before getting this book for my self and just how true a comment was in that review. I actually remembered this comment as I was nearing the end of the book it was..
(Finishing the book, your heart aches because you know Jack Canon isn't real--he's an ideal, made magically alive by the sheer talent of Greg Sandora.)
As I a read into this book and got further and further in to it I found my self really rooting for Jack and hopeful that he would succeed in his mission, then I had to remember he was just a made up character. That's when that review I read previous to getting the book hit me and how tru it was. However like that review also said..
(But that doesn't mean we cannot aspire.)
Cudo's to the Author, and thanks for the great book. I will surely be putting this one in my book case to revisit one day."
Adriana LG "Unsurpassable, this story is darn good a real work of art."
...Greg Sandora has been written with a vibrating "passion" if that terminology didn't exist before - it does now....I found that Jack was the kind of guy I liked immediately while Sandy was just perfect - I chose to review it because of the mystery behind it.
Tip is very meticulous and possibly has the very best dialogue attributed to him. A must read. (in my humble opinion)
Jack is not just in politics - he has courage. He has respect and values. What I liked the most is that all the characters were believable. Greg Sandora did his job and he did convince me - this story is darn good a real work of art. I feel that we are going to hear more of Greg Sandora. On this note, I would like you to read it and tell it like it is.
Galloping through the English countryside, red hair blazoning behind, Elizabeth felt the warm breath of her steed snorting the wind. Her childhood friend Robert Dudley making chase behind while all of nature seemed to be conspire with the promise of love. The trees in in bloom, fields aplenty with crop, offered fresh hope after a long winter. Babies, puppies, the fresh optimism as spring turned into summer. Such an easy time to be in love. Elizabeth felt joyful jumping from her mount, heart light as she ran through the meadow clutching her basket. The air perfumed with wild flowers filled her lungs and she breathed excitement. Finding a spot, catching her breath, she laid a royal blanket over the grass.
Dudley caught her, “My fondest wish is that we would wed,” he pinned, snaking his strong hands around her waist pulling her close.
“We have time for that,” She giggled, playfully pushing him off. Her disposition beaming, happy before a flash memory robbed her of the moment. ‘The girl looks gaunt through the shoulders, stringy neck, a small bosom – her grandmother Boleyn’s appraisal of her shortcomings. Ladies should display a plump proportion, a firm and solid fatness.” Elizabeth’s squareness and narrow hips lacked, “The pleasing flesh of good breeding,” the Countess of Wiltshire critiqued. “A royal should exemplify the desirable roundness befitting woman of today.” Assessments never mentioned in public could be heard in whispers discussed in private. Fear silenced many a tongue in the sixteenth century.
“You are wed to another, Sir.” Came her fresh reply. She laughed at the words. How God or country could expect anything else of her? She couldn’t imagine and felt confident they’d be together.
As they ate Dudley’s wife was home in bed ill about the breast. Elizabeth knew it was only a matter of time before he would be free to marry.
“Let us be content to eat our lunch and enjoy the day,” she proclaimed. In the usual course, the couple would meet to ride. Disguised in plain linen, wearing no corset, wavy red hair falling to her midriff. Elizabeth looked more like a village girl than a future monarch.
“What have you fixed for us today?” he asked.
“Provisions from all corners of the earth,” she answered. Even with the country in shambles, royalty ate of the finest fruit and nuts. A commoner might not see this much of a meal in a lifetime, let alone have it displayed in a single sitting. While the navy of a thousand ships was stretched to its limit, warring with Spain and Italy, the teenager frolicked. As a member of her half-brother Edwards’s household she was treated well.
Robert would steal his way to her bedchamber, up a long stairway, cut from Scottish stone. The sentries guarding the back looked the other way, Elizabeth’s instructions. Her governess would never know. Her life was one of privilege balanced by darkness. No stranger to the tyranny of her late father. The fate of Henry’s youngest bride relayed by Cousin Beatrice haunted her.
“I’m going to tell you a story and every word of it is true,” she whispered. It was an eerie account Elizabeth knew was fact. “It began one misty morning when a helpless fair-haired girl laying under the weight of England, was led to her death.”
“The Queen emerged moments before nine in the morning,” She bade in feigned hackneyed English. “A rain the night before had turned the courtyard muddy to our ankles. The streets contained the foul smell of chicken scratch and horse urine slurried in the mix. Gawkers pushed for position straining to see the fawn-like Katherine as she walked barefoot, clothed in a plain linen dress. The exposed skin of her upper chest so pale, I could see the ghostly blue vein patchwork beneath. The last time I’d seen her, she was amazing, the most beautiful woman in all England. Fancy and bright, riding in an open coach, smiling, sweetly waving to her subjects. I fancied the thought our eyes might have met.
‘Spill her blood!’ Someone called out. I thought, what cowards! This mob, content to stand by and watch. Clinging to their lives–any one of which could be wrenched from him in a second.
This bitter gray morning, the little Queen made her way up the old worn wooden steps, pausing briefly, turning sad-eyes to the crowd. A pitiful waif, helpless and demure. Katherine continued up the stairs, gripping the railing as if it was her mother's hand that somehow she might be swept away from all this.
Once upon the platform, facing the crowd, her tiny limbs exposed and pale, the simple dress hung over her shapeless frame. She wore no jewelry. Her one remaining vanity, long hair, was perfectly combed. The henchman placed her against the block and with the blankest stare Katherine moved her beautiful locks to one side exposing her slender neck.”
“I waited for her to rise to her feet and scream out in defiance,” Elizabeth remembered the cousin mocking, "What have I done that your precious King isn't guilty of?"
“Laying her head sideways on the block, she awaited her fate in silence. The dark-hooded killer appeared to us like a giant standing over her. A moment before, even the handle of the ax and the blade had been taller than the living little queen. He drew back. I heard the neck cracking, then a thud as the girl's head crashed to the platform floor. Steam rose from the blood pouring into a warm pool from the lifeless body slumped behind the block.” The memory gave her night sweats.
Elizabeth and Beatice shared a pact. She would never share a word of her source. They would always remain the close.
Dudley went to see his wife. The old stone house was damp and poorly ventilated. Large but ill-maintained it was no place for a sick woman.
“Are you any better my love?” he asked, knowing the hour was late.
“I hurt the same,” she replied.
“Sorry I’m late, business with the king,” he excused.
“I’m cold. Throw another log on the fire, would you?”
The bedroom had a small window, enclosed by wood shutters covered with burlap to keep out the draft.
“My fight is with the damp,” she said, turning to face him, “Where have you been my love? You know I’m lonely.”
“Have you had dinner?” He asked, changing the subject.
“I haven’t an appetite.”
“You mustn’t get too thin. You need your strength for the children.”
A lone candle flickered dim light masking her disappointment in him. Dudley looked away, tending the fire, not to risk a hint of his tryst with Elizabeth.
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, counseled, “We are at war your majesty. You must choose. A marriage to either you must be bride to one. To strengthen the Commonwealth and preserve the nation!”
Feeling manipulated, accustomed to having her way, screeching back in defiance, “I would rather be a beggar woman and marry for love than a miserable queen who marries for policy.”
“You must think first of England, your duty is to reign! Your marriage negotiations are a matter of foreign policy not the whims of a lovesick girl,” Cecil fired back, “Royal Duty should be ingrained!”
Cecil gave a secret order to the guards to block the Dudley’s passage. Elizabeth waited. Weeks passed, inconsolable; sadness overcame her spirit. One awful night, grief-stricken and lonely, she threw into a fit ordering her head be shaved. Her ladies were scared. They shrank back, fearing the raging queen would soon come to her senses and lay blame. Crying and eager, forcing the deed, Elizabeth grabbed a pair of black iron scissors from her dresser. Gathering up the first clump, she hacked away, hair sticking to tears. Moments later - bald - languid from the effort she sat stoically in front of her mirror. Studying her bare white scalp drained the playfulness from her freckled face. Her girlhood gone, she surprised everyone in attendance with a shrill order, “Tresses shall be shorn of all Ladies-in-waiting by Royal Decree.” The girls gasped in unison begging for reprieve. Rumor has it the queen scorned, “Your hair, or your head.” Wigs were fashioned from the finest hair found throughout the land. Soldiers dispatched to all corners of the kingdom brought back the mane of many an unwilling Subject. Anxious girls made a habit of preempting the ordeal by chopping off their locks. To stop the practice, Elizabeth ordered payment of a year’s wages to any family who could produce hair fit for a royal wig. Times being hard, fathers forbid their daughters from sparing themselves. The queen’s men were not especially careful; and large sections of bloody scalp would often accompany the hair. The practice left an unlucky young woman unable to grow it back. Humiliated and embarrassed, kerchief covered patches, girls would spy their former locks worn by a lady riding in procession. Elizabeth’s own appetite for wigs kept soldiers busy. Ladies-in-waiting received the lesser quality, never the hand me down of the queen. Once adorned by the royal head the discarded could only be burned.
Dudley’s Amy died from a brutal fall down a flight of stairs. An incident with no witnesses. A coroner’s inquest ruled it an accident, but rumor had him purposefully killing his wife to make way for Elizabeth. Still in love, the queen raised him to Earl of Leicester but chose not to marry rather than risk the uprising of the gentry. Dudley remarried. The years were unkind, badly scarred from smallpox, bitter and jealous, the leaden-faced queen would never marry. Elizabeth will always be remembered as the ‘Bald Virgin’ wed to England. She maintained a close friendship with Dudley secretly loving him until her death. For his part, he never stopped loving her. Proof in the form of a letter found in her belongings, “My heart is heavy with longing for the girl I felt loved me in my youth. Never a crueler fate bestowed a man than to miss out on his heart's one passion.” He died shortly after Elizabeth whose reign inspired an age. The noble sacrifice came at a high cost - her love.
Sandy crossed her leg and starting rolling her ankle, "Tip, what do you see when you look at me?"
"You want me to be honest?"
"Of course—I can't help you if you're not."
"Well, today I noticed your hips, but I always love your soft doe face."
Sandy looked puzzled, "Soft doe face? What is that?"
"He means you have a feminine, pretty face – there's no hardness in it."
Tip added, "The women I see usually have rougher facial features."
"Where are you meeting these girls, Tip?"
"Strip clubs mostly."
"That's nasty Tip! Ewe!"
"Good-looking woman are intimidating – at the clubs the girls are really friendly, easy going."
"They're friendly because it's their job – they're easy because you're paying them—would you want to marry a girl from one of your clubs?"
"No, but I feel comfortable. I know it's a job."
"Gross, Tip, that's so sad."
"A lot of agents have trouble meeting women."
"You need some serious help!" Sandy sounded like a concerned sister.
I coaxed, "He needs a good woman, – do you think you could introduce him to one of your girlfriends?"
"I'd really appreciate any advice you could give me, Sandy." Tip was sincere.
"Tip's not ready for one of my friends – seriously the girls I know are needy emotionally – he'd be lost."
Trying to help persuade her, "So, you're basically resigning him to a life of strip clubs and hookers?"
Sandy looked at me wide-eyed, raising her eyebrows, "Crude, Jack, you're enjoying this aren't you." She turned to Tip, "You're a good man, – you deserve to be happy. Tell me Tip, what do you think women want?"
"I don't really know – I guess – to be made happy?"
"So how would you do it then – make a girl happy that is?"
"Agree with her, make her feel important, give her things I guess."
"That's a start, but a woman needs so much more. She wants someone who can share in her emotions without being swallowed up by them. A man who will take his time with her and make time for her—She doesn't want to be rushed, but still likes spontaneity and excitement. She wants to feel like your equal and be respected for what she brings to the relationship. And, I'm only scratching the surface here."
"Men… do all this?"
"Some do—Jack does this stuff—he's kind… caring—he listens. Jack enjoys what women are all about—He looks with great passion. Tip, —she wants to know you're desirable to other women and she didn't get stuck with you."
"What about…?" Tip stopped himself, embarrassed.
"The bedroom... She'll forgive you. Don't worry, she'll follow your lead. Don't make her feel bad by talking about it later. That's the one place you can sort of be yourself... I can't believe I'm saying this—the poor thing… take it slow."
"Are there classes?"
"A good woman will teach you."
"Did Jack know all this?"
"Are you kidding? All he had was a smile when I met him – and a wandering eye. It's taken me years of subtle clues and hints to train him."
"Some not so subtle," I said, poking fun.
"She wants a friend – but not a guy that makes her feel responsible to make the first move or like she's a locker room pal."
Tip looked puzzled, "I'm lost."
"Jack, for fun – tell Tip what you're really thinking… right now."
"You're serious –now? No holds barred – what I'm really thinking?"
"Yes, something you'd normally never share with me."
Tip chuckled, "This oughta be good."
"Before you do… let me guess." Sandy squinted and looked up to the left, then to the right – "Something about my bikini?"
"Close—what was left of those cutoffs you were wearing that day by the lake."
"I was really close then. Tip, what did you think Jack was thinking?"
"I would have said World peace – you know to make you happy."
"Coward- okay tell the truth, what are you thinking right now?"
"The truth… really? – what it would be like – you know… if you were my girlfriend." Sandy rolled her eyes, pursing her lips.
"Not going to happen - but I'll help. We have to start really slow."
"Jack gets to say what's on his mind and you're okay with it?"
"There's a lot of trust built up you and I don't share. Stop whining – that's a deal killer for sure."
"You asked, though. I thought you wanted honesty?"
"Sometimes… oh, forget it…"
Tip cut her off, "Am I a lost cause then?"
"No, I didn't say… don't feel like that – we've got something to work with. You're good looking – dangerous – you might be a girl's worst mistake, at least for the first few, but you'll learn as you go."
"So will you set me up with one of your friends? One who looks most like you—preferably?"
"Sweet, Tip…, but wrong. Not when you don't understand the first thing about a woman. They'd thank me at first, but you wouldn't last two weeks with one of my friends – try to imagine flying too close to a supernova. They'd burn you up and drag you into an emotional black hole. You'd never escape!"
"I can keep a woman safe, at least."
"Of course you can. A woman wants to feel safe, understood, but she also wants a man who isn't afraid of her -someone who can be honest. Tell her the truth once in a while. Then grab her and make love without asking. A woman wants to live the full range—she wants you to be able to feel her emotions with her – from misery to elation. Can you do that?"
"I can try."
"That-a-boy, let's go out sometime and find you, someone suitable. A starter girlfriend."
"That will be great, are you free tonight?"
"Tonight? I guess so – you don't need for anything, do you, Jack?"
"No, I'm good – take him out – it's on me." I was happy to make the offer. Sandy would have a project and I wouldn't feel guilty about leaving her behind.
"We'll find you a girl with a doe face. You'll have to show me – but once I know – I'm sure we can find you one. If that's what you want."
"Really? This will be great. Sandy, I'll owe you!"
"You'll owe me big time!"
Martha burst into the room, "Daddy, Daphne told me Sandy was still in here." Martha turned to Sandy, "Can we go?"
"Yes, go – you girls have fun."
"Jack, are you sure? I thought you wanted me to stay and listen to Harry Winston."
"No—Tip and I have this" – turning to Martha, "Honey, call me if you find something."
Martha beamed, "I will, Daddy – let's go," she said pulling on Sandy's arm. The girls were halfway out the door when I asked, "Honey?" Martha turned.
"Oh, sorry, Honey, I meant Sandy, Sweetheart."
"I forgot to ask you –
Reviews are in:
“Beautifully written, a definite must read for anyone who's ever lost someone close to them. Greg Sandora never disappoints his readers, and this novel is no exception.” – SJDH
“After reading the Jack Canon series I was surprised at the soft spoken simplicity and sensitivity of the story of Gabby. . .Gabby fits in its own unique space. Having grown up in Maine, Greg Sandora is at his peak strength when writing about the city of Portland, its people and the kind of in everybody else's business culture.”- Brian.
Grab Your Copy!
Whoosh! Smack! Each hurl of the ball rips through the air like the sound of far off firecrackers cracking in the wind. There's no mistaking five ounces of high-velocity leather snapping into a catcher's mitt.
"What's the speed on that last one?" Nicky asked, removing his cap.
"97!" the assistant called back as he looked again at the number on the speed gun.
"Damn! That's fast!" Nicky scratched his head. He spit a wad of tobacco on the ground and then slipped a tin of chew from his training jacket. He placed another pinch inside his cheek. "Play some college ball, Son?"
"No, Sir," I replied, shaking my head. "I did play in high school, though..."
"Pitcher?" he quizzed.
"Nope.” I gestured, thumb down, digging my foot into the bright red clay behind the rubber.
"That's hard to believe. Who could have missed you... And a Lefty?" He continued muttering, "Impossible, I would have dragged you..."
Nicky was still shaking his head when my throw interrupted him mid-sentence. Whack! The echo signaled that it was fast.
"That was 99!" the assistant called out.
"Bo Garrett, right?" Nicky asked, checking his clipboard. You're a local kid?"
"Yeah.” I nodded. "Portland, ninety miles up the road."
"I love Maine,” he said. "The seafood, the microbrews; you know we've got Double-A?"
I nodded. "Sure do, the Sea Dogs, Mr. Cantor."
"Kid, my dad was Mr. Cantor, call me Nicky. None of our scouts ever took a look at you?"
I shook my head. "They came by, watched our games, but I didn't play much. I guess I was easy to miss, Nicky.” It was tough calling the great pitching coach by his first name.
"Well, you're high and outside,” he hedged. "Unorthodox style."
"I'll take anything as a compliment,” I thought as I stepped back to the mound.
Nicky squinted. "Do you think you could settle down? I'd like to see you pitch to a live hitter."
"You've got plenty of raw speed,” he reeled off. "No mechanics, but plenty of speed." He scratched his thoughts onto the paper clamped on his clipboard.
"Alright," I agreed.
Nicky motioned to a batter who was warming up near the dugout. The catcher ripped off his mask and ran up to me.
"You don't have to rush. Take your time,” he said.
"He wants me to pitch to that?" I motioned to the big man in the circle. He was swinging the bat as if he wanted to kill something with it.
"It's Bo, right?"
I nodded. "Yeah, you're Billy Gaines. I feel like I know you."
He chuckled. "Yeah, television, ain't it something?"
"Yeah, I guess," I answered with a wide-eyed nod.
"Listen to me, Bo, you've got a weird spin on the ball, he ain't going to like, trust me."
Nicky's back was to us as Billy continued, "We're not in a game right now. There's no runner on base. It's all about him, understand?"
He motioned his chin toward the batter. "You're off balance. Stand tall and take a full windup, then step bigger toward the plate."
"What if I hit him?"
"He's sized you up. You're fast, but wild. Use it to your advantage."
"Got any other tips for me?"
"Take your time. Square up and aim for the outside."
"I'll try, Billy."
"Don't worry. Just let it rip. I'll catch it,” he spoke with the confidence of a three-time golden glove known for hitting home runs.
Billy tapped my glove. "Bo, be sure to keep your head still, take a long stride toward me, and then release, fingers on the top of the ball. Throw through me, man!" He finished and placed the ball into my hand before returning to Home plate.
'That spin, he won't like it.' Billy's words stuck with me as he got in position and shot a look at the batter stepping into the box.
Nicky's son spotted me at the Fryeburg Fair. He insisted he wouldn't let me out of his sight until his dad saw me throw. It was the end of a perfect day, dusk, when we turned off food row onto the darkening midway – strings of flickering bulbs lit the wood shaved path.
We were munching Kettle corn when a carnival barker hollered out. 'Win one for the pretty lady.'
Sally wandered over, turning to encourage me. I motioned for her to come back, but her enthusiastic smile gave me no choice but to follow.
"Bo, I love turtles, try!" she pleaded.
"One of those?" I teased, pointing to the overstuffed green smiley faces with ET eyes.
She nodded. "Yes." Beaming, she pulled her blond hair back into a ponytail and twisted half way around. "Win me one." She encouraged me, waving her hand, ‘Come on,' to get me to play the game.
I pulled a five-dollar bill from my pocket and plunked it down onto the shabby wooden counter. The Carny scooped up the money like it might sprout wings, replacing it with three rubberized gray balls on a spot long in need of a paint job. He appeared to be middle aged, but desperate to look younger. Signs of a hard life and the sun had betrayed him. Blond streaks running through rusty brown hair portrayed either a free spirit or proof of madness.
Drawing a half breath from his cigarette, he coughed. "It's easy my friend, throw two and guess the third. If you're right, the lady gets choice."
"Her choice?" I asked.
"Anything from the bottom shelf," he said.
"That figures. There's always catch." I turned to Sally. "This could take all night."
The look on her face said, "Aren't I worth a thousand turtles?” That look convinced me to give it my best shot. I reasoned that I might even win because I'm the luckiest guy in the world. After all, I had my wife back.
Gabby told me to imagine the strings of a golden harp, each playing a unique but perfect melody.
"Think parallel universes," she told me. "All possibilities exist in the mind of God."
She explained that I'd jumped a strand. "Bo, it's your life, only different." It was my Heavenly Father's gift to me. I don't understand it, but I cherish having Sally back.
To some people, there's nothing bigger than baseball. I'm not exactly that die hard, but I still know all the players. Living in Maine, the northern heart of Red Sox Nation, we're bombarded with Red Sox news. From the end of spring training, right up to the playoffs, the local news keeps us informed, blow by blow, of our team's fortunes. Nicky is well known in the nation. I've seen him taking the call for a fresh pitcher after a string of walks or a home run.
When we were kids we played baseball all summer. I remember my mom saying, "You'll have fun, Bo, wait and see."
That was the day she sent my dad to Bradlees’ to buy me a baseball glove. It was tan with dark laces. I remember it from the pictures. Mom took Polaroid's of everything. Many of my life memories would be lost without the photographs she took. We still have her boxes we've never gotten around to putting into albums. Mom had no storage cloud and no cell phone to store and upload pictures.
Her idea of technology was the phone man installing a new jack in the bedroom. "Having a phone upstairs will be so convenient.” She nudged my father. Not to be outdone, Dad installed a cord in the kitchen that hung to the floor. With it, Mom could do dishes, cook meals, and iron all while talking on the phone. I can still see my mother stretching that cord to the hilt, pulling it straight out the back door to call us in for supper.
I pawed at the clay with my left cleat. The high mound, crosscut grass, and perfect rows of oak seating stretching back to the bleachers all seem to be saying, "You don't belong here. What gives you the right to come in this late in the season and have a tryout at, of all places, the shrine of baseball, Fenway Park?"
I concentrated and pictured the ball, fueled by a big hit, sailing over the top of the Green Monster. I pictured everyone being polite as I'm escorted off the field.
"I have to get hold of myself and do this today. I've got to settle down." I squared up and focused on the outside corner of the plate. I'm here to throw the ball with everything I have. I rolled the ball around in my fingers, took a big leap forward on the center stage of baseball, and sent the ball careening towards its target. It flew out of my hand, heading straight for the batter's head. Oh, my, God it's going to hit him...
Just beyond home plate, there is a flash of movement. My eyes fix on the area, but nothing's there. The guys getting ready for batting practice, Billy, the ball, all appears frozen in time.
"This can't be happening –
Johanna pulled onto the road leading to her mother's estate. The heavy wrought iron gate made an imposing entrance. Twelve-foot tall, impressive and black, signaling the area was closed off from the rest of the world. An island of sanctuary meant to keep its inhabitants and possessions safe. Security was extremely tight by design. Her husband's premature death left Charlotte Kearns, "Lottie" to her friends, cautious, maybe paranoid, but gave her reason enough to build an impenetrable fortress for protection. Johanna had the gate code plugged into the visor of her new Ferrari. The Italian salesman said she looked hot. He called her, 'molto jalapeno', and added his opinion that a car should match the woman who drives her.
Johanna thought, "He's not the first; my entire life men have told me I'm beautiful in some way or another, depending on the guy – enchanting, Severine, hot – it didn't come as a surprise."
She leaned back while adjusting the rear view mirror for a quick check. "Mother can be so critical," she puckered her cherry lips, chosen to match the car, checking their reflection in the mirror.
The drive to the house took under a minute. On the way, she checked her hair because, 'Mother will notice'. It was a good thing she'd visited the salon.
"I like my new color, sassy blond with brown lowlights." She fussed with her hair.
She vowed that now that her stint as Secretary of State was over she'd be dressing more to please her man. Lower cut blouses, shorter skirts, and high heels would once again fill her closets.
She placed her hands higher on the steering wheel where she could see them. "My nails look good. I like red for a change. The Bentley's silver and the Benz is black." Johanna smiled to think her three favorite car colors were coordinated so well in her garage. She floored the pedal, enjoying the brief dash of spirited acceleration mixed with vibrating adrenaline.
"Too grand," she judged her mother for painstakingly transporting a French castle piece by piece from Charleville Mezieres to Ashland, Wisconsin.
Lottie's Springhouse, as she called it. "Mother wintered in Florida, spent summers in France, and lived in Ashland in between." Lottie thought poorly of anyone who stayed in Naples after Easter." People will think I've gone senile if I stayed in my seasonal house too long." She often told Johanna, "You must never let me do that."
Johanna swung open the door of the F12berlinetta and leaned back, maneuvering her legs out of tight quarters. Feeling for the cobblestones with the toe pad of her heels, she leaned forward gracefully pulling herself out of the low seat.
"Not very comfortable; feels like sitting on the floor," she thought as she smoothed her skirt, fixing herself one last time before stepping onto the fitted stone landing. She skipped up the stairs for exercise, then rang the bell and looked up at the camera waiting for someone to unlock the door.
A kindly voice greeted her over the intercom. "Oh, Miss Johanna, please come in. Your mother's waiting for you in the garden."
"Thank you, Elsa." She thought about how nice her mother's help was as she opened the door leading to a lavish grand hall then walked the length straight through. She enjoyed the majestic view of Lake Superior. She passed the library, commercial kitchen, and entertaining areas finally reaching the rear porch. The expansive focal point of the mansion overlooked stately gardens high above the lake.
"Mother, I've been summoned?" she called out playfully.
Charlotte's head, covered by a sheer white kerchief, turned to greet her. "Oh, Johanna, you're so dramatic. I wish you wouldn't put it like that." She pooh-poohed, dismissing the comment, removing her gloves then motioned to one of the loungers.
"What mother wouldn't want her daughter to be with the love of her life?" Johanna thought to herself as she walked closer. 'Lottie,' such a hypocrite. She married Daddy as a debutante, fresh out of school.
Lottie patted the chaise lounge for her. "Come sit, Dear."
Johanna tried to make nice. "The garden looks wonderful, Mother,” she commented, sitting sideways on the upholstered cushion, careful not to let her skirt ride up.
"Do you know what I've done to legitimize this family?" Her mother cut off Johanna's attempt at small talk.
"Getting into it so quickly, Mother? I never know if you're going to be horribly critical or vaguely supportive. I see you got a bone to pick today. "
"You're always sensitive Johanna, but today you can add selfish!"
"How so mother? I went to law school for you and then became Secretary of State to help you establish this family's pedigree to the presidency. I think I've done my fair share!"
Her mother waved a dismissive hand. "Please, Johanna. Peter did all the heavy lifting at state. Even taking the fall for that blunder you mismanaged overseas."
Johanna scowled at that. "That's what deputies do, Mother. Underlings take the risk for operations. Terrorism, in case you haven't heard, is unpredictable. The world is volatile, that blunder as you call it wasn't my fault."
"Maybe not," she acquiesced as she motioned for a maid to serve the lemonade. "I don't want to argue with you, Dear. That's not why I called you here." The maid brought over a tray and poured the first of two tall ice-filled glasses while pretending not to listen.
Johanna tilted her head. "None for me, Elsa." Her long hair fell and brushed the tabletop.
"What can I do for you, Mother?" she queried, brushing her bangs behind one ear.
Charlotte pursed her lips as though she had already sipped the lemonade and found that it lacked enough sugar to make it sweet rather than sour. "Johanna, there is too much at stake for even the hint of rumor about you and your brother."
"He's my cousin, Mother! Must you persist in calling him my brother?"
"The world doesn't see it that way. Do you have any idea what's at risk? Do you know who we're dealing with?"
Johanna crossed her arms over her chest. "Friends of Lottie Kearns? Lions and tigers and bears – Oh my!"
"Don't be flip with me, Daughter. I'm dead serious. We are less than a year away from your brother becoming the President of the United States. Do you understand what that means?"
Johanna smirked. "That I will be moving into the White House. Kolbe promised. Make no mistake; Kolbe will have Secret Service protection as President. He'll do as he pleases!"
Charlotte slapped a hand down on the table. "Johanna, these people killed the Kennedy's. They decide who's going to be President two terms in advance. Your brother has been groomed for years for this."
"You're delusional, Mother!"
Charlotte raised one elegant eyebrow. "Oh really? Have you ever wondered why Jacqueline Kennedy, just ninety-nine minutes after her husband was killed, stood by as LBJ took the oath of office?"
Johanna widened her eyes in mock fear. "I can't wait to hear this. Why, Mother?"
"To put an end to it! Really, Johanna, you should do the same. There are whispers."
"What are you saying?"
Charlotte's voice was at its most imperious. "You'll announce your engagement to Marshall Fairchild and put to rest any concern that you're having some illicit affair with your brother."
Johanna started sobbing, "Never! You can't ask me to do that. Kolbe promised we'd be together."
"Darling, Mommy's concerned for your well-being. How will you handle your brother's women?" Lottie placed her hands on her daughter's shoulders.
Johanna shrugged her mother's hands off her shoulders. "He wouldn't need those whores if we had your blessing. He needs your help to be President, that's why he agrees to your demands!"
"Johanna, listen to yourself."
She stood and glared at her mother. "It's disgusting that you're holding your influence and inheritance over his head. I don't fault him, I blame you."
"Do you have any idea what I've gone through over the past three decades to gain prominence for this family?" Lottie demanded. "I did it all for you, Johanna. The Derby winners, the French wineries..."
"You own a slaughter house, Mother,” she interrupted.
"That money bought you a seat in the state legislature."
"I never wanted it. That was your dream!" Johanna raised her voice.
"My work has brought us admiration in the world."
"No one cares about your status in high society mother. Least of all, me!"
"Silly girl. America is a kingdom, run by the powerful for their own benefit."
Johanna made a dismissive noise. "We live in a democracy, Mother, or haven't you noticed?"
"You think? I'm not going to debate you. I know what I know and your brother agrees with me. You'll announce your engagement this weekend. You can break it off after he's President if you wish. It's a good match. The Fairchild's are on-board. Marshall, will give you a ring and demonstrate his intentions in public. Our friends in the media are ready to push the announcement to the hilt." Lottie was clearly brooking no opposition.
"Kolbe agreed to this?" Johanna was now struggling not to break down.
"Yes, it's for the best, Johanna. You must trust your mother."
Johanna took a deep breath, but still sounded petulant. "I'm not marrying him."
Lottie patted her shoulder. "Whatever you say, Johanna dear, but you'll do this for your brother and me."
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, Mother."
A tear rolled down Johanna's cheek as she gazed at the lake. She was resigned for the moment to her fate, pouting, "Mommy, you can be so mean."
Charlotte got to her feet and gave her daughter's shoulder one last condescending pat. "It's for your own good."
Jack Canon for President! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0117QHB7A?tag=7654-20 …