by Kenna White
Elise Grayson has it all. Money, looks, a comfortable home in an upscale Boston neighborhood and the social status her family has long enjoyed. She has everything she’s ever wanted. Almost. Elise’s private life is her one failure. So focused on building her professional life, Elise has left little time for anything else…including her girlfriend whose infidelity comes as a bolt out of the blue.
Jan Chase needs a new job and new surroundings—a place where no one will ask questions or judge her ability. Driving a limousine for Boston’s privileged elite seems like the perfect answer. Being a chauffeur is something Jan is tailor-made for. At least until she meets Elise Grayson.
Now that their worlds have collided, it seems that neither of the two women is capable of stopping it. And who’s to say that either of them really wants to?
Rainbow Book Reviews
A classic rich woman, poor woman tale, White’s story brings together wealthy and successful Elise with her chauffeur Jan, who is from the poorer side of the tracks. Both main characters are great—they each have their flaws, and Jan in particular carries a secret that keeps her quite distant from Elise at times. Elise’s attempts to get closer to Jan, and to get her to admit she wants their romance as much as Elise does, are rather poignant in places. I liked that Elise is in her forties—it's refreshing to read a romance featuring a woman older than thirty-five. White’s writing style is good—just enough detail and background to allow me to delve into the characters, and great pacing.
Elise Grayson spun her leather desk chair around to face the view of downtown Boston from her sixth floor office. She held the phone to her ear and waited for the call to be answered.
Low-hanging clouds had settled over the city. Rain was in the forecast, welcome rain to cool the late summer heat wave. But neither the threat of rain nor the heat diminished the number of tourists clogging the sidewalks, snapping pictures of anything and everything they saw. Elise found it amusing that travelers came thousands of miles to a city renowned for its history and architectural culture only to take pictures of high-rise buildings, sailboats on the Charles River and a pub’s staircase immortalized on a TV show.
This was her city. She knew everything about it intimately. She was born here, grew up here and attended Harvard. That seemed like eons ago. Now in her forties, she was vice-president of Grayson Construction, a multifaceted company offering turnkey commercial building services throughout the Northeast, everything from site development and architecture design to the finished product. She was the fourth generation Grayson to sit behind a desk in the business. It was the only job she’d ever had, started in the purchasing department to get a feel for the business. Her father, Forest Grayson, had joined his father, Henry Grayson, and grandfather, Charles Grayson in running one of the most respected companies in Boston. Their clientele included some of the most prestigious and influential New Englanders.
She glanced over at the antique mantel clock on the bookshelf. It had been her grandfather’s. He had given it to her when she graduated prep school with a note that read, “Whatever else you manage, time is first.” She didn’t fully appreciate his remark back then but she did now. And she was wasting precious time.
“Come on, Cramer,” she mumbled impatiently into the phone. She uncrossed her legs and crossed them in the other direction to the familiar swish of her pantyhose as she pulled one knee over the other. She picked a piece of lint from the hem of her skirt and rolled it into oblivion between her fingers.
“Elise, I need to talk with you when you have a minute,” Jake said from the doorway. He was dressed in jeans, a polo shirt, work boots and a ball cap. He had a dark tan and had a pair of sunglasses perched backward on his cap. He looked like he belonged on a construction site. Which he did.
“Come in, Jake, and please tell me you have the results of the soil test,” she said, hanging up the receiver and quickly jotting a note to herself about the unanswered call.
“What soil test?” He frowned suspiciously.
“You have got to be kidding me. You don’t have it?” She glared up at him.
He held his frown for a long moment then slowly pulled a smile.
“Yes, I have it.” He dropped a printout on her desk. “We’re fine. No problems.”
“You just love doing that, don’t you?” She grabbed it and read it. “One of these days I’m going to have a heart attack and it will be your fault.”
“Can I tell Seth to deliver the equipment?”
“No. Not yet. I have a meeting with the Tanners this morning and they still aren’t sold on the parking situation so let’s hold off until we get an okay on that.”
“What’s to discuss?”
“Burt wants it in front. But Mrs. Tanner wants the parking lot on the west end. More aesthetically pleasing, she said.”
“Elise,” a white-haired man called from the doorway.
“Good morning, Dad. Come in. I got your message. What’s up?” She looked at Jake and added, “I’ll let you know when we’re ready. Hopefully this week.”
“Gotcha,” he said and strode out the door, nodding hello to the well-dressed man as he slipped past.
At sixty-eight years old, Forest Grayson was still a handsome man with a narrow white moustache and thick hair combed back in undulating waves. He had on dark suit pants and matching vest over a white dress shirt. A silver and red striped tie billowed slightly above the top of his vest, held in place by a black onyx tie tack. Black onyx cuff links completed the customary look. A few decades ago he probably would have been dressed in clothes more suitable for visiting a construction site. As a senior business executive he spent more time at his desk than wearing a hard hat and tromping around a job site.
“Harris and Mills changed their minds. Again. They want nine thousand square feet instead of seventy-five hundred. They want that second conference room.”
“Do they have room for nine thousand? That’s going to cut into the parking capacity.”
“Don’t worry about it. I think they can acquire the adjacent lot. It’s not vacant but I think we can make it happen. But that’s not why I’m here. I need you to attend that gallery opening in Cambridge this evening. The mayor and the president of the university will be there.”
Elise had been jotting notes to herself and looked up with a scowl. “I’m flying to Buffalo this evening. I’m delivering the final blueprints and specs for the riverfront condos. Besides, I thought you were attending the gallery opening. We both don’t need to be there.”
“I can’t go. I’m having dinner with John Hartwell. He wants to discuss a remodel on some of the executive suites in the Gillette Stadium.”
Elise removed her reading glasses and leaned back in her chair, staring up at him curiously. “New England Patriots. Hmmm.”
“Don’t start, Elise. I don’t want to hear it.”
“What did I say?” She shrugged then offered a smug grin.
“Money’s money and this reno is money. Anyway, I need you in Cambridge. They’ll expect at least one of us to be there. You’ll have time for an appearance and still make your flight to Buffalo. It’s at ten thirty, right?”
“Have Lorraine reschedule you. United has a ten thirty out of Logan. The gallery opening is from seven to ten. You’ll have plenty of time for both.” He dispatched his orders without regard to any problems his last minute changes might entail. Ignoring the exasperated look on Elise’s face, he pulled the door shut behind him. It wasn’t the first time he’d turned her plans upside down.
She had just reached for the phone when there was another knock on her office door and her secretary peeked in.
“I understand changes are in the works,” Lorraine said with a smile. A round-faced woman with dark brown hair neatly restrained by a paisley scarf at the back of her neck, she was a few pounds overweight—at least she thought so, and complained about it frequently. She had been with Grayson Construction for twenty years and was good at her job. She had an amiable smile and pleasant telephone voice and was exceedingly professional. She didn’t have to work. Her husband was a retired military officer with a handsome pension, but she had been Elise’s secretary for six years and seemed to enjoy the challenge. Like a mother hen, she kept the details of Elise’s business calendar running with military efficiency.
“It looks like I’m attending the gallery opening in Cambridge this evening. I’ll need a car and driver.”
“Six thirty-ish?” Lorraine offered as if she already knew the plans.
“Yes. And can you check on a later flight to Buffalo? Something after ten.”
“Is Ginger going with you?”
“No, she’s still in Trenton until Sunday night.”
“Wow, that’s some conference. Maybe I should be a real estate agent.”
“Can you make my reservations first please?” Elise looked up and smiled.
Elise went back to work. It wasn’t worth being mad about the change in plans.
Returning to her office a few minutes later, Lorraine said softly, “The Tanners are here early. I showed them into the conference room. By the way, there’s a ten-fifteen flight to Buffalo. Seats are still available.”
“So a limo to the gallery opening around six thirty and a ride to the airport afterward?”
“Yes. Just enough time to sip a glass of pretentious wine, shake a few hands and still get to Logan by nine. When you call for a car ask for a different driver. I’m tired of that disgusting little man in his lint covered uniform peering at me in his rearview mirror. He spends the entire trip trying to see either up my skirt or down my blouse.”
“I did some checking. You weren’t the only client with concerns about that company. So if it’s all right with you, we’re using a different service. Bay State Executive Car Service comes highly recommended. They’ve been in business since 1982 with a five star rating. And just so you know, your driver will be a woman. She’s fairly new but she has an impeccable driving record and she’s fully licensed and vetted.”
“A woman limousine driver. That’s different. Maybe she won’t have wandering eyes.” Elise envisioned a matronly looking woman with deep wrinkles and chubby fingers gripping the steering wheel as she whizzed along at a breakneck twenty miles an hour. She collected a stack of papers and a rolled set of blueprints and headed out the door, her high heels clicking a determined pace down the hall.
“Would you like for me to bring coffee to the conference room?” Lorraine offered as she followed.
Elise opened the door to the conference room and stepped inside, a welcoming smile on her face. An elderly couple sat at the table with their hands in their laps and their backs to the window as if they couldn’t care less what was going on in downtown Boston.
“Mrs. Tanner, Mr. Tanner, I’m so sorry to keep you waiting.” She shook their hands then closed the door and took a seat at the table.
Elise would be with the Tanners for over an hour. They would take time for pleasantries and coffee before getting down to work. Without children to leave their sizable estate to, they had decided to build a retirement center on property they owned on Cape Cod. Uncluttered functional units, energy efficient, easy access bathrooms, relaxing views of the ocean. Cost didn’t seem to be the limiting factor to the project. Mrs. Tanner’s attention to detail and aesthetics was.
Rain finally came sometime after lunch, turning downtown Boston into a steamy sultry sauna. Elise finished with the Tanners, conducted two conference calls, read and sent emails and dictated three letters. Lunch was a ciabatta sandwich with some unidentifiable cheese melted over salami and pesto sauce. She hadn’t ordered it. It just appeared at her desk somewhere between an email from the North Adams planning and zoning office and the call from the Brattleboro sewer department that their site runoff wasn’t being properly contained.
“I hope this is a good stopping place,” Lorraine said, peeking around the edge of the office door. “Your car is here.”
Elise quickly finished typing a sentence before looking up. “What time is it?”
“Twenty five after. You said for me to remind you when it was twenty five after, so here I am.” She cocked an eyebrow. “Your chariot and the pretentious wine await. The driver is downstairs.”
“How do I let my father talk me into these things?”
“You’re a good daughter. You know how to take care of business.”
Elise quickly read over the email she had composed. She wasn’t satisfied with it but saved it as a draft, shut down her laptop and slipped it into her briefcase. She collected her wheeled suitcase from the corner of the office and headed for the door. Lorraine followed, carrying the tube of blueprints.
“Lorraine, we’re smart people. Surely we can find an acceptable excuse not to attend these little soirées.” She strode down the hall and out into the lobby, her briefcase strap on one shoulder, her purse strap over the other and her suitcase rolling along behind. “We’re developers, not social arbiters. They’re always crowded. The food is unpalatable. And someone inevitably spills their drink on my shoes. No wonder my father didn’t want to go.”
“A legit excuse? Hmmm.”
“I’ll get right to work on a prospectus for that.” Lorraine pressed the elevator button. “Concerning said excuse, do you want medical or non-medical?” she asked, playing along with the silliness.
“Something that doesn’t require a note from a doctor.”
“So, nothing broken or dislocated.”
“Preferably.” The elevator door opened and Elise stepped in, maneuvered her suitcase over the threshold and stood facing the opening. “I think we can avoid concussions, whiplash or venereal disease as well.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Lorraine handed Elise the tube and smiled dryly. “Enjoy Buffalo.”
The elevator door closed as Elise’s cell phone rang in her purse.
“Hello Fred,” she said, recognizing the caller. “Please tell me we’re ready to pour the foundation.”
She listened to the man’s protestations as the elevator descended to the lobby. Fred was a detail freak. Consumed with OCD, he often felt the need to go to the top of the food chain for answers and that meant Elise.
“Good evening, Ms. Grayson,” the security guard at the desk in the lobby said as she stepped out of the elevator.
She was still listening to Fred when the guard pointed to the woman standing just inside the revolving door, a woman Elise assumed was her driver. She looked like a limousine driver. At least, she was dressed like one. Black suit, white shirt and black tie. Her black shoes were polished to a mirrored gloss. She wasn’t wearing a hat like most drivers but she looked the part. Clean, humbly confident as she stood waiting with a black umbrella in her hand. She was a tall woman and wasn’t wearing makeup. Her hair was blond, gelled and combed back on the sides. She nodded and offered a discreet smile as she reached for Elise’s suitcase.
“Good evening, Ms. Grayson,” she said quietly as if not to interrupt Elise’s phone conversation. She pushed the revolving door to start it moving then stepped back for Elise to enter. She followed and opened the umbrella, protecting Elise from the evening drizzle as they stepped to the curb and the waiting car. It wasn’t a stretch limousine, the size capable of transporting an entire wedding party from the church to the reception with conspicuous excess, the kind Elise often thought was overkill when she just needed a reliable car and driver to transport her from point A to point B on time and without stress. It was a sensible sedan, a luxury sedan, but a sedan. Not a party barge. So far, so good.
The woman opened the back door and kept the umbrella over Elise’s head.
“Just a minute, Fred.” Elise cradled the phone to her chest. “Do you have the address in Cambridge?”
“Yes, ma’am. Your secretary gave me your itinerary for the evening. The Steinberry Gallery at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Holt.”
“And you know how to get there?” Elise remembered Lorraine mentioning this woman was new. She didn’t need a navigationally challenged driver when she was on a strict time table.
“Yes, I do.” She handed Elise a business card. “This is my cell phone number. You may call when you’re ready for me to pick you up at the gallery.”
“Jan Chase, is it?” she asked, studying the card.
“Yes. You may call me Jan if you like.”
“I don’t plan to be at the gallery very long. A few minutes at the most. I have a flight to catch this evening.”
“Yes, ma’am. United flight 8126, scheduled to depart at ten fifteen.”
“You can put that suitcase in here with me,” Elise said, her cell phone still pressed to her chest. “I need to get something out of the zipper compartment.”
Jan waited for Elise to get settled before closing the door then carried the suitcase around to the other side. Elise didn’t think it was that heavy but the woman seemed to stumble, nearly falling as she maneuvered it into the backseat.
“I’m sorry, Fred. Now, you were saying…” Elise went back to her call but watched as Jan climbed in the driver’s seat and discreetly blotted the raindrops from her face with a tissue.
The car’s air conditioning was left on, set at a comfortable temperature against the hot and sticky evening air, unlike the last driver, who seemed to intentionally leave it on high to see what popped up.
“Fred, go ahead and get a half dozen more pumps. We need that water pumped out ASAP. We’ll bill the city later. I already told them that. The city crew broke the line. They can pay to get the water out of our foundation. We’re on a timetable even if they aren’t.”
Jan pulled out into traffic and headed for the Bunker Hill Bridge across the Charles River into Cambridge. Elise went back to listening to Fred but her attention was divided between his insistence on detail and the mass of blond curls clustered at the back of the driver’s head. It was a pleasant change from the nondescript hat bands and crooked hairlines of the male drivers she was used to. Pleasant enough that she lost concentration on the call all together.
“Say that again, Fred. My cell service is acting up.” Elise noticed Jan tossing a look at her in the rearview mirror.
The phone call, tedious as it became, was a convenient distraction from the heavy traffic and lunatic drivers that clogged Boston streets. Elise hated driving in the inner-city. She didn’t like having to anticipate who was going to cut her off or fill the space she had allowed between her and the car ahead of her. She rode mass transit in the morning, or the T as the Bostonians called it, unless she had a meeting that required a driver. She was perfectly happy to sit in the backseat of a professionally driven car and be delivered to her destination. Ginger teased her about it. She loved to drive in Boston and was responsible for their transportation on evening or weekend outings.
“Keep me posted, Fred.” She ended the call and noticed two emails waiting in her cell phone’s mailbox. She started to open one of them but closed the leather case around her phone instead. She needed the last few minutes of the ride to decompress.
It had been a long day. It started at five thirty with an incoming text sent to the wrong person. Once awake, Elise’s brain engaged and she couldn’t go back to sleep. Like always she kept her phone on the nightstand and like most nights she lay in bed checking and sending last minute emails and texts before drifting off to sleep. Ginger occasionally played games on her phone before going to sleep, mind-numbing games with exploding gumballs or monotonous card games. There were no game apps on Elise’s phone. She didn’t count the one Ginger’s niece had put on it by mistake thinking it was Ginger’s phone. Every time she tried to delete it, it performed an update instead. Ginger had been out of town for six days, leaving Elise alone in the king-size bed. They talked or texted everyday while she was away. Elise gave updates on projects and shared glitches to their progress. Ginger reported on what seminars she had attended. They were usually short communiqués but at least they kept in touch.
Elise took a deep breath as the car pulled up in front of the gallery. A crowd was already forming inside the glass-fronted lobby. She checked her looks in the mirrored reflection of her cell phone. She laced a lock of brown shoulder length hair behind each ear, checked her teeth for trapped food particles then cleaned the corners of her eyes. Her pale blue silk blouse and gray skirt would have to do for this event. There hadn’t been time to go home and change. She knew these openings attracted an eclectic array of attendees with diverse ideas of what was fashionable. Her business attire would fit right in between cocktail dresses and yoga pants. She didn’t plan to be there long enough to make a fashion statement anyway. She was representing the company, nothing more.
The driver opened the door and extended a helping hand, which Elise took as she climbed out, leaving everything but her purse in the backseat. It had stopped raining.
“Don’t go very far,” Elise said.
“I’ll be nearby. Call or text when you’re ready.” She continued to offer the supportive hand as Elise stepped up on the curb.
Elise smoothed her skirt and blouse then blew an exasperated breath.
“You look very nice, ma’am,” Jan said at Elise’s hesitation.
“Thank you. Good thing my aversion to these things doesn’t show.” She swallowed and headed inside.
Elise accepted a glass of wine from a waiter’s tray and stood near the door, sipping and deciding how far into the abyss she wanted to venture. It didn’t take long for someone to recognize her.
“There you are, Elise.” An elderly woman in a bright red sequined pantsuit took hold of her arm for support as much as a greeting. She had erect posture but had the thin face and deeply wrinkled complexion of an octogenarian.
“Olivia! Hello, dear.” Elise kissed her cheek and hugged her warmly. “It’s so good to see you. I heard you’ve been under the weather. I wasn’t sure you’d be here.”
“Lord, yes. I come to all these things. I wouldn’t miss it.” The woman rested her wine glass against Elise’s arm to steady it from the tremors her age had gifted her.
“I love this color on you. You look wonderful.” Elise discreetly plucked a clump of hair from the old woman’s shoulder.
“I feel old,” she said with a labored chuckle. “But a glass of wine or two and a little socializing and I feel seventy again.” She sipped demurely. “Elise, dear, I think I’m going to wait a few months before we tackle that remodel I was thinking about. I’m just not up to it.”
“Absolutely, Olivia. You let me know when you’re ready and we’ll sit down and discuss it.” Elise had forgotten about Olivia’s on again, off again remodeling plans. With several projects currently demanding so much of her time, Elise was relieved it was once again on the back burner.
“Oh, Lord. Here comes that insufferable little man who always wants money and can’t take no for an answer.” She smiled disingenuously toward the man in a blue suit weaving his way through the crowd. “I really do dislike him, and at my age I’m entitled to say so.” She released Elise’s arm and strode off in the opposite direction.
Elise watched as the man noticed Olivia walking away and veered in that direction, a determined look on his face.
“Appetizer, miss?” a waiter asked, holding out a tray of tidbits.
Now that he mentioned it, Elise was hungry. She selected a toothpick skewered shrimp and dipped it in the little dish of cocktail sauce.
“Thank you,” she said then looked for a place to discreetly discard the toothpick. “Why do these things never put out wastebaskets?” she mumbled and added hers to several other toothpicks dropped into a large flower pot.
Elise lost track of time. Minutes ticked away unnoticed as she visited with former clients. It wasn’t her favorite place to talk business but like previous events and grand openings, it was hard not to listen to multi-million dollar project proposals. What bubbled to the surface over a glass of wine and a caviar-topped cracker was often more boastful than substantive.
“An appetizer?” A waitress extended a tray of chocolate dipped fruit bites.
Elise waited for the couple she was visiting with to make a selection then reached for a strawberry. Something caught her eye. Jan stood just inside the door, the folded umbrella in her hand dripping a wet spot onto the marble floor. She stared back. Elise wondered how long she had been there, looking like a wallflower at senior prom.
Elise excused herself and moved through the crowd toward her.
“I told you I’d call when I was ready,” she said in a quiet, stern voice. “You may wait with the car.” Elise looked around to see if anyone was listening. Common chauffeur etiquette did not include eavesdropping on the client, regardless of whether it was raining.
“Yes, ma’am.” Jan nodded submissively. “Perhaps you’d like to confirm a later flight,” she suggested then stepped outside, leaving Elise with the shocking realization of why she’d come inside.
“My flight!” she gasped and checked her watch. An hour and a half had slipped away. She should already be at the airport or at the very least be on her way.
Elise quickly turned toward the door, spilling wine down the front of her blouse. She handed her glass to a passing waiter and rushed out into the rain. Jan met Elise on the sidewalk, covered her with the umbrella and walked her to the car. She opened the back door and waited while Elise climbed in.
“My flight is at ten fifteen. Do we have time to make it?”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Jan closed the door and circled the car, again with an awkward, almost leisurely pace.
“Can we hurry please?” Elise asked anxiously as Jan settled into the driver’s seat. She didn’t seem to be in any great hurry.
“Yes, ma’am.” She checked the rearview mirror then pulled out into traffic.
Elise dug a tissue from her purse and began blotting the wine spot on her blouse. The more she blotted the more she realized it was drying to a large and noticeable stain, one that accentuated her left boob and trailed down her skirt, suggesting she wasn’t fully potty trained. She hated the idea of wearing ridiculously stained clothing but there wasn’t time to stop and change. It was decision time.
“Driver, these windows are tinted, right? No one can see in?” She glanced out the window at the SUV in the next lane. Even though it was dark outside she didn’t want to attract attention.
“Yes, ma’am. They’re tinted.” She tossed a glance in the mirror. “Do you need something?”
“I need clothes without wine stains that make me look and smell like a sloppy drunk,” she mumbled as she slipped out of her shoes and pulled the suitcase closer. She took a quick look at the driver. Jan seemed preoccupied with maneuvering through traffic. There was no divider between the driver and the passenger compartments, but her eyes were on the road, right where Elise expected them to be.
Elise unzipped her skirt and wiggled it down over her hips, taking the slip with it. She pulled a pair of black slacks from the suitcase. She didn’t always wear pantyhose with slacks but she left them on since she wasn’t wearing panties. She hated panty lines and frequently didn’t wear them on days she wore smooth fitting skirts. She wrestled herself into the slacks, turning in the seat to get them up over her hips, illuminated only by the occasional streetlight. She hadn’t worn this pair of slacks in several months. She didn’t remember them being so snug. It had to be the awkward position she was forced to use that made them seem snug. Her weight hadn’t changed in twenty five years; she was the same one hundred fifty-one pounds she had been in high school and in college. Her ample breasts were still perky. Her rear was still tight. And the skin on the underside of her arms hadn’t yet sagged into what Ginger called bingo flaps. Elise hadn’t done anything to keep them that way. They just were and she was grateful for it. She didn’t have time to work out. The four thousand dollar treadmill in her home office hadn’t been touched in over a year. Or was it two years?
Elise unbuttoned her blouse. She sorted through the tops folded in her suitcase, looking for something long sleeved but lightweight, something comfortable for the flight. She chose the lemon-colored scoop neck Ginger had given her, the one she had admired in the boutique window on their last trip to Provincetown. She peeled out of her blouse, rolled it and the skirt into a neat little bundle and placed both in the corner of the suitcase. She pulled the top over her head and smoothed it around her waist. She swapped her high heels for a pair of low heeled shoes. She finger-combed her hair into place, once again composed and ready for her trip. It wasn’t until she zipped her suitcase and looked up that she saw Jan’s eyes on her in the rearview mirror. Elise hadn’t considered she’d stare, but she had just performed a striptease for this woman. How much had she seen? Her unbuttoned blouse? Her lacy bra and cleavage? Her pantyhose and the triangle patch of curly hair clearly visible in her lap? Their eyes met for an awkwardly long moment. Jan didn’t seem embarrassed for being caught staring. Not like the beady-eyed male drivers who would sneak a lewd, almost sinister look when all Elise was doing was sitting there, with nothing more than her kneecaps showing.
“I beg your pardon. Shouldn’t your eyes be on the road?” Elise asked indignantly.
“I’m sorry.” Her glance returned to the road as a tiny crinkle formed at the corner of her eyes.
Jan followed the traffic through the airport and pulled into a reserved parking spot in front of the terminal. The rain eased to little more than a drizzle as she opened the door for Elise and offered her a hand when she swung her legs out. Jan retrieved the suitcase from the backseat, set it on the curb and opened the retractable handle.
“Well, it was an experience,” Elise said, juggling the blueprint tube and briefcase as she straightened the hem of her top. “I understand you’re relatively new to limousine driving. A word of advice. Staring at the passengers in the rearview mirror could be considered an invasion of privacy.”
“I’ll remember that.” Jan caught the strap of Elise’s purse as it began sliding down her shoulder and put it back in place.
“I’m willing to overlook it this time since you did get me to the airport. We’ll chalk it up to inexperience.”
Jan closed the back door and said nothing, but the muscles in her cheek were clearly rippling as if she were withholding—with effort—some smart aleck retort. Elise took hold of the handle of the suitcase and started for the terminal door without another word. She had made her point and she had a plane to catch.
“Excuse me, Ms. Grayson.” Jan drew a deep breath then stepped up on the curb awkwardly.
“Yes?” she said impatiently.
Jan stepped closer and lifted a clean handkerchief from her jacket pocket. She folded it over her index finger then wiped it over Elise’s chin.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, touching her chin.
“Removing what looks like cocktail sauce.” She showed her the small red stain on the handkerchief.
“Is it gone?” Elise rubbed again.
“Yes.” She cleared her throat and added, “One other little detail, if you don’t mind.”
“What?” Elise’s eyes widened, wondering what else she had on her face.
Jan reached around and lifted the back of the yellow top. Elise could feel Jan’s hand inside her waistband.
“What are you doing?” she demanded and pulled away.
“I don’t think you want a bunny tail following you around the airport.” Jan held up a white lacy bra. “I can put it back if that’s where you intended to wear it.” She cocked an eyebrow.
“Oh my God.” Elise snatched the bra and stuffed it in her briefcase as she blushed bright red. “No wonder my pants felt snug.”
“In my defense, that is why I was staring. I was hoping you’d notice before we got to the airport. And for future reference, there is a mirror in the drop-down on the back of the seat.” She stepped back and smiled respectfully. “Have a pleasant trip, Ms. Grayson.”
“Thank you,” Elise said, still embarrassed.
Elise was well inside the terminal when guilt overtook her. She turned and headed back outside, but Jan and the black car were gone. Elise stood in the rain, angry at herself for not apologizing. The woman had done her job and then some and Elise hadn’t been the least bit appreciative. And she knew better.