A Purr-fect Storm – Addison Moore, Bellamy Bloom

Ithought you said this place would be loaded with a bunch of oiled-up, sweaty men, Stella?” Stephanie says as she gives me the stink eye for my failure to deliver in the testosterone department. “Would you hush?” I bring my finger to my lips in a weak attempt to control my sister. Stephanie is about as controllable as a wildfire. And sadly, she’s not the only wildfire in the family. I happen to be her superior in that department. “My name is Bowie Binx. Get it straight, Lola.” The aforementioned name, Lola, would be her cover. Steph thought it up all on her own, while our Uncle Vinnie bestowed my new moniker upon me—at least the Bowie part. Good thing he was listening to good music when that beaut came to mind. As for Binx, there may have been a three-year-old and a cat involved in the making of my fictitious surname, but that’s another story. “And I was right about the men,” I tell her. “Who do you think is in the stands watching these oiled-up, sweaty women going at it in the ring?” Steph grunts, “You’re lucky I brought cookies.” “You’re lucky I baked them for you,” I say, taking in the sights right here in the Starry Falls Community Center as the masses have gathered to watch the all-female wrestling circuit. These sweaty, oiled-up girls drove all the way up from Las Vegas to put on this show—or match, or genuine knock-down, drag-out catfight.

To be honest, I’m not sure what’s happening in that ring. All I know is four women are doing their best to pluck out one another’s follicles and knock one another over the head with folding chairs, while screaming at the top of their lungs as the crowd goes wild. I’m just glad I didn’t have to fork over any hard-earned dollars to see this riot take place. It’s a cold evening in January, the snow is piled high outside, and it seems as if all of Starry Falls, all of Vermont has poured into this makeshift gymnasium to watch a quartet of feisty women go at it. Although there does seem to be a disproportionate ratio of men to women here, but that’s to be expected under the circumstances. Not only are the oiled-up women scantily clad, but they’re drop-dead gorgeous, too. Who knew stealth beauty was a requirement in order for them to rip one another’s heads off? Most likely their wise and yet very male manager. That might explain the large sign out front that reads hot girls wrestling now! That also might explain why the community center is packed to the hilt. The crowd is so rowdy and boisterous my poor ears are practically begging to fall right off. But thankfully, the scent of Nana Rose’s anisette cookies more than makes up for the assault on my eardrums.

They’re not really Nana Rose’s cookies, God rest her soul, but I did my best to replicate the recipe. Stephanie cups her hands around her mouth. “Come and get your Italian anisette cookies! Hot, sweet, and ready to devour—much like yours truly! Three for a dollar will make your honey holler!” Leave it to my hot-to-trot sister to upsell herself while attempting to upsell cookies. “They are not fresh and hot,” I’m quick to point out. “I baked those yesterday.” “Would you hush?” she hisses while arranging the platters on the refreshment table. “You’re lucky I brought something for us to do. Besides, once people see how delicious these cookies are, we’ll have twice as many customers at the Manor Café.” “I don’t want twice as many customers,” I grunt. “Not a day goes by that I don’t go home with my feet begging to fall off.

” I’m sensing a dissention in the ranks theme with my body. But as long as my brain stays put and maybe my boobs, too, I’m good. “Besides, if we get any more customers, we’ll run out of food to feed them. Never mind the fact that I manage the place and am fully capable of ordering more. But I’m tired, and cranky, and—” “Wanted dead or alive.” Stephanie winks my way. “Don’t worry, sis. Your troubles are my troubles. Except, of course, if it’s a matter of life or death. In that case, sayonara.

See you on the other side. Tell the Grim Reaper not to wait up. I plan on staying put for a while. There are far too many men in this world and not enough time to oil them up.” She’s not entirely wrong about that whole wanted dead or alive thing. My name isn’t Bowie Binx—at least my given name at birth was nowhere near that playful moniker. My name is Stella Santini, or it was, until I ticked off both the feds and the mob. I’ve got long black hair, light brown eyes, stand at an average height of fivefoot-five, and I can see the future. Ditto for my sister, sans the wanted by anyone who totes a gun for a living. But, seeing how she has a penchant for following in my footsteps, I’m sure a target will appear on her back soon enough.

And the part about peeking into the future is true for the both of us, too. I’ve seen more than my fair share of glimpses into tomorrow, and believe me when I say they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. I once thought if I played my prognosticating cards right I would end up hitting it big at the track, or playing the part of hero at the helm of great catastrophe. Instead, I’ve prognosticated myself into a pickle that indeed involves both the feds and the mob. In short, I’ve become my own great catastrophe. Stephanie and I are originally from New Jersey where my nitwit ex-boyfriend, Johnny Rizzo, coerced me into stealing from one of the biggest crime families this side of the old country, the Morettis. They had us laundering money at a donut place they owned. I ate as many carbs as I stole dirty dollars. As fate would have it, the Morettis were stealing those exact same funds from the feds. And in an irony only my luck could fashion, it was my veracious purchasing power that tipped the feds off.

At the end of the day, the feds want me behind bars and the Morettis want me fitted with a pair of concrete stilettos. I’ve been on the lam ever since. And since Steph has a knack for adventures—or more to the point misadventures, and perhaps less than the necessary amount of brain cells required for self-preservation, she followed me out to Vermont and that’s how we both came to live in the quaint little town of Starry Falls. I showed up last spring, and Stephanie came licking at my heels shortly thereafter. “Speaking of wanted dead or alive.” I lift a brow her way. “Any sign of you know who?” Last month, a couple of wannabe mobsters—the sons of real deal mobsters from down south in Leeds—injected themselves into our lives. And on Christmas Eve, they gave us the ultimate unwanted gift—they let us in on the fact they knew exactly who we were. In a nutshell our covers are blown, and if those two morons start spreading the news, I might just spread myself over the top of a Greyhound bus and let it take me wherever it wants. Domenico Canelli and Enzo Lazzari are a couple of best friends gone rogue.

Their fathers hail from feuding families that rule the dicey roost down in Leeds, and the young guns—cute as they may be—are looking to make a name for themselves just north of us in Scooter Springs. Suffice it to say, Stephanie and I have been walking on eggshells ever since they dropped the bomb on us. We’re not entirely sure what they’re going to want in exchange to keep our little secret, but I’m guessing it has to do with a pound of flesh. And while my sister might be willing to put out for the cause, I’m not feeling so generous. I’ll admit that thoughts of leaving Starry Falls have entered my mind. But I’ve got roots here and a hot boyfriend. I don’t want to leave. Have I mentioned the hot boyfriend? “Don’t worry, Bowie.” Stephanie snaps up a couple of cookies for herself. “I’ve already decided what we’ll do once we see those hunky jerks.

” “What’s that?” “Never mind. We’ll discuss the dirty details later.” She wrinkles her nose as she looks to something behind me. “Tall, dark, and sexy beast coming in hot at six o’clock.” I turn to find not only that tall, dark, and sexy beast, but flanked on either side of him are Opal, the woman who owns the manor which employs me, and Tilly Teasdale, my Starry Falls-issued BFF. “Shepherd Wexler,” I purr like a kitten and watch as his lips curl just enough. “You’re looking like a lean, mean, fighting machine. I bet you’re itching to get in that ring and war it out with the entire Las Vegas women’s wrestling circuit.” A dark chuckle strums from him. Shep is six feet of deliciousness, has blue eyes rimmed in navy, a shock of wavy dark hair, and a dark smile to match.

Have I mentioned his rock-hard body? Ferrari couldn’t have built a better man or machine. And I’ve been around Shep long enough to know he’s a little of both. His eyes drip with lust. “Kitten, the only woman I’m looking to oil up and wrestle with is you.” Both Stephanie and Tilly break out into sighs. “Hey, Bowie Binx.” Tilly thumps her hip to mine. Tilly is about my age, close to thirty, has dark hair with chunky blonde highlights, is a touch shorter than me, and a touch more man-hungry. And she just so happens to be a mom to a feisty sixteen-year-old girl named Jessie, her doppelgänger in every way, including the man-hungry department. “Find me a slice of beefcake who looks like Shep and says all the right oily things.

I’m sick of being single.” Case in point to that whole man-hungry thing. Although Shep is one man I won’t help her take a bite out of. “Valentine’s Day is just around the corner,” I tell her. “I bet every dating app from here to Mars will have a snag-your-man two-for-one special coming up soon.” Opal holds up a gloved finger adorned with enough baubles to outfit a jewelers. Opal Mortimer is somewhere in her eighties and not only owns the Mortimer Manor, but it just so happens to be the only real estate possession left in her cache. She’s as eccentric as she is bejeweled, as evidenced by that red damask gown she’s donned, black army boots —because Vermont is a magnet for snow, and slipping at her age could prove fatal—and her neck happens to be adorned with thick, chunky jewels comprised of rubies and diamonds and smaller colorful stones I can’t quite identify. “I just had a thought,” she trills in that strange accent that only those of a certain tax bracket can attain. “Why don’t we host a Valentine’s Day singles mingle right there at the Manor?” Her bright red lips round out at the thought.

Opal has the face of a Kewpie doll that might have seen better days but hasn’t given up on the dream of having more. She wears copious amounts of dark kohl around her eyes, and always looks as if she’s spiffy enough to head to senior prom. Take the word senior anyway you want. “We can call it the Scorching Soiree or something equally as tantalizing.” She wiggles her fingers and winks. “Lola, you and Tilly alert the masses and make sure everyone has a good time. Bowie, you’ll tidy up at the manor and make sure to put together a few pupu platters for the big day.” “Hey?” I balk. “Why do Lola and Tilly get to have all the fun while I’m left cleaning the soot from the fireplace?” “Ooh!” The whites of Opal’s eyes flash. “Add that to the list.

” Both she and Tilly help themselves to my Nana Rose’s anisette cookies without giving it a second thought. The cookies are each about five inches long and in the shape of the letter S. For years Stephanie and I thought Nana Rose was paying homage to the first letter of our names, but as it turns out, that’s the standard shape of this addicting sweet treat. Nana Rose just so happens to be who both Stephanie and I got this strange ability to peer into the future from. We’re something called transmundane, further classified as sibylline. Apparently, there are other supernatural talents under the transmundane umbrella, too, but we’ve got just the one, or at least Steph has. As fate and a wayward pumpkin would have it, I’m a little supersensual, too. Just a few months back, one of Sexy Wexy’s old girlfriends hurled a pumpkin at my head, and it’s opened my spiritual eyes to the one and only ghost roaming the halls of the Mortimer Manor. Suffice it to say, I’m not too thrilled with Shep’s ex. “Speak of the devil,” I whisper under my breath as Regina Valentine struts over in skyhigh heels and a little black dress that says I don’t care if we live in a meat locker, I’m trolling for oily men today.

Clearly, she and Stephanie were on the same wavelength when it came to who they thought would be in that ring today. Regina’s lips shed something closer to a snarl than a smile. She’s been a little snippy with me ever since I breezed into town and inadvertently stole her job and her boyfriend. Technically, she was fired the very same afternoon I was hired, and according to Shep, they were having an off moment in their on-again, off-again relationship. But Regina and I sort of made amends over the holiday season. Mostly. Regina is pulling a blond man along with her who happens to be dressed in a black tuxedo with a bright red bowtie. He’s the exact man who’s been shouting at the women in the ring as if he had a right to, and I suppose he does, considering he’s the announcer. “Here he is. The man of the hour.

” She presents the man in the tux to us as if he were a prize. “Frisk Foster.” Shepherd pulls the man in and gives him one of those man hug-slaps over the back. “It’s been too long. So this is what you’re up to now, huh? Announcer extraordinaire?” The gentleman barks out a husky laugh. “Not a bad gig if you can get it. I’m around beautiful women all day long, and I get paid to tell ’em what to do.” I like him a little less already. Shep’s brows bounce as if he weren’t quite sure what to make of it. “But”—Frisk pats his belly— “I’ve been at it for eight years and I’m feeling it.

” He frowns out at the crowd as if he were looking for someone. “Let’s just say I’ve had a hankering for Starry Falls lately. Like it or not, you might just be seeing a lot more of me around these parts.” “Sounds great to me,” Shep says. “I miss our brainstorming sessions. You helped me untangle some serious plot holes back in the day.” Shep pulls me close. “Frisk, I’d love for you to meet my girlfriend, Bowie Binx.” Girlfriend. I’ll admit, I still get moony-eyed when Shep introduces me as his official plus one.

Shep and I exchanged the L word for Christmas, which was our latest big step. Then, I felt obligated to fill him in on my ability to play voyeur into the future. And seeing that he didn’t run for the hills, turn me in to the feds or the mob, or have me committed, I’d say Shep and I are on our way to being the real deal—as in the real married deal. I’m hoping that the M word will follow suit for the two of us, much like the L word did, and seeing that M comes right after L in the alphabet, it seems like the next logical step. Don’t get me wrong. My fingers aren’t ring-hungry, but if it happens, I think I’ll be more than ready for it. Not that Bowie Binx can legally marry anyone. I’d have to get around that pesky little detail of the fact she doesn’t exist. “Bowie Binx?” Frisk booms my name out with a laugh. “And here I thought I had the most talented female wrestlers working under me.

It seems there’s one far craftier than those, and I’m looking right at her.” He glances back at Regina. “We never thought we’d see the day Shepherd Wexler would settle down and get himself a bona fide girlfriend. Isn’t that right, Regina?” Regina mumbles something, mostly to herself, and I’m pretty sure I heard the words regret and tequila in there somewhere. Regina Valentine is a looker with full-bodied chestnut hair that cascades down her back, olive skin that glows with a perennial tan, eyes as sharp as the devil’s, and well, the personality to match—most of the time. Like I said, Regina and I drew a truce just a few weeks ago. It’ll be fun to see how long it lasts. She enjoys throwing potshots at me, and I enjoy pretending not to hear them. Before Regina can lob a single word my way, all four oiled-up and sweaty women who were in that cage duking it out with wayward furniture barrel this way—a blonde, a redhead, and two brunettes. All of which look fit to kill.

And even though they’re wearing what amounts to Halloween costumes, I’ve decided to take them seriously. “Girls, girls!” Frisk opens his arms wide, and two flock on either side of him as if taking refuge under the shelter of his wings. “Ladies and gentlemen”—he winks at Shep—“let me introduce you all to the best and the brightest that the Vegas wrestling circuit has to offer. The gal on the end is Mal the Mallet,” he says, pointing to the blonde with the green latex short shorts and some sort of tube top made of pretty blue scales that looks as if it’s magically adhered to her body. He nods to the brunette next to her. “And this is Madge the Badge.” He turns his head to the other surly beauties. “And on this side we’ve got Wendy City Destruction, and Leave ’em Moaning Simone.” Wendy City Destruction is dressed like a construction worker who’s had a bad day. Her construction boots are thick and chunky, and I can’t help but notice they’re a pair of tan Timberlands.

I used to have a pair back in Jersey, and boy, did I ever love those. And Leave ‘em Moaning Simone is wearing a shiny silver bathing suit with a sequin scarf around her neck. “Cool!” Tilly says as she and Stephanie bop over. “I want a fun wrestling name.” “You’ve got one,” Stephanie doesn’t hesitate in letting her know it. “It’s Tease ‘em and Leave ‘em Teasdale. And I’m Love ‘em and Leave ‘em Lola.” She gives a hard wink to the strapping man before us. “I’m hocking cookies until this shindig is over, but see me later and maybe I’ll let you see my cookies.” Good grief.

At least she’s subtle. “I’m Bowie Binx,” I say to the girls before us. “And this is my boyfriend, Shepherd Wexler.” Boyfriend. As much as I love to say it—with this ornery yet beautiful crowd, I felt it was best to delineate the boy boundaries right out the gate. Leave ‘em Moaning Simone gasps over at Shep. “Say, you’re not related to S.J. Wexler, are you? He’s my favorite author, and I hear he hails from these parts.” “That would be me.

” Shep sheds a dark smile that could melt the clothes right off every woman in the room. It’s true. Shep is sort of a big deal author who happens to pen books about the mob. Fun fact: Before we met, he used my family as a model for his books. Another far less fun fact: Both of our fathers are serving time at the same men’s correctional facility for entirely different crimes. My dad squealed on the “family”, and his dad slaughtered his second wife. Some people have a favorite movie in common, we have crime. “So crazy cool!” the woman roars over at him, and for the briefest of seconds, I could have sworn Shep was reaching for his gun. Shep happens to be a part-time detective down at the homicide division in Woodley, too. Yeah, he’s that hot.

Although I’m still not sure if he’s smart or foolish to be with me. I could cost him everything, including that fun little activity he partakes in hundreds of times a day called breathing. Frisk shakes his head. “I knew you’d make your mark in this world.” Shep’s chest bounces. “And I knew you’d leave yours.” The four women ensconcing him exchange a brief glance. I lean in. “So what brings you all out to Starry Falls?” Frisk ticks his head back. “I had a little legal tussle that needed to be straightened out, and I thought why not bring a few of the girls on the road with me? Simone and Wendy are both from Scooter Springs.

Mallory is from Leeds, and Meg lives about an hour away.” The brunette to his right with the black hair and pale blue eyes nods. “I’m not a part of the circuit anymore. I’ve pretty much settled in Vermont.” “That’s right,” Frisk says. “Meg here is working two jobs these days. She’s slinging hash at a place called the Honey Pot Diner and teaching the girls down at Red Satin Gentlemen’s Club their spicy moves—all of which I taught her.” He bellows out a hearty laugh. Meg shrugs. “Let’s just say, now that I’m there, the girls are getting twice as much in tips as they did before.

.

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