How to Murder a Millionaire

By: Nancy Martin

Michael Abruzzo himself sauntered across the road just in time to see my dysfunctional family in action. It was hard to amble in hip waders, but he managed. He wore a khaki fishing vest that had seen better days, and his jeans were so snug that the faded circle of a snuff can was perfectly outlined on the hip pocket, right smack on the curve of his left buttock. All right, I couldn’t see his hip pocket at the moment, but I knew it was there. I’d memorized it.

Under her breath, Libby muttered, “He’d be almost handsome if he wasn’t such a thug.”

“Stop thinking with your ovaries, Libby.”

“Oh, I forgot. You’re thirty-one and still come across like a virgin. Well, look out, Nora. I can see that man has unfinished business with you.”

I wanted to grab her arm and hold Libby back, but she stalked away, abandoning me to my fate. Within a moment, Michael Abruzzo arrived—a six-foot-four-inch, two-hundred-pound replica of the body Michelangelo studied when he sculpted David. Except with a lazy smile and a slouchy walk.

I raised my emotional defenses and met his gaze straight on.

Chapter 2

“You going off to Cinderella’s ball, Miss Blackbird?” The Jersey inflection in his voice dispelled further ruminations on Michelangelo.

I ground my teeth. “Hello, Mr. Abruzzo.”

“You’re very pretty in pink,” he said.

“Thank you.” I pulled a small notebook from my handbag with as much professionalism as I could muster. “I’m actually here for your grand opening, and I could use a quote, if you don’t mind.”

“Grand opening?”

“Yes, this—” I gestured at the car lot and couldn’t come up with a euphemism. “Your business. Today is the official opening, correct?”

“Well, yeah, I guess so. Usually I just park the cars and see who stops by. Looks like I got lucky today.” He leaned his fishing rod against the nearest car, an enormous sea-foam green Pontiac with whitewalls and tail fins. Popping open the door, he said, “Hop in. See how it feels to you.”

“I’m not in the market for a car.”

He had a grin that must have worked wonders on the Catholic schoolgirls in Trenton in the years before he broke his nose. I was willing to bet that his appreciation for big old cars stemmed from backseat experiences with cheerleaders’ sweaters and Bruce Springsteen wailing on the radio. “C’mon,” he said. “You need something to write about. Might as well be about the car.”

Some people are hard to disobey. They command authority with in-your-face hostility, blatant intimidation or sheer physical size. Abruzzo had a benign smile and a languid demeanor that still managed to scare the hell out of people. A mob boss in the making? A bully who didn’t need to prove himself anymore? I decided not to take a chance and did as he told me. I slid behind the wheel.

“What d’you think?”

I looked out the windshield and down the long stretch of gleaming metal at the hood ornament. “It’s enormous.”

“Well, size is important to some women, I hear.” He leaned one hip against the side mirror and rummaged in his pocket. He pulled out a snuff can and proceeded to unfasten a fishing lure from his shirt. He put the lure into the can. “Turn the key in the ignition.”

I gritted my teeth, but decided disobedience wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I turned the key, and the engine growled to life. The whole car trembled powerfully beneath me.

“Is it good for you?” he asked with that damned grin.

There was nothing I could do but ignore his remark. “Fortunately, I don’t need a car. Mr. Pendergast has hired a driver for me.”

Which Abruzzo knew perfectly well, since Rory had contracted with his company to provide the vehicle and a driver.

“You must be the only reporter in the country who has a chauffeur.”

“He’s not a chauffeur. And I’m going to learn to drive as soon as possible.”

“Need a teacher?”

Michael Abruzzo was the last person I intended to call when I needed to learn something.

He must have guessed my thought, because he laughed. “Listen,” he said easily, “I was thinking maybe if you were starting to get your head above water you might feel like celebrating a little.”

“What do you mean?”

He squinted into the distance. “I’m going up to New York in a few weeks. I got a couple of tickets to The Lion King and reservations at my favorite steak house. All I need’s a little company to make it a perfect weekend.”

He had to be kidding.

I clamped my knees together so hard my muscles quivered. I didn’t know which was more humiliating—my sister parading around with placards or the fact that the likes of Michael “The Mick” felt he needed to cheer me up after near financial ruin. I made an effort to control myself and said evenly, “I would hate The Lion King.”

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