Home > Finlay Donovan Is Killing It (Finlay Donovan #1)

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It (Finlay Donovan #1)
Author: Elle Cosimano

CHAPTER 1

 


It’s a widely known fact that most moms are ready to kill someone by eight thirty A.M. on any given morning. On the particular morning of Tuesday, October eighth, I was ready by seven forty-five. If you’ve never had to wrestle a two-year-old slathered in maple syrup into a diaper while your four-year-old decides to give herself a haircut in time for preschool, all while trying to track down the whereabouts of your missing nanny as you sop up coffee grounds from an overflowing pot because in your sleep-deprived fog you forgot to put in the filter, let me spell it out for you.

I was ready to kill someone. I didn’t really care who.

I was late.

My agent was already on a train from Grand Central to Union Station, where I was supposed to meet her for a brunch reservation at a restaurant I couldn’t afford so we could discuss exactly how overdue I was on my deadline for a book I had started three times and probably would never finish because … Jesus, look around me. Reasons.

My two-story colonial in South Riding was just close enough to the city to make ten o’clock sound reasonable when I’d scheduled it. It was also just far enough outside the city to convince otherwise sane people to buy life-size inflatable dolls so they could slither into the HOV lane without getting a ticket, or without being subjected to a drive-by shooting by any of the rest of us who had not yet sold our souls to buy inflatable dolls of our own.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d liked South Riding, before the divorce. Back before I’d known my husband was sleeping with our real estate agent, who also sat on the board of the homeowners association. Somehow, I’m guessing that’s not what the saleslady had in mind when she’d described our suburban mecca as having a “small-town” feel. The brochure had featured photos of happy families hugging each other on quaint front porches. It had used words like idyllic and peaceful to describe the neighborhood, because in the glossy pages of a real estate magazine, no one can see through the windows to the exhausted stabby mommy, or the naked sticky toddler, or the hair and blood and coffee on the floor.

“Mommy, fix it!” Delia stood in the kitchen rubbing her fingers over the patchy wet stubble where she’d scratched herself with the scissors. A thin bead of blood trailed over her forehead and I smeared it up with an old burp rag before it could drip in her eye.

“I can’t fix it, sweetie. We’ll take you to the hairdresser after school.” I pressed the cloth to the bald spot until the bleeding stopped. Then, with my cell phone tucked between my shoulder and my ear, I crawled under the table and scraped together the fallen strands of her hair, counting unanswered rings.

“I can’t go to school like this. Everyone will laugh at me!” Delia cried big snotty tears as Zachary rubbed toaster waffles in his hair and gawked at her from his high chair. “Daddy would know how to fix it.”

My head smacked the underside of the table, and my two-year-old erupted in a fit of wails. I got stiffly to my feet, brandishing a fistful of my daughter’s wispy locks. The rest of the trimmed bits were stuck in the syrup on the knee of my pants. Biting back a swear my two-year-old was certain to repeat for weeks in the grocery cart if I voiced it aloud, I tossed the hairy poultry shears into the sink.

Sometime around the forty-seventh ring, the call went to voice mail.

“Hi, Veronica? It’s Finlay. I hope everything’s okay,” I said sweetly, in case she’d been crushed to death in a car accident or burned alive in a house fire overnight. You never want to be the asshole that leaves a message promising to kill someone for being late, only to find out they’ve already been murdered. “I was expecting you at seven thirty so I could get to my meeting downtown. I guess you forgot?” My cheerful lilt at the end of the sentence suggested this was okay. That we were okay. But this was not okay. I was not okay. “If you get this message, give me a call back. Please,” I added before hanging up. Because my children were watching, and we always use our pleases and, “Thank you.” I disconnected, dialed my ex, and jammed the phone back under my ear as I washed all hope for salvaging the day from my hands.

“Is Vero coming?” Delia asked, picking at her handiwork and frowning at her sticky red fingers.

“I don’t know.” Vero would probably pull Delia into her lap and style the whole mess into some trendy comb-over. Or conceal it under an intricate French braid. I was pretty sure any similar attempt on my part would only make matters worse.

“Can you call Aunt Amy?”

“You don’t have an Aunt Amy.”

“Yes, I do. She was Theresa’s sister in college. She can fix my hair. She studied cometology.”

“You mean cosmetology. And no, just because she was Theresa’s sorority sister does not make her your Aunt Amy.”

“Are you calling Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“He knows how to fix things.”

I pasted on a strained smile. Steven knew how to break things, too. Like dreams and wedding vows. But I didn’t say that. Instead, I gritted my teeth, because child psychologists say it’s not healthy to bash your ex in front of your children. And common sense says you shouldn’t do it while you’re waiting for him to pick up his cell phone so you can ask him to babysit them.

“He uses duck glue,” Delia insisted, following me around the kitchen as I scraped the breakfast scraps into the trash and dumped the plates in the sink along with my sanity.

“You mean duct tape. We can’t fix your hair with duct tape, sweetie.”

“Daddy could.”

“Hold on, Delia.” I shushed her when my ex finally picked up. “Steven?” He sounded hassled before he even said good morning. On second thought, I don’t think good morning was actually what he said. “I need a favor. Vero didn’t show up this morning, and I’m already late for a meeting with Sylvia downtown. I need to drop Zach with you for a few hours.” My son flashed me a syrupy grin from his high chair as I used the damp rag to mop the sticky spot from my slacks. They were the only decent pants I owned. I work in my pajamas. “Also, he might need a bath.”

“Yeah,” Steven said slowly. “About Vero…”

I stopped patting and dropped the burp rag in the open diaper bag at my feet. I knew that tone. It was the same one he’d used when he broke the news that he and Theresa had gotten engaged. It was also the same tone he’d used last month when he told me his landscaping business had taken off because of Theresa’s real estate contacts and he was flush with cash, and oh, by the way, he’d talked to a lawyer about filing for joint custody. “I was meaning to call you yesterday, but Theresa and I had tickets to the game and the day just got away from me.”

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