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Beach Roadby James Patterson and Peter de Jonge
SEVENTEEN AND CRIMINALLY CUTE, Nikki Robinson sulks through the sultry afternoon trying to keep from staring at her useless shocking-pink cell phone. She hasn?t heard from Feifer in three days and is getting the awful feeling she?s already been dumped and just hasn?t been told yet.
So when Nikki?s cell rings while she?s waiting in line to pay for her drink at Kwik Mart, her heart goes off with it. She grabs for the phone so fast her best friend, Rowena, behind the counter flashes her a disapproving look that says, ?Chill, girl.?
Rowena is all about maintaining dignity under romantic duress, and as usual, she?s right. It?s only Maidstone Interiors calling about a cleaning job for Nikki out in Montauk.
Nikki has been working for Maidstone all summer and likes it okay, but the thing about Maidstone is that she never knows where they?re going to send her.
It takes Nikki forty minutes to drive from Kings Highway in Bridgehampton to Montauk, and another five to find the hilly neighborhood perched just above Route 27 where all the streets are named for dead presidents?and not the recent ones, the ones who have been dead awhile.
Forty-one Monroe is neither a mansion nor a dump, but somewhere in between, and as soon as she gets through the door, she sees it?s nothing catastrophic and was probably rented by a couple, maybe a small family.
Besides the steady money, what Nikki likes best about this job is that she?s alone. She may be cleaning white folks? houses, but at least they aren?t standing over her shoulder, watching and supervising her every move. Plus she can dress how she wants, and so she pulls off her jeans and T-shirt, revealing a skimpy two-piece bathing suit underneath. She puts on her headphones and some R. Kelly, and gets busy.
Nikki starts with the ground-floor bedroom. She gathers the dirty towels and strips the sheets, balls them up in a giant damp pile, and wrestles it down the steep basement staircase. She quickly gets the first load of wash running, then races all the way up to the second floor, and by now her dark skin, which she sometimes loves and sometimes hates, is shimmering.
When she reaches the landing, there?s a funky smell in the air, as if someone?s been burning incense or, now that she gets a better whiff, smoking reefer.
That?s nothing too out of the ordinary. Renters can be stoners too.
But when Nikki swings open the door to the master bedroom, her heart jumps into her mouth, and yet somehow she manages to scream and to think, The white devil.
Copyright © 2006 by James Patterson
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