Covering Ollie, On Call, Book Two
Living in Durango, Colorado for the past eighteen years allowed Ollie Rizzo to build her own business and carve out a quiet existence for her and her teenage daughter.
She’s used to going it alone. However, their new silver-haired neighbor might present a problem—not only is he handsome—he’s also Durango’s new chief of police; a complication she can’t afford.
For recently widowed Joe Benedetti, the job offer as Durango’s new chief of police came at the right time. With life, the new job, and his two young sons settling into a comfortable routine, he does his best to ignore the beautiful and intriguing woman across the street. Yet when he discovers she’s caught the attention of the FBI, there is no way he can stay away.
Their worlds collide with the appearance of FBI Special Agent Cruz Livingston. The agent has a warning to deliver, one that spins life in Durango out of control, giving Joe a crucial mission—keep Ollie alive.
“Dad, can Trinny come?”
I glance over at my oldest, Mason, and recognize the dreamy-eyed look on his face. I’ve seen that look on him before, mostly when the new PS4 Spiderman game commercial plays on TV. A combination of adoration and hunger. I’ve just never seen it applied to a girl before. I smell trouble.
Trinny is the boys’ babysitter. When we first moved to Durango, seven months ago, I wasn’t too sure about the blue-haired, nose ring toting teen. She popped across the street, offering her services, when the moving truck was still in the driveway. I gave her a shot, and have since come to like her a whole lot. She may not look the part, but the girl is responsible, gets along famously with both my boys, and she’s wicked smart. She’s been here after school every day since. When Mason was struggling a bit at the start of seventh grade in his new school, she jumped in to help him with homework after school and continues to tutor him in math.
The problem is Mason seems to have developed a serious crush on the seventeen-year-old, and given he’s only twelve, I see heartbreak in his future. It’s been almost a year and a half since we lost my wife, Jennifer. Adjusting to life without their mother was hardest for Mason, but since Trinny started coming to our house, I’ve seen an improvement in him. I’m just scared too much of the positive change in him is hung up on her. She’ll be going to college come September, and although she’s staying local, I’m sure she’ll have better things to do than hang out with a couple of preteen kids.
That’s why I’m hesitant when he asks if she can come on our trip to Telluride on Wednesday.
We used to hit the slopes often when we lived in Denver, but haven’t gone out since Jenny died. The boys have spring break and I have the day off. My first real vacation day since starting as the city’s new chief of police, and I’m looking forward to strapping on my snowboard. It’s been too long.
“Dad?” he prompts.
“Yeah, Mase, I’m thinking about it.”
“Oh, come on, Dad. Trinny said she’s never been to Telluride, she’s just been to Hesperus.”
The Hesperus Ski Area is just half an hour west of town and popular with the locals, which is one of the reasons why I opted for Telluride. It’s a two-hour drive, but at least I can be anonymous there.
I never realized my new job would come with so much public exposure. In Denver, I was just a face among many, but in this much smaller community a lot of folks seem to know who I am.
“All right, Bud, but keep in mind she may have other plans, and I probably should check with her mom too.”
I’ve never really met Trinny’s mom. I’ve seen her, it’d be hard not to, with them living across the road from us. I can see their front door from mine, but other than an occasional wave from driveway to driveway there hasn’t been any interaction. I certainly haven’t encouraged it.
In the months after Jenny’s death, I became somewhat allergic to single moms. Every morning when I’d drop the boys off at school, there’d be one or another lying in wait, determined to ‘comfort’ me. My biggest mistake was accepting a coffee invitation one morning, when I was feeling particularly down, from the mother of one of Ryder’s play buddies. She’d been a friend of Jenny’s and she seemed understanding when I broke down at her kitchen table. It quickly went from her comforting me, to zipping up my pants and beelining it out of her house.
It was obvious, the next morning at the school drop off, she thought it might be the start of something, when it clearly did not hold the same meaning for me. I haven’t been a monk since Jenny’s death, but I’ve certainly been a bit more discerning about the few encounters I’ve had. No single moms.
“Trinny!!” Ryder, my youngest, darts for the front door when he spots her coming up the drive.
I grab my lunch and a bottle of water and start shrugging on my coat. “Hey, Trinny. Before I run off to work, the boys and I were wondering if you wanted to come to Telluride for the day on Wednesday? Unless you have something else going on?”
“Please, Trinny!” This from Ryder, who is hopping up and down.
Mason, on the other hand, suddenly seems disinterested when he adds, “Yeah, should be decent snow up there.” He doesn’t fool me for a damn second though, that look is still in his eyes when he glances up at her before looking away. The boy is sold.
“Man, I’d love to. Never been up there.”
“We’ll have to check with your mom, though. I should probably talk to her myself.”
“I’m seventeen,” she says, a little disgruntled.
“I realize that, which is fine when you make decisions about babysitting right across the street, or sticking close to town with friends, but heading into the mountains with someone your mother doesn’t even know? She may want a little reassurance.”
I see from the look on her face, I got my point across. “Fair enough. Need her digits?”
I enter the information in my phone and am about to head out when she calls after me.
“Mr. B? Is it okay if the boys and I bake chocolate chip cookies today? I brought the stuff.” She holds up the plastic bag she carried in with her.
Both boys seem eager: little heathens putting on their most angelic faces, complete with praying hands. I grin at their antics and give in easily.
“Fine, just don’t burn down my house. And not until Ryder practices his piano.” I tuck my phone in my pocket, zip up my coat, and pull open the door, the cold air hitting me in the face. It’s been pretty brutal.
As an afterthought I call over my shoulder, “Clean up after yourselves!”
“Yes, sir,” three voices ring out as I shut the door behind me.
Christ, this woman is raising my blood pressure.
I’ve been on the phone for half an hour with Katherine Carey, matriarch of the very affluent Carey family and financier of the commemorative garden project I’m working on. Technically I’m working with and for the city, which has a plethora of boards who have to approve of my plans for the garden, but not even all of them combined are as difficult to deal with as this woman.
Even though I’m self-employed as a landscape architect, a lot of my contracts are through the city of Durango. I landed my first one about five years ago, when they put a tender offer out for a small greenbelt in a new division north of the college, and I came in with the lowest bid. From there I’ve had at least twelve more, now making up the bulk of my business. I still maintain private contracts, and in the winter supplement with snow removal—I have a plow I attach to my F150 every winter—but my work for the city is my bread and butter.
Which is why I have to put up with Katherine Carey.
“I understand you like bougainvillia, Katherine, and I agree, they are gorgeous, but they don’t suit our climate here at all. They’d last one summer before we’d have to replace them all.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve been over this. Last week she called about frangipani, which is indigenous to Central America. She just came home a few weeks ago from a two-month stay at the family’s winter residence in Panama. I wonder what tropical plant she’s coming with next week. How hard is it to understand the concept of plant hardiness zones?
It takes me another fifteen minutes to get her off the phone and focus on my design. I just get back in my groove when the phone rings again. Thinking it’s Katherine again, I drop my head in my hands and take in a deep breath before picking it up. It’s not her though, it’s a number I don’t recognize but the area code is all too familiar. Shit.
The last thing I expect to hear is my brother’s voice. Perhaps notification he’s met his maker, something I’ve secretly feared the past seventeen years since I the last time I saw him, but not his own voice. I’m surprised I can still tell it’s him.
“Chris, what the fuck are you doing?”
“Listen, I know I—”
“I don’t want to know, Chris. I told you, no contact whatsoever. We agreed, goddammit—for Trinny’s sake.”
“Jesus, Ollie, I’m in trouble here.”
“I don’t want to know,” I bite off. “You chose this life. You knew what you were getting into, but I didn’t, Chris. I had no idea who I was dealing with. I’ll never forgive you for that. You don’t get to call me now trouble has found you. You made your bed. I have one priority in life and she is all I care about. I don’t know how you found it, but lose this number, Christian.”
Without giving him a chance to respond, I end the call and promptly burst into tears. Jesus. I haven’t cried in years. Damn him.
Angry at myself for caring, I kick back my chair and head into the kitchen looking for a distraction. I find it in the sink. Two days of dishes and I can’t even blame it on Trinny, she’s been home late the last couple of days from her job babysitting across the street. No, this mess is all me, I’ve always been a shit housekeeper.
I fill the sink and quickly hand-wash the dishes. I have a dishwasher, but it’s been broken for the last year and a half. I repurposed it to store my Tupperware and some of my large platters.
Not yet cooled off sufficiently to focus on work, I move on to the laundry next. I’m just coming down the stairs with a laundry basket piled high, when my damn phone rings again. I dump the basket in the hallway and march over to my drawing table where I’d dropped my phone.
“What now?” I snap hearing only silence on the other side. “Hello?”
“Am I speaking to Trinny’s mom?”
“This is she. Who is this?” I try to ignore the small shiver of awareness at the soft, deep voice on the other end of the line. Whoever it is has one of those voices you want to listen to all damn day long—like Morgan Freeman.
“Joe Benedetti. Your daughter babysits—”
“Oh shit, you’re my neighbor. I’m so sorry. You caught me at a bad time.” I’m instantly flustered realizing who he is. Trinny has been filling my ear with how awesome the guy is. Also, I have eyes; I’ve seen him. Matching that voice with the tall silver fox across the street is a treat for the senses.
“I can call back.”
“No, no. It’s fine, ignore me.” Smooth, Rizzo, smooth. I roll my eyes at my awkwardness. At least I haven’t dropped one of my customary F-bombs. Yet.
“Okay…uh, on Wednesday I’m taking my boys up to Telluride and they asked Trinny to come. I said I’d have to check with you first.”
“Sure, if she wants to go, it’s fine by me. She’s seventeen, she basically sets her own schedule.”
My words are met with a pregnant silence, before he finally responds. “I figured you’d want to know if your daughter is getting in the car with a strange man.”
Judgment is dripping from his voice and the hair on my neck goes up. I have to bite my tongue not to snap at him, and instead return with a saccharine sweet voice. “I trust my daughter, Mr. Benedetti. I would’ve considered her safe enough with the city’s chief of police.”
I know who he is. The buzz of a new chief had gone around town before he even moved in across the street. The rest I learned from Trinny, who talks about the family she babysits for all the time. It didn’t take me long to find out from her he’s a widower, I know he’s originally from Denver, and I know he adores his kids, at least according to Trinny.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize—”
“That I knew who you were? You don’t think I’d let my daughter babysit for just anyone, do you? Also, I know my daughter, Mr. Benedetti—she has her head on straight.”
“It’s Joe, and Mrs. Rizzo, I didn’t mean to imply—”
“Yes, you did, but that’s okay. I’m grateful you’re looking out for her. And it’s Ms. Rizzo, but I much prefer Ollie.”
“Short for Olivia.”
“I see. Well, Ollie, just so you know, I’m planning to head out around seven Wednesday morning, so—”
“I’ll make sure she’s up.”
I hear a deep sigh on the other end. “Does anyone ever get to finish a sentence around you?”
“Rarely,” I tell him honestly, shrugging my shoulders. It’s not the first time I’ve been told this. I’m impatient, I know this, but time is short and I don’t like to waste it beating around the bush.
“I’m getting that,” he says dryly, making me chuckle. Perhaps the man isn’t quite the stiff he comes across as. “You wouldn’t happen to be interested in a day on the slopes, would you?” he suddenly asks, taking me aback.
“Alas, work beckons, but I appreciate the offer.”
With a brief goodbye, I end the call and drop down in my chair, rubbing the palm of my hand hard over my right knee where the edge of my prosthesis sometimes rubs.