The Good Luck Charm


Mary Michaels

"Ah damn, look at the time. I'm running late!" Samantha Peters cursed as she flew out the door of her apartment. Normally, the tall brunette was beyond punctual, but today things had gotten off to a bad start. She'd woken up 30 minutes later than normal because she'd accidentally turned off her alarm instead of hitting the snooze button. She'd had to search for a pair of panty hose that didn't have a run in them, and now she was going to be stuck in morning traffic into downtown. To top everything off her morning paper was not on the doorstep.

"I guess I'll buy one at the office," she mumbled as she got into her car for the 15-minute trip that would take 45 minutes.

As she arrived at her building, she stopped briefly in the deli to pick up a paper.

"Hi, Ms. Peters! Can I get you a croissant or something?" Jimmy, the deli owner, smiled at her courteously.

"Not today, Jimmy. I just need a paper," she said, as she rummaged around in her purse for 50 cents. Throwing the money on the counter, she grabbed the newspaper and began looking for the business section.

"Why look at that, Ms. Peters!" Jimmy said with a surprise in his voice.

Samantha glanced up from her search to see Jimmy staring at the counter.

"Your quarter is standing right up by itself. Must be your lucky day," he said as he marveled at it some more. "I think I'll just leave it there until the end of the day or until it falls over," he said as he shook his head, and moved to deal with a person who had just come in.

"I hope so, Jimmy," she remarked absentmindedly, perusing the business section as she made her way to the door. "The way this day has started, I could use some luck."

She pushed open the glass door to the hallway. Shit!!! Her eyes scanned the article. Williams, Tanner, and Wryston In Takeover Bid of Belton, Inc. It was true. All the rumors were true. She shook the newspaper violently, folding it over to better read the article. A takeover! A hostile takeover! I'm going to lose my job. Samantha came to an abrupt halt and worriedly ran a hand through her dark locks. Suddenly, a cup of cappuccino·No. Jimmy's Famous French Drip coffee, black·was what she needed. The jolt that ink gave a person's system was better than swilling three fingers of scotch, neat. Turning to retrace her steps, she plowed into an elderly man, knocking him to the ground and receiving a bath of hot chocolate across her suit.

"Shit! That's hot!" Samantha exclaimed pulling her blouse away from her body, immediately blushing as she gazed down at an elderly man sprawled at her feet. "I'm so sorry. Are you all right?" Samantha hovered anxiously over the gentleman in the fear he might be injured. "Sir? Are you all right?" She inquired again, offering her hand to help him to his feet.

The aged man looked about, embarrassed, and rose.

"Hell," he drawled. You can tell this is a big city. No one bothered to stop and look."

While he dusted off his suit, Samantha studied him. He was an inch or two taller than her five-foot-seven frame. The little hair he had formed a white wreath around his head, and his constitution was slender and frail. She thought he must have been in his eighties. And judging from his twang, and his tan ten-gallon hat, he was from Texas.

"Actually, these Yankees aren't all that bad once you get to know them." Her own speech patterns exposed the fact that she wasn't from the area, either.

He adjusted his gold wire-rimmed glasses and granted her a wide smile that moved from his mouth to his deep blue eyes. "Well, now. I do believe I have been bowled over by a Georgia peach. And a pretty one at that. Lucky me."

Samantha's blushed again, and that only made his smile expand. "Samantha Peters," she said, extending her hand.

Taking her fingers gently in his, he bowed, and brushed his lips lightly over her knuckles. "John Willsby."

She was charmed.

"I'm truly sorry, Mr. Willsby. I should've been more careful." She confiscated a handful of napkins and was attempting to dry her soiled garment.

"Not at all, Miss Peters. I wasn't exactly paying attention where I was heading. An attractive woman can be very distracting. Please allow me to take responsibility for having your outfit cleaned," he offered.

"No, thank you. I'll take care of it. Are you sure you're OK?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am. That was much easier than falling off a horse," he chuckled. "However, if you're feeling guilty, you could join me for a cup of coffee. I'd enjoy the company."

What a rascal! "I'm sorry. I'm already late for work."

"Well, then. How about an early supper after work? I have business I need to take care of, and I won't be free until about 5:30. I don't like eating alone, and you could consider all feelings of guilt assuaged by sharing conversation with an old man."

Samantha gave the idea some thought. She didn't know this man; but they would be in a public place, and she felt secure in the knowledge that people who knew her, especially Jimmy, would be there. "That would be very nice, Mr. Willsby." She glanced toward the elevators. "I'll see you then."

"I'll be spending the next few hours in eager anticipation, Miss Peters."

"Samantha," she corrected, grinning.

"Samantha," he said, giving a brief nod of his head.

They parted, heading in opposite directions. Samantha glanced at her watch as she boarded the elevator. Ten minutes late. God. She hoped Johnston hadn't noticed. Four years working for Belton, Incorporated, and she'd never been late; but she was sure he wouldn't let her get away with it. He was such a jerk. And she was such a mess. She eyed her reflection in the brightly polished door as it slid shut, and it startled her. Her hair looked wind blown; she did have that annoying habit of running her hand through it when she was upset, disarraying the dark locks. She thought about the quarter. Maybe she'd be lucky, and Johnston wouldn't be around. Sam glanced down at her clothes once more and sighed. She felt like a chocolate splotch. At least she'd smell good enough to eat. She couldn't help but chuckle at the thought. The doors opened on the twentieth floor, and she stepped out.

"Well, well. Look who decided to show up for work today."

"Sorry I'm a little late, Mr. Johnson. I accidentally·."

Walt Johnson was a tall, middle aged, man. His sandy brown hair had natural waves, and his dark brown eyes looked out from equally dark brown brows. He had a square jaw, a smile that contained rows of gleaming white teeth, and was what most people would consider handsome. Unfortunately, he knew it.

"I don't need to hear your excuse, Miss Peters."

He sniffed the air. "You smell like dessert. We're meeting with the most important client we've ever dealt with, and you come in looking like this? You must not like your job very much." With that, he turned and stalked off to his office.

Prick. Samantha's shoulders drooped as she turned dejectedly into her shared office. Her partner, Margaret Dinaghan, had arrived earlier, her purse and briefcase dropped haphazardly onto her desk, her presence lurking elsewhere in the business space. Sam walked around her own desk and dropped heavily into her leather chair, heaving a long, deep sigh. Tucking her purse safely away in a desk drawer, she reached for her briefcase, and suddenly realized it wasn't there.

"Miss Peters?"

Samantha looked up to find a waitress dressed in the uniform of Jimmy's deli standing in her doorway, briefcase in one hand and steaming cup of something in the other. The girl wasn't anyone Sam recognized, and she assumed the waitress was new, and thereby regulated to noxious duties such as 'go-fer' when necessary.

"Jimmy said I should bring this up to you."

"Oh. Uh·thanks," Sam glanced at the young woman's nametag, "Vicki."

Vicki smiled shyly. "No problem," she said, laying her burdens on the desktop.

Sam reached for her purse to pay for the drink and offer a tip.

"No. That's ok. It's on the house. Jimmy said to tell you to open a vein and pour it in."

That brought a short bark of laughter to Samantha's lips. "He always knows just what I need."

"Yeah. He's good like that." With a wave of her hand, Vicki exited and disappeared around a corner.

Reaching for the cup of coffee, Sam breathed in its heady aroma. She took a sip and smiled as the hot, strong brew eased down her throat. Ah. Salvation. After a few more careful swallows, she was ready to take on the day. She placed her briefcase on the center of her desk and popped it open. Resting on top of her work was a sheet of pink stationary, which she instantly recognized as that of her partner. She groaned, Another list of after-work errands. Her eyes quickly scanned the sheet, and then she reread it. Leaning her elbows on her desktop, she buried her face in her hands.

"Lucky me, lucky me." Margaret Dinaghan practically danced into the room. "Hey, Sammy. You never·Well, now, you look like you just lost your best friend," she observed as she closed their office door behind her. "I know that didn't happen because I'm right here. What's going on?"

Without looking up, Sam handed the sheet to Maggie.

Dear Sam,

We both know things haven't been going well between

us lately. I can't do this anymore, and I haven't the courage

to face you. I'll be gone when you return home.


"Not one to mince words, is she?"

"No, she never was." Sam stared unseeing past the woman's shoulders at a framed shot from one of their successful add campaigns. "I knew we were drifting apart, not communicating, but I never expected this. She just left."

"Some people run from their worries, Sam. I'm sorry."

Sam's eyes lingered briefly on her co-worker. Maggie was an attractive woman, about five years older than she. Her Irish background was easy to see in the auburn hair and green eyes. Freckles speckled the area on her upper cheeks and across the bridge of her nose. She was rather short, only about five-two, but an air of authority surrounded her. They worked well together, and their friendship developed quickly in the two years Maggie had been with the firm.

Samantha nodded and cleared her throat, blinking away the tears beginning to form. "So, what are you so excited about?" she asked, changing the subject.

"You remember Jenny?" Maggie asked, her exuberance tempered.

"Jenny from the insurance company two floors down? The one with the brother she always wants you to meet?"

"Yeah, well, I was introduced to Big Bro this morning, and after work we're going to catch a meal at the deli and take in a movie."

"Is he as good-looking as she claims?"

"Made my toes curl."

Sam rocked gently in her chair. "Must be something wrong with him," she teased.

"Well, I guess I'll find out soon enough. You know, for someone who just ended a three year relationship, you're taking it rather well."

"In a way, I'm glad it's done. It's been hanging over me for a long time now. I hurt, but I'll just have to deal with it."

"Are you going to contact Anna and talk to her about it?"

"No. Maybe she had the courage to do something I couldn't." She stood and moved to the window to gather her thoughts. Far below her, people bustled about their daily activities. "You wouldn't believe the day I'm having, Maggie," she said, turning and waving a hand at the splotch across her suit. "What do you think would happen if I jumped out the window?"

Margaret walked to the window and peeked downward. She hated heights. "I think you'd end up a big splat on the sidewalk. People would step on you and your parts would be going in all different directions on the bottom of their shoes."

"Eeewww. Gross." Samantha giggled at the morbidity of it.

"Well, forget it. This high up, the windows are sealed."

"It doesn't matter. I think I'll stick around and see if my life can possibly get any worse."

"Hey. Peters." Johnson opened the door and stuck his head into their office. "You picked a great day to come to work dressed like the homeless. Tanner is up here interviewing people to decide who's staying and who's getting cut. Bring your portfolio."

"And you were saying?" Maggie muttered under her breath as Samantha walked by.

* * *

Lisa Martin's senses were assaulted by the wondrous smells of food as she entered the deli. Her mouth began to water. Not long after she left home she had been robbed of most of the cash she had brought with her. Over the weeks, she had managed to stretch what little she had left. Sticking her hand into a pocket she pulled out a few coins. Not enough to buy something to eat. Not enough to call home. She couldn't help but wonder what she was doing here, sleeping on the streets and digging in the refuse behind restaurants for food. She didn't even remember why she had run away from home. After hearing the horror stories from other teenagers she had met, she realized what a good life she'd left behind; and she regretted the grief she must have put her parents through. Now she was getting desperate, and she didn't know how long she could hold off the pimps. She felt trapped.

A flash of light drew Lisa's attention to the deli's counter. Standing upright near its edge sat a quarter. She glanced again at the change she held. She was just twenty-five cents short of making that telephone call. Easing toward the counter, she turned her back to Jimmy and began walking back toward the door, her hand brushing lightly along the ceramic top and lightly lifting the twenty-five cents piece. With no one stopping her, she walked through the door to the pay phones and right into John Willsby. Her money scattered across the floor.

"Now, someone needs to put a traffic light here," he complained, straightening his suit. "Or maybe I need new glasses."

Lisa looked up, devastated. "I needed that change for a phone call," she said, more to herself than anyone else.

Willsby eyed the ragged jeans and torn shirt. "I'm terribly sorry, Miss. Here," he dug into his pockets bringing out a handful of coins and bills. "Allow me to apologize by replacing your change·" He put his hand over hers, letting the money move from one to the other. "·and buying you lunch." In his peripheral vision, he watched an errant bill float to the floor and chose to ignore it.

Their eyes meet briefly.

"Thank you," she whispered. Finally, her luck had changed.

John Willsby gave a brief nod and entered the deli.

* * *

"Mr. Tanner," Johnston intoned while throwing open the door to his office, "this is Samantha Peters." He moved aside allowing Samantha to enter. "She doesn't normally look like a refugee from a homeless shelter."

Sam glared at him, but offered a slight smile to Tanner while she gave a quick wave of her hand toward her clothing. "I had a little accident down in the deli this morning. Nothing the cleaners can't handle."

The man's expression didn't change, and she decided to go with talent and sheer bravado. She would forget about the circumstance of her dress and focus on the good work she'd done. After all, her creative skills should be Tanner's main concern and not the outcome of her untimely encounter at the deli.

"Hello, Miss Peters," he said, standing and graciously waving her towards a chair. He was a tall man, dressed in an obviously expensive pinstriped suit, with large hands and kind, gray eyes. "I'm sure you know why I'm here, and I'd like to see some of your ad campaigns."

Samantha took a calming breath and opened her portfolio.

* * *

Vicki was busy clearing off a table.

"Oh, now I can't believe I'm such an oaf," a man complained softly to himself at the table next to her. He was quickly grabbing paper napkins to wipe up a spill.

"Can I help you, Sir?" Vicki offered, quickly wiping up the liquid and clearing the table. "Would you like another cup?

"Why, yes, thank you," John Willsby agreed. "Just a cup of hot chocolate please."

"Yes, Sir." Vicki was working double shifts to obtain money to finish her studies at the local junior college, and every extra coin helped. Her parents had paid the difference between what she earned at summer jobs and her scholarship, but her father's death had made finances tight for her mother. While she saved some of what she earned, a good percentage also went to her mother and two siblings still at home. Another fifteen hundred dollars was all she needed, and she could complete her curriculum and graduate. Then with a good job, she could really help her mom.

"Here you go, Sir. Enjoy," she offered cheerfully as she placed the cup before the elderly gentleman.

"Thank you," he replied, glancing up and then returning to his paper.

She had forgotten about him, until about a half hour later, when they met at the counter. He was paying, and she was picking up another order.

"There you are," he beamed. "Thanks again for the help, Miss." He placed a dollar in her hand and followed it with a scratch-off ticket. "A little money, and perhaps, a little good fortune."

She laughed softly. "I'll tell you what. If I win, I'll share it with you."

"Oh, no, ma'am. I assure you, I have more than enough." With a quick dip of head and tap to the rim of his hat, he left.

Vicki dropped the ticket into her apron pocket, picked up the order, and brought it to the customer's table.

* * *

"So, how was the meeting?" Maggie asked as Samantha entered their office.

"Who knows? I think I'm talented. I think I have a lot to offer his company. But the way things have been going today..." her voice trailed off. "I guess I'll know when they hand out the pink slips." Sam eased into the chair behind her desk.



"That's what the office scuttlebutt says."

"God, Maggie. They certainly waited until the last minute to do this. We could all be looking for work Monday, and it may take months to find another job."

"Well, I've heard the severance package is good. Three months pay and insurance coverage."

Sam couldn't hide the surprise in her face. "That's·generous."

"We're all being locked out of computers and files at the end of the day. The new company doesn't want our info waltzing out the door, so they get rid of the chaff and are free with the money cushion to ease the pain."

"How do you know all this?"

"I keep my ears open, Sammy. I've been telling you for weeks about the takeover."

"But I thought it was all just speculation, rumor."

"Well, where there's smoke·"

"Hey, guys, did I ever have a heck of a lunch break. Look what followed me home from the deli. Ben Franklin."

Samantha recognized the woman standing at the door waving a one hundred dollar bill as being from the secretarial pool. "What happened?"

"I don't know. I just looked down at my shoes and ole Ben was stuck on the sole of my left foot."

"Are you going to keep it?" Maggie wondered.

"Unless someone can identify it. Damian needs new slacks. He's outgrown everything, and I didn't want to spend the extra money, not knowing if I've got a job or not after today. This'll really come in handy." Her voice faded as she wandered down the hall.

"Huh. Lucky Dog."

"You can't complain, Maggie. You've got a date with Mr. Handsome. I'm the only one who seems to be having a lousy time of it today. Geez!" Samantha rested her elbows on her desk and let her head fall into her hands. "Please pinch me and wake me up. This has got to be a·Hey! Did you talk to Tanner yet?" She snapped her head up and eyed her friend.

"Nope. I'm not interviewing."

"Oh." She hadn't thought of that. They worked so well together she thought they'd always be a team; but now, there was no telling where either of them would end up. "You won't have a problem finding another firm. You're too good to be floating around unemployed for very long."

Maggie's shoulders gave a slight shrug. "Well, I'm not worrying about it, Sam. Listen, there's no reason to work on this stuff today," Maggie explained, pointing to their files. "Who knows what any of us will be doing tomorrow? Almost everyone's in the kitchen, waiting. We might as well join them."

"I don't know, Maggie." Samantha studied her pile of folders speculatively. "I feel like I still work here·at least until five." Her eyes followed Maggie to the door. "Ummm, maybe for a little while," she compromised, joining her friend.

* * *

Five o'clock. Thank God. Vicki groaned softly as she eased into a chair. Her second shift was finally over, but she needed to relax a few moments before going home. Sitting at the table in the waitress' locker room, she began to empty her pockets to count her tips, when her fingers found the scratch off ticket. She smiled fondly, remembering the well-dressed, kindly man who had given it to her. Taking a coin, she began to remove the silver surface; after all, an extra five or ten bucks would be a great tip for a cup of hot chocolate.

Hey, twenty-five. Not bad. She blew the shining filings off the card to view it better. Thousand!! She choked briefly on her own saliva. "Twenty-five thousand dollars," Vicki whispered. Her hands started to tremble, and she bolted out the chair. "Twenty-five thousand dollars." The sound of her own voice sounded strange to her ears. Her feet were propelling her swiftly out the door. "Jimmy. Jimmy!"

* * *

Samantha closed her desk drawer. She looked around the room as though seeing it for the first time. An office, yes, but there were things, pictures, paintings, other small personal touches that made it more of a personal space. She supposed that tomorrow she's have to bring a couple of boxes to pack them away. She glanced at Maggie. It would seem so strange not to have her friend working with her. A sigh escaped her lips. On her way to the door, Sam stopped briefly at her companion's workspace. She rested a hand on Maggie's shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze.

"I'm going downstairs to meet Mr. Willsby for supper. You coming?"

"No, I'm meeting Michael here." Maggie saw the confused expression cross Sam's features. "Michael. Jenny's brother."

"Oh, yeah. Good luck on the hot date."

Maggie snorted. "You, too, Swinger." Unable to keep it in, she laughed out loud. She received an affectionate swat on the arm for a reward.

If her office wasn't located so many floors up, Samantha would use the stairs; she found herself slightly claustrophobic in the crowded elevators. As an alternative, she usually waited for the crowds to thin before attempting her final descent of the day. Finally, the doors opened and she looked straight into a pair of clear, cool gray eyes. She gulped audibly. The face in which they were set was so close she could feel the woman's breath on her hair. And what a woman. She had a thin, angular face with high cheekbones and a dazzling smile. Her dark brown hair cascaded in gentle waves to her shoulder. She was dressed in a form fitting pair of faded jeans and a casual green plaid shirt. All in all, she was breathtaking.

Say something!! an inner voice screamed in Sam's head. She could feel her mind sorting through a rolodex of phrases, but all the cards were blank. Come on. Come on. Faint at her feet. Anything. the voice insisted. The woman passed by her and headed down the hall.

"Oh. Wow," Sam muttered to herself as she watched the movement of the jeans as they disappeared into an office. And THAT'S the best you can do? the voice intoned as it threw up its hands in disgust.


Sam blocked the closing elevator door and boarded. "Ding yourself. Yours isn't the only bell that's ringing." Alone, she leaned her forehead against a cold metal wall and groaned. "I could've at least said hello. On a day like today, it figures."

As she stepped into the lobby, her line of vision swept the glass wall and doors leading out. There was a young girl, a teenager Sam guessed, dressed in ragged jeans and a torn shirt. An older man and woman surrounded her. Probably her parents Sam surmised. It seemed to be a reunion of sorts, filled with hugs and kisses; and the scene brought a familiar sense of peace and warmth to her. She watched until the small group entered a cab and drove off.

"Hi, Miss Peters," Jimmy greeted her as she entered the door. "How was your day today?"

"On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, I'd say·about a zero."

"That bad, huh?"

"You wouldn't believe it. Thanks for the coffee you sent up, Jimmy. I appreciated it."

"No problem," he grinned. "Oh, hey, you remember the girl that brought it up to you? Vicki?"


"Some guy gave her a scratch-off as a tip. She won twenty-five grand. Can you believe it?"

"I'm glad somebody had a good day."

"Yeah, and she could really use the dough. Maybe it was that quarter you edged up this morning." He turned to look for it. "How do you like that? It's gone. Somebody must've taken it."

"Yep. That's about how my day went," Sam noted, giving a short laugh. "Let's hope whoever took it put it to good use."

"Ah. There you are, Miss Peters."

"Samantha," Sam reminded the Willsby.

Samantha," Willsby grinned, holding his hat in his hand. "Have you decided what you'd like?"

Samantha beamed at him. "I'm really not hungry, Mr. Willsby. Would you mind if I get a cup of coffee, and we just have a visit? And please, don't let me stop you from eating."

"All right. Unfortunately," he said, picking up a tray, "when you get to be my age, a person gets set in his ways. My body expects to be fed about this time." He placed a few items and their drinks on his tray and found a large table. "I hope you don't mind. My granddaughter and son-in-law are meeting me here later."

"Not at all," Samantha lied believably. She felt uncomfortable around people she didn't know well, and now she'd be in a situation with three strangers. They had just settled down when she saw the man look over her shoulder.

"There's my granddaughter now." He stood and waved to her.

Samantha turned and was stunned to find the marvel she had seen at the elevator making her way toward them. "She's your granddaughter?"

"Yes," he affirmed, his face lighting up with affection. "She's a joy."

"Hi, Granddad." The young woman threw her arms around him, hugging tightly.

"Alicia, I'd like you to meet Samantha Peters."

Alicia turned to greet Sam, and her face clouded and then cleared. She extended her hand. "I saw you at the elevator just a while ago."

"Yes, I remember seeing you, too," Sam agreed, acknowledging her with a brief handshake.

"Dad will be here soon," Alicia told her grandfather. "So you're the Georgia Peach Granddad ran into. Small world. He told us all about it. You know, Miss Peters·"

"Please, Samantha," Sam interrupted.

The young woman smiled, and Sam realized she was having trouble breathing. "Sam," Alicia corrected, "We·my dad and I· appreciate your kindness. Granddad's the absentminded professor type, and he walks around with his mind in another world." She gave the elderly man a wink and he feigned indignation.

"Who could resist being seen with such a dignified gentleman," Sam answered, joining the tease.

"Now there's a woman who recognizes quality," Willsby countered.

"Hello, there," another male voice interjected.

Sam turned and found herself facing David Tanner.

"Hey, Dad," chirped Alicia.

Could this be any more awkward? Sam wondered.

"And hello to you, Miss Peters," he said, offering his hand. Finding her at their table didn't seem to be worrying him, and Sam realized the inherited source of Alicia's smile. She returned the gesture with a firm handshake. "I realize this may not be the appropriate time, but I feel I need to clear the air before the evening continues. I was most impressed with your work, and I hope you will be continuing your employment with our company."

"Th·thank you," stammered Samantha.

"There's a pool of good, solid employees here," he continued. "I hope quite a few of your colleagues will be staying on. Most of management will be gone, though. We'll be moving our own people in temporarily while things get settled, and then we'll be promoting from within," he added giving her a meaningful eye.

She caught the look. I think he's considering me for management! She felt a very pleasant jolt go through her ego system.

At that moment, Maggie walked into the deli with Michael. She gave Sam a small wave, surreptitiously pointing to the man whose arm she held and wiggling her brows. Sam smirked, and then she sat stunned as her companions returned Maggie's wave.

"Maggie thinks very highly of you," Willsby commented.

"Maggie? You mean·she was a plant? A spy for your company?" Sam's stomach became suddenly queasy.

"Not a spy," objected Tanner. "I like to think of her as more of a·resource investigator."

"Maggie is my half-sister, Samantha," Alicia explained. "My mother's daughter by her first marriage. We've been eyeing your company for a while, and Maggie was sent to find out where the talent was."

Sam felt very uneasy. Betrayed.

"I can imagine what you're thinking," Alicia said, resting a hand on Samantha's arm. "But she's not like that. Maggie genuinely values your friendship. She wasn't using you. And I know she's glad this is over with, so you know who she really is. She told me she hasn't been comfortable with not sharing the complete truth with you. And," she added, with a slight smile, "she's been wanting to set us up on a blind date."

Maggie stood in the middle of the deli looking to their table, lips pursed, waiting for some sign from Samantha. Sam shrugged her shoulder and waved her over. Letting out a breath of relief, Maggie steered Michael toward the group.

Samantha felt herself relax as she was filled with a sense of having her life come together. Willsby winked at her and gave her a knowing grin. This is going to be an interesting evening, she thought.

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