Angel’s Tip – Chapter 1

The man leaned forward on his stool to make room for a big-boned redhead who was reaching for the two glasses of pinot grigio she’d ordered. He asked for another Heineken while the bartender was down his way, figuring he could enjoy a second beer before anyone in the restaurant bothered to take note of him.

He was good at blending into the background in even the most generic settings, but he certainly wasn’t going to stand out here, given the commotion at the other end of the bar. Four men in suits and loosened ties were throwing back limoncello shots, their second round with the group of girls that had brought the man to the restaurant in the first place. Actually, his interest was not in all three-just the tall blond one.

He was used to taking more time with his selections, but he needed to find a girl tonight. This would be his first time on a schedule, let alone a tight one. NoLIta had seemed as good a starting point as any. Lots of bars. Lots of booze. Lots of beautiful young people trying so hard to have fun that they paid little attention to someone like him.

He had been wandering the neighborhood for about half an hour when he’d spotted the trio crossing Prince Street, the blonde the obvious leader. The other two were nothing special: one average-looking brunette in average-looking clothes; the other, petite one slightly more interesting with her close-cropped black hair and bright yellow dress.

But it was the tall blonde who was a head-turner, and she knew it. She wore tight black pants and a low-cut red satin tank over a gravity-defying push-up bra. Topping off the ensemble was a well-placed V-shaped choker necklace-the equivalent of a vertical arrow sign hanging from her clavicle, instructing, “Direct Gaze Here.” And her hair was perfect-long, shiny, white-blond waves.

He’d ducked into Lord Willy’s on Mott and perused the dress shirts while they’d passed, then continued his pace about forty feet behind them until they’d parked themselves next to the bar at Luna. Fortunately, the girls had been kept waiting for their eight o’clock table, so he’d had plenty of time to study the blonde up close before making a final decision.

He liked what he saw. He even had a chance to speak to her briefly when she split off from her friends to go to the restroom. That had been risky on his part. But her two gal pals were so smitten with the limoncello boys that they hadn’t noticed the exchange.

He felt a twinge of disappointment as the hostess notified the girls their table was ready. Then he heard a male voice. “Stay for one more shot.” Apparently the men in suits believed that plying the girls with drinks was going to get them somewhere.

Instead, the short girl in the yellow dress handed one of the men her cell phone and asked him to take a picture of the three friends. Mission accomplished, the brunettes followed the hostess to their table with barely a thank-you to their liquor-pouring benefactors. At least the blonde gave them each a hug before she trailed along.

The decibel level in the bar area fell noticeably in the wake of the girls’ departure. The other patrons seemed relieved, but he took it as a signal to leave.

On Mott, he walked north toward Houston, forcing himself to adopt a leisurely pace. His car was parked only ten blocks away, and the girls would need at least an hour for dinner.

He had plenty of time.

The foregoing is excerpted from Angel’s Tip by Alafair Burke. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022