New York Times Bestselling Author Fern Michaels has thrilled countless readers with her compelling, passionate tales of love, loss, and renewal. Now she surpasses herself with an unforgettable new novel. The same twist of fate that makes a woman rich beyond her wildest dreams propels her towards unexpected danger and the real treasure waiting at the end of...
It came out of the blue. A half-million dollars on graduation day. For Anna Daisy Clark, it was the capital she needed to start a business and secure her future. It was also money that didn't belong to her. Vowing to pay back every penny of it one day, she kept the bag of cash she'd found, and never looked back.
Ten years later, Annie's investment has paid off. The owner of a successful chain of elegant coffee bars, she is blissfully engaged to handsome coffee plantation owner Parker Grayson, and about to return triumphant to Boston for her 10th college reunion. She also begins making good on her promise to return the five hundred thousand dollars with anonymous monthly payments.
But just as Annie's life seems complete, the dark history of the money returns to haunt her. Someone is determined to solve the mystery of a ten-year-old bank robbery and an enraged thief who has served his time is coming to reclaim his loot. Suddenly, Annie is plunged into the chaos of a deadly chase, forced to use all her wits to keep her world from unraveling, and from losing the one thing she values most-the priceless gift of love.
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September 01, 2001
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Excerpt from Annie's Rainbow by Fern Michaels
Annie Clark opened the door to the old-fashioned drugstore. She loved the sound of the tinkling bell hanging from an ancient nail at the comer of the door. For one brief second she wondered if she could steal the little cluster of bells. No, better to tuck the sound into her memory bank.
How she loved this little store. She sniffed as she always did when she entered. The smell was always the same--Max Factor powder, Chantilly perfume, and the mouthwatering aroma of freshly brewed coffee from the counter tucked in between the displays of Dr. Scholl's foot products and the Nature's brand vitamins.
She'd worked here five days a week for the past six years. She knew every item on every shelf as well as the price. Thanks to Elmo Richardson's mother's recipe, she knew how to make and serve the best tuna salad in the world to the students of Boston University. On the days she served cinnamon coffee and the tuna on a croissant, the lines outside the store went around the block. Yes, she was going to miss this place.
As Annie made her way down the aisle, she cast a critical eye over the shelves. Who was going to take her place? Would they love Elmo and the store the way she had? She reached out to straighten a row of Colgate toothpaste boxes.
"Annie! What brings you here today?" the wizened pharmacist asked.
Annie smiled. "I guess I need my drugstore fix for the week. Did you find someone to take my place?"
"I found someone, but he can never take your place, Annie." The pharmacist twinkled. He looked down at the bottle of aspirin in her hand and clucked his tongue. "You won't be taking those tablets after tomorrow, will you?"
"I'll probably be taking more. Just because I'm getting my master's doesn't mean my troubles will be over. I have to find a job and get on with the business of earning a living. One of these days, though, I'm going to start up my own business. You just wait and see. I'm going to miss you, Elmo. You've been more than kind to me all these years."
"I don't understand why you have to leave immediately. Don't you think you've earned the fight to sleep in for at least a week? What' s the harm in delaying your trip for a few days?"
"The rent is up next week. When I get to Charleston and find a place to live, I'll sleep in for a few days. It's a beautiful day, isn't it, Elmo?"
"One of the prettiest I've seen in a long time. Good weather predicted for tomorrow, too. I'm closing the store to attend your graduation," Elmo said gruffly.
"Really! You're closing the store!"
"Yes, and the dean gave me a ticket for a seat in the first row."
Annie walked behind the counter to hug the old man. "'I don't know what to say. My brother wrote to say he couldn't make it. Mom doesn't.., what I mean is... oh, Elmo, thank you. I'll be sure to look for you."
"I'm taking you and Jane to dinner afterward. Won't take no for an answer. I might even have a little gift for the two of you." He twinkled again.
Annie laughed. "Don't forget, you promised to write to me. Oh, oh, what's that?" Annie asked, whirling around.
"Backfire. Dang bunch of kids racing their motors is what it is," Elmo grumbled.
Annie pocketed her change. "I'll see you tomorrow, Elmo."
"You bet your boots you'll be seeing me. Go on now. I know this is your sentimental walk before it all comes to an end. Walk slow and savor it all."
Tears welled in Annie's eyes. "I will, Elmo."
"Git now, before you have me blubbering all over this white coat of mine."
"Did I ever tell you that you've been like a father to me, Elmo?"
"A million times. Did I ever tell you you were like a daughter to me, Annie?"
"At least a million times," Annie said in a choked voice.
Annie fled the store, tears rolling down her cheeks.
She rounded the corner, walked two blocks, sniffling as she went along, before she cut across the campus parking lot. She was aware suddenly of running students, shrill whistles, and wailing police cars. She moved to the side to get out of the way of a careening police car, whose siren was so shrill she had to cover her ears. "What's going on?" she gasped to a young girl standing next to her.
"The cops just shot someone. I think he's dead."
"Was it a student?" Annie crossed her fingers that it wasn't someone she knew.
"I don't know," the girl said in a jittery-sounding voice. Annie advanced a few steps to stand next to a police officer.
"What happened, Officer?"
"Two guys robbed the Boston National Bank. One of them got away, and the other one was shot."
"Move along, miss, and be careful. Until we catch the other guy, don't go anywhere alone and keep your doors locked."
"Yes, yes, I will."
Annie weaved her way among the rows of cars, passing her own Chevy Impala, the bucket of bolts that would hopefully get her to Charleston, South Carolina, the day after tomorrow. Parked right next to her car was Jane's ancient Mustang. She took a moment to realize the windows were open in both cars. Neither she nor Jane ever locked their cars, hoping someone would steal them so they could collect on the insurance. It never happened. She shrugged as she eyed the array of cars. Beemers, shiny Mercedes convertibles, Corvettes, and sleek Buicks. All out of her league. Any car thief worth his salt would go for the Mercedes or the Beemers. She shrugged again as she made her way to the small apartment she'd shared with Jane for the past six years.
Annie opened the door to the apartment and immediately locked it.
"Oh, Annie, you're home. Thank God, I was worded. I just heard on the radio that the bank was robbed. I have three hundred ninety-five dollars in that bank. What's it mean? Is that what all the ruckus is about out there?"
"Yes. I was talking to one of the cops, and he said not to go anywhere alone and to keep our doors locked. One of the gunmen got away. My two hundred eighty dollars is in that bank, too. They're covered by insurance, but I'm taking mine out first thing in the morning. How about you?"
"I think we should go now and do it."
"We can't. The bank is a crime scene now. Tomorrow it will be business as usual. I don't think we have anything to worry about."
Jane Abbott crunched her long, narrow face into a mask of worry as all the freckles on her face meshed together. Her curly red hair stood out like a flame bush as her paint-stained fingers frantically tried to control it. Annie handed her a rubber band.
"I'd kill for curly hair," Annie muttered.
"Not this hair you wouldn't. I've been cursed. As soon as we get to Charleston, I'm getting it cut. We're doing the right thing, aren't we, Annie?"
"I think so. We promised ourselves a year to work part-time and to do whatever we wanted before we headed for the business world. It won't be like we aren't working. We proved we can live on practically nothing for the past six years. We can do it for one more year. You're going to paint, and I'm going to serve coffee and tuna sandwiches in a hole in the wall. It is entirely possible we'll become entrepreneurs. We agreed to do this, and we're not switching up now."
Always a worrier, Jane said, "What if our cars conic out?"