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Authors: Ciji Ware

Tags: #Anthology, #Women's fiction, #Contemporary

Ring of Truth

RING OF TRUTH

Ciji Ware

Diana Dempsey

Kate Moore

 

 

Ring of Truth
Novellas

The Ring of Kerry Hannigan
by Ciji Ware

On the eve of a move from New York to San Francisco, classically trained chef and respected food blogger Kerry Hannigan's world turns upside down the instant she puts on an Irish Claddagh ring rescued from the rubble of 9/11. A gift from her godmother, the emerald gemstone reputedly offers life-changing guidance and counsel—but only for seven days, and only to those who
listen
.

A Diva Wears the Ring
by Diana Dempsey

Veronica Ballard, adopted from Russia at birth, sings opera and longs to understand where she comes from. One fateful day, she receives both a life-changing letter and the Ring of Truth, and embarks on a journey to answer her heart's deepest questions. Little does she know her quest will lead to love.

Once Upon a Ring
by Kate Moore

Boutique hotel concierge Tara Keegan finds the perfect way to deal with the woes of modern dating—invent a boyfriend. As long as Tara clings to her Mr. Wright, she can't take the first real step toward happiness—opening her heart. It takes the Ring of Truth on Tara's finger to discover that she wants more than fiction. Now her heart prompts her to risk all and tell the humiliating truth to a man who's suddenly very present in her life.

 

RING OF TRUTH

Copyright 2014 by Ciji Ware, Diana Dempsey, and Kate Moore

 “The Ring of Kerry Hannigan” Copyright 2014 by Ciji Ware;

“A Diva Wears the Ring” Copyright 2014 by Diana Dempsey;

“Once Upon a Ring” Copyright 2014 Kate Moore

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this book, whether on screen or in print. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Ciji Ware, Diana Dempsey, and Kate Moore.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the authors. Any and all real locations and real persons are used fictitiously.

Cover design 2014 by
Streetlight Graphics

Colophon design by
Kim Killion

Formatting by
A Thirsty Mind Book Design

Smashwords Edition, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9889408-4-0

Published by Lion's Paw Publishing, a division of Life Events Media LLC, 1001 Bridgeway, Ste. 224, Sausalito, CA 94965

Life Events Library and the Lion's Paw Publishing colophon are registered trademarks of Life Events Media LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without express permission in writing from Ciji Ware, Diana Dempsey, and Kate Moore. Please respect this intellectual property of the authors and cover artist.

First edition: July 2014

 

 

 

Chapter One

The cab door nearly blew off its hinges when its harried passenger prepared to step out of the taxi and on to the curb at 83rd and Park Avenue on a blustery, rain-soaked December afternoon.  Kerry Hannigan was late by nearly a half-hour and feared she was about to disappoint her favorite person in the world—again.

 Drenched by the downpour in the time it took her to sprint to the elegant front door of her godmother's co-op building, the thirty-three-year-old nodded politely to the uniformed doorman who ushered her across the hushed lobby's black-and-white marble squares leading toward the familiar set of brass-trimmed elevators. She'd been riding up to the fourteenth floor ever since the day her mother and grandmother selected Angelica Fabrini Doyle to serve as Kerry's legal guardian, should anything happen to her parents. Their choice for the only Hannigan daughter had occurred long after their beloved friend had met and happily married their cousin Brian Doyle, a successful corporate lawyer who had not only shocked his Irish friends and colleagues “by marrying Italian,” but had also changed the former seamstress's life forever.

As the elevator lifted smoothly toward the higher floors, Kerry could almost hear her godmother repeat a mantra she had lived by all her life: “‘Friendship, loyalty, and love,' Kerry, my pet. That's what my darling Brian taught me about being happy.  If you have that, you have all of life's riches!”

Oh, how she would miss Angelica's wisdom and the love this woman had lavished on her since birth! She dreaded the moment when she had to explain to the octogenarian how long she would be away from New York, but there was no avoiding a full disclosure this afternoon about what was happening in her life—and that moment was
now
.

The elevator doors slid open and Kerry padded toward Number 3 at the end of the hall where her godmother's four-bedroom palace overlooked Park Avenue. Her late godfather had not only been a loving, sweetheart of a guy, recalled Kerry fondly, but he had managed to be both hugely successful
and
ethical, representing wealthy clients suing certain wayward money managers for fraud.

Even so, her godparents' lives had not
all
been a perfect fantasy, had it, she reflected? Kerry tried not to let thoughts of Maggie Doyle add to the jumble of emotionally-charged issues she had already been wrestling with from the moment Charlie excitedly burst into her office cubicle with his big announcement, “Pack your bags, kiddo... you're gonna be a millionaire!”

She drew closer to Angelica's front door at the end of the hallway, hoping that her boots weren't leaving discernible puddles on the expensive carpeting. She paused, inhaled a deep breath, and pushed the buzzer. Within seconds, she heard footsteps and the door to the Doyle's abode swung open.

“Kerry, pet!” Angelica held her arms wide and then noted how soaked from the rain her visitor was. “Oh, my goodness! Look at you, you poor dear! I'll hug you in a minute. Come in, come in, and let's get you out of that dripping raincoat! Molly's got the tea brewing for us in the living room.”

Kerry couldn't help but feel her spirits lift as the sprightly, ageless Angelica, stylish as ever in pleated grey wool trousers and a matching grey cashmere sweater set, hung up her visitor's coat in the hall closet, chaffed her goddaughter's cold hands, and led her briskly into the elegantly appointed front room that almost seemed like a movie set.

Kerry's glance absorbed the well-remembered peach-colored, Thai silk matching sofas and Louis XIV chairs gathered around a glowing fireplace whose ornate marble mantel was graced with a ceiling-high, gilt-framed mirror reflecting back the beauty of the entire chamber.

Angelica patted the sofa cushion next to her to indicate her godchild should sit down beside her.

“I'll take things from here, thank you, Molly, dear,” she bid her maid of many years. Angelica turned to her goddaughter. “Even though it's nearly five o'clock, you prefer good, strong, Irish Breakfast tea with a little milk, if I remember, yes, Kerry?”

 “Yes please, and I'm so sorry I was late,” Kerry replied, hoping she didn't sound too defensive. “The crosstown traffic—”

“The point is you're here, now, and that's all that matters.”

Kerry adored her godmother, but lately, there had been long periods between their visits and she'd missed sharing confidences with Angelica in ways she'd never been able to do with her busy, preoccupied parents. As long as she could remember, she'd basked in the warm glow of affection that she'd always felt whenever they were together. Charlie never seemed to understand how indebted she felt to the older woman for having gifted her with a very expensive certificated course at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, outside New York City. When Kerry had protested the $53,000 price tag for the program, her godmother had scoffed.

 “It's the Harvard of cooking schools, for pity's sake, and you are far more the chef than your mother or father ever were! I merely want to offer you an alternative to life at Hannigan's Bar and Grill!” she'd teased the year Kerry was poised to enter her sixth season as sous chef to her mother since graduating from a local community college. “This degree will be your ticket to working in the finest restaurants anywhere... and maybe even to opening one of your own someday. There are lots of successful female chefs nowadays, my dear... and I think
you
could be one of them!”

And yet what did I do with all that knowledge....?

In her mind's eye, a cascading image of endless late nights at her desk in the CookChic.com's office in Brooklyn flashed before her. During the two years since she'd graduated from the CIA, she had slaved away in her tiny, three-sided cubicle creating new, up-to-the-minute blog posts about New York's culinary scene. As for cooking itself, she hadn't tried anything new or ambitious in months, and—

 Her guilty thoughts were interrupted by her godmother handing her a steaming cup of tea in eggshell-thin, Irish Belleek chinaware that had belonged to Brian Doyle's late mother.

“So tell me, Kerry, dear,” her godmother said, forcing the younger woman's thoughts back to the present, “I want to hear all about the new development you mentioned on the phone. You hinted it might involve spending some time in California? It's all happened so quickly.”

Kerry explained in as little detail as possible that Charlie Miller, her classmate at the legendary culinary academy, had helped her launch a food blog for the serious home chef who occasionally likes to dine out.

“Charlie knew how to drive tons of traffic to my blog because he is, as he calls himself, ‘King of the Key Words'— thanks to a series of tech jobs before he enrolled in the CIA.”

“That can't be the only reason your blog has been so successful,” Angelica protested.

Her godmother's staunch loyalty brought a grateful smile to Kerry's lips.

“Well, his knowledge of how social media works, combined with a pretty great recipe of mine at the end of every post, apparently made a good combination,” she allowed. “We formed a fifty-fifty partnership in our little start-up business, and suddenly, we were getting thousands and thousands of hits and—”

“Hits? That doesn't sound good,” Angelica interrupted.

“In the Internet world, hits are a
very
good thing,” Kerry assured her. “In fact, the number of daily visitors to our site got so impressive that a company called LifestyleXer in San Francisco made an offer for us to become part of a bigger site that provides my age group everything from online apartment listings to home furnishing tips to... well... guidance and recipes from me for the busy home chef, along with my recommendations about the best places to dine out when amateur cooks don't feel like cooking.”

“Well, how exciting, dear,” Angelica complimented her mildly.

“Yes, it is... and now, as part of this bigger company, I'll be expanding to
two
blogs a day, Monday through Friday. The new company also wants us to find and manage other bloggers in ten major cities around the country, based on my template.”

“That sounds like quite an additional challenge,” Angelica commented, regarding Kerry closely.

“Our deal with them, though,” Kerry replied, not meeting her godmother's steady gaze because this was going to be the hard part of what she had to tell her Angelica today, “is that we have work in San Francisco. Starting tomorrow.”

There! She'd finally said the words: she was moving away...

“But it's three weeks before Christmas!” Angelica protested.

“I know... I tried to get that changed, but... they said no.”

Angelica remained silent and then took a slow, measured sip of her tea. Finally she said, “And has the company that bought yours at least made it financially worth going through this rather major upheaval in your life?”

It was Kerry's turn to stare into the milky depths of her teacup.

“Well... we're considered a start-up division within LifestyleXer, so we'll still be earning a modest salary,
but
,” she emphasized with all the enthusiasm she could muster, “the company is paying for our move and Charlie and I are due half a million dollars, each, in vested stock options, at the end of two years—”

“Two
years
!”

Kerry could understand how—for an eighty-one-year-old—the thought of far fewer visits and coping with different time zones was... well... unsettling.

“Two years,” she repeated, “if the IPO goes through this January.”

“The IPO?” Angelica echoed. “Your new company is going to make an Initial Public Offering of its stock?”

Angelica Doyle read
The Wall Street Journal
religiously and was certainly no neophyte in business.

“Yes. The San Francisco dot com is going to offer its stock to the public in a few weeks,” she disclosed. “And we'll be granted
more
shares, down the road, if the food blogging part of the business continues to do well after the two years.”

“Hmmm, stock
options
,” mused her godmother. “So your pay-out as a result of this move is not a sure thing?”

Angelica Doyle had been the consummate businesswoman in the interior design firm she had founded and run for many decades and was no pushover, as Kerry could plainly see.

“It's a fairly sure thing, as these things go,” she replied carefully. “The IPO is all teed up for the first of the year, so once that happens, all we have to do is wait for our stock to vest and then sell it in batches of twenty-five percent a fiscal quarter after that two-year date.”


If
the stock price retains its value all that time, yes?” Angelica pressed. “Sometimes these ventures don't, you know.”

“Charlie thinks that all indications are that LifestyleXer might be another LinkedIn.”

The tiniest frown had appeared between Angelica's eyebrows.

“I take it that meanwhile,
you're
the one busy writing all those blogs and managing the compatriots you find and hire?”

“Well... right.”

“And will you do any hands-on culinary work for your new employer?”

“Well, no... but—”

“And what is your... business partner, Mr. Miller, going to be doing during the two-year waiting period?”

Kerry could tell that Angelica couldn't quite bring herself to call Charlie Miller her godchild's “boyfriend” or even her “beau.” Kerry had never described to her godmother the way in which Charlie had swept her off her feet from the first day of class with adulation both for her person and her cooking. And despite the fact that Kerry and Charlie had lived together for nearly a year, Angelica had met him only once on an occasion when Charlie's one-syllable answers to her godmother's polite attempts to draw him out had been less than inspiring for either of them. Angelica was a wildly creative, visually oriented person. Kerry wasn't surprised her godmother couldn't appreciate a tech-focused guy like Charlie, and she felt impelled to defend him.

“Oh, he'll share his Internet expertise with the larger company and will still be pushing traffic to my blog and the other ones we're going to establish around the country,” she assured her with a bright smile. “Charlie's work should make the stock even more attractive to potential investors.”

“I see...” murmured Angelica. “So that's why the move to San Francisco. And what about any face-to-face connecting for you with experts in the food world out west? Will you have time to do some of that?”

Angelica's probing questions hung in the air several moments before Kerry answered.

“Well, I'll certainly be interviewing those sorts of people on the phone for my blog, and as far as cooking, we've been so busy, we usually eat out. For research.”

Her godmother paused and then asked pointedly, “And is this move what
you
want to do?”

Kerry hesitated, and then replied, “As you just said, it's all happened so fast, Angelica. The sudden sale of CookChic... and then, as part of the deal, the west coast execs subsequently insisted that we move to San Francisco to be close to headquarters. But it's only for two years—” she reiterated.

“It's been two
years
since you got your degree from the CIA, pet,” Angelica reminded her quietly—as if she needed to.

Kerry felt a rush of warmth invade her fair skin and she wondered, suddenly, if her black hair and blue eyes conjured up for her wise, perceptive godmother a vision of an embarrassed Irish Snow White, indeed, mortified that she hadn't put her acknowledged culinary talents and training to practical use in the real world of top-flight food production, which was, after all, her true passion. She leaned forward and put her hand on the older woman's sleeve.

“Angelica, I will never be able to thank you enough for paying my tuition at—”

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