Tailspin Online - Cara Summers


PERFECT TIMING, Maggie Fortune thought as she climbed out of her red Corvette. The nearly empty parking lot told her that the noon Mass at the Church of St. Francis had ended so she and Father Mike Flynn could meet right away.

That suited her fine. What didn’t suit her was that even the fast ride in her sporty convertible hadn’t quite settled her nerves. Her birthday party started at five, but thanks to her houseman Grady, all the details had been seen to. It was her meeting with Father Mike that was making her nervous.

Ridiculous. She hurried toward the church. She’d known the priest when she’d been plain old Maggie Nash. They’d gone to grade school together. He’d married her to her late husband, Thaddeus Fortune IV, and he’d held her hand at the funerals of her husband and of her sons. And it wasn’t that she was up to anything that was morally wrong. She just wanted to cover all her bases.

So why were her hands damp? Damn it! Damn them!

She started up the long flight of stairs that led to the front door, taking pride in the fact that although she was celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday, she wasn’t short of breath when she reached the top.

Well, not very short of breath. Still, she caught herself taking a few deep ones as she hurried up the center aisle of the church. Dim light filtered through stained glass, but she made out a few people still lingering on the side altar where the statue of St. Francis stood enclosed in a glass case.

As her eyes grew more accustomed to the dimness, she watched the small group turn away and descend the steps. Then she spotted Father Mike still standing in front of the statue. Perfect, she thought again. She’d be in and out of here in fifteen minutes. Tops.

Her talent for timing things well had been helpful throughout her life and especially since her husband’s death twenty years ago when she’d taken over the job of running the Fortune family’s various business interests. In the corporate world, timing could be everything. And it was equally important in personal matters, too.

As she drew closer, Father Mike dropped to his knees to say a prayer. Not wanting to intrude, Maggie halted and let her gaze lift to the statue. It looked as small and unassuming as the first time she’d seen it. Originally, the marble figure had been donated to the Franciscan Capuchin order by an Italian family who’d immigrated to Denver from Assisi, Italy, where the saint had been born. Since that time, the statue of St. Francis had gained an ever increasing reputation for granting petitioners’ prayers. Nothing on the scale of a major miracle or anything like that. But people believed that the statue had some kind of special pull with God.

Back in February, the Denver Post had run an article containing story after story of how a visit to the statue had resulted in prayers being answered and lives being changed. The narratives ran the gamut of lovers being united, babies being conceived to families meeting up with lost loved ones.

Still studying the figure of St. Francis, she let her mind drift back fifteen years to the first time she’d encountered the statue. It had stood in the small garden next to the St. Francis Center for Boys. Father Mike had run afternoon and weekend programs there, and she still credited him with keeping her grandson Nash out of jail. Of course, Father Mike had always passed on any credit to St. Francis.

True, the prayers she’d said to the statue that first time in the prayer garden might have played a role. But Maggie was certain that if Nash hadn’t been able to occupy his after school and weekend hours at the center, and if it hadn’t been for the friends he’d made there, well…she doubted he’d be a captain in the Air Force today. And that had been his goal ever since he’d lost his father in the Gulf War.

That had been a terrible time for them both. Within a year, she’d lost a husband and a son. She’d had to take over the running of Fortune Enterprises and at the same time raise a seven-year-old boy who was a magnet for trouble.

Not that Nash was ever a bad boy. But he was impatient, impulsive and pretty damn creative when it came to getting into mischief. Qualities he’d probably inherited from her.

When his pranks had gotten him kicked