Full Scoop(12)

By: Janet Evanovich

"Um. What's going on?" she asked, the minute she spied Everest in the back. She ducked to get a better look at Maggie.

"Hop in," Queenie said, struggling to get her door open. She leaned forward; pulling the seat back with her so Mel could squeeze in. "And don't be scared of Everest," Queenie added. "He's not as dangerous as he looks."

Everest smiled and nodded at Mel. "I'm not dangerous at all," he said.

Mel nodded but kept her distance. She looked at her mother. "Where's your car?"

"At the office. Queenie wanted me to meet her friend Everest so we all rode together."

"We wanted to surprise you," Queenie said.

"You owe me, Mom," the girl said. "I get to color my hair now."

Maggie sighed. She and Mel had discussed the hair thing many times. "Your hair is beautiful," she said for the umpteenth time.

"It's orange! I hate it, and since I'm the one who has to wear it I think I should be able to have it the color I want. I'm tired of being teased."

"Who's teasing you?" Everest asked. "Give me a name."

"Stay focused, Everest," Queenie said. "You don't have time to go around scaring schoolkids."

"I want to go blond," Mel said after a moment.

Queenie glanced at Maggie. "I should probably stay out of this. I should probably keep my mouth shut."

Maggie arched one brow. "You think?" Still, Maggie felt bad for her daughter. She remembered how cliquish kids had been when she was growing up, especially the girls. That she had excelled in math, science, and chemistry, subjects usually preferred by boys in those days, had made her an oddity. She had wanted so badly to fit in, to be invited places after school and on weekends by the other kids. And then she'd met Carl Lee Stanton, town hunk and troublemaker, and everything had changed.

"Are you even listening to me?" Mel said.

Maggie turned and looked at her. "I always listen to you, honey, but I'm not backing down on this one." Maggie wondered how much authority she would have left once Mel caught sight of her father's picture on TV, complete with his jailhouse tattoos.

"Blond is definitely not the color for you," Everest said. "You should look into a rinse. It will tone down your color without harsh chemicals."

Maggie and Mel just looked at him.

"My sister is a hairdresser," Everest said. "All she talks about is hair, hair, hair. So I know what I'm talking about. Hair and makeup should be subtle, less is always more. At least, that's what my sister says."

"Yeah?" Mel sounded interested.

"Hey, I have a great idea," Queenie said. "We should stop by the Full Scoop ice-cream parlor."

"That'll work," Mel said.

Maggie noted her daughter's eager expression. She had a secret crush on Abby Bradley's fifteen-year-old son Travis.

"My friends have been carrying on about this new flavor of chocolate ice cream," Queenie said.

"They say it's better than sex, and at my age that's as close as I'm going to get to the real thing."

"Don't listen to her, Mel," Maggie said teasingly, having learned long ago that Queenie did not censor her words.

Queenie glanced at Maggie. "I think we could all use a little chocolate about now, don't you? We could buy a whole gallon and take it with us."

Maggie almost hated herself for salivating over the thought of chocolate when she was facing serious problems. Queenie parked in front of the ice-cream parlor and cut her engine.

"I'll wait in the car," Everest said. "It might blow my tough-guy image if people see me going into a place like that."

The three of them barely made it through the door before Abby called out to Maggie. "I hear you have a new goat."

Maggie offered the woman a stiff smile.

"We have a goat?" Mel asked incredulously.

"It's only temporary, honey."

Mel gave a huge sigh. "That's what you said about the chickens and the rabbits. I'm the only one in my school who has a petting zoo in her backyard."

Travis Bradley stepped up to the counter wearing a full white apron. "Hey, Miss Queenie," he said. "You're looking mighty fine today."

Mel stared, transfixed.

"Hey, yourself, cutie-pie," Queenie replied. "I'd like a gallon of that new Better than Sex chocolate ice cream. I hear it's good stuff."

Travis grinned. "It must be good because we're selling it faster than I can dip it. I filled some containers in advance for when we get busy." He reached into a freezer behind him and pulled out a gallon-sized carton. "Only problem, you have to be twenty-one to buy it." He looked her over. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask for an ID, Miss Queenie."