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Authors: EJ McCay

Charitable Hearts

BOOK: Charitable Hearts
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Charitable Hearts

 

EJ McCay

 

 

 

Book Formatting by Derek Murphy @Creativindie .

 

Charitable Hearts

Copyright © 2016 by EJ McCay.

 

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organiza- tions, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

For information contact :

http://www.facebook.com/EJMcCay
             

 

Cover by Perry Elisabeth Design | perryelisabethdesign.com

 

 

ISBN-13: 978-1535147620

ISBN-10: 1535147628

First Edition: June 2016

 

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

Dedication

This is dedicated to my best friend Kendra M., the most supportive, most positive, most awesome friend in the world. I think that about covers it, but in case it doesn’t, I love you.

                            One

Maggie Lawrence loved the green room;
the only part of being on a talk show she did like. At least with the Davis Jones Late Show, the green room included plush chairs and a moment to gather her thoughts. The rest of it was roll-your-eyes awful. She put up with it because being on the show brought in donations for her Middle Man Foundation.

In the green room, she could sit quietly listening to music and either read or think. She looked down at her watch. She had another fifteen minutes before some unknown assistant would poke their head in and bring her to the edge of the stage before her name was announced.

The phone in her pocket vibrated, tickling her hip. She slipped it out, tapped the screen and put it to her ear after yanking the earbuds out.

“Hey Maggie,” Laura sounded cheerful on the other end.

“Hey.” Maggie wound her earbuds up, and stuffed them in her wristlet.

“There’s been a change of plans while you’re in New York.”

Ugh.
“You know how I feel about change.”

“Yeah, but I also know how much you love helping people.”

“Fine.”

“You were supposed to meet Mrs. Stephens from the Living Hope Foundation, but she had to reschedule.”

Okay…
“And…”

“I received a call from Levi Martin’s rep and he wants to meet you for dinner tonight.”

Maggie rolled her eyes. “Oh really?” She tried to bite back the sarcasm, but it rolled off her tongue.

Laura laughed. “He thinks he’ll flash a pretty smile and you’ll donate to his Geeks for Fibrosis Fan Experience.”

“Why didn’t you just tell him no?”

“I tried, but he just wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“You sucker.” Maggie laughed and looked at her watch again.
Five minutes.

“I know it’s totally last minute, but Levi is in New York for an audition and he could fit it in. He’s pretty passionate about this and if nothing else you can set him straight on the requirements.”

“Have you already told him yes?”

Laura paused.

“That would be a yes,” Maggie said and rolled her eyes.

“Yes.”

“All right, when and where?”

“He said he’ll have a car waiting for you after your appearance.”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Um, you know what today is, right?”

“You promised, Laura.”

“I know, but it would be Mark’s…”

“No!”

“It’s been five years, Maggie.”

“And it may be another five or ten or fifteen, but I’m not ready to talk about it. You promised to not even bring it up. You are dangerously close to breaking Pinkies.”

Laura sighed, “I’m sorry, Maggie. I won’t bring it up again.”

The door clicked and in popped the assistant. She tapped her wrist and smiled enthusiastically.

“Okay, I gotta go. Face time.”

“Promise to call me and tell me everything.”

Maggie paused and reluctantly said, “Pinkies.”
The things I do…

Laura squealed. Pinkies became their word when they were roommates in college. Anytime either of them promised something, pinkies meant that no matter what happened, that promise was going to be kept. No one else could get Maggie to do things like Laura could.

If Maggie was honest, her philanthropy success started with Laura. It was Laura who first suggested it. It was Laura the CPA who volunteered to manage the finances, but it was Maggie that had bulldozed through those first few charities and made them change how they operated. She made them take a hard look at how they spent money and whether or not it actually helped people. Maggie’s dogged determination to make sure the money her foundation gave away wasn’t wasted on exorbitant salaries made her famous and sought after.

The assistant stopped at the edge of the stage and pointed to the corners of her smiling lips. It was a hint that it was time to put on a smile and be charming. Maggie closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and got herself in the talk show frame of mind.

Then she heard, “And now, please give a round of applause and welcome for Maggie Lawrence…”
Time to be more than just Maggie.

 

Two

Levi Martin splashed his face with water
and studied it in the hotel bathroom mirror. Just a few months ago he was shooting the series finale of his show, and enjoying the idea of a break. He wished his best friend, Gary, was here. Levi rolled his head trying to loosen the tension in his neck.

As it stood, Levi was alone in New York getting ready to meet Maggie Lawrence. Somehow Gary had managed to get him face time with her. Levi did a little homework on her. She was famous for her charity work, and from the looks of her picture on the Middle Man Foundation website, thirty-six-year-old Maggie was just his type; beautiful, with her long dark brown hair, peircing green eyes, and heart shaped face with just the perfect amount of freckles across her cheeks and nose. He also knew she had a reputation for being tough.

Levi dug his phone out of his jeans pocket, tapped the screen, and lifted it to his ear.

“Speak to me, baby!” Gary joked.

Levi could barely hear him. “Hey, man, how is it?”

“So, so, so awesome. Gecko is on his fifteenth hot dog and Barker totally barfed.”

“No way, man. Barker? Is he out?”

“Yep. Yeager might have a shot this year. Gecko has four hot dogs on him, but he’s slowing down.”

Levi sighed. “I missed Barker barfing? This is so not fair.”

“You had an audition. What was I gonna do in New York? Plus, you’re meeting that Maggie girl.”

“You could have come with me. It would have been the best friend thing to do.”

“Like I’d miss this? I haven’t missed this contest since we moved here. It’s like a tradition, man.”

Yeah, and I should be there.
“Is it really tradition if I’m not there?”

Gary laughed. “Okay, so maybe not as traditional as it should be.”

Levi yanked two shirts from his suitcase and let out a sharp breath. “I’m holding up two shirts. Left or right?”

“Eh, left, right, left, right…right.”

“Solid blue it is.”

“What can I say? I’m good.”

Levi slipped the shirt on, buttoned it, and partially tucked it.

“Keep going, man.”

“What?”

“All the way in. Remember, Maggie has the ability to make Geeks bigger and better. You want to impress her.”

Levi sighed and finished tucking his shirt. “Did her CPA tell you what we would need to do?”

“Nah, man, she said Maggie would fill you in.”

“Okay.” Levi quickly glanced at his phone.
Thirty minutes.

“By the way, how did the audition go?”

“I love our talks. So ADD.”

Gary screamed into the phone. “What?”

“Nothing. I think it went great. I should hear something next month, I think.”

“That’s good.”

Levi stayed quiet. Gary didn’t need to know that he wasn’t excited about the project or the director.

“Hey, man, I need to go. See you tomorrow night?”

“Yeah.”

Levi heard a click. “Hello?” He looked at the phone. “Nice.” More than anything he wished he was with Gary at the Covina Festival, but when an audition for Lou Remick’s new film came up he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Personally, he didn’t care for the guy, but his films were always hits. Even his “low budget” films dwarfed most films made.

Levi grabbed his jacket and slipped it on, looked in the mirror one last time, and headed out the door. Being late to meet Maggie Lawrence was the last thing he wanted. If he made a good impression, Geeks for Fibrosis could get the monetary shot in the arm it needed to be huge next year. With the way Maggie worked, he was too late to make any difference this year.

Three

The small restaurant buzzed with people
as Maggie weaved through them to the hostess. The man at the podium smiled half-heartedly.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m meeting Mr. Martin.”

That changed his tune. “Oh, yes, right this way.”

She followed him to the table where Levi sat holding his phone. He looked up, his eyes widened, and he smiled.
Oh, boy.
Maggie reached out to shake his hand. “Hi, I’m Maggie Lawrence. It’s nice to meet you.”

Whoa.
“Nice to meet you too. Wow, your website picture does not do you justice.”

Maggie smiled and slid into the booth. “Thanks. You’re just like your pictures.” Levi had wild hair that curled around his ears. The blue shirt he wore made his eyes look like copper. His online profile may have his age at thirty-two, but his boyish good looks made him look much younger.

“So were you just in New York to promote your Middle Man Foundation?” he asked a flashed a smile.

“Primarily. I’ve got two weeks of this and then back home.”

“On your website, it said you lived in LA.”

“It’s partially right. I live right on the edge of the Angeles National Forest. Like, one more foot north and I’d be in it.”

Levi raised his eyebrows and his mouth parted. “That’s incredible. How did you manage that?”

Maggie licked her lips and laughed. “There was a huge old home that sat on twenty acres. The home was completely destroyed by an electrical fire and it was being sold as a fixer upper. I didn’t need that big of a house so, I tore it down and built something else.”

“So what did you build?”

She chewed her lip. This was usually where she lost people. “I built a tiny house right smack dab in the middle. You can’t see it from the road, and I’ve planted trees to replace the ones that had been torn down for the old house. It looks like an extension of the National Forest. Most people don’t even know a house is there.”

Who is this girl?
His eyebrows were knitted together and he half smiled. “That’s…kinda cool actually.”

Maggie shrugged, but before she could respond a waitress walked up and placed glasses of water on the table. “What can I get you guys to drink?”

“Water.”

“And I’ll have what she’s having and a scotch.” The waitress batted her eyes and smiled at Levi. It seemed lost on him, though. Of course, it would be because he was used to it.

“Okay, I’ll be right back with those. Can I get you started with an appetizer?”

Maggie and Levi shook their heads and Maggie picked up a menu to look over.

“Okay, well I’ll be back in just a minute with those drinks.”

“So, this house you built. What’s it like?”

“It’s hard to describe. It’s small, but it fits me.”

Levi nodded, and the waitress reappeared with their drinks and took their orders. Maggie surprised Levi by ordering a bacon cheeseburger and Levi ordered some chicken tenders.

“So, Levi Martin, why are we meeting?” She narrowed her eyes and clasped her hands in her lap.

He leaned back in the seat and took a sip of his scotch. “Well, I was hoping you’d be persuaded to donate money to Geeks for Fibrosis.”

“How much research have you done on me?” Maggie smiled and absentmindedly tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.

“Probably not as much as I should.”

Maggie was surprised when their food showed up. Hadn’t they just placed their order? “I guess it pays to eat dinner with a celebrity.”

Levi laughed and thanked the waitress.

“I’m just shocked you ordered a bacon cheeseburger. I didn’t peg you as a burger girl.”

She looked at him, puzzled.

“I thought you’d be more of the salad, vegan type, prone to spontaneous fits of yoga poses.”

Maggie’s shoulders bounced as she laughed. “You’re funny.”
Oh, that laugh, and that smile.
“Mr. Martin, I know you are probably used to flashing a nice smile and spreading the charm on thick to get your way, but I’m not a fan and you’re going to need more than good looks to get me to donate.”

“So you think I have a nice smile, charm, and I’m good looking?”

A thin smile spread on Maggie’s face. “I think we both know that to be true.”

He nodded and smiled. “What would I need to do?”

Maggie cut her burger in quarters and took a small bite and studied Levi. She noticed a small scar above his lip which instantly drew her attention to his lips. If she were remotely interested in dating, she’d be having a hard time breathing because he was beyond attractive. He exuded confidence which made him interesting and he was disarmingly funny. In Maggie’s world, he was just the right potent combination to make her stomach do flips.
If…

“How long has the Geeks Fan Experience been in business?”

“About two years.”

“I’ll need all of your financials, everything. I want to meet the people you have helped. I want to walk the center where Geeks is held each year. I want to know everything.”

“Everything?”

“Listen, Mr. Martin, I have spent years building a reputation and I intend to keep my reputation. Middle-class people donate to my foundation because they trust me. They trust me to make sure their money actually goes to things that matter. I don’t just donate to anyone who asks.”

Levi sat back and looked at her, his expression unreadable.

“I’m not giving money so it can go to an organization’s operations. I give money so it can actually help people…real help for real people. If I donate money to your Geeks for Fibrosis, you and I will be working together for the next six months. Think you can handle me?”

I doubt anyone handles you,
he thought and smiled. “I think I can suffer through that.”

“Good,” she said and pulled out a card. “Here, email your statements and copy me on them. Laura and I will go over them. Understand, though, we may ask you to make some changes.”

“Changes?”

“If we see something that doesn’t seem right, we may ask you to change it.”

“Okay,” he said and picked up the card. “Uh, could you put your mailing address on this?”

Maggie narrowed her eyes. “I guess. It’s quicker to email them, though.”

“I know, but it never hurts to have an alternate way,” he said and handed the card back to her. She took it and cautiously regarded him before adding her address on the back of the card.
He’s up to something…

“So, this Geeks for Fibrosis, tell me about it.”

Levi’s eyes lit up. This is the part that usually told Maggie what she really needed to know. Whether the person asking for money was excited and passionate about what they were doing. “I had a really good friend die about three years ago from lung complications. Her name was Amelia. She and I were really close. I just want them to find a cure and I don’t want her to be forgotten.”

“Tell me about Amelia.” Maggie could see the hurt in Levi’s eyes. “I’m sorry. You don’t have to do that. It was insensitive for me to even ask. I don’t even know why I did that.”
For a celebrity, he sure seems to wear his heart on his sleeve.

He inhaled sharply and swirled his glass of scotch. “No, it’s okay. I don’t mind talking about her. She was amazing. Other than Gary she’s the only other friend I’ve ever had. You would have liked her. Well, everyone liked her because she was so kind. Outgoing, loving, and she never let anything stop her. She is…or was my hero.”

“I’m sorry. I truly am.”

Levi eyed her. “For once, I believe it. Most of the time, I get an ‘I’m sorry’ thrown in my direction and it always feels…” He looked down at the table.

“Contrived.”

He jerked his head up and studied her face. “Yeah.”
Who are you?

They’d both forgotten about their food. Maggie picked up a homemade potato chip and took a bite. “Um, I have an early meeting tomorrow. So, I’m sorry to cut this short, but I need to get going.”

“Okay and I’ll get those statements from my CPA. I’ll make sure Laura gets them ASAP.”

Maggie asked the waitress to box up the rest of her food and stood. When the waitress returned, Maggie slipped her a few bills. She turned to Levi. “It was nice to meet you, Levi. I look forward to working with you.”

He watched her walk away and jumped when the waitress squealed. “Oh. Wow!” She grabbed a waiter as he walked by. “Look!”

Levi was beyond dumbfounded. Maggie had given the waitress a hundred-dollar bill.

BOOK: Charitable Hearts
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