Rob Gabinarri was enjoying the sound of his own voice in his latest battle of wits with Miguel, the style consultant for his Chicago restaurant, when the phone rang.
"Rob Gabinarri, proprietor. The Playbook," he said into the receiver, feeling the usual pride at the words. He never got tired of announcing his ownership of this place.
"Roberto!" his Uncle Pauly said.
Rob checked the date. It wasn't his birthday. It wasn't Christmas. It wasn't the NFL Playoffs or anytime close to the Super Bowl. Something must be wrong with somebody.
"Uncle Pauly, how are you? Is everything all right in Wilmington Bay?"
"Everyone in the family? Mama and Tony and Maria-Louisa and the kids and--"
"Oh, they're all fine. Just fine. But I need your help."
This stopped Rob cold. The last time his independent uncle had asked for anybody's help, big hair and legwarmers had still been in fashion. No matter what, there was no way Rob could decline. Family always came first.
"Of course. What do you need?"
"You're the boss of that hotshot restaurant, right?"
"Right," Rob said, his pride wavering a bit as apprehension seeped in.
"You make the rules and set the schedules, right?"
"So, what you say is what goes, right?"
The last of his pride was now replaced by full-fledged anxiety. "Uh, right."
"So, you could take some time off now, couldn't you, Roberto?"
"I, well...sure. I guess so, but..." Please, please don't tell me I need to leave the safety of downtown Chicago and return to suffocating small-town Wilmington Bay. Please, no.
"I need you to come back to Wilmington Bay for a coupla weeks. Help us out here in the shop."
Damn! "I--well, I'm not so good with sweets, Uncle Pauly. Is there anything I can do for you from here? Anything I could send up? Supplies, maybe? I could hire a person who could step in for a while and--"
"Dire sciocchezze. You're talking nonsense, boy. You're great with sweets, and we need you."
Rob stifled a heavy sigh. "Okay. When do you need me?"
There was a pause on the line. "Is three hours too soon?" his uncle asked, his brusque voice unusually cheerful. "How about four?"