WHEN A GOOD-GIRL DIVORCÉE Playing by the rules has left Samantha Monroe with an AWOL ex-husband, maxed out credit cards, and the task of raising three children on a hairstylist's salary. It's time for a new game plan. When Sam learns that politician Jack Tolliver needs someone to play the part of his fiancée for six months in return for a generous paycheck, she's ready to sign up on the spot.
MEETS A BAD-BOY POLITICIAN
Jack needs Sam and her kids to help tone down his image from womanizing cad to dependable dad. But he was expecting Sam to be a frumpy single mom, not a wickedly smart, sexy redhead. Keeping nosey newshounds from discovering that his engagement is a charade is going to be a tough job, but one mind-blowing kiss from Sam and suddenly Jack is ready to put in all the overtime necessary...
LOVE WINS IN A LANDSLIDE...
Now, with scheming opponents itching to bring Jack down, Sam's ex returning to stir up trouble, one stubborn pre-schooler, two squabbling teenagers, a crazy dog, and some out-of-this-world sex, Jack and Sam are discovering that playing make-believe can be complicated―but not nearly as much as falling in love...
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Susan Donovan's novels are witty, sexy, and entertaining―"brain candy for smart women," as she puts it. Her books include Not That Kind of Girl, The Night She Got Lucky and Ain't Too Proud to Beg. Susan is a former newspaper journalist with degrees from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and has worked as a reporter in Chicago, Albuquerque, and Indianapolis. Her other jobs have included fine arts fundraiser, freelance journalist, painted furniture artist, horse stall mucker, proposal writer, and aide to a U.S. Senator. Susan lives in rural Maryland with her family and dogs.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The low hum of music and laughter droned in Samantha Monroe’s ears, and she began to feel woozy. Maybe it was the two margaritas. Maybe it was the hellish week she’d just put in at the salon. Maybe it was the latest threatening letter from Wee Ones Academy beginning with the ominous sentence: “Due to your child’s unresolved toileting issues, we must ask you to find other daycare arrangements within two weeks.”
“... and then, you’re not going to believe this!” Sam’s best friend, Monté, continued entertaining the table with her blow-by-blow of last Saturday’s date with the Mad Unzipper. Since Sam was quite familiar with the tale, she let her eyes wander through the happy-hour crowd at the Lizard Lounge, noticing the group of young, carefree women at the bar, enjoying life, and she had to wonder... had she ever looked that happy? Had she ever felt as wild and sexy as those girls clearly did? Did she ever wear spike heels that high? Was she ever that young? Should she call Lily again to make sure Dakota ate his fish sticks and that Greg didn’t indulge in more than an hour of PlayStation?
“... and the man just stands his ass up from the couch, unzips, and says, ‘Monté baby, I got your python right here!’ ”
The explosion of laughter made Sam smile to herself, and she returned her attention to her friends. She loved each woman at that table, even if their behavior was bordering on obnoxious. That was the whole point of their Drinks & Depression Nights, anyway. The last Friday of every month, they’d have a couple drinks, bitch about work, life, love (or the lack thereof), and laugh a lot. Then make plans for the next time.
Sam looked past the zebra-striped upholstered lounge chairs and out the picture window. It was a wet and cold early November evening, and the season’s first snow was spitting down on the streets of Indianapolis. It was nearly pitch-dark by six o’clock these days. The holidays were just around the corner. No wonder tonight’s group consisted of only the most hard-core D & D Night attendees.
Sam glanced to her right to watch Monté McQueen tell her story, her black braids swinging with the rhythm of her words. Monté had been her coworker for thirteen long years at Le Cirque. She was a damn fine stylist and the most steadfast friend Sam had ever had. When Mitchell left three years ago, Monté had held Sam’s hand and advised her that a woman with kids didn’t have the luxury of giving up. Monté certainly knew of what she spoke.
To Sam’s left was Kara DeMarinis, one of her most loyal clients, looking fabulous and powerful in her usual fabulous power suit yet managing to be one of the most down-to-earth people around. Also at the table were Le Cirque owner and general business goddess Marcia Fishbacher and veteran salon patrons Denny and Wanda Winston, identical twin sisters with wildly divergent lifestyles.
And every one of these women was howling with laughter and smacking her palms on the tabletop at Monté’s story. Every one but Sam. She knew she should force herself to be more cheerful tonight, because these get-togethers were her therapy. Unfortunately, she was too damn tired for cheerful. She was too tired for therapy. In fact, Sam knew that if the most gorgeous man-babe in the world were to saunter through the front door of the Lizard Lounge at that very instant, partially clothed and completely raring to go, she’d be too tired for him, too.
With a sigh, Sam managed to use her last bit of energy to order an unheard-of third margarita, and when it arrived, she ran the tip of her numb tongue along the freezing cold glass, scooping up a few coarse grains of salt. As she swallowed what would be her only solid food of the evening, a variety of concerns wafted through her weary, tequila-soaked brain. Rent was due in three days, but Mr. Westerkamp hadn’t fixed the garbage disposal as promised—so would she face eviction if she refused to pay? Lily was still gunning to go to France with her class next year, but where the hell was Sam going to get an extra three thousand dollars to send her there? And Greg refused to get back into speech therapy, deciding the stutter itself was less painful than the teasing his classmates gave him for going to a “special” class.
Sam took another sip—a gulp, really—and felt her insides wash with the heat of the alcohol. Her mouth began to move. “I never did understand what is so wrong with being a kept woman,” she muttered. “If I could find a way to do it without damaging the kids, I’d gladly live in a penthouse with a chauffeur and a maid and a chef in exchange for giving some old geezer a little nooky every once in a while. I mean, where’s the harm in that?”
Dead quiet settled over the table, and Sam realized she’d uttered those rambling thoughts out loud. Kara gripped Sam’s upper arm and stared at her with big, brown eyes.
“If he’s not too old or geezery, of course,” Sam added as clarification.
“Well, sure.” Marcia rolled her eyes. “A girl’s gotta have her standards.”
“Tell me if the old coot has a brother,” Denny said. “I could use a sugar daddy myself, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt if he was partial to lesbians.”
“I don’t think lesbians have sugar daddies,” Wanda told her sister.
“I’m cuttin’ you off, Sam.” Monté pried the stem of the margarita glass from Sam’s tingling fingers. “And I’m drivin’ you home and puttin’ you to bed. We have a wedding party coming in for updos and makeup at nine tomorrow and you need your rest.”
“God. I just haaaate weddings,” Sam moaned. “I hate brides. I hate updos. I hate all those damn hairpins and all that freakin’ happiness, and at nine in the morning! It’s just not natural! I want to grab those brides by their shoulders and shout, ‘Don’t do it! Run away! Run before it’s too late!’ ”
Marcia blinked in concern, and Sam was making a mental note to never again have more than two drinks in the presence of her boss when Monté scooped her from her chair and stood her on her feet. “C’mon, Cinderella. Time to take a ride in the carriage before it turns into a big, fat pumpkin.”
Kara DeMarinis leaned back in the leather armchair and studied Jack Tolliver at leisure, aware there wasn’t a woman in the world who would classify the man as geezery. Oh, she’d heard him called a few other choice things over the years, such as misogynist asshole, arrogant dickhead, and booty-call bastard, but never geezer. So at least that was one hurdle she’d already cleared.
Jack finished laughing and relaxed his long athlete’s body against the antique cherry desk that once had belonged to his father, the late, great Indiana governor Gordon Tolliver. Jack shook his dark head and wiped his eyes. Apparently, Kara’s suggestion had made him laugh so hard he’d cried.
“I’ve always loved the way you think outside the box, but Kara, babes, you’re thinking outside the known universe with this one.”
“It’s doable, Jack. Remember when Errol Binder borrowed a neighbor’s golden retriever for his publicity shots? The man hated pets. And how about when Charleton Manheimer used his press secretary’s kids to stand in for his own grandchildren in that thirty-second public education spot? The grandkids were in boarding school in Vermont.”
Jack blinked. “No way.”
“Yes. So there’s some precedent for this. And I’ve known Samantha Monroe for twelve years. She’s great. She’s hardworking and responsible and middle-class—everything you’re not. And she deserves a break. She’s perfect.”
Jack raised an eyebrow and quirked those infamous lips of his. “You cannot be implying that I’m an irresponsible trust-fund slacker.”
Kara smiled back at him cheerfully. “Well, you are.”
“Fine, but if we’re being blunt, then let me just remind you that no woman is perfect, especially the ones that you can buy.”
“She’s not for sale. She would be more of a rental.”
Jack produced another hearty laugh. “Good God, Kara! I will not rent a fake fiancée! It is immoral and reprehensible, not to mention pathetic!”
Jack raked his large hands through his waves of dark hair, pushed himself up from the desk, and turned his back to Kara. He began to pace through the office as he thought aloud. “Besides, if I want to benefit from her strengths, I’ll have to eat her weaknesses, won’t I? Does she have a criminal record? Speeding tickets? How about her credit rating? Is she even registered to vote?”
Kara smiled to herself, watching the sway of Jack’s muscular bottom as he paced, the way the wide ledge of his shoulders rolled with each step. She knew there was no man less in need of dating intervention than Juicy Jack Tolliver. But Kara also knew that at this crucial point in his political career the emphasis needed to be on the quality of the women in his life, not the quantity, and Jack’s tendency to focus on the latter had suddenly become a bigger liability than ever.
“I’ve already started opposition research on Samantha—anything and everything your challengers could come up with I’ve got covered. So far, a spotty credit rating after her divorce is all I’m seeing, and that’s understandable. Makes her more sympathetic even.”
Jack shook his he...
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