Yay! Today is Gwen Jones’ book birthday! Wanted: Wife is here now in eBook. *Snoopy dance* Virtual cupcakes and party balloons and confetti! I adore book birthdays! I think this calls for red velvet. *sigh* Take a peak at her new book with the fun excerpt… and add it to your list. Or better yet add it to your shopping cart. 😉
The Queen of Tarts
PS. Make sure you enter her contest!
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2013 © Gwen Jones
The Flipside of Serious
“Holy Mother of—God . . .” Denny said.
My sentiments exactly. Andy Devine had to be the most stunning man I’d ever laid eyes on.
He was tall, six foot two at least, his black hair swept back to just nick his collar, his skin tanned, his cheekbones high, his shoulders as wide as his waist was lean. He wore dark trousers, a white shirt, a tie, and a vest, but I could tell immediately he was used to more freedom. His body looked sculpted by hard and frequent use, his biceps nearly bursting from their cotton casing, and even in that un-air-conditioned room, he looked as cool and collected as if encased in ice. Putting it all together, he was quite the package, but that wasn’t what took my breath away. As I came toward the table, as he moved around it to meet me, it was his eyes that nearly nailed me to the floor: two sharp, liquid arrows so regally blue they looked cut from some empirical standard, and infused with an intelligence so far above any preconceived notions, I genuinely felt embarrassed.
To put it simply: he was not what I expected.
“What can I do for you?” he said, the overhead fans ruffling his thick hair.
Not that I would allow him to ruffle me. “As I said, I’m Julie Knott from Channel 8 News, and this is my cameraman, Denny O’Brien.”
Denny cleared his throat—loudly—lowering the camera to his side. “Pleased to meet you,” he said with surprising steadiness, in spite of his blanch a minute before.
Andy Devine nodded, but didn’t reach for either of our hands, which we were too off-kilter to offer anyway. Instead he eyed us with a curiosity I’d last seen at the zoo.
Inwardly, I was a little miffed that any human—insanely gorgeous or otherwise—could invoke such ridiculous reactions, doubly so as I groped for the right thing to say. My God! When’s the last time that happened? Still, years of experience let me slip into my screen-perfected smile and simpatico interviewer’s mode, my voice precisely modulated as I leaned in and said conspiratorially, “Maybe you’ve heard of me? I do segments on Channel 8 called ‘Julie Knott’s Random Access.’”
“Can’t say I watch much TV,” he said. Then his eyes narrowed. “Random, as in meaning . . . ?”
“You know, out of the ordinary, off the beaten track. Unusual.”
“Ah.” He considered that for a moment. “You think I’m unusual?”
Only the fact that you’re actually saying that with a straight face. “Well, your interview process certainly is. We’d love to do a story on it.”
He looked honestly perplexed. “Why?”
I almost laughed. Either this man was yanking my chain, or there were still people out there who could surprise me. “You don’t think advertising on a utility pole for a wife is a bit out of the ordinary?”
He leaned back against the table, folding his arms across his massive chest. “No more than when a woman tricks herself out and goes into a bar, advertising herself as available. I’m just giving her a more respectable venue.”
His voice was deep and melodious, yet he had the oddest accent, as unmistakably American as it was faintly exotic. The sound of it sent a distinct wave of heat through me. Good God. I scrubbed my hand across the back of my neck; I refused to let him throw me. “So, you don’t see having them parade before you like horses at an auction as a tad different?”
That seemed to amuse him. “Miss Knott, it’s me who’s really for sale, and don’t think for a moment each one of those women out there isn’t aware of it.”
I had an image of Mr. Gorgeous being yanked from one frantic female to the other, One Day Sale! signs hung around his neck.“That would be true if they were doing the choosing.”
“Even the woman I pick still has to agree to it. I’ll be making all the promises.”
“As in a contract.”
“Actually, it’s very simple. I’m offering a three-month trial marriage, in which I’ll promise to house, feed and provide my wife with anything she needs. All I’m asking of her is to be healthy, work hard and try for a baby. If for any reason she’s not completely satisfied—and pregnant within three months—she’ll walk away with a generous compensation. So obviously, the risk is more at my end. Their risk is relatively effortless.”
“Effortless!” The ways in which this preposterous proposition so did not resemble effortless nearly made me laugh out loud. “Mr. Devine, I’d hardly call bearing your issue effortless!”
He bristled. “I’m not saying it would be. I only thought of children as a logical progression.”
Amazing, truly. He wasn’t medieval; he was positively Neanderthal. “A logical progression of what?”
“Why, marriage, of course.”
“So couples that don’t have children . . .” I flung my hands in a futile gesture. “Who don’t want or can’t have them—their marriages are a sham?”
“No . . .” he said, a bit condescendingly. “That would be the logic of their own particular marriages. But in ours, the terms will already have been spelled out. I have a farm. She’ll help me run it. And if it’s run well, we’ll share equally in the benefits and rewards. You couldn’t get a better deal than that.”
“You talk as if this marriage’ll be nothing more than a business relationship.”
He looked incredulous. “Isn’t that what all marriages really are?”
“Of course not,” I said. “What a crazy idea.”
“Well, if they aren’t, they should be. Because that’s what it comes down to at the divorce settlement anyway. A dissolution of a partnership, a consolidation of debts, a distribution of the assets. Are you married, Ms. Knott?”
I caught his glance to my left hand. I shoved my bare fingers into my pocket. “No. Presently unattached.” Denny cleared his throat. I tossed him a filthy glare. And when Andy Devine lifted a brow, I knew I’d better offer a quick clarification before my cameraman spilled it. “I just broke it off with my fiancé this morning.”
“Does this upset you?” he said.
I could feel the blood rising to my face. “What do you think? We were to be married in two weeks. The man practically left me at the altar.”
“Did you love him?”
He was beyond belief. “Of course I did! Why else would I have married him?”
“Probably not for any of my reasons. Because from what I can assume . . .”—he assessed me quickly—“You’re probably a good risk. Which just proves how ancillary love actually is.”
If the morning hadn’t already unhinged me, this Andy Devine threw the door right off the hinges. “You’re wrong,” I said, my hands clenching so tightly I nearly crushed the mic. “Even after what my fiancé did to me, I still believe the only logical progression is people meet, fall in love, get married. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Because without love, Mr. Devine, your marriage will never be a real one.”
He sprung from the table toward me. “Oh believe me, Ms. Knott, with or without love, this marriage will be a real one. In every sense of the word.”
© Gwen Jones 2013 – All Rights Reserved
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