Friday, May 6, 2022

Bargain Books: Pre-Order Discount - I Sorta Do

Read an excerpt:

    Once again, her impulsiveness had landed her in a jam. Francie Karr rifled through a stack of papers on her gigantic wooden desk and picked up the letter for the tenth time that morning. The official confirmation of her obligation to attend the class reunion. She’d placed the irksome reminder on the edge just so, in case her cat took a notion to jump up on the desk and bat the paper into the wastebasket. He hadn’t. The traitor.

    She’d used the envelope postmarked Spencer, Colorado as a coaster for the better part of a week before piling invoices on top of it, but the return address still remained legible.

    No, the letter was still here and she hadn’t forgotten about the impulsive promise she’d made, so she guessed she was going to have to send the reunion committee an email about her arrival plans. She’d first ignored the group Facebook message from the planning committee requesting she be the photographer for Spencer High’s fifteenth class reunion. She’d asked if they didn’t have a local photographer, but the relentless social media members had been adamant it be someone from their class, so she’d grudgingly agreed.

    What had she been drinking? She’d known then, just as she knew now, that she wasn’t going to be able to attend the class reunion. She was going to have surgery that week. Or something else was going to come up. A debilitating sickness maybe. Perhaps even a death—her own would be convenient.

    The intercom buzzed her that someone was downstairs, and she walked distractedly to the panel, the wrinkled letter in her hand. “Yeah?”

    “Miss Karr, it’s Ryan MacNair. I’d like to speak with you for a few minutes, please.”


    He repeated his name and added, “We spoke last month. About the brooch you had appraised? You told me to call back at a more convenient time.”

    “Oh.” She glanced around the cluttered loft where she lived and worked. Photographs hung on every wall—some were even framed. Stacks of books teetered on end tables, and every pair of shoes she’d worn recently were beside the sofa. The place wasn’t going to suddenly become neat and organized, and the time never got more convenient, so she might as well let him in.

    “Come on up.” She jabbed the button that unlocked the security door and sauntered back to her desk.

    How hard could it be to fake her own death? She’d seen it done on TV plenty of times. She could assume a new identity and move her studio to Peoria under a different name.

    Francie flopped onto her office chair and grimaced at her own thoughts. No. YaYa needed someone to check up on her often and make sure the care center was doing a good job. Deserting her dear fragile grandmother was out of the question. It distressed the old woman enough to think Francie wasn’t married yet. Disappearing was a purely selfish thought. Self-preserving and really clever—but selfish.

    How on earth then was she going to get out of this dreadful class reunion? What was she going to tell her grandmother? YaYa was the only person in the world she was close to. The only person whose opinion mattered. But YaYa didn’t agree with Francie’s decision to choose a career over a marriage and children.

    A few months ago, to alleviate the old woman’s worry over her being alone, Francie had told her she’d gotten married.

    To a rich man.

    To a rich man with kids.

    To a rich handsome man with kids.

    How in blazes was she going to get out of this one?

    A knock sounded on the door.

    Francie crossed to open it.

    “Hi, Miss Karr—”


    “Francie. Thank you for seeing me.”

    She swung the door open wide and ushered a tall dark-haired man in a tailored navy-blue suit into her studio. “Would you like a soft drink? The coffee’s been sitting since morning.”

    “No, thank you.”

    “Well…” She wandered back to her desk chair and sank onto the comfortable cushion, her gaze immediately landing on the letter that still lay on her desk. Darn cat anyhow. Darn YaYa for thinking a woman couldn’t be fulfilled with her career.

    “I have an offer for you,” MacNair said. He glanced around, then moved a stack of manila envelopes from the seat of the chair opposite her desk to the only available spot on the floor and plucked the crease at the knee of his trousers as he sat. “Are you moving out?”

    “No, why?”

    “Um, no reason. Do you recall why I’m here?”

    Absorbed in her predicament, Francie tapped a fingernail against the edge of the desk. The reunion was less than two weeks away now, and she still hadn’t figured out what she was going to do.


    “What? Oh. No, I guess I’ve forgotten what it was you wanted to see me about.”

    “The brooch you had appraised at Grambs & Sons last month.”

    “Right. That pin was in a box of old junk that I bought at an auction. I buy things like that for my still life photography. The piece will make amazing shot in black and white, with maybe a pair of gloves. Kind of draping out of an old jewelry chest with a piece of lace beneath it.”

    “Several months ago, I put the word out to all the jewelers that I was looking for that particular item,” he said. “Grambs called me after you’d been in. That brooch rightfully belongs to my daughter. It’s her inheritance.”

    She’d found the perfect pair of old lace gloves. What had she done with them? “Uh-huh.”

    “It belonged to my paternal grandmother. Unfortunately, my grandfather’s will was contested, and the jewelry went to one of my aunts who only wanted what she could get out of everything. Just to be spiteful, she wouldn’t even let my father buy the pieces he wanted. I can’t even remember why she started the feud with my father in the first place. I’m not even sure she remembers.”

    “She sounds lovely.” Francie picked up a pen and doodled a sketch of her idea on the letter.

    He blinked at her. “She sold it all, and we’ve been trying to find the pieces to buy them back. My father had intended for that brooch to remain in the family.”

    Francie’s attention drifted to Peyton Armbruster’s scrawled signature on the page, and Francie knew she couldn’t stall any longer. She either had to come clean...or come up with a husband.

    “The brooch was appraised at five thousand dollars,” MacNair said. “Miss Karr, I’ll double that offer.”

    At his concerned tone, Francie glanced up into his grave features, and finally his words sank into her dilemma-drugged brain. He was as intense about the silly old brooch as she was about taking a husband to the reunion.

    For the first time she took a long assessing look at Ryan MacNair. His dark hair, bearing a distinguishing widow’s peak, was neatly styled and brushed back from a square-jawed face. Dark brows were divided by a V of anxiety that didn’t diminish his well-bred features. The dude was impressively handsome.

    He had a nice straight nose and an interesting mouth that could probably slide into a knockout smile if he’d loosen that tie and give himself a little air. His navy suit and cranberry silk tie were of the best quality and taste, and he wore them with ease and panache. He was rich. Not her type—if she had a type—but wouldn’t he impress the Spanx right off her classmates back in Spencer? And YaYa wouldn’t be able to stop smiling. She imagined her grandmother looking him up and down with approval.

    "You planned to use the brooch in some photographs," he said. Have you done that?"

    “Are you married?”

    He blinked, his warm brown eyes showing confusion over the abrupt change of subject. “I’m divorced,” he said finally. “Is that relevant to the discussion?”

    Actually, a discussion took two people, but she spared him that reminder, and let the ever-turning gears in her mind whirl with possibilities. “I’m just beginning to sympathize with your situation, Mr...”


    “Mr. MacNair. I’d certainly feel bad if something of my grandmother’s was sold off against my wishes.”

    He nodded, his brow still furrowed. “Then you’ll sell it to me?”

    “You really want this brooch, don’t you? It means a lot to you. And to your father.”

    Still his carefully guarded expression didn’t change. “Yes.”

    “So, I guess my decision carries a lot of weight.”

    “It does,” he admitted, though his aggravated expression showed his reluctance to do so.

    Francie smoothed the letter, refolded it and placed it inside the stained and warped envelope. “Perhaps we can negotiate after all.”

    He gave a shake of his head. “Money isn’t the issue here. The brooch has sentimental value. Ten thousand. Fifteen.”

    “No. Not more money,” she said with a flick of her hand. “In fact, if you agree to this idea, you can keep your money.”

    His frown deepened. “What idea?”

    “I’m in a predicament myself. I’m afraid I’ve done something—said something—impulsive, and now I don’t have any way out of it. Except maybe through you.”

    He raised one dark brow. “I don’t understand. What does your predicament have to do with me?”

    “I told my grandmother that I’d gotten married.”

    “And that’s a problem?”

    “Yes, it’s a problem. It wasn’t true. It isn’t true.”

    “You told her you were married?”

    She nodded.

    “But you’re not married. And you weren’t married.”


    “Then why did you tell her that?”

    The question was so simple. The answer was so complicated. “Because I’m not.”

    He stared at her.

    “It’s a long, boring story,” she supplied. “Maybe sometime we’ll go over the details, but for now I’ll just say I had my reasons.”

    “So, you lied. And now this lie is causing you a problem.”

    “Oh, yeah. A super-sized problem.” She stood and walked restlessly to the row of tall windows and gazed, unseeing, down on the street

    What does your lie have to do with me?”

    She turned back. “I’ve been cornered into participating in my class’s fifteen-year reunion in my hometown. YaYa is expecting me. And she’s expecting me to bring a husband.”

    With a wary expression, he waited for her to speak.

    “You can have the brooch...”

    He leaned forward in the chair like his Spidey-senses were on alert.

    “...if you come to Spencer, Colorado with me as my husband for a week.”


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