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The Real Deal



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About The Book

The New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Fern Michaels delivers her signature mix of thrilling twists and relatable heroines in this exciting novel following an independent woman driven by passion and bound by duty in Washington, DC.

Resourceful and steadfast FBI agent Quinn Star has always relied on herself—how else could she have survived the boys club of the FBI or navigated the heartbreak of a thwarted affair with her boss? Today, Quinn risks her life every day in the Secret Service as she protects the First Lady of the United States. But unfortunately, she can’t safeguard her from the ruthless advisors who are intent on hiding the President’s debilitating illness for their political gain.

Suspecting a conspiracy that places the fate of the President, his wife—and the nation—on the line, Quinn whisks the First Lady out of the capital to her South Carolina home. But are they truly safe from whoever is pulling the strings in this lethal game? And Quinn’s fortitude is tested further when a mysterious lover emerges from the shadows of the past...


The Real Deal

Washington, DC
November 2007

The sun was barely over the horizon when Quinn Star exited her narrow four-story house in Georgetown. She locked the door, jiggling the knob to be certain it was locked before she pocketed the key in her baggy sweatpants. She ran in place, her mind whirling with what was on her agenda for the day. She took a moment to savor the cold, crisp November air, taking deep breaths and watching the little puffs of steam when she exhaled.

She loved this time of the day in the nation’s capital. The day was new and fresh, not yet tarnished with smog, corruption, and deal making in the most famous city in the world. Not that she was a part of the corruption and horse trading, but she did read the papers. There was corruption everywhere, even in the heartland, and the real deal making, as everyone in Washington knew, went on in the cloakrooms on the Hill and behind closed doors. Sometimes on the golf course or tennis court. She thanked God the way she did every morning at this time that she was no longer a part of the federal government.

On those rare times when she couldn’t fall asleep, she thought about Ezra Lapufsky and their time together, her face burning with her thoughts. Their relationship certainly hadn’t been perfect, neither had her job. In fact, both had been riddled with problems. Both she and Puff should have known better than to get involved with a coworker, but they’d gone ahead and forged a relationship anyway. For almost three long years. Puff had been everything she’d wanted in a man. He was kind, gentle, had a wicked sense of humor, and he’d said he loved her. The only problem was, he loved his job more. An eerie feeling settled between her shoulder blades as she looked over her shoulder, not once, but twice. She didn’t see anyone lurking about, but the feeling stayed with her as she started off at a slow trot. Her feet didn’t pick up speed until she hit O Street, where she ran at full throttle till she came to the crossroads of Wisconsin and M. She waved to other runners, people whose faces were familiar but whose names she didn’t know. There was Super Stud and his chocolate Lab. He waved. She waved back. Directly behind him was a woman she called Gypsy Rose Lee, in skimpy shorts and something that looked like a bustier. “I hope your tits freeze,” Quinn muttered to herself.

She turned to look behind her again because of the hard, clomping footfalls she heard. The donut man, puffing along at an uneven gait, so bundled up he could barely move. Quinn concentrated on the pavement in front of her. Time to turn around and head home. She was a block ahead of herself today. On M, she was just in time to see a figure dart behind a tall, bare sycamore tree. A chill raced up her spine as the donut man chugged past her.

Is someone watching me? Who? Why? Some lunatic with a penchant for a woman who looks like a bag lady at a quarter to six in the morning? If it’s a stalker, why isn’t he stalking the hot-looking chick in the bustier?

Quinn lengthened her strides and flew down the street. She careened around the corner ten minutes later and galloped up the steps to her tall, skinny Federal house. Safe inside, she turned the dead bolt. Her breathing was ragged as she leaned back against the door, her body trembling. She didn’t know why.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Alexander Duval, Quinn’s significant other and newly nominated by the president to be the next director of the FBI, came through the dining room, fully dressed, a cup of coffee in his outstretched hand. Quinn smiled at the handsome man as she accepted the cup of strong, dark coffee. Quinn eyed Alex over the rim of her coffee cup. He always looked so put together, with his custom suits that fit him to perfection. His dark hair was always in place, and she knew he shaved several times a day. He had a year-round tan thanks to a tanning bed in his own personal gym at home. His eyes were slate gray, and at times she thought them hard as glass. She tried not to compare those gray eyes to Puff’s melting brown ones.

“What’s wrong? Did something happen on your run?” he asked, his face and voice reflecting concern.

“Yes. No. Oh, I don’t know. It’s just a feeling I have that someone is following me, watching me. It’s not just when I run in the morning, Alex. I felt it yesterday when I went out to lunch, and the day before that when I got in my car to drive home. Don’t look at me like that. I’m always careful, and I keep my wits about me. Hmmm, good coffee. Breakfast would have been nice,” she said lightly.

Alex twinkled. “My thoughts exactly, but unfortunately, I can’t wait for you to make it. I’ll be late tonight, and I might not even make it at all. I’ll give you a call. Be sure to turn on the alarm when you leave and don’t forget to lock the door.”

“You sound like Birdie. Don’t worry about tonight. I think I’m having dinner with her unless someone died last night and she has to attend a wake. Call me.”

Alex kissed her good-bye, not one of those peck-on-the-cheek kisses either. This kiss almost made her toes curl and her blood sing. Almost. He favored her with a wide grin and a hard pinch to her bottom. “That’s so you don’t forget me today,” he said as he headed for the door. “I’m tired of being engaged. When are you going to marry me?” he called over his shoulder.

“One of these days,” Quinn retorted as she sashayed her way to the bathroom.

Alex’s parting shot before he walked out the door was, “Your biological clock is ticking.”

It’s true, Quinn thought as she gulped the coffee in her cup. She was fast approaching forty. Who was she kidding? In two months she would be forty. Birdie was on her back all the time about settling down and raising a family. A bride needed her parents in the church when she walked down the aisle. What kind of wedding would it be without her mother and father in attendance? Hell, she didn’t even know where the happy wanderers were these days. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Alex. She did, but sometimes she compared what she felt for him to what she’d felt for Ezra Lapufsky, and it always came up short. Lately, though, she’d started to wonder if it was the sex she loved or the man himself. She just wasn’t ready to make that final commitment. For all she knew she might never be ready.

Stark naked, Quinn padded over to the shower and turned it on. While she waited for the water to warm up, she looked out the window and immediately stepped back when she thought she recognized Ezra Lapufsky. Her heart pounded against her breastbone.

Quinn opened the shower door and stepped inside just as the doorbell rang. She debated a moment before she lathered up. She never had visitors this early in the morning. Alex had a key and would have let himself in. Birdie also had a key. Puff? Not in a million years. She grimaced as she shampooed her honey blond hair.


Why now, eight long years after she’d broken up with him, was she thinking about Ezra Lapufsky? Because she felt like someone was stalking her, following her, spying on her. It was what Puff did for a living. It had to be her imagination. Or was it because Puff had been her first real love, and she’d never really gotten over him? Was that why she was dragging her feet about marrying Alex? Or…did it have something to do with Alex’s nomination?

“I hate you, Ezra Lapufsky,” she seethed as she let the steaming water cascade over her head.

Forty-five minutes later, dressed in a charcoal gray Armani suit, she walked into the kitchen to make toast for herself. The minute the slice of dark bread popped out of the toaster she spread it with the butter and jam that Alex had left on the counter. She gobbled it, finishing her coffee at the same time. It only took a minute to turn off the coffee machine, return the butter and jam to the refrigerator, and head out the back door. She was almost to her car when she heard the kitchen phone ringing. Shrugging, she ignored it. It was probably Birdie either confirming or canceling dinner that night. She’d call her aunt later.

She headed for Georgetown University, where she taught law classes three days a week. When she wasn’t teaching, she practiced law from her own offices on M Street. When she had spare time during the day, she sat in Alex’s courtroom and watched him. All in all, she had a rewarding, satisfying life.

More or less.

• • •

It was totally dark when Quinn parked her car at the side of her aunt’s yellow house on Connecticut Avenue. She loved Birdie’s old house, loved the old pine floors, with the knotholes so big you could stick your finger through them, and the sweeping spiral staircase. As a child she had slid down the banister thousands of times to land on the well-cushioned floor. Birdie still kept a pile of harem pillows clustered around the newel post at the foot of the stairs.

The sensor lights came alive as she walked from her car up the path that led to the three-story house she’d grown up in. It was always at Birdie’s that she found the most comfort and the most love. In that big, old, yellow house, was her past and sometimes even her present. One day in the future, hopefully, a very distant day, she would take up residence there again when Birdie went to what she called the big BO in the sky. Birdie always referred to heaven as the Big Obituary.

At the age of sixty-seven, Birdie was full of what she called piss and vinegar. She still wrote obituaries for three different newspapers, still visited the homeless three times a week, taking them food and clothing, and she still faithfully walked Winnie, her fourth-generation basset hound, morning, noon, and night. She also did her own gardening, cooked on occasion, and kept scrapbooks of all the deceased whose lives she had doctored up and improved upon in her obituaries. When she wasn’t tending to her normal activities, she managed to visit all nine funeral homes within a five-mile radius to pay her final respects. On a daily basis. If business at the funeral parlors was slow, which was sometimes the case, especially in late summer, according to Birdie, she worked on updating her scrapbooks. Birdie was quirky but lovable. Sometimes she was downright surly, like when she was really ticked off about something, at which point she could swear like a trooper and never bat an eye, and she didn’t care who heard her.

Grinning from ear to ear, Quinn let herself into the house and whistled for Winnie, who trotted over. She immediately lay down and rolled over for Quinn to scratch her belly.

“Lordy, Winnie, you’re getting fat. You need more exercise,” Quinn said, rubbing the dog’s belly.

“She is not getting fat. She hardly eats anything. She’s just a little broad, but it’s from neutering. I called you earlier, but there was no answer. Are you okay, baby?”

Quinn looked up at her aunt. She was as round as an orange, only five feet tall. She was dressed in her normal attire, a flowered dress that was a field of brilliant purple and white violets, and her Birkenstocks. Granny glasses perched on the tip of her nose. She peered through them, for a closer look at her niece. Her gray topknot jiggled when she huffed and puffed her way over to the staircase, where she sat down.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Alex asked me to marry him again this morning. I don’t know why I can’t say yes. I love him. I’m almost sure I do. We have a spectacular sex life. He’s a wonderful man. He’s kind, considerate, and generous. I don’t much care for his parents, but I wouldn’t be marrying them. He almost makes my blood sing sometimes. He doesn’t care about my screwball parents either. I can’t imagine my life without him in it. My God, the man was just nominated to be FBI director. What’s my problem, Birdie?” Quinn challenged her aunt.

Birdie propped her elbows on her plump knees. “Your problem is you’re crazy. You should have married that man years ago if you love him so much. I don’t understand how he puts up with you. What I really think is you still have a soft spot in your heart for that FBI agent, Ezra. What exactly does spectacular mean?” she asked slyly.

Quinn stood up. Winnie howled and proceeded to do her one and only trick—she rolled over onto her back, then rolled back onto her stomach. For that feat, which was almost impossible considering her girth, she was entitled to an Oreo cookie. When one didn’t materialize in Quinn’s hand, she howled her outrage. Quinn ran to the kitchen for the cookie and tossed it to the basset, who stretched and caught it in midair, her long ears flapping in her own breeze.

“Good girl, Winnie.” Birdie chuckled.

“You said she was on a diet and didn’t eat much. Oreo cookies aren’t for dogs; they’re for people,” Quinn said, her voice accusing.

“She doesn’t eat the cookie; she just licks the middle like I do. You’re trying to evade my question. What does spectacular mean?”

“None of your business, Birdie. Okay, okay, don’t get a puss on. It means Alex likes sex. I like sex. Together we have good sex. Really good sex. Are you happy now that you know your niece has great sex?”

“There’s more to life than sex,” Birdie sniffed as she struggled to her feet. She puffed out her cheeks as she plopped a bright blue bowler hat on her head. “Where are we going for dinner?”

“I thought we could go to Chow Li’s. He has the best egg rolls and spareribs in the city. If you want to go somewhere else, it’s fine with me.”

“It doesn’t matter where we go as long as I get back here by seven-thirty,” Birdie said. “I have two viewings this evening. I just have to get my coat so hold your horses.”

Quinn looked over at Winnie, who was sitting on her haunches. The two halves of the Oreo cookie lay on the floor. There wasn’t a speck of the white cream left on either half. “I’d like to know what she really gives you for dinner,” Quinn said.

“I heard that! She gets dry dog food, and she hates it. She’s starving herself to death.”

Quinn turned away so Birdie couldn’t see the smile on her face. Birdie cooked specially for Winnie: chicken livers, ground sirloin, roast beef, and other human foods. She said it was okay because she made sure Winnie ate her vegetables, too. Maybe she was right, since Winnie’s predecessors had all been on the same diet and lived to ripe old ages.

“So, who died today?” Quinn asked.

“Six people. Do you believe that? I said good-bye to Mabel Harrington this afternoon. I was disappointed in the job they did on her. I told Malcolm, too. She didn’t look like herself at all. I had him deepen the shade of lip gloss and add a little more rouge. They didn’t do those spit curls she favored by her ears right either. I made them fix the curls, too. You can’t go wrong with Estée Lauder products. Mabel’s daughters thanked me when Malcolm closed off the room and finished the job. She didn’t look waxy at all. I felt satisfied when I left. God only knows what they’re going to do to John Raleigh tonight. He was so grisly, with that long hair and even longer beard, if you know what I mean. Poor thing. He wanted to be laid out, but his son wanted cremation. It’s cheaper.”

“So you paid for his wake, right? I’m keeping score, Birdie. You must think you’re independently wealthy.”

“I am independently wealthy. I bought AOL when it was twenty-five cents and Intel when it was five dollars, and don’t forget Mr. Softy when it first came on the market. You really don’t want me to mention those dot com companies I got in and out of in the nick of time, do you?” Birdie smirked.

Quinn sighed. She could never win with Birdie. Every funeral home, every nursing home, every indigent in the city loved Birdie Langley. Other people took in stray dogs or became Big Brothers or Big Sisters to underprivileged youngsters, while Birdie Langley took it upon herself to give the dear departed royal send-offs.

Birdie’s Obituary Column had often been likened to Erma Bombeck’s humorous columns on life and family. Birdie professed to be flattered by the comparison. She said the first thing people her age looked at in the morning paper was the Obituary Column to see who had died the day before. She always summed it up by saying, “They’re so glad they woke up alive they can’t wait to see who wasn’t as lucky.”

Twenty minutes later, Quinn parked the car on the street across from Chow Li’s. She climbed out of the BMW, walked around to the passenger side, and opened the door for Birdie. She sensed rather than saw movement to her right. Peering into the darkness, she wasn’t able to make out a form. Maybe it was a stray dog. She shivered inside her warm jacket as she hustled Birdie across the street to the restaurant, with its orange neon lighting.

Ninety minutes later, both aunt and niece professed to be stuffed when Quinn parked her car behind Birdie’s sporty Lexus sedan.

Birdie hopped out and walked around to the driver’s side of the car. Quinn rolled down the window to kiss her aunt. “Drive carefully, baby. All we did was talk about me tonight. Let’s do this again next week and talk about you. Is it a deal?”

“Sure. Call me. I know, I know, if someone bites the dust and your services are needed, we can reschedule.”

“That’s good. Now I have to get John’s jacket and slacks and my bag and I’m off. I enjoyed dinner, baby. Next week, I pay.”

“You bought the guy clothes, too!”

“I couldn’t let him be laid out in bib overalls. He liked those funny jackets. He said he had one once. You know, they called them Nehru or something like that, with a funny little stand-up collar. I had to chase all over town to used clothing stores to find one that looked decent. They’re made out of polyester. You can’t hardly find polyester anymore.”

“But you found it! That’s my aunt Birdie!” Quinn laughed.

“Yes, I did. Night, baby. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, there’s a luncheon at the White House tomorrow. They want to give me some kind of humanitarian award. Would you like to attend? I wish Lettie,” Birdie said, referring to the first lady, “would forget she knows me.”

Quinn looked at her aunt. She knew there was no way in hell Birdie would ever attend any kind of awards ceremony, even if the award was being given to her by her former college roommate, the first lady, the wife of the president of the United States.

“I’m in court tomorrow, Birdie. I thought you hated the pomp and circumstance of the presidency, not to mention politics.” Birdie knew everything there was to know about what went on in town. She had friends who had friends who had other friends. Plus she was on a first-name basis with first lady, Lettie Jaye. Thanks to those friends, and Lettie Jaye, she knew what was going to happen before it hit the front pages of the newspapers.

“I don’t like any of those weasels in the White House but we’re stuck with them. As for the president, he’s starting to make me wonder if he’s playing with a full deck. I wish he’d get his hair color right. It seems wrong to have a president of this fine country who’s named Jimmy Jaye. Now, I ask you, how does that name play out with foreign dignitaries? Maybe I’ll just tell them to mail the award to me. The food at these banquets always stinks, the speeches are boring, and everyone just wants them to be over so they can go home. Those awards ceremonies are always so frivolous. I have more important things to do. I’m glad you brought that up, baby. I’m not going. Night.”

Quinn wasn’t about to tell her aunt she was the one who brought it up. As always, Birdie would be a no-show tomorrow, and her award would be mailed to her. She laughed all the way back to Georgetown.

As luck would have it, with her second drive around the block she found a parking space. Parking was one of the things she hated about living in Georgetown, but as Birdie said, if you wanted a designer address, you had to put up with the inconveniences. As far as Quinn was concerned, the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages. She was just minutes away from her law offices and Georgetown University. She didn’t have to worry about taking the metro or hiking over the Key Bridge to Foggy Bottom for the Blue and Orange line.

She loved the look of the residential neighborhood, with its tree-lined streets, as well as the cozy Federal, Georgian, and Victorian town houses.

The shopping was wonderful, and, when she had the time, she loved to peruse the stores on a lazy Saturday, stopping for lunch at Mr. Smith’s of Georgetown.

Knowing it was unlikely Alex would be joining her that evening, she sighed and got out of the car. She pressed the remote control on her key chain to activate her car’s security system. Seeing that the red security light glowed brightly to the right of the steering wheel, Quinn was satisfied that her car was locked down, so she started to walk the three blocks to her house on O Street.

The same eerie feeling she’d felt when she was jogging that morning settled between her shoulder blades when she was less than a block from her house. She turned to look over her shoulder. Across the street, Kevin Laker was walking his golden Lab. Farther up the street she could see a young girl walking three Yorkshire terriers on a triple leash. Other than the two dog walkers, the street appeared to be deserted.

She quickened her pace and literally ran the last hundred yards, bolting up the steps to her house two at a time. Her breathing was shallow as she fitted the key into the lock and turned it. A second later she was inside, disarming the alarm. She waited thirty seconds before she rearmed the security system. The side-by-side red lights allowed her to take a deep, relaxing breath.

She wished she had a dog. Alex had offered to get her one, but she had refused, claiming it wouldn’t be fair to subject the animal to her crazy schedule. But the real reason she’d declined his offer was because Alex wasn’t an animal person. Better to let sleeping dogs lie. No pun intended. One of these days, though, she was going to get a German shepherd or a golden retriever. Alex would just have to put up with the dog hairs. One of these days.

Quinn kicked off her shoes, the right one landing on Alex’s favorite chair. The sight pleased her. The left one landed on the cherrywood secretary. Her coat and purse went on top of the foyer settee.

It was time for a nice glass of wine and the five mini Hershey bars she indulged in every night. But not until she shed her business suit and put on her old, fuzzy robe and fleece-lined slippers.

Ten minutes later, Quinn returned to the long, narrow living room, where she turned on the gas starter in the fireplace and watched the logs Alex had arranged the previous day burst into flame. She did love a good fire. It was always nicer, though, when Alex was sitting on the sofa next to her. Wineglass in hand, Quinn turned on the big-screen TV and sat down. She eyed the ornate Pier 1 chest on her coffee table that was full of mini Hershey bars, a gift from Birdie, who somehow, some way, always managed to replenish the contents. Quinn thought her aunt did it secretly in the middle of the night when Quinn was sleeping.

Knowing she had absolutely no willpower when it came to sweets, Quinn didn’t bother trying to talk herself out of the candy. Instead she unwrapped five of the little candy bars and lined them up on the end table next to where she was sitting.

Life was good.

Will it be even better when I marry Alex? Would I be doing anything different than I’m doing now if I was married to Alex? Probably not, she thought as she stuffed her mouth with chocolate.

Would an impending marriage to Alex help his nomination? They were engaged. Wasn’t that enough of a commitment for the men and women doing the background check on him? Would they make an issue of their relationship? Alex said he didn’t care. But was that the truth? Would a commitment from her make his professional life easier? Would her background come into question? She had nothing to fear from her stint at the FBI. But her affair with Ezra Lapufsky might raise red flags.

One of the cherrywood logs in the fireplace split open with a loud, crackling sound. Quinn jumped as a shower of sparks roared up the chimney. Was that an omen of some kind? Birdie, who believed in the supernatural, would say, yes, it was an omen. Birdie would also say it was way past time to stop thinking about Puff. She would be right, too. Easier said than done.

Puff had been her first real relationship, her first love, her first sexual encounter. It hadn’t been easy to stop thinking of him after they’d broken up. Especially when she constantly dreamed about him. Her thoughts drifted from one memory to the next. Her favorite one was a particular picnic in the brutal heat of the summer in Rock Creek Park. They’d spent the entire day, from sunup to sundown, lying on a blanket talking about their hopes and dreams. They’d kissed often, hugged, and kissed some more, knowing when they returned to the skinny house in Georgetown they would make love.

That day Puff had held her hand, touched her hair, caressed her cheek, nibbled on her lips as he professed his love for her. At one point he’d held her so tight she almost squealed, but she didn’t when she heard him whisper, “Don’t ever stop loving me, Quinn.” And she’d promised to love him forever.

Birdie’s advice to get angry at the situation, at Puff, had helped. “Just keep thinking ‘used and abused,’ and you’ll get angry, then you’ll be able to get him out of your mind,” had been Birdie’s mantra during the whole time Quinn was trying to get over the FBI agent.

Damn, why am I thinking about Puff after all these years? Because of Alex’s pressing you to marry him, that’s why, she told herself.

The phone on the sofa table behind her rang. She squirmed around and reached for the portable, clicked the ON button. Thinking it was Alex, she said, “Hi, honey, how’s it going?” The heavy breathing on the other end of the phone told her it wasn’t Alex. She immediately broke the connection, her gaze going to the windows and the drapes she’d forgotten to draw earlier. She ran over and yanked the long-handled drapery rods across the front windows; then she felt safe, as if she were inside a cozy cocoon. Then she remembered the kitchen and headed back there. First she checked the sliding vertical lock at the top of the kitchen door, the dead bolt, and the vertical slider at the bottom. The front door held the same three locks.

As she yanked at the venetian blinds covering the double-hung windows over the kitchen sink, she wondered if she was being stalked.

Back in the living room, she threw two more logs on the fire and poured a second glass of wine. It occurred to her then that she hadn’t checked her voice mail after returning from dinner. She pressed in her code, listened, pressed more numbers, and finally clicked the phone off. Three hang-ups and a message from Alex saying he would see her tomorrow evening for dinner.

She rarely, if ever, got hang-ups because she had an unlisted number. On a rare occasion, she got a wrong number, but that was it.

Quinn looked at her watch. It wasn’t even nine o’clock. Too early to go to bed. She could call Birdie or maybe her friend Sadie Wilson. She scratched the idea of calling Birdie because she was always the last one to leave the funeral home after viewing hours, so she wouldn’t be home yet. But Sadie might be home. Sadie owned a small high-tech security firm that specialized in state-of-the-art security systems and had three very prestigious clients who touted her wizardry. Insisting on having a personal life even though she said she was married to her business, she somehow managed to work a nine-to-six day. She also lived in the Watergate complex, two doors down from Alex’s apartment.

The sound of Sadie’s voice when she brusquely said, “Hello,” was music to Quinn’s ears.

“Sadie, it’s Quinn. Whatcha doing? No date this evening?”

“Honey, the man hasn’t been born yet who is worthy of dating this intelligent, beautiful, kind, compassionate, caring woman.”

“Guess you had another fight with John, huh? Did you boot him out?”

“Yes, and then I threw his bowling ball after him. He doesn’t deserve me, and he knows it.”

“I’m sure he does since you remind him every day. You know you two are meant for each other. No one else would put up with either one of you. Where did he go this time?”

“Where he always goes, to Alex’s apartment, probably. I think he has a key. His being a homicide cop makes for easy conversation between the two of them. When Alex gets tired of cleaning up after him, he sends him back here. So, what’s up, girl?”

“I’m thinking of getting married. I want you to be my maid of honor.”

“You mean you’re finally going to take the plunge? What color gown do I get to wear?”

“It’s not definite. Whatever color you want. I’m in the thinking stages. Do you think it’s a good idea?”

“Well, yes, Quinn, I do. Alex worships the ground you walk on. You love him, too. You do, don’t you? He’s a hottie, and he’s got a great career ahead of him. I say snatch that sucker right up and go for it. When?”


“Yes, when? Like soon, next year, next month, what?”

“Maybe in the spring, when the lilacs bloom. I don’t know. I just said I was thinking about it. Listen, Sadie, I think I’m being stalked.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up and start from the beginning.”

Quinn did. When she finished her tale, she felt better.

“I’m coming over right now. I’ll ring the doorbell twice so you know it’s me. Do not open the door to anyone else. We’ll talk about this and jog together in the morning. Two heads are better than one. Do you have any beer, or do I have to bring my own?”

“There’s plenty of beer. It’s going to be like old times, isn’t it? Remember all those nights we used to hang out together when we worked for Puff. I should have quit when you did. Why didn’t I, Sadie?”

“Because you were young, dumb, and stupid, and you thought you were in love with that jerk Lapufsky. You kept saying it would get better.”

“I did love him, Sadie. The only problem was, he didn’t love me. Sometimes you have to get your nose rubbed in it before you can see what’s right in front of your face. I thought I saw him this morning when I looked out the bathroom window, and then someone rang my doorbell when I was getting ready to take a shower. Yes, I had the alarm on.”

“Just stay put and I’ll be there in nothing flat. Turn down my bed and don’t forget to put a few of those mini Hershey bars on my pillow.”

Quinn laughed. She felt better already.

About The Author

Photo Credit: Emmet Martin

New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels has a passion for romance, often with a dash of suspense and drama. It stems from her other joys in life—her family, animals, and historic home. She is usually found in South Carolina, where she is either tapping out stories on her computer, rescuing or supporting animal organizations, or dabbling in some kind of historical restoration.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pocket Books (January 28, 2020)
  • Length: 448 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982123451

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