The Kept Woman(2)

By: Susan Donovan

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." Monte 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 Monte 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."

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