Event planner Jenny Hall didn't have time for men. Between organizing a bachelor auction and caring for her son, she barely had time for herself! So she was stunned when her friends pooled together the money at the auction to buy her a date with Eric Logan, billionaire playboy--and Jenny's secret crush since childhood. Even more surprising was Eric's interest in her!
Eric was shocked to see that the shy girl he remembered had become a stunning and confident woman. When their dream date turned into a quiet night at home, he couldn't shake his growing attraction to her. And as Eric got to know Jenny, he found himself longing to make her his--forever.
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September 01, 2010
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Excerpt from The Bachelor by Marie Ferrarella
Elaine Winthrop Hall hooked her Donna Karan-clad arm through her daughter's, and accompanied her into the living room. Jenny knew her mother was trying hard to keep from commenting on Jenny's shapeless sweatshirt and her small apartment.
Jenny called the room cozy; her mom called it tiny, pointing out that she had bigger walk-in closets. But square-footage meant nothing to Jenny.
Neither, her mother was always quick to interject, did prestige, breeding and other people's opinions. People who counted.
Elaine's perfectly made-up eyes slanted a glance at the small four-year-old boy who sat on the carpet in the middle of the room, silently playing with an imaginary friend. Jenny knew Cole was the reason she'd come to these crammed quarters, to once more try to talk some sense into her ''obstinate'' daughter's head.
The woman didn't have to speak for Jenny to know what was on her mind. It was all fine and good to let your heart rule once in a while, she'd say, but that should involve the matter of men over the height of three feet, not small "anchors" that would only get in the way of the family's best-laid plans for the future of their only daughter.
Elaine finally spoke, modulating her voice to something that could pass as a stage whisper. "He's not your problem, Jennifer," she insisted not for the first time. "He's not your responsibility."
It had been a very long, very stressful day, following on the heels of other equally long, equally stressful days. Jenny surprised herself by finding an untapped vein of patience. She always tried to keep an ample supply under the heading of "Mother," but she'd been pretty certain that she'd exhausted the allotment on their last visit.
Nice to know some of the patience had managed to regenerate itself.
"He is not a problem," Jenny told her mother softly but firmly. "And he is my responsibility. I gave my word to a dying woman."
This was not news to her mother. Jenny had already said as much several times over when she'd explained to both of her parents why she was adopting the once sunny child. Jenny studied her mother's perfectly made-up face, searching for a hint that the milk of human kindness was not a myth, but existed within the breast of the woman she, despite so many shortcomings, really did love.
She tried again. For the umpteenth time. "What would you have me do, Mother, go back on that? Go back on my word? You were the one who taught me to honor my commitments, remember?"
The woman sighed. "To honor them, yes, but you keep this up and you'll be the one being committed. To an institution." She glanced again at the little boy and shook her head. "There are places for children like Cole. Lots of people would love to adopt him. He's still viable."
"Viable?" Jenny stared at her mother in disbelief. "He's not a plant, Mother, he's a little boy. A little boy who's been through a great deal, who saw his mother die." What did it take for her mother to finally get it? She was Cole's last chance. If she couldn't get through that protective wall he'd constructed around himself, no one could. "You want me to run out on him, too?"
Elaine pressed her lips together. Jenny knew her mother didn't like coming off as a villainness, but the woman had been shaped by decades of adhering to rules and regulations about what was permissible and proper, all of which prevented her from even leaning toward her daughter's side.
Casting the boy a glance, the older woman said, "I'm not saying run out on him exactly, just give him to a family. A traditional family." Jenny knew that her mother had never approved of one-parent families. In Elaine Hall's world, you began with a husband and wife, then you introduced children into the setting. Anything else was unpardonable. Her mother had nearly had apoplexy when she'd told her about adopting Cole.
"You know, Jenny,'' the woman continued, ''You're not SuperWoman."
Jenny hated having limits applied to her, hated all the rules her mother lived by. They were like something from another century. "Just because you don't want me to be doesn't mean it's not so."
Elaine paused, looked at her oddly, then shook her head. "You always could confuse me with your rhetoric."
Jenny grinned. "Call it a self-defense mechanism." Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that she'd skipped lunch and the dinner hour had already arrived and was in jeopardy of leaving. "If you wanted to browbeat me, Mother, you could have e-mailed."
Her mother frowned, transforming her attractive face into a weary one. "What I want is for my daughter to find her rightful place in the world."
Translation, Jenny thought, what her mother deemed to be a rightful place. They were worlds apart when it came to that. Her mother didn't approve of Jenny's career, her apartment, her almost monastic lifestyle. Not that the latter had much appeal for her, either, but until they found a way to create more hours in the day, dating and men were just going to have to stay on the back burner.
Jenny tried to keep her voice cheerful. "News flash, I have."
"What?" Elaine fisted her hands at her waist and forgot all about her stage whisper. Cole looked her way and she dropped her voice an octave. "In that awful legal aid firm, housed in a building with faulty electrical wiring and bad plumbing?"
Trust her mother to hone in on the bad points. But the firm had to be where the poor people were, not in some upscale building in the best part of Portland. "We took the landlord to court over that," she informed her mother, then added proudly, "and won."
"What is wrong with being a lawyer in a respectable, well-known firm? What's wrong with trying to make money?"
Jenny straightened the newspaper she'd left in disarray that morning. Other than that, nothing was out of place in the apartment. Cole was in preschool most of the day. When Sandra, her baby-sitter brought him home, Cole rarely touched any of the toys Jenny had bought for him. They remained in the toy box, leaving her nothing to tidy up now. She was forced to look at her mother as she fought the good fight and tried to remind herself that she wasn't ten years old anymore.
"Nothing is wrong with making money," she replied. "I'm trying to make it for my clients."
Elaine's frown deepened. "I meant for yourself."
"I don't need much money." Leaving Cole in the living room, she moved into the kitchen, several steps away, and began getting out dishes in anticipation of calling out for a pizza. Her mother had arrived just as she was about to dial the phone, postponing the order. "Haven't you heard, Mother? The best things in life are free."
Elaine scoffed. "It wasn't true when Al Jolson sang it, and it's not true now." A note of desperation entered the woman's voice. "This is breaking my heart, Jennifer. You're wasting your talent and your life."
Jenny felt sorry for her mother. They were never going to see eye to eye about this. "My life, Mother, my talent."
Elaine closed her eyes, momentarily retreating. "Your brother told me this was a waste of time."
At the mention of Jordan, Jenny grinned again. She needed to get in touch with him and soon. "My brother, at times, is wise beyond his years." She thought of a way to usher her mother out without resorting to anything physical. "Want to stay for dinner? I was just about to order a pizza."
Elaine cringed. A pizza had yet to ever cross her perfectly shaped lips. "I have an engagement."
This time it was Jenny who hooked her arm through her mother's and very gently escorted her toward the door. "Of course you do. Don't let me keep you from it." Separating herself from her mother, she opened the door. "Your mission was a failure, Mother, but it was nice seeing you."
Crossing the threshold, Elaine paused long enough to turn around and shake her head. "Do you realize that there are girls who would kill to have your background and opportunities?"
And if she didn't, Jenny thought, there was her mother to remind her. Endlessly. To her credit, she didn't roll her eyes. "By all means, Mother, give it to one of them before someone gets hurt."
Elaine drew herself up. "Everything isn't a joke, Jennifer."
"No," she admitted, although heaven knew both her parents could do with a little more humor in their lives, "but if you smile, you can get through anything." She leaned forward and brushed a dutiful kiss against her mother's cheek. "Smile once in a while, Mother. It keeps the lines at bay." And then, straightening, Jenny took pity on her mother. "If it makes you feel any better, I'm chairing the annual bachelor auction again for the Parents Adoption Network. Some of your society ladies are bound to be there, drooling over the eligible studs who'll be parading around."
Elaine's eyes narrowed. "Don't be vulgar, Jennifer. A lady doesn't drool."
Jenny held up an index finger, begging to differ. "A lady doesn't let anyone see her drool," she corrected with a grin.
In the face of undeniable defeat, Elaine squared her shoulders, a determined soldier to the end. "You are impossible."
Jenny cocked her head. "Yes, but I love you and you've got another one at home to work your magic on."
"Jordan doesn't live at home, Jennifer. He hasn't for years now. You know that."
Her mother had always been a stickler for precision. "Figure of speech, Mother," she said as she began to close the door.
Elaine stopped her for one last-minute order. "Eat something."
Jenny held up her right hand, taking a solemn oath. "The moment they deliver it," she promised, then closed the door quickly just in case her mother changed her mind and found something else to criticize. She leaned against it, looking out toward the living room and Cole. "That woman spreads joy whenever she goes." She sighed, straightening, then walked into the living room. "She doesn't mean anything by it, Cole. She's really got a good heart. It's just hard to find under all those layers of designer clothes and jewels."
She glanced through the window. It faced the parking area and she could see her mother getting into her car, assisted by the chauffeur. Jenny tried to remember if she'd ever seen her mother actually driving a car, but couldn't.
"It's true what they say, you know, the rich are different from you and me." She nodded as if the boy had responded. It was something she did each evening in the hopes that someday she could coax more than a word or two at a time out of him. A precocious little boy, he'd talked all day long--until his mother had died. "Right, I know what you're thinking. That I'm one of them, but I'm not. You can't hold the accident of birth against me, you know. I didn't ask to be part of the elite and I got out as soon as I could."
Which was true. She never felt as if she fit into her parents' world, not really. The girls her mother wanted her to socialize with were so shallow, so vapid. She had more of an affinity for the people she was trying to help, but she didn't quite fit in their world, either. Jenny sighed quietly. There were times that she felt like a fish with feet. She could swim in one world and walk in the other, but fit in neither.
"The privileged think just that--that it's a privilege for anyone else to look upon them. They don't realize that floating from cocktail party to cocktail party around the world doesn't lead you to discover the true meaning of life."
Cole merely went on playing with his imaginary friend as if she hadn't said anything at all, but she tried to convince herself that the sound of her voice was comforting to him somehow. She remembered the boy he had been until six months ago, a bright, sunny child who laughed all the time. But he had been very attached to Rachel and her death had hit him very hard.
Almost right after the funeral, when the death had finally sunk in, he withdrew from the world. He hardly spoke at all, but he screamed in his nightmares, calling for Rachel, pitifully sobbing out "Mommy" over and over again.
She would rush into his room and hold him until he'd fallen back asleep again, her own heart breaking. Someday, Jenny promised herself, someday, she was going to reach him. Until then, she would go on being there for Cole.
Jenny glanced at the kitchen table where the file she'd brought home lay spread out, covering every square inch of surface. She was in the middle of a court battle on behalf of Miguel Ortiz. If she won, it would go a long way to easing the man's life. It would never, barring a miracle, put him back on his feet again, or free him from the endless pain he'd been subjected to ever since a highly respected and highly inebriated surgeon had worked less than magic on his spine, but it would pay for Miguel's bills and allow the man to regain some measure of self-respect.