Can She Listen To Her Heart...
Disillusioned by love and dreading her thirtieth birthday, Amberlina Nash is determined to snag a rich man by spending the summer mingling with the country club set on Martha's Vineyard. But when Amber meets charismatic hotel manager Don Randall, she struggles to maintain her polished alter ego--and fights the possibility that what she wants and what she needs might be two different things...
When Love Isn't Part Of The Plan?
Serial playboy Sheldon St. Romaine has spent the past year running one of his father's hotels to prove he has a knack for the business. To guests, he is the modest and accommodating Don Randall, whom Amber finds irresistible. But she's certain he lacks the bank account she's really after. While both are harboring secrets, neither can deny the passion that ignites between them...
"Too good to resist." --Romantic Times on Opposites Attract
"Filled with suspense, sensitivity, and sensual heat." --Booklist on You Made Me Love You
"Hailstock is a master storyteller whose characters linger in the heart." --Susan Elizabeth Phillips
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Kensington Publishing Corporation
March 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Some Like Them Rich by Shirley Hailstock
Life had to change. Specifically, my life. Never again would I let a man put me through what Emile had. It had been a year since we separated for good. Add that to the two years we were together. I gave that man three years of my life. And what did I have to show for it?
Nothing, except muted pain and knowledge. He taught me well. And now I was done. From now on, I was no longer looking for love. Rich was just as good. Maybe better. No, definitely better. As my best friend, Jack, that's Jacynthia Sterling, liked to say, "It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one." Not that she'd put practice to her words. But they are good words. Ones I intended to live by.
So love, the now-and-forever, dying-for-you type of love, was no longer on the menu. Rich is the operative word. I'm a woman of action, never sitting back and letting things happen, so when I decide to do something, I waste no time in researching the options.
You see, I'm not so impulsive that I don't think things through before starting the engine. I'd done that with Emile. At least I thought I had. He was French, born and bred. A second-generation war baby with beautiful latte skin, dark eyes that oozed chocolate, a smile that melted my heart, and an accent that charmed my clothes off. Unfortunately, he proved to be a French pastry that was more puff than substance.
Emile was the grandchild of a Parisian nurse and a U.S. soldier who'd met briefly during World War II. He'd come to America to study at Columbia University and stayed on working at the United Nations until several months ago, when he'd dumped me and returned to his native France.
One thing I would miss was our time in bed, which was most of the time. I fanned myself, using both hands, as heat flashed through me. My body still went hot when I thought of some of the things we did in bed--and other various places that will not be named or revisited.
I plunged into life, lust, and love with Emile. From the moment those beautiful eyes found mine, I thought I'd found the mother lode. I had fantasies of spending my life with him, but that is where the understanding between us ended. Even with a two year association, great sex, and conversations that went long into the night, he was not interested in stepping up our relationship.
So we stepped it down.
He was gone. Good riddance! And now I was on to another plan. And another man. You see, I wasn't totally off the species. And I didn't want to make the next one pay for Emile's shortcomings. We all get born naked and new, without the knowledge of someone else's baggage.
So here's the plan. The Amberlina Nash Marriage Plan. That's me. Amber. It reads Amberlina on my birth certificate, but no one would dare call me that except Jack and my mother. And both of them would have to be really angry to do it.
But back to the plan: go to a place where the richest black men under fifty hung out. I really wanted one who was under forty, but in a stretch, who knows? I wasn't someone who wanted to marry a man three times my age. I didn't want to nurse him into the casket and make off with his money. I was perfectly willing to try the love thing. Again.
I'd certainly be the best wife he ever thought he deserved. But I was not going to fall so hard that I lost my mind. My reward for playing the role was to live in luxury. Houses, clothes, cars, kids--notice they are all plural--and membership in the country club. If I was really lucky, there'd be travel, political or embassy parties. I'd also sit on charity boards and make a valid contribution to underprivileged causes. I'm not totally shallow.
But country clubs and underprivileged causes would have to wait. First I had to find the perfect husband--well, the almost perfect husband. So where are rich, black men under fifty?
My face fell a few hours later as the computer screen displayed the spreadsheet I'd created. "It won't be enough," I said out loud. This plan called for enough money for me to appear rich. People with money tended to like to keep it close. It was a small group, and admittance to it was rare.
But not impossible.
I looked at the spreadsheet again. I'd tabulated the columns up, down, and across, and I knew even with the technology of a machine to do my arithmetic that I didn't have enough money. The sheet stared back at me as if accusing me of being poorer than I wanted to be. The Amberlina Nash Marriage Plan was in bold across the top. Along with the dates: June through August. In the next three months, I was going to find a husband.
But as I looked at the numbers that made up my bank account, I couldn't make them change to meet my needs if I was to get this venture off the ground. I needed partners. Of course I could count on Jack to help out. She didn't approve of most of my plans, but she tolerated them, saying when they blow up she'd be there to carry me to the hospital or plan my funeral, whichever came first. Jack had a good heart and was always looking for Mr. Right and finding Mr. Wrong. Well, I had a deal she couldn't refuse.
Not that I would let her.
Jack was instrumental for my campaign, the future one. She'd been there to help out in the past, like when Emile boarded the plane and flew back to some unpronounceable city in France and I went on a chocolate and Chinese food binge while crying rivers of tears for three days. But that was part of my past. I was only looking forward now.
Jack, recently joining the ranks of downsized employees (as if that term meant shedding weight), could research anything and anybody. That would be useful since I wanted to make sure the guys we spent our time on had bank accounts to afford us. So she was a given. I just had to convince her. Or more likely tell her the plan and that she was in. No discussion. No dissension. I needed her. She'd be there.
"Are you crazy?" Jack's voice was accusatory.
"That's my entire life savings." Several hours later we sat in her kitchen, a high-ceilinged, muted yellow room that had been painted and repainted at least a thousand times. It overlooked Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and that was the best thing about it.
"Jack, you work for an insurance company."
"Worked," she corrected. "As in the past tense."
Jack's voice was definitely alto, but when she was angry, upset, or nervous, it took on a shrill quality.
"All right, you worked for an insurance company," I conceded. "What's your life expectancy?"
Jack's eyes rolled up toward the ceiling as if she was thinking. Then she looked at me and ticked the characteristics on her fingers. "Black female, unmarried, doesn't smoke or do drugs, exercises occasionally but is still slightly overweight."
She paused, staring at me, waiting for a comment. While she was more than slightly overweight, I wisely clamped my jaws together. Jack was taller than I was and outweighed me by thirty pounds. But on her it looks good. I wouldn't say it, because even a compliment like that veiled an insult.
"My life expectancy is about seven-five to eighty years, more if I eat healthier and start a regular exercise program."
"See, you've got time to amass another life savings. Take a chance. If you're lucky, you can marry your life savings."
Jack cut her eyes at me as if I'd set her up. And, of course, I had.
"I swear, Amberlina, you come up with the most asinine schemes anybody has ever heard of. Who would think of going to a music festival to find a husband?"
"Rich husband," I corrected her. "Let's get our adjectives correct." I paused for effect. "It's not just a music festival. It's on Martha's Vineyard. It's a huge gathering of black people coming to hear the greatest musicians of our time. You know how black people love their music. The Vineyard is a perfect place to assure us of meeting wealthy men."
Jack stared at me as if that was not a valid explanation. She waited for me to continue. Her expression didn't change and her foot didn't move, but I could hear the toe-tapping impatience vibrate through the air.
"Jack, we're getting older. We'll be thirty in two years. Have you thought about what you want to do with your life? Do you want to stay in these rooms for your actuarial lifetime?"
Jack's chin dropped a fraction before she raised it again. "I don't have to go to a music festival to find a husband."
"No, there are plenty ofmen right here in Brooklyn." I spread my arms, taking in the entire New York borough.
Jack nodded as if she'd won an argument. "And you've lived here all your life?"
"So have you." She cut her eyes at me for asking a stupid question.
Refusing to be deterred, I pressed on. "How many of those men have you met that you'd consider husband material?"
From the expression on her face, Jack seemed to be reviewing her history of male relationships. "If I considered any of them worthy, I'd have married him by now."
"Does that mean you're in?"
She stared me down for a long moment. I refused to drop my gaze. I believed in the plan. We had to do something. No man was going to come knocking on our doors and say here I am. We had to go find them. And this festival was a place where men gathered. The Vineyard provided sun, sand, music, moonlight, and sports men liked, with the exception of football and basketball. But there was always television to cover testosterone-reeking men, and anyway, summer put those sports on hiatus.
"What about my apartment?" Jack asked. "I can't afford to pay rent and go away for three months. Especially since I now don't have a job."
"Jack, give up the damn apartment," I said. "You don't like it anyway."
Jack's legs and arms went slack and she slumped back in her chair as if every muscle in her body had suddenly relaxed, including her jaws--her mouth opened as if to catch flies.
"Give it up? And what am I supposed to do when I come back? After you lose all my savings, I'll be both poor and homeless."
"You can find another apartment. You can move in with the man you meet. You can stay with me until you find something if nothing pans out. There will be options, Jack. Stop putting obstacles in the way and get onboard."
"All right," she sighed after a long delay. "I'm in." Her voice held none of the enthusiasm I had hoped for.
"Good. Now we need a third."
"Pooling our money won't be enough. We're hunting big-time, Jack. We need to be able to put on a good show, and for that we're going to need someone else. Preferably someone we won't mind spending the summer with."
The house sat across from the ocean, a hundred yards or so from the famous beach, the Inkwell.
The place was a huge Victorian with a wide porch and plenty of gingerbread scrollwork.