Marcy Monroe is a woman with her priorities straight-school and career first, then a husband and children. And to pay her tuition, she takes a job as a housekeeper for a professor-and soon realizes that her new boss might prove to be a distraction from her goals. A very tempting distraction... Eric Sheridan is ready to start a family... as soon as he can find a suitable wife, that is. And his sexy, if career oriented, employee is most certainly not the kind of woman he had in mind! Still, keeping close quarters with independent Marcy soon wrecks Eric's ideas about what he wants for his future... and an unexpected night of passion has the professor wishing he could hire Marcy's services on a permanent basis-as his Mrs.!
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September 01, 2011
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Excerpt from His Temporary Live-in Wife by Susan Crosby
"You want me to house-sit a vacant home? There's no furniture? Nothing?" Marcy Monroe asked her employer, bewildered. The request was a first in her four years of working for At Your Service, a Sacramento high-end temp agency. "Who hires someone to do that?"
"A cautious man, apparently." The agency owner, Julia Swanson, smiled in that serene way she had. "I thought since your other house-sitting job fell through, you wouldn't mind. The client will pay for a cot and sleeping bag." She handed Marcy a sheet of paper. "Here's a list of what he'll need done in the next few days. As you can see, you'll be busy. He bought it as a foreclosure, so it's not in perfect shape. The job is much more than house-sitting. He'll pay double your rate."
"Tell him to triple it and I'll do the cleaning, too," she muttered, perusing the task list. "It'll save him having to hire a service, and it'll keep me occupied while I'm there."
Julia picked up the phone and dialed.
Marcy waved both hands, the paper flapping. "Julia, stop. I'm kidding!"
"You're kidding about offering to do the cleaning?" Julia asked.
"No, I'd do it, but--"
"Eric, hi, it's Julia Swanson...... Yes, she's sitting in my office right now. She wanted me to tell you she's willing to do the cleaning, too, for an extra fee..."
That sneaky Julia, Marcy thought. She couldn't say no now, and Julia knew it. "I don't do windows," Marcy whispered loudly.
"Of course. Here she is." Her eyes shimmering, Julia held out the phone to Marcy. "He'd like to speak with you."
Marcy shook her head at Julia but had to take the phone. "This is Marcy Monroe."
"Eric Sheridan, Ms. Monroe. Thank you very much for accepting the job. I can't tell you what a relief that is to me."
She almost sighed. It was obviously a done deal. "I'm glad I can help."
"You know the house has been vacant for months. It needs a great deal of elbow grease. Plus, it's one-and-a-half stories, with lots of windows."
Great, she thought. Just great. "That's fine."
He hesitated a beat. "Did Julia show you the list?"
"Yes, and I don't foresee any problems, Mr. Sheridan. You can relax. I'm quite competent."
"I was already promised that. I'm leaving New York City today to drive across the country. Feel free to call me anytime you have questions. I'd rather not be surprised when I get there."
"I will, thanks."
"If you would put Julia back on, please?"
Marcy passed her the phone and watched Julia laugh at something the man said. He'd been all business with her. Marcy couldn't imagine what was so funny-- unless it had to do with her somehow.
After a few seconds, Julia hung up. "He said to hire a window-cleaning service."
Marcy felt her face heat. "He heard me say that?"
"Apparently. Or he's clairvoyant."
"What does he do?"
"He'll be teaching mathematics for the fall quarter at UC Davis starting next month."
A mathematician--which probably meant he was a stickler for details and more pragmatic than fun. She'd met several in her past life as a flight attendant. "I'll only be dealing with him, no one else?"
"Right." Julia leaned forward. "I know you feel trapped into accepting the job, Marcy, but if you're really not interested, you can back out."
"No, I'll do it. It's just so weird staying in an empty house, you know? Kind of creepy."
"Invite a friend to stay overnight with you, if you want." She passed Marcy an envelope. "Here's the key and some cash for supplies. The utilities have been turned on. Thank you so much for doing this. I think he could end up being a long-time client for other occasions."
Marcy said goodbye then took the stairs down three flights from the downtown Sacramento office. Julia's business was often nicknamed "Wives for Hire" because of jobs like this one.
Marcy decided to check out the client's house before shopping for supplies, so she headed for the town of Davis, a half hour's drive from Sacramento. She pulled up in front of a quaint Craftsman-style home with wood-shake siding, rock pillars and a wraparound porch, a masculine-looking structure. That was the upside.
The downside was a lawn and landscaping that had died for lack of watering during however long it had been in foreclosure.
And the windows? She counted twenty-four just on the front.
She stepped out of the car, the late August heat hitting her squarely in the face. Today marked the seventh day in a row the temperature had reached one hundred, although the stately old trees that lined the block provided good shade. It was an old, established neighborhood of well-maintained, decades-old houses, the kind of place where kids could play in the street without too much worry.
Grateful she didn't have to wash the multitude of windows, Marcy was smiling as she opened the front door and stepped inside a wide living room that looked as if it had been a frat house once. Everything needed painting. Walls needed repair. The floors were dirty, but seemed to have weathered the storm well enough.
Like most Craftsman houses, it wasn't open-concept, but separate rooms. In the dining room she discovered a broken window with glass scattered across the floor, and footprints--human and animal--in the accumulated dust. The half bath was filthy. So was the kitchen.
The cabinets were usable but the appliances and countertops old and in need of replacement. Upstairs were three bedrooms and two bathrooms, one within the master suite that must have been renovated sometime in the past twenty years. Overhead light fixtures had been ripped out, and although the walls weren't badly damaged, they needed paint.
The house would sparkle like a gem when it was clean and fixed up, but it was going to take a lot of effort to get it to that point.
She regretted telling the owner she would do the cleaning. It was a much bigger job than she'd expected.
Marcy glanced at the to-do list. Painters were to arrive starting the next day. An interior designer was on the schedule. The moving van was due on Friday, four days from now. Mr. Sheridan hoped to arrive on Saturday, perhaps Sunday.
Marcy wandered into the backyard, which had a covered deck and built-in barbecue that had somehow survived with only a little weather-related damage. The lot wasn't overly large, and the neighbors fairly close, but a fence surrounded the property as well as enough greenery to maintain some privacy.
Someone on a bicycle came barreling down the driveway, a teenage boy, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old.
"Hi," he said, getting off his bike but holding on to it. "I'm Dylan. I saw the For Sale was taken down. Are you the new owner? 'Cause I'm looking for work, and this place could use it. I know I don't look it, but I'm strong."
There was a desperateness about him that drew her sympathy. He was rib-showing skinny, and his hair hadn't been cut in a while.
"I'm sorry, Dylan. I don't have any authority to hire anyone. Maybe if you come back next week?"
More than disappointment crossed his face. Despair? Hopelessness?
She dug into her pocket, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and tucked it into his hand. "Come back next week, okay?"
He didn't debate about taking the money, which told her a lot. He mumbled his thanks then took off.
She watched him until he was out of sight, then walked the perimeter, checking out the neglected yard. She returned to the house to make a list before calling the new owner.
"Mr. Sheridan, this is Marcy Monroe. I'm at your house. When was the last time you saw it?"
"Call me Eric, please. I saw it three months ago, why?"
"There's damage in almost every room." She told him what she'd found. "Was the house in that condition when you saw it?"
"No." Annoyance coated the single word.
"We should postpone the painters until the walls are fixed, don't you think? I know it's going to throw your schedule off, but I don't see that you have a choice."
He blew out a breath. "My Realtor didn't tell me. She should have."
"Maybe she didn't know. It's hard to tell when it happened. I think the first priority is to fix the broken window. And honestly, I don't want to stay here until I know it's secure."
"I believe an occupied house will scare off vagrants and prevent more damage from occurring, which is why I asked for someone to spend the night." "But--"
"But I agree about the window," he said, interrupting her before she got started on her argument. "Go ahead and have that fixed, today if possible. Offer a bonus, if necessary. After that, I'd like you to stay at night, as planned. Unless you don't want the job now?"
She was tempted to back out, but she prided herself on her reliability. She'd agreed to the job. She would stick it out. Plus, the work involved a whole lot of money, and she wouldn't turn that down. It would help make up for losing out on the two-week house-sitting job she'd counted on.
"I'm not quitting," she said. "Actually, I'm used to sleeping in strange houses, although not unfurnished ones. I also wondered if you want me to buy a vacuum cleaner."
"I have one, but it's in the moving van. Doesn't do much good there, does it?"
"I can borrow one. I should get going. There's a lot to do."
"I appreciate your checking with me."
She pushed the end button and stared at her phone. He had a pleasant voice. More than that, really--an enticing voice, deep and clear, although a somewhat-formal tone. She didn't think students would have any trouble listening to him lecture.
She should've asked Julia how old he was. She had no visual image of him. He sounded settled. Professorial. She pictured a man in his sixties, wearing a sweater vest and tweed jacket with elbow patches.
Marcy smiled at the stereotype that formed in her head. She wasn't anywhere near settled, but twenty-eight and still working toward her educational goals, and then to a career to sustain her through good times and bad.
Her future was something she could ponder forever, but for now she had a job to do--get the window fixed so she could spend her first night in the cave Eric Sheridan called home.