Tycoon David Falcon needed a wife. Not someone to actually marry but a superefficient, multitasking woman who'd keep his household humming along smoothly. Single mother Valerie Sinclair seemed the ideal candidate. Until an evening out led to an unexpected kiss.Organizing the businessman's hectic life was one thing. Wanting to share his life wasn't part of the deal. But once Valerie got a taste of being David's girlfriend--even just for one night--how could she go back to being his stand-in spouse?
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June 30, 2008
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Excerpt from The Bachelor's Stand-in Wife by Susan Crosby
David Falcon dragged his hands down his face as a woman took a seat across the desk from him.
"Well?" she asked.
"What's to think about? I just interviewed my twelfth candidate in two days, and I finally realized I'm delusional to hope I can find someone who fits my needs." He tipped his chair back to look at Denise Watson, the efficient, thirtysomething director of At Your Service, a prestigious domestic-and-clerical-help agency nicknamed by many clients as "Wives for Hire." They were seated in her interview room.
"If you have to compromise on something, what would it be?" Denise asked.
He'd been doing a lot of compromising lately--for three years, in fact. He wasn't interested in more of the same. "I'm not giving up on the ideal yet. You've got other candidates, right?"
"From my own staffing pool. As you pointed out, you have specific and complex needs. I'd be happy to advertise and screen them for you."
"What are your thoughts about the one remaining?"
She set a folder on the desk in front of him and smiled. "I've learned not to second-guess the client."
He half smiled in return. "Send her in, please." He skimmed the woman's r�sum�. Ten years' experience as a domestic, seven in clerical jobs. He speculated on her age-- midthirties to forty, maybe? There were too many questions he wasn't allowed to ask legally, tying his hands, leaving him only intuition and guesswork about her age. He was twenty-nine. It was critical that she be older than him.
"Hello. I'm Valerie Sinclair," came a quiet but level voice.
He looked up. The woman was either extraordinarily well preserved or had lied about her work experience. She didn't look a day over twenty-five. She wore a dress and jacket that was way too formal and warm for a hot August day in Sacramento, as if trying to look older. And her hair, a rich, shiny color, like chestnuts, was bundled up in some kind of bun or whatever that style was called, but couldn't take away from her young age. Her eyes were hazel and direct. No rings on her slender fingers; her nails were short, clean and unpolished.
"I'm David Falcon. Please, have a seat," he said, wondering how she'd passed At Your Service's background check. She had to have lied--
To hell with the law, he decided. If she could lie about her work experience, he could ask the questions he wanted to. "How old are you, Ms. Sinclair?"
She stiffened. "I'm twenty-six."
"How is it you have seventeen years of work experience? You started working when you were nine?"
"Eight, actually. Not legally, of course, but my mother has been housekeeper for a family in Palm Springs since I was five. I was put to work early."
"In the beginning, dusting and sweeping. New responsibilities were added as I could handle them."
"Your mother allowed you to be used like that?"
"Used?" She smiled slightly. "Didn't you do chores as a child? The family wasn't in residence full-time. We lived on-site. It was my home."
David didn't know what to think. On the one hand it seemed that child labor laws were violated. On the other, her point was well taken--to a point. "Did you receive a salary?"
"An allowance from my mother, which increased as my responsibilities did. I don't think it's worth a lot of discussion, Mr. Falcon. My understanding is that you're looking for someone to run your household and also be your administrative assistant. I listed the domestic work so that you would know I had a lot of experience in that field."
David studied her. She was...soothing, he decided. Her feathers didn't ruffle easily.
"May I ask the nature of your business?" she asked.
"My brother and I own Falcon Motorcars."
"I've never heard of that make."
"They're custom-made. Our clients aren't the average car buyers, so we don't need to advertise. Most buyers are European, which is why I've been out of the country more than I've been home the past few years. Which is also why I'm looking for someone to take charge of things here, personally and professionally."
"Denise said you want a live-in."
A wife without the sex was what he wanted. Someone experienced, efficient and of a certain age. "That's a requirement. Is that a problem?"
"Not at all."
"Given the time difference between California and the continent, you might be awakened during the night to take care of business for me, or work until midnight, or get up at four."
"I can do that."
"How are your computer skills?"
"Denise tested me on five different programs. I assume the results are in my folder."
He found the report and read it, letting her wait, testing her patience. She didn't fidget. "Why did you leave your last job?"
"Sexual harassment." She said it as easily as she might have said she'd gone to the grocery store.
He flattened his hands on top of the folder. "Did you file suit?"
Again that slight smile touched her lips. "I was accused of sexual harassment."