For the Marcelli sisters of California wine country, the season is ripe for romance!
Francesca Marcelli married at eighteen -- right on schedule, according to her warm, colorful family, who have always said a beauty like Francesca need never worry about finding love. But a few years later, finding herself on her own with a wide open future ahead of her, she pursues her educational passions -- with a risky experiment that takes her straight into the arms of playboy CEO Sam Reese. Delighted by Francesca's interest in a no-strings relationship, Sam suddenly finds himself needing her outside the bedroom when a secret from his past lands on his doorstep. But Francesca soon has a secret of her own to tell -- a bombshell that will force the diehard bachelor to show his true colors. Are there "I do"s in Sam and Francesca's future? Only if she can persuade him that home truly is where the heart finds happiness.
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October 01, 2003
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Excerpt from The Sassy One by Susan Mallery
Francesca Marcelli had only been pregnant for twenty minutes and already her back hurt.
"Talk about realistic," she muttered, adjusting the straps that held her fake eight-months-pregnant belly in place. The size was daunting enough -- she couldn't see her feet or find a comfortable sitting position -- but the weight was the real killer. Someone with a twisted sense of humor had decided to simulate what felt like the pressure of a baby elephant. The small of her back screamed out in protest, while unexpected pressure on her bladder made her want to duck into the nearest ladies' room.
"All for a good cause," she reminded herself.
Francesca shifted to ease the throbbing in her back and leaned against the heavy cart she'd maneuvered into the service elevator of the six-story bank building. When the doors opened, she shoved her overloaded cart into the main hallway. Stacks of boxes wobbled precariously and threatened to tumble onto the carpeted floor.
It was just after five on a Friday afternoon. All around her dozens of businesspeople headed for the main elevators to start their weekend. Francesca pushed up her glasses and paused to smooth down the front of the ugliest maternity dress she'd been able to find. The oversize collar dwarfed her shoulders and made her head look too small. The pinks and roses of the busy floral print sucked all the color from her pale olive skin. She'd brushed powder into her hair to lighten it to a mousy brown. The little makeup she'd put on had been applied to make her look tired, drawn, and unattractive.
She glanced at her watch, then squared her shoulders as she prepared to begin work.
"Show time," she said softly, not that anyone was listening.
Three men from the insurance office at the end of the hall walked past her without even giving her a nod. Francesca continued to push her pile of packages slowly against the flow of foot traffic. Two women in suits gave her a quick, sympathetic smile. A man and a woman, both carrying expensive-looking briefcases, followed. The woman looked, the man didn't.
Another corridor branched to the left. Francesca shifted her cart to make the turn. Several boxes went tumbling. A single man walked by without breaking his stride. A college-age girl stopped long enough to help Francesca pick up the boxes, then hurried toward the elevator with a call to "Wait for me!"
Five minutes later Francesca reached her destination -- an office she'd scouted out the previous week, chosen because the company had recently shut down. There she was, pregnant, lost, overloaded with more than a dozen boxes to be delivered, and no one to accept them. Had she been any sort of an actress, she might have been able to force out a tear or two.
The rules stipulated she was not allowed to directly ask for help. It had to be offered. She would wait for the required thirty minutes, mentally tallying who ignored her, who smiled, and who, if anyone, stopped to actually offer assistance.