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The Weekend Wife
By Beth Ciotta
Formats and Prices
- ebook (Digital original) $2.99 $3.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 3, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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When Megan Rooney gets fired from her job, her life is turned upside down. But then her sexy neighbor, Nick Walker, tells her that he needs a wife for a weekend trip to Tuscany, and she’s the perfect candidate. She surprises herself when she agrees to go — but what if the lie turns out to be exactly what she’s always wanted?
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Ever wonder what it’d be like to go on a romantic weekend trip to Italy with a virtual stranger? Though Megan Rooney would have never volunteered for the experience before, now she finds herself tagging along with her cute next-door neighbor, Nick Walker—pretending to be his wife.
I like when characters get thrown into these outlandish situations, but I like it even more when the characters’ reactions make the story feel real to me. Megan Rooney was one of those characters. At the beginning of the book, she gets fired from her job as a travel show host. She’s justifiably upset and looking for an escape—so she agrees to take the trip with Nick.
Nick Walker was another one of those characters I immediately understood. He slipped up and told his meddling grandma that he was already married, and agreed to bring his recent bride to her home in Tuscany. We all have those moments when we want to please the people we love. And since Nick was always attracted to Meg, he took the opportunity to pretend to be her husband. You can’t blame the guy for trying.
And thus, The Weekend Wife scheme fell into action. I hope you enjoy the trip.
“YOU’RE JOKING, RIGHT? Wait. Is there a hidden camera? Am I being punked?”
Historically, my producer only treats me to gourmet dining when we have something to celebrate. As the television host of the long-running travel show, Epic Adventures with Megan Rooney, I expected “You’re getting that salary bump” or “You’ve been nominated for an award.”
I wasn’t ready for: “They’re terminating your contract.”
Certain I’m being teased, I roll my eyes and grin. “Go on, Silverman. Say it. Gotcha!”
Ben scratches his brow, then loosens his tie.
What the—“You’re serious?”
“You’re freaking serious. You’re firing me.”
“This isn’t coming from me.”
“It sure as hell sounds like it’s coming from you!” My cheeks flame as heads turn my way. Normally I like being the center of attention. It’s part of my nature. Part of my job.
But now I want to duck and hide.
I gulp my full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, which suddenly tastes like paint thinner. I tell myself to calm down even as my heart races inside my constricted chest.
Ben sighs. “I don’t call the shots. Not when it comes to finances and distribution. You know that. This is a dictate from the studio. The show is getting a makeover. New title. New agenda. New host.”
I feel equally panicked and curious. “Why?”
“Why do you think? Ratings are down. Competition’s a bitch.”
I can’t argue the last part. It’s true. I can name twenty similar programs off the top of my head. Do a cyber search on travel shows and you’ll come up with hundreds. The only way to stand out is to have a unique angle or a vibrant personality. Epic Adventures with Megan Rooney has both. Granted, I’m not a superstar with brand merchandising, but I do have a reasonable following.
Or at least I thought I did.
“So change the title and agenda,” I say. “Is it something disgusting? Something involving bizarre cuisine? Exploring the horrors of one-star hotels? I’m up to the challenge.”
“That’s just it, Meg. You’re not.”
I grip the table because, I swear, the earth is crumbling beneath me. I’ve worked in entertainment, in various capacities, for more than twenty-five years. From live improv to rehearsed productions. Epic Adventures ran for six seasons, and most of them were strong. Telling me I don’t have what it takes to adapt to a new role is a slap to my ego and experience.
And what about my team? All the guys, aside from Ben, have a partner or wife. Some have kids. They need that steady paycheck. Plus, they love their jobs. If the show is getting a makeover…
I swallow and dare to ask the question. “What about you and the crew?”
Ben has that pitying look in his eye. Like the time in Malaysia when he informed me I was the only one on the team who contracted food poisoning. The night prior to filming a segment high over the treacherous region of Mount Kinabalu. That adventure required me to cross the world’s highest “iron road” via a series of rungs, rails, and cables…with a cramped stomach.
“We’re all being reassigned,” he said.
Code for: We dodged the bullet.
I should be relieved. I am relieved. But I’m also envious. “Why am I learning all of this from you and not my agent?”
“Liza will get the call tomorrow. I wanted…I thought you should hear this from me. I know we knock heads but we made a good team.”
More like flirty work associates. But since he does look slightly upset, I don’t press the point.
He reaches across the table and lays his hand over mine. “It’s not the end of the world.”
Normally, his touch—however slight—would incite a fluttery feeling. I’ve always had a thing for Ben. Right now, I feel sick.
“Not the world,” I say, unable to squash my resentment. “Just my world.”
Gaze intent, Ben, my former producer and so-called friend, leans forward and lowers his voice. “Look at it as a chance to explore new options. A chance to get a damn life.”
“I have a damn life.” Tempering my own tone, I match his heated stare. “Why did you bring me to a crowded restaurant to serve me my walking papers? Oh, wait. Oh, hell. Because you knew I wouldn’t rant or cry in public.”
“There is that. Also…” His lip crooks. “The studio’s picking up the tab.”
His attempt to lighten the mood sucks, but that doesn’t stop me from jumping on his stick-it-to-them offer. “I’m ordering the most expensive entrée on the menu. Plus another bottle of wine.”
“That’s my girl.”
Something he used to say every time I nailed a tough assignment. It used to make me smile.
BEN’S RIGHT. I won’t cause a public scene. I have my pride. But a woman only has so much restraint. I feel mine slipping with each sip of wine.
He mentioned, then skated over, the shocking reveal of my replacement, choosing to focus on the daredevil antics she’ll be tackling—most of them taking place in remote and treacherous regions. Regions more suited to a survivalist than a tourist.
Now he’s reminding me of the time I balked at cage diving with great whites in Oz. And how I gave him guff when he asked that I wear a bikini as opposed to a wet suit.
“Missy’s game for anything,” he says. “And, unlike you, she’s an athlete.”
She’s also a clichéd bombshell. More beauty than brains.
“When did life-threatening become synonymous with adventurous?” I ask. “Whatever happened to wit and intellect?”
He gives me a look. “Do I really have to spell it out?”
Of course he doesn’t. The fact that I even voiced that annoyance screams of an outdated mind-set. And that, I think as I finish off my wine, is the elephant in the room.
The more Ben talks, the greater my distress. I can memorize and retain pages of script, wax poetic about art and history and architectural wonders. I can entice armchair travelers to immerse themselves in the experience…but I can’t turn back time.
The waiter serves our meals.
I stare at my plate, overwhelmed by the colossal portion and rich aromas, blindsided by a wave of depression that overshadows my fury. Without so much as tasting my fifty-ounce rib eye à la Oscar, I ask the waiter for a jumbo doggie bag and another bottle of wine.
To his credit, Ben doesn’t try to talk me into staying. Nor does he argue when I refuse a ride home.
“At least give me the pleasure of walking out on you,” I say with halfhearted snark.
By the time I get back home to my apartment in a brownstone, my feet are cramping and my restraint is shot.
I slam my apartment door. “Dammit!” Kick off my four-inch heels.
Hands trembling, I set the expensive bottle of wine on the counter along with the excessive dinner.
I grab a tissue and pitch the empty box. As hot tears flow, I open and bang shut cupboards looking for a fresh supply. I settle on a roll of paper towels.
“Freaking Missy Delecorte? Seriously?”
Blowing my nose into a wad of absorbent picker-uppers, I drop onto the sofa, rattled by the intensity of my venomous thoughts and shattered feelings.
It’s not like I haven’t suffered rejection before. And it’s not the first time I’ve lost a gig for one reason or another. It’s not even a question of how I’ll pay immediate bills. Given the fickle nature of the industry, instead of indulging and enjoying the benefits of a steady paycheck from Epic Adventures, I stockpiled my moderate earnings. Losing my job to a sexpot reality star, a woman half my age, is more of an ego crusher than a financial crisis.
I’m unemployed and over forty.
The prospect of returning to a life of endless auditions and temporary bookings, of competing for roles in a youth-obsessed industry is…terrifying.
I massage my tight chest and curse the sting of new tears. Apparently, in addition to my job, I lost my moxie.
I stifle a groan and catch sight of the framed photo celebrating a performance from long ago—me in a starring role of Much Ado About Nothing.
I wing the pillow at my smiling, once-confident mug. It’s a kneejerk reaction that knocks the picture from the wall…
…and incites an avalanche of precariously stacked books.
Feeling childish on top of everything else, I drop my head to my hands and scramble to rally.
Through the haze of my riotous thoughts, I hear my name.
Startled, my bleary gaze darts to the door, now standing wide open, and the figure of a blurry man hovering on my threshold.
THERE ARE WORSE things than having an unrequited crush on your boss. Like being attracted to your neighbor from the apartment next door. A much younger, insanely hot, pain-in-the-ass Lothario.
Nick’s breathing fast, like he’s winded, and he looks sort of pissed. Sexy pissed.
“I knocked,” he says as I scramble to my bare feet, “but you didn’t answer.”
“I didn’t hear you.”
“Not surprised.” He meets my gaze and furrows his brow. “Quite the ruckus.”
“Sorry about that.”
I wave a soggy paper towel in the direction of my bonsai. “Just me and the tree.” The only other living thing in my furnished studio apartment. A domestic minimalist, I keep things simple.
“Thin walls. Just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“So you broke in?”
“Your door was unlocked.”
“Oh.” I know what he’s thinking. It wasn’t a smart move, considering the crime rate in Philadelphia. Normally I’m more conscious, but I was distracted. And now I’m flustered.
And tingly. Tingly aware.
I tug down the hem that hitched midway up my thigh when I plopped on the sofa. Smooth my hand over my tantrum-crazy hair.
Nick raises an assessing brow. “You look—”
“Like a wreck?”
I blink. So he has a thing for swollen-eyed, red-nosed, disheveled lunatics?
Then I remember he’s used to seeing me in baggy cargo pants, T-shirts, and a ponytail. I rarely glam up, but when I do, I go all out. My dark, shoulder-length curls are soft and loose. I’m wearing a clingy dress that shows off my toned curves and long lean legs. I may be forty-two, but I’m in damn good shape.
Regardless of what Ben said and the studio execs think.
“My producer invited me to dinner. A last-minute thing.” I gesture to my fancy duds. “I thought we were celebrating. Instead I got dumped.”
“You had a thing with your producer?”
“Only in my dreams.”
Even though Nick and I are friendly, we’ve never shared particulars about our personal lives. I only moved into this building six months ago and, given the nature of my job—strike that, former job—I’m away more than at home. Hence the minimalist lifestyle.
“Dumped as in fired,” I clarify, sounding only slightly bitter. “Oh, and technically Ben was only the bearer of bad news. This comes from higher up.”
“Nice of you to say.”
“I’ve seen your show. You’re funny and smart. Gutsy and cute.”
He’s saying all the right things. Then again, Nicolas Walker is a smooth operator. A multi-talented musician, he has a house gig at the corner bar. I hang there sometimes so I’ve seen him in action. He knows how to work a crowd. And he’s probably charmed the pants off a hundred women. Hell, he’s even flirted with me. He’s an ego-stroking pro. Under normal circumstances, I’d crack a joke and send him packing. Thing is, I’m not feeling normal.
“Thanks.” I burst into fresh tears. Dammit! The paper towel balled in my hand is in tatters. I turn and reach for the roll on the counter.
Suddenly Nick’s in my space, in my face, passing me a square of folded tissues.
“I keep a supply in my pocket. Allergies,” he explains. “Crumpled, but clean.”
Only he doesn’t back away. He pulls me against his chest, holding me close, stroking my back.
Instead of giving over and crying harder, I freeze. “It would be pretty shitty of you to use this moment to get into my pants, Nick.”
“Yes, it would.”
No pithy comeback. No ass groping. Just a solid, comforting embrace.
- On Sale
- Oct 3, 2017
- Page Count
- 144 pages