For Love or Money Excerpt

Donnerton, California
June 1997

“Good God, he’s doing it wrong.”  Jean reread the paragraph in disbelief.  “Somebody should tell him.”

“Who?”  Candy’s tanned thigh shifted languidly.  She sounded as if she were almost asleep.  Jen envied her.  Tanning would be bearable if you were sleeping.

“Brent Maddox.”

Candy’s lips curved lazily.  “Brent Maddox.”  The inflection said it all.  “Honey, that man doesn’t do anything wrong.  Trust me.”

“His love life’s a mess.”

One blue eye popped open to telegraph disbelief before closing again.  “And Mother Teresa’s a Libyan terrorist.”

“Hey, this comes straight from the man himself.  Listen.  ‘Marriage?  Maybe someday, if I find a woman who’s more interested in me instead of my money.  I haven’t met anybody like that yet.’”  She tossed her copy of Celebrity magazine onto the patio.

“Poor baby.”

Jen eyed her bottle of suntan lotion, then sighed, settling back on her chaise.  She would burn anyway.  “If you ask me, he’s got nobody but himself to blame.”

“Hmmm.”

Eyes closed, Jen let the sun beat down on her.  Sunbathing was one ritual she’d never gotten the hang of.  Actually, it was doing nothing she’d never gotten the hang of; the work ethic was too deeply embedded in her DNA.  “Think about it.  If a man wants a woman to see past his money, he shouldn’t whisk her off in his helicopter to a private mountaintop for lobster and champagne like Brent did to that poor model Daphne Carlson.”

Candy groaned.  “Oh, stop!  Lobster.  Dom Perignon.  Brent Maddox all to myself on a mountaintop.  Talk about a fantasy!”

Small-town practical to the soles of her size fives, Jen would have called it ostentatious overkill.  “Exactly.  A fantasy.  Brent sets himself up then whines about the results.”

A chuckle bubbled up from Candy on the neighboring lounge.  “And you’re going to set him straight?  No offense, but the woman who spent her last date fighting off Bernie Wilkins at the Sundowner Drive-in isn’t qualified to give Brent Maddox advice on his love life.”

“It’s not a matter of experience, it’s a matter of common sense.”

Candy shook her head.  “No wonder you’re pure as the driven snow at twenty-eight.  Common sense and romance don’t go together.  Now, Brent Maddox and romance—they go together.”

Scowling, Jen placed her hands behind her head and mouthed Candy’s words:  Pure as the driven snow.  And whose fault was that? she wondered.  She certainly had her share of simmering female hormones.  She just hadn’t met a man who made them boil.

Mere chemistry was no reason to have sex.  Making love should mean something.  If an attitude like that made her a dinosaur, so be it.   She might have antiquated notions, but they were her antiquated notions, and she didn’t intend to defend them to anyone, including Candy.

“He needs a new approach.  Like loading his date in a pickup with a bucket of fried chicken and a six pack and driving to a national park.  Any woman who still likes a man after a long drive, cold chicken, and warm beer is seriously smitten.”

“Or desperate,” murmured Candy.

“If a man doesn’t want a woman lusting after his money, he shouldn’t throw it in her face.  I thought Brent had more sense.”

“You say that like you know him.”

“I do …  or did.  We went to high school together.”  A loud crash had her opening her eyes.

Candy gaped up from the patio, her chaise lounge sprawled on its side behind her.  “You know Brent Maddox?”  Her voice rose half an octave.  “You know him?”

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