Wife for Hire - By Janet Evanovich Page 0,1

And Larry Burlew was a slug. She’d join the Foreign Legion before she’d marry Larry Burlew.

“She’s always been stubborn,” Mabel said. “Once she gets an idea into her head, there’s no turning her around. So, tell me again,” she said to her daughter. “Tell me why you’re not going back to teaching this year.”

Maggie helped herself to a second piece of cake. “I’m going to write a book,” she said, picking congealed wax from the icing. “I’m going to write a book based on Aunt Kitty’s diary.”

There was more eye rolling from Mabel and Marvina. “That’s craziness,” Mabel said. “How are you going to live? How are you going to pay your rent?”

“I’m looking for a job that’s not as demanding as teaching. Maybe something part-time that will allow me to spend most of my day writing. In fact, I have an interview this afternoon.” She stared in amazement at her empty plate and wondered how she’d eaten that whole huge second piece. Even the wax was gone. She cracked her knuckles and cleared her throat, wondering if anyone would notice if she took thirds.

“So, what kind of job is this?” Mabel asked.

“It’s going to be a wonderful book,” Maggie said. “Aunt Kitty’s diary is filled with information—”

Her mother wouldn’t be distracted. “The job. I want to know about the job.”

“This has been a terrific birthday luncheon, Mom and Aunt Marvina, and the cake was great, but I’m going to have to run.” She was on her feet, with her purse slung over her shoulder, and her gifts tucked under her arm. She kissed her mother and gave her aunt a hug.

“The job,” her mother insisted.

Maggie started off across the lawn to her car. “Nothing to worry about. Some man wants to hire a wife, and I’m meeting him for coffee at three-thirty.”

She slid behind the wheel, slammed the door shut, locked it, rolled up the window, and turned the air-conditioning on full blast. She punched a CD into the CD player and looked back at her mother and Aunt Marvina. Their mouths were moving, but Maggie couldn’t hear a word they were saying. She watched them for a moment, feeling the tension leaving her. Yes, even her eye felt a little better.

She smiled pleasantly, waved good-bye, and pulled out of the driveway.

She really was going to have to stop drinking coffee, Maggie thought. Her heart was jumping around in her chest, and she knew it couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the man sitting opposite her was drop-dead handsome. It had nothing to do with his soft, raspy voice or warm chocolate-brown eyes. Too much caffeine, plain and simple, no doubt about it. She pushed the cup away to avoid the temptation of one more sip, but she wasn’t very good at avoiding temptation, so she pulled the coffee back and took another deep swallow.

Now that she was set to take on the role of wife, she gave one last wistful thought to the PNA Hall. “Do you think we should have some sort of party?” she asked Hank Mallone. “Do you think we should have a wedding reception?”

A look of shock registered on Mallone’s face. He could barely afford the hamburger sitting in front of him, much less a fancy wedding reception. He didn’t own a pair of black shoes, he hated pomp and ceremony, he didn’t know how to dance, and most important of all, Maggie Toone wasn’t at all what he wanted in a wife.

“No,” he said flatly. “I don’t think we should have a wedding reception.”

Maggie gave a cursory glance to her surroundings. It wasn’t a terrible restaurant, but it wasn’t great either. It was only one step up from a fast food place. The plants hanging from the ceiling were real, and the floor was relatively clean. It could be worse, she decided. He could have taken her to Greasy Jake’s for chili dogs. “It was just a thought,” she said, smiling at him. “I love parties.”

He caught himself smiling back and then immediately hardened his expression again. This was supposed to be a business luncheon. He was here to hire a wife, and he had very specific ideas on the subject. He’d told the employment agency he’d wanted a cool blonde with blue eyes and long sleek hair pinned in a chignon at the nape of her neck. His ideal wife would be sophisticated and reserved. She’d be the perfect hostess in a tailored suit or little black dress. She’d