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Ain't Too Proud to Beg

Ain't Too Proud to Beg

3.8 78
by Susan Donovan

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Josie Sheehan collects failed relationships the way some women collect designer handbags. Now, at thirty-five, she has exactly one male in her life: her Labradoodle, Genghis. In fact Josie, along with the three very single women in her dog-walking group, has recently sworn off men, resigning herself to long walks in the park with her devoted, four-legged friend.


Josie Sheehan collects failed relationships the way some women collect designer handbags. Now, at thirty-five, she has exactly one male in her life: her Labradoodle, Genghis. In fact Josie, along with the three very single women in her dog-walking group, has recently sworn off men, resigning herself to long walks in the park with her devoted, four-legged friend.

All bets are off, however, when she meets Rick Rousseau, a pet-company CEO who is smart, sexy, and, best of all, head-over-heels for Josie. Even Genghis, an excellent judge of character, seems to know that Rick is the real deal. But just when Josie starts to think that she has found something more enduring than puppy love, she discovers that Rick has a complicated past—and a secret that could put the woman he loves in serious danger...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Donovan (The Girl Most Likely To) whips up a fine frappé of romantic comedy and suspense. Josie Sheehan, obituary feature writer, joins her dog-walking friends in a vow to give up on men. After a drunken motorcycle crash left Rick Rousseau nearly crippled and his date comatose, he swore repentant celibacy. Of course, the two can't resist each other, and their first date is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but when Rick's old girlfriend slips from coma to coffin, drama ensues. Donovan creates delightful characters in Josie and Rick and a fine supporting cast in the dog-walkers and Rick's rehab buddy. Even the villain is a sympathetic character, though the end of his plot is cut disappointingly short. Excessive gushing over the trappings of Rick's wealthy lifestyle is the novel's only flaw. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“Donovan whips up a fine frappe of romantic comedy and suspense.” —Publisher's Weekly on Ain't Too Proud to Beg

“A delightful new series.” —Romantic Times on Ain't Too Proud to Beg

“Susan Donovan will steal your heart.” —Christina Dodd, New York Times bestselling author

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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Dogwalker Trilogy , #1
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Read an Excerpt

Ain't Too Proud to Beg

By Susan Donovan

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2009 Susan Donovan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-8863-6


The photo album crackled with age as the page was turned. "This is it," the widow said, tapping a ridged fingernail onto the edges of a black-and-white snapshot. "I know he'd want the world to remember him this way, in this moment."

Josephine Sheehan placed her reporter's notebook on her lap and leaned in close to the old woman, peering at the photo of Ira Needleman on his 1947 trek to the North Pole. His young face was frozen in triumph, frozen in time, and probably just plain frozen. His huge, toothy smile and iced-up goggles were all she could see of a slight man buried inside a fur parka, both arms raised in triumph against the vast white horizon, a U.S. flag flapping above the permafrost. It was a photo of a guy who'd made it to the top of the world, literally. No wonder his widow had chosen this photo to accompany his obituary.

"It's a wonderful picture," Josie said, smiling at Gloria Needleman.

"He was so young, and everything was ahead of him." With a sigh, Mrs. Needleman gently peeled the photo from its yellowed page.

As she'd already told Josie, Ira would return to San Francisco just months after this photo was taken, where he'd meet Gloria and fall in love. They'd get married. They'd have kids and grandkids. Ira would run a successful Bay Area electrical supply company. He'd mentor four inner- city kids and pay for their college educations. He'd compete in his first triathlon at the age of seventy. The young man in the snow had just begun the grand adventure of his life.

The widow handed the photo to Josie, giggling. Josie waited patiently for Mrs. Needleman to bring her in on the joke.

Gloria shrugged and offered up a pensive smile. "My Ira had a very good time while he was here. He made the most of every day." She patted Josie's hand. "And when you get down to it, is there anything else a person can ask for?"

That's when Josie had her epiphany.

Okay, maybe it was just an epiphanette. But at that moment, right there on Gloria Needleman's plastic-covered couch, it dawned on her that if you lead a life chock-full of relationships and adventures and sorrows and celebrations, like Ira Needleman did, then the people you leave behind can focus on how you lived rather than the fact that you died.

But if you died before you had a chance to live? Josie knew there was nothing worse. In the news business they called it a "tragic death," as opposed to a nontragic one. Josie herself had been known to use that phrase now and again in her obituary feature stories for the San Francisco Herald.

And suddenly it all became clear to her — if Josephine Sheehan, thirty-five, dropped dead right that second, her own newspaper would put her demise in the "tragic" category.

She'd never married. She didn't use all her vacation days. She still rented. Josie didn't do triathlons or biathlons or any athlons at all. And her most stable interpersonal relationships were with a too-hairy Labradoodle named Genghis and the women in her dog-walking group. Yes, she had parents and siblings and nieces and nephews, but no kids of her own.

And her love life? It was nothing but a series of starts and stops that hadn't taken her anywhere. She'd had eleven boyfriends since college, six of whom had moved into her place only to move out again. Her sister once glibly suggested she install a turnstile at her front door. She'd been so offended by that remark that she got out her calculator and did the math. Bad move. It seemed her average relationship lasted 4.2 months, followed by 7.6 months of unattached limbo. In other words, one of her romances had the shelf life of a container of bacon bits. This would be information she didn't plan to share with her sister, or anyone else, ever.

And right there, with Mrs. Needleman staring at her, Josie knew that if she died that day there would be several people more than willing to say that her life had sucked, but there wasn't a single soul who could claim that Josephine Agnes Sheehan had sucked the marrow out of life.

Her vision began to swim.

"Are you all right, dear?" Mrs. Needleman's voice had a charming warble to it. She put her hand on Josie's knee and studied her face with concern. "Do you feel sick? Can I get you some water?"

Oh, man. Josie envisioned the headline on her obit, courtesy of the jokers on the copy desk:


"Should I call someone at the paper and tell them you're not feeling well?"

And my God! What photo would be scrounged up for her obit? The picture of Josie at her sister's wedding, in that bridesmaid's dress her brother said made Josie look like an eggplant with boobs? Or the one from eighth grade, where Josie sported the Cyclops zit? Or how about the one of her stinking drunk in Cancún after college graduation, falling out of her beach chair, digging through the sand trying to locate the lime wedge that had fallen from her Corona bottle? Because really, those were the choices. Josie had never gone to the North Pole, and the world had recently learned that the permafrost was anything but, and now she couldn't reach the top of the world unless she took a raft!

Josie began breathing too fast.

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

She blinked at Mrs. Needleman, embarrassed. Josie needed love in her life. She needed deep, true connection — the kind of grand adventure that only seemed to happen to other people. And unless this eighty-four-year-old widow from Cayuga Terrace was some kind of mystical matchmaker, there wasn't a damn thing she could possibly do for her.

"Thank you so much for your time." Josie tucked the photo into the pages of her notebook and crammed everything into her bag, then stumbled to her feet. "You and your late husband shared a beautiful life together, and again, I'm sorry for your loss." She headed for the door. "I'll call to let you know the day we plan to run it."

"Stop right there, Miss Sheehan."

Gloria was fast for an old lady. When Josie turned, she was already right behind her. The woman examined Josie's face with a fierce curiosity that had nothing to do with the obit and everything to do with her odd behavior.

"I apologize," Josie sputtered, letting her shoulders droop. "I just ... I'm ... look, I just figured out that I'm really, really late for something."

"Another interview?"

"A life."

Gloria's pensive smile returned. She took one of Josie's hands in both of hers and gave it a friendly squeeze. She looked Josie right in the eye. "I've always believed that if you're breathing, it's not too late."

Josie laughed. That's what her dog-walking friends always said, usually after they'd reamed her for stumbling into yet another going-nowhere relationship.

"Great. Thanks again." Josie reached behind her and fumbled for the doorknob.

"Ask the universe for what you want, dear girl." Mrs. Needleman's face turned serious. "Be very precise in your request. Put it in writing and wait for it to come to you. It always does."

Josie frowned. She'd seen that garbage on TV once — some woman claimed she wrote a list of all the qualities she wanted in a man and then met her soul mate in thirty days. Josie had laughed long and hard at that, seeing as how the universe couldn't even get her order right at the Dairy Queen window.

"That's very sweet, Mrs. Needleman. Thank you again."

The friendly squeeze turned into a grip. The widow scanned Josie's face, demanding her attention. In a voice that had lost all its charming warble, the widow said, "In your case, I suggest you do it before daybreak."

Josie gritted her teeth while trying to smile politely.

The old lady wasn't done. "And, I must be honest with you, I think it's going to take great courage to embrace what you ask for."

Josie yanked her hand away and retreated out the door. She backed out of the Needleman driveway, tires squealing, wondering what the old lady meant by that remark about courage. Plus, why the hell did everything — including her love life — have a deadline?

Josie was so disconcerted that she nearly caused the tragic deaths of several pedestrians.


She was half awake when the light began to find its way west to San Francisco, peeking around the edge of the Transamerica Pyramid. They'd made it, and Josie was proud of their tenacity. After thirteen hours of loitering, she and Genghis had ended up fourth in line at the grand opening of the newest Celestial Pet Superstore, where they soon would claim their prize of an entire year's worth of free dog grooming.

Josie looked at the group that remained. Weaker and less disciplined individuals had voluntarily thinned the herd as the night dragged on, complaining of exhaustion or boredom. But Josie and Genghis had come prepared for a sidewalk vigil — iPod, laptop, blanket, folding chair, chew toys, and a thermos of coffee. The coffee was for Josie. The chew toys were for Genghis. So was the folding chair, as it turned out.

While most people and dogs slept in the pale sunlight, Josie took out her laptop and decided to get it over with. All night she'd been mulling over the slightly scary Mrs. Needleman and her suggestion that she write down what she wanted in a man, then send it out to the universe — before daybreak. And sunrise was just minutes away.

What was the worst thing that could happen? She'd not find her ideal man? She was already there. Besides, creating this kind of list would show the women in her dog-walking group that they were wrong about her. Bea, especially, was always telling Josie that she didn't have the life she wanted because she didn't know what she wanted.

Ha! She'd show Bea! She'd show them all! Josie knew exactly what she wanted, and she started typing.

Is kind
Respects himself and others
Loves dogs Is intelligent (though not necessarily an Ivy League graduate)
Is passionate about his work, whether he's a garbage man or a CEO
Is generous to a fault
Is a deep thinker
Has overcome obstacles in his life
Appreciates nature
Believes in a force greater than himself (but doesn't even need to call it "God")

Josie stopped there because the next few things that popped into her head weren't so noble. They were downright pornographic. She'd gone three months without actual sex so that was to be expected. And so what? No one would ever see this list, right? It's not like the universe would tattle to her mother. Besides, Mrs. Needleman said to be precise. Josie wrote on.

My man loves the feel of skin on skin and can't get enough touching, snuggling, caressing
He has eyes that reveal his true soul
He kisses so good I get light-headed
He has a wild imagination in bed
He is well endowed (not circus-act material, but something on the largish side)
Can go all night
Wants to have babies with me

She stopped again, looking up and down the sidewalk furtively. She met the eye of the man next to her in line, a skinhead with a long-haired wiener dog. She quickly looked away. Had he noticed her heavy breathing? That she'd started to sweat? Josie adjusted her position on the blanket and recrossed her legs. She changed gears.

He'll love old houses
He'll be a safe and courteous driver
He won't mind cooking every once in a while
He'll rub my feet and ask me about my day
He'll go to the North Pole with me before it's too late

"Hey! You just spilled your bloody fuckin' coffee all over my bloody fuckin' spot!"

"Oh, God, I'm so sorry!" Josie scrambled to her feet and used the corner of her blanket to sop up the spill before it reached the skinhead's camouflage sleeping bag. She smiled sheepishly. Since she'd detected a British accent, she added, "Cheers, mate."

Josie plopped back down. She decided the list was as complete as it could be, so she hit the save key and placed her order with the universe.

It was done. The sun came up.

Suddenly, she felt a prick of discomfort and looked toward the skinhead again. He wagged a pierced eyebrow in her direction. She gave him the benefit of the doubt — maybe this guy had "courteous driver" written all over his face but she just couldn't see it because of all the other tattoos.

She silently amended her list. Dear Universe, I'd really appreciate it if my man were tattoo-free. Thank you.

The lights of Celestial Pet flickered on at precisely seven-thirty. Employees scurried about, taping down helium balloons, turning on cash registers, adjusting elaborate product displays. Through the glass, Josie could see the sign for the grooming salon, just off to the right. Victory was in sight.

At eight o'clock sharp, a smiling woman in a deep blue vest came to the front and ceremoniously used a set of keys to open the doors. Josie had already packed up the coffee-stained blanket, the laptop, folding chair, iPod, chew toys, and empty thermos. However, as the doors opened, it dawned on her that she'd neglected to look in a mirror. She hadn't freshened her lip gloss or run a brush through her curls. Surely she looked like a woman who'd pulled an all-nighter on a sidewalk.

The group cleared the doors and made a beeline to the grooming center. Three small reception desks were set up, and the three people ahead of Josie were immediately registered for their freebies. She had to wait patiently. When it was her turn, a young blond girl waved her and Genghis over, then promptly left her station. Josie was pissed! If that girl didn't hurry up and get back, numbers five through eleven would get the coveted spots, and she hadn't been waiting outside for thirteen hours for nothing!

The skinhead was being served ahead of Josie. Same for the guy who was behind him!

In her mind she began to compose a letter to the Celestial Pet corporate offices. "The slipshod organization of your grand opening robbed me of my hard-earned year's worth of free dog groomings ..."

"Looks like we have a winner. May I get your name?"

The blond girl had been replaced by ... him. The cheap blue vest looked ridiculous on the man. He was well over six feet, solidly built. Somewhere in his mid-thirties. Sandy brown hair cut in short waves. Eyes so green and luminous it was like staring up into an enchanted forest. His smile was deadly — white teeth and full lips that promised a kiss of cosmic magnitude. If it weren't for the elaborate tattoo peeking out of the left side of his shirt collar, the guy could have been a male model.

Or the man on her list.

Josie cursed herself for looking like a shopping cart lady on what was obviously going to be one of the biggest days of her life. Then the most extraordinary thing happened.

Josie couldn't move. She couldn't speak. All she could do was stare at him. And a strange, heated energy began flowing through her body, looping to the gorgeous dog groomer and back to her, gaining power with each pass. She felt as if she were on fire inside, a liquid molten fire that left her tingling everywhere.

The energy disappeared as suddenly as it had started. Genghis jumped up and put his paws on the counter, and the man reached out and gave his head a rub.

"Okay then," he said to the dog as he sat down at a computer. "Since your owner seems to be on the shy side, maybe I'll get started with your name."

"Genghis," Josie said, answering for her dog.

The groomer peered at the panting, happy-as-hell dog, trying to find a pair of eyes under all the hair. "He doesn't strike me as the marauding- warlord type."

"My sister named him," Josie said, as if that explained everything. The synapses in her brain started to fire again, and she gave herself a mental face slap. This was her moment to shine! Her physical appearance might be middle-of-the-road on her best day, but her wit was consistently sparkling, and Josie would not walk away from this counter without this mega-fine man being aware of that fact.

"You see," Josie continued, running a hand through her snarled curls, hoping to appear carefree in the process. "My dog's a Labradoodle, and my brother-in-law made fun of me for paying good money for a mongrel, but my sister thought he said 'Mongol,' hence Genghis, as in Genghis Kahn, but I see you already got that."


Excerpted from Ain't Too Proud to Beg by Susan Donovan. Copyright © 2009 Susan Donovan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Susan Donovan's novels are witty, sexy, and entertaining—"brain candy for smart women," as she puts it. Her books include Not That Kind of Girl and The Night She Got Lucky. Susan is a former newspaper journalist with degrees from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and has worked as a reporter in Chicago, Albuquerque, and Indianapolis. Her other jobs have included fine arts fundraiser, freelance journalist, painted furniture artist, horse stall mucker, proposal writer, and aide to a U.S. Senator. Susan lives in rural Maryland with her family and dogs.

Susan Donovan's novels are witty, sexy, and entertaining--"brain candy for smart women," as she puts it. Her books include Not That Kind of Girl, The Night She Got Lucky, and Ain't Too Proud to Beg. Susan is a former newspaper journalist with degrees from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and has worked as a reporter in Chicago, Albuquerque, and Indianapolis. Her other jobs have included fine arts fundraiser, freelance journalist, painted furniture artist, horse stall mucker, proposal writer, and aide to a U.S. Senator. Susan lives in rural Maryland with her family and dogs.

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