Bet Meby Jennifer Crusie
Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes, and keep him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their… See more details below
Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes, and keep him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.
But Fate has other plans, and it's not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they're dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all-true love.
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By Jennifer Crusie
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2004 Jennifer Crusie Smith
All rights reserved.
Once upon a time, Minerva Dobbs thought as she stood in the middle of a loud yuppie bar, the world was full of good men. She looked into the handsome face of the man she'd planned on taking to her sister's wedding and thought, Those days are gone.
"This relationship is not working for me," David said.
I could shove this swizzle stick through his heart, Min thought. She wouldn't do it, of course. The stick was plastic and not nearly pointed enough on the end. Also, people didn't do things like that in southern Ohio. A sawed-off shotgun, that was the ticket.
"And we both know why," David went on.
He probably didn't even know he was mad; he probably thought he was being calm and adult. At least I know I'm furious, Min thought. She let her anger settle around her, and it made her warm all over, which was more than David had ever done.
Across the room, somebody at the big roulette wheel–shaped bar rang a bell. Another point against David: He was dumping her in a theme bar. The Long Shot. The name alone should have tipped her off.
"I'm sorry, Min," David said, clearly not.
Min crossed her arms over her gray-checked suit jacket so she couldn't smack him. "This is because I won't go home with you tonight? It's Wednesday. I have to work tomorrow. You have to work tomorrow. I paid for my own drink."
"It's not that." David looked noble and wounded as only the tall, dark, and self-righteous could. "You're not making any effort to make our relationship work, which means ..."
Which means we've been dating for two months and I still won't sleep with you. Min tuned him out and looked around at the babbling crowd. If I had an untraceable poison, I could drop it in his drink now and not one of these suits would notice.
"... and I do think, if we have any future, that you should contribute, too," David said.
Oh, I don't, Min thought, which meant that David had a point. Still, lack of sex was no excuse for dumping her three weeks before she had to wear a maid-of-honor dress that made her look like a fat, demented shepherdess. "Of course we have a future, David," she said, trying to put her anger on ice. "We have plans. Diana is getting married in three weeks. You're invited to the wedding. To the rehearsal dinner. To the bachelor party. You're going to miss the stripper, David."
"Is that all you think of me?" David's voice went up. "I'm just a date to your sister's wedding?"
"Of course not," Min said. "Just as I'm sure I'm more to you than somebody to sleep with."
David opened his mouth and closed it again. "Well, of course. I don't want you to think this is a reflection on you. You're intelligent, you're successful, you're mature. ..."
Min listened, knowing that You're beautiful, you're thin were not coming. If only he'd have a heart attack. Only four percent of heart attacks in men happened before forty, but it could happen. And if he died, not even her mother could expect her to bring him to the wedding.
"... and you'd make a wonderful mother," David finished up.
"Thank you," Min said. "That's so not romantic."
"I thought we were going places, Min," David said.
"Yeah," Min said, looking around the gaudy bar. "Like here."
David sighed and took her hand. "I wish you the best, Min. Let's keep in touch."
Min took her hand back. "You're not feeling any pain in your left arm, are you?"
"No," David said, frowning at her.
"Pity," Min said, and went back to her friends, who were watching them from the far end of the room.
"He was looking even more uptight than usual," Liza said, looking even taller and hotter than usual as she leaned on the jukebox, her hair flaming under the lights.
David wouldn't have treated Liza so callously. He'd have been afraid to; she'd have dismembered him. Gotta be more like Liza, Min thought and started to flip through the song cards on the box.
"Are you upset with him?" Bonnie said from Min's other side, her blond head tilted up in concern. David wouldn't have left Bonnie, either. Nobody was mean to sweet, little Bonnie.
"Yes. He dumped me." Min stopped flipping. Wonder of wonders, the box had Elvis. Immediately, the bar seemed a better place. She fed in coins and then punched the keys for "Hound Dog." Too bad Elvis had never recorded one called "Dickhead."
"I knew I didn't like him," Bonnie said.
Min went over to the roulette bar and smiled tightly at the slender bartender dressed like a croupier. She had beautiful long, soft, kinky brown hair, and Min thought, That's another reason I couldn't have slept with David. Her hair always frizzed when she let it down, and he was the type who would have noticed.
"Rum and Coke, please," she told the bartender.
Maybe that was why Liza and Bonnie never had man trouble: great hair. She looked at Liza, racehorse-thin in purple zippered leather, shaking her head at David with naked contempt. Okay, it wasn't just the hair. If she jammed herself into Liza's dress, she'd look like Barney's slut cousin. "Diet Coke," she told the bartender.
"He wasn't the one," Bonnie said from below Min's shoulder, her hands on her tiny hips.
"Diet rum, too," Min told the bartender, who smiled at her and went to get her drink.
Liza frowned. "Why were you dating him anyway?"
"Because I thought he might be the one," Min said, exasperated. "He was intelligent and successful and very nice at first. He seemed like a sensible choice. And then all of a sudden he went snotty on me."
Bonnie patted Min's arm. "It's a good thing he broke up with you because now you're free for when the right man finds you. Your prince is on his way."
"Right," Min said. "I'm sure he was on his way but a truck hit him."
"That's not how it works." Bonnie leaned on the bar, looking like an R-rated pixie. "If it's meant to be, he'll make it. No matter how many things go wrong, he'll come to you and you'll be together forever."
"What is this?" Liza said, looking at her in disbelief. "Barbie's Field of Dreams?"
"That's sweet, Bonnie," Min said. "But as far as I'm concerned, the last good man died when Elvis went."
"Maybe we should rethink keeping Bon as our broker," Liza said to Min. "We could be major stockholders in the Magic Kingdom by now."
Min tapped her fingers on the bar, trying to vent some tension. "I should have known David was a mistake when I couldn't bring myself to sleep with him. We were on our third date, and the waiter brought the dessert menu, and David said, 'No, thank you, we're on a diet,' and of course, he isn't because there's not an ounce of fat on him, and I thought, 'I'm not taking off my clothes with you' and I paid my half of the check and went home early. And after that, whenever he made his move, I thought of the waiter and crossed my legs."
"He wasn't the one," Bonnie said with conviction.
"You think?" Min said, and Bonnie looked wounded. Min closed her eyes. "Sorry. Sorry. Really sorry. It's just not a good time for that stuff, Bon. I'm mad. I want to savage somebody, not look to the horizon for the next jerk who's coming my way."
"Sure," Bonnie said. "I understand."
Liza shook her head at Min. "Look, you didn't care about David, so you haven't lost anything except a date to Di's wedding. And I vote we skip the wedding. It has 'disaster' written all over it, even without the fact that she's marrying her best friend's boyfriend."
"Her best friend's ex-boyfriend. And I can't skip it. I'm the maid of honor." Min gritted her teeth. "It's going to be hell. It's not just that I'm dateless, which fulfills every prophecy my mother has ever made, it's that she's crazy about David."
"We know," Bonnie said.
"She tells everybody about David," Min said, thinking of her mother's avid little face. "Dating David is the only thing I've done that she's liked about me since I got the flu freshman year and lost ten pounds. And now I have no David." She took her diet rum from the bartender, said, "Thank you," and tipped her lavishly. There wasn't enough gratitude in the world for a server who kept the drinks coming at a time like this. "Most of the time it doesn't matter what my mother thinks of me because I can avoid her, but for the wedding? No."
"So you'll find another date," Bonnie said.
"No, she won't," Liza said.
"Oh, thank you," Min said, turning away from the over-designed bar. The roulette pattern was making her dizzy. Or maybe that was the rage.
"Well, it's your own fault," Liza said. "If you'd quit assigning statistical probability to the fate of a union with every guy you meet and just go out with somebody who turns you on, you might have a good time now and then."
"I'd be a puddle of damaged ego," Min said. "There's nothing wrong with dating sensibly. That's how I found David." Too late, she realized that wasn't evidence in her favor and knocked back some of her drink to ward off comments.
Liza wasn't listening. "We'll have to find a guy for you." She began to scan the bar, which was only fair since most of the bar had been scanning her. "Not him. Not him. Not him. Nope. Nope. Nope. All these guys would try to sell you mutual funds." Then she straightened. "Hello. We have a winner."
Bonnie followed her eyes. "Who? Where?"
"The dark-haired guy in the navy blue suit. In the middle on the landing up by the door."
"Middle?" Min squinted at the raised landing at the entry to the bar. It was wide enough for a row of faux poker tables, and four men were at one talking to a brunette in red. One of the four was David, now surveying his domain over the dice-studded wrought-iron rail. The landing was only about five feet higher than the rest of the room, but David contrived to make it look like a balcony. It was probably requiring all his self-control to keep from doing the Queen Elizabeth Wave. "That's David," Min said, turning away. "And some brunette. Good Lord, he's dating somebody else already." Get out now, she told the brunette silently.
"Forget the brunette," Liza said. "Look at the guy in the middle. Wait a minute, he'll turn back this way again. He doesn't seem to be finding David that interesting."
Min squinted back at the entry again. The navy suit was taller than David, and his hair was darker and thicker, but otherwise, from behind, he was pretty much David II. "I did that movie," Min said, and then he turned.
Dark eyes, strong cheekbones, classic chin, broad shoulders, chiseled everything, and all of it at ease as he stared out over the bar, ignoring David, who suddenly looked a little inbred.
Min sucked in her breath as every cell she had came alive and whispered, This one.
Then she turned away before anybody caught her slack-jawed with admiration. He was not the one, that was her DNA talking, looking for a high-class sperm donor. Every woman in the room with a working ovary probably looked at him and thought, This one. Well, biology was not destiny. The amount of damage somebody that beautiful could do to a woman like her was too much to contemplate. She took another drink to cushion the thought, and said, "He's pretty."
"No," Liza said. "That's the point. He's not pretty. David is pretty. That guy looks like an adult."
"Okay, he's full of testosterone," Min said.
"No, that's the guy on his right," Liza said. "The one with the head like a bullet. I bet that one talks sports and slaps people on the back. The navy suit looks civilized with edge. Tell her, Bonnie."
"I don't think so," Bonnie said, her pixie face looking grim. "I know him."
"In the biblical sense?" Liza said.
"No. He dated my cousin Wendy. But —"
"Then he's fair game," Liza said.
"— he's a hit-and-run player," Bonnie finished. "From what Wendy said, he dazzles whoever he's with for a couple of months and then drops her and moves on. And she never sees it coming."
"The beast," Liza said without heat. "You know, men are allowed to leave women they're dating."
"Well, he makes them love him and then he leaves them," Bonnie said. "That is beastly."
"Like David," Min said, her instinctive distrust of the navy suit confirmed.
Liza snorted. "Oh, like you ever loved David."
"I was trying to," Min snapped.
Liza shook her head. "Okay, none of this matters. All you want is a date to the wedding. If it takes the beast a couple of months to dump you, you're covered. So just go over there —"
"No." Min turned her back on everybody to concentrate on the black and white posters over the bar: Paul Newman shooting pool in The Hustler, Marlon Brando throwing dice in Guys and Dolls, W. C. Fields scowling over his cards in My Little Chickadee. Where were all the women gamblers? It wasn't as if being a woman wasn't a huge risk all by itself. Twenty-eight percent of female homicide victims were killed by husbands or lovers.
Which, come to think of it, was probably why there weren't any women gamblers. Living with men was enough of a gamble. She fought the urge to turn around and look at the beast on the landing again. Really, the smart thing to do was stop dating and get a cat.
"You know she won't go talk to him," Bonnie was saying to Liza. "Statistically speaking, the probable outcome is not favorable."
"Screw that." Liza nudged Min and sloshed the Coke in her glass. "Imagine your mother if you brought that to the wedding. She might even let you eat carbs." She looked at Bonnie. "What's his name?"
"Calvin Morrisey," Bonnie said. "Wendy was buying wedding magazines when he left her. She was writing 'Wendy Sue Morrisey' on scrap paper."
Liza looked appalled. "That's probably why he left."
"Calvin Morrisey." Against her better judgment, Min turned back to watch him again.
"Go over there," Liza said, prodding her with one long fingernail, "and tell David you hope his rash clears up soon. Then introduce yourself to the beast, smile, and don't talk statistics."
"That would be shallow," Min said. "I'm thirty-three. I'm mature. I don't care if I have a date to my sister's wedding. I'm a better person than that." She thought about her mother's face when she got the news that David was history. No, I'm not.
"No, you're not," Liza said. "You're just too chicken to cross the room."
"I suppose it might work." Bonnie frowned across the room. "And you can dump him after the wedding and give him a taste of his own medicine."
"Yeah, that's the ticket." Liza rolled her eyes. "Do it for Wendy and the rest of the girls."
He was in profile now, talking to David. The man should be on coins, Min thought. Of course, looking that beautiful, he probably never dated the terminally chubby. At least, not without sneering. And she'd been sneered at enough for one night.
"No," Min said and turned back to the bar. Really, a cat was a good idea.
"Look, Stats," Liza said, exasperated, "I know you're conservative, but you're damn near solidifying lately. Dating David must have been like dating concrete. And then there's your apartment. Even your furniture is stagnant."
"My furniture is my grandmother's," Min said stiffly.
"Exactly. Your butt's been on it since you were born. You need a change. And if you don't make that change on your own, I will have to help you."
Min's blood ran cold. "No."
"Don't threaten her," Bonnie said to Liza. "She'll change, she'll grow. Won't you, Min?"
Min looked back at the landing, and suddenly going over there seemed like a good idea. She could stand under that ugly wrought-iron railing and eavesdrop, and then if Calvin Morrisey sounded even remotely nice — ha, what were the chances? — she could go up and say something sweet to David and get an intro, and Liza would not have movers come in while she was at work and throw out her furniture.
"Don't make me do this for you," Liza said.
Standing at a roulette wheel bar sulking wasn't doing anything for her. And with all she knew ahead of time, it wasn't likely that he could inflict much damage. Min squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. "I'm going in, coach."
"Do not say 'percent' at any time for the rest of the night," Liza said, and Min straightened her gray-checked jacket and said a short prayer that she'd think of a great pick-up line before she got to the landing and made a fool of herself. In which case, she'd just spit on the beast, push David over the railing, and go get that cat.
"Just so there's a plan," she said to herself and started across the floor.
Excerpted from Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Copyright © 2004 Jennifer Crusie Smith. 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.
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