Finding Happily-Ever-After [NOOK Book]


Private investigator Jewel Parnell doesn't believe in fairy-tale romance. What she does believe in are low-risk, short-term flings and ignoring her mother's constant matchmaking attempts. But her newest clients—a solemn, sexy professor and his grieving little nephew—might just give Jewel the lesson in love she so badly needs!

Christopher Culhane hires Jewel to locate his deadbeat ex-brother-in-law, never intending to fall for her or build a family of his own. Yet drawn by her ...

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Finding Happily-Ever-After

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Private investigator Jewel Parnell doesn't believe in fairy-tale romance. What she does believe in are low-risk, short-term flings and ignoring her mother's constant matchmaking attempts. But her newest clients—a solemn, sexy professor and his grieving little nephew—might just give Jewel the lesson in love she so badly needs!

Christopher Culhane hires Jewel to locate his deadbeat ex-brother-in-law, never intending to fall for her or build a family of his own. Yet drawn by her beauty, Christopher is soon determined to prove to Jewel that she can find happily ever after…with him. Even if he has to do it one kiss at a time…

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426864506
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/1/2010
  • Series: Matchmaking Mamas Series , #2060
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 278,830
  • File size: 511 KB

Meet the Author

Prolific romance author Marie Ferrarella swears she was born writing, "which must have made the delivery especially hard for my mother."

Born in West Germany of Polish parents, she came to America when she was four years of age. For an entire year, Marie and her family explored the eastern half of the country before finally settling in New York. It was there that she was to meet the man she would marry, truly her first love. Marie was only 14 when she first laid eyes on her future husband, Charles Ferrarella.

From an early age, Marie's parents would find her watching television or tucked away in some private place, writing at a furious pace. "Initially, I began writing myself into my favorite shows. I was a detective on 77 Sunset Strip, the missing Cartwright sibling they never talked about on Bonanza, and the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before there was a Girl from U.N.C.L.E., not to mention an active participant in the serialized stories on The Mickey Mouse Club."

Marie began to write her first romance novel when she was 11 years old, although she claims that, at the time, she didn't even realize it was a romance!

She scribbled off and on, while dreaming of a career as an actress.

During her days at Queens College, acting started to lose its glamour as Marie spent more and more time writing. After receiving her English degree, specializing in Shakespearean comedy, Marie and her family moved to Southern California, where she still resides today.

After an interminable seven weeks apart, Charles decided he couldn't live without her and came out to California to marry his childhood sweetheart.

Ever practical, Marie was married in a wash-and-wear wedding dress that she sewed herself, appliqués and all. "'Be prepared' has always been my motto," the author jokes. This motto has been stretched considerably by her two children, "but basically, it still applies," she says.

Marie has one goal: to entertain, to make people laugh and feel good. "That's what makes me happy," she confesses. "That, and a really good romantic evening with my husband." She's keeping her fingers crossed that you enjoy reading her books as much as she's enjoyed writing them!

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Read an Excerpt

He was accustomed to some disorder. It was there, on his desk, in his office at the university. But that was a controlled disorder. If pressed, Christopher Culhane knew exactly how to lay his hands on almost any textbook in his extensive library, be it math or one of the physics disciplines, as well as on any notes that he'd jotted down in the past six to nine months.

This, however, he thought as he looked around what he assumed was the living room, had to be what the inside of Dorothy's house had looked like immediately after the twister had landed it on top of the Wicked Witch of the East.

Maybe even worse, he silently amended. He'd always known that Rita, his younger sister, wasn't much for housekeeping. Growing up, she'd never been able to keep her room in any semblance of order despite their mother's numerous pleas and threats to come in with a bulldozer. Looking back, Rita's room had been downright neat in comparison to what he was seeing now.

How could a sane person live like this? The answer to that troubled him on several levels.

With a suppressed sigh, Chris scrubbed his hands over his face, trying very hard to pull himself together. The past thirty-six hours had been one hell of an emotionally draining ride. A ride that he fervently hoped to God he'd never come close to having to go through again.

"Are you okay, Uncle Chris?" a small, inordinately adult-sounding voice asked, fear vibrating in every syllable.

His nephew, Joel, peered at his face with blatant concern. Joel was small and slight for his age, which made him look even younger than five years old. But the moment he opened his mouth, he negated that impression and sounded like an old man trapped in a child's body.

"You're not having a headache or anything, are you?" he wanted to know. His brown eyes were wide with worry.

Chris shook his head sadly. "No."

Given what the boy had been through, Chris thought, it was a legitimate question, as was the obvious anxiety that surrounded it. According to the story Joel had related, both to the police and then to him, his mother had complained about an excruciating headache just before she collapsed on the floor.

Unlike all the other times she'd fallen down because alcohol or drugs—or both—had temporarily gotten the better of her, this time Rita Johnson did not open her eyes no matter how hard Joel shook her, pleading with her to wake up.

But the brain aneurysm that had ruptured with no apparent warning, other than an overwhelming head ache minutes before snuffing out Rita's life, had other ideas.

It was Joel who called 911 and Joel who had told the policeman summoned to the hospital about his mother having a brother in the area. The boy had solemnly added that his mother "didn't want Uncle Chris coming around 'cause he didn't like what she was doing."

Chris had gotten the news just as he finished teach ing his last physics class of the day. The dean's administrative assistant had handed him a note asking him to call Blair Memorial Hospital and speak to a Dr. MacKenzie. The sparse message only said that it was about his sister.

An icy feeling had passed over him as he'd dialed the number on the paper.

It had gone downhill from there.

Almost three years had gone by since he'd last seen Rita. That had been her choice. Despite slurring her words, Rita had made that perfectly clear. She'd angrily shouted for him to get out of her house and out of her life, that she'd had "enough to deal with without having you always staring down your disapproving nose at me!"

Trying to reason with her had been useless. He'd had to satisfy himself with covertly driving by the house every so often to catch a glimpse of his nephew and assure himself that the boy was doing all right.

The checks he sent regularly for the boy's care partially saw to that. He knew that his sister did love her child. She wouldn't have allowed him to starve or do completely without. He also knew that if he tried to police her, she'd do something to spite him, so the best method in this case was to give her money earmarked for Joel and stand back. He could only hope that, in her own strange way, Rita gave the boy the emotional support he needed.

Arriving at the hospital to identify his sister, Chris struggled with his own emotions. He had just turned away from Rita's lifeless body when he saw the huge, sad brown eyes looking at him from beneath the thick fringe of dark brown hair. The last time he'd been in the same room with Joel, the boy had been a little more than two years old and already on his way to being a prodigy.

Mourning the fact that this was all such a huge waste of a life, Chris approached the boy slowly. Even though he had conducted himself with exceptional maturity up to this point, Joel was still a five-year-old who had just lost his mother and needed comforting.

Chris had no idea how to talk to someone that young.

He dealt exclusively with adults, and had for some time now. Children were just short human beings he occasionally noted as being part of the background or scenery, like flowers or benches or buildings. He had no direct contact with any of them. He was completely unprepared to break the news to the boy that his mother had died ten minutes after she'd been brought to Blair Memorial.

As it turned out, he didn't have to say very much at all. Joel had looked up at him with stoic, old eyes and said rather than asked, "My mother's dead, isn't she?"

When he'd answered his nephew haltingly in the affirmative, Joel slowly nodded his head. He was amazingly self-contained. In the day and a half that they'd been together since then, he still hadn't heard the boy cry. He was beginning to think that he never would.

It was eerily unnatural.

At a loss as to his next move, Chris had brought Joel back to the home that the boy had shared with his mother. He was utterly astonished at the chaotic scene that met him the moment he unlocked the door. Though it might have once been confined to a small area, the unbridled mess now spread out until it invaded every room in the house. There were newspapers stacked high in the corners, decaying food left on paper plates that turned up in the most unlikely places. And layers of dirty laundry seemed to be scattered everywhere.

The moment they walked in, Joel instantly began to pick things up. The systematic way he moved about told Chris that Joel was the one who tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put things in order, not Rita. The boy obviously needed the semblance of some kind of order, especially now, when it was his very life that was in chaos. So, the first thing Chris did, right after calling the closest funeral parlor to make arrangements, was to place a call to a local cleaning service.

To his surprise, the woman who answered said they could be there the next morning. Sooner, she assured him kindly, if need be. There was no extra charge for speed. Because he was emotionally wiped out, Chris opted for the morning.

"I'm sorry about the mess," he apologized to the woman who appeared on the doorstep bright and early, armed with a warm smile and a willing crew. The woman, a Ms. Cecilia Parnell, came in first and quietly surveyed what she must have viewed as the aftermath of a blitz attack.

Cecilia smiled in response to the tall, good-looking young man's words, doing her best to melt away any outer discomfort on her client's part.

"Don't be. If there wasn't a mess, you wouldn't be needing my company's services and we'd all be selling tools in a hardware store," she told him cheerfully. She made her way around the stacks of papers, touching things at random as if to get a feel for what needed to be done and how long it would take. "If you don't mind my asking, how long has it been since you—?" She allowed her voice to trail off, not actually saying the word cleaned in case he would find it offensive and think that she was in any way criticizing him.

"Oh, it's not my house," Chris informed her quickly. The glut of clutter embarrassed him. "The house is my sister's."

His sister, Cecilia thought, would never give Martha Stewart a run for her money. "And you want to surprise her?" she guessed.

Chris felt his heart twist inside his chest. He shouldn't have stood on ceremony. He should have come over, should have insisted that he be part of Rita's life. Who knows? She might still be alive if he had, he thought as guilt tore off huge, jagged pieces of him.

"It's too late for that," he said. The moment the words were out, Chris realized how enigmatic that had to have sounded to the woman. She was looking at him curiously. He took a breath and explained, "My sister just died."

Sympathy instantly swept over Cecilia, her mother's heart going out to the young man. "Oh, I'm so sorry." She looked around again. Behind her, she heard Kathy and Ally, two of her carefully selected crew, setting up their equipment. Horst was bringing in the industrial-strength vacuum cleaner and muttering something to himself in German. "So you're trying to clean the house up in order to sell it?" She needed to know what his intentions were in order to ascertain just how deeply they were to clean. It was a hard real-estate market these days. A house up for sale had to sparkle right down to the support beams. Even her best friend, Maizie, who could sell hamburgers to a vegetarian, complained about it.

"No!" Quiet up until now, Joel jumped up the moment he heard the word sell. He looked stricken as he tugged on Chris's arm. "Don't sell it! You can't sell it. This is my home."

There was no way he intended to cause the boy any further pain. Awkwardly, Chris put his arm around the extremely thin shoulders. "I'm not selling the house, Joel. I just want you to be able to walk around here without bumping into things. Or coming down with anything," he added under his breath. He was fairly certain there were three kinds of mold growing in the kitchen alone. Possibly four.

Cecilia quickly connected the dots. "Your nephew?" she asked her client kindly.

He nodded. His arm still around Joel's shoulders, he moved him slightly forward. "This is Joel," he told the woman charged with what amounted to turning straw into gold.

Surprised when the boy offered his hand, Cecilia solemnly shook it. "Pleased to meet you, Joel." She raised her eyes to Chris's face. "And the boy's father?"

Ah, the million-dollar question. "Haven't a clue," he answered, swallowing a sigh. The moment he'd assessed the situation, he'd put in for a two-week leave of absence, citing a family emergency. He hoped it was enough. "Finding him is going to be my first order of business—right after getting this place habitable again."

Oh, yes, dear God, yes! Cecilia had stopped listening after her client had uttered the words finding him. Finally, Cecilia thought as relief wove its way through her.

Just when she thought it would never happen for her, or rather, for her daughter, Jewel, it appeared as if lightning were finally going to strike. Both of her best friends had miraculously managed to find men for their independent, career-minded daughters among the clientele their businesses serviced.

It was Maizie's plan initially, and Maizie's future son-in-law came to her looking for a house and a pediatrician for his daughter. She sold him the first and introduced him to the second—who just happened to be her daughter, Nikki. Theresa found Jackson when she catered a dinner for him. Theresa's daughter, Kate, and Jackson were going to be married soon, as well.

As for her, she'd given up all hope of finding someone for Jewel. But now she had her chance. Christopher Culhane not only needed his house cleaned, he needed help finding someone—which was Jewel's forte.

Incredibly excited, Cecilia smiled. Karma had finally found her.

"I know a very good private investigator if you're interested." She did her best to sound nonchalant, even though her heart had just gone into overdrive, taking her pulse with it.

The relieved expression on her client's face had her almost giddy. Cecilia had a very good feeling about this.

Jewel smelled a rat.

Much as she would have liked to say, "Thanks but no thanks," when the offer had been presented to her, she wasn't exactly in a position to turn down business when it came her way. Even if the referral had come from her mother.

She sighed as she drove to the address she'd hastily written down after her conversation with her mother. There was no denying that times were tough for PIs these days. Suspicious wives were deciding that, for the time being, it was better to live with unfounded fears than to pay to find out that those qualms were right on the money because that would only lead to a divorce. And divorce, for now, was just too expensive.

Since most of Jewel's money came from shadowing cheating spouses, that didn't leave very much for her to do. Before her mother had called her with this case, she had actually been debating asking her if the cleaning service her mom ran needed any part-time help. She hated being idle, not to mention running the risk of falling behind in her monthly bills.

This job was like a stay of execution—with a bonus. For once she didn't have to trail anyone to a sleazy motel and wind up feeling as if she needed to take a shower because of what she'd had to witness and record.

Still, the referral had come from her mother and she knew all about the pact that her mother had made with her lifelong best friends. All three of them—Maizie, Theresa and her mother—were determined to get their daughters married. Her mother, and consequently, she, was the last woman standing.

That did not bode well for someone who valued her privacy and her life as much as Jewel did.

"This is legitimate?" she'd asked her mother not only over the phone, but in person, as well. Having swung by her mother's office to see her face-to-face, she'd scrutinized the older woman for any telltale signs of this being a setup.

Cecilia Parnell had sworn to the name and address' authenticity, ending with the ever popular, "If you can't believe your mother, who can you believe?"

What made this so-called case somewhat suspect was that her mother had given her an address, rather than a phone number.

What was that about?

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