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Hers For The Weekend
By Tanya Michaels
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePIPER JAMIESON SAGGED against the sofa cushions and rolled her eyes at the phone receiver. It could have been a wrong number, a pushy telephone solicitor, an obscene caller even, but nooo, it was her mother. Piper loved her mom, but all their conversations boiled down to the same argument - Piper's love life.
She started to put her feet up on the oval coffee table, but stopped suddenly, as though her mother could see through the phone line and into her apartment. "So, how've you been doing, Mom?"
"Never mind that. I'm more concerned with how you are," her mother said. "You don't feel acute appendicitis coming on, right? You aren't going to call us tomorrow with a severe case of forty-eight-hour east Brazilian mumps or something?"
Piper groaned. Although she'd bailed out on all of the family reunions in recent years, she'd used legitimate work-related excuses, never fictional medical ones. But this year she'd made a promise to her grandmother.
This year, there would be no reprieve.
"I'll be there," she assured her mother. "And I'm looking forward to seeing you all." Mostly.
"We're looking forward to seeing you, too, honey. Especially Nana. When I went to visit her at the hospital last week -"
"Hospital?" Piper's chest tightened. She adored her grandmother, even if Nana did stubbornly insist women needed husbands. "Daphne told me she was under the weather, but no one said anything about the hospital." As Nana advanced in years, Piper couldn't help worrying over her grandmother's health.
A worry her mother was not above exploiting. "You know what would help your Nana? If she knew you had a good man to take care of you."
Ah, yes - here came the Good Man Speech. Piper knew it well.
"You've always been independent," her mother was saying, "but there's such a thing as being too stubborn. Before you know it, you'll wake up fifty, without anyone to share your life...."
Knowing from experience that it did no good to point out she was decades away from turning fifty, Piper stretched across the maroon-and-black-plaid couch. Might as well be comfy while she waited for her mother to wind down.
Though she'd escaped her small hometown of Rebecca, Texas, and now lived in Houston, Piper couldn't escape her family's shared belief that a woman's purpose in life was to get married. Piper's sole brush with matrimony had been a broken engagement that still left her with a sense of dazed relief - how had she come so close to spending her life with a man who'd wanted her to be someone different? When her sister, Daphne, had married, Piper thought the pressure would ease, that their mother would be happy to finally have a married daughter. Instead, Mrs. Jamieson was scandalized that her youngest was married, now pregnant, while her oldest didn't even date.
As her mom continued to wax ominous about the downfalls of growing old alone, Piper stared vacantly at the dead ficus tree in the corner of her living room. I should water that poor thing. Although, at this point, it was probably more in need of a dirge than [H.sub.2]O.
"Piper! Are you even listening to me?"
"Y - mostly."
"I asked if that bagel man was still giving you trouble."
Mercifully, her mother had moved on to the next topic. Too bad Piper had no idea what that topic was. "Bagel?"
Then realization dawned. Her mother must mean Stanley Kagle, vice president of Callahan, Kagle and Munroe, the architectural firm where Piper worked as the only female draftsman. Make that draftswoman. In Kagle's unvoiced opinion, Piper's job description should be brewing coffee and answering phones with Ginger and Maria, the two secretaries who had been with the firm since it opened. Luckily, Callahan and Munroe held more liberated views.
"You mean Mr. Kagle, Mom?"
"Whichever one is always hassling you at work." She paused. "You know, you wouldn't have to work at all if you'd find a nice man and raise some babies."
Piper could actually hear her blood pressure rising. One of only a handful of female students in her degree program at Texas A&M, she'd busted her butt to excel in her drafting and detailing courses, and was now working even harder to prove herself amid her male colleagues. Why couldn't her family be proud of that? Proud of her?
"Mom, I like my job. I like my life. I wish you'd just accept that I'm happy."
"How happy could you be? Daphne says you're underappreciated and that one of your bosses has it in for you."
And thank you so much, Daphne, for passing on that information.
"Daph caught me after a rough week, and I was just venting," Piper said. "I love the actual drafting part." And loved the feeling she got when she was in the middle of a drawing and knew it was damn good, the pride of passing a building downtown and seeing one of her suspended walkways. If things continued to go well, Piper was hoping her next review with Callahan would lead to her first project as a team leader.
But better to argue her point in a language her mom could understand. "I'll admit to occasional work-related stress, but are you trying to tell me that marriage and motherhood are stress-free?"
Silence stretched across the phone line.
Aha! I have you there.
Then Mrs. Jamieson sighed as though this conversation epitomized her motherhood stress. "Honey, you aren't getting any younger, and women can't -"
Recognizing the introductory phrase of her Don't You Hear Your Biological Clock Ticking Speech, Piper interrupted. "I'd love to chat more Mom, but ..." She thought fast, determined to rescue herself from this black hole of a conversation. "I have to run because I have dinner plans."
"You have a dinner date! With a man?"
Did she really want to lie to her mother? Piper gnawed at her lower lip. She'd already told one white lie. Besides, if it would save her from another round of "you'd be such a pretty girl if you just fixed yourself up," why not? Her imaginary person might as well be an imaginary man.
"Yes." Guilt over the uncharacteristic fib immediately niggled at her, but she pressed forward. "It's a man."
"Good heavens. I can't believe you let me go on all this time and didn't say anything about having a boyfriend!"
Boyfriend? She'd only meant to allude to a dinner date to buy herself some peace and quiet, not invent a full-blown relationship. "Wait, I -"
"What does your young man look like, dear?"
Piper blurted the first thing that came to mind. "Tall, dark and handsome." Oh, very original! "Dark-haired with green eyes," she elaborated.
"And you'll bring him home with you for the reunion, right?"
Excerpted from Hers For The Weekend by Tanya Michaels Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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