Love on the Dotted Line: A Novel

Love on the Dotted Line: A Novel

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by David E. Talbert

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The author of the Essence bestselling novel Baggage Claim delivers a provocative and richly entertaining new novel about what happens when love and litigation collide.
Morgan Chase, a thirty-four-year-old contracts lawyer, is pushed to her romantic wit's end when she discovers that her boyfriend of nine months, investment banker Marcus Alexander,…  See more details below


The author of the Essence bestselling novel Baggage Claim delivers a provocative and richly entertaining new novel about what happens when love and litigation collide.
Morgan Chase, a thirty-four-year-old contracts lawyer, is pushed to her romantic wit's end when she discovers that her boyfriend of nine months, investment banker Marcus Alexander, has been diversifying his "portfolio" with another woman. After a few hours of venting with her girlfriends, and more than a few drinks, Morgan decides that the only way you can guarantee that a man will act right after you've been intimate is if you make him sign a contract before you've been intimate.
That very same night, Morgan heads back to the office to create the first-ever relationship contract -- a legal document full of conditions, consideration, and most important, consequences.
Sparks fly, tempers flare, and emotions hit the fan when the man Morgan finally convinces to sign her contract is caught red-handed with another woman. What follows is an ingeniously plotted and thoroughly entertaining fusion of comedy, romance, and courtroom mayhem.
What happens when love itself is put on trial? One thing's for sure...hell hath no fury like an attorney scorned!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Morgan, a contract lawyer, and Marcus, an investment banker, may not be married, but they're still the perfect couple: they're good-looking and well-to-do, and in addition to their romantic all-night conversations they enjoy "an unconscionable supply of trashy, tribal sex." Or they were perfect, until Mo spies the diamond tennis bracelet she thought was her birthday present on the slim brown wrist of another lady. Spirited Mo dusts herself off pretty quickly, thanks to the encouragement of her "ace boon" best friend, Altima, and the attentions of Charles, the gorgeous former NBA player who sells her a pretty, "pre-owned" (not "used," he insists) Lexus and then flies her to Paris on their first date. Before Charles and Mo get it on, though, Mo has him sign this handy little contract-a "pre-prenuptial"-whereby he guarantees his fidelity. Which means that when he inevitably screws around on her, she takes him to court, and hilarity, of a modest sort, ensues. Side action rounds out the thin but amusing plot: there's the mayor's sex scandal, the "prison cut" neighbor's search for love and Mo's sweet flirtation with a fellow lawyer in this frothy tale of love and legal wranglings by the author of Baggage Claim. Agent, Alan Nevins. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Simon & Schuster
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Sex to Marcus was like eating a plate of ribs on the Fourth of July weekend. He didn't mind getting his hands dirty or his face messy. As a matter of fact, he preferred it that way. He was a sop-up-the-gravy-with-a-biscuit kind of man. An eat-two-helpings-and-come-back-for-two-more kind of man. A damn-a-towel, I'm-a-wipe-my-mouth-with-the-back-of-my-hand kind of man. This morning I was his barbecue. And the only thing missing would be that one slice of white Wonder bread and a tall glass of red Kool-Aid.


I changed my position under the warm duvet, like routine, trying to catch a peek of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which through my tired eyes resembled a ribbon floating in the sky. The view from Marcus's third-story loft apartment in Penn's Landing was the next best thing to waking up to him each morning. The sun reflecting on the Delaware River through his large bay window and his Persian-style interior could almost make you forget you were in the heart of downtown Philadelphia.

In an almost unconscious state Marcus's elongated fingers tapped the alarm's snooze button and under the covers he went. He started at my ankles, licking them ever so gently. Slowly working his way up my calf, over my kneecap, and along the inside of my thighs, where an uncontrollable moan seeped from my lips...aaaaaaah.

Marcus was the kind of man that could keep you in the bed all the livelong day. Damn your job, your career, or whatever your life goals were. After a few nights with Marcus, your only aspiration was waking up next to his ass. Hearing the sound of the covers rustling, watching the imprint of his bald head slowly going lower and lower and...aaaaaaah. Another moan eased through my tightly clutched bottom lip. He was there again. Handling his business again. At the same bat place, same bat time, hitting that same bat spot again.


Again Marcus tapped the alarm as the swooshing sound of the sheets silhouetted his sculpted frame. He was in full stride now. He was good, getting to better, getting to best. He was a man of ambition, always seeking higher heights and deeper depths and...aaaaaah.

The alarm rang again. And then again and again until one long, drawn-out sigh signaled that I had ascended to heaven, whispered to the angels, and touched the hand of God.


Marcus and I met at a fund-raiser dinner for former city councilman-turned-Philadelphia mayor Clarence Amos. Marcus was there representing his investment firm, Strauss & Landing Capital Management, one of Philly's best, and presented a $50,000 check toward a scholarship fund. To me any man waving a check for $50,000 was worth some further investigation. I managed to negotiate an introduction from a mutual friend. After just a few minutes of conversation his charm overpowered his check. Marcus and I spent the better part of the evening huddled in a corner talking about everything from parties to politics. We were almost instantly inseparable. Except for his work-related nighttime social engagements and my seemingly round-the-clock trials and arbitration, we were almost never apart.

"So, my Mona Lisa, is there any better way to start your day?" he asked with a kiss. I love when he calls me that. Mona Lisa is a li'l nickname he gave me the first morning I woke up next to him. He said waking up to my smile the next morning was picture perfect. He refused to call me Mo like everyone else. He's too original for that. And besides, it was more than a nickname he had given; it was a symbol of security. A sign of sincerity.

"Not that I can think of," I whispered, returning a kiss from his still-moistened lips.

Marcus's six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch frame and my five-foot-six-and-three-quarters body fit together as perfectly as a pair of lambskin gloves. My head lay comfortably in the small of his chest in that good space between his right pec and shoulder bone. Most men give good sex, but Marcus gave good love.


Marcus leapt from the bed and glided his chocolate, chiseled, naked body to the shower for his routine ten minutes of morning exhilaration.

Still tingling with sensation, I caught a glimpse of my own cocoa brown body peeking halfway out of the covers in his cheval mirror. My freshly permed shoulder-length flip was in disarray. But I quickly adapted to that morning look, seeing that Marcus and his rhythmic stroke was the reasoning behind it. Even my haven't-been-to-the-gym-in-a-minute slight pudge didn't bother me as much as it used to. I knew he liked a shapely woman. From my thick legs to my voluptuous breasts, my overall size eight physique was to his delight. And he indulgently substantiated that over and over again.

From the corner of my eye I noticed the luscious bouquet of pink and white roses in a crystal bud vase sitting next to the clock. I sat up and reached over to read the attached note:

With the wisdom of a woman twice your age, and the body of a woman half your age, for you any age is a damn good age. I planned dinner for two tonight at our favorite restaurant.



(The man whose bed you're sleeping in.)

It was just like Marcus to remember even when I thought he'd forgotten. Especially since this is the first birthday since we've been together. But that's what made him perfect. Perfect in the sense that he was present. He was attentive. Aware. Without me ever having to say what was wrong, he just listened. Even after a long day's work, he took the time to listen. Even when I was going off about this case or that case, he just sat there and listened. And that mattered. A lot. For me, it just didn't get any better than that.

We were the perfect couple -- he's now an investment banker at one of the largest private banks in the city. Responsible for close to a quarter of a billion dollars' worth of investment portfolios, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. I'm not supposed to know the names of his clients, but he can barely keep a secret. At least, not one from me. His life was an open book. No hidden agendas. No double lives or split personalities. What you saw was what you got. And even if Marcus had some type of covert scheme lurking, it wouldn't be long before I'd uncover it. It's not often something or someone gets past my radar. Like most women, I have the innate ability to recognize and eradicate dirt from a mile away. Which is a good thing, considering my profession. I'm a contracts lawyer at Benson, Bartolli & Rush, one of the leading law firms in Philadelphia, and I spend all day every day dotting Is, crossing Ts, finding and filling the loopholes.

So we were both pretty anal all day, so in each other we looked forward to impromptu moments of romance. And if nothing else, an unconscionable supply of trashy, tribal sex.


From inside my purse, I could hear my cell phone vibrating out of control. I slid out of Marcus's massive four-poster bed and quickly tiptoed over to the dresser, trying to make as little contact as I could with the freezing hardwood floor. I smiled while answering, already sure of who was lingering on the other end.

"Guess where I was thirty-four years ago?"

I knew it. It was my mother. Every year on my birthday, she called me the exact hour and minute that I was born.

"Momma," I said, half-groggy, trying to make her think I was asleep.

"I'll tell you," she said, barely taking a breath. "I was in Chestnut Hill Hospital Women's Center giving birth to an angel. Giving life to my first and only child. You should know, because you are that angel. A gift from God. Oh, you should have seen the look on your father's face. That is, after he came to from fainting. He loved you so much. We both did."

"If he were here right now, he'd tell you, too," she continued, getting choked up. My father had passed away almost ten years ago from diabetes.

"I know he would," I said, trying to break her out of it.

"I know you know, baby. And I know he knows it, too, while he's smiling down on us even now. Gone 'head, baby, give your daddy a little wave."

"Momma," I said, hoping to move the conversation along.

"Anyway I've got a card from the saints at True Vine," she continued, still weepy. "Pastor Zachary had the missionary board chip in for a gift for you. They say they haven't seen you in a while and everybody misses you. I told them you're busy and that you always ask about them. He's thinking about retiring next year. He has the gout, you know."

That was my mother. She could go from one unrelated subject to the next without taking a break or skipping a beat. Without leaving room for an interjection, comment, thought, or reflection. I could lay the phone down and walk away and she'd never know. One time I did. I walked away for fifteen minutes and when I came back, she was still going. And going. And going.

"You know I tried you at home, but you didn't pick up. Are you at Marcus's house?" she asked, always hoping that a steady relationship meant she was one step closer to the grandchild she had long since wanted.

"Yes, Momma."

"Oh, that's nice. Tell him I said good morning. He's a good man, you know. He's not like Terrance, or Kevin, Calvin, Orlando, or Dalvin. Especially Dalvin. He was a mess. A train wreck waiting to happen from one end of Broad Street to the other."

"Train wreck, Momma? Don't you think 'train wreck' is a little harsh? We were in the third grade."

"Okay, so it was a choo choo train. But it was still a train," she said, now laughing at herself.

"Momma," I said in a voice that she knew all too well.

"I know. I know. Baby, I just want you to be happy, that's all. I just want you to find somebody like I found somebody. You deserve a man that'll make you pancakes on Sunday, just like the ones your father used to make me. I can hear him now, jumping out the bed, slipping on those raggedy pair of slippers that I tried to get him to get rid of for years, stomping down the stairs, then after a spell or two, he'd yell up the stairs, 'Baby, come on and get you something to eat.' I'd act like I didn't hear him, like I was still asleep, and he'd march up the stairs, huffing and puffing -- lean over and whisper in my ear -- 'your pancakes are ready.' After all these years, I still wake up sometimes and I can hear him rumbling through the kitchen, clanging through the cupboard, fixing me pancakes. I just want the same for you, baby. That's all."

"I do, too, Momma. I do, too," I said, reflecting on my own memories growing up in a household filled with the fragrance of family, love, and pancakes.

"You tell Marcus he's got some big shoes to fill. I don't even know if they make that size anymore, but just in case they tell him what I said, you hear."

"I will, Momma."

"I know you will, baby. And tell him any time he wants another piece of cake or pie, he's more than welcome. Like I always say, the nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat. I love you."

"I love you, too," I said, easing the flip phone closed, embracing the fact that since my father's been gone my life became her life, and, like it or not, we were going to be joined at the hip until she could usher me into the arms of a loving man who could rightfully take care of me. But even with all her quirks and crazy run-on sentences, she was my friend. She kept me grounded. I was thankful to have her in my life.

I scurried back under the covers, hoping for five more minutes to linger in his scent. There was no question in my mind. Marcus was the one. First there were all-night conversations, which turned into the occasional creepovers. Then the random weekend sleepovers, which quickly turned into me leaving a toothbrush here, a pair of lace panties there. I marked my territory on most of his apartment by strategically strewing feminine subtleties in all the appropriate hot spots. A box of tampons in the master bathroom. A bottle of pink nail polish on the floor behind his nightstand. And if neither of those thwarted the hoes, there was the always explosive, half-empty birth control dispenser in the front of his kitchen drawer. Like I said, I had covered all my bases. Not that I didn't trust my man. I just didn't trust his options.

In my mind, the only thing left was a key to his apartment. I had no doubt that was forthcoming.

What I did may sound a little extreme, but it all depends on what you're looking for in a relationship. For me a relationship is about commitment and trust. Plain and simple. And see, I'm not looking for a wedding ring. I'm not pressed to run to the altar. For what? It may seem like the most logical desire for a woman, but after dealing with family law and drawing up divorce contracts and prenuptials all day, to me it's almost unethical to walk down the aisle. Why pay thousands of dollars for one day when you can seal your relationship with the same level of commitment by a couple deciding to make a conscious effort to do so. A piece of paper doesn't define the validity of any relationship; the increasing divorce rate today is evidence of that. And just because my and Marcus's fidelity isn't sealed with a platinum band doesn't make me wanting commitment from him or any man any less vital. It's just that I have too much to lose in a marriage and too much to gain in life and in my career. Why take the chance of losing half of that because some fool wants to act up?

"Baby, could you pull out my blue pinstriped Hugo Boss suit from the closet and could you pick out a shirt for me, too, please?"

"Sure thing, honey," I said.

In the time that we had been dating, I had successfully gotten him to shift his fashion from drudging off-the-rack suits to fresh, custom-fitted and designer suits, ones more befitting a man of his status and earnings. Not that he didn't already have style, but I figured since we're going to be together for a while, I might as well give him a look that I liked.

Easing myself out from under the duvet, I began sifting through his large walk-in closet for the suit and shirt. I reached for the pinstriped blue shirt that I had picked out for him a few weeks ago. As I began to pull it down from the shelf, I noticed a strand from one of his cashmere sweaters caught on a button from another shirt. After undoing the snag, I placed it back in its original place. Folding, then tucking, and what is this? Something not so soft and fluffy had brushed up against my hand.

"Could you pick a tie, too? I'm running kinda late."

"Sure," I said, now curious to explore.


I reached for the hard something, only to find it was a box. But not just any box. It was a rectangular jewelry box. A blue rectangular jewelry box. But not just any blue...Tiffany blue!! Oh my's a --

"Sweetheart, could you hand me a clean towel from the cabinet, please?"

"Yeah," I said, then quickly covered my mouth with my hand.


Opening it slowly...slowly...oh my God! A diamond-covered tennis bracelet. Why would Marcus have a diamond-covered tennis bracelet in his closet? Stunned by its sparkle, it suddenly became crystal clear that today was my birthday! Oh my goodness! It's mine! It's mine! Who needs a duplicate key, I've got some duplicate diamonds. What's next? The duplicate last name?


I closed the box and returned it to its hiding place. Rushing to the linen closet and then into the bathroom.

"Morgan," he said, standing naked as water dripped down his body.

"Yes," I said, trying desperately to cover my joy.

"The towel, sweetheart."

"Right," I said. I was so overwhelmed I forgot to hand him his towel. As he dried off I hopped in the shower, humming to myself, thinking that I couldn't wait to get to the office to tell my best girlfriend, Altima.

Copyright © 2005 by Uncle Dave, Inc.

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Love on the Dotted Line 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books i ever read!! I could not put this book down. The characters were warm, authentic, and downright funny. I love the writer and i'm so happy his books have been made into plays.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was completely out of the genre from which I usually read. I am SO glad I read it ,though. Didn't want to put it down! Absolutely wonderful and not to mention hilarious
FebRose More than 1 year ago
First of all I couldn't believe a Man wrote this book, but the author David E. Talbert did a great job in allowing us to get a glimpse at how a male preceives dating. It is a battel of "interpretations" between males and females. What a committed relationship means opposed to spending time together. The charater Morgan had some issues she needed to deal with before getting involved with someone. Morgan took it for granted that spending time together and great sex meant she was in a committed relationship, but failed to discuss this with each man she was involved with. Like I said, it was a very interesting read, one my bookclub really enjoyed it, we had a great discussion on this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is crazy good. i loved every mintue of it and i recommend it to all my friends. in the corut room it breaks down relationships in an honest striaght forward and crazy funny way. it was a surprising good read and will have every female reader shouting 'that's right!' i love it and it's not a one sided thing either. it call women out on there dirt too. so men and women alike will love this laugh out loud book. 'i hope you all liked that little cliche i added on the end'.