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By Heather MacAllister
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy Dear Mrs. Higgenbotham,
Greetings from sunny and windy San Francisco! I do hope you and Pierre are in the throes of connubial bliss. I want to hear all the details of the wedding, particularly in regard to the jewelry and gowns. I so wish I could have been there in New York, however it was time to move on. I do miss the city and the apartment building and your own dear self, though.
I cannot stress how much your friendship has meant to me during the trying times of late. Both Marlon and I thought we would be together forever and for my part, I did nothing to threaten that. I had invested all of myself. I'd spent my days looking after Marlon's building and tenants only to have him ... but that is water under the bridge, as you know. It is sad when courts must become involved to protect those of us who have given all to a relationship. One would assume there would be an equitable distribution of assets with the understanding that there cannot be a monetary value placed on some contributions. Apparently my contributions were only worth one modest apartment in San Francisco.
Yet, I am not bitter. At least I now have a home. Marlon's apartment - former apartment, as I have recently received the deed - is one of four in a charming pink-and-green Painted Lady, which is what we San Franciscans call the Victorian houses.
This one and its neighbors survived the great earthquake, though since construction began on the house across the street, I feel as though I relive the quake daily.
The apartment is furnished in period style - Marlon always did have exquisite taste - with a bedroom, office where I can work on my script and a largish kitchen. Oh, and a balcony, a cozy place where I can sit and watch the activity on Mission Street as I answer the call of my muse.
And speaking of that, I cannot express my gratitude to you for the gift of the skirt.
As my muse appears to have remained in New York, I shall continue with my study of the effects of the skirt on heterosexual mating. I find the subject fascinating, if perplexing, and I do believe there is a story here. Urban legends are always popular in movies and plays. The very idea that this nondescript, though well-tailored, black skirt has some sort of power to attract men is preposterous and yet A.J., Sam and Claire, and even your dear self all swear it's true. And have you heard from the girls? I do miss them. Is all well with them? Sam, especially, was a valuable source of gossip.
I have decided to put the skirt to the test. As it happens, I find myself short of cash. Not to worry! The residents of this building and the others on the block have never known the convenience of a doorman until now. For a small honorarium, I have offered my services to deal with repairmen and accept packages and keep an eye on the neighborhood. But until my talents as an actor and playwright are recognized, I must provide my own backing. Therefore, I have removed to the service quarters in the basement and am attempting to rent out the apartment on a daily basis to those who need a temporary base in the city.
No, do not feel sorry for me, Mrs. H. One must suffer for one's art, though I seem to suffer more than most. But my plan is to rent to single young ladies who can make use of the skirt - and who will recount all their adventures to me. Perhaps my muse will be intrigued enough to help me incorporate these stories about the skirt into a small play.
So far, I have found two young women who are willing to take on a partial sublet and a third who is currently considering. I have seen her walk by here every day and feel she would provide the skirt with its most stringent test. Attractive women attracting attractive men, well, where is the challenge for the skirt in that? But this young woman practices none of the feminine arts and, indeed, seems unaware of them. Oh, to witness when she becomes aware ...
In any event, know that I am well, of good cheer and no doubt destined for greatness.
Until then, I remain, ever yours,
* * *
At the sound of an old-fashioned wolf whistle, Marnie LaTour looked up from her laptop, which was currently sitting on the serving counter of the Deli Dally next to her cold meatball sub. Her three co-workers from Carnahan Custom Software - all male - had swiveled on their stools to stare out the window.
"Whoa, would you look at that?" murmured one.
Marnie looked. A long-legged blonde walked by in a flippy skirt that fluttered alarmingly in the San Francisco wind. Glued to her side was one of the men from Technical Support.
"All right, Gregie boy!" Two of the guys high-fived each other.
Marnie watched long enough to see that Greg was taking the blonde to Tarantella, the new Italian restaurant down the street, then returned to the screen full of code she was trying to debug. If she had written the code in the first place, there wouldn't have been anything to debug.
"You think she's wearing a thong?" This comment came from Barry Emmons, who was sitting next to Marnie since it was his program she was trying to fix. She assumed he meant that as a rhetorical question and didn't answer.
The three men slid off the counter stools and walked over to the window.
"All I'm asking for is one really good gust of wind before they make it to the door." It was probably Doug.
"Oh, yeah." That was Barry again.
Marnie wished he'd stayed with her instead of heading for the window with the rest of them. She also wished she was dining alone with him at Tarantella instead of going with the guys to two-for-one Italian night at the Deli Dally. After all, she'd just spent three hours fixing the code for his animated oilfield tool instructional video. At least he'd bought her meatball sub.
Well, actually he'd paid for his and had given her the free one. Still. It was something. A start. And right now, Marnie needed a start.
She'd worked at Carnahan since graduating from college six years ago and had eliminated all the dating possibilities among her co-workers. Barry had been working at Carnahan less than a year and was still in the "possible" column. Word was that he'd spent time in a couple of women's "possible" columns, but wasn't dating anyone currently.
Marnie figured it was her turn, except that Barry was proving slippery to pin down. Thus, she'd volunteered her code expertise to help with his projects. Several times.
She glanced over her shoulder at the men. Clearly, he needed a nudge.
Excerpted from Male Call by Heather MacAllister Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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