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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780505526755
  • Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/2006
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 323
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

First Chapter



What, No Roses?



By Marianne Mancusi


Dorchester Publishing


Copyright © 2006

Marianne Mancusi

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-505-52675-1



Chapter One


"I can't be the only one in the goddamned city who's too
stressed for sex!"

I sucked down the remainder of my chocolate brownie
frappuccino, struggling with a stubborn chunk caught in the
straw. Finally I gave up on the last smidgen of chocolate (a
total crime against humanity, I know!) and set the cup down,
letting out my most frustrated sigh.

"I'm sure you're not," my photographer Jenny replied with a
laugh. The pretty 22-year-old brunette reached over and patted
my hand. "But who wants to admit it on local TV news?"

"Right." I stared out into the crowd of people milling about
the Fashion Valley mall. We'd scoured the area for hours that
morning, asking the inane "Man on the Street" question for my
six p.m. news story on the subject. A fascinating feature on a
new scientific study that found eighty percent of Americans
feel uninterested in getting it on with their partners because
of work pressures. Eighty percent claimed they were literally
"too stressed for sex."

Problem was, zero percent wanted to go on camera and tell me
about it.

"Besides, it's not that you're too stressed for sex," Jenny
added with a twinkle in her sparkling blue eyes. "It's just
that you only want to have it with a guy you refuse to talk
to."

I groaned. Not this again. Itconstantly amazed me how even
after nearly a year, Jenny still rooted for "Nick the Prick"
and I to get back together. I should have never told her my
"We'll always have Baghdad" romance on that oh-so-boring eight
hour stakeout we'd been on when I first came back to
California. (No, not that kind of stakeout. No lurking
criminals or bad guys. Angelina Jolie had been rumored to be
staying at the Four Seasons, if you must know.) Ever since
that day, Jenny had been like a pit bull with a bone and no
matter how much I protested that I would never, ever speak to
that asshole as long as we both shall live, my words fell on
naively deaf ears. In her yet-to-be-scarred mind, our
relationship was beautiful, broken, and just dying to be
mended. With her help, evidently.

Sigh. She was as bad as Nick's geeky brother Tom. The dot.com
billionaire who Forbes claimed was busy revolutionizing
cyberspace seemed to have a lot of free time on his hands,
trying everything under the sun to get Nick and I back
together. He claimed his brother deserved a second chance and
nothing I said or did could dissuade him.

But hey, the two of them could hold out hope 'til Judgment Day
for all I cared. After what Nick did to me last Valentine's
Day halfway around the world, I'd sooner run away and join the
circus rather than speak to him again. And that was coming
from someone with major clown phobia.

Jenny grabbed her video camera as she stood up and handed me
the microphone. Time to get back to work. "You know, maybe you
should call him sometime," she said, oh so casually. "See how
he's doing up there in the City of Angels, all by his
lonesome." She grinned. "Or maybe I should. I mean, he is
really hot and all."

I rolled my eyes and play swatted her with the mic. "Your
pathetic attempts to stir me to a jealous rage are completely
in vain," I informed her. "If I've told you once, I've told
you a thousand times. Nick and I are through. Forever. Finito.
End of story."

"Bah," Jenny scoffed, shaking her head. "Have it your way.
It's none of my business anyway, right? I'll just shut up and
take the pictures."

Grr. Great. Now she was going to go all sensitive on me. I
drew in a breath and reached over to pat her on the shoulder.

"Look Jen. I know you're trying to help. But you don't know
the whole story. What Nick did to me Valentine's Day last
year-it was unforgivable. And not a day goes by when it
doesn't hurt." I glanced down at the ugly scar on my forearm
and thought about the one I couldn't see, running down the
side of my face. It was amazing the station hired me to be on
air-me channeling the Phantom of the Opera and all.

Yup, it still hurt all right. Maybe not physically. But the
mental pain. The fear. Stuff I knew would never completely go
away.

Not that I wasn't trying to move on. After all, I'd left
Iraq-quitting my high profile career as a foreign
correspondent to take on the most innocuous, non-dangerous
reporting job on the planet (albeit the cheesiest). I spent
the last year healing. Living one day at a time. Creating a
life for myself. One without fear and danger and heartbreak at
every turn. And I had to admit, I was pretty proud I'd gotten
as far as I had. Not that I didn't have a long way to go.

Seeing Nick again would just hurl me backwards. And I couldn't
afford that. I just wasn't that strong yet. I might never be.

"Okay, okay, I get yah," Jenny agreed, punching me lightly on
the arm. Luckily she knew when to quit. "Let's go find some
under-sexed San Diegans."

I smiled and together we walked down the open air corridor of
the Southern California mall where a good number of people
were wandering about, carrying big bags of stuff they'd
accumulated in their afternoon of shopping hedonism.
Unfortunately, no one looked particularly interested in
wasting five minutes of their life to get their fifteen
seconds of local news fame by exploiting the secrets of their
sex lives. (Or in this case lack of sex lives, which
technically was worse.)

No one, that was, until an elderly woman with the
stereotypical helmet of wispy blue hair hobbled over to me.
"Can you interview me?" she asked, leaning on her knobby cane.
"I want to be on television."

Hm. I gave her the once-over. It was funny how some people
were dying to be on television, while others avoided it like a
Ben Affleck/J-Lo movie. (If I wasn't a reporter, I'd so be in
the second category!) Of course, granny here wasn't our target
demographic-at News 9 we only cared about the sex lives of
25-49 year old women with a lot of disposable income-but it
was nearly three p.m. and I was getting desperate.

"Okay," I said, giving her Big Reporter Smile. I pointed the
microphone at her. "Do you ever feel you're too stressed for
sex?"

She stared at me a moment, her wizened blue eyes wide, as if
in shock at my brazen question. I felt my face heat. Of
course. What was I thinking? Granny probably hadn't gotten it
on in the last twenty years or so. Ever since her precious
Wilber died back when Reagan was President.

Sigh. Too bad my story wasn't "Too Senile for Sex."

"Too stressed for sex?" the old woman repeated, following the
phrase with a tinkly laugh that sounded a little like
Christmas bells. "My goodness, no. In fact, ever since I
started using this female Viagra I got off the Internet, I've
been having multiple orgasms at the drop of a hat. Henry loves
it!" She beamed at me and then turned to look directly into
the camera. "My sex life is great!" she informed the lens.

Hmph. Evidently these days even Granny was getting more action
than me. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"Okay," I said, lowering the microphone. She obviously wasn't
going to help with my story. "I appreciate you taking the time
to answer." Not that you gave us anything we could use, my
little senior sex kitten.

The woman gave me a disapproving look over her bifocals. "You
young people," she scolded. "You need to stop working so hard.
Start enjoying life. When you're on your deathbed, you won't
look back on your life and think, 'Why didn't I work more?'
Trust me. But you might wonder why you didn't have more
orgasms."

Ah. Even better. Not only was Granny boinking like a bunny,
she was now offering up life lessons. Next thing you knew,
Jenny was going to tell her the Nick story and the two of them
would be tag-teaming for a sex-filled reconciliation.

Can we say, no thank you?

"Thanks," I muttered, stepping backwards to put as much
distance as possible between me and the hot flash ho. "Now if
you'll excuse us ..."

"Good luck, Sweetie," she said, then smiled a patronizing
smile. "You'll find your Prince Charming eventually."

I swallowed hard and resisted the nearly overwhelming urge to
tell her I'd already found him. And that when I kissed him,
he'd turned into a total frog. I wanted to insist that
relationships-while perhaps good for short term, crazy, hot
sex-always ended in pain. Leaving you vulnerable and wounded
and crying in your tomato alphabet soup. Alone.

Instead I channeled Self Protective Mode and turned to throw
Jenny a smirk as Granny hobbled away.

"Some people!"

Jenny shrugged. "She does have a point, Dora."

"Oh, don't start." I groaned. The last thing I needed was a
lecture on relationships from an inexperienced twenty-two year
old. The girl had been dating her boyfriend since the high
school prom. She had no idea what was in store for her future
love life.

Jenny opened her mouth to speak, then looked behind me, and
closed it again. I whirled around to see what caught her
attention and actually achieved the nearly impossible task of
shutting her up, crossing my fingers it was a 25-49 year old
woman who looked way too stressed to do the wild thing with
her hubby.

Instead, my eyes fell upon a very tall man, dressed entirely
in black, standing before me, arms crossed against his broad
chest. He had mirrored shades, slicked black hair, and a shiny
Rolex that peeked out from under his suit coat's sleeve. The
whole look screamed "Men in Black."

"Yes?" I asked, donning Indulgent Reporter Smile. He was
probably from mall security and was about to ask us to leave
the premises before he called the cops. Could this day get any
worse?

"Dora Duncan?" he asked in a clipped accent I didn't
recognize. "Are you Dora Duncan?"

I felt my face heat into a blush. Not a security guard. Maybe
even a fan! A real life fan!

I always got a kick out of people recognizing me on the
street. Of course, back in the old days when Nick and I rocked
Iraq, this was a more regular occurrence. We were network
superstars then. A tag team everyone rooted for. And now, only
a year after escaping the network to take this silly features
reporter job in San Diego where I was sure not to run face to
face into a semi-automatic machine gun, nobody even knew my
name.

Nick, on the other hand, was still uber famous. In fact, I
didn't understand how any normal human being could manage to
garner such a fan base without selling his soul to the devil.
(Which, of course, I wouldn't put past him.) After leaving
Baghdad and taking a job as a network news anchor in Los
Angeles, he'd become more famous than ever. While I labored in
local news obscurity, he walked the red carpet, schmoozing
with starlets. While I covered craft fairs and dog shows, he
interviewed senators and got laws changed. While I lived my
life scarred and ugly because of his mistake, he made People
Magazine's
50 Most Beautiful People.

And Jenny wondered why I wouldn't take him back?

I realized the man in front of me had his hand outstretched
and I should be shaking it. Had to be gracious to the few fans
I had left.

"Yes. Hi. How nice to meet you," I said with a smile. I
wondered if my hair was covering my scar. I hated that I
always wondered that when meeting someone new, but I couldn't
help it.

"I'm Special Agent Fredricks," he said in response, reaching
into his back pocket and pulling out a badge, encased in
smooth black leather. He flashed it at me, and I raised an
eyebrow. Not a fan. FBI. Figured. "We need your assistance,
and I've been asked to have you come with me."

I furrowed my brows. The FBI needed my assistance? My
assistance?

"What could you possibly need my assistance for?" I blurted
out and then regretted a moment later. After all, I didn't
want to come off as rude and uncooperative to the FBI. But
still ...

"It's classified," Fredricks replied, tossing a glance at
Jenny. "Now if you could just come with me ..."

I looked over at my photographer, then back to the man, trying
to decide what I should do. I had a story to get on the air in
a few hours. A story I wasn't exactly making much progress on.
If I took time out to go with this man, I'd never make my
slot. But he was FBI. I couldn't say no to the FBI, could I?
Plus, what if it was an important story he needed my
assistance with? What if it were an inside scoop on a huge
scandal? Even though I'd taken this job to get away from the
danger I'd faced in Iraq, truth be told lately I was getting a
bit sick of covering sex and cellulite and celebrity
c-sections for the evening news.

"Uh, let me call the desk. See if it's okay." The assignment
desk was the den mother of the newsroom. If I took off without
checking in with them, I could be in big trouble.

I reached into my purse to dig out my phone. The agent placed
a hand over mine. "No need, Ms. Duncan," he said. "We've
already called your station. That's how we knew where you
were."

"Oh." I looked over at Jenny. Should I believe this guy?

"We talked to a man named Mario. Your news director. He said
he could move your story to the eleven p.m. news so you'd have
time to finish it after we met with you."

I raised an eyebrow. Wow. Guess even my boss Mario was
impressed that I'd been called upon by the FBI. Usually the
guy wouldn't pull a story even as a personal favor to the
Pope. Go figure.

"It will only take a few minutes, Ms. Duncan," assured the
agent. "Then we can return you here for your story."

"Go ahead, Dora," Jenny suggested. "I can hang here. Go pick
out a few thongs at Vicky Secrets. After all, Robbie's coming
over tonight."

"Uh, great. A bit TMI, but great." I suppressed a shudder,
then turned back to Special Agent Fredricks. "Fine, fine. Lead
the way."

I followed him out of the mall and into the parking lot, where
a shiny black car with heavily tinted windows sat idling by
the curb. A chauffeur type stepped up to open the back seat
door and I ducked down to crawl inside. FBI Man entered after
me and soon we were speeding away from the mall.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"Headquarters," Fredricks replied not-so-informatively.

"And what is it you need my help with again?"

"It will all be explained to you in due time, Ms. Duncan."

Of course it would be. I leaned back, settling into the plush
leather seat. Might as well relax for a few moments. God knew
I'd be scrambling the rest of the day to make my news slot
after this inopportune field trip. Still, my pulse thrummed
with anticipation. Relaxation was never my forte.

About ten minutes later, the car slowed to a stop and the
chauffeur opened the door. I crawled out, looking around at my
surroundings. We were in an underground parking garage. Agent
Fredricks stepped out beside me and gestured for me to follow
him.

Soon we were walking down a featureless corridor, flanked with
even more featureless silver doors. It didn't look like
anything I'd imagined the FBI offices would look like. Not
that my job had ever taken me anywhere higher up than the
local police barracks.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.

Of course, my brain decided to take that instant to remind me
that I hadn't really checked this man's ID all that closely.
What if he was lying about being part of the FBI? About
speaking to Mario? What if he was really part of some secret
underground Iraqi syndicate that had been looking for me this
last year? What if I'd walked right into their trap?

I felt the all-too-familiar wave of panic rise like bile in my
throat and attempted the breathing exercises the shrink had
taught me to prevent yet another full-on panic attack.

Oh Dora, how do you get yourself into these messes?

I squeezed my hands into fists and struggled to regain control
of my rebellious wildly beating heart. Being scared wouldn't
help me escape if I needed to. Besides, I was being completely
irrational. Why would the Iraqi group be looking for me.
Ridiculous.

"Here we are," Fredricks announced, interrupting my racing
thoughts. He slid a card key into a slot by one of the
nondescript doors. It looked exactly like the other thirty
some-odd doors we'd passed and I wondered how he kept track.

The LCD light above the slot turned green and the door slid
open, revealing a circular windowless conference room with a
large mahogany table at its center. Sitting at the table were
three more men, also dressed in the uniform of black suit and
mirrored shades. Which was odd, considering we were deep
underground and the lighting didn't exactly lend itself to
sunglasses.

This was beginning to get super freaky. If they started
introducing me to any aliens like they did with Will Smith, I
was so out of there.

"Sit, Ms. Duncan," said Man in Black #1.

I pulled out a chair and did as he requested. After all, what
choice did I have? Sure, I knew Tae Kwon Do, but it didn't
seem quite plausible that I'd be able to kick four men's asses
all at once. Especially ones who appeared to be Platinum
members in good standing at their local gyms.

(Continues...)





Excerpted from What, No Roses?
by Marianne Mancusi
Copyright © 2006 by Marianne Mancusi.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Boring characters ans dialogue that sounds like a freshman in hi

    Boring characters ans dialogue that sounds like a freshman in high school wrote it. I wanted to love this novel but ended up wanting to toss it across the room instead.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2007

    A reviewer

    Absolutely wonderful! Suspence, romance, and action are packed into one spactacular package. What more could a buyer want? With twists and turns throughout the whole book, you'll be racing through each page. Anticipation will be thrumming inside you until the last page, and you won't want it to end! It's my first book by Marianne, and I can assure you it won't be my last. I highly HIGHLY recommend this book to romance readers everywhere!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2006

    A fine satirical time travel romantic suspense

    Journalist Dora Duncan resolves to avoid dangerous assignments, drop her boyfriend Nick who apparently dropped her already without informing her as he no longer calls, e-mails etc., and especially no longer wait for her sweetheart on Valentine¿s Day. At work and at love, she is disenchanted.------------- The FBI recruits Dora on a dangerous assignment though they do not like using civilians. They want her to travel back in time to February 1929 to prevent Nick, already there, from changing history. She agrees and in a blink of an eye she and a rodent go back to 1929 Chicago. There she finds herself in a wild scenario as her new boyfriend is a mobster who adores her feet and another gangster wants her in his bed she has not had as many sexual opportunities in her entire adult life mostly in the next century. Still the mission is simple keep Nick out of the St. Valentine¿s Day massacre.-------------------- This fine satirical time travel romantic suspense will please sub-genre readers due to the solid intelligent characterizations. Dora and her ratty companion behave like fish out of water and the people she meets are eccentric caring individuals who happen to be on the illegal side of Prohibition. As Marianne Mancusi did with the frivolous fun frolic, A CONNECTICUT FASHIONISTA IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT, WHAT, NO ROSES? is a delightfully amusing lighthearted romp.-------------------- Harriet Klausner

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