The Wedding Arrangement by Barbara Boswell\Raye Morgan released on Jan 24, 2003 is available now for purchase.
|Product dimensions:||4.32(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.03(d)|
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The Wedding Arrangement
By Barbara Boswell
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Barbara Boswell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJury Duty!
Luke Minteer was still in shock. As of tomorrow morning he was supposed to be a juror in a civil case. And from the few facts the opposing lawyers had revealed about the case during the juror interview, Luke already deemed it a major time waster. Of his valuable time!
This, after he'd been such a good sport about the situation. Despite the major inconvenience of being summoned to join his fellow citizens in the potential jury pool, he had dutifully - albeit grudgingly - shown up at the courthouse for the selection. That should have been the end of it, as far as he was concerned.
He expected to be rejected; he was counting on it. For the first time ever, rejection was infinitely appealing, and his past days as a tarnished hotshot political operative seemed to guarantee it. Who would want the likes of him on a jury?
Apparently the judge and the attorneys on both sides would - because he'd been selected.
Desperately he looked around at the other chosen jurors sitting with him in the box, while a bailiff instructed them on their upcoming obligations. They were now expected to put their lives on hold, to be held captive in a courtroom - and all because two idiots, aided and abetted by their mercenary lawyers, had decided to sue each other.
He was Luke Minteer! He didn't do jury duty!
Eight of the chosen were years older than he was. Decades older! Two young men who appeared to be in their early twenties sported multiple tattoos and piercings on various parts of their bodies - their eyebrows, their noses, their lips and of course their ears, with at least ten earrings per lobe.
Luke glanced at the final juror, the young woman sitting next to him, who was very visibly pregnant. She looked like a teenager, though he knew she couldn't be. In the state of Pennsylvania, jury duty fell only to those who'd reached the legal age of twenty-one.
Luke couldn't gauge how advanced her pregnancy was. Unmarried and not a parent, he steered clear of the mysteries of pregnant women.
What mattered in this situation was that she was unmistakably pregnant, the young men looked like circus freaks, and the elderly people were very, very old. One of them coughed continually.
Luke groaned. "I don't have a prayer of getting out of this."
"You just said exactly what I was thinking," said the pregnant woman, looking surprised.
Luke was surprised, too. He hadn't intended to speak his own thoughts aloud like that. Another sign of how rattled he was by his unexpected inclusion.
"They must be desperate for jurors to pick this crew," she murmured, now voicing his observation.
"I'm due to deliver my baby in six weeks. The lawyers for both sides said the trial would be all wrapped up long before then, though," she added hopefully.
"Don't believe everything you hear," Luke grumbled. "Especially when a lawyer says it. I worked in politics. I know."
"Didn't you tell them you worked in politics?" Her gray eyes widened. "It seems that would instantly disqualify you."
"Why would I be disqualified on those grounds?" Never mind he'd believed the same thing - wrongly.
"This case has nothing to do with politics, it's a battle-of-the-sexes case."
"And a really stupid one," she added glumly.
"You took the words right out of my mouth." Luke heaved a groan. "The facts of this case read like the rejected proposal for a really bad book. Guy gives girl engagement ring, then dumps her. She refuses to give back the ring, which he claims is a family heirloom - and which he wants for his new fiancée. Let's call her fiancée two. So he sues fiancée one to get the ring back."
"But fiancée one claims the ring was a gift, hers to keep," his pregnant fellow juror interjected.
"Or to sell. In order to finance the breast implants she claims are essential to her career as a nude dancer," Luke added dryly.
"And she also countersues him for harassment or interfering with her civil right to work or whatever." The young woman rolled her eyes heavenward. "I tuned out at that point."
"Did you hear that both parties are demanding punitive damages for their emotional pain and suffering? As if either one feels any emotion except pure greed - and possibly revenge."
"Why can't they settle it themselves like civilized human beings? Why do they have to go to court and drag all of us into it?" she railed. "Who can side with either one, anyway? He's a fickle cheapskate and she's a manipulative -"
She paused for a moment.
"Perhaps litigious, silicone-endowed nude dancer is the term you were looking for?"
"I had something a bit less flattering in mind. Already, I can't stand either one of them, and I've never even met them."
"Did you say that to the lawyers?" quizzed Luke.
She nodded. "Oh, yes."
"So did I. Must be why we were picked. Better to dislike them both than to side with one. The lawyers would consider that fair and impartial."
"It's a lot like politics after all," she said thoughtfully. "Where you don't like either candidate but are supposed to vote for one. It boils down to the lesser of two evils at worst, or at best, two jerks."
"Evil or jerk." Luke held back a sigh. "I'm going to take a wild guess that you think all politicians are unlikable, morally corrupt, sleazy.... Feel free to jump in and stop me at any time."
She didn't. Which apparently meant she agreed with his assessment?
"I was attempting to be ironic," he said to enlighten her. "There are exceptions to the corrupt politician stereotype, you know."
"I'll take your word on that." She looked bored with the subject.
From his past work in the field, Luke was aware that politics tended either to bore or inflame, and unless one was canvassing for votes, a change of topic was advisable. Still, he was unable to let it go.
"One exception is my brother, Matt Minteer. He's a congressman." Luke's voice held a note of fraternal pride. "Matt is the representative for the Johnstown district, which includes this county, so that would make him your congressman."
"Matt Minteer," she repeated. "Is he the one who fired his own brother for dirty tricks or nasty campaign tactics or something like that? I heard about it when I moved here last year."
This time Luke didn't suppress his sigh. He let it out heavily. "Yeah, that would be Matt. The nasty, dirty-tricks-playing brother is me. I was fired two years and eight months ago, but the story is still being told, I see."
"And those lawyers picked you for the jury anyway?" The young woman was incredulous. "Wow! They are really, really desperate."
"No charges were ever filed against me. It's not as if I'm a convicted felon." Luke was defensive. "Although as far as my brother's staff is concerned, I might as well be. They're a very traditional group, set like cement in the old ways. When I tried to be innovative and competitive, to take some risks and implement some new ideas and methods for -"
"Translation," she cut in. "When you used dirty tricks and nasty tactics, they didn't approve, and you got the ax."
Excerpted from The Wedding Arrangement by Barbara Boswell Copyright © 2003 by Barbara Boswell
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.