Mr. Love: A Romantic Comedy (5 page)

BOOK: Mr. Love: A Romantic Comedy
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As Jane walks back toward the
unspeakable B & B her phone rings and when she sees it’s Jonas calling she sends it to voice mail.

She is in no
state to speak to her boss now.

To admit to him that she has been defeated.

She’s certain that Gordon Rushworth is Viola Usher, but short of breaking into his house and stealing his laptop, she has no way of proving it.

What worries her is that, sitting at the table after he departed, Jane had seriously considered burglarizing Rushworth’s home.

Wow, the last couple of days have been tough, but come on . . .

She’d played all her cards in the restaurant and played them well.

She rocked Gordon Rushworth and got him close to cracking.

But he rode it out and never broke.

Her threat about the media was half-baked.

She could speak to a couple of her
journalist contacts and perhaps some of them would think it worthwhile to travel all the way up here in search of a scoop, but given that we live in a time of shrinking budgets, she doubts that editors would authorize the expense.

And even if a journalist did unmask Gordon, all that would result would be an agent
feeding frenzy, which Jane (or more likely Jonas) were not guaranteed to win.


She was done.

She was single again.

And unemployed.

nd she knows that Jonas will poison all the publishing wells.

There will be no job offers forthcoming.

All that will be left for her will be the long road home to her parents’ house in Indiana.

God, she’s as hopeless as Gordon

At first she thinks her imagination has conjured his voice when she hears
Gordon say, “Jane?”

But when she turns there he is, dogging her heels, dressed in his baggy trousers and tweed jacket, his oatmeal-colored hair mussed—and not in a contrived, boy-bandish way, either.

“Jane,” he says, “let’s talk.”

“I thought we were done talking

“Please,” he says, gesturing at a wooden bench on the edge of the village square, “sit down.”

She sits but rises as quick as a jack-in-the-box when he says, “I’m not Viola Usher.”

“Gordon, stop wasting my time.”

“Sit. Hear me out.”

She stares at him then sits.

“I didn’t write that book but I know who did.”


“My sister,” he says. “My sister Bitsy wrote






Gordon self-medicates on red wine as he waits for his sister to return home, pacing the threadbare carpet in the living room, listening for the clatter of her Volvo.

But all he can hear are the voices of doubt in his head.

Is he mad?

Introverted, withdrawn, wifty-wafty little Bitsy will never agree to Gordon’s plan.

A plan that, no matter his empty assurances, would certainly thrust her into the glare of the media spotlight.

All he has managed to do is stall that predatory she-agent, leaving her holed up in the B&B, waiting for him to call her to come over and meet Viola Usher.

Not going to happen, Gordy.

The sneering voice of the high school football captain, the bully who had terrorized him through his teenage years, who he had lampooned in


God, why had he ever written that thing?

Because it’s the bomb, Gordo.”

And there’s Suzie, smiling at him from across the room.

“A bomb that’s going to blow my life to smithereens,” he says, rushing at her.

She disappears, of course, and all Gordon can do is top up his wine glass.

Not too much
, he tells himself.

You have to stay focused, in control.

Tells himself this even as he drains the glass of wine.

’s ready to pour another when he hears the old Volvo wheeze to a halt outside the house.

Gordon sits on the couch, legs crossed, fixing a smile on his face.

The door opens and Bitsy enters.

She stares at him.

“What’s wrong,” she says. “Are you ill?”

“Not at all,” he says. “Let me get you a glass of wine. Sit, have a chat.”

“You are ill.”

“Please, Bitsy. Join me.”

She shakes her head.

“Forgive me, Gordon, but I’m not in the mood. I’ve had a distressing morning and I think I’ll just do a little reading in my room.”

“I have some very important news, Bitsy.”

She stares down at him.

“About your book?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

She perches on the edge of a chair, hands in her lap, long-suffering eyes on him.

“Can I get you a glass of wine?” he asks.

“Thank you, no. I feel a migraine coming on.”

He pours himself a
nother glass, takes a sip and tells her about writing
and publishing it.

Bitsy stares at him, mouth hanging open on her slightly protuberant front teeth.

“Gordon, are you drunk?”

“No, not all.”

“Then surely you’re suffering some kind of breakdown? You don’t honestly expect me to believe you wrote that book, do you?”

“Well, you
did urge me to write something more commercial.”

She shakes her head

“No, Gordon, I have no time today for silly pranks. Please.”

She stands.

He rises, too, and holds up his hands.

“Okay, I’ll prove it to you.”


He digs his laptop out from beside the couch and powers it up.

Then he clicks open a folder and calls her across.

“What is this folder called?” he asks.

peers at the screen.


And look.”

He opens the folder and shows her all the saved drafts of the book.

Opening them at random, showing her the work in progress.

Bitsy stares at the monitor, then up at her brother.

“My gosh, Gordon, you’re serious.”

“Dead serious,” he says, sinking down onto the couch.

Bitsy sits again, her eyes wide.

“I never thought you had it in you to write something so . . . passionate.”

He shrugs, “Well, there you go. Dark horses and all that.”

“It’s doing terribly well, isn’t it?”

“Selling up a storm.”

“Gordon, how wonderful for you.”



“Wonderful for
, Bitsy. Fret not, you will share in my good fortune.”

“Just help a little with the expenses, Gordon. That’s all I expect.”

“No Bitsy, I want you to have twenty-five percent of whatever

She stares at him.

“That’s wildly generous, Gordon. I could never accept that.”

“You’ll be earning it, Bitsy, don’t worry.”


He stands and paces the room, running a hand through his hair.

This is it.

The crunch.

“You’ll understand that as a serious, literary author, I couldn’t be seen to be writing this kind of lesser fiction?”

“But that’s why you so cleverly used an alias, surely?”

“To access the print deal and to sell the movie rights I would need an agent, do you understand?”

“Oh, I see. And they would
have to know your real identity?”


“But surely they could be sworn to secrecy?”

“In this on-line age, Bitsy, nothing is secure. No, if I sign on with an agent I will be exposed.”

a quandary.”

“Good word. But I think I have a solution.”


He breathes
deeply and then says, “You’ll be Viola Usher.”

blinks at him.


“Yes, you. You’ll sign on with an agent as the author of the book.”

, I could never do that, Gordon. That would be dishonest.”

“No, no. It would be dishonest if you were stealing the work and pretending it
was your own. But I’m asking you to do it, Bitsy, so it won’t be dishonest at all.”

“But the
re’ll be publicity, won’t there Gordon? I’m not the person for that.”

“I’ll shield you from all
of it, Bitsy. Don’t worry. I’ll be beside you every step of the way.”

She looks
past him, staring into space and he thinks he’s lost her when she speaks: “Twenty-five percent you say?”


“Of all the profits?”


“What are we talking in dollars? Thousands?”

Gordon, slightly surprised at his militantly anti-materialistic sister asking this question, says, “Oh, more than that.”

“Tens of thousands?”


“Hundreds of thousands?”

“Bitsy, with the print edition, the movie rights and the sale of the sequel, well, we’re talking millions.”

His sister fixes him with an unusually direct stare and says, “Make it fifty percent and we’re on.”

gapes at her in astonishment.

“You mean that?”

“I do.”

She sticks out a bony hand and takes his in a surprisingly strong grip.

“Say hello to Viola Usher.”






Jane’s hands are a little sweaty on the wheel of the rental Honda as she drives across to Briar Lane, blind to the blaze of Fall color, the trees radiant in the afternoon light.

Her phone rings and she sees it
’s Jonas.


And again she sends him to voice mail, knowing this will drive him crazy.

Blunt is a man who demands constant accessibility to his minions.

But she will talk to him only when—and if—she sews this thing up.

Jane parks behind a rusted old Volvo and walks up the pathway.

The door opens before she can knock and Gordon shows her in.

“Jane Cooper, my sister Bitsy Rushworth.”

Jane steps into the living room and her heart sinks when she sees a
small, dowdy woman with graying blonde hair standing up from a chair to greet her.

Is it possible that this little country mouse wrote the sizzling, steamy,

“I know what you’re thinking,” Gordon Rushworth says.

“You do?”

“Something along the lines of
: how can this drab little woman write something so, well,

Taken aback Jane says, “No, no . . .”

Gordon wags a hand.

“Bitsy was married to an academic at an Ivy
League college back in the nineties. She knows what she’s writing about, I can assure you.”

Looking at this woman, Jane finds it hard to believe.

What are you doing?
she asks herself.

Then thinks:
Don’t look gift horses in the mouth.

frumpy little ones.

“I assume you’ll need some proof that I am, indeed, the author
?” Bitsy Rushworth asks in a whispery voice.

“Well, yes, I guess so.”

“Follow me, please.”

Bitsy leads her into a bedroom as spartan as a nun’s cell.

The only color the spines of the books in the shelves beside the desk.

A quick glance tells Jane that Bitsy’s library is a mixture of esoteric self-help and romance.

A positive sign.

An ancient desktop computer hums on the writing table and Bitsy jiggles the mouse.

“That’s my working file for
,” she says, opening the folder, shooting a glance at her brother who hovers in the doorway.

Jane takes command of the mouse and clicks through the

That they’re authentic she has no doubt but when she
peers up at Bitsy and sees the look she’s exchanging with her brother, Jane can’t quell the suspicion that she’s being duped.

’s certain that Gordon wrote the damned thing and he’s getting his sister to front for him.

’s about to declare her suspicions when her phone rings and, yet again, she sends Jonas to voice mail.

She can imagine his mood
: a meltdown of Chernobyl proportions.

“Bitsy,” Jane says, “I can’t leave here without you signing an agreement with the
Jonas Blunt Agency. I can’t run the risk of another agent poaching you.”

There’s a
glance between the siblings before Bitsy speaks.

“Of course. I would be happy to sign.”

“I have a standard contract in my briefcase in the living room.”

y troop out and Jane removes the agency agreement from her case and hands it to Bitsy.

“Gordon will take a look at it,” the woman says. “He’s going to act as my advisor.”

I’ll bet he is
, Jane thinks, but she smiles and shrugs and watches as Gordon Rushworth peruses the document.

She has no doubt that he has downloaded similar documents before, all part of preparing for when his magnum opus
reached the road to publication.

“Seems boilerplate,” he says. “Go ahead, Bitsy.”

He hands the document to his sister along with a pen.

Then he holds up a hand and Bitsy pauses with the nib of the pen tantalizingly close to the dotted line on the contract.

“There’s just one small matter,” Gordon says.

“What’s that?” Jane asks.

“Since I have been the, shall we say, matchmaker in this, I think a little reward is in order.”

“A little
quid pro quo
?” Jane asks.

He smirks.


“Let me hear it,” Jane says.

“I think we can agree that any one of the big five New York publishers would be desperate to publish
and its sequels?”

“Oh yes. No doubt about that.”

“Then it wouldn’t be a deal breaker if in return for getting
, they must agree to publish another book?”

“And that book wouldn’t by any chance be
Too Long the Night
, would it?”

“It would, yes.”

“There’s no way I could guarantee something like that, Gordon.”

“What a pity,” he says, reaching across to take the pen from his sister’s hand.

Jane speaks as quickly as a horse race caller.

“But my boss,
Jonas Blunt, would have no problem swinging that. Take it as done.”


He hands the pen back and Bitsy Rushworth signs the document in her spidery scrawl.

As Jane
shakes Bitsy’s hand her phone rings and this time she doesn’t send Jonas to voice mail.

She says, “Excuse me,”
to the Rushworths and steps out of the front door into the bare little garden.

Jonas,” she says.

“Why the hell haven’t you been answering your phone?”

“It’s done.”

’s done?”

“I’ve just signed Viola Usher. She’s ours.”

Jonas Blunt is not a man to be at a loss for words, but there is a delicious pause before he says, “You’re sure of this?”

“One hundred percent.”

Although she’s not.

“Well, done Jane. Well done.”

“Thank you.”

“When you return to
New York that corner office will be yours.”

“What about Toby?” she asks, referring to the nasty little agent who, in
Jonas’s frequent absences, likes to lord it over the agency.

“Toby who?”
Jonas says, then makes a kissy sound and rings off.

Jane can’t resist a fist punch and blushes as crimson as the Fall leaves when she sees Gordon watching her from the doorway.

“Jonas Blunt is a happy man?”

“Yes, he is.”

“Well, we’re all happy, aren’t we?” he says stepping aside for her to walk back into the house.

She whispers in his ear, “I know what you’re doing, Gordon. I just hope that you do.”

BOOK: Mr. Love: A Romantic Comedy
2.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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