The Kept Woman

By: Susan Donovan

Acknowledgments





The author would like to thank many people who helped in the creation of this book.

First, a big, sloppy thanks to Richard Sullivan, proprietor of Busview Acres of Indianapolis, Home for Wayward Gentlemen and Itinerant Romance Authors. (Yo, Rich—I still have your house key and have considered selling it on eBay.)

Also, thanks to Jon Schwantes, Ann DeLaney, and Jim Shella for answering questions about Indiana politics from both the candidate's view and the media's perspective.

Thanks to Jorgi Kane of Maryland's Tranquility Salon and Spa for answering questions about hairstyling and life.

Thanks to Judy and Allen Ditto for placing the winning bid at the 2004 Maryland Symphony Orchestra Ball and Silent Auction, allowing me to name a fictional character after Allen.

Thanks to my agent, Irene Goodman, for her insight and savvy.

Thanks to my editor, Monique Patterson, who is so sweet and fabulous that it hardly bothers me that she's RIGHT all the time.

Thanks to Arleen for being my Anam Cara.

Thanks to Steven for dreaming with me.

Just a reminder that this book is fiction and all the people in it are products of my imagination. Any resemblance between fictional characters and actual people is a coincidence.





1





The low hum of music and laughter droned in Samantha Monroe's ears, and she began to feel woozy. Maybe it was the two margaritas. Maybe it was the hellish week she'd just put in at the salon. Maybe it was the latest threatening letter from Wee Ones Academy beginning with the ominous sentence: "Due to your child's unresolved toileting issues, we must ask you to find other daycare arrangements within two weeks."

". . .and then, you're not going to believe this!" Sam's best friend, Monte, continued entertaining the table with her blow-by-blow of last Saturday's date with the Mad Unzipper. Since Sam was quite familiar with the tale, she let her eyes wander through the happy-hour crowd at the Lizard Lounge, noticing the group of young, carefree women at the bar, enjoying life, and she had to wonder. . .had she ever looked that happy? Had she ever felt as wild and sexy as those girls clearly did? Did she ever wear spike heels that high? Was she ever that young? Should she call Lily again to make sure Dakota ate his fish sticks and that Greg didn't indulge in more than an hour of PlayStation?

". . .and the man just stands his ass up from the couch, unzips, and says, 'Monte baby, I got your python right here!'"

The explosion of laughter made Sam smile to herself, and she returned her attention to her friends. She loved each woman at that table, even if their behavior was bordering on obnoxious. That was the whole point of their Drinks & Depression Nights, anyway. The last Friday of every month, they'd have a couple drinks, bitch about work, life, love (or the lack thereof), and laugh a lot. Then make plans for the next time.

Sam looked past the zebra-striped upholstered lounge chairs and out the picture window. It was a wet and cold early November evening, and the season's first snow was spitting down on the streets of Indianapolis. It was nearly pitch-dark by six o'clock these days. The holidays were just around the corner. No wonder tonight's group consisted of only the most hard-core D & D Night attendees.

Sam glanced to her right to watch Monte McQueen tell her story, her black braids swinging with the rhythm of her words. Monte had been her coworker for thirteen long years at Le Cirque. She was a damn fine stylist and the most steadfast friend Sam had ever had. When Mitchell left three years ago, Monte had held Sam's hand and advised her that a woman with kids didn't have the luxury of giving up. Monte certainly knew of what she spoke.

To Sam's left was Kara DeMarinis, one of her most loyal clients, looking fabulous and powerful in her usual fabulous power suit yet managing to be one of the most down-to-earth people around. Also at the table were Le Cirque owner and general business goddess Marcia Fishbacher and veteran salon patrons Denny and Wanda Winston, identical twin sisters with wildly divergent lifestyles.

And every one of these women was howling with laughter and smacking her palms on the tabletop at Monte's story. Every one but Sam. She knew she should force herself to be more cheerful tonight, because these get-togethers were her therapy. Unfortunately, she was too damn tired for cheerful. She was too tired for therapy. In fact, Sam knew that if the most gorgeous man-babe in the world were to saunter through the front door of the Lizard Lounge at that very instant, partially clothed and completely raring to go, she'd be too tired for him, too.

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