|Companion For Hire
Author: OyHumbug PM
Marissa Cooper caught her fiance cheating on her two weeks before their wedding, dumped him, but now is facing the daunting task of seeing him and his new fiance at her ten year high school reunion. Unable to find a date, she takes a drastic measure. AURated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Marissa C. & Ryan A. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 28,792 - Reviews: 64 - Favs: 26 - Follows: 24 - Updated: 05-15-07 - Published: 03-02-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3422004
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This is the final chapter of this ficlet. I hope everyone enjoyed it. Unlike normal, I'm not going to replace this story with a new one. Instead, I want to focus on the three stories I currently have started, write more one shots, and participate more requently in a fic challenge community I help run. I've been doing a lot of planning lately on Margie's Model to Motherhood, and I'm getting excited for that story. If I were a gambling woman, I'd wager for another update this Friday...but that's just me. ;) Thanks everyone! Charlynn
It didn't seem to matter that they had been meeting for their weekly Mom and Daughter Sunday brunches for years, because Julie always seemed to find a way to be late. Rain or shine, winter, spring, summer, or fall, at her house or Marissa's, the flamboyant older woman was never on time. However, as Marissa sat on her back patio, lounged out in a relaxing position by the pool with her feet dangling in to relieve her body of the sweltering Southern California July heat, she didn't really mind that her Mom was late. Instead, she was simply enjoying the peace and quiet of a house all to herself. As soon as Julie got there, their hours spent together would be anything but peaceful or quiet, and she needed all the rest she could get.
Eyes closed, head tilted back to let the sun's rays wash over her tranquil body, she silently organized the week to come, making last minute decisions and plans to finalize the arrangements for her fifteenth high school reunion. Her life had changed so much since her tenth reunion, that Marissa had volunteered to design the fifteenth to ensure that it was family friendly, stress-free, and, instead of three days of torture, only one. The sound of four inch stilettos clicking against the terracotta tiles of her patio broke through Marissa's thoughts and shattered her concentration, alerting her to the fact that the infamous Julie Cooper had arrived….and she was only twenty minutes late.
"I'm so sorry, sweetie," the older woman apologized as she hastily made her way towards her daughter. Turning around, Marissa watched as her Mother proceeded to take off sunglasses, a silk scarf that was tied around her face to hide most of her features, and a blonde wig. "I tried to get her on time," the natural red head continued, "but it couldn't be helped. There was just something that I had to do." Finally noticing her daughter's position by the pool, she stopped, forgot her reason for running behind, and watched the younger woman closely. "Is something wrong, Marissa? You're feeling alright, aren't you?"
"Of course, why wouldn't I be?"
Waving a perfectly manicured hand towards her daughter, Julie explained, "your face looked pinched. I just wanted to make sure that it wasn't from pain."
"Just confusion." Swinging her legs out from the chlorine water, the blonde went to stand up, using her arms to help balance her slightly awkward body and to push herself away from the ground. "What exactly did you mean when you said it was something you…"
Before she could finish, the older woman was at her side, chastising her as she helped her get to her feet. "What do you think you're doing? First of all, you know better than to sit on the ground in your condition. What if something happened and you couldn't get back up, or, worse, fell into the pool?"
"I don't know," Marissa quipped, annoying her Mom, "labor in a pool might feel good. It'd at least keep me cool."
"I'm not even touching that comment, because my blood pressure does not need the stress. Where's Ryan," Julie asked, looking around the back yard as if her son-in-law would magically appear at her command. "Does he know you were sitting out here by the pool alone? Probably not," she pressed on, not letting her daughter answer the question. "I'm going to call him, let him know what happened, and insist that he come back home immediately."
The redhead was already walking towards her purse which was strewn casually across the patio table before Marissa could respond. "Mom, leave Ryan alone. He took Colby out for some father-son time, just the two of them, and no," she interrupted before the older woman could ask, "he does not know that I was sitting out here by the pool, and he would not care. I'm only five months along. There's no reason to panic or lock me in a tower yet. I'm still very much capable of taking care of myself and the baby, and, when Colby's here and Ryan's out, I can take care of our son, too." With a huff of frustration, she collapsed into a cushioned chair beside the table and motioned for her Mom to join her. "Now, take a deep breath, pour yourself a drink, and tell me what has you so on edge. Does it have something to do with the disguise you arrived in?"
"The lemonade doesn't have any alcohol in it, does it?"
"Mom," the younger woman yelled in exasperation, throwing her hands up in defeat, "of course it doesn't! You know I can't drink, and, even if I could, it's 11:00 in the morning. Who needs a stiff drink this early?"
Opening her purse, Julie pulled out a small bottle of vodka. "Sweetie," she commented easily, a simple wave of her bejeweled fingers dismissing her daughter's concerns, "it's cocktail time somewhere in the world, and who am I to turn my nose up at another culture."
"I can't believe you carry a bottle of booze around in your purse. You know," the blonde retorted sarcastically, "if I didn't know you better, I'd think you had a drinking problem."
"Please, Marissa, this is Newport. Alcohol is a woman's self defense, a survival tool here, and, if you're going to play with the big boys and their wives like I do, you need to be prepared for anything. If there was a Newspie chapter of girl scouts, the first badge we would have to earn would be how to hide a bottle of Grey Goose on your person at anytime."
"Perhaps that could be your next book," the younger woman suggested, reaching for the pizza box, plates, and napkins arranged on the far end of the table. "I can just see it now sitting on a shelf at the bookstore: 'How-To Survive in the Wilds of Newport Beach, A How-To Guide of Self-Preservation, Self-Manipulation, and Self-Congratulations by Julie Cooper.'"
"You always suggest things as a joke or an insult," the redhead pointed out, casting a scathing look at the pizza box in front of her, "but most of them are actually good ideas. Maybe you should leave your job with Saks and come to work for your husband and I. You could be our official brainstorming team. After all, your very first suggestion, a How-To manual on great sex is still our best selling book in print. You also suggested that Ryan and I go into business together when I proposed the idea of a publishing company, you mentioned that he'd be great with How-To date books for both men and women….since he had a bird's eye view and perfected the experience into a career, and, after you gave birth to Colby, you came up with the idea of a 'Modern Man's Guide to Fatherhood.' Face it, Marissa Cooper Atwood, you're good at this. Hell, what if we really made this a family business, and you wrote a How-To Guide on Couture Shopping. Plus, while we're at it, we could get Caitlyn to pen a book on How-To Drive Your Mother to Insanity.'" Breaking through her monologue, her daughter tossed a slice of pizza onto Julie's plate, in the hope that food would make her stop talking. Instead, it made her wrinkle her nose in disgust. "What is that?"
"It's a spaceship," the younger woman joked, rolling her eyes at her Mother's revulsion towards their meal.
"I guess that somewhat makes sense," Julie agreed with the statement despite it being said in nothing but jest. Touching the slice of pizza as if it could at any moment attack her, she finally pushed her plate away, her aversion to the meal more than evident. "After all, those little fish could be the aliens."
Laughing at the comment, Marissa explained, "they're called anchovies, and I had a craving for them. I didn't sleep well last night, so I was tired this morning and didn't feel like cooking. I figured you wouldn't eat it though, so there is a small fruit pizza in the fridge that I ordered for you. Help yourself," she motioned towards the kitchen before taking a generous bite of her pizza. At her instance, the older woman moved into the house and returned moments later with a clean plate and food she deemed edible. "Now, let's try this one more time, and, perhaps, the this time will be the charm. Why were you dressed up in a disguise when you got here?"
"I was on a little reconnaissance mission," the older woman revealed, "and I had to remain anonymous. Our newest book is scheduled to be released on Tuesday."
"I know," the blonde stated. "Ryan told me about it. What's it called," she asked rhetorically, searching her mind for the title. "Oh, that's right, 'How-To Get a Divorce and Get Everything.' Obviously, that's one of your works."
"Damn straight," Julie concurred, "and if I ever see your husband within a fifty foot radius of a copy of it, I'll personally fit him for a pair of cement shoes."
"We're happy," Marissa quickly reassured her Mother. "Trust me, neither of us will be consulting that guide anytime soon. But, tell me more about this reconnaissance mission."
"Well, as you know, we test each new book with a research group in an attempt to gauge how popular it will be, how well it will sell, and to just get a general feedback on the content, but I have a better way to predict those things. There's this little, obscure bookstore in Laguna Beach where all the woman in this town go for the books they don't want their husbands, their boyfriends, or their neighbors to know that they're buying, and the Sunday before a release date, I take about a dozen books down to the store and just leave them on a shelf and pretend to browse while I watch for their responses. The lady who owns the bookstore says nothing and goes along with it, because, if she sells any, per our agreement, she keeps the entire sale as profit. It wouldn't work though if I went as Julie Cooper. I would get recognized, the women would be self-conscious, and, instead of being able to observe in obscurity, I would be hounded for autographs."
"Of course," the younger woman agreed, stifling her laughter behind her slice of pizza. After taking a bite, chewing, and swallowing, she asked, "and how did it go today?"
"Even better than I could have hoped. All twelve copies sold within the first hour. Plus," the redhead added with a devilish twinkle in her eye, "it gave me an idea for my next book: 'How-To Spot a Soon-to-Be Divorcee and the Steps to Reel Them In.'"
"And does Ryan know about these pre-release date scouting operations?"
"Oh, it doesn't matter," Julie dismissed her daughter's question. "Listen to me though. I've rambled on about myself for too long. Tell me what's been going on with you this week. How did your check up go? Ryan said both you and baby were healthy, but you know that man. A detailed description of events means including an adjective."
"There's not much else to say," Marissa chuckled at the accurate description of her husband's shy, often lacking communication skills when it came to his discussions with his mother-in-law. They might be business partners, but Julie Cooper still made him slightly uncomfortable. "I'm right on target with my weight, the baby's heartbeat was strong and steady, and the due date's still November 17th."
"And did you find out the sex?"
"No, and we're not going to. Ryan and I both want it to be a surprise, and, even though we won't have a lot purchased for the baby, I know that you can shop with the best of them, and, as soon as you know whether to search for blue or pink, we'll have a nursery full of clothes and toys before he or she is even brought home from the hospital." Smiling coyly as her hand automatically moved to cradle her burgeoning stomach, the glowing, younger woman added, "however, Colby thinks he already knows what I'm having. He keeps pointing to my stomach and saying brother."
"Mother's normally have a sense about this, too," the redhead urged her daughter on. "What do you think? Is Colby right? Are you going to give me another grandson?" Marissa didn't say anything, merely shrugged and took a bite of her pizza, but the smile in her eyes and the blush on her cheeks let the older woman know that her daughter and grandson were thinking the same thing. However, she had learned not to push her and to let her eldest child reveal things in her own time. "So, tell me about this reunion you have coming up. What do you have planned for it?"
"It's basically going to be a family fun day. There will be small rides for the kids, carnival games, swimming, and then fireworks at night. The food's going to simple, just things you would have at a barbeque: hotdogs, hamburgers, watermelon, chips, baked beans, pasta salad, potato salad, jello, homemade ice cream, basically stuff you would hate."
"Are you taking Colby with you, or do you need me to watch him?"
"Of course we're taking him with us," the blonde said quickly, turning down her Mother's babysitting offer. "I planned this day so that he would enjoy it, so that we could enjoy it as a family. In fact, if you want me to, I'm sure I could sneak you in somehow. After all, Caitlyn's going to be there, too, so you should come as well."
"Thank you, sweetie, but I think I'm going to have to turn you down. I can't picture myself outside on a hot, July Sunday afternoon when there's a perfectly good, air conditioned mall just waiting for me. Just remember to take your digital camera with you, okay?"
"I can do that," Marissa agreed with the older woman's request.
"Now, let's get back to my second grandbaby," Julie changed the subject again. "Have you thought about names yet?"
\ \ \
Summer Roberts was deep in thought as she walked through the park on her way to her fifteenth high school reunion. In the five years since their last reunion, she realized that, while many things in her life had changed, some hadn't at all. She still put herself and her own needs ahead of everything else in her life, she was still single though actively pursuing men of all ages and sizes as long as they had a properly filled bank account, and she was still prone to losing touch with people from her past. In fact, by occupying her time with traveling, she had managed to avoid almost every single person she had gone to high school with since the last time they were all gathered together to catch up. However, she was only curious about two people. She wondered if Marissa Cooper had been right all those years ago and if her ideas on life had led her to happiness, and she was looking forward to verbally sparring with Seth Cohen again. It had been awhile since she had been able to harass someone, and nothing gave her more pleasure than to insult the curly haired dork who seemed to always best her with a perfectly timed, sarcastic zingers. She was so lost in thought that she almost walked past the very people she was looking for…almost.
"Marissa," a soft toned, male voice asked in mock innocence, "I thought this was an animal free park, and, even if it's not, surely they don't let just any mangy, stray, female dog limp in here with her tail between her legs?"
Laughing, his friend responded, "Seth, what are you talking about. I don't see any….," but, before she could finish, a fourth adult joined their group.
"Ryan, Marissa, little boy with the adorable dimples, hello," Summer greeted the small family. "Death Breath, it's always a migraine inducing moment when I smell you again after so many years. What happened, did they let all the freaks from the freak show take a lunch break so they could associate with humans that lack physical abnormalities or severe personality defects?"
"Nope, they refused to allow a fine male specimen such as myself in the show, because they feared my supreme intelligence and masterful example of masculinity would give those less fortunate a complex. However, there's good news for you," the curly haired man teased with a smirk on his face. "I saw a flyer, and they're interested in hiring a woman without a heart. If you want, I'll give them your name and number."
"Scoot over, Cohen," she ordered the man sitting beside her, "and let a lady take a seat. I might be lacking a heart, but at least all my female parts are in fine working order unlike your blow up doll girlfriend."
"I can't move over," he returned without a hint of apology in his voice. "I'm saving this seat for my wife."
"You are not married," Summer dismissed his comment, "unless they lifted the incest ban in California and you married your Grandma."
"Seth," Marissa chided the brunette across from her. "Let her sit. There's room on the blanket for all of us." As he did what she said, she turned towards Summer and continued to talk. "And he is married."
"To a man?"
With a smile, the blonde haired woman responded, "no, it wasn't a civil ceremony, but he did elope."
"Is she terminally ill and needed someone to be in charge of her living will," the petite brunette guessed.
"Wrong again," Marissa countered, laughing. "She's very healthy and in the prime of her life. In fact, she's several years younger than Seth."
"So she married him for his money; she's a fortune hunter who thought he'd be her sugar daddy?"
"Trust me," Ryan spoke up for the first time, "Mrs. Seth Cohen does not settle for anyone, no matter what their bank statement says. Her mother, yes, she probably would, but Seth's wife did not marry him for his money."
"Then she's uglier than the love child of Tammy Faye Baker and Ross Perot?"
"Summer, do not insult your parents like that," Seth taunted her, earning himself an elbow to the ribs. "And, no, for your information, my wife is hot, very hot. We're still not sure exactly why she married me, but it's been almost five years now, and we're still together and happy with each other five out of every seven days of the week. Mondays and Thursdays prove to be our off days. However, I still see you're miserable and alone. I would say that I'm surprised that some lucky guy hasn't snatched you up already, but I'd be lying."
Hoping to curb another round of insults, Ryan broke into their war of words. "So, what have you been up to lately, Summer? None of us have seen you since the last reunion."
"I've been traveling, seeing the world, going from one tropical beach to another."
"Well, it's good to see that you're putting your Daddy's money and your shallow existence to good use," the wiry brunette beside her joked.
"And what have you done with your life, Cohen, besides strengthening the muscles in your right hand?"
"Seth actually owns his own t-shirt design company," Marissa spoke for her friend before he could reply. "All his witty comebacks and cynical comments have become quite profitable."
"What about you two," Summer asked, turning towards the couple before her. "Do you still work for Saks, and does Ryan still….?"
"Ryan works with my Mom. They own their own publishing company, and, yes, I still work for Saks, though I've scaled back my responsibilities so I can be home more with Colby." At the mention of his name, the little boy who was lying on his stomach while driving Hot Wheel cars up and down his Mom's legs laughed and flashed the adults a smile before turning back to his toys. "And then I'll probably cut back to part time after the baby arrives."
"You're pregnant again," the horrified brunette across from her exclaimed while Marissa simultaneously smoothed the fabric of her dress over her expanding stomach to reveal a five-month pregnant abdomen. "Two kids, are you crazy?"
"My Mom had two kids, and, after my Dad left, she raised us by herself. With Ryan by my side, it really doesn't scare me. In fact," the blonde revealed with a warm, beautiful smile, "we think we might try for a third in a few years."
"And what about you, Mr. 'I've been married for almost five years,'" Summer turned to an oblivious Seth at her side, "do you and this mysterious wife of yours have any kids?"
"Hell no," a fifth voice proclaimed loudly as it joined their group, "and you better not give him any ideas, because there's no way I'm popping out any miniature Seth's anytime soon."
Suddenly, quiet descended over the small group. With her mouth agape and her eyes large and full of shock, Summer starred wordlessly at the woman now seated across from her, her surprise only growing when the woman leaned in and kissed her husband on the cheek. Finally, she regained her ability to talk. "You're Seth Cohen's wife….you, Caitlyn Cooper married Death Breath Seth, the freak, the lifetime virgin, the president of the comic book, sailing, and Audio and Visual club? Does your Mother know about this?"
"I think she might have figured it out by now," the younger woman teased, biting back a laugh, "and, as for your assumption that my husband is a lifetime virgin, I have no idea what his sex life was like before we got married, but let me tell you that he's definitely not a virgin anymore."
"Can we please move past this conversation," Ryan asked, nodding his head towards his son who had a puzzled expression on his face. "Or, I have an even better idea. Why don't the three of you go off and talk in private, leaving me with a few peaceful moments with my family."
"You heard the man, Summer," Seth taunted, pointing towards the exit, "this is a family-only gathering, and, since you're not family, scoot, scatter, and be gone."
"I'm not going anywhere until I hear exactly how you managed to marry Caitlyn Cooper, and I don't want the simple newspaper announcement version; sign me up for the made for TV movie adaptation."
"It's not that complicated," Marissa revealed with a shrug. "I set them up on a blind date. Technically, it wasn't blind, because they knew each other beforehand, but they didn't know that they were going out with each other, and, when they got back to my Mom's house the next morning where I was having brunch with her, Caitlyn announced that they got married the night before."
"You eloped on the first date?"
"Well, to be honest," Caitlyn admitted, "we don't remember much about the actual ceremony or how we came to decide we should get hitched. What we remember is going up to the cliffs so we could sit and watch the stars after we finished dinner. I brought along some….refreshments, we smoked it together, and, the next thing that's clear is the two of us walking out of a tattoo parlor with matching wedding bands tattooed around our left ring fingers. I actually find the story to be pretty romantic."
"You would," the brunette across from her quipped with a roll of her eyes.
"Then, after that," Ryan filled in for his sister-in-law, "things just kind of happened for them. The parents immediately threw together a reception for them, they helped them find a house, Sandy pushed through the paperwork for Seth's business, and Julie talked Caitlyn into going back to school."
Curious, Summer asked, "for what?"
"I'm going to be a pharmacist," the younger woman answered. "Pretty appropriate, don't you think?"
"You've got to be kidding me," the non-family member of the group mumbled under her breath. Shaking her head slightly to remain focused, she continued to press for more information. "And, just like that, you two had a happy marriage? How? I mean, you didn't even know each other."
"It wasn't perfect at first," Seth revealed, taking his wife's hand in his. "In fact, it was pure hell. We fought about everything, considered getting divorced, but we hid it well, made our parents think we were happy, and, a year later and another night up on the cliffs with a baggy full of magic grass, we realized we actually did like each other, that we wanted to stay together no matter how hard it was going to be, so we used the divorce papers as rolling paper, and we've been together and moderately happy ever since."
Exasperated, Summer collapsed down unto her back and exclaimed with a sigh, "I need a drink."
"This is a dry picnic," Marissa pointed out. "Because everyone was to bring their kids if they had them, I didn't think it would be a good idea to…"
"Here you go," Caitlyn interrupted her sister, handing the distressed woman across from her a small bottle of vodka. "A Newport woman is always prepared for every situation. My Mom taught me that." Turning towards her older sibling who was simply watching her with frustration dripping from her expression, she chided, "I can't believe you don't know that rule. It's in Mom's top five. Anyway, I'm starving." Pulling her husband up with her, Caitlyn drug him with her towards the food tables, her voice lingering back to the group behind her. "I've got a killer case of the munchies. Do you think Marissa had the caterers bring any Cheetos….or stuff to make smores? Or, better yet," she yelled in excitement, jumping up and down, we should see if we could find some deviled eggs. Whatever we don't eat, we can throw inside Summer's car. By the time she leaves tonight, she'll never be able to get the smell of rotten eggs out of her precious porche!"
As the duo rounded a corner and disappeared, Summer sat up and turned to the married couple in front of her. "Suddenly, I can understand why they're with each other, and, once again, I've been shown that judging someone or something too quickly will only get me in trouble. I guess attraction really is random and up to chance, right? I mean, just look at the two of you. Your relationship started out anything but typical, but you're still together, you have a family, and you're happy. Imagine one little phone call to an escort service changing your life so much." After taking a long pull from the vodka in her hands, she continued. "I never would have predicted it, and that's probably why it works. Cheers!" And then, in front of a shocked Ryan and Marissa, she finished the small bottle of alcohol, tossed it into her purse, and stood up to walk away. Just another typical day in the life of a Newport socialite.
\ \ \
"You know, I've been thinking," Marissa whispered softly to her husband as she lay reclined in his arms that evening, the both of them watching the fireworks display as their son slept on beside them. "My Mom's been single for quite a few years now. Maybe it's time to try and set her up. You have to admit that my track record is pretty good. I found you, and then I set up my sister and Seth."
"You got lucky when you found me," he teased her, softening his words by raining a line of kisses along her bare shoulder, "and I think the pot had more to do with Caitlyn and Seth hitting it off than you did. If your Mom wanted to date someone, she would. I just think that Julie is happy with how her life is, that she doesn't want to be tied down to anyone."
Not satisfied with his response, she continued to press the idea. "Or maybe she just doesn't realize that she's unhappy, maybe she's settled for a life alone and thinks that there's no one out there for her."
"Baby, listen to me," Ryan pleaded, turning her around in his arms so that she was laying completely on top of him, their eyes connected. "You and I both know that your Mom doesn't settle for anything or anyone. She's the most stubborn, single minded, selfish woman I know, and that works for her. Do you really think she'd be happy with a steady relationship, because I don't? I think she likes having a different date every night, that she enjoys her reputation as a temptress. Besides," he added with a cheeky smile and a lazy kiss, "why are we talking about your Mom when we finally have a minute alone? Colby's knocked out for the night; he won't even wake up when I carry him to the car later. We finally got rid of your sister, her husband, and their self-appointed third wheel for the day, because they decided to go steal some firecrackers to take to Seth's parents and set off in the middle of the night, and there's no one else around to bother us. I can definitely think of a few things I'd rather do than talk about your Mom and her love life."
"Talk is overrated," Marissa agreed, giggling quietly as she wrapped her arms around her husband's neck. "Care to share some of those ideas with me?"
"Well, you do know what's coming up soon, don't you?"
"I might have an idea or two."
"What do you think about the two of us spending a weekend down in Cabo by ourselves? We'll leave Colby with your Mom. She's already agreed, so we don't have to worry about asking her. If she has something she has to do, I'm sure Caitlyn and Seth could handle the little rugrat for an hour or two. You'll already be on maternity leave, I can take off whenever I want, and we'll even leave our cell phones at home so that no one will bother us unless it's an emergency."
"It sounds perfect," she beamed at him, snuggling even deeper into his embrace. "But, I have to warn you, there will be no way you're going to get me out on a beach when I'm seven months pregnant." Sighing in jest, she bemoaned playfully, "I guess we'll just have to spend all our time in the hotel room. Whatever will we do with ourselves and all that uninterrupted alone time?"
"How about I show you instead of telling you," Ryan suggested, slipping his hands underneath the hemline of her sundress.
"We're starting the anniversary celebration a little early there, aren't we?" With laughter in her voice, she tried to wiggle away from his wandering hands. "Ryan, stop it," she exclaimed, sitting up and straddling him. When she moved, his hands left her legs alone and reached for the halter straps of her dress. "We're in public, and our son is sleeping just two feet away."
"I'll stop," he consented, "only if you agree that we can go home right now."
Standing up, she helped him gather their things while he picked up their little boy and carried him in his arms. "And what do you think is going to happen when we get home, Mr. Atwood? Do you think you're going to get lucky tonight?"
"No," he said in all seriousness. "I'm going to do some research for a new book." When the smile fell off her face and she started to turn away, hurt, he continued. "I think it's going to be called 'How –To Seduce Your Pregnant Wife, Ten Easy Steps Any Husband Can Follow.'"
"Oh, and you know what always gets me," she teased, sliding her free arm around his waist as they walked out of the park together, "you dress up as an escort, I pretend to be a poor, depressed, dateless woman wandering blindly through the single scene, and we act like we're 28 again."
Shaking his head at her antics, he asked, "you think you're cute, don't you?"
"You know you love me."
"You're right," he concurred, stopping their progression and leaning in to whisper a kiss across her lips. "I do love you."
"And I love you, too," Marissa returned, her lashes fluttering closed in response to the emotions washing through her body. After a moment, she opened her eyes and refocused them on her husband. "Now take me home," she mischievously ordered, "and I'll let you be my very own American Gigolo."