Looking for an easy, fun, and humorous read? Check out Wife for Hire by Christine Bell. Highly recommend it. I laughed out loud so often my stomach hurt! Great book!!
He needs a wife for three weeks…
Owen Phipps is out for revenge. His mission? To expose the man who
stole his sister’s money and dignity. All he needs is a “wife” who can
play along. Too bad his last best hope is an actress who tries to mace
him with perfume when he offers her the role of a lifetime.
Lindy Covington is a real sap. She loves too hard, feels too deep,
and often finds herself saying yes when she should be saying “Let me
think about it.” She can’t believe her good fortune when Owen offers her
more than enough money to hold off foreclosure until she can find a
job. Three weeks at a resort, money she desperately needs, and she gets
to help bring a criminal to justice? Score.
It seems easy enough until the first time a couples bonding game
turns intimate, and they realize how dangerous their mutual attraction
could be. Can they keep their hands to themselves long enough to find
the evidence Owen needs? Or are the close quarters more temptation than
they can handle?
Title: Wife for Hire
Author: Christine Bell
Genre: Category – Contemporary
Length: 245 pages
Release Date: August 2012
© 2012 Christine Bell
Lindy Knight stared at the mountain of feathers and cotton batting
that used to be her couch and tried not to cry. “Melba?” she called,
hoping the desperation she felt wasn’t evident in her voice.
“Yes, dear?” Melba rounded the corner from the kitchen, sauce-covered
wooden spoon still in hand. She stopped in her tracks. “Holy Toledo,
it’s snowing in here! Is there a hole in the roof?” She trained her
milky blue gaze toward the ceiling.
Lindy sucked a breath through her nose and let it out slowly through
her mouth, like that lady in the yoga video. “That’s not snow. That’s
The old woman shuffled closer and bent low, peering into the mess,
dripping globs of marinara onto the crème colored carpet. “Huh. Well,
I’ll be. Looks like snow.” She straightened and shrugged. “Thought we
had a hole in the roof. That’s good at least.”
good, since a new couch cost less than a new roof.
But when one’s life savings amounted to—she spared a glance to the
account statement she’d been reading when she’d walked into the
house—two hundred sixty-three dollars and eleven cents, neither scenario
was exactly ideal.
“Where are the puppies?”
“In the kitchen with me. We were making gnocchi.” A delighted grin
spread across Melba’s heavily-lined face, and Lindy couldn’t help but
return it. There was no question she meant well and wanted to earn her
keep. It wasn’t her fault that the attempts invariably backfired.
“We’ve got to make sure we keep the door shut, okay, Melbs? No
puppies in the living room unless I’m home,” Lindy said gently. “I’m
going to go through the mail and clean this mess up. I’ll be in to help
with dinner as soon as I’m done.”
“No problemo. We’re finished anyway. I’m on my way out to St. Mike’s,
and don’t worry, Fanny’s driving. I’ll put the sauce on warm for you.
See you later tonight,” Melba chirped, ambling back to the kitchen.
Since the last house fire, she wasn’t supposed to be cooking when no
one was home, but Lindy needed to pick her battles. At least their
neighbor had been kind enough to offer Melba a ride to the church for
Friday night bingo. She didn’t have the strength to argue about her
elderly charge getting behind the wheel. It had been a doozy of a week,
and she wanted it over with. Maybe after dinner she’d curl up with a
good book and call it a day.
She was flipping through the mail, mostly bills, when her cell blared
the opening lines of “Push It” by Salt-n-Pepa. Usually, the song
cheered her. She was hard-pressed to recall a time that it hadn’t
resulted in some serious booty shaking, but today she wanted to pitch
the phone into the garbage disposal. She rummaged through her purse and
yanked it out just as it went to voice mail.
One missed call.
Whoopty-doo. Probably Mal with another one of his cockamamie ideas.
She jammed the phone back into her bag without a second look and tackled
the onerous task of cleaning up the remains of her couch.
It took nearly an hour, three vacuum bags, and four trips to the
trashcans out front, but by the time she was done, the room looked
passably clean. And extremely empty, she noted with a twinge of despair.
She cut off that train of thought before it became a real locomotive,
and floundered for a silver lining. Now she had an excuse to redecorate,
and she did love Indian-inspired designs. It would be the perfect time
to find some bright fabric at the thrift store and sew four gorgeous
seating pillows to go around the coffee table. She’d get some patterns
and ideas online before bed.
A sharp rap on the door jarred her from her thoughts. She peeked
through the peephole and gasped. The man on her porch was the most
gorgeous she’d ever laid eyes on. Even distorted by the curved glass,
his face was a work of art. Full, firm lips perched above a square jaw,
capped off by angular cheekbones and a slash of a nose that kept him
from looking too feminine. Close-cropped, raven black hair set off dark
gray eyes that were currently locked with her one that was fixed on the
peephole, and became filled with exasperation.
“Hello?” he called.
“Hello?” she parroted dumbly.
“Can…I come in, or?” The tone seemed like one reserved for either
children or imbeciles and was at odds with the lilting, almost song-like
Irish brogue. She bristled despite the delicious accent, pushing
thoughts of his stunning good looks to the back burner.
“I’m not sure. Who are you?” she said, crossing her arms over her
chest. She uncrossed them when she realized he couldn’t see her
combative gesture. Instead, she narrowed her peeping eye suspiciously,
in case he leaned in to look.
Tall, dark and handsome sighed heavily. “Owen Phipps. We had an appointment.”
She did a mental rundown of her schedule and winced. They did have an
appointment. For a job, no less, and this clearly wasn’t the best foot
to start off on. If it hadn’t been for the damned…well, everything
today, she would’ve remembered for sure. Compared to all the other
wanted ads she’d responded to, this one was the definite oddball and
stood out like a gangrenous thumb. She’d found it on Craigslist when she
happened upon the “gigs” section entirely by accident. There, at the
top of the page, was Mr. Phipps’s strange little advertisement.
Wanted: Attractive woman, age 25-35, with some acting experience
needed for three week position beginning January 25th. Recognizable
television and/or movie personalities need not apply. Pay is a flat rate
of $20,000 for three continuous weeks of 24/7 availability. Must be
willing to travel. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an interview.
She’d actually snorted a laugh when she first saw it, but for some
reason she kept coming back to it, re-reading and, more to the point,
recalculating. It would take her—she did the math quickly on her
fingers—a million shifts at the restaurant to make twenty grand. That
amount of money could get her out of the hole and pay her mortgage for a
year. With a little old lady and seven puppies counting on her, credit
cards bursting at the seams, and everything of value already in hock,
she was plum out of brilliant ideas. They had eight weeks before the
bank came a-calling. If desperation actually had a smell, she’d reek
So she’d emailed him. To her shock, he hadn’t responded asking her to
send her social security number or a check to secure the position. Nor
had he asked her to send a picture of her boobs. No, instead, he’d asked
her for a list of qualifications and references, which she supplied.
Still, when he contacted her asking if they could meet in his home for
an interview, she hesitated. Although there weren’t any obvious
indications of psychosis in his email correspondence, odds still had to
be pretty good that he was either a whack job or a scammer.
Right as she had been about to delete his request unanswered, her
brother Mal phoned from the vet’s office where he’d gone to pick up
Melba. Melba had tried to call Lindy’s cell phone earlier because Sneezy
had swallowed the top half of a plastic spork, but Lindy was in the
middle of a shift. When no one answered, Melba had taken a cab to the
emergency veterinary clinic out in Mount Vernon, since the regular vet
By the time Mal brought her home, Melba was armed with the same
squirming puppy and a four hundred dollar note advising them to keep an
eye out for spork shrapnel coming from Sneezy’s back end. Lindy later
found the hunk of plastic on the floor where it had likely been the
whole time. She was proud of herself, though. She didn’t have a mental
breakdown. Instead, she emailed Mr. Phipps and explained that she
understood his desire for privacy, but, as a young woman alone, she
would feel more comfortable at her own house, perhaps with her brother
in the adjacent room. His response was almost instantaneous. He agreed
and commended her vigilance.
They set an appointment for the following week since he was out of
town on business, and she’d gone on with her life. She was fairly
certain whatever he was trying to pull had been derailed once she’d
refused to go to his house, so she hadn’t really given it another
thought. His little game had come to its conclusion, and he’d shop for
an easier mark.
But here he was.
And here she was.
She steeled herself and laid a hand on the knob. No point in putting
it off. If he kidnapped her, at least she wouldn’t have to worry about
the mortgage anymore. She ran a hand through her disheveled hair and
pasted what she hoped was a capable-looking smile on her face. After a
quick breath check, she opened the door, letting in a frigid blast of
“Hello, Mr. Phipps. Do come in.”
“Please, my da was Mr. Phipps. Call me Owen.” He pronounced it “Ooh-un” and she suppressed a swoon.
“Owen, then. I apologize for making you wait in the cold. It’s been a
hectic day, and I’m afraid I lost track of time.” In her nervousness,
she’d adopted some sort of weird, transcontinental accent like the
actresses in one of those 1950s caper films she watched on Sunday
afternoons. Her cheeks burned at his puzzled look and she slung the door
wider to let him in.
“Where are you from?” he asked, brows raised. He was even taller than
he looked through the peephole and seemed to take up an awful lot of
space as he pressed by her, into the foyer.
“Here. I mean, Westchester.”
He inclined his head but narrowed his eyes. “Your accent sounds like…somewhere else.”
She forced a laugh. “Sorry, I have an audition for an upcoming
community theater production and I try to kind of live in the
character.” The falsehood rolled off her tongue before she could stop
it, and she cringed. She hated lying, but this guy had her totally off
her game. Plus, on the miniscule chance this was a real job opportunity,
the last thing she wanted was to be stuck talking like Myrna Loy for
the next month.
“That so? What production?”
Caught off guard by the question, she wracked her brain for a response.
“The Vagina Monologues
He pinned her with a blank stare. She didn’t blame him. What was
there to say? He was obviously in the company of a blathering idiot. She
fought the inane urge to find a mirror and see if her face was
literally on fire.
He cleared his throat before speaking again. “Shall we sit down then, maybe discuss the position and your qualifications?”
Now it was her turn to stare. What kind of man would still consider
hiring a person like her when their limited interaction had been nothing
but weird? The thought sent the butterflies in her stomach a-flapping,
and she took a few hesitant steps toward the living room. This was it,
the pivotal point in every horror movie, the one that always had her
shouting, “Don’t let him in, you idiot!” at the screen. And still, she
kept walking. Surely a guy that handsome could get a girl to live in his
basement cage just by asking, right? No need to go hunting for one.
Plus, twenty thousand dollars was a lot of money. She wasn’t backing
down until she knew for sure there was no real job. Maybe they could put
that on her tombstone. Wouldn’t back down…and paid the ultimate price
Resisting the urge to genuflect, she blew out a martyr’s sigh.
“Please, have a seat,” she said, motioning to the couch that was no
longer there. Squeezing her eyes closed, she swallowed a groan. Had she
really thought the day couldn’t get worse? How droll. “I forgot. My
couch got eaten. Maybe we should go in the kitchen.”
She scurried by him, surreptitiously grabbing her purse as she passed
it. If worse came to worst, maybe she’d have a shot at her cell phone,
or at the very least, be able to get a good swing in with the bag. If
she did hit him, though, she’d aim for the solar plexus. His face was
far too pretty to ruin.
Where had that come from? He hadn’t even kidnapped her yet and
already she was succumbing to Stockholm syndrome. That didn’t bode well
for her. If Mr. Owen Phipps was for real, and by some miracle she landed
this mysterious job, how was she going to stop herself from falling
madly, completely in lust?
She wasn’t. That’s how.
Owen watched his odd little hostess, almost in a daze. The ad he’d
placed was admittedly a bit cryptic, so he’d been prepared for the
freaks to come out. Still, the responses had been so off the charts
nutty, he wondered if he’d slipped through a looking glass somewhere.
Lindy Knight had been his last hope. After a few reasoned, articulate
email exchanges, he’d been cautiously optimistic, but that optimism was
fading fast. The Vagina Monologues
Time to determine whether she was a compulsive liar, or if all this
madness was the result of a bad case of nerves. The latter he could work
with. The former was unacceptable. He couldn’t abide by phonies.
Lindy swung the kitchen door open and was instantly mobbed by a
passel of squirming, ginger-colored puppies. They very nearly took her
down, but she managed to grab onto the countertop and regain her
“Jesus, how many dogs do you have?”
He knew his tone bordered on incredulous, but his infamous composure seemed to have deserted him.
“Seven. I’m not keeping them,” she said, bending low to scratch behind ears and pat heads. “I’m…holding them.”
“Holding them for what?”
“You know, until I find them homes.” She shrugged.
“Where are the parents?” he asked, scanning the tiny room for evidence of larger animals.
She hesitated, pursing her full lips. “That’s complicated.”
“Are you running some sort of puppy mill here or something?” he
asked, oddly disappointed. The woman was probably a wacko anyway, what
with the fake accent when he’d arrived and her strange behavior since.
So why did it bother him that she was capable of something so unsavory?
Maybe it was the cherub face, or the wide blue eyes framed by the pixie
haircut that made her look almost fey.
Those eyes snapped outrage at him now. “No! Of course not. I saved
them from a puppy mill. I answered an ad in the paper because I’ve
always wanted a golden retriever. When I went there, I couldn’t leave
the rest. So I took them all. To hold. I just haven’t had a chance to
find them good homes yet. I’ve got the word out with friends, though, so
pretty soon they’ll be gone.”
One of the pups, chubbier than the rest, plopped down on her foot.
The annoyance drained from her face, and she grinned. The smile lit her
up in a way that gave him the urge to move closer and absorb the warmth.
“Come on now, Sleepy. Hop to it.” She gave her leg a shake and the pup
plodded off with a yawn. “That’s the one I’m keeping,” she whispered,
and pressed her forefinger to her lips.
“They’re named after Snow White’s dwarves?”
“Mostly. We’ve got Sleepy, Sneezy, Doc, Bashful, Grumpy, Happy, and
Steve.” At his questioning gaze she shrugged, again dropping her voice
low. “We didn’t want to call him Dopey. Might hurt his self-esteem.”
He nodded, unable to come up with an appropriate response to that.
She turned to usher the puppies into a large pen that took up the
lion’s share of the kitchen. Once they were safely ensconced, she
motioned to the table.
“I can take your coat, and you can have a seat. Would you like
something to drink? I’ve got bottled water, coffee, and tea. There’s
also some gnocchi on the stove if you’re hungry.”
Although her words were casual, she clutched her purse close. What
did she have in there that she was so protective of? He kept his eyes on
the bag and responded. “I’ll leave my coat here. And no, thank you on
the food. I’m fine.” Right when he stripped off his coat, the spicy
scent of garlic and tomatoes hit him, and his stomach rumbled.
She flashed that smile again. “You sure? Sounds like your stomach disagrees.”
Annoyed with himself for being sucked in by a pretty face, and his
traitorous stomach for the ill-timed hallelujah chorus, he gave his head
a firm shake. “I don’t have a lot of time, so can we…?” He laid his
coat over the back of his chair and then set his briefcase on the table,
eyeing it pointedly.
“Sure thing.” The wariness was back, and she kept a hand on her pocketbook as they sat across from one another.
As his fingers went to the enclosure on his briefcase, he noticed
hers move to grip the sides of her bag. He popped the latch and, with
her gaze locked on his hand, she undid the fastener of her purse. She
was mimicking his motions. How odd. He paused for a moment then cracked
open his briefcase to reach inside. Sure enough, she followed suit,
easing her hand into her bag. Fascinated, he moved to pull out the sheaf
of papers, but before he could, she let out a yelp and yanked out a
pack of Wrigley’s gum.
They both stared at the gum between them. “Ms. Knight?”
“C-call me Lindy, please.” She jammed it toward him and the package nearly hit his nose. “Gum?” she squeaked.
He shook his head, bemused. “No thanks.” Good sense told him he
should call it a day and write the last few minutes off as a loss, but
considering the pool of candidates he had to work from so far, she
wasn’t even close to the worst. The weirdest? Maybe. But she was
attractive and did look the part. She’d claimed some acting experience.
Maybe she could act a little less weird and they’d do fine.
Ah well. Another half hour wasn’t going to kill him.
He pulled the papers from his briefcase and set them on the table
between them. Lindy’s wide eyes filled with relief and she slumped
forward. Letting out a long breath, she released the stranglehold on her
bag. What was she expecting, a hacksaw?
“Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself? Your resume indicated
that you had some acting experience with your last business venture.
The…” He glanced down at the sheet in front of him. “Brothers Grim?”
Her cheeks glowed a pretty shade of pink, and she wriggled in her
seat. “Well, uh, it wasn’t really acting, per se. When the real estate
market took a dive and I couldn’t sell any houses, I had to look for
unique ways of riding out the downturn. I enjoy working for myself, so I
set my sights on creating a niche business, something small and
different that I could run myself, with maybe a couple part-timers.”
He nodded encouragingly. Her thought process made a lot of sense. A good sign.
“I’d walk around making lists of things that would make my own life
easier in hopes of stumbling onto the next Google or Post-it notes or
something. That’s when I came up with The Brothers Grim. My whole life,
I’ve always had a hard time hurting people’s feelings. I once dated a
guy for three months because I couldn’t bring myself to break up with
him. Nice enough guy and all, but…moist, you know? Like his palms were
always cold and damp. Every time he touched me, it reminded me of my
creepy Uncle Donny and I’d get all skeeved out. But how do you tell
somebody that? So I got to thinking, what if you could hire a company to
break bad news for you? Need to fire an employee? Leave your lover?
Tell your spouse you were going to jail on fraud charges? The Brothers
Grim will do it for you.”
He eyeballed her hard, trying to determine whether she was serious or not, but she gazed back, solemn-faced.
“If you hate giving people bad news, then why—”
“Oh, God no! I didn’t do that part. I handled marketing, booking,
etcetera. My brothers, Malcolm and Nathan, were the actual news-bearers.
Hence the name of the company.”
“So why did you stop?”
She shifted her gaze away and let out a sigh. “Well, that’s kind of a
long story. See, on our last job Mal and Nate both came down with a
terrible stomach flu. We had a contract with a guy and he said it was an
urgent matter that couldn’t be postponed. So, I bit the bullet and
agreed to do it myself, this once. I was supposed to tell Mr. Nicholas
McElroy’s wife that he was leaving her.”
Her eyes swam with sudden tears and Owen found himself stuck, unable to look away.
“I dressed up in a suit, went to the MacElroy house and knocked.
Melba MacElroy came to the door. She was…” Lindy paused, dug into her
purse, and pulled out a tissue. She let out a long, honking blow before
continuing. “She was s-so c-cute. This tiny old lady in a purple
housecoat. I wanted to run away, but I had made a commitment and signed a
contract, so when she invited me in, I went. I explained that I was
there on behalf of Nicholas, and he wanted a divorce.” Her lips curled
in a half-smile then. “I thought she was going to cry, but instead she
flipped out. ‘That bastard!’ she said. ‘Probably wants to shack up with
Roberta Finkelstein. Floozy. Figures he’d go for a young chippy like
that. Look at me, married for sixty-two years and I’m a statistic.’”
Owen realized he was leaning forward in his chair, riveted by this ludicrous tale, and sat back. “What happened next?”
“Turned out Roberta was the MacElroy’s seventy-year-old neighbor, and
Nicholas did plan on making time with her once he got rid of poor
Melba. Long story short, Melba decided she wasn’t going to stay in that
house a second longer, so she packed up her stuff. She didn’t have any
place to go so she came home with me. I closed down the business the
next day. Didn’t have the heart for it. It was a bad idea from the
start. People should have to face the person they’re hurting.”
The last part gave him pause and made him slightly uncomfortable. Ms.
Knight was making rock-solid sense. By moving forward, he’d hoped to
make his sister’s conman ex-boyfriend Nico pay, but wasn’t he, in effect
robbing Cara of the chance to face him down herself, if and when she
was ready? The thought faded as quickly as it had come. At the rate she
was going, his sister was never going to confront the bastard. Owen had
counseled her to get a civil attorney and at least get Nico’s face
splashed all over the news, win or lose, but she didn’t have the heart.
Someone had to make him pay.
Lindy seemed to be of the same mind as he was. If a person did wrong,
they should have to own up to it. She’d said it with such conviction,
he wondered if maybe she could work out after all.
“So what ever happened to old Melba?”
Lindy gave him a sheepish look. “She should be home in a couple of hours.”
That stopped him cold. “Wait, she still lives with you?”
“Uh huh. It’s only been a few months.” She released the death grip on
her purse to run a hand through her short, dark hair. “She doesn’t have
anywhere else to go right now. Once the divorce is finalized, and the
house is sold, she can get a place on her own.”
Owen pinched the bridge of his nose to ward off the headache that had
been skulking around his cranium all morning. So far, he was batting a
thousand. After two weeks of interviewing, he’d met nothing but nutters,
sleazeballs, and people who were in the country illegally. It was like
some twisted version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, except his
rendition would be more like “Six hookers hooking, fiiiive homeless
drunks! Four illegal immigrants, three ex-cons, two exotic dancers, and a
bleeding-heart flake with seven puppies.”
“I do have some acting experience, though. Right now, I’m between
businesses, so I got a job waitressing at Medieval Days. I spend my
shift pretending the mutton’s delicious.”
He must be getting used to her quirks because this time her
unconventional response didn’t even faze him. He felt a grin tugging at
the corner of his mouth. Glancing at her neat little figure in jeans and
a wooly cardigan, he tried to picture her at Medieval Days serving food
in trenchers, wearing long skirts with a corset. The image sent a surge
of blood pumping south, and he bit back a curse. He couldn’t afford to
be distracted right now. There was too much at stake to allow biology to
sway him from making the right choice, but she also had a guilelessness
about her that might turn out to be a great asset. Could Lindy Knight
possibly be the right choice for the job?
He did a mental rundown of the other applicants and grimaced. Who was he kidding? With ten days left, she was his only choice.
“Miss Knight, I need a wife and I’d like to hire you. How would you like to be my wife for three weeks?”