What would you do for love?

When Abby Minton agrees to host a
book signing for Charles Greer in her bookstore, she doesn't expect she'll
end up giving the man dating advice�
or dating him herself! As she falls in
love with Charles, she becomes more
and more petrified that their
relationship would be history if he
ever met her dysfunctional family.
Between her brother's failed bank
heist interrupting Charles's book
signing and roses from a persistent
stalker making Charles think she's
taken, their relationship is one mishap
after another. But when Charles finally proposes, Abby is faced with the most ridiculous prospect of all: introducing
him to her crazy family. The only
solution is to hire actors to portray her
family members. But will that just set
them on the road to unending lies?

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A half-hour before Abby Minton's bookstore, Secondhand Prose, was to open, her closest friend and associate, Francie, made a pit stop in the bathroom. She'd eaten something that didn't agree with her and the terrible rumbling noises her stomach
was making in protest were loud enough even for Abby to hear.

As Abby put money into the register, she realized that Francie had been gone for
quite some time. She finished what she was doing and headed toward the back to check on her. She was nearly there when she heard a bloodcurdling scream.
Abby knocked on the bathroom door. "Francie! What's the matter? Are you all right?"

"I'm going to drown."

Thinking of Francie's stomach problem, an awful vision of the toilet having backed
up flashed in Abby's mind. She groaned. "Oh, no!"

"The door's not locked!" Francie called. "You gotta save me."

Fearing the worst, Abby slowly opened the door. Instead of being greeted by a
brown river, she was forced to jump out of the path of a sudsy, white one. Francie
was standing on top of the toilet seat, eyes closed, and her panties down around
her ankles.

"Get me outta here!"

Abby immediately located the source of the problem. A river of soap bubbles was
streaming out from the wall, which the bookstore shared with the laundromat next door.

"Some idiot must have put too much soap in one of the washing machines again,"
Abby said.

"No. It looks worse. There's gotta be more than one machine involved. Whatever.
Just get me outta here. I don't want to ruin my new suede boots."

"Okay. Just a sec. I'll think of something."

Abby made certain the sudsy river flowed down the drain she'd had the plumber
install in the backroom floor. Having survived the first backup caused by the laundromat, she had learned the hard way not to keep anything of importance on
the floor. She gazed around at the accumulated stuff hanging about the place,
hoping that something usable would catch her eye. A few long planks of lumber
rested against a far wall. An idea came to her. Grabbing one of the planks, she
dragged it back to the bathroom.

Francie saw her and asked, "What are you going to do with that?"

"Better still, aren't you getting a chill?"

"Huh?" Francie looked down at herself. A beat later and, more than a little
red-faced, she pulled up her panties.

"Move back a little," Abby told her.

Francie did what she was told and Abby placed the plank of wood on the edge
of the toilet.

"I'll hold this end while you start to walk down."

Like a tightrope walker, Francie slowly traveled down the wooden board over
the foamy sea of soap bubbles.

"Thanks! I couldn't have done it without you."

"So I'm back on your Christmas card list?"

Francie merely made a sound that sounded like a hiccup colliding with a snort.
Abby glanced at her watch. "We've got to open."

"It would be better if we opened far away from that horrible laundromat next
door. It's always something with that place."

"That's not going to happen, but at least I can give them a piece of my mind."

"Uh-oh," Francie said. "A whole piece? How are you gonna be able to work with
what you've got left?"

"You're a funny girl, but no Barbra Streisand," Abby said, walking toward the
front door.

"Give 'em hell, girlfriend!" Francie called to her, pumping her fist into the air.

Not five minutes later, Abby was back.

"Well, that was quick. Did you shoot the manager and run?"

"No. She wasn't there. Today's Monday."

"Bummer." Then Francie asked, "And that's important because�?"

"The English-speaking manager is off on Mondays."

"Oh, yeah. That's right."

"And Ms. I-Have-No-Idea-What-Language-She-Speaks was working."

"Is that the tall, skinny lady with the mustache who just bobbles her head
when you ask her a question?"

"Yup. I'd get more satisfaction out of a box of detergent."

Kensington Publishing Corp.