The trouble with mother is ... she's dead. Rhonda Pomeroy has taken over running Paulette's, the family multi-million dollar cosmetic company while trying to keep peace with her eccentric old sister, Suzanne; and fulfill their Mother, Paulette's final request. Paulette wanted to be interred in the cosmetic department of the new flagship store of Alexander's, an upscale Seattle store, and Suzanne continues to demand her fair time with Mother, and both women are giving Rhonda a three-aspirin headache. When fabulous attorney, Mark Daniels, on the verge of making full-partner in Seattle's most prestigious law firm, takes over Paulette's business affairs, the fulfillment of Paulette's final request seems a sure thing until sparks fly between Rhonda and Mark, and they start thinking about each other instead of Mother. To make matters worse, dating clients is against firm policy and Mark's out of control hormones could destroy his career.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
A native Seattleite, Darcy Carson attributes much of her soon-to-be success to being raised in a nutty household of parents who migrated from the Mid-West and East Coast. That mixtures led to much confusion in her young life. Darcy began her writing career while in middle school. She loved the power of words and started with poetry. A bad choice since she couldn’t quite get that rhythm thing down. Her first venture into fiction was a young adult story which dealt with aliens stranded on earth. This obviously never got off the ground, especially since America hadn’t even entered the Space Age. Darcy was way ahead of her time.
Then she found ROMANCE. In real life, in books and in writing. After more than a decade of writing historicals, she switched to short contemporary and found her voice—flippancy.
Darcy has been active in Romance Writers of America as Tacoma Chapter President, founding President of Eastside Romance Writers, and served as the Agent/Editor Liaison for RWA’s National Conference in Hawaii. Recently she launched an Internet talk show on www.worldwebcast.net called Romance Review where she interviews romance authors.
On the home front, Darcy lives with her husband, Bill; two Rottweillers (Big-Butted Beluah Baby and Bufus Brat the Bed-Wetter) and one orange tabby on her second life named Lucky.
"Darcy Carson has provided us with a short, funny contemporary romance. Overflowing with laughter, lust and strange characters, this highly unusual love story will keep you in stitches until the end."Romantic Times Magazine
"Ms. Carson pens characters that are realistic, you just don't want them in your family! The hilarious antics of Suzanne as well as the heartwarming romance between Rhonda and Mark will keep you turning page after page. The secondary characters, including Mark's surprising parents, only add to the fun. Ms. Carson adds a delightful plot twist in the guise of a red velvet bag containing Mother." Watching Suzanne, Rhonda and Mark trying to fulfill her last wishes keep the giggles coming. THE TROUBLE WITH MOTHERThe Trouble with Mother terrific for those hot summer afternoons."Sarah Anderson, Senior Reviewer -- Romance Communications
"THE TROUBLE WITH MOTHER begins with humor, which follows the characters throughout the entire story. The struggle to resist the romance loses ground inch by inch, only to be foiled at various points by hilarious events, such as mother going missing completely. Has she been 'stolen' by Alexander's, to avoid honoring their agreement? Has Rhonda, in her romantic fervor, simply misplaced her? And why is sibling Suzanne so upset by the event, when she pretends not to have any interest in the business at all? All questions are answered in this enjoyable romp through this funny, romantic story which also includes an inside peek into the cosmetics industry and gives the reader a hint of which fragrances are best to attract that special person. All in all, a funny and enjoyable read."Scribes World Reviews
"HI YA, SIS. You remember what today is?"
Rhonda Marie Pomeroy bit back a groan, her fingers grasping the phone handle and clenching instinctively. Days that started with questions usually meant trouble. Especially if those questions happened to come at the crack of dawn from a bossy, eccentric sister who had a habit of advocating one hare-brained cause after another. What was it this time? Save the Blue-nosed Wren or Snakes Are Nice Day.
"Not really, Suzanne. Why don't you tell me."
"Rhonda! It's Mother's birthday. Let's sing happy birthday to her."
At twenty-nine, soon to be thirty, Rhonda knew better than to be shocked by any request of her sister's. Still ..."You've got to be kidding!"
"Rhonda, pulleease" Suzanne whined.
"No! It's out of the question."
"Come on, sis, what's the matter with you? She'll miss it if you don't. Besides, she's right there. It won't take but a minute."
Rhonda cringed. Suzanne had a habit of whining that Rhonda preferred to ignore. It always made her think of middle child syndrome -- something impossible since Suzanne was older by two years.
Rhonda's gaze darted around the plush office, looking for inspiration among the Victorian antiques. Mother had efficiently run Paulette's, the family cosmetic business, from their home. The factory was located in Carnation but Mother preferred to work from here and Rhonda concurred wholeheartedly. There was nothing like slow shuffle to the computer in her housecoat and bunny slippers in the early morning. Then again, Mother also considered the business she'd started in the 60s as one of those cute, little cottage industries; something Rhonda knew was far from the truth.
Paulette's was a multi-million dollar business. They maintained a skilled engineering and product development group aided by a research lab and a quality control staff with all the modern dimensionality tools, control files, statistical analysis and management teams to guide them into the twenty-first century. The company wasn't number one, or two, or even three, but with a projected growth of nineteen percent per annum, Rhonda knew she had the white beards sweating in their three-piece suits and worried about what an upstart like her would do next.
"I'm very busy," she said, holding her finger on the place where she had stopped reading. "You should see the contractual paperwork on the desk that I've got to go over. I don't have time for your little quirks."
"Yes you do. You can do anything. Mother put you in charge."
Rhonda frowned, then quickly smoothed out the lines on her face. If Mother -- the grand dame of immobile faces had seen her, she would have accused Rhonda of deliberately creating wrinkles -- giving Paulette's a bad name in an industry where youth and beauty were all important. "Thanks for reminding me. How about this? I don't want to do it. No. Nyet. Nada. Fini. End of conversation.
"Come on," Suzanne prompted her. "Put me on the speaker and go get her."
If I agree, Rhonda considered the possibility, maybe she'll go away and leave me alone for a day or two. "Oh, all right."
"Thanks, sis. Now, hurry up before you change your mind."
"Don't nag me." She stood up despite her protest. "I said I'd do it and I'm going. Hang on."
She punched the hold button on the telephone console. When the light blinked red, she headed for the master bedroom suite upstairs in the seventy-five hundred square foot house. Opening one side of the double doors, she went straight to the closet.
"Come on, Mother, you can't miss this. Suzanne wants us to sing happy birthday to you."
A few moments later she trekked back to the office.
"All right, Suzanne," she said. "Mother's here. Let's get this over with."
"You don't have to snap, you know." Her sister's high-pitched voice complained through the speaker. "Mother should have been with me. I offered to take her. But no, you -- "
Rhonda rolled her eyes. "Sing, dammit! Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Mother, happy..."
Suzanne joined in a sentilla later. As they harmonized together, Rhonda glanced at the red velvet bag holding Mother's ashes. It always amazed her how heavy the jewelry-like bag was -- close to a five-pound bag of sugar. Except Mother had never been as sweet.
"Now that wasn't so bad, sis," Suzanne said after they finished. "I know Mom liked it and you did, too. You're just being stubborn about admitting it."
That's what you'd like to believe, Rhonda thought. "You're probably right, Suzanne."
She jammed her finger down on the phone button, cutting her sister off before she came up with some other wild idea. Then she switched her glare to the red velvet bag. Mother was proving to be just as much a problem dead as she had been alive.
* * *
"HEY, MARK! How's it going?" A dignified man in a three-piece suit with a thick manila folder in his hands ambled into the cramped office filled with tote boxes. "Can't tell you how glad I am you chose our firm to hang your hat with. How long has it been -- four, five years?"
Mark Daniels leaned over the desk with his hand stretched out to shake John Banks', the senior partner who had hired him. "Four and half years, sir."
"Yeah, right. You've made me proud. Hiring you was one of the best decisions I ever made."
"Thank you. I hope I can live up to your expectation."
The other man grimaced slightly. "Whoa, some grip you got there. Must be from all those years in professional football."
All those years, Mark thought. What a joke. Five years with the Seattle Seahawks -- Sea turkeys is more appropriate. At least those losing seasons gave him time to finish college and earn his doctorate in law. "Sorry, sir."
Banks grinned. "Forget it. Here, I brought you this."
Mark accepted the thick folder with a questioning look. "What is it?"
"The Paulette's account. Around the office we call them The Crazies. The family is nuttier than a fruitcake. You've heard of them, I'm sure."
He hadn't, but then he refused to listen to gossip of any kind.
Banks accepted Mark's silence as concurrence and went on with his effusive speech. "It's my pleasure to let you know that you get the honor of handling them. Don't mind telling you, either, that if you can pull off keeping this client happy, your partnership is guaranteed. I know you can do it. You haven't disappointed me yet. Or lost a client. It'll make you the youngest partner we've ever had in the firm. It'll be a breeze for you."
Going from associate to partner was a big step. Even for him. A bonus bonanza. The money was nice, but he didn't choose the firm for reasons of money. "What do you mean? The Crazies?"
Banks' grin widened. "I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise. Trust me. You'll find out soon enough."
Taunting from a sixty-year old attorney barely fazed Mark. He had survived worse from ballplayers after a game. "Thanks. I can hardly wait."
"Oh, the time's a lot sooner than you think."
Mark glanced around at his messy office, assessing how fast he could make the place presentable and questioning where'd he put his tie. "I didn't realize I had an appointment. What time is she arriving?"
"No, no." Banks started to chuckle, a sound not quite in keeping with his appearance. "You don't understand. You're going to her."
Mark did a double-take. Attorneys didn't make house-calls. Even for one of their largest clients. Clients came to them. "Isn't that a bit unusual?"
"I told you, they're The Crazies. Paulette Pomeroy refused to conduct business anywhere except in her own office. You don't have to worry about the Mother any longer, it's the daughter you need to be concerned about. Rhonda Pomeroy has insisted upon following the tradition. We go to them. I had my secretary, Barbara, arrange an appointment for you with her at 4:00 o'clock this afternoon. You can get the address from her." So saying, he left Mark's office like a sailboat with canvas extended.
Running his hand through his hair, Mark wondered if he should tackle unpacking first or read the file on Paulette's. He couldn't bring himself to refer to someone as The Crazies. It went against every ingrained sense of right within him.
* * *
THE DOORBELL chimed precisely at 4:00 o'clock. Built in the late twenties, the huge mansion sat on the southwest edge of Magnolia bluff and had a million dollar view of the Seattle skyline framed by sinewy, red-trunked madrona trees.
Rhonda glanced at the luminous dial of the compact black clock on her desk and smiled. "He's punctual," she spoke to her computer. She frequently spoke to her computer. They were good buddies. "I like that."
A few moments later she opened the door and craned her neck up at an honest-to-goodness romance book-cover hero. Wow! The hunk of a lifetime stood before her. For an instant, she wondered if Suzanne was playing a practical joke on her; then rejected the idea. The man looked too serious.
Still, he had all three things she considered absolute musts in the looks department -- height, hair and good teeth.
He towered over her -- at least six three, and his coal black hair shone ink-blue in the afternoon sun. It was cut short, too short Rhonda decided on the spot. She would have much preferred it longer in the back like a rock star. Though, come to think of it, how many rock stars did she know? None. Oh sure, as a teenager, she'd gone to a concert or two.
Then her gaze lingering on his tanned face spotted the smile he was aiming at her. Perfect white teeth. Capped? she wondered.
Wait a minute. Who cared? They went with the package. And by the way he filled out the expensive Armani suit with bulging biceps, he definitely had the build to complete the package.
She hoped she wasn't drooling. "Can I help you?" she asked.
"Miss Pomeroy?" the hunk spoke.
Goosebumps raced up her arms and settled in the small of her back. His voice was deep, smooth and rich, making her think she'd just been treated to a burning sip of sweet, thick Godiva Liqueur. She was hard-pressed not to lick her lips. "Yes."
Mr. Hunk extended his hand. "Mark Daniels with Banks, McDougal, and Black."
His hand swallowed hers as he shook firmly. She nearly jerked at the current shooting up her arm when a warm, slightly rough palm met her soft skin.
Stunned by the electrifying sensation, she remembered her high school days and was positive she'd never wash that hand again, then recovered. "Come in, Mr. Daniels. I've been expecting you."
Mr. Hunk walked into the entryway, toting an unscuffed burgundy briefcase. Brand new, she decided.
"What?" The sweet smell of cinnamon and vanilla drifted toward her. She couldn't recall a man's cologne with those unique fragrance notes, but this guy smelled just like cookies. Snickerdoodles, she added quickly, thinking of the large sugar cookies heavily sprinkled with cinnamon. Her favorite cookie.
She'd thought he had looked good enough to eat when she first opened the door and now discovered he smelled simply delicious.
"Call me Mark."
Markadoodle ran through her mind. "Okay. And I'm Rhonda. Pleased to meet you."
"Nice house. Big," he said when she closed the door. "You live here all alone?"
"This was my Mother's home before she passed away. I just can't bring myself to put it on the market." She gave him an apologetic smile. "Besides, you can't beat the view. And as long as you don't worry about the foundation and all the contents slipping into Puget Sound during a rain storm, you're fine."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked." He glanced at the artwork hung on the walls as she led him toward the office. "I don't remember ever coming up to Magnolia. Always lived on the Eastside myself."
He made Eastside sound like an actual place. "Oh, where? Bellevue? Kirkland?"
This was small talk. She could handle that. "There's some pretty exclusive neighborhoods over there as I recall. Bill Gates' home is in Medina and a lot of our local sports celebrities, you know the basketball and football jocks, like it on that side of the lake. I guess they can afford the sky-high prices with the salaries they pull in."
His too handsome face pinkened with embarrassment for a moment. "We live with a lot of myths about the Eastside. Most of them are wishful thinking from people who don't know much about it. Wait until they run into the tangle of traffic congestion. We call it all-ahead-dead-slow. But having a garage to park in is nice."
"Have you lived in the area long?" She noticed a small crescent scar near his left eye and fought the urge to trace it with her finger. "I'm a native myself."
She looked at him in surprise. "No kidding? Tell me what's the name of that airplane manufacturer down on East Marginal?"
She smiled. "Yep, you were born and bred here. We're the only ones who add an 's' to Boeing. I've had to practice aloud to train myself not to do it."
That's when she noticed his eyes -- they were brown -- a soft milk chocolate. What was the matter with her? She lays eyes on the guy for the first time in her life and her mind is suddenly consumed with food -- goodies. Godiva Liqueur. Snickerdoodles. Chocolate. She wondered if Mr. Hunk would protest if she asked him to let her cover his broad naked chest with whipping cream and spend the night licking it off.
Rhonda, she chastised herself, get your mind out of the gutter. The man's here to conduct business. But monkey business would be much more fun, her delinquent thoughts infringed on rationality.
Attempting to refocus her attention, she dragged her gaze away from him. At the entrance to her office, she asked, "Would you like some coffee? Espresso?" There she went again. Thinking of consuming something.
"I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble."
Trouble me all you want. "It's no problem. I keep a pot brewing all the time."
"Black coffee will be fine."
She waved to a pair of matching taupe and black print Queen Anne chairs strategically placed before her desk. "Take a seat. I'll be right back."
The white-faced, cabineted kitchen became a place of refuge for the strange, provocative emotions assaulting her. With a flick of her gaze she checked the coffeepot on the tile counter, three-quarters full. She opened the cupboard, pulled out two mugs and poured the coffee.
Should she offer cookies? Refreshments of some sort. Herself?
No more of this! She hadn't experienced this kind of reaction to a man since....
Since when? Never. She was the straight-laced one in the family. Nose to the grind-stone, 'Business Only Pomeroy'. Not that men hadn't found her attractive in the past. She'd had her share of boyfriends.
But his visit wasn't a social call. He wasn't a date.
Too bad, she thought.
"Here you go, Marka..." She caught herself before she babbled out Markadoodle. The smell of coffee had cleared her nose right up and once again she was treated to the fragrance of cinnamon and vanilla. Her mouth began to water.
He accepted the mug of coffee with a gracious smile and took a long swallow. "Hope I haven't inconvenienced you in any way."
"No bother at all. It's the least I could do for the latest rookie at Banks."
For a second, he looked startled. "Miss Pomeroy...I mean Rhonda, is that what you think I am?"
She had to given him credit. He was quick. Much faster than the last man they sent to her. He had passed the monkey right back to her with his question. "A new man every six months was sort of a clue."
He eyed her coolly. "I'll let Banks know you've been keeping score."
"And ruin my fun! Don't you dare."
The man didn't bat an eye. "My lips are sealed if that is your wish."
The remark instantly drew her gaze to his mouth. Nice lips, too. The bottom lip slightly fuller than the top. "So you admit to being the newest man?"
"I admit no such thing. Banks' reputation draws only the best business attorneys. Just as every client is important, especially Paulette's. For your information, I've been with the firm for nearly five years. I am hardly inexperienced."
"Oh," she answered, feeling strangely chastised even though he'd changed the subject on her. "I'll have to thank Banks for finally hiring good help."
"I'm sure he'll value your vote of confidence." Mark Daniels sat in one of the chairs she'd indicated earlier, tucking his briefcase at his feet in front of the chair before looking around for a place to set the coffee mug. Finally, he leaned forward and scooted it onto the edge of the desk. "I brought a few papers along I thought we could go over."
Rhonda recognized an end to the pleasantries when she heard one. Time to get down to business. She went around the enormous antique desk her Mother had found in a dusty little shop in England and had shipped home for twice the purchase price. She sank into the leather chair behind the desk, squeezing air out of the cushion; and keeping a firm grip on her cup.
The telephone rang. "Excuse me, I don't have a secretary," she said, answering the phone in a crisp, business-like tone. "Paulette's, Rhonda Pomeroy speaking. One moment, please." She glanced at Mark. "I really have to take this call. I'm sorry."
He smiled and nodded.
"Thank you for holding." Paulette's had been striving to get into this particular chain of elite department stores for ten years. She wasn't about to blow it.
"My pleasure," said the head of Belle Fino. "We look forward to doing business with Paulette's in our Hawaii store."
Rhonda went cold. "I'm sorry I can't accept that. I would love to be in that location, but as we have discussed before, you take Paulette's in all your stores or not at all. That was what we initially discussed. There's -- "
"But, Miss Pomeroy."
"That's the deal. You need us in all your stores. Look, my lawyer's right here. I'll put him on." She shook her head when he leaned forward as though ready to accept the phone from her. It had been a ploy to tip the table in her favor.
"You win, Miss Pomeroy," the man on the other end of the line said. "All the stores."
"Perfect. Send me the paperwork. You won't regret your decision." She felt like singing when she hung up the phone. Instead, she brought her clenched fist down in a sign of victory. "Yes!"
"Good news, I assume," Markadoodle said.
"You bet. Nailed them. Some times people think because I'm young that I'll buckle to their demands. Mother wanted in Belle Fino for ten years and I did it," she said, grinning, extremely pleased with herself. "Now where were we? Barb didn't give me a subject for this meeting," she said, "so I assumed it was just for us to meet and get acquainted."
"Where would you like to begin?" he asked.
Are you married? she wanted to ask. He wasn't wearing a ring on his finger. Engaged? Attached? "How about giving me your overview of Paulette's?"
He cleared his throat, a deep base rumbling. "Paulette's is capitol rich. An easy mark for a takeover if you don't go ahead with your acquisition plans. It's eat or be eaten."
She nodded in agreement. "Direct and to-the-point. I like that."
He dragged his briefcase to his lap, the brass locks snapping open at his touch. "In retail I suspect the biggest challenge facing Paulette's or anyone else is convincing the public that the luxury they want is really a necessity."
She scribbled on a piece of paper, then studied him with the patience she learned sitting around the boardroom table while everyone spoke at once. "That bit about luxury being a necessity is a great marketing line. Mind if I tell my advertising people?"
He smiled. "Be my guest."
"Maybe I should hire you away from Banks. What about it? Interested?"
"Is this a test?"
She waved her hand. "Relax, you can forget I asked. I was out of line." The man was quick, and now Rhonda could add loyal. Both qualities she admired. "Tell me what you think of Paulette's. Your personal opinion."
"Personally, I don't use cosmetics."
So, he had a sense of humor. "What? I'm crushed. Paulette's is developing a very fine mens' line. Maybe you should try them. As a matter of fact...Wait...I'm sure I've got some samples." She pulled open her center desk drawer and began rummaging through the sample packets. She found what she was searching for. "Here, try this. We're thinking of calling it Delicious. It smells really yummy. Should be our most popular aftershave."
He jerked back, a horrified look on his face for a second. "You're not going to spray something on me?"
"No," she answered him. To herself, she added, not yet.
He looked so relieved, Rhonda almost laugh aloud. So much for enticing him, she thought, switching back to her CEO mode.
"Shall we discuss the progress with Alexander's?" Rhonda asked. The upscale department store was at the root of all her current problems. If they hadn't decided to move into the old Frederick and Nelson building on Fifth and Pine, Mother wouldn't have gotten her last and worst idea. Once known as 'Frederick's Folly', Rhonda wondered if trying to accomplish Mother's wish wouldn't go down as hers as well. "Have you read our latest proposal to them?"
"I have, though I doubt you'll approve of their response." He leaned forward in his chair, obviously on comfortable ground as he glanced toward her cluttered desk. "Do you mind if I spread the paper out? That way I can show you the different correspondence in sequence."
"No, no. Sorry about the mess. Some day I guess I'm going to have to learn how to be more organized." She started picking up scattered papers and stacking them in a pile. "Just push Mother out of the way. Today was her birthday and my sister and I were singing happy birthday to her earlier. I really should put her back in the closet, but I'll do that later."