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Authors: Deborah Cooke

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All or Nothing

BOOK: All or Nothing
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All Or Nothing

by

Deborah Cooke

 

Some people will do anything for true love
—even if they have to fake it.

Jen Maitland had no use for handsome guys with easy charm—until she met Zach. He's the perfect fake date to end her mother's matchmaking scheme before it starts. Besides, he'd probably just use her and leave her like her ex-fiancé did. At least that's what Jen tells herself. The only problem is that Zach isn't as predictable as he appears...

Zach Coxwell hates commitment, but loves a challenge. Like the pretty bar waitress who turned him down flat for a date—only to invite him to her family's Thanksgiving dinner. Zach knows he can make Jen smile—and he's betting that he can unravel her mysteries—even if he has to do it over candied yams.

A tofu turkey, a sister who threatens to have Zach's love child, the untimely appearance of a knitted avocado—and Zach's discovery of her real motive—combine to turn Thanksgiving dinner into Jen's worst nightmare. Zach, on the other hand, has the time of his life. And when he finally makes Jen smile, he realizes there's one commitment he's willing to make after all... but persuading Jen to believe him will take everything he's got.

Praise for
All Or Nothing

“Five hearts! Tender, sweet and a lot of fun. A highly recommended read!”

~ The Romance Studio

“Five Blue Ribbons! A fantastic book!”

~ Romance Junkies

 

All Or Nothing

All Or Nothing
was originally published under the pseudonym, Claire Cross.

Deborah Cooke also writes as Claire Delacroix and as herself.

This re-release has had only minor corrections from the original text. It is essentially the same as the original print edition, although there are minor variations.

Copyright 2007, 2012 Claire Delacroix, Inc.

Published by Deborah A. Cooke

All Rights Reserved.

Cover by
Kim Killion
.

Digital Design by
A Thirsty Mind

ISBN: 978-1-927477-19-9

Digital Edition

Excerpt from
Flying Blind

Copyright 2011 Deborah A. Cooke

Excerpt from
Love Potion #9

Copyright 1999, 2011 Claire Delacroix, Inc.

Without limiting the rights under copyright preserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright holder and the publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

Dear Readers
;

All Or Nothing
is the fourth and final book in my Coxwell series of contemporary romances. From the first moment I met Zach, I knew I had to tell his story—and I knew his romance would have to be an unconventional one. There's nothing typical about Zach, and less that's predictable. The trick was finding him the perfect romantic partner. I wanted someone to make him realize how lucky he was, and someone who would persuade him to make an effort instead of just accepting what came his way. Jen was the perfect match. She's creative, she also feels lucky, but she feels lucky because she knows what it is to be unlucky. At the same time, Jen has lost her stride. That's not unreasonable for a cancer survivor, but she needed some laughter and a good hard push to start living again. I love how the sparks fly between these two, even at their first meeting. Their banter reminds me of the dialogue in old movies, even though they are very contemporary characters. Of course, I particularly like how they push and prod each other, then make each other's dreams come true.

I haven't made any major changes to
All Or Nothing
and have republished it essentially as it was published in the first place. I did choose to republish the Coxwell series as Deborah Cooke books, since I now publish contemporary paranormal romance under my own name. I continue to write historicals as Claire Delacroix, so my Claire Cross time travel romances have been republished as Delacroix books.

I haven't published any contemporary romances since
All Or Nothing
, although I still have a number of projects in process. Reviewing the Coxwell series for republication has reminded me just how much I loved telling these kinds of stories. They were both challenging to write and very satisfying. I've recently returned to a book that I put aside several years ago about two friends who epitomize the idea of opposites attracting. Their lives have gone in completely different directions, but in crisis, they return to each other, maybe because they understand each other so well. It's more of a women's fiction book with romantic elements than a pure romance, but if you liked the Coxwells, I think you might enjoy it too. I'm hoping to finish this book and publish it later this year. The working title is
The Gingerbread House
and it will be a Deborah Cooke book. Please keep an eye on my
website
,
Facebook page
or
blog
for updates.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading Jen and Zach's story!

All my best—

Deborah

http://www.deborahcooke.com

Chapter One

“A
re you gay?”

Jen glanced up from her toast. It was just before noon on a Friday morning and she'd thought herself alone in her mother's vivid yellow and cherry red kitchen. She had been considering the problem of how to knit the skin of an avocado so that it looked real, but any internal debate about the pebbly merit of moss stitch would have to wait.

Her mom, as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as Jen was not, was leaning in the doorway to the hall. Natalie had “that look”, the one that meant trouble.

A casual observer wouldn't have guessed that Natalie and Jen were related, much less that they were mother and daughter. While Jen was tall and slender with cropped dark hair, her mother was petite, curvy and possessed of what seemed to be several acres of corkscrew-curled auburn hair.

Jen's mother had found her niche in the 1970's and had decided to remain there for good. Natalie wore little round glasses, her jeans were worn, her sweater was hand knit (by Gran) and old enough to be embellished with many fuzz balls. She wore Birkenstock sandals all year around, baked the best whole grain bread, and persisted in starting earnest conversations with her children at unpredictable moments.

Jen had forgotten the earnest conversation bit when she'd accepted the chance to move back home two years before. She'd worked a double shift the night before at Mulligan's, was due in for the lunch shift today and her feet were still begging for mercy. She wasn't really up for having her soul searched, her chakras aligned, or the fiber content of her diet analyzed.

Again.

Jen tried not to show any of her frustration. She changed the subject instead of answering, a ploy that sometimes worked. “Hi Mom. The bread is really good this time.”

“Don't you do that to me,” Natalie said as she advanced into the kitchen. “I know you well enough to see you putting your shields up. I want you to be honest with me, Jen.”

“I'm not putting...”

“You
are
. I can see you closing off the world. You've always done it, but now you're better at it.”

Jen didn't know what to say to that so she ate her toast. She toyed with her knitting while she did so. It flopped on the table, not looking like much of anything since it wasn't yet stuffed. The pit of the avocado was done, because her plan was that the end result would look like an avocado cut in half. The round pit had been the easiest place to start. So, she had a purple golf ball with floppy frills around it and a lot of doubt.

Shouldn't the flesh be more yellow around the stone? Should she use more than one color of yarn? She could ask Teresa how to change from one color to the next gradually.

Jen's mom shook her head, which made her ringlets dance, then pulled out the chair opposite Jen with such purpose that she couldn't be ignored.

“Well, if you are gay, then you should know that I'm okay with it,” her mother said with the compassion that characterized these discussions. “I'd just like to know—assuming, of course, that you don't think that's too much of a personal thing to ask.”

So much for the diversion plan. Jen wondered at the timing of the question. “Why do you want to know? Shouldn't we have had this chat when I was sixteen?”

“I know, I know, and now your life is your own business, blah blah blah.” Her mother sighed and grimaced, then leaned closer. “But you might as well know, it's because I need to decide what to tell your grandmother about Thanksgiving. You know, she's always after me about whether you're bringing a date or not.”

“Just tell her no. It's worked before.”

“Not this year.”

“Gran saw some documentary on television and now she has this idea that maybe you're gay and we're hiding it from her.” Jen's mother took a swig of her herbal tea. “She'll love it if you are, I've got to say. She's always insisted that I didn't know anything about raising children, and you know that she won't understand that being gay isn't a lifestyle choice. It's wired right in, we know that, but she's going to think that you've gone and chosen to do this to annoy her or me, and that you can be persuaded to change your mind and be “normal” again, whatever the hell that is. I don't even want to imagine that campaign.”

Neither did Jen. She ate her toast as quickly as she could, hoping her mother got lost on a tangent long enough that she could escape without answering the question.

The chances were slim, but it was worth a try.

“How many times have I told you not to wolf down your food?” Her mother fixed her with a stern glance, exactly the opposite of what Jen had hoped for. “I'm all for people expressing their own rhythms, but eating quickly only inhibits digestion. You, of all people, should be respecting your body's natural needs.”

“Mom, I'm not sick anymore.”

Her mother sat back, smiling slightly as if Jen had said exactly what Natalie had wanted her to say. “Really? How would I be able to tell?”

“Check out my new hair.”

“Hair is only part of it. You mope around here like a ghost, or like a person with a death sentence.”

“I was a person with a death sentence.”


Was
being the operative word. Past tense, Jen. You're better now, all better from what the oncologists say. Last I heard, your prognosis was excellent. You're one year clear.”

“That's what I heard, too.”

“So, when are you going to do something about it? When are you going to act as if you're alive, Jen, instead of marking time until you die?” Her mother leaned her elbows on the table and regarded Jen earnestly. “When exactly do we get the old Jen back?”

Jen swallowed the last bite of her toast and picked up her plate. “I don't know what you mean,” she said with a shrug. “I've got a job and I go to work almost every day...”

“And what about going back to college?”

“I'm not sure what I want to do yet.”

“What about traveling again?”

“I've already waitressed in sixteen countries. I'm good with that as a lifetime total.” That wasn't it and Jen knew it, but she wasn't sure enough of herself to confess more to her mother.

Even if the woman had X-ray vision. She felt Natalie's gaze following her and knew she wasn't out of the kitchen yet.

“You used to have a lot of dreams and plans.”

Jen said nothing. Not knowing how long you were going to live had a way of short-circuiting long-term dreams and plans.

Her mother tried another tack. “And what about your friends? What about Teresa?”

“I stay in touch with Teresa...”

“But you don't get together any more. You don't go downtown and hang out with her as much as you used to.”

“Teresa's really busy with her job. She's CFO now, you know.” Jen chose not to try to explain that she felt so out of step with her old friends. It was like Death was sitting on her shoulder, making her unwelcome company among people busy being vibrantly alive. “And after all, I don't care about power shopping or speed dating.”

“Why not? That's what women your age should care about: clothes and music and parties.” Her mother took a deep fortifying breath. “And men, Jen. You should be crazy for men. But you've shown no interest in men lately. Which leads me back to the question: are you gay?”

BOOK: All or Nothing
11.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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