Authors: Vicki Lewis Thompson
“And her. Did you see the look on Andi’s face when she first saw me? She doesn’t want me on this trip. Is this some plot to create family harmony between Andi and me?”
Bowie glanced at him. “Something like that.”
Chance didn’t trust the gleam in Bowie’s eyes. “Oh, no, you don’t.”
“Just get to know her. You two got off to a rocky start, but—”
“Are you insane? I can’t believe you’re seriously trying to fix me up with…with her! This is a terrible idea.”
Bowie set his jaw. “Is it? I saw the way you looked at her when she climbed out of the fountain, like somebody hit you between the eyes with a two-by-four.”
Chance kept his voice low, despite his rising blood pressure. “Which is about what I expected to happen next! Whenever she’s around it’s like being in a disaster movie. Coming this summer to theaters near you—
Going Overboard. Sandra and the Scoundrel.
I think the titles of this month’s LOVE & LAUGHTER books explain themselves and the appeal of romantic comedy. After all, what’s better than experiencing opposites finding romance and humor!
Spectacular Vicki Lewis Thompson continues her winning stories with
otherwise known as the houseboat cruise from hell. Ever the adventurer, Vicki undertook her own houseboat trip and, as a result, has firsthand experience of many of the mishaps found in the novel. Since then, Vicki’s become a real land lover.
Always funny Jacqueline Diamond pens her second LOVE & LAUGHTER romance about a secondary character from
Sandra Duval is everything a flighty heiress should be (including owning and wearing an outrageous collection of bizarre hats and costumes) and completely lovable as she is confronted with the complete unknown: children!
So, have a laugh on us and enjoy the romance!
Associate Senior Editor
As research for this book, three inexperienced friends and I spent some time on a houseboat not too long ago. It wasn’t pretty. I was the genius who suggested renting the biggest houseboat on the lake. After all, bigger is better, isn’t it? I had visions of Cleopatra’s barge—the reality was closer to the
The four of us survived the trip, but as for the boat, let’s just say it was fortunate we decided to take out propeller insurance.
—Vicki Lewis Thompson
Books by Vicki Lewis Thompson
HARLEQUIN LOVE & LAUGHTER
5—STUCK WITH YOU
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600—HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO
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To my three shipmates on the Houseboat from Hell. As long as you’re prompt with your checks, your identities will remain our little secret.
M WORRIED ABOUT
how the stripper will go over.” Andi Lombard expertly popped the cork from the champagne bottle and poured the bubbly into the crystal punch bowl being refilled at her elbow. “With the exception of my little sis, Nicole, those women in your living room seem kind of…”
“Repressed?” Ginger Thorson grinned as she added the punch mix.
“No kidding! All the nightgowns Nicole has opened so far must’ve come from the Vestal Virgin Boutique.”
“I’ll bet the one you bought isn’t like that.”
Andi winked. “No, ma’am. Nicole will have to hose Bowie down after she models it for him.” She put the empty champagne bottle on the counter. “We need to do something, Ging. How many more of these bottles do you have?”
“That’s the last one I have chilled, but there’s more in the cupboard. I just thought—”
“Chill ‘em. And let’s bring out the salty snacks to get them thirsty. If these uptight matrons don’t start slugging back the champagne punch, my stripper is going to bomb.”
“You want to get them smashed?”
“The way I see it, I’m removing their inhibitions so they’ll get the most out of the experience.”
“Including your sister’s future mother-in-law?”
“That woman is a pain, Ginger. Did you notice how she acted when we met?”
“A little snobbish, I’ll admit.”
“A little?” Andi drew herself up, adjusted an imaginary set of glasses and stared disapprovingly down her nose as Ginger began to giggle. “Good evening, my dear,” Andi mimicked. “You must be Andi. Nicole tells me you live in
” Andi looked as if she’d smelled something bad as she pronounced the name of the city. “But then, I suppose everyone has to live
“You’re right. She is a pain,” Ginger said, laughing.
“Admit it, you’d like to see her ripped.”
“I would.” Ginger opened a cupboard and pulled out chips and pretzels. “Forget the petits fours. We’ll serve these.” She dumped the snacks into bowls and took a handful of chips. “I like this stuff better, anyway. You can be on punch patrol.”
“And let’s take a break from opening presents and get some games going. Do you have Pin the Penis On the Man?”
Ginger nearly choked on her mouthful of chips.
“I guess you don’t,” Andi said, patting her friend on the back. She dipped a cup in the punch and handed it to her. “Sorry about that.”
Ginger took a gulp of the punch and cleared her throat. “Andi, these women would pass out if they heard the word
“Okay, then how about Twister? That’s fun.”
“They expect sedate paper-and-pencil games.”
“As long as they’re sitting down, they’ll be able to drink more,” Ginger told her.
“Then let’s get to it. I’m afraid pouring punch down them is the only way we’re gonna save this evening.”
“Andi Lombard, you are a wicked, wicked lady.” Ginger picked up the punch bowl. “And thank God you showed up.”
She wouldn’t have dreamed of
showing up, Andi thought as she followed Ginger into the living room with the chips and pretzels. After all, her baby sister was getting married, and they’d always been there for each other. As globe-trotting military brats, they’d faced new base housing, new schools and new playmates with a united front. Andi had shared with her sister the friends she made so easily, and Nicole had kept Andi from flunking out.
Then Andi had watched with pride and a touch of envy as little Nicole graduated from college and landed an accounting job at prestigious Jefferson Sporting Goods of Chicago. Meanwhile, Andi had decided to abandon her search for the perfect major at the University of Nevada, and in the past few years had turned her hand to everything from dealing blackjack to selling jet-skis. Nothing held her interest for long.
In two days Nicole would marry Bowie Jefferson, younger brother of Chauncey M. Jefferson the Fourth, the man who ran the sporting goods company. Andi hadn’t met this latest in the line of Roman-numeral Chaunceys, a guy who liked to be called
Nicole had told her that he was cute, but strictly a type A who thought only about business. Bowie, thank the Lord, was a barrel of laughs. And although Andi was thrilled for her sister, she couldn’t quiet the nagging voice telling her that Nicole was making a life, while she—Andi—was making a mess.
She walked into the living room toward her sister and picked up Nicole’s camera from an end table, although there had been precious few Kodak moments at this
shower. If it weren’t for her faith in Bowie to make Nicole’s life interesting, she’d kidnap her sister and haul her fanny out of here before she became as boring as this crowd.
A glance at Nicole’s punch cup told her the guest of honor hadn’t taken time to taste any of the first batch. She leaned toward her sister. “Drink up. Wine is about to flow in torrents around here.”
Laughter twinkled in Nicole’s clear blue eyes. “And what plot have you and Ginger been hatching in the kitchen, as if I couldn’t guess?”
“Trust me, your shower will become much more interesting if you’re three sheets to the wind,” Andi said under her breath. Then she turned to the assembled women. “Anyone for charades?”
Nicole’s muffled laugh was the only thing filling the silence as all the women stared at Andi.
Ginger quickly put down the punch bowl and picked up a stack of small notepads from a lamp table. “There’s a new guessing game I thought would be fun.”
“Guessing games!” Andi smiled. “I have a great idea. Everyone can guess the size of Bowie’s pe—um, schlong.”
Eyes widened, and a few titters circled the room.
Mrs. Chauncey M. Jefferson the Third, ensconced in a corner wing chair like a monarch on a throne, got red in the face. “I don’t think we’re going to—”
“We’ll all guess the number of children Nicole’s going to have,” Ginger said quickly. “Then once we’ve guessed, we shuffle a deck of cards…”
Andi zoned out on the explanation of the dweeby game. Maybe she’d have to kidnap Nicole, after all, along with Bowie, and take them out to Nevada, where they could let loose and have a good time. The tentacles of the Jefferson
Sporting Goods money and prestige just might choke the life out of them here in the suburbs of Chicago.
As everyone else played the games Ginger orchestrated, Andi made the rounds, quietly refilling punch cups. She emptied and refilled the punch bowl twice. Nicole still didn’t seem to be drinking the punch, but Andi wasn’t worried about her sister. In the right atmosphere, Nicole could party with the best of them, even stone-cold sober. Andi liked what she saw happening to the group, however, as laughter grew raucous and postures became more uninhibited.
Then Ginger glanced at her watch and suggested they open the last few gifts. Figuring the punch had done its work, Andi returned to her station beside Nicole and handed her another package wrapped in tasteful white paper with a virginal white bow.
Nicole held up a flannel granny gown and exclaimed over how warm it would keep her.
“Wozy and carm,” said a women in a conservative brown suit. “Whoops, I mean
warmy and coze.
” She giggled. “Goodness, what
Andi glanced up at Ginger, who was pressing her lips together in what seemed like a desperate attempt not to laugh.
“You’re trying to say
warm and cozy,
Edna,” said Mrs. Chauncey M. Jefferson the Third. “You shimply got your tongue twishted around your eyeteeth.”
“Dolores Jefferson, you sound a little tipsy!” exclaimed a woman sitting demurely on a love seat. Then she began slipping down into the cushions. “And so do L What fun! I haven’t been tipsy in years.”
“Nonshense,” said Mrs. Chauncey M. “Nobody’s tipshy around here. Sit up straight, Mary.”
As Mary tried unsuccessfully to right herself on the
love seat, Nicole gripped Andi’s shoulder. “Andi, I think they’re all—”
“Time for my gift!” Andi said, grabbing the black box decorated with a large red ribbon.
“It’s time for coffee,” Nicole muttered.
“First open this.” Andi plopped the box into Nicole’s lap.
“What naughty wrapping!” said a woman whose upswept hairdo seemed to be coming unraveled. “Naughty, naughty, naughty.” She started laughing, as if she’d made a wonderful joke.
“Here goes nothing.” Nicole tucked a blond curl behind her ear and lifted the lid of the box as if afraid something might jump out. “Oh…my…God.” She slammed down the lid.
“Let us see,” said Mrs. Chauncey M. with a wave of her punch cup. “You think we were born yeshterday?”
“Show us,” called out another woman.
“Show us,” chorused two others, and soon a chant had begun, complete with clapping.
Show us, show us, show us.
Ginger sat on the floor next to Andi and elbowed her in the ribs. “How’s this?”
“Perfectamundo.” Andi grinned as she surveyed the results of her handiwork. “The ladies are tight as ticks.” She leaned over toward Ginger. “And our little stripper is due any minute.” Then she aimed the camera as Nicole slowly opened the box and held up a crotchless black teddy.
Ginger whooped her approval. “You go, girl!”
wanted to see one of those,” said Mrs. Chauncey M. “Pass it over, Nicole, deary.”
“Me, first,” cried Mary, trying to struggle up from the love seat. “You always get to be first, Dolores,
“I want to see it, too,” said Edna of the brown suit.
As Andi clicked the camera, the women staggered to their feet and clumped together in a laughing, joking circle around Mrs. Chauncey M., who had lunged forward and snatched the sexy lingerie before Mary could get it.
Nicole shook her head slowly. “Unbelievable. My sister comes to town, and within hours my very proper mother-in-law-to-be is examining a crotchless teddy, slurring her speech and calling me
Andi lowered the camera. “Enjoy it, Nic. Life just doesn’t get much better than this.”
“But it will, right?” Ginger nudged her and tipped her head toward the door.
“Let’s hope, so.” Andi glanced at her watch. “It’s getting kinda late. I—”
The doorbell rang, and she shot to her feet, the camera in her hand. “Bingo.”
“Andi,” her sister called after her. “My heart can’t take much more. What are you up to now?”
Andi twirled back to her. “The usual. Try some of that punch, sis!” Excitement pumped through her veins as she hurried to the foyer and squinted through the peephole at the visitor on the other side of the door.
Sure enough, a gorgeous specimen stood in the apartment hallway. He’d assumed the guise of a quintessential businessman—beneath an unbuttoned wool topcoat, he wore a navy pinstriped suit and a pale blue dress shirt. He was probably wearing burgundy wingtips that would pass her military father’s spit-shine test with flying colors.
As he stood waiting for her to answer the door, he lightly mussed his dark, close-cropped hair, unfastened the top button of his shirt and loosened his red and navy power tie. She would have enjoyed performing those little tasks for him. Even if the women in the room behind her didn’t have a good time with this hunk, she would.
His deliciously square-cut jaw had just a hint of fiveo’clock shadow, making him look exactly like an executive who’d just spent a long day at the office. He held a briefcase that probably contained a compact sound system. If he performed as beautifully as he’d presented himself, he’d earn a big tip.
Andi unlatched the door.
hated to interrupt Nicole’s bridal shower, but he needed her signature on an insurance policy and she kept forgetting to come by his office and take care of it. Once her parents arrived from Germany tomorrow, she’d be completely occupied until the wedding, and he thought it would be worse dealing with insurance policies at the wedding reception. He wasn’t letting his new sister-in-law leave on her honeymoon without being properly insured.
God, he was tired. Sighing, he unbuttoned his collar and loosened his tie. Although pleased his brother had found Nicole, Chance felt the heaviness of yet another weight settling on his shoulders. Bowie would never think of things like life insurance, so once again Chance had to remember what responsibilities his father would have assumed had he been alive. Those responsibilities seemed to come thick and fast these days. Bowie’s new wife, wonderful as she was, would contribute another one.
A tall blonde in a miniskirt opened the door and gave him an enthusiastic smile. Some of his fatigue evaporated. He took note of spectacular legs and a tight black sweater that stirred his hormonal urges. Her hair was about the same shade as Nicole’s, although she wore it longer and more flyaway than Nicole, and there was a similarity to the eyes, although this woman’s were hazel, not blue like
Nicole’s. At the moment those hazel eyes were full of mischief.
Chance didn’t feel in much of a party mood, but he summoned up a smile and held out his hand. “You must be Andi.”
“Yes, and you’re late!” She took his hand and pulled him through the doorway.
Caught off guard, he allowed himself to be yanked inside. “I wasn’t—”
“Never mind giving me excuses. We’re wasting time. Let me have your briefcase.” She grabbed it out of his hand.
He grabbed it back. “I’ll handle this, if you don’t mind.”
She took hold of the handle again. “You can’t do everything! I’ll take care of this part. I know how these things work.”
“Really?” Fascinated, he let her have the briefcase. He couldn’t believe she was planning to handle Nicole’s insurance needs, especially after Nicole had described her sister as a lovable, impractical nut.
“Any idiot can operate a tape player. Let’s get your coat off.” She started working him out of his coat, brushing her body against him in the process, filling his senses with her heady perfume.
“What tape player?” He wondered if he was so tired he was hallucinating.
She paused with the coat half removed. “You don’t have one?”
“Well, sure, but not—”