Cocktail hour will never be the same.

A Man for Marley
© 2007 Arianna Hart
Contemporary Romance
Available Now

Marley Sullivan is willing to do almost anything to claim her inheritance, even if it means putting up with sexy Hunter O’Malley for six months. Marley has worked hard for years turning O’Malley’s Pub into a New York hot spot. This is her chance to finally own it; all she has to do is live, work, and not fall in love with Hunter.

Racecar driver Hunter O’Malley thinks being stuck working at his family’s bar for six months is a fate worse than death. If he could get Marley to stop bristling at him and use her ever so kissable mouth for something other than ordering him around, it might not be so bad. But when heated tempers lead to hot lust, will six months be long enough after all?

Enjoy the following excerpt for A Man for Marley:
Hunter watched the scene with a mixture of curiosity and repulsion. Almost like one would view a car wreck. He’d wondered what the mysterious Vivian looked like. The reality was almost frightening.

Marley stood behind the bar, clutching a dishtowel like she was holding on for dear life. Her eyes were wary, and she made no move to come out from behind the safety of the bar.

Hunter looked back at the woman whom Marley called mother with such distaste. On first impression he could see why. He had seen her type around the racetrack plenty of times. She had to be in her late forties, early fifties, but dressed like she was in her teens.

Vivian wore skintight Capri pants in a leopard print and high-heeled sandals. Her black shirt was at least two sizes too small for her sagging figure and it had an oval cut out to show off her cleavage. On a younger woman the shirt would have been suggestive. On Vivian all it did was emphasize her losing battle with gravity.

There was no resemblance between mother and daughter that he could see but it was hard to tell from the amount of cosmetics Vivian wore. She looked like she’d applied her makeup with a trowel. Her eye shadow was caked up to her viciously tweezed eyebrows and she had fake eyelashes that would make a drag queen proud.

Her hair was bleach-blonde, sprayed and teased to about a foot above her head. Hunter wondered what miracle of modern chemistry could keep that much hair standing so high in this heat and humidity. His mind kept coming back to the mystery of how this woman could have produced a daughter like Marley.

“Aren’t you going to give me a hug? I came in person to offer my condolences because I couldn’t get you on the phone.” She clattered her way into the pub. Hunter could smell her musky perfume before she got within three feet of him.

When she got to where Marley stood behind the bar, she dropped her enormous pocketbook on the counter and leaned over as if to embrace her daughter. Marley stood stiff and frozen and made no effort to return the gesture.

“So what can I do for you, Vivian?” Marley’s voice was ice cold.

“Oh, nothing, I just wanted to see how you were holding up now that the old man is six feet under.” She opened her purse and dug around in it for several seconds, missing the look of pain and suspicion on Marley’s face. Hunter didn’t.

“I’m holding up fine so far. Now why are you really here?”

“Is that any way to talk to your mother?”

“It wouldn’t be, if you were a real mother. But I know you and you don’t do anything without a reason. So I’ll ask you again, Vivian, why are you here?”

“Not a real mother? Now that’s a fine how do you do! You know I didn’t have to have you, didn’t have to ruin my figure carrying you around for nine months.” She dug a pack of cigarettes out of her purse and put one to her heavily painted lips.

“Do you think it was easy raising a kid all by myself? Hell no, it wasn’t easy, ungrateful brat. Always ‘Mommy, I’m hungry’ or ‘Mommy, I need clean clothes’ or ‘Mommy, when are you going to be home?’ Nag, nag, nag. That’s all you ever did as a kid and when I come to see you in your time of sorrow, how do you treat me? Like I’m some beggar on the street. I don’t have to stay here and be treated like this you know. I should just walk right out of here without looking back.” She made no move to leave.

“No one’s stopping you. It wouldn’t be the first time you left without a second thought.”

Hunter couldn’t believe the drama unfolding. Everyone in the pub carefully kept their eyes averted from the scene but he could almost feel their ears straining to hear every word. With the way Vivian was carrying on, they didn’t have to strain hard.

“Oh God, can’t you get over that already? So I kicked you out. You landed on your feet didn’t you? It was probably the best thing I ever did for you. They even have a name for it now, ‘tough love’.” Vivian dug around in her purse some more.

“Hey, sugar, do you have a light? I can’t seem to find mine.” Vivian gave a syrupy smile to Hunter.

It was enough to make him queasy. He reached into the ashtray between the two of them and slid the pack of matches her way.

“Thanks, handsome.” She took her time lighting the long cigarette despite the no smoking laws. “I didn’t come here to fight with you, Marley. I’ve missed you. You don’t come around, you don’t call, how am I supposed to know how you’re doing if I don’t stop by where you work?”

“Come off it, Vivian. How am I supposed to visit you even if I wanted to? I never know where or with whom you’re living. The only time you ‘miss’ me is when you’re between boyfriends or out of money. Which is it this time?”

“That hurts.” Vivian wiped her eyes, although Hunter noticed that no tears marred her makeup. “How can you say something like that to me? Your own flesh and blood. I came here for you and you treat me like this?”

Vivian turned to Hunter again. Tom had made an escape to a nearby table. Close enough to help but out of the line of fire. Hunter wished he had been as quick as the old codger when Vivian addressed him.

“Do you hear how she’s talking to me? Would you treat your mother like this?”

“I think this is between you and Marley,” Hunter said, trying to stay out of the argument.

“Nonsense, I make it a point to always listen to an attractive man. So tell me, when you see your mother, do you insult her and treat her like dirt?”

“My mother’s dead.” He hoped that would be the end of the conversation.

He hoped in vain.

“Oh you poor thing!” Vivian tottered over to him and pulled his head to her ample bosom with surprising strength.

Hunter peeked at Marley, pleading silently for help. It was a battle not to suffocate from an overload of the woman’s perfume. The more he tried to pull away, the harder she pressed him to her pillow-like breasts. He couldn’t think of a tactful way out of the situation, and he was starting to get desperate.

“Would you let him go for heaven’s sake?” Marley snapped, the disgust in her voice clear. “He’s young enough to be your son.”

“Some men like mature, experienced women,” Vivian said, letting Hunter up for air. “Anyway, I was just offering him my sympathy.”

“That’s not the only thing you were offering,” Marley muttered loud enough for Hunter to hear. “So what’s it going to take this time?”

“I’m sure I have no idea what you mean?” Vivian sniffed with an air of one who’s been sorely injured.

“Come off it. How much money is it going to cost me to keep you from making more of a scene at my bar?”

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