The Cinderella Deal(6)

By: Jennifer Crusie


All he needed was a woman who was reasonably bright and reasonably attractive in a sedate sort of 

way who was willing to lie through her teeth and then quietly disappear. His first thought had been Julia in the apartment downstairs. They’d had a brief affair and parted friends. She would probably do it, he knew, but she’d make a mess of it. Julia was too sharp-looking and too sharp-tongued. He needed a…a wifely-looking woman. A Little House on the Prairie kind of woman. A woman who could lie without batting an eye.

Daisy Flattery.

No, he thought, but logically, she was his best hope. Stories told, her card said, so truth was not one of her virtues. And Julia had said she was straight as an arrow, and he trusted Julia’s judgment if not her restraint. Daisy Flattery was about six inches shorter than he was, with a round midwestern body; if he put her in one of those old-fashioned flowered dresses, Crawford might go for it. Since she seemed to hate him for some reason, she’d probably have to be in desperate need of money before she’d agree to spend any amount of time with him, but she didn’t look rich. Desperation could drive a person to do things he or she would never contemplate ordinarily.

I should know, Linc thought gloomily, and stared at the ceiling. Make a note to call Julia about the Flattery woman, he told himself, and then realized that he didn’t have time to make notes. It was Tuesday. He was due in Prescott on Friday. He felt dizzy for a moment, and realized it was because he was holding his breath, his response to tension for as far back as he could remember. “Breathe, Blaise,”

his football coach had yelled at him in high school the first time he’d passed out during a game. “You gotta keep breathing if you want to play the game.”

He inhaled sharply through his nose and then stretched out his hand for the phone and punched in Julia’s number.

Five minutes later, Linc was listening to Julia laugh herself sick. “You told them what?” she gasped at him when she could talk. “I can’t believe it.”

“Knock it off,” Linc said. “It’s not funny. This is my career at stake here.”

“And we all know that’s more important to you than any of your body parts.” Julia snickered. “I love this. You want me to be the little woman? No problem. I’ll get one of those dweeby little dresses—”

“No.” Linc broke in before Julia could get too attached to the idea. “I need a professional liar, somebody who won’t start giggling when the chips are down.”

“Daisy.” Julia’s voice went up a notch in approval. “She’s wonderful, absolutely trustworthy.”

“Except she tells lies for a living.”

“She tells stories, ” Julia corrected Linc with some heat. “Unreal but not untrue, that’s what Daisy says. And anyway, it’s not like you’re lily-white here, bud. You’re the one who created the Little Woman Who Could.”

Linc exhaled in frustration.

“I can’t believe you lied in the first place,” Julia went on. “I would have said it wasn’t possible. You really are a stick-in-the-mud, but maybe this will break you out of that rut—”

Linc glared at the phone. “I like my rut. I have to go. Good-bye.”

 

“Because you really are solidifying before my eyes—” Julia said, and he hung up. Oh, God. He let his head fall back against the leather chair back. Three days and no fiancee. He was in big trouble, and his only hope was a nutcake. There had to be a better way. The last thing he needed was to pin all his hopes for the future on Daisy Flattery.

He got up and got himself another beer.

virtues. And Julia had said she was straight as an arrow, and he trusted Julia’s judgment if not her restraint. Daisy Flattery was about six inches shorter than he was, with a round midwestern body; if he put her in one of those old-fashioned flowered dresses, Crawford might go for it. Since she seemed to hate him for some reason, she’d probably have to be in desperate need of money before she’d agree to spend any amount of time with him, but she didn’t look rich. Desperation could drive a person to do things he or she would never contemplate ordinarily.

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