I’ve had the pleasure of knowing our guest today, author Maggie Marr, since 2008, when I first joined the Girlfriends Book Club. She grew up in Illinois and, after practicing law for four years, first as a guardian-ad-litem for abused children in Chicago and then as a prosecutor in domestic violence in Denver, she made the move to Los Angeles with her husband, who is an actor. Her first job in entertainment was pushing the mail cart at ICM, where she eventually became a motion picture literary agent. She now splits her time between writing and producing. She’s the author of Hollywood Girls Club and Secrets of the Hollywood Girls Club.
Maggie’s upcoming novel is a contemporary romance I’m looking forward to reading called Can’t Buy Me Love, which will be released digitally on March 28, 2012. (Her cover is something she’ll be unveiling on her website soon, so please keep an eye out for it!) I asked her to share a romantic cliffhanger scene with us from this new romance, which she graciously agreed to do. Thanks, Maggie!!
This is the romantic cliffhanger from my latest book and first contemporary romance Can’t Buy Me Love. Meg Parson has been an executive assistant for Cole Jackson, owner of the world’s biggest media company, for over three years. Meg is desperate for a promotion but six months ago–without warning–Cole sent her away with an impossible assignment: to broker a deal to purchase TBC. Unbeknownst to Meg, getting the deal accomplished wasn’t the only reason Cole sent her away–he was fighting strong feelings for her. But she isn’t the type of woman that Cole wants to date. Cole likes his relationships hot, fast, and disposable and Meg is the type of woman that you marry, and Cole has no interest in getting married–ever. While in the process of closing the TBC deal (that Meg managed to broker) Cole and Meg become involved. Now on the verge of Cole making the ultimate commitment, Cole’s corporate security team discovers what they think is evidence that Meg was working as a corporate spy for Cole’s biggest competitor Metro Media.
He’d been a fool to let Meg into his heart. There was no one you could trust. No. One. Love? Loyalty? Wisps of smoke in the wind. His heart ripped wide with pain. How many times must he be emotionally flayed before he understood: Never be vulnerable. Never.
“You don’t deny it then?” Cole flipped open the black binder to an email from Prim to Meg. “You’ve been corresponding with Metro Media? For what appear so be years.”
“If you mean emailing my friend Prim, then yes.”
She was so calm. So cool. Their entire relationship was shattering, blasted to bits by her deceit and she sat before him on the other side of his desk, her hands clasped in her lap as if she didn’t care. Perhaps she didn’t. Perhaps she hadn’t ever cared because if she cared at all, wouldn’t the anger sear through her as it tore through him?
The only explanation for her calm was that she planned this treachery. She knew the risks and assumed the possibility of getting caught in order to get what she wanted. Everyone would betray to get what they wanted–even Meg.
“How did you get my emails?” Meg tilted her chin toward him.
Cole waved off Meg’s question with his hand, “We monitor company email. It’s standard policy.”
“To spy on me? Your first assistant and now your…your…” Her lips trembled and tears welled in her eyes. “I don’t even know what to call myself now.”
“I think the word traitor might apply.”
Her eyes wounded him and his heart clutched tight with pain to witness the sadness within Meg’s eyes, but he would not fall for her act. That desperate, I love you–I’d never hurt you–I’d never betray you act. She’d maneuvered and manipulated and managed to maintain the facade until she got exactly what she wanted. Where she wanted.
His uncle played the exact game. He pretended to love Cole, traveled with Cole, told Cole that they’d always be best friends, until, when Cole needed him most, was his most vulnerable after his parents death, the very Uncle he trusted turned his back on Cole and stole all that was rightfully his. But his Uncle failed–Cole had eventually won that war and while now Meg attempted a similar deception–Cole would not be fooled.
“So tell me, how exactly were you going to manage this little takeover that you and Metro Media planned?”
Meg looked up slowly from her hands clasped in her lap. Disbelief lodged in her eyes–yes of course she was surprised to get caught–she must have thought he was such a fool to never see through her plan.
“Takeover? Have you lost your mind?”
“I may have taken leave of my sense for a while, but I can assure you after examining these,” Cole lifted the black binder and shook it at her, “I’m completely competent now. So tell me how and when? Was Stan Morton in on your little coup d’etat?”
Meg jumped to her feet. Her face pale–colorless–the sparkle in her blues eyes dead. “You’re absolutely mad.” She stumbled toward the door as if dizzied by the realization that her deceit was discovered. Cole leapt in front of her, grabbed her arm, and spun her toward him. He fought to keep control of his grip. Anger–hot and fierce burned him while desire for Meg still clawed through his body. She was so close. The sweet scent of her filled him. Dammit, he couldn’t kill the love that still beat through his heart. He fought a primal urge to shake the truth from her–to force her to repent and beg his forgiveness. She was Judas. As bad as his uncle–worse. She’d used her body and her mind to weasel into him like a serpent in the garden.
“Tell me your plan.”
“My plan?” Meg bit her bottom lip as if to steady the tremble. Red blotches sprouted on her cheeks and tears pooled in her eyes. He fought the urge to pull her close to him–an urge to comfort her–to continue to love her–but there was no room left for love after her deception.
“You’re quite the little actress aren’t you? From our moments in bed to your tears right now. I’d almost believe you actually felt something. If I thought you had a heart.”
“My plan…” Meg started again–she didn’t change her tone or acknowledge his hateful words. Her eyes wide with a dazed expression as if she couldn’t quite comprehend that she’d been caught in the act of corporate espionage. “My plan was to work hard and get promoted.” She looked up and stared into Cole’s eyes–a pleading look that begged for him to believe her. “I guess failing that…had you fired me or been displeased I might have changed jobs, might have–”
She trembled in his grip and his anger grew at her continued lies. How dare she pretend. How dare she try to make him believe that she’d merely wanted his approval, to be a part of his company when everything was so clear to him now.
“I guess you’ll fit in nicely at Metro Media,” Cole ripped his eyes over her in the most unseemly of ways. His gaze lingered first on her breasts and then her hips. If she was willing to sell herself to the highest bidder he may as well examine what he’d lost. Cole leaned forward his lips as close to her ears as he dared.
“I hear Ryan Murphy is more willing than I to sample the in-house goods.” He dropped her arm. He couldn’t stand to touch her. Didn’t want her near.
A gasp wrenched out of Meg and she covered her mouth with her hand. The tears that pooled in her eyes moments before spilled out now and cascaded over her cheeks.
He didn’t care. She was treacherous and deceitful and she deserved to cry. She deserved her tears. She deserved her pain. She cried only because she’d been caught, of that he felt sure. He’d foiled their plan. Nothing more–nothing less. This was business–business gone bad.
And I’ve got a romantic cliffhanger scene ending to share as well… In this snippet from A Summer in Europe, my heroine, Gwendolyn Reese, is in a gelato shop in Florence with physicist and fellow tour member Emerson Edwards. Despite her attachment to her boyfriend back home, Gwen is oddly drawn to this unusual British man she met just a few days before, but he’s not at all the kind of person with whom she could really imagine herself in a relationship. He, however, may have other ideas.
Gwen mustered her courage and asked, “So, is there someone special for you back in England? A woman you, um, love?”
“Yes,” Emerson said without hesitation.
Though Gwen had no reason whatsoever to feel the plummeting disappointment that followed these words, she was, nonetheless, surprised by her sudden resentment. She bit her lip and was about to press for further details on this mystery lady when Emerson swiped a paper napkin across his mouth, grinned at her and said, “My mum.”
“What?” she said. Then it registered. “Oh! Your mother. Well, yes, of course you love her.” Gwen laughed, her emotions yo-yoing from uneasy to strangely hopeful. “But what I meant was—”
“I know what you meant.” Emerson sucked the malaga side of his gelato cone until it formed a perfect creamy peak. “I was just fooling with you.” He hesitated for several moments then added, “I date. A few women, actually. But there isn’t one that’s particularly serious now. There usually isn’t. I’m not like Thoreau.”
She squinted at him. Emerson and his elder brother may have been unalike in subtle ways—a handful of personality quirks, a few physical traits—but she found more similarities between them than differences. “In what sense?”
“Despite his first messy divorce and consequent death spiral into self-destructive thought patterns, my brother still believes in getting married, settling down with one woman, having kidlets and, eventually, playing endless games of chess with his grandchildren.” Emerson shrugged. “I don’t.”
Gwen shook her head, not sure she processed his comment fully. “You don’t ever want to get married? Not even if you meet the right person someday? The One?”
He snorted. “There’s no such thing. There are many Ones…plural, not singular. You think you can identify happiness in one person, but when you try to tie it down, it slips away. Like with electrons in quantum mechanics. You can’t know precisely where they are, and by trying to pinpoint their location exactly, you lose them. The scientist has a much better sense of where their properties and locations are in space if he doesn’t attempt to force the electron into a tiny box and tell it to stay there. If he honors and encourages the natural freedom.”
She tried to wrap her mind around this theory, a difficult concept for somebody who’d spent the past two decades of her life hungering for attachment. “So, you’re saying happiness in a relationship is impossible unless both parties are essentially free radicals. That women are unknowable entities to you if a formal bond with them is required, and that trying to create the bond itself causes the problem. Did I get that right?”
He met her eye and nodded—a determined, almost sad motion. “Yes, Gwen. That’s correct.”
She felt the drip of gelato on her knuckles—she’d been neglecting her cone—and quickly wiped some fragola away. “I’m not sure,” she said, “that we could be more different in our opinions.” She licked the edges of her cone thoughtfully. “When it comes to relationships, we may not, in fact, even be the same species.”
“Perhaps not.” Emerson laughed suddenly and cocked his head to one side, as if assessing her with care. “But you don’t think that’s going to stop us from shagging, do you?”
There are many stories with romantic cliffhangers at the end of a chapter…sometimes even at the end of the book (I’m thinking of one particular ending from a Stephanie Plum novel here.) Some end with a surprise kiss or an unexpected declaration of love, others with an argument and a storm-out. We’d love to hear about some of your favorite scene endings in books or film where you were left holding your breath, wondering what might happen next in the couple’s relationship.
Maggie is giving away a copy of her novel, Hollywood Girls Club, to one commenter, and I’ll give away one hardcover, book-club edition of my second women’s fiction story, Friday Mornings at Nine, to one commenter as well. We’ll post the winners’ names in the comment section on the 31st. Happy New Year, everyone!!
p.s. I just found out about this special ebook sale this week – B&N has priced the Nook version of my debut novel, According to Jane, at $1.99, and Amazon matched that price for Kindle as well! So, if it’s a story that may be of interest to you, I hope you’ll enjoy the great deal!