Her Indecent Proposal

By: Judy Angelo

CHAPTER ONE





“Thirty-three is not old,” Emily Parker gave her usual indulgent smile. “Look at your Aunt Cecilia. She didn’t have her first child until she was thirty-four.”

Melanie shook her head. “You are so not the typical mother. Most moms would be harassing me for a grandchild by now.”

Emily chuckled and the laugh line sank deeper in her sixty-four year old face. “The two I already have are more than a handful.” She reached across the kitchen table and squeezed Melanie’s hand. “I would love for you to have a child, dear, but don’t feel pressured. Things will happen at the right time.”

Melanie gave a snort. “If things are going to happen they’d better hurry up because I’m running out of time.”

“You want to do things the right way, Mel. Find a nice man, fall in love, and then think about babies.”

Melanie almost rolled her eyes but she stopped herself just in time. Now where was she going to find a man, fall in love, get married, conceive and then give birth – all before her thirty-fifth birthday? She was going to be thirty-four in exactly three months.

And she absolutely had to give birth before her thirty-fifth birthday. That was her deadline, because wasn’t it at thirty-five that fertility was said to decline dramatically? And wasn’t that the age where they began to consider pregnancies high risk?

She would never let that happen to her. She was a woman who planned all her moves strategically and being childless was not part of the plan. She’d written it all down in her personal book from as far back as her early twenties – by age twenty-five complete MBA, by age thirty build Dad’s corporation into a billion-dollar enterprise, by age thirty-four have a child. Her younger sister thought she was weird, writing out her whole life plan years in advance, but that was just who she was. Ever since she was a teenager she’d practiced writing down her goals and had used those written goals to keep herself focused.

And so far her strategy had worked – at least where the MBA and the corporation were concerned.

“Mom, it’s getting late. I’d better go now.” Melanie got up and went around the table to give her mother a hug. “I’ll give you a call when I get home, okay?”

“Okay, dear.” Her mother gave her a squeeze before she released her. “And remember what I said. Don’t force things. Everything will work out in good time.”

“Sure, Mom.” As usual, it was easier to agree with her mother than to argue the point. “All in good time.”

That was what she said out loud but inside Melanie was busy formulating a plan. Because she never believed in letting things ‘just happen’. She already knew what she had to do so now she was busy plotting part two of her scheme – how to get her man.

And she already knew the perfect one for the job.

***





Sloane Quest lifted his mug and took another swig of beer, savoring the crisp liquid as it slid over his tongue. He was early for his meeting with the guys but he didn’t mind the wait. He loved hanging out on the patio at Terasse Suite 701, soaking up the spring sunshine. Living in a city like Montreal where you had to stay indoors most of the year you grew to appreciate the sunny seasons and learned to take full advantage of them whenever you could. And that was exactly what he was doing this relaxing Sunday afternoon.

“Sloane, you beat me to it again.”

At the sound of Michel’s voice Sloane turned and when he saw his friend laden down with catalogues and magazines, he grinned. Ah, the pains and troubles of a man preparing to get married. “You know me,” he said, waving his friend over. “Always early. It’s a habit I just can’t break.”

“Yeah,” Michel said as he got to the table and plopped down in one of the empty chairs. “Military training will do that to you.” Then with a look of disgust he dumped his armful of magazines on the table. “Want to go through these? Celine said I should take them to show you so we can pick out matching tuxedos, I guess.” He said it with a grimace. “Women.”

Sloane only laughed. “It’s your wedding. You pick out the damn thing. I’m only coming along for the ride.”

Michel gave him a scowl. “You’re my best man. Aren’t you supposed to show support or something?"

“Yeah, by standing beside you and handing you the ring.” Sloane didn’t even try to hide his amusement at the look of distress on Michel’s face. When it came to weddings, that was a woman thing and the man involved usually wanted it over and done with so he could get back to his normal life. And obviously, Michel was no exception.

“You know what?” he said, picking up the first catalogue within his reach, the one on top of the pile. “I’m picking the one on page one, whatever it is, and she’d better like it.”

Sloane only chuckled. He knew better than to get involved in that discussion. Celine was a feisty one and if word got back to her that he’d agreed with Michel on that strategy, she would let him have it. A woman planning her wedding was the pickiest, most cantankerous person in the world and he planned to stay far out of firing range. At least until the wedding was over.

After flipping to page one and studying the tuxedos there, Michel shrugged. “Looks okay to me.” He flung the book onto the pile then his face cleared. “There. She can’t say I didn’t look at her books.”

Sloane cocked an eyebrow. “A more accurate word would be ‘book’, wouldn’t it?”

“As long as she doesn’t find out.” Michel’s voice trailed off as his gaze went past Sloane and he peered down the street. “Hey, there’s Marc. Patrick’s with him. Just a sec.” He stood and lifted a hand so their friends could spot them in the Sunday afternoon crowd. When they acknowledged him he sank back down. “They said they’ve got some ideas for a really whacky bachelor party.” He gave a snort. “Knowing them, it will probably be something just shy of illegal.”

“Come on. They’re crazy, but not that crazy.”

“Yeah, you’re right. They wouldn’t go that far.” Michel gave a sigh. “I guess I’m just jittery after the last prank they pulled. Hard to believe we’re talking about two grown men, isn’t it?” He shook his head as if in disbelief.

Sloane chuckled. “They’ve been like this since high school. What did you expect?”

“Maturity?” He said the word but the expression on Michel’s face said he knew it wasn’t going to happen any time soon.

“Soakin’ up some sun, eh?” Marc bent his long frame and sank into the seat across from Sloane while the other man pulled out the last free chair.

“What did we miss?” Patrick asked as he sat down.

“Nothing. I just got here,” Michel told them. “Sloane’s been here a while, though.”

Marc snorted. “As usual.”

“He’s lucky.” Patrick jerked his head in Sloane’s direction. “No kids to babysit before running over here. No wonder he’s always early.”

“Lucky?” Marc scoffed. “Is that what you call it? The man has no life.”

“Hey.” Sloane put up his hands, ready to defend himself. “Just because I’m not married it doesn’t mean I don’t have a full life.” He shrugged. “Okay, so you guys are married. So what? And you,” he eyed Michel who had settled back in his chair, listening to the banter with great interest, “you used to be on my side. Now it’s me against the lot of you.”

“Join us,” Marc moaned, zombie-like. “Become one of us.”

Michel laughed but then he turned earnest eyes on Sloane. “Seriously, Sloane, when are you going to take the plunge? You’re thirty-six, for God’s sake. You want to wait until you’re gray to start a family?”

“Who? This guy?” Marc looked amused. “He’ll never settle down. Every few months he’s got a new lady on his arm. This is definitely not a one-woman man.”

“Yeah,” Patrick chimed in. “Just like his motto, 'Love 'em and leave 'em'.

“Hey, who said that was my motto?” Sloane glared at Patrick whose eyes immediately went to Michel.

“I didn’t have to say a thing,” Michel said, putting a hand up. “It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?”

Sloane frowned. “Obvious that what?”

“That you’re one of those rolling stones that gather no moss,” Marc said with a sardonic smile.

“I’ve got corporations to run. I’m a busy man.” Sloane scowled. What the hell? He hadn’t come here for his friends to gang up on him.

“Yes,” Michel said, giving the other two a stern look then turning back to Sloane. “You’re a busy guy but so are we. And we still found the time to focus on what’s important. Family.” He paused, giving Sloane a pointed look. “Just something to think about.”

Marc barked out a laugh. “You’re telling that to 'Mister love 'em and leave 'em’? It will never happen.”

Sloane gave him a baleful stare. But then, how could he deny it? He’d gotten that reputation because it was like he’d done his best to live up to a certain image – the typical ‘bad boy’.

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