WHAT'S THE SECRET TO EVERLASTING LOVE?
Taylor McGuire, a hardworking single mom with a Ph.D. in psychology, believes that compatibility is the key to a successful marriage. Bestselling relationship guru Jonathan Kirby believes it's sexual chemistry. So when these two former lovers meet up on national TV, it's more than just a difference of expert opinion that sets the sparks flying between them. And when Taylor puts forth her theory on love, Jonathan can't help but challenge: "Want to bet?" So begins an unconventional contest -- forty couples involved in a monthlong mock marriage for a chance to win one million dollars -- which puts Taylor's and Jonathan's professional reputations on the line. As the competition heats up, so does the attraction. And as they fall for each other, the two experts realize that love is not a science...sometimes it's just magic.
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Susan Mallery is the bestselling author of more than thirty romance novels, including Sweet Success. She lives in Washington state (the not-so-rainy part) with her husband and two very charming cats.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"We have a surprise for you, Taylor," Katrina Melon said in her oh-so-perky voice.
Taylor McGuire blinked at the fifty-something cable-show host and forced herself to speak, despite the fact that her throat was closing tight enough to snap steel. "No," she managed, then licked dry lips. "No surprises."
Katrina, in her too-pink Chanel suit, with her styled white-blond hair and perfectly made-up, taut features, leaned forward and patted her hand. "You'll be fine," she murmured soothingly.
Oh, yeah, right, Taylor thought, desperately searching for the humor in the situation. Her palms regularly went from damp to dripping, while her legs trembled -- even though she was sitting down. If this was fine, she couldn't wait to experience anxious or even panicked. The good news was she could now say she'd had a near-death moment and survived. The bad news was that she was seconds away from making a complete fool of herself in front of millions of viewers, including her friends and family back home in Texas.
Katrina put down her notes and smiled again, sort of -- with her tight skin it was hard to tell. "All set?"
Taylor didn't answer. What was the point? The plastic princess would dismiss any protests she made. Instead she concentrated on her breathing, trying to ignore the fact that Psychology in the News was a well-respected national cable show produced in New York. Professional cable, not badly done cable access with strange people and grainy pictures. Actual doctors and professors and cutting-edge psychologists watched the show, participated in the debates and wrote papers about subjects discussed. Taylor herself rarely missed the weekly broadcast.
Katrina's features relaxed slightly into an expression of sympathy. "I know we were going to bring you on the last two minutes of the show and talk about your theory. What was the title of your thesis again?"
"Compatibility as the Key to a Successful Marriage," she managed through clenched teeth.
"Right. But with Dr. Bill getting food poisoning last night and our show being live, we had to make some changes." Katrina patted her hand. "Think of the exposure. Maybe now you'll get a book contract."
"Maybe," Taylor murmured, thinking she would rather go home. Dreams of fame and fortune were way overrated, anyway. Right?
A man standing just outside the bright lights yelled something about ten seconds back to air.
Exposure for her theory, she reminded herself, repeating the phrase like a mantra. Exposure meant interest. Interest could mean a sale. A sale meant a lot of things -- like the potential of financial stability, validation, and a chance to feel she'd accomplished her goals.
She'd been doing her darnedest to sell her book on compatibility, but so far no one had made an offer. Part of the problem was her lack of expertise. She was a single mom from a small town no one had ever heard of. Her doctorate was so new that in human terms, it was still a zygote and her entire publishing history consisted of exactly two professional articles. Hardly a body of work impressive enough to inspire excitement in the publishing world.
Or on cable television, she thought, wondering how she was supposed to fill thirty minutes of live TV.
"Five, four, three -- "
Suddenly the lights got much brighter and Katrina turned her smooth face toward an invisible audience.
"We're back with Dr. Taylor McGuire, whose thesis, "Compatibility as the Key to a Successful Marriage" is stirring interest in the world of psychology. Tell us about your ideas, Dr. McGuire."
Taylor tried to remember the only yoga class she'd ever attended. She'd been unable to walk for nearly a week after because her body just plain didn't bend that way, but she did recall how wonderful the deep breathing had been. That's what she needed to do now. Keep breathing.
"I have a private practice," she said, hoping her voice wasn't shaking as badly as she feared. "Over the past few years the emphasis has been on marriage counseling and premarital seminars. I began to notice a pattern in successful relationships -- not just marriages. From my observations I realized that the more people had in common, the more easily they could get along."
Katrina nodded. "You realize that there are those who don't agree with you."
"Of course." Taylor thought about saying they were wrong.
"One such person is a frequent and popular guest here on Psychology in the News. Dr. Jonathan Kirby. Dr. Kirby, as we all know, believes that opposites attract and make for the most exciting marriages. In fact, he's written several books on the subject. He's here now and I'm hoping that he and Dr. McGuire can enter into a spirited discussion on the matter."
The room might have been blurring before, but now it was positively spinning. Jonathan Kirby here? Now? It wasn't possible. No trick of fate could be that unkind.
Oh, but it could, she realized a heartbeat later when a tall, dark-haired man strolled out onto the set. He had a lean, yet powerful body, and moved with the grace of someone comfortable in front of a television camera. Or naked. Jonathan had always been completely unselfconscious in the buff. It was just one of oh, fifty million factoids that zipped through her brain. They flew through in a nanosecond, accompanied by a screaming voice reminding her that seventeen years ago, Dr. Jonathan Kirby had dumped her and walked away without a backward glance.
This is so unfair, she thought. Reminding herself that life was not fair didn't make her feel any better. She wasn't even surprised. This was so her life. Just when she thought she had it all together, a ghost from her past showed up to rip it all apart....on live cable, no less.
"And we're out," the disembodied voice from beyond the cameras called. "Back in a minute-thirty, people. Stay ready."
The intensity of lights faded some. Katrina rushed from behind her desk toward Jonathan.
"Thank you so much for coming," she purred, placing one long, slender hand on his upper arm. "When I heard that Dr. Bill was sick and our only other guest was Taylor here, I nearly died." Katrina flashed Taylor a smile. "No offense, dear, but no one has heard of you, and your ideas aren't exactly earth-shattering enough to fill up the entire half hour."
Taylor wasn't offended. She felt like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Of all the psychologists and all the talk shows in all the world, why did he have to show up at this one?
Jonathan didn't respond to Katrina, instead focusing all of his considerable attention on Taylor, making her feel as if she were the most beautiful creature on the planet. He'd always been good at that trick, she reminded herself, even as she fell for it.
"Congratulations," he said, speaking for the first time, "on receiving your doctorate and your publications."
That voice. That liquid chocolate, come-to-bed-with-me-and-I'll-make-you-touch-the-stars voice. Telling herself she was immune was one thing. Ignoring the sensation of bone-melting desire was another.
"Congratulations to you as well," she said, giving him her best smile and thanking God her bout with the flu the previous month had made her lose five pounds. "You always wanted to be the top in your field and you are. Dr. Jonathan Kirby, superstar."
"Thirty seconds, people."
Katrina raised an eyebrow. "You two know each other?"
"Of course," Taylor said, holding out her hand to the man who had once been the center of her universe. The sudden flood of sexual attraction was a tad distracting but she was determined to be a grown-up about the situation.
She realized then that facing a blast from her past was the best medicine for overcoming her fear of being on television. The trembling had fled. In its place was a sense of purpose. She could debate Jonathan Kirby
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