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The difference between the wrath of God and the wrath of your mother is that eventually God forgives you.
Finley Anderson Tanner just landed a quaint new cottage on posh Palm Beach. Not bad for an underachieving, sample-sale-shopping paralegal -- until she finds the place in shambles. She should have known better than to accept her overbearing mother's offer to sell her a house unseen at a bargain-basement mortgage rate. Good-bye Rolex dreams. At this rate, she'll be shopping designer outlets forever.
When Finley discovers a skeleton in her new closet, right where her Jimmy Choos should be, a total home renovation is the least of her worries. Sure, she knows how to catch a crook, but when a girl's sandwiched between sexy P.I. Liam McGarrity and her hot new boss, defense attorney Tony Caprelli, she can only be headed for commitment. To an institution. With her fabulous (but slightly more successful) friends to keep her sane and her interfering mother out of town, Finley vows to get this bad guy -- and decorate her new house -- even if she has to pay full price.
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Rhonda Pollero is the USA TODAY bestselling author of four previous Finley Anderson Tanner novels: Slightly Irregular, Fat Chance, Knock ’Em Dead, and Knock Off. A perpetual student with six degrees from seven colleges, studying everything from sociology to forensics, to history, to law, and just for fun, culinary arts, she lives in south Florida with her family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The difference between the wrath of God and the wrath of your mother is that eventually, God forgives you.
The only smell better than Lulu Guinness perfume is eau d' new car. I breathed in a long, slow, steady stream of the leathery scent as I steered my brand-new BMW 330Ci off the Brauman Motorcars lot. My was a bit of an exaggeration. Technically, the lovely new car belonged to BMW Leasing Corporation, but that was a minor detail. One I was happy to ignore as I weaved through the late morning traffic on Okeechobee Boulevard.
The timing was perfect. The cherry red car was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits. I was in a funk after the whole Patrick breakup disaster, so when the dealer called me yesterday, I didn't waste any time arranging to take next-day delivery.
Like everything in life -- a little bad came with the good. Though my previous car was totaled through no fault on my part, I still had to fork over nearly fifteen hundred of my own dollars on the new lease. Luckily, I had cash in the bank. Less than a week ago, I deposited a big check. But not before I scanned it, saved it, and turned the image into a self-congratulatory screen saver on my home and office computers. Hey -- it's not like the law firm of Dane, Lieberman, and Zarnowski cuts a check payable to me in that amount every day. No, this was a freak occurrence. A signing bonus of sorts. Or, as I like to think of it, twelve thousand ways for my boss to announce to the world that Finley Anderson Tanner is a valuable asset to the Palm Beach legal community.
The check represented the negotiated dollar amount it had cost Vain Victor Dane, Esquire and Asshole Extraordinaire, to make amends for firing me. My shoulder muscles pinched at the mere thought of my employment lord and master. Don't get me wrong, I like my job at Dane, Lieberman, and Zarnowski. Okay, so like might be a bit strong. As an estates and trusts paralegal, I get to do a variety of different things, which makes it mildly interesting. What makes it a great deal more enjoyable is that I have the autonomy to come and go almost as I please.
I "please" a lot.
The very nature of my job requires me to be out of the office often. Is it a crime if I happen to take the occasional detour into Nordy's on the way back? No. The real crime would be missing out on a sale for the sole reason that I was chained to my desk. It's a nice desk, by the way. At least it is now. In the last year, I've done pretty well in the struggle up the corporate ladder department. Well, if you overlook the arrested, jailed, hospitalized, almost killed, and fired -- twice -- bumps in my career path. None of those things was my fault. Mostly they weren't my fault. Okay. Some of them weren't my fault.
Turns out, I have a knack for ferreting out murderers. Okay, so knack might be a bit of an overstatement; it's more along the lines of..."there but for the grace of God I didn't end up dead." But you get the gist.
Multitasking, I eased onto I-95 north while simultaneously skipping through the newest playlist I'd created for my iPod. It was my iPod too, as of the fifteenth of the month, when I made the last payment. So budgeting isn't my strength, but I have found ways to cut corners. Secret ways. Hopefully they'll remain secret. Not even my closest friends know that my precarious financial situation has forced me into the underground world of outlet shopping. My wardrobe is a testament to factory damage and slightly irregular.
I tensed as I steered onto Blue Heron Boulevard in record time. I was on my way to Iron Horse Country Club. It's a small, private club nestled behind one of the hundreds of manicured entrances and manned security gates dotting Palm Beach County. Most people are invited to lunch with their mothers. Not me; I get summoned. On elegant stationery, no less. I could easily picture my mother in her penthouse, seated at her expensive French desk, gold pen in her perfectly manicured hand.
I'd dressed carefully for my command performance. I'd chosen a vintage suit in mint green that I'd found at a church thrift store. Not any church sale, mind you, but the semiannual sale at Bethesdaby-the-Sea, the church in Palm Beach where the rich and famous worshipped. The pale color accentuated the fleck of green in my otherwise blue eyes and my pay-for-it-later tan. I'd added a white BCBG cami with mint trim. I'd slipped on a pair of white Steve Madden wedges I'd picked up at a cool 70 percent off, thanks to a small smudge on the patent leather on the side of the left shoe. Since this was lunch at a country club with my mother, I not only had to wear green -- the color she prefers -- but I also had to do the required hair thing. I was prepared. I had a mother-of-pearl clip at the ready.
My mother's membership at Iron Horse was part of the spoils from one of her divorces. Clicking my fingernail against the walnut-grained steering wheel, I tried to recall which husband had been the avid golfer. As I drove under a canopy of banyan branches, I inhaled the crisp, summery scent of freshly mowed grass filtering in through the vents. For some reason, the homey smell reminded me of the only man my mother had married for true love. Thinking about Jonathan Tanner caused my heart to twist inside my chest. He died almost fifteen years ago and I still miss him. I was two when he adopted me, and I couldn't have asked for a better father. I loved him and he loved me. Which probably explains why I don't have daddy issues.
Amazing considering I was a teenager when I found out the truth. Well, the half-truth. My mother had always told me that Finley and Anderson were family names. That part was true. What she'd neglected to explain was that they were the family names of the two men she'd been sleeping with when she'd gotten pregnant with me. As far as I know, neither man ever knew about me. And I have no burning desire to go on some sperm donator search.
I considered it once. I was online, killing time before swooping in on a last-minute eBay auction for some links for my build-it-from-scratch Rolex project, when a pop-up ad flashed, promising to find anyone anywhere in twenty-four hours or less. I thought about it for a nanosecond, then decided I truly didn't want to know.
I did, however, want those gold links, but I was outbid at the very end of the auction by someone with the screen name JulesJewels.
I pulled up in the horseshoe-shaped drive in front of the massive, pillared building. I grabbed my purse and my hair clip, then reluctantly handed my keys to the valet, a kid barely old enough to drive. Then I sprinted up the front steps.
Luckily for me, The Clubhouse was a completely inappropriate name for the large, lavish, two-story building. The first floor included a gym, a spa, locker rooms, steam rooms, a lap pool, showers, and twenty-four-hour a day attendants. Upstairs, there was a long polished bar and two dining rooms.
Thankfully, the ladies' room was on the way to the restaurant, giving me an opportunity to slip in and twist my hair into a subdued style that would not inspire my mother's ire. I paid a lot of money to highlight my blond hair. It seemed like a waste to hide it, but the alternative made me decide to be wasteful.
With my hair secured, I smiled briefly at the mute attendant standing in the corner. It seemed to startle her, possibly because the snobbish members treated her as if she'd been invisible.
My palms began to sweat as I walked on the plush carpet, past the sparsely populated bar toward the restaurant. The seven or eight men at the bar were dressed in the horrid ensembles golfers tended to fancy. Guess no one told them that no man looked good in plaid pants and an Easter-egg-colored shirt.
As I approached the maitre d' of the less formal dining room where lunch was served, I could smell the sumptuous scents of various foods. My stomach went from clenched to growling in record time. The dining room was huge, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the golf course. The table settings, like the window treatments, reinforced the Iron Horse train theme. The maitre d' knew me on sight and simply said, "Welcome back, Miss Tanner. Please follow me."
My mother looked up instantly and shot me a disapproving glance. I took my seat, then a waiter appeared and flipped my napkin onto my lap.
I took the menu he handed to me, and he offered to give me a minute. "You look lovely, Mother. Is that a new dress?" I try, I really do. But cracking through the cement of my mother's emotions is like adding another face to Mount Rushmore using nothing but a dull spoon.
Thanks to good genes, regular Restylane, and minor plastic surgery, my mother was a fifty-year-old with the face of a thirtyfive-year-old. To her credit, she worked out with a personal trainer when she was in town, maintaining her size 2 body. Since the average age of the other people in the dining room was somewhere between sixty and ninety, she stood out from the crowd.
She would have anyway. My mother was a striking brunette who carried herself like the budding star she'd once been. All that training hadn't gone to waste. Her regal persona had easily evolved from opera diva to country club diva. Other than eye color, my mother and I didn't share much in the looks department. Or the temperament department. Or, well, any department.
"You're late. As usual," she said. "I don't know why I bother to make the effort to always arrive on time when you're invariably late, Finley."
In less than five seconds, she'd fired the first shot. This did not bode well for me. "I don't know either," I replied. I wasn't being facetious. I had no idea why she didn't just show up fifteen minutes later than whatever time she told me. We'd arrive at sort of the same time, and everyone would be happy.
The hovering waiter returned at the subtle wave of my mother's hand. "What are the specials?" she demanded.
The guy rattled off the special...
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