Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Read an Excerpt from A Man for Mom by Linda Wisdom



Parenting a teenager was trouble enough, but when the teenager turned matchmaker, it added up to hormone overload. Chelsea Brennan was satisfied with her life as a single mom. Her days were spent in Hot Stuff, her shop of classy lingerie, and her nights...well, she liked sitcoms. Only the summer separated Chelsea's seventeen-year-old daughter from a college far from home. Three short months to set her mom up with Mr. Right. Enter Mark Harrison--via the back door at midnight. When he showed up on the doorstep with teen Colleen, Chelsea nearly blew a gasket. Of course this hunk was too old for her daughter, but was he the man for Mom?


"Okay, start talking.”

Her glare the picture of righteous motherly wrath, Chelsea Brennan regarded her errant daughter, Colleen, who stood on the front doorstep at 1:22 a.m. on Friday the thirteenth.

The girl's initial bravado was rapidly disappearing. Even in skimpy silk pajamas that barely covered her feminine curves, her mother looked intimidating as hell.

To the man who stood behind Colleen, however, the lady looked just plain sexy.

Colleen winced, ineffectually crossing her arms to conceal the black sequined dress that barely covered her to mid-thigh. "I have a feeling you won't like it."

Chelsea's gaze flickered from her daughter to her companion. Oh, Lord. The man was definitely too old for a seventeen year old girl. Besides, Colleen had supposedly gone to the movies with her friend, Elaine.

Colleen sighed, envisioning being grounded until she was thirty.

"I suggest you begin by explaining what you're doing with this... gentleman," Chelsea prompted her.

"It's not what you think," the man started to explain.

Chelsea's hazel eyes snapped to the left. "Exactly who are you, and what are you doing with my daughter?" An unsettling thought occurred to her. "Are you a police officer?" Her eyes flicked suspiciously over his attire. Did undercover policemen wear jeans that tight and sexy leather jackets and have rugged good looks that spelled male in capital letters?

"No, I'm not a cop. The name's Mark Harrison." In turn he looked her over with a thoroughness most inappropriate for the mother of the teenage girl he was so tastelessly escorting.

She spoke crisply to deflect his brazen gaze. "All right, Mr. Harrison, if it's not what I think, as you so quaintly put it, what exactly is it you're doing with my daughter?" And to think she'd complained about Colleen's last date because the boy had worn an earring!

"I brought Colleen home to keep her out of trouble," he explained, looking all too self-assured for Chelsea's peace of mind.

"Oh?" she said frostily, disbelief dripping from the single frozen syllable.

He rocked back and forth on his heels, his hands jammed in his pockets, his eyes blazing meaningfully into hers. "So you can't believe I was just being an all-around nice guy?"

"Not at all."

"Mom, I'm freezing," Colleen complained as she pushed past her mother and entered the house.

Chelsea opened her mouth to protest as the cradle-robber who called himself Mark Harrison boldly followed Colleen inside and closed the door. Too late. He was already in her living room. Well, she supposed she ought to hear his side of the story, too. She tightened the sash of her robe and marched after the twosome.

Mark prowled around her living room, touching a vase here, running a finger over a framed photograph there. Looking altogether too much at home, he sprawled loosely on the couch.

Chelsea pulled in a deep breath. "All right, will somebody please explain what the hell is going on here?"

Colleen winced. "Mom tends to get emotional about certain things," she explained to Mark as she sat in an easy chair, oblivious to the way her already short skirt rode up her slender thighs. Her mother noticed and was silently relieved that Mark didn't seem to pay the least attention to the exposed young flesh. Instead, he gazed up gravely in her direction.

"Well, you knew Elaine and I had plans for tonight," Colleen began.

"Yes, you told me you were going to the movies. Naturally, every teenage girl wears an eight hundred dollar dress to the mall multiplex."

Mark's deep brown eyes widened. "Eight hundred dollars for that little scrap of material?" He pointed at the strapless creation Colleen wore. "You're kidding, aren't you? I mean, no one pays eight hundred dollars for something like that, do they? I mean, she's only a kid. I wouldn't let my kid go out looking like that. Eight hundred bucks?" he repeated in outraged awe.

"A kid?" Colleen yelped, sitting forward.

Mark ignored her outburst and glared at Chelsea as if she were somehow to blame for his shock.

Chelsea spun on him. "All right, Mark Harrison, we've ascertained that you're not a cop, but you still haven't explained what you are. I'd like to know who I'm going to have arrested call it an idiosyncrasy of mine," she said sweetly.

"I told you, I'm Mark Harrison. I'm also your daughter's savior. I protected her endangered virtue from a drunk hassling her at the club," he explained. "For all the thanks I get," he added, grumbling.

Chelsea gasped. "Club? What club? What on earth happened?"

Colleen rolled her eyes in disgust. "Mom, it was no big deal. Mark just makes it sound like one. The other guy didn't touch me. Well, okay, he touched me, but not the way he wanted to. Well, what I mean is, he was drunk, and I doubt he could have done all that much in his condition, no matter what he thought."

Chelsea groaned, unsure whether to laugh hysterically or cry. Closing her eyes, she collapsed on the couch. "This is a nightmare. All I have to do is wake up and everything will be fine, right?"

Mark found his gaze riveted on the distraught mother of the adventurous minor. And why not? Talk about the kind of woman any man wouldn't mind having around late at night. Her honey brown hair was tousled, as if she'd just climbed out of bed. Considering what she was wearing, that was more than likely. Bed the perfect place for a woman like her. Her cinnamon silk robe had slipped open just enough to reveal a slippery camisole and matching boxer shorts. While some men wouldn't consider glasses sexy, the tortoiseshell specs perched atop her honey colored waves somehow added to her angry, offbeat allure.

Wait. If she'd been in bed reading, waiting up for her daughter, had she been alone? If so, where was Colleen's father who would be, dammit, Chelsea's husband and why wasn't he here ready to turn Mark into mincemeat?

"Mrs. Brennan ...” he began.

"Ms. Brennan," Colleen corrected smartly, then added, "Chelsea." Chelsea glared at her.

So, the lady was single, Mark reflected. The evening was looking up. The evening. He abruptly remembered why he was here. "Let me make a long story short, Ms. Brennan."

"Please do." Her sarcasm was palpable.

"Colleen was down at Rick's Cafe with a friend." He held up his hand when Chelsea snapped forward, looking ready to kill anyone in her path, him first. "Some guy'd had a bit too much to drink, and when Colleen refused to dance with him, he made a fuss. She was smart enough to leave, but he was stupid enough to follow her out to the parking lot. I saw what was going on and guessed there might be a bit of trouble. I went outside just in time to prevent the guy from losing his chance to father children as Colleen and Elaine defended themselves. Since he was still a lot larger than they were, I stepped in to even the odds."

He paused, glancing briefly at Colleen. "I followed Elaine's car to her house to make sure the guy wouldn't try to tail them,' then brought Colleen on home. She said she didn't think you'd be in yet, so I wanted to make sure she’d be all right."

Chelsea arched a disbelieving eyebrow. "Sure. And pigs fly."

He ignored the sarcastic remark. "Look, I didn't have to do this, but she seemed like a nice kid, and I didn't want to see her get hurt."

Chelsea stood. "That's true, you didn't have to do anything. After all, chivalry died ages ago, and men like you don't drive young girls home unless you feel certain said girl's parents aren't around and you'll have the opportunity to receive a proper thank you."

"Mom!" Colleen was shocked. "Are you kidding? He's old!"

"I don't have even one foot in the grave yet," he said wryly. "And as for you, Ms. Brennan, you're too cynical for your own good."

She stood her ground. He might be the best looking man she'd seen in a long while, but he had a healthy dose of arrogance to go with the attractive package. And she didn't like his telling her what was wrong with her. "Maybe I have good reason to be."

He got to his feet. "Maybe you do. So don't trouble yourself with a thank you. Besides, even with the heavy makeup and" he winced "eight hundred dollar dress, Colleen is underage and could have gotten the club owner into a lot of trouble, even though she did drink just club soda. Why she was at Rick's is no business of mine. I'd say that was more her mother's department. But Rick is a friend of mine, and Colleen seemed like an okay kid, and I just saw no reason for the situation to get any worse."

Chelsea's eyes remained icy cold. "How commendable."

Mark didn't flinch. He merely gazed suggestively at Chelsea's long, sexy legs peeking out from the folds of the robe. "Look, Ms. Brennan, how you raise your daughter is no concern of mine. I only came in to explain."

Stung, Chelsea straightened and dismissed him with a chilly, "Thank you for bringing Colleen home, Mr. Harrison."

He headed for the door. "Remember what I said, Colleen. You stay out of places like that until you're of age," he said over his shoulder.

"What, and deprive heroes like you of the chance to rescue the sweet young things?" Chelsea couldn't resist sniping as she followed him out.

He turned and faced her squarely. "I seldom explain myself to anyone, Ms. Brennan, but since you insist on being so wrongheaded about my supposed decadence, allow me to enlighten you. I don't hit on jailbait, and I don't hang out in singles' bars. But since Rick is a friend of mine and is rarely able to leave during operating hours, it's usually the only way I get to see him. If I were you, I'd be damn grateful that creep hadn't gotten his hands on Colleen. Otherwise, it would have been the police, not me, coming here to see you."

Chelsea watched the front door close behind Mark Harrison. She didn't move until she heard his car back down the driveway and roar off, unwilling to admit that his words had struck a painful chord deep inside her. Worry that something would happen to her precious daughter dogged her steps even more now that Colleen had suddenly reached the threshold of womanhood.

She took several deep breaths before turning back to her daughter. "Would you like to give me the whole story now?" she said with dangerous calm.

Colleen winced. "It's not what you think."

"Oh, really? What am I thinking?"

"You're thinking that Elaine and I went there to pick up guys."

"If you didn't go there to pick up guys, why did you go?"

Colleen shifted uneasily in her chair. "Would you believe to research a psychology report on the mating habits of today's singles?"

"Not a chance. School doesn't start until next week. How did you get the dress?"

"Elaine and I stopped by the shop. I'll pay for the lingerie," she hastened to add. "And I'll have the dress dry cleaned. After all, Mom, you never sell the samples. That's why I took this one. I figured you'd prefer my taking a sample than something off the rack."

Chelsea raked her hair with her fingers, dislodging her reading glasses, which tumbled, unheeded, to the carpet. "From the day you were born you never gave me a minute's trouble," she sighed. "You slept all night, suffered from colic only twice, and you didn't even go through the terrible twos that so many other mothers moaned about. Even puberty, with all those hormonal changes, was a breeze. Are you trying to make up for lost time now?" Her voice rose with her agitation.

Colleen stood up sensing she was going to need every advantage she could get. "We just wanted to see what Rick's was like. We weren't out for trouble."

Chelsea was unmoved. "Try again."

"Okay, Elaine and I made a mistake in going there. But we were curious. You know, to see if singles' places are like they show in the movies. That's all!" Colleen insisted.

Chelsea searched her daughter's features. She had always been grateful that Colleen never lied to her. She sincerely hoped the girl wasn't beginning now. "All right, go on up to bed," she said finally. "I'm not forgetting about this, though. From now until I say differently, you work at the shop every day until school starts to pay for what you took. When school starts next week, you can come in after school and on weekends.... And that doesn't mean your schoolwork slides, either. This year is too important for you to screw up."

Colleen's eyes widened at the extent of her punishment. "I have to pay for the dress, too?"

"The special dry cleaning alone won't be cheap, and, knowing your excellent taste" her sharp eyes took in the shimmering black silk stockings, and she imagined the remaining lingerie under the minuscule dress "you can forget any afterschool activities unless they have something to do with your education."

"Mom!" Colleen squeaked.

"My dear, you are well and truly grounded until further notice. If what Mr. Harrison said was true, you were very foolish and very lucky tonight." She stopped. "Now, do us both a favor and go upstairs before I lose my temper completely."

Colleen knew well enough to beat a hasty retreat. She scooted past Chelsea and hurried upstairs.

Chelsea bent down and picked up her glasses. What a day. First the bank had refused to extend her business loan. Then her business dinner had gone sour because the jerk of a manufacturer's rep refused to understand that she had absolutely no interest in going to bed with him. The shipment of silk camisoles due yesterday hadn't arrived and couldn't be traced. With the way her luck was going, they'd probably landed in Alaska.

"And now this," she muttered. She turned off the lights and headed wearily for the stairs.


"OH, NO, YOU MEAN your mom was already home? Did she talk to Mr. Harrison?" Elaine asked. Colleen had called her the moment she reached her room.

"He told her where we were," she groaned, flopping onto the bed, wrinkling the infamous dress. "As of now, I'm grounded for the rest of my life, and I have to work in the shop until I pay my debt to Mom and society. I guess I'm lucky she hasn't decided to lock me in my room for the next ten years." She adjusted the receiver against her shoulder and grimaced at the glittering sequins that were going to cost her so dearly. "Had your parents come home from their party yet?"

"No, it was cool," Elaine explained. "But, Colly, we're not going to be able to do this again. Next time, we might not be so lucky. If Mr. Harrison hadn't come outside when he did, I hate to think what might have happened to us. That guy was a real creep."

Colleen shuddered as she thought of the man, reeking of beer, who'd called her horrible names and told her he was going to show her just how grateful she should be he was paying attention to her. "Yeah, but I still haven't found anyone for Mom."

"What about Mr. Harrison? He's kinda cute."

"Yeah, he's cute for an old guy," she admitted grudgingly. "But he's so do the right thing," she complained. "He's probably one of those boring types who doesn't know how to have a good time. He kept talking about how to raise a daughter, and he called me a kid!" she insisted, bristling anew at the major insult.

"If he didn't know how to have a good time, he wouldn't have been in Rick's," Elaine argued. "It's one of the hottest clubs around."

"Yeah, but he said he was only there because Rick is a friend of his. Not because he was looking to have some fun. Oh, I know he's cute, but someone that straight can't be cool, right? I'll just have to keep looking."

"I'm not sure that was such a hot idea to begin with, Colly. I mean, your mom might want to look for a man on her own. And there's no guarantee that she'll fall in love with someone we find. Oh, why do I bother going along with your crazy ideas?" she wailed. "We always get in trouble. And tonight was too scary for me,"

"I just have to do some more thinking," Colleen said logically. "Look, El, we're entering our senior year, and then I'll be going off to college. I don't want Mom sitting around here all alone with just the shop for company then. She needs a man. She needs a sex life! After all, hard as it is to believe, according to all the magazine articles, she's in her sexual prime. She can't afford to let that important time of life pass her by."

"You'd better not let her hear you say that, or you'll never get to leave the house," Elaine warned.

"She won't. Uh--oh." Colleen looked up as the object of their conversation entered the room.

Chelsea plucked the receiver out of Colleen's hand. "Hello, Elaine. You two were very lucky tonight," she said. "So I'm sure you'll understand why I'll be talking to your mother first thing in the morning. If you're smart, you'll talk to her first."

"She'll kill me!" Elaine wailed.

"Don't worry, we'll make sure you two have adjoining graves, so you can continue to get into trouble in the afterlife. And now it's time to go. Good night, Elaine." Chelsea replaced the receiver and reached down behind the nightstand to pull the cord out of the jack. She carefully wound the cord around the phone and began walking out of the room with the phone in her hands.

"But, Mom!" Colleen protested with all the unearthly anguish of a telephone less teen.

"I suggest you take off that dress before you ruin it completely," Chelsea said sweetly.

Colleen's pained wails followed her down the hall and into her own bedroom. As she pulled off her robe, she glanced down and suddenly remembered the brazen way Mark Harrison had looked at her. If her robe had gaped open, he might have seen her cinnamon silk nightwear gleam against her lightly tanned skin. The thought unaccountably warmed her cheeks.

He was too old for Colleen, she reminded herself, recalling the man who was probably a good six inches taller than her own five foot six. And too young for her, she added firmly. He looked to be in his early thirties; she, on the other hand, was reaching forty sooner than she cared to admit. "And he was way too sure of himself," she muttered, scowling at the unwanted memory of his skintight jeans and buttery leather jacket.

Chelsea crawled into bed and pulled the covers over her head. "If I'm lucky, I'll wake up in the morning and learn this was all a bad dream."


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