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BEST-SELLING AUTHOR JANET ELAINE SMITH PRESENTS FICTION, FUN AND FACTS

Par for the Course Excerpt



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Bank Roll Excerpt

"Best time travel of 2003"
    - Affaire de Coeur Magazine Readers' Poll

CHAPTER I

"Life isn't fair!" the red-haired actress on the TV said, banging her fists on the wall.

Mechi Jeanotte stared at the screen. She always watched Another World, but she didn't even seem conscious that she had General Hospital on instead. Maybe it was fate. It certainly echoed her own experiences over the past few days.

In less than one week her father had died, she had moved clear across the country to begin her first job as a golf pro at St. Andrew's Golf Course, just outside Aberdeen, Maryland, and the only boy—no, man—she had ever dated told her he was getting married. And it wasn't to her!

"You're damned tootin' life's not fair!" she shouted back at the portable screen. "Not this one, anyway!"

She had practiced so hard to get rid of her Texas twang, but it came through loud and clear now. She didn't care. The only good thing she could find to think about was that so many things had been fouled up that it couldn't get any worse.

"Dad!" she cried out, knowing he couldn't hear her.

It had all been so sudden. One minute he was there talking to her at the breakfast table, and the next minute he was gone. Gone!

Forever! There wasn't any solace in the fact that he had at least stuck around for the first twenty-three years of her life, unlike her mother, who died when she was almost too young to remember her.

Sensing the futility of her plea to her missing father, she turned her focus to Robert Pearson. If she admitted the truth to herself, she knew that part of her life, at least, was for the best, having ended as abruptly as her father's life. She tried to imagine the rest of her life with him. It sent cold shivers up and down her spine. He was the dullest, most boring, spoiled, arrogant person she had ever known. What had she ever seen in him, anyway?

The truth of the matter was, nobody else had ever paid her the slightest bit of attention. She had always suspected that the only reason he liked her was so he could ride the thoroughbred horses

she and her father raised on their ranch in Paris, Texas. She had seen him plenty of times, trotting through town, the girls swooning over his shiny black hair and his slim, trim body. He acted like that horse was his! The nerve of it, she thought, suddenly overwhelmed with relief that she wasn't there anymore and that he didn't have any interest in following her to the ends of the earth. Shoot! He didn't even follow her to the end of the block after he told her he was going to marry Helen Jean Berkeley. Well, let him try to make his way in her world of society balls, oil tycoons' meetings and fancy shindigs. They'd all find out in a hurry what a fraud he was and she would dump him as fast as he had just dumped Mechi. She had known Helen Jean all her life, and she was nobody's fool. She'd end up taking him for a ride; she was sure of it. Served him right, too. She had made a clean break with everything as soon as her father's funeral was over. Now, she was determined to make a fresh start. She had a new job, a wonderful apartment, the glistening pink 1957 Cadillac convertible she had always dreamed of owning... Maybe life wasn't fair, but it wasn't all that bad, either.

"B-r-r-r-r-ing!"

Mechi jumped at the sound of the phone. She quickly reached to grab it. "It must be the club," she reasoned aloud. "Nobody else has my number yet."

"Hello."

"Mechi?" came the deep male voice she knew so well. "Are you okay? I feel really bad that I didn't make it back in time for Dad's funeral. Can you ever forgive me? I know it wasn't fair to leave you with everything to do…"

"Hold it, little bro!" Mechi yelled into the phone, interrupting Brian, her older brother.

She couldn't find it in her heart to tell him that it had been so long since she had seen him that she had almost forgotten she even had a brother. After all, they had never been real close. He was twelve years older than she was, and he went off to join the Navy when she was just a little girl. On the few occasions when he had come home on a furlough, he had seemed more like a stranger than a brother. Now, with the death of their father—their only link—she found true solace in the sound of his voice.

"I really mean it," he insisted, continuing as if she hadn't said a word. "You know I would have been there if I could have."

`I know," Mechi said, sarcasm running rampant in her voice. "Just like you were when Mom died. Or when I was in the school play. Or when Dad had his heart attack a few years ago. Oh, sure. I understand perfectly. It was never your fault. Blame it on good old Uncle Sam! He doesn't have a heart. Well, sometimes I think you don't, either."

"Jeez!" Brian said, breathing a deep sigh of relief that she had finally stopped. "Try to apologize to some people!"

"I'm sorry," Mechi said slowly. "I didn't mean to get on your case. It is just that it's been a really rough week." She swallowed hard, hoping the lump in her throat would disappear before she broke out in hysterical sobs.

"I know," Brian said. "I really am sorry I wasn't there for you. I mean, we're all we've got left. It's just you and me, kid. The two of us against the big old ugly world."

"I'll make it on my own," she said. I don't need your help, either!" she wanted to add, but decided against it. "By the way, where are you calling from?"

"Oh!" Brian answered excitedly. "I almost forgot. We just docked in South Carolina. The ship will be in port for about a week. I've managed to get a few days free, `cuz of Dad and all, you know. I'll catch a bus tonight. I'll be in Aberdeen early tomorrow morning. Suppose you could meet your big brother at the bus depot? That is, if it's not too early for you. If it is, I can just wait it out until you get up."

"Don't worry about it," Mechi said. "I'll be there. What time does it get in?" She wasn't going to tell him that she hadn't been sleeping anyway, so she might just as well be there to pick him up. At least it gave her something different to look forward to.

"Six-fifteen," he said. When she was silent he added, "I told you it was early."

"No," she said. "I'll be there." She hesitated a few moments, then added, "It will be good to see you. Honest!"

"You, too," he said. "See you tomorrow, then."

Mechi heard the click of his receiver, but held hers in her hand for a few minutes before setting it back in its cradle. She meant it. It would be good to have her brother there with her, even if it was only for a few days. Like he said, all they had left was each other.

Mechi suddenly began to laugh. Yeah, she was going to make it. She would show dear old Robert that he was the last thing in the world she needed. Nobody with an ounce of love or compassion would walk out on the girl he claimed to love the same week her father died! It was unthinkable! Revolting! Utterly uncouth! No, she didn't need the likes of Robert Pearson. What an old stuffed shirt, anyway! Imagine! He wouldn't even let her call him Bob, or Robbie, or anything else. He was so formal even the girl he claimed he was going to marry had to call him Robert! And he had told her time after time that he loved her!

Love! The word seemed to have barbs sticking out of it on all sides. Robert Pearson didn't have the foggiest idea what love was all about. The only thing he loved was himself. She should have seen it coming, but she was as blind as a bat. Was she really that desperate?

Well, no more. She was sure her mother ahd loved her, but she had gone and left her. She knew her father loved her. Oh, he didn't come out and say so, but his actions told her countless times. She was the apple of his eye. Yes, she knew what love felt like, but she would probably spend her whole life searching for that kind of love and never find it.

She yawned and stretched, then glanced at her watch. She hadn't realized that it was so late: nearly midnight. If she was going to get an early start in the morning, she should turn in for the night and at least try to get some sleep. If only she could keep from having those awful nightmares. Visions of people dressed in old-fashioned costumes kept coming to take her away with them. She didn't know who they were, or where they were going or what it all meant, but she always woke up in a cold sweat afterwards. But, in some strange, inexplicable way she felt like she belonged with them. Like it was the only place that really held any peace for her any more. Especially the big, virile man who scooped her up in his arms as she fell and carried her off—to safety, she hoped.

None of it makes any sense, she thought as she climbed into bed. She reached up and switched off the lamp which sat on the table beside her bed.

"B-r-r-ring!"

Mechi groped around in the dark for the phone. It must be Brian. Nobody from the club would call her this late at night. She should have known as much. He was canceling out again. The ship had to leave earlier than they planned.

"Hello," she said softly into the phone.

"Miss Jeanotte? Michelle?"

A strange-sounding English-accented woman spoke into the phone.

"Yes," Mechi said cautiously. "Who is this?" It sure wasn't Brian. Or anyone else she recognized, either.

Is this proof positive history really can be reversed?

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