Womb For Rent (Amanda Brian) – Chapter One: 5 years later

Enter Talli Paxton:

Talli’s long, auburn ponytail swung playfully with her movements as she jogged backward toward the pool house.

Why does she jog backwards? Is it too boring to do it the right way round? Or maybe it’s opposite day and Talli got it wrong?

Anyway, Talli is the dog sitter and as it’s her duty, she introduces us to the dogs.

“Jack, what’s new big guy?” The male Dalmatian sat preening, his sleek coat smooth in the morning sun. Moving on, she ran her hands over Mary, Jack’s female counterpart.

Well, thanks for telling us the dogs’ gender, I’m afraid with names like Jack and Mary I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise. There’s also George and Gracie, two Basset Hounds. I hope at least some of them sterilised or they could supply all of the US with puppies in a couple of years.
Why does somebody have four dogs anyway when they have to employ a dog sitter?

Amanda Brian lets us know how Talli got the job (answered an ad and was hired on the spot) and her family background (poor), all the while Talli sits in the garden and looks at Derek’s bedroom window and wonders what he wears to bed (creepy).

Talli’s green gaze sought out Derek’s bedroom window in the elegant red brick mansion.

Gazes have colours?

Again, Derek is described to us (if I hear once more about his ebony eyes, I will start to count how many times she mentions this freaky trait as something wonderful).

Talli also thinks about how they met in High School:

Even back in high school, Derek never paid her any attention, but then why would he? She was a nobody, a tall, skinny fourteen year old. Talli remembered one incident when their paths had crossed. During study hall in the library, her nose buried in a book, Talli didn’t see the boy pull her chair away as she went to sit down. The book flew from her hands, as she fought to regain her balance. The resulting boom as she and the textbook hit the cement floor had caused the other students to snicker at her misfortune.
Like Sir Lancelot, Derek had appeared out of nowhere, helping her up, scowling darkly at the offending student. Mortified, Talli had tried to turn away, but his hand held her still.
“Are you all right?” he’d asked.
She looked up at him, dressed menacingly head to toe in black leather, a dangerous gleam in his eyes and a large purple bruise covering the right side of his cheek, worn proudly like a battle scar. Talli had heard the rumors, how his father drank too much and took his anger out on Derek and his mother.
“My knight in shining armor,” she blurted out without thinking, then bit her lip wishing she could take back the childish words.
“Baby, this knight’s tarnished.” He smiled at her, his guard down for a brief second as tenderness replaced the fierce look he normally wore.
“Not to me,” she whispered, ducking her head shyly.
“You’re sweet kid, stay that way.” He patted her on the top of her head and sauntered away.
[Anyway, how old is this guy? He sounds like sixty here, but he’s still in High School. Or maybe he is sixty but is hanging around in High School to save young girls. *shudder*]

So, let’s see: We’ve got a filthy rich, drop dead gorgeous (quote) man who worked is way up the career ladder from an abusive home, which he hides with a rough exterior, where he has a soft heart, and on the way saved virgins, probably by the millions. Oh, and who looks amazing in black and calls girls he doesn’t know “baby”.
There must be one cliché AB left out. But I can’t find it.

Maybe, when we look at Talli: Slightly nerdy girl who got picked on in school turns to animals for comfort and becomes a (surely) beautiful young woman who (probably) doesn’t even know she did. Oh, and she’s still in love with the guy who was nice to her once in High School although (because?) she has an inferiority complex and thinks she’s not good enough for him anyway.
Nope. No luck here. The clichés win.

Before we see Derek’s usual day, we’re once again reminded that Talli has, indeed, auburn hair and green eyes.

We get to see Derek at work:

“With a minimal investment on your part, say one million dollars, we can guarantee a fifty percent return on your money within one fiscal year.” [FIFTY percent??? Has this woman ever, EVER had anything to do with investments or did she even bother to talk to anybody about that? Fifty percent. When I tell my boss, he will start doing investments in Wonderland only…]
Derek’s piercing dark eyes
[dark, thank you, not ebony] revealed no emotion as he openly studied the group before him. He had done his research on Wardell Industries and now watched their top negotiator ply his trade.
(…)
Derek looked around the table, taking in the anxious faces before him. He studied each one briefly before moving on to the next. Lowering his hands to the table’s edge, he rose to his feet in a fluid motion. “Gentleman, I wish to thank you for giving me the first opportunity at such an offer.” He crossed the floor and opened the ornately decorated door, emblazoned with the large black letters C and C.
[Well, there’s the one C and there’s the other C, two completely different letters in the alphabet.] As he walked through it, he paused, staring at the men sitting frozen around the table.
Derek met the muddled gaze of Clayton Maxwell. “By the way, have your lawyers draw up the contracts. I’ll sign them first thing in the morning.”

How this guy ever got rich is beyond me. No “I’ll have my lawyers check the contracts and see if everything’s in order after you have spoken to your lawyers and have them draw up the contracts which takes about a week, if they’re fast.” Instead, he basically tells them, “just write whatever the hell you want, I’ll sign it anyway without reading”. Maybe he was blinded by the fifty percent ROI.

Well, the Wardell Industries guys leave and (h)e let his body slide downward in the chair. I don’t know what to say to that. Should I comment on how it’s pretty hard to slide upward or how he only lets his body slide and his consciousness/soul/whatever-is-not-his-body obviously remains standing up?

Derek gets broody, only shortly interrupted by Margaret, his secretary, who says good night. He receives a fax from Lydia (ex-fiancée and wife for two hours) and Gary (ex-best friend and man) who announce the birth of twin boys. The both of them have five children now (yes, only five years have passed. But in this world there obviously are no contraceptives [hey, but therefore you get fifty percent ROI]) after they got married because Lydia got pregnant.
I think it’s great by the way, how forgiving L&G are. They still maintained contact although Derek humiliated the shit out of them.

But, let’s not forget, Derek hurts too:
Even though the memory and pain lay etched deep down in his heart, Derek knew he and Lydia never would have been able to make a go of it.

So, it’s fine? What’s that supposed to mean, anyway? Does it hurt less because they weren’t meant for each other? And another thing: can something “lay etched”? Isn’t it either etched or it lays?

Derek reflects on how he has no family and no friends and how he is no marriage material (because he is afraid that he will repeat his father’s mistakes who was an alcoholic) and how his only companion is his housekeeper Maimie.

His broodings end suddenly when:

He closed his eyes, allowing his thoughts to drift toward the small yellowed obituary tucked safely away in the recesses of his wallet. The only remainder of the parents he once knew.
Minutes later, the front legs of the chair hit the floor with a loud thump. Why hadn’t he thought of it before? It was so simple.

So, let me get this straight. He gets the idea [it isn’t mentioned what it is but since the book is called Womb For Rent, we can probably guess] when he thinks about his dead parents. That are kind of sick synapses here.
And I wouldn’t call it simple.

Anyway, he makes some notes (yes, he’s obviously afraid he won’t remember his wonderful idea). He calls and meets Anthony Baretti who is described as Derek’s longtime friend and most trusted confidant. Wait a minute. Didn’t he just think about how he has no friends? WTF?

Anthony and Derek talk the idea through and Derek can convince Anthony that it is a great idea because Derek had sound and valid reasons for his request. He [Anthony] couldn’t fault any of them, logically they all made sense.

Yes, it makes perfect sense for a thirty year old guy who doesn’t even have time for his dogs to pay a woman to carry out his baby. Perfect sense.

We get a quick glimpse of Talli in bed who lets us know that Derek comes home at two thirty. Important info. Don’t forget it. It was exactly two thirty. I’m sure that’s relevant for the plot.

The next morning, Talli reads the newspaper and finds this ad:

You are cordially invited to
help Derek Cameron produce an heir
No strings attached. Generous benefits.

Resume required
Seriously interested parties apply to:

Cordially invited? This has to be a joke by AB. Has to be. Please.

Now, we finally get to meet Maimie the housekeeper who seems to be the only person with some sense – she actually sees the madness and complains to her husband Joseph. The way she talks about Derek and with Derek makes you think that she must have been there since he was a baby. But the background story is different:

Maimie stared at him. The son she had never been able to have. One she had come to love as her own flesh and blood. He was a good man. He took care of his own. Joseph and Maimie Henderson found that out ten years ago. Flat broke and on the streets, they happened into the right place at the right time. Derek had been in need of a housekeeper and chauffeur and they were there, ready and willing to fill both the jobs and the void in his life. Over the years, Maimie saw the angry young man grow into a confident business entrepreneur.

This seems like a desperate attempt to make us forget what an asshole Derek was at the beginning of this book. Also, takes care of his own? He gave them a job, he doesn’t own them now and when he didn’t know them, he owned them even less.

Maimie suggests Derek dating Talli instead of hiring a woman. Derek’s reply is: “Look at me, do I look like Prince Charming to you?
Uhm… yes? I don’t like to repeat myself but being filthy rich and drop dead gorgeous are pretty much the basic components for Build Your Own Prince Charming.

Talli barges in and embarasses herself by wearing a Loony Tunes sweatshirt.

He [Derek] saw Talli sneak her fingers along the tiles to snitch a slice of raw potato [ewww… raw potato!], her jeans molding to her backside as she reached across the edge of the counter. His stomach lurched as the worn denim clung to her curves, igniting a fire deep within him.

Oh, please… the sight of her ass ignites a fire deep within him [btw, ouch] but he doesn’t even really stop to consider dating her? What a weird guy.

He manages to turn his attention away from Talli’s backside and to the dogs.

“How come they’re still sitting here? Why won’t they come to me?”
“I’ve been using certain catch phrases to train them. If you want them, all you have to say is…” She paused for a moment, a devilish gleam in her green eyes. “Just say…free.”
The kitchen erupted in a frenzy of barking and baying. The dogs bounded off their mats and into the unsuspecting arms of Derek Cameron. The unexpected launch propelled him off his feet and down onto the floor amid a pile of bouncing, panting canines.
Talli bit back a laugh at the sight. Derek’s look of surprise was priceless.

How come that, when people are flirting, they have to regress to pre-school level? “He hit you! That means he likes you!” “She made the dogs throw you to the floor! That means she likes you!” Adults can flirt. And guess what – it’s even more exciting!

After breakfast, Derek leaves for work and Talli asks Maimie and Joseph about the ad. Joseph can even tell them how much Derek is going to pay – 50.000$!

“Fifty thousand dollars. That’s quite a lot of money, isn’t it?” [says Talli]

Well, I wouldn’t let some guy bang me up for 50.000. He’d have to pay at least 500.000. Especially, if he’s a successful millionaire. So, no, it’s not a lot.
Anyway, in which world does Talli live (except one with fifty percent ROI)? She’s been working for a while and doesn’t know if that’s a lot of money – what does she do with her own? Does she only get an allowance? Is she even a grown up?

Maimie is chattering away in the meantime: “Joseph and I may not have had much in the beginning, but the love we have for one another always saw us through. Too much fighting and bickering bout the petty things nowadays, that what’s wrong with the world. What’s so wrong with a little spooning now and then? Sure beats sleeping in separate beds. How’s a body supposed to keep warm on a cold night? Someone needs to whack some sense into Derek Cameron, that’s for sure.”
Talli’s stomach flip-flopped. The thought of sharing a bed with Derek was enough to raise anyone’s internal thermostat.

Thank you, it doesn’t raise mine. And I don’t think having your stomach turn is a good sign. But hey, that’s just me.

Talli leaves with the dogs. And thus ends chapter one.

 

 

 

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