The Marriage Pact

The-Marriage-Pact-Series

The Marriage Pact (2011), Regrets Only (2012), and Baggage Check (2013)

M.J. Pullen

Author Bio:1097681_561305840595913_1814024652_o

M.J. (Manda) Pullen studied English Literature and Business at the University of Georgia in Athens, and later Professional Counseling at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She practiced psychotherapy for five years before taking time off for writing and raising her two young boys. Since high school, she has also been an executive assistant, cashier, telemarketer, professional fundraiser, marketing guru, magazine writer, grant-writer, waitress, box-packer, HR person, and casual drifter.

She reads and writes across many genres, and learns something from everything she does. No matter what she’s writing, M.J. believes that love is the greatest adventure there is, and that hopeless romantics are never really hopeless.

She loves to hear from readers and other writers – so drop her a line!

Author Links –

Website: mjpullen.com

Twitter: @MJPullen

Giveaway –

One set of autographed paperback copies of the Marriage Pact trilogy (winner can choose a custom inscription for the first book). US Only, Ebook International

Book Description:

Marci Thompson always knew what life would be like by her 30th birthday. A large but cozy suburban home shared with a charming husband and two brilliant children. A celebrated career as an established writer, complete with wall-to-wall mahogany shelves and a summer book tour. A life full of adventure with her friends and family by her side.

Instead, Marci lives alone in 480 square feet of converted motel space next to a punk rock band, hundreds of miles from her friends and family. She works in a temporary accounting assignment that has somehow stretched from two weeks into nine months. And the only bright spot in her life, not to mention the only sex she’s had in two years, is an illicit affair with her married boss, Doug. Thirty is not at all what it is cracked up to be.

Then the reappearance of a cocktail napkin she hasn’t seen in a decade opens a long-forgotten door, and Marci’s life gets complicated, fast. The lines between right and wrong, fantasy and reality, heartache and happiness are all about to get very blurry, as Marci faces the most difficult choices of her life.

Excerpt:

Her Hotmail account had thirty-two new messages. At least half were automated e-mails from online retailers wishing her a happy birthday with 10% off and free shipping. There were a few e-cards from friends, which she decided to open later. A couple of notifications from writing listservs of which she was a member, but somehow never made time to read. A forward chain e-mail from Suzanne’s grandmother, alerting her that her UPS delivery driver might be a member of Al Qaeda. A sale on her favorite jeans at the Plus-Size outlet store. A happy birthday from her chiropractor.

As she neared the bottom of the highlighted portion of her inbox, she saw the first new message had been sent at 12:01 a.m. from Jake Stillwell, one of her best friends from college. Nothing was in the subject line, but she saw there was an attachment, and curiosity beat out her hesitance about the scary meeting with the IT guy. She clicked to open it, read the two short sentences Jake had included, and sat back while the image loaded on the screen. No. It couldn’t be. Had he really kept it?

The consternation must still have been visible on her face a few moments later when Doug’s head appeared around the side of her cubicle, because he stopped his momentum to ask, “Everything okay?” despite his obvious hurry. Startled, she lunged forward and clicked the windows closed, even though Doug certainly would not care that she was checking her e-mail from the office.

It’s fine. I’m…fine,” she said.

Okay, good. Listen, babe,” he began, and Marci looked around wide-eyed to make sure no one was around to hear the familiar term. He laughed at her panic, as usual. “I already checked—we’re alone, kiddo. “

Kiddo.

I just came by to say I can’t go to lunch today. There’s a meeting at Motorola this afternoon—a big project we might be doing for them. I have to be there. Frank’s been really riding my ass about bringing in new clients lately…hey, are you sure you’re okay?” He looked genuinely concerned.

Yes, I’m fine,” she said, pasting on a smile. “Just a weird e-mail from home.”

Oh.” He seemed to be debating whether to go on, or wait for her to explain further. Not knowing what to say, Marci remained silent.

Anyway, sweetheart, I’m sorry that I can’t go to lunch with you on your birthday. I promise I will make it up to you tonight. Cathy’s, um…” He hesitated, flustered, and then finished in a rush. Usually he avoided saying his wife’s name to Marci. “Well, I’m free for a while tonight.”

Without warning, he leaned down and kissed her. He had never so much as touched her hand in the office before, and her body tingled with the danger and excitement in response. Afterward, he kept his face close to hers. She smelled his clean skin, and somehow resisted the temptation to put her palm flat against the crisp white undershirt beneath the blue.

His voice in her ear was husky. “I really did want to take you to lunch.” His tone suggested eating lunch had probably not been on the agenda. Her heart pounded and she looked around wildly, expecting to see someone come around the corner at any second and find them in this pose, for which there was no feasible professional explanation. “I’ll find you later.” She closed her eyes, inhaling his scent. When she opened them, he was gone.

Book Description:

At thirty-three, Suzanne Hamilton has it all. A successful party-planning business with an elite client list. A swank condo in a hot Atlanta neighborhood and a close group of friends – especially her longtime best friend Marci. A list of men a mile long who have tried to win her heart and failed. Plus, she’s just landed the event that will take her career and social status to the next level. What could she possibly have to regret?

Then a freak accident changes everything, and Suzanne discovers that her near-perfect life is just a few steps away from total disaster. She is humiliated and at risk of losing it all… except the surprising support of her newest celebrity client. With nothing else to go on, Suzanne follows him into an unexpected job and unfamiliar territory. Soon she will question everything – her career, her past, her friendships, and even her own dating rules.

But when her catalog of past relationships turns into a list of criminal suspects, she is faced with the horrifying possibility that she may not live to regret any of it…

Excerpt:

A few hours later, Suzanne awoke suddenly, unable to breathe. She gasped for air in the darkness, desperately trying to move, to figure out where she was. There was no light anywhere. Her chest tightened painfully, heart pounding, lips dry. As she struggled to move, she heard Rick groan softly nearby and roll over, releasing her from his grasp. She was in his hotel room, she remembered, and relaxed a little. When his breathing was soft and steady she moved again to slide out from between the crisp sheets.

I can’t do it.

She found the clock face down on the floor. Almost four a.m. She crept into the bathroom and shut the door before finding the unpleasantly bright light. She splashed water on her face and breathed deeply. After a few moments with her hands steadying her against the sink, she looked in the mirror. Jesus, I look like crap. Mascara was smeared beneath her eyes, her formerly perfect hair was a rat’s nest behind her head, and the evening of cocktails had weathered her face like a sailor’s. Suzanne looked and felt much older than thirty-three. She made a mental note to have Chad schedule a facial before the benefit.

Silently, she began gathering her things. The hotel room was pitch black, so she scrounged in her purse for the tiny keychain light, shaped like a pig, which Marci had given her years ago. The expensive pumps had been kicked off near the door. Skirt and blouse were in a heap nearby. After a few moments of searching, she located her bra hanging off the desk lampshade across from the bed. Her panties, however, had gone completely missing.

She covered the room with the tiny pig several times, freezing periodically when she heard Rick shift or grunt in his sleep. Opening the blackout curtains a fraction gave her enough light to shimmy into the rest of her clothes and make one more sweep of the room. She kicked herself for wearing her favorite pair of La Perla underwear, as they were about to become a casualty to an early-morning getaway.

Sorry, girls.

She decided to add “Leave favorite underwear at home,” to her list of dating rules. The rules were sort of Suzanne’s cross between Emily Post and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, mostly resulting from her own bad experiences: Never bring a man back your place. No emotional talk during sex. Never get naked with the lights on. Always undress yourself. No dating guys with kids or dogs. No sex in cars. And so on. She thought one day she could publish these rules and make a fortune.

She closed the curtain and crept toward the door. She was nearly out of the room when she lost her balance and bumped against the closet door. It rattled loudly. Rick stirred behind her. “Suzanne? You okay?”

Damn.

Yes, I’m fine.” Her voice was sheepish despite her best efforts. “I just need to get an early start today.”

But,” his voice in the darkness was slow and softened by sleep, “it’s Saturday.”

Yeah, I just have so much going on with this benefit; I really need to get home. Thank you for dinner and…everything.”

She waited as she heard him fumble for the lamp and got it turned on. “Um, sure. You’re welcome?” he said, looking around, befuddled. In the sudden light, his bare chest looked a little pudgier, and furrier, than she remembered. He ran his hand through the thick brown hair standing up all over his head.

Okay, well…bye, Rick,” she said, as sweetly as she could. She turned back toward the door.

Wait,” he said softly.

Please don’t make an ass of yourself, she willed him. Please just hate me and let’s be done with it.

She didn’t have to worry. As much as he liked her, Rick the Salesman knew a simple, cardinal rule of all relationships: never beg. He simply asked the exact question to which he wanted the answer. “This is ending right now, isn’t it?”

Suzanne noticed that there was neither hope nor despair in his tone. Obviously, he genuinely liked her, and yet the question only sought to confirm, rather than to convince or retaliate. She hesitated only for a split second. “Yes.”

She hovered there momentarily, waiting for the usual barrage of questions or arguments to commence, but Rick just nodded slowly and said, “I’m sorry to hear that. It really was very nice to meet you, Suzanne.”

Her face flushed. The stark contrast between this courteous ending and last night’s very primitive activities embarrassed her, as did standing in her professional clothes and heels with no underwear. “You, too, Rick. Take care, okay?”

She hurried out, made her way down the stairs, and exited the side door. She had the phone number to the cab company on speed dial.

Baggage Check

Book Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance

Publisher: Flourish Publications (Self)

Release Date: November 2013

Buy Link(s):

Book Description:

At thirty-five, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings. Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta, Georgia. But despite Rebecca’s best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. Even though her job as a flight attendant fits perfectly with her orderly nature, and brings her into contact with lots of eligible men, she can’t seem to find a man who is Jake’s equal.

Then a frantic phone call from her mother in Oreville, Alabama turns Rebecca’s structured life on its ear. She will find herself back in the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind, and thrown together with Deputy Alex Chen, a face from the past who’s made it clear he thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend’s kid sister.

But Alex is nothing like what Rebecca had in mind; and in the meantime, she has other battles to fight, including her painful family history. Can she navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she’s always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?

Excerpt

What the hell was that?” Valerie asked, sliding into the booth across from Rebecca. “He was a nice-looking kid. You don’t like foreign guys?”

That’s not it,” Rebecca said.

Well, I had that one primed for you. Such a waste.”

Thanks, Val, but I don’t need you to find guys for me. And I’m sure he won’t go to waste. Look, he’s talking to that girl at the bar already.”

I didn’t mean him,” Val said. “I meant you. You’re such a beautiful girl: educated, nice nose, and that pretty brown hair is your real color as far as I can tell. We’ve flown together three years and I never hear about you dating anyone.”

Well, maybe I—”

Valerie leaned across the table with a loud whisper. “Are you a lesbian?”

What? No!”

Because I’m okay with it, really. I’m very hip about this stuff. I even have a lesbian niece. Very attractive, if she would just let her hair grow out. Of course, she’s younger than you, but…”

Valerie!” Rebecca said too loudly. Then softer, “I am not a lesbian. I used to date men all the time. I just haven’t lately.”

Why not?”

I don’t know. The hours?”

Bullshit.”

Come on, Val. Why the sudden interest in my love life? Can we talk about something else?”

No.”

Rebecca knew from experience Valerie had no intention of letting up. She took a sip of her drink, not terribly helpful since it was mostly melted ice. A long sigh under Valerie’s unwavering stare. “I guess you could say I got my heart broken a few years ago, and I just haven’t gotten over it yet.”

Really? Who was this? How come I haven’t heard about him?”

Rebecca sighed. In for a penny… “You have heard of him. It was my friend Jake.”

Jake?” Valerie furrowed her brow. “You mean…your friend, the girl with the blog, what’s her name—Marci? That Jake?”

Yes. That Jake.”

Valerie whistled. “So how long ago was this?”

How long ago was what? They got married four years ago. And they have Bonnie now.”

Yeah, but when did you stop…” Valerie trailed off.

Rebecca shook her head. “I don’t think I have stopped. I know that’s ridiculous, but I-I loved him for so long. It’s like I don’t know any other way to be.”

Val looked down at the table for a minute, and slid the rest of her neat Scotch across to Rebecca. “Here, kid. I think you need this a hell of a lot more than I do.”

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Marriage Pact

  1. burtmorgret

    Thank you for hosting today:)

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