The Marriage Bargain(2)

By: Jennifer Probst


“Why don’t I have any?” Maggie’s lips twisted in self-deprecating humor, then she pointed to the bucket. “So, what’s the deal with the fire?”

Alexa sighed. “I was creating a love spell. To, uh…get a man.”

Her friend threw back her head and laughed. “Okay. What’s that have to do with the bucket?”

Alexa’s cheeks flamed. She’d never live this down. “I made a fire to honor the Earth Mother,” she whispered.

“Oh, my God.”

“Hear me out. I’m desperate. I still haven’t met Mr. Right and another small problem came up I need to solve, so I combined both my needs into one list.”

“What kind of list?”

“One of my customers told me she bought this book on love spells, and when she made a list of all the qualities she looked for in a man, he showed up.”

Now, Maggie looked interested. “A man appeared in her life with all the things she wanted?”

“Yep. The list has to be specific. It can’t be too general, or supposedly the universe gets confused with your desires and sends nothing. She said if you follow the spell, the right man will appear.”

Maggie’s green eyes gleamed. “Let me see the book.”

Nothing like another single female to make you feel better about the quest for a man. Alexa tossed her the little fabric-covered book, feeling less like an idiot.

“Hmmm. Show me your list.”

She waved toward the bucket. “Burned it.”

“I know you have another copy under your bed. Forget it, I’ll get it myself.” Her friend stalked off toward the canary yellow futon and stuck her hand under the cushions. Within seconds she held the list triumphantly between bright red fingernails, and licked her lips as if she was about to dive into a lusty romance novel. Alexa settled on the carpet and slumped over. Let the humiliation begin.

“Number one,” Maggie recited. “A Mets fan.”

Alexa braced herself for the explosion.

“Baseball?” Maggie shrieked. She waved the paper back and forth in the air for dramatic effect. “Damn it, how can you make your number one priority baseball? They haven’t made it to the World Series in years! It’s a fact in New York there are more Yankees fans than Mets fans, and that wipes out most of the male population.”

Alexa gritted her teeth. Why was she constantly barraged over her choice of New York teams? “The Mets have heart and character, and I need a man who can root for the underdog. I refuse to sleep with a Yankees fan.”

“You’re hopeless. I give up,” Maggie said. “Number two: loves books, art, and poetry.” She paused to think about it, then shrugged. “I accept. Three: believes in monogamy. Very important to the list. Number four: wants children.” She looked up. “How many?”

Alexa smiled at the thought. “I’d like three. But I’d settle for two. Should I have specified how many in the list?”

“No, Earth Mother will get it right.” Maggie continued. “Number five: knows how to communicate with a woman. Good one. I’m sick of reading books about Venus and Mars. I’ve gone through the whole series and I still don’t have a clue. Number six: loves animals.” She groaned. “That’s as bad as the Mets!”

Alexa scooted around on the carpet to face her. “If he hates dogs, how can I continue my volunteer program at the shelter? And what if he’s a hunter? I’d wake up in the middle of the night and find a dead deer staring at me from over the mantelpiece.”

“You’re so dramatic.” Maggie turned back to the list. “Number seven: has a moral code of ethics and believes in honesty. Should’ve been number one on the list, but what the hell, I’m not a Mets fan. Number eight: a good lover.” She waggled her eyebrows. “That would be number two on my list. But I’m proud the item even shows up. Maybe you’re not as hopeless as I thought.”

Alexa swallowed hard, dread curling her insides. “Keep going.”

“Number nine: has a strong sense of family. Makes sense—you guys remind me of the frickin’ Waltons. Okay number ten…”