Trust Me on This Read online

  Dear Readers,

  Trust Me On This, originally published in 1997, is the only screwball comedy I’ve ever written. Wikipedia says that screwball comedy is “a combination of slapstick with fast-paced repartee, and a plot involving courtship and marriage [and] mistaken identities or other circumstances in which a character or characters try to keep some important fact a secret.” Yep, that’s Trust Me On This. Doors are slammed, identities are mistaken, drinks are spilled along with secrets, and everybody has an angle. Writing it made me feel like that guy who used to spin plates on TV: I had so many story lines rotating frantically in the air that it was a miracle nothing broke. But like in any good screwball comedy, the heart of the story is the romance, and that was solid and sure. Dennie and Alec may not have planned on each other or on any of the other things that go so wrong during one fast-paced weekend, but they’re good at adapting and even better at falling in love. I had so much fun spinning those plates in Trust Me On This, and now I’m hoping you’ll have as much fun reading it.

  Jenny Crusie

  Bantam Books by Jennifer Crusie

  The Cinderella Deal

  Trust Me on This

  Trust Me on This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  2010 Bantam Books Mass Market Edition

  Copyright © 1997 by Jennifer Crusie

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  BANTAM BOOKS and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in 1997.

  eISBN: 978-0-553-90797-1


  For Ruth Flinn Smith,

  sweet, smart, funny, kind, loyal, and loving,

  my sister-in-law who became my sister,

  and the best present my brother ever gave me



  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Excerpt from The Cinderella Deal

  Chapter 1

  Four Fabulous Days!

  Three Glorious Nights!

  Join the 4th Annual Popular

  Literature Conference at the

  Historic Riverbend Queen Hotel!!!

  April 7, 8, 9, & 10

  Your Life Will Never Be the Same!!!

  Victoria Prentice found the card as she sorted through her mail and stood transfixed by the tackiness of it. It wasn’t the first time she’d been disgusted by academic stupidity in the forty years she’d been teaching college students, but it was the first time she’d been both disgusted and involved. She’d agreed to deliver a paper at this circus so she could spend some time with her friend Janice, but she wouldn’t have if she’d known that this was how they were going to publicize it. The card promised everything except live girls and free drinks. Well, there went her reputation as a scholar. What were the idiots thinking of? It was all very well to take a stand against academic rigidity, but shilling a lit conference as if it were Club Med—

  She stopped, appalled by the fussiness of her own thoughts. A lifetime of independence and freethinking, and what did she have to show for it? She was sixty-two years old and petrifying as she stood there. I’m getting old, she thought. Old in mind. That’s a terrible thing. She’d spent too much of her life arguing over dead authors and dead literature, playing it safe, and now she was sneering at something lively. Getting smug. Isolated. Victoria felt a twinge of something like dissatisfaction and shrugged it off.

  She was not dissatisfied. She’d worked damn hard to get where she was, and she’d loved every minute of it. No, her life was fine, she just needed a jump start, a change of pace, to be with somebody who would jolt her out of her rut. Janice was all very well, but she was also happily married and stable as the earth. Victoria needed to be with somebody alive, somebody young, somebody like her nephew.

  Exactly like her nephew.

  Alec wasn’t an infant, of course. She counted back. She was twenty-four years older than he was so … good Lord, he was thirty-eight. How had that happened? While she was slowly turning to rock, he’d been aging too. Well, it didn’t matter. He was still younger than she was, still able to make her feel alive when she was with him.

  I’m not ready to solidify yet, she thought. Alec would go to the conference with her. He always did whatever she asked since she never asked much, and once there, she could bicker with him over dinner and harass him about settling down before he hit forty, and generally use him to get an attitude adjustment while she watched him dazzle every woman in the place with his aw-shucks charm and farm-boy face. If her life was dull and stuffy and essentially over, at least she still had the energy to interfere in his. She fed the card into the fax machine and punched in his office fax number, and when it went through, she picked up her phone and dialed him.

  “I just faxed you an invitation for a month from now,” she told him when he picked up the phone. “Accept it or you’ll rot in hell for disappointing your favorite relative who gave you the best summers of your life.”

  “I accept,” Alec said. “And hello to you too.”

  Alec Prentice tossed the fax on his boss’s desk. “Three glorious nights, Harry. That’s what we both need.”

  Harry Chase grunted and tossed it back, refusing to move his eyes from his computer.

  “No, Harry.” Alec put the paper in front of the older man again. “Look at it.”

  Harry glanced at it. “Great.” He stared back into the computer screen.

  “That’s where I’m going next month. My aunt’s speaking at this conference, and I’m going.” Alec waited and then said, “Harry, I’m going out of town three weeks from Thursday. Hello?”

  “I know.” Harry ducked his grizzled head as he clicked a couple of keys. The computer screen flexed and rearranged itself, and Harry growled at it.

  “Harry—” Alec tried again.

  “I know.” Harry looked up from the screen. “You’re going to hear your aunt give a speech. You told me. I know.” His eyes shifted back to the screen.

  “It’s a literature conference, Harry,” Alec said distinctly. “College professors.”

  Harry’s eyes stayed on the screen. “So?”

  “I was thinking of that guy who came up on the scan the other day, Brian Bond. He’s never pulled his con in Ohio, and he’s running out of states.”

  Harry took his gaze from the screen and narrowed his eyes at Alec.

  “Right.” Alec relaxed now that he had Harry’s attention. “This is a nice convention. According to my aunt, nobody’s reputation ever got made or unmade at a pop lit conference. They’ll all be rested, optimistic, and probably juiced. It’s prime stuff for Bond.”

  Harry considered it, shrugged, and turned back to the computer. “It’s a long shot.”

  “What’s wrong with you?” Alec surveyed the older man with disgust. “You used to be the first one on the trail. I know you’ve got twenty years on me, but you can’t be giving up yet. Two years in front of a computer and all of a sudden you’re n