Bet Me Read online

  Bet Me

  Jennifer Crusie

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  Table of Contents

  A Letter from Jennifer Crusie



  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Also by Jennifer Crusie



  Dear Reader,

  I didn’t set out to write a fairy tale.

  Bet Me began as a straightforward romance novel, the second one I wrote. It was bad. Really bad. Everybody-in-New-York-and-Toronto-turned-it-down bad. So I stuck it away on my hard drive and spent ten years learning craft and practicing it, and then one day, I found Bet Me on my hard drive and read it again.

  It was still really bad.

  But there was something there, and as I started to rewrite, the idea of the bet—a truly lousy premise for a story—fused with the idea of a woman who was practical and minimized risk and a man who liked to win and therefore calculated the odds coming up against the implacable chaos of Fate.

  So when I saw Fate bearing down on Min and Cal with a spark in her eye, the fairy tale happened. I loved the idea that they’d fight against Fate because Fate was being ridiculous, and that Fate would send them a musical snow globe, seats next to each other at the movies, an Elvis serenade, and a feral cat, and in so doing defeat them utterly. I loved Min saying, “I don’t believe in fairy tales,” and her best friend saying, “I don’t think it matters; the fairy tale believes in you.” But mostly I just loved the idea of two people who were too practical to believe that they deserved a happily-ever-after getting one because Fate wanted it that way.

  All I needed to do was believe in the fairy tale myself, so I wrote “Wildly Romantic” on a post-it, stuck it on my computer screen, cut about 95,000 words of the original manuscript, and went for it. That’s why this book has a hero who has to climb thirty-two steps and two flights of stairs to get to his love, a pumpkin couch, a red-hooded cape, a lethal fairy godmother, an impressive number of shoes, and a firm belief in the power of love.

  Here’s hoping you believe, too, and that you love this book as much as I do.



  Monica Pradhan McLean

  Because her price is above rubies

  Which she knows how to invest,

  And because every book she writes

  is a diamond


  My Thanks To

  Meg Ruley

  for selling this book against my better judgment

  and for being right again,

  Jen Enderlin

  for buying this book against my better judgment

  and for being right again,

  St. Martin’s Press

  especially John Sargent, Sally Richardson, Matthew Shear,

  Kim Cardascia, John Karle, and John Murphy,

  for being supportive beyond the call of publishing

  (and a big kiss to Sally for matchmaking the movie option),

  Mollie Smith

  for improving my Web site,

  organizing my business records,

  critiquing my book, and illuminating my life,

  Val Taylor

  for working with me again

  even though I promised her I’d never rewrite this one,

  The Ladies of XRom

  especially Jo Beverley

  for coming up with the pumpkin couch,

  The Cherries

  for critiquing the first scene, researching recipes,

  putting up with my moaning, and being Cherries,


  The Nantucket Beach Patrol,

  Police Department,

  Fire Department, and

  Cottage Hospital Emergency Room Staff,

  whose speed and skill ensured that

  this wasn’t a posthumous book.

  (If you’re going to have an asthma attack in the surf,

  I strongly recommend you do so in Nantucket.)

  Women’s total instinct for gambling

  is satisfied by marriage.

  —Gloria Steinem

  Chapter One

  Once upon a time, Minerva Dobbs thought as she stood in the middle of a loud yuppie bar, the world was full of good men. She looked into the handsome face of the man she’d planned on taking to her sister’s wedding and thought, Those days are gone.

  “This relationship is not working for me,” David said.

  I could shove this swizzle stick through his heart, Min thought. She wouldn’t do it, of course. The stick was plastic and not nearly pointed enough on the end. Also, people didn’t do things like that in southern Ohio. A sawed-off shotgun, that was the ticket.

  “And we both know why,” David went on.

  He probably didn’t even know he was mad; he probably thought he was being calm and adult. At least I know I’m furious, Min thought. She let her anger settle around her, and it made her warm all over, which was more than David had ever done.

  Across the room, somebody at the big roulette wheel–shaped bar rang a bell. Another point against David: He was dumping her in a theme bar. The Long Shot. The name alone should have tipped her off.

  “I’m sorry, Min,” David said, clearly not.

  Min crossed her arms over her gray-checked suit jacket so she couldn’t smack him. “This is because I won’t go home with you tonight? It’s Wednesday. I have to work tomorrow. You have to work tomorrow. I paid for my own drink.”

  “It’s not that.” David looked noble and wounded as only the tall, dark, and self-righteous could. “You’re not making any effort to make our relationship work, which means . . .”

  Which means we’ve been dating for two months and I still won’t sleep with you. Min tuned him out and looked around at the babbling crowd. If I had an untraceable poison, I could drop it in his drink now and not one of these suits would notice.

  “. . . and I do think, if we have any future, that you should contribute, too,” David said.

  Oh, I don’t, Min thought, which meant that David had a point. Still, lack of sex was no excuse for dumping her three weeks before she had to wear a maid-of-honor dress that made her look like a fat, demented shepherdess. “Of course we have a future, David,” she said, trying to put her anger on ice. “We have plans. Diana is getting married in three weeks. You’re invited to the wedding. To the rehearsal dinner. To the bachelor party. You’re going to miss the stripper, David.”

  “Is that all you think of me?” David’s voice went up. “I’m just a date to your sister’s wedding?”

  “Of course not,” Min said. “Just as I’m sure I’m more to you than somebody to sleep with.”

  David opened his mouth and closed it again. “Well, of course. I don’t want you to think this is a reflection on you. You’re intelligent, you’re successful, you’re mature. . . .”

  Min listened, knowing that You’re beautiful, you’re thin were not coming. If only he’d have a heart attack. Only four percent of heart attacks in men happened before f