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Authors: Lynda Curnyn

Bombshell

BOOK: Bombshell
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CRITICAL PRAISE FOR LYNDA CURNYN

ENGAGING MEN

“Curnyn delivers another fun and frothy crowd-pleaser.”

—Booklist

“The author of
Confessions of an Ex-Girlfriend
has done it again with
Engaging Men
…a truly funny and thoroughly enjoyable read.”

—Romance Reviews Today

“This dose of chick lit features entertaining supporting characters and may inspire readers to think about what they really want out of relationships and life.”

—Romantic Times

“Angie's emotional adventures will strike a chord with women of all ages.
Engaging Men
is a great read…”

—Barbara Fielding,
The Word on Romance

CONFESSIONS OF AN EX-GIRLFRIEND

“…Curnyn pens an easy, breezy first novel that's part
Sex and the City
with more heart and part Bridget Jones with less booze.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A diverse cast of engaging, occasionally offbeat characters, the hilarious sayings attributed to them, and a fast-paced style facilitated by Emma's pithy sound-bite ‘confessions' add to the fun in a lively Manhattan-set story…”

—Library Journal

“Readers will eagerly turn the pages.”

—Booklist

“…absolutely hilarious secondary characters. They alone are worth the cover price.”

—Romantic Times

In memory of my father,
James Curnyn

Bombshell
Lynda Curnyn

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book truly wouldn't have been possible without the amazing people in my life who inspire me endlessly.

Richard Hoelderlin, whose own search for his birth parents first drew me to the idea for this book. You are gone, dear friend, but your good heart is not forgotten.

The story was brought back to me by another friend, Julie Ann Coney, who shared with me the sad, beautiful story of her search for her birth mother, and gave Grace's story its shape.

Thanks to my dearest friend, Linda Guidi, a true beauty with a big heart, for her generous support and inspiration.

Dora Hoelderlin for providing background on adoptive search. Gerry Zdenek for the scoop on the beauty biz. Javier Castillo, for the scoop on the world of advertising (mistakes are mine). Robert Clegg for showing me some chess moves and for providing the most logical (and amusing) explanation of why people fall in love.

My family, especially my brother Jim, who kept it all together for us during a year when everything seemed to fall apart; my brother Brian, who is my biggest fan; Kim Castellano-Curnyn, Upper West Side Bombshell; Trina K. Curnyn (the
Kis for Killer Wit);
and Dave Webber, who always seems to have answers to my obscure questions.

Sarah Mlynowski, fabulous writer and savvy editor, for reading my drafts.

My wonderful editor, Joan Marlow Golan, who loved Grace from the very first chapter. All the talented people behind Red Dress Ink, especially Margaret, Laura, Stephanie, Margie, Tara and Tania.

And of course, my mother, the original bombshell, and the best friend this girl could have.

1

“When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

—Jean Harlow

I
t amazed me to discover my relationship with Ethan was only as strong as the latex between us.

“Oh, God,” he said as he looked down at me, just moments after what I had assumed was his orgasm. But what I had taken for a look of euphoria on his face turned out to be utter panic.

“What's wrong?” I asked, gazing down at where he kneeled between my legs. He was studying me in a way that made me feel vaguely embarrassed, despite the fact that we had been dating six months and were, by most standards, in a relationship.

“It's…gone,” he said with disbelief.

“Gone?”

“The condom. It's disappeared. Inside you.”

Alarmed, I immediately sat up.

“No, no, no—don't move,” he said, squinting down at me as if about to perform surgery.

With a sigh, I swung away from him, slid off the bed.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

“To get it out,” I replied, heading for the bathroom.

A sudden calm descended over me, probably because Ethan was panicking so much, I didn't feel the need. But once I was in the bathroom alone, I was scared. I sat down on the side of the tub and, a bit frantically I'll admit, investigated. I was relieved, momentarily, when I fished out the errant bit of latex. And horrified when, upon closer examination, I discovered the damning tear.

I leaned back against the tiled wall, the “what ifs” whirling through my mind. And I discovered, with something resembling surprise, that my chief reason for alarm—the possibility that Ethan and I—that is, the idea of a
baby
—was not so…alarming. I was thirty-four years old. I was a Senior Product Manager for Roxanne Dubrow cosmetics and made damn good money. I had a somewhat posh one bedroom on the Upper West Side. If I wasn't ready now…

Okay, so it wasn't perfect timing. I was about to start work on Roxanne Dubrow's next big campaign, which I was hoping would lead to bigger things for my career. And then there was Ethan. Things were going just fine between us, but a baby? I tried to imagine Ethan, with his pinstripe suits and wire-rimmed glasses, cuddling a child. At first, the image was a bit peculiar. All I could come up with was the look of disgust on Ethan's face as the imaginary child upended its breakfast on his Italian silk tie. But then I mentally put Ethan in a T-shirt and jeans, set him in a lush suburban backyard tossing a ball to a tow-headed little boy and, suddenly, a warmth swept
through me, taking me by surprise. I could do this. If I had to.

In this quasi-calm state I returned to the bedroom. Ethan sat up on the bed, looking at me with anticipation. Though he was still naked, he had put his glasses on, and I felt a sudden urge to laugh. What was it about a naked man in glasses that looked so surreal? I wondered as I flopped down on the bed beside him, a kind of gleefulness swimming inside me. Then I looked up at Ethan's handsome, well-chiseled face, studied his usually cool gray eyes and saw the panic still frozen there.

“Well?” he said, staring down at me.

Oh, right. The condom. I remembered the issue at hand. The issue that up until ten minutes ago might have caused me the same kind of terror I saw in Ethan's eyes.

“I found it,” I said, gazing up at his usually adorable face and suddenly realizing how very much like a hamster he looked when he was nervous, all pursed mouth and squinty eyes. I rolled over, burying my face in the pillow to hide the smile that threatened to tug at my lips. After all, I didn't want him to think I wasn't worried. I was—in a fashion.

I gathered myself together. Then confessed. “It was…torn.”

“Torn?”

I turned to look at him over my shoulder. “Down the middle.” Then I shrugged, as if to say,
These things happen.

I felt him lift off the bed, heard him pad out of the bedroom, then across the living room. Knew when he had reached the bathroom with all the damning evidence in the faux marble wastebasket I kept there. “Oh,
God,
” he said again.

I was surprised at how quickly the hurt stabbed at me. I knew we hadn't planned this. It wasn't something we dis
cussed while sharing moonlit walks and cozy little dinners at all the best restaurants New York had to offer. Yet, I never expected Ethan to react as if I'd just passed him a venereal disease. Just what, exactly, was so horrifying about the idea of us having a child?

By the time he came back to the bedroom and stood before me in all his bespectacled naked glory, I was angry.

“What do we
do?
” he said.

“Do?”

“Maybe you should…rinse or something.”

“Or something,” I replied, my voice thick with sarcasm.

“Hey, isn't there that pill? What's it called again? It's just for emergencies like this,” he began, his face filled with a frantic hope. “Yes—the morning-after pill. How do we get our hands on something like that?”

The hamster suddenly morphed into a rat. I wondered what I had ever found so incredibly handsome about Ethan Lederman the Third, as he called himself whenever he got pompous after a few martinis.

Then his face changed, as if he remembered something. That something quickly became apparent when he kneeled next to me on the bed. “I'm sorry, Gracie, I didn't mean…it's not that I didn't
want
…that is… We can't have a baby together.
I
can't. It's just not part of the plan….”

But it was too late. The wall had risen up, thick and unyielding. And I did the only thing a self-respecting woman could do.

I threw him out.

 

“You
broke up
with him?” Lori said, gawking at me from her desk just outside my office.

“Not exactly
broke up,
” I replied. I instantly regretted shar
ing this bit of news with my admin, who had inquired about my Saturday night date with Ethan the moment I walked into the office. With a shrug that I hoped made my indifference obvious, I had blithely replied, “He's history.”

Now I realized that I had opened myself up to a conversation I didn't want to have. Trying to deflect Lori away from the subject that had caused her perky little features to go slack with shock, I placed the bag I carried on her desk. “Guess what I brought us?” I said, pulling out one of the two giant muffins I'd bought. “Your favorite—chocolate banana chip,” I continued, setting it before her.

“Thanks,” she mumbled, barely acknowledging the muffin, which I had spontaneously decided to pick up this morning. Things at work were so hectic lately, I'd decided we could use a treat. The powers-that-be at Roxanne Dubrow, the family-owned cosmetic line we all slaved for, had been calling meetings two and three times a month, all in the name of a new product line and—hopefully—higher profit margins. Though my boss, Claudia Stewart, was under the most pressure, as she was supposed to come up with the next Big Idea, Lori often took the brunt of the workload, as Claudia and I had been sharing her ever since Jeannie, Claudia's own assistant, had gone on maternity leave. I sometimes felt guilty. After all, Lori was twenty-three years old and made a third of what I made—and probably a quarter of what Claudia made.

“So what
happened?
” Lori asked, jumping up and going to the coffee machine to make a pot.

I sighed, dropping my pocketbook onto an empty chair and sliding off the light jacket I wore as a concession to the surprisingly cool September morning before I headed for the hall closet to hang it up. What could I tell her?
That I realized Ethan was a selfish bastard who cared nothing about anyone but himself? That there was a possibly—albeit a remote one—that I was carrying this cretin's
child?
That the very idea of sharing anything grander than body fluids had nearly caused dear Ethan to lose the filet mignon he'd dropped a wad of cash on at dinner all over the Italian loafers he'd parked under my bed?

She was too young for the truth. It would only disillusion her. And since I firmly believed a woman needed
some
illusions in order to have any sort of romance in this fine city, I lied.

“He got a job offer,” I improvised, “in Fiji.” A smile almost curved my lips as I tried to imagine Ethan, with his pasty white skin and perspiring brow, weathering a tropical climate. What had I ever found attractive about him anyway?

“Do they even have accounting firms there?” Lori asked, bewildered.

“He's, uh, he's going private.”

“Oh,” she said, still studying me. She turned away to the coffee machine, but I could sense that the wheels were still churning in her head. Pulling the now-full coffeepot off the warmer, she filled two mugs and handed me one. Hoping to make my escape with my muffin and my sanity, I thanked her for the coffee and stepped toward my office door. But her next words stopped me.

“He didn't ask you to go
with
him?”

I paused in my doorway, realizing I was getting in too deep with this story meant to keep me from getting in too deep. “He, uh, he wanted to make a clean break,” I said, realizing how much more accurately those words applied to me. “You are the queen of the pre-emptive breakup,” Claudia was fond
of telling me, commenting on my knack for ending it all succinctly with my man of the moment before said man could do the deed himself.

This answer seemed to satisfy Lori, for she sat down at her desk and began thoughtfully picking a chocolate chip off the top of her muffin. Still, the sight of her concerned frown filled me with unease. I crouched down by her desk and looked up at her. “You okay?” I asked.

She nodded. “I'm fine. I just thought you and Ethan were, like, meant to be.” Then she blushed, causing a strange ache to fill my chest. “I guess I'm just a dopey romantic, huh?” She forced a smile that did not reach her eyes. Eyes in which I found myself searching for all those emotions I couldn't somehow muster up myself about Ethan.

Thankfully, Claudia stormed in at that moment, preventing me from pursuing any dangerous thoughts. I could tell by the way Claudia blew past us with barely a glance that she was not in a good mood. Which didn't bode well for Lori…or me.

I decided to take the bull by the horns, and after giving Lori's hand a quick, comforting squeeze, I abandoned my breakfast on her desk and headed for Claudia's office, which stood opposite mine.

“Hey,” I said, as I stood in the doorway. Claudia had already tossed her coat onto the low black sofa that lined one wall and was scrutinizing herself in the mirror that lined the other. The way she was studying her tall, pencil-thin, black-clad figure said she wasn't satisfied with what she saw, although she looked like her usual well-kept self. “How did spa-ing with the bigwigs go?” I asked. Claudia had just come back from an exclusive spa in Switzerland, where, while sipping flavored waters and sitting half-naked, she attended
meetings to decide the fate of Roxanne Dubrow cosmetics. Though the company prided itself on being able to attract an older, wealthier client, sales had recently begun to wane. So Dianne Dubrow, CEO and daughter of the company's founder, had decided that a week at a Swiss spa brainstorming with all her top execs would result in a brilliant new direction for the company—or at least a well-pampered upper management.

But Claudia apparently didn't feel very well-pampered. Smoothing a newly manicured hand over her long, dark hair with dissatisfaction, she stepped behind her desk, glared hard for a moment at the sleek black surface before looking up.

Her eyes roamed over me, taking in my blouse, my flared pants, my pointy-toed pumps, as if assessing their worthiness. It was the kind of once-over I could never get used to, despite the fact that she did it fairly regularly. It was as if Claudia were measuring me to make sure I met the high fashion standards of the illustrious firm of Roxanne Dubrow. Or at least to see if I were someone worthy of taking on as a confidante, even a friend, as Claudia was wont to do, especially when things weren't going her way.

“There should be a four-letter word for beauty,” she said finally.

“Tell me,” I said, sitting down in the chair across from her desk and preparing to hear about whatever brave new innovations the executives at Roxanne Dubrow had decided upon.

She sighed, gazing out her window and studying the generous glimpse of skyline it afforded. “They've chosen the new face for Roxanne Dubrow,” she said, turning to face me once more, “and she's sixteen.”

“What?”
I asked, completely confused. Roxanne Dubrow cosmetics were devoted to the
mature
woman. As in: edging
toward forty. In fact, Priscilla, the model who was last year's face, was a bit too young at age twenty-five. “I don't get it. How are they going to pull off ‘Beauty beyond thirty' with a sixteen-year-old?”

“That's just it,” Claudia replied. “Roxanne Dubrow is creating a new image. A new,
younger
image.” She sniffed. “I suppose it's only a matter of time before they replace
us
with sixteen-year-olds. After all, who better to tell a woman how she should look than someone with a Ph.D. in benzyl peroxide?”

“Hmmm…” Studying Claudia's frown, I wondered if perhaps the younger image worried her on a more personal level. With her dark eyes and the shiny brunette hair she dared, at age forty-two, to wear longer than shoulder length, Claudia was a beautiful woman. But she was incredibly age-conscious.

“So tell me what that child was sniveling about out there,” Claudia continued, confirming my suspicions. Ever since I had hired Lori fresh out of college a year and a half ago, Claudia had taken an immediate dislike to her. A dislike that seemed to have nothing to do with her work and everything to do with the fact that Lori was younger than Claudia had probably ever been.

“Oh, boy trouble,” I said vaguely.

“Poor girl,” she replied sarcastically. “Did Dennis the Menace discover someone else while playing in the sandbox?”

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