Don’t Stop Believing CH. 1

An offer she can’t refuse… Gwendolyn Adair, alone in the world, happens to be in debt up to her eyeballs. Meanwhile, Detroit multimillionaire Franklin Banks has different problems. When Gwen faints in Franklin’s driveway, he hires her to pose as his girlfriend in order to fool his matchmaking grandmother. If poison, nosy senior citizens, and their own stubbornness can’t keep them apart, will a six-month employment contract be long enough to make these two skeptics start believing in love again?

Read on for a sneak peek!

Chapter 1: Jogger Mugger

On St. Paul Street, around the corner and down the block from her mark’s house, Mariah Banks was inspecting the bait for her latest trap.

The young woman in front of her was lovely enough to make a good lure. Her long, dark purple hair was braided and hung down her back. Pretty sparkling brown eyes sat beneath a set of the artfully bushy eyebrows that were trending among young people. Her skin was golden brown, her small nose slightly freckled, and her billowy lips covered in glossy pink goop. Perhaps most fortuitously of all, the young woman’s leggings were covered in glittery dolphins. Mariah had always heard that dolphin sightings were lucky, so she was taking this as a good omen.

She clicked the large black radio she was holding. “This is Granny Grifter. We’re in place. Report on the mark’s location. Over.”

A fuzzy crackle, then a man’s extra-deep voice: “Granny Grifter, this is Jogger Mugger. I have eyes on the front of Franklin’s house and he has not left yet. Over.”

She waited a few seconds and then clicked her walkie-talkie again. “Roger. Over.”

If their target, Franklin, followed his usual pattern, he would begin his morning run within the next seven minutes.

“You really think this will work?” the bait asked.

Mariah shrugged. “He has a bit of a savior complex and his total assets are sitting at around four hundred and fifty million dollars. Do you think it’s worth a shot?”

The young woman nodded with enthusiasm. “I don’t know why you picked me for this, Mariah. I mean, I’m really flattered. It’s an honor! But I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed, you know?”

Mariah narrowed her eyes and wondered aloud, “Betsy, can you handle this job? Or should we call it off right now?”

“Bella,” the young woman reminded Mariah. “I can definitely handle being the damsel in distress. I was in just about every play in high school even though Jonah, my boyfriend at the end of junior year, said it was only nerds who did drama. I think he just didn’t like other guys kissing me, you know? Even though any actor can tell you that what happens on stage means nothing, you know?”

Mariah drew in a deep breath and held it. It didn’t matter how annoying she thought Bets—Bella!—was. If this plan worked, annoyance would be a small price to pay.

The radio crackled again, “Franklin has just opened the door, he’s locking it, he’s heading your way. I’m going around the block. Over and out!”

Mariah released her breath in a whoosh and shooed the girl away. “Go, go!”

“Oh, right!” Bella laughed and jogged away.

Mariah crossed her fingers for a brief moment before she walked to the end of the street to see the action. She pulled the opera glasses out of the pocket of her shiny blue windbreaker and leaned against a tree. From there she could watch Bella bounce along towards Franklin, who was heading in Mariah’s direction.

Their mark could have been the poster boy for tall, dark, and handsome. He wasn’t built like Mariah’s co-conspirator on the radio—Franklin was fit, but he had the physique of a runner, not a linebacker. His olive-toned complexion was the kind that instantly tanned in the sun. Sunglasses covered his dark eyes, but Mariah could picture them anyway; by this time, she knew them almost as well as her own. His black hair was reasonably neat, but even through her opera glasses, she could see the heavy grain of his night beard. Franklin shaved after running.

She sighed. She hated it when his beautiful facial structure was obscured by stubble.

The two runners stopped. They were too far away for Mariah to hear, so she narrated what she thought they were saying.

“Ma’am, you dropped your key ring,” she intoned in an impression of Franklin’s voice, as he waved a hand to get Bella’s attention.

Bella stopped running and pulled out an earbud. Mariah squeaked, “Oh, my headphones, they play music, you know? Thank you so much for picking up my keys! Bye!”

Meet-Cute established.

Now for the trickiest part of the plan. Chad, radio sign Jogger Mugger, was supposed to “grab” her once Franklin returned her keys and they turned their separate ways. Bella would need to scream loud enough to get Franklin to turn back around.

Mariah jumped at what sounded like a tornado siren ripping through the quiet neighborhood. She hadn’t needed to worry about Bella’s ability to project her voice! The screech was so loud that it triggered a car alarm and neighbors began to pour out of their houses to see what was going on.

“Blast!” She allowed herself a moment to panic, and so missed much of the scuffle taking place down the block. The cops had likely been called. Should she bail, or try to save her teammate who was being framed for attempted assault?

Mariah squared her shoulders. She knew what she had to do.

“Chad—Chaz!” She quickly adjusted his name for anonymity and ran towards the action, screaming in a southern accent: “Chaz!”

The crowd of homeowners and gardeners who were gathered around the two runners and would-be-mugger parted for the hysterical blue-haired woman in the large plastic sunglasses. She could now see her beefy accomplice sitting on the ground, his hands tied together with what appeared to be a shoelace.

“Chaz, there you are! What’s going on? Why are you on the ground?” She turned to Bella and drawled, “My great-nephew is having a medication adjustment. He got away from me when I turned my back for five minutes! I’m so sorry if he scared you!”

Chad shot Mariah a disapproving look, but played along with her improvisation. Bella giggled and also adapted with surprising professionalism. “It’s okay. I was scared, yes! But I’m fine now.”

Franklin seemed to stare for a moment at the blue-haired southern woman, then he raised his eyes to the sky and started muttering, as if praying for patience.

Mouth tight with displeasure, he reached down a hand, dragged Chad the Jogger Mugger up and began untying the complicated knot around his wrists. “Sorry I punched you—” he paused to look at Mariah and said with emphasis, “—right in the face.”

“Uh,” Chad began, but then trailed off, feeling unsure of what kind of response his current role required.

Shoelace removed and returned to his pocket, Franklin waved a hand. “Wonderful to meet you all. I’m going to finish my run.”

Mariah gaped at his retreating back as the sound of police sirens became apparent and started growing louder.

“Excuse me, sir,” she shrieked in her regular voice, forgetting that her character was from Georgia. “You punched my mentally ill relative in the face! I’m pressing charges!”


Gwendolyn Adair walked to work in one of the prettiest old neighborhoods in Detroit: Indian Village. Today was Tuesday, her favorite. On Tuesdays, she cleaned a yellow stone house belonging to Mr. Jonathan Bloomberg, a sweet older gentleman whose children were always stopping by to check on him. His oldest daughter had hired Gwen three months ago after seeing her flier in a local grocery store.

As Gwen neared the Bloombergs’ block, she spied flashing red and blue lights down a side street; a sight that was more unusual in this classy area than the one in which she resided. She wasn’t close enough to catch any words out of all the shouting voices, but a dark-haired man—who seemed to be the only one not yelling—was trying to reason with an officer while a woman ripped off a blue wig, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it viciously. Gwen almost laughed. What a firecracker! The woman had somehow fit shoulder-length white hair under that wig, and it now stuck out in every direction, just like the arms she waved around for emphasis.

Gwen shook her head in amusement and walked up the steps to the Bloombergs’ house. She was about to knock when the door swung open on its own.

“Oh, hi, Rachel!” Gwen smiled until she noticed Rachel Bloomberg didn’t seem pleased to see her at all.

“I’m so sorry about this, Gwen,” the forty-something-year-old woman exclaimed. “My little brother didn’t ask any of us, but he’s booked a different cleaning crew for the entire month! He already paid, even! Who does that?”

“Oh!” Gwen tried not to appear disappointed. “That’s okay. I will miss seeing you all but I hope you’ll call me again next month!”

“We will,” Rachel promised. “Men are such fools. He hired them because he saw them in an ad wearing French maid uniforms. They better not actually dress like that or Dad will have a heart attack. Can I pay your bus fare? I’m sorry, I was just about to call you when I saw you walking up.”

“No, thank you,” Gwen insisted. “I have a bus pass. Tell your dad I said hi.”

“I will. I’m so sorry about this!”

Gwen told her not to worry and walked back to the bus, a little nonplussed. Maybe she could add another house to her routine this month. She would just have to put up some new ads around the neighborhood.

She grimaced. But why did it have to be the Bloombergs? The rest of her house-cleaning clients were pains in the rear.

Well, a break was probably just what she needed today. She would go to the library and the rich people park and get some vitamin D before her evening shift. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise.

We hope you enjoyed chapter one of Don’t Stop Believing. Find DSB on Amazon, and read free with Kindle Unlimited!

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