Read The Kiss Test Online

Authors: Shannon McKelden

The Kiss Test

The Kiss Test
By Shannon McKelden
Margo Gentry’s life is perfect. She loves her job as a DJ for Manhattan’s only country music station, and she has a great boyfriend who accepts her need to avoid marriage and tolerates her Elvis obsession—even the velvet Elvis painting in their bedroom.

But then it all falls apart. The radio station changes formats and fires all the DJs. Margo's boyfriend decides he wants kids and a house in the suburbs and kicks her to the curb. And to top it all off, her Mom is getting married—for the 11th time!—and expects Margo to be there as maid of honor.

With no job and no place to live, Margo has to bunk on the couch of her best friend, Chris, whose revolving bedroom door has played host to half the women in New York—at least, the ones who pass his “kiss test.” Worse, he’s insisting she attend her mother’s wedding, and he’s personally driving her cross-country to ensure she shows up.

Forget about surviving the road trip—can their friendship survive The Kiss Test?

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Dedication
As always, for my family, Jon, Jessie and JM, who stand by me when the writing gets crazy. I love you all!

For Gina Bernal, my editor, who worked so hard to make this book better, while making the process so painless for me, I may actually be able to write another book.

For everyone at Harlequin’s Carina Press, especially Angela James and Malle Vallik, who bring so much enthusiasm to Carina Press that even those of us completely new to the e-publishing industry feel right at home.

And last, but not least, for the King. Researching
The Kiss Test
gave me an excuse to listen to almost every song Elvis ever recorded. His talent was amazing and should never be forgotten. Thanks, Elvis, for letting me borrow your song titles to title my chapters!

Contents
Chapter One
“All Shook Up”
“Don't Be Cruel” blared from the alarm clock.
Kevin groaned beside me.
He
thought it was cruel to have Elvis blasting out at him at three-thirty every morning. He wanted a “normal” alarm. And he had one—set for three hours from now, when it was time for
him
to get up. This one was all mine.

As always, Elvis also accompanied me in the shower. I lathered, rinsed and repeated to “Hard-Headed Woman,” which Kevin deemed more than appropriate, since I wouldn’t give up my morning Elvis fix. On weekends, I’d drag Kevin into the shower with me, soaping him down, fittingly, to “Release Me,” and he’d stop protesting my musical choices. At least for a moment.

Thanks to a timer the coffee pot was full and hot by the time I was dry and dressed. Checks, Kevin’s multicolored cat, waited somewhat impatiently for his breakfast, which today he decided would include chunks of my cream-cheese-slathered New York bagel. He attacked and devoured it like I imagine he’d partake of a mouse meal had there been any in our tenth-floor Manhattan apartment.

This was my favorite time of day. Well, my whole life was pretty much my favorite. I’d worked hard over the past few years to get everything the way it was. I had a great job as Margo in the Morning, the a.m. DJ for WKUP, Wake Up 107, a country radio station housed in the Empire State Building. We liked to joke that WKUP was for people who were country at heart but afraid of farm animals. I had a great market share, enjoyed near-celebrity status among New York City country music listeners and had the privilege of meeting many of my favorite country artists every week.

I had a boyfriend who loved sex, remembered to put the toilet seat down and didn’t pressure me to get married—a definite not-gonna-happen in my book. We lived in a terrific apartment—complete with elevator
and
doorman—on the edge of Chelsea, surrounded by Kevin’s modestly elegant decor and my Elvis collection.

I loved New York—running in Central Park, Broadway matinees (so I didn’t have to dress up) and meeting friends for drinks at our favorite sports bar. I loved the traffic, the noise, the variety of people. I loved the fact that my mother lived in California.

I simply loved my life.

At four-thirty, I dragged on a lightweight sweat jacket, shoved my feet into sneakers and gave the Elvis bobblehead on the hall table a tap. He’d been my good-luck charm since winning him on eBay six months ago. Some people rubbed Buddha’s belly; I whacked Elvis upside the head to watch his pelvic gyrations.

Though the sky over Manhattan was still dark, the sidewalks were bright with lights from the buildings, as was typical for the pre-crack of dawn in mid-June. It was five long blocks to work, and the brisk walk in the still-chilled air warmed me up. I dodged the other Type A personalities headed for work before most people even thought of opening their eyes, and spent the time going over any exciting news I’d read or heard in the past twenty-four hours, which would serve as fodder for my program. I went for fresh and hip on Margo in the Morning.

Two blocks from work my cell phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Margo? Honey, is that you?”

“Mom? Mom, it’s—” I squinted at my watch as I passed a lighted store front, “It’s 1:35 a.m. in California. What’s wrong?”

“I know what time it is, Margo. I have a watch.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Then why are you calling so early?”

“I wanted to catch you before you got to work.”

“Well, I’m almost there now. What’s going on?”

“I’m getting married.”

I froze in the middle of crossing 34th Street.

I paused to count marriages with my fingers. On both hands. Oops, no, we needed a
toe
for this one.

A cab blared its horn and grazed my calf with its fender, prompting me out of my shock. I stepped onto the curb.

My mother was getting married. Again.

Why did this surprise me? This is why
I
would never get married. My mother had used up her quota of marriages
and
all of mine.

“Margo, did you hear me? I’m getting married.”

“I heard, Mom. Who is it this time?”

“Now don’t take that tone, dear.” She said it with no recrimination. My mother didn’t get angry. It would have been an insult to her gentle Southern upbringing.

“Tone? What tone would that be?”

The tone that says “I can’t believe she can’t live without a man for more than six months?”

The tone that says “I find it hard to believe she’s found ‘true love’
eleven
times?”

The tone that says “I’m pissed that she’s been married to more men than I’ve ever
slept
with?”

“The tone that tells me you’re not happy for me, honey. I’m in love. Be happy for me.”

She’s always in love, at least until they die, leave her for a younger woman or she gets bored and throws them out. Actually I’m not sure about the last two because I try to avoid the intimate details of my mother’s love life. Five husbands died from natural causes—or lost the will to live married to my mother. However, I’m not fully certain of the reasons behind the five divorces she’s racked up. Other than her divorce from my father, Husband Number One. I have to give her the benefit of the doubt on that one. It’s hard being married to a man who disappears off the face of the earth then shows up a year later claiming to have found God, the secret to crop circles and a new eighteen-year-old wife. Maybe that started my mom on this downhill cycle.

“Oh, sure, Mom. I’m happy for you.” Just like I’d been happy when she married (in no particular order) William, Coleman, Bert, Jim, Ray, Juan, Leonard, Dominic, uh…Oh hell, I hadn’t been happy when she married any of them. Who was I fooling?

Apparently my mother.

“Oh good, honey. I want you to come for the wedding.”

“You’re having a church wedding?” The last four or five had been hasty city-hall affairs. If she was the daughter and I the mother, I’d have been checking for a baby bump.

I stopped outside the Empire State Building and leaned against the chilled wall. I didn’t want to go up while still on the phone with my mother, as it was entirely possible I’d jump out an eighty-fifth floor window to put myself out of my misery.

“Of course, dear. Quinn is very religious.”

Quinn. I didn’t know anyone over the age of twenty named Quinn. Well, well. That would be something my mother hadn’t done before. She hadn’t yet robbed the cradle. There was always a first time.

“Doesn’t the church have something to say about you having been married so, uh, often?”

“I’m not sure. I’m sure it will be fine, though.” I could see her waving dismissively at anything that might upset her little dream world. “You’re coming, aren’t you, Margo? It’s going to be on the last Saturday in July. Of course, I’ll need you here a few days early to be fitted for the dress. We can go shopping and do lunch. It’ll be such fun!” She deafened me by clapping her hands directly in front of the speaker.

“A dress?”

“Your bridesmaid dress! I want you to be my maid of honor.”

Wow. That was a new one. “Why?”

“Because I love you and I want you by my side.”

This was a complete surprise to me. My mother had never asked me to stand up with her before. She so rarely had a church wedding, it hadn’t come up. Even when she did, she’d had a friend stand up with her or no one at all.

It was very suspicious.

“Mom, I probably can’t get the time off.”

Again, my mother didn’t want to hear what she didn’t want to hear, so she pretended I never said it. “Will you tell your brother, too, dear? I can’t ever seem to get Robert on the phone and he doesn’t have an answering machine.”

But he does have caller ID, I thought, reminding myself to explain to my brother—yet again—that I am not an only child and that he should be forced to talk to Mom, too.

“I’m afraid the only way to get his attention is with email, and you know how I am about things like that.”

“I’ll tell Rob. But, Mom, I don’t think I can—”

“Margo, I need to go. Quinn just got out of the shower and I’m not comfortable chatting with my daughter while he’s naked.”

I could have lived the rest of my life without that visual.

Before going on the air, I emailed my brother.
Mom’s getting married again. Not going. How ’bout you?

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