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The Scoop: The Godmothers #1

Fern Michaels

ISBN 9780758248343
Publish Date 9/1/2009
Format ePub
Categories Fiction General

The debut of a wonderful new series, The Scoop is #1 New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels’s introduction to The Godmothers, four unforgettable women who are about to get a whole new lease on life…

Teresa “Toots” Amelia Loudenberry has crammed a great deal of living—not to mention eight much-loved husbands—into her varied and rewarding life. Once again single, Toots is ready to taste life again, and fate has just handed her the perfect opportunity…

The owner of the gossip rag where Toots’s daughter works is about to lose the paper to his gambling debts. Eager to keep her daughter employed among the movers and shakers of Hollywood, Toots calls on her three trusted friends—Sophie, Mavis, and Ida—to help pull some strings. Together, they hatch a plan that proves you should never underestimate Southern ladies of a certain age, and that each day can be a gift, if you’re willing to claim it…

Praise for Fern Michaels and the Godmothers series

“Michaels's engaging version of the Golden Girls.” —Booklist

“Witty, charming, and complicated.” —RT Reviews

Chapter One

Charleston, South Carolina

It was an event, there was no doubt about it. Not that funerals were, as a rule, events, but when someone of Leland St. John’s stature bit the dust, it became one. The seven-piece string band playing in the downpour, per one of Leland’s last wishes, had turned it into an event regardless of what else was going on in the world.

Then there was the tail end of Hurricane Blanche, which was unleashing torrents of rain upon the mourners huddled under the dark blue tent and only added to the circuslike atmosphere.

“Will you just get on with it,” Toots Loudenberry mumbled under her breath. She continued to mutter and mumble as the minister droned on and on. “No one is as good as you’re making Leland sound. All you know is what I told you, and I sure as hell didn’t tell you all that crap you’re spouting. He was a selfish, rich, old man. End of story.”

Toots’s daughter leaned closer to her mother and tried to whisper through the thick veil covering her mother’s head and ears. “Can’t you hurry it along? It’s not like this is the first time you’ve done this. Isn’t this the seventh or eighth husband you’ve buried? I’m damn glad that preacher said his name, or I wouldn’t even know who it is that’s being planted. I gotta say, Mom, you outdid yourself with all these flowers.”

Toots rose to the occasion and stepped forward, cutting the minister off in midsentence. “Thank you, Reverend.” She wanted to say his check was in the mail, but she bit her tongue as she took a step forward and laid her wilted rose on top of the bronze coffin. She stepped aside so the other mourners could follow her out from under the temporary tent, which was open on all four sides. She stepped in water up to her ankles, cursed ripely, and sloshed her way to the waiting limousine, which would take her back home. “That’s just like you, Leland. Why couldn’t you have waited one more week, and the rainy season would have been over? Now my shoes are ruined. So is my hat, as well as my suit. Too bad you don’t know how much this outfit cost. If you did, you would have waited another week to die. You always were selfish. See what all that selfishness got you. You’re dead.”

“What are you mumbling about, Mom?”

Toots slid into the limousine and kicked off her sodden shoes. Her black mourning hat followed. She looked over at her daughter, Abby, who looked like a drowned rat, and said, “Of all my husbands, I liked Leland the least. I resent having to attend his funeral under these conditions. He was my only mistake. But one out of eight, I suppose, isn’t too bad.”

Abby reached for a wad of paper napkins next to the champagne bottle that seemed to come with all limousines. “Why didn’t you just crisp him up?”

Toots sighed. “I wanted to, but Leland said in his will that he wanted to be buried with that damn string band playing music. One has to honor a person’s last wishes. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t honor his, even if he was a jerk?”

“Don’t you mean if you didn’t honor those last wishes, what’s-his-name’s money would have gone to the polar bears in the Arctic?”

“That, too.” Toots sighed.

The woman born Teresa Amelia Loudenberry, Toots to her friends, stared at her daughter. “How long are you staying, dear?”

“I have a four o’clock flight. I left Chester with a sitter, and Chester does not like sitters. There’s just enough time for me to grab something to eat at your post feast, change into dry clothes, and get outta here. Can’t you hear California calling my name? Don’t look at me like that, Mom. I didn’t even know that guy you married. I met him at your wedding, and that’s the sum total of our relationship. If I remember correctly, you said he was a charmer. I expected a charmer. I did not get a charmer. I’m just saying.”

“Maybe I should have said snake charmer,” Toots said vaguely. “Leland was like this gorgeously wrapped present that when opened was quite . . . tacky. I was stunned, but I did marry the man, so I had to make the best of it. He’s gone now, so perhaps we shouldn’t speak ill of him. I’ll mourn for ten days for the sake of appearance, then get on with my life. I’m going to find a hobby to keep myself busy. I’m sick and tired of doing good deeds. Anyone can do good deeds. Anyone can garden and grow one-of-a-kind roses. I need to do something that will make a difference, something challenging. Something I can really sink my teeth into. That’s another thing. Leland wore dentures. He kept them in a cup in the bathroom at night. I could never get used to that. He wasn’t very good in bed, either.”

“That’s probably more than I need to know, Mom.”

“I’m just saying, Abby. I don’t want you to think your old mom is callous. You have to admit I did have seven happy marriages. I should have hung up my garter belt when Dolph died. Did I do that? No, I did not. I let Leland sweep me off my feet, dentures and all. Sometimes life is so unfair.

“That’s enough of a pity party for me. Tell me how it’s going out there in sunny California. How’s the job going? What’s the latest hot gossip, and who is doing what to whom in Hollywood?”

Abby Simpson, Toots’s daughter by her first husband, John Simpson, the absolute love of Toots’s life, was a reporter for a second-rate tabloid, The Informer, based in Los Angeles. She was a second-string runner, which meant she had to hit the pavement and find her own stories, then elaborate on them for the public’s insatiable appetite for Hollywood gossip.

“Rodwell Archibald Godfrey, otherwise known as Rag to us underlings, called me into his office and told me he wants more product. I can’t make it happen if it isn’t out there. All the A-list papers seem to get the stories first. I think this is just another way of saying he is not happy with my work. I applied to the other tabloids, but they’re full up and not taking on anyone new. I’m doing my best. I just manage to make my mortgage payment every month and have enough left over to buy dog food. No, you cannot help me, Mom. I’m going to make it on my own, so let’s not go down that road. My break is coming, I can feel it. By the way, I brought a stack of future issues for you to read. I have stuff in all of them.”

“I can’t get used to the idea that you people make all that stuff up, then it happens. And you print weeks in advance of what’s happening,” Toots said.

Abby laughed. “It’s not quite that way, but you’re close. Well, we’re home, and you have guests. You really know how to throw a funeral, Mom.”

“Event, dear. Funeral is such a dreary word. It conjures up all kinds of dismal thinking.”

Abby laughed as she climbed out of the limo and marched up the steps to the wide veranda of her mother’s house.

Both women raced upstairs to change into dry clothing before they had to meet with the guests who would be coming by to pay their last respects.

Toots looked at herself in the long mirror in her room. Yes, she did look bedraggled, but wasn’t a widow supposed to look a little bedraggled? “Black is not my best color,” she muttered to herself as she tossed her mourning outfit into a heap on the floor in the bathroom. She donned another black dress, added a string of pearls, brushed out her hair, sprayed on some perfume, and felt refreshed enough to go downstairs and socialize for an hour or so.

Burying the dead was so time-consuming. Even the aftermath took an eternity. All she wanted to do was retire to her sitting room to read the pile of tabloids Abby had brought with her. Not for the world would Toots ever admit that she was addicted to tabloid gossip. But for now, she had a duty to perform, and perform it she would. She had all evening to read her treasured tabloids and guzzle a little wine while doing so. She’d drink to Leland, and that would be the end of this chapter in her life.

Time to move on. Something she was very good at.

About Fern Michaels:

Fern Michaels is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Sisterhood, Men of the Sisterhood and Godmothers series, and dozens of other novels and novellas. There are over ninety-five million copies of her books in print. Fern Michaels has built and funded several large day-care centers in her hometown, and is a passionate animal lover who has outfitted police dogs across the country with special bulletproof vests. She shares her home in South Carolina with her four dogs and a resident ghost named Mary Margaret. Visit her website at fernmichaels.com.

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