In this snippet from A Swan's Sweet Song, country singer Sherry Valentine is surrounded by 'fans'. However, her manager, the manipulative Charlie Bacon, is attempting to arrange a romance with writer Carston Hewlett.

  “Well, Chicken, listen to this.” Charlie pulled the habitual, wet cigar out of his mouth — something he only did when about to say something of the greatest importance. “What’s better than a personal connection with a big-shot playwright? A few magazine articles linking your names, a few intimate dinners, and there you are." His face was sausage red. “Wonderful!”

  “Charlie, if you dare, just dare, I’ll strangle you. But very slowly and painfully.”

  “What’s wrong with my plan?” He wasn’t in the least discouraged.

  “What’s wrong? I don’t know Carston Hewlett at all, but I can assure you he comes from another world. Not from ours. The cheap publicity you’re thinking about would render him hostile, and the plan would backfire. I know it.”

“You finished?”

“Not until I’ve made myself clear: back off, Charlie Bacon.”

Because… what if something, something soft, something delicate… something intense… was about to flower? But when Charlie started his meddling, it would be destroyed. Show business gossip, show business publicity, those things wreaked hell on personal relationships: she’d seen it happen too many times.

  Charlie shrugged, his face expressionless. Sherry watched him with growing anguish. Charlie with a plan was a man obsessed, and neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night would stay him from his appointed goal. Perhaps pretending indifference was the best tactic? Or a silly diversion of some kind?

“Guess what, Charlie? Inside information has it there’s a surplus of Easter bunny costumes here in Midville. How about a concert in drag?” Had she been a little heavy on the champagne?

Charlie snorted but didn’t bat an eyelid. “All depends on the color. The “Boys” look like hell in pink. Find horse costumes and you’re on.”

      “Horses? Did I hear you talking about horses?” A tall and lusty-looking rancher had moved in. Towering over Sherry, his hot eyes traveled, with precision, over her figure in the tight jeans and fringed shirt. He licked his lips in an equine way.

Two seconds later, an older state senator had also appeared and was soon trying to convince Sherry that connecting up would be an excellent idea: just think of the publicity it would generate. Right now, though, he seemed particularly interested in a connection with her left ear lobe.

     “We’ll spend the day out at my place tomorrow,” the rancher insisted. “I’ll pick you up at two. Dress for riding and you’ll see the finest countryside this area has to offer. And I own all of it.” His leer left little doubt about what he hoped the day’s activities really would be.

     “I’m terrified of horses,” said Sherry. At least that was true enough.

      “If we just slip away,” the senator whispered. He was standing so close, if she turned, they’d do mouth-to-mouth respiration. “I know just the place for a very intimate dinner.”

     “Sounds great, Senator. Charlie Bacon and my “Boys” will be thrilled to bits. They love eating and they’re heavily into intimacy.”

    “No one could be afraid of horses.” The rancher chuckled.

Sherry shook her head with mock sorrow. “Childhood trauma. My uncle once called my aunt an old nag, and she broke his leg with one swing of her left hoof, size ten.”

The senator pushed another glass into her hand. “Sexy ears. Anyone ever tell you that?”

      “Only male rabbits.”

       “I raise the best beef cattle this side of the country,” the rancher cut in. “Wait until you see the size and quality of the steak I’m going to feed you.”

      “Sorry. Steak’s out. I’m a vegetarian.”

   The rancher stopped, thrown off his stride for a minute. “You must be joking.”

       “Absolutely not,” Sherry answered soberly. “I believe in animal rights.”

       “But animals hunt other animals down.” The rancher guffawed triumphantly.

       “Show me a cow that hunts and I’ll eat my hat. Or a steak, if it comes down to it.”

     “Miss Valentine prefers chewing hay. She confided that to me yesterday evening.” The voice, deep and lazy, sliced into the conversation. Carston. Sherry turned. How long had he been standing there? Those remarkable grey eyes were dancing. So he’d been watching her and her predicament with open, raw amusement. She felt absolutely blissful.

A Swan's Sweet Song:

Smart-talking Sherry Valentine has fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Now, ever in the limelight, surrounded by clamoring fans, male admirers, and paparazzi, her spangled cowboy boots carry her from one brightly lit stage to the next. But Sherry's been on the star circuit for far too long now, and she wants a change: is it too late for her to begin an acting career?
  A renowned, but reclusive playwright, Carston Hewlett cherishes his freedom, the silence of the deep woods surrounding his home, and his solitary country walks. Long-term commitments have been out of the question for many years, so why is he fascinated by a flashy country music singer? Perhaps a very short, but passionate, fling will resolve the problem.
  When their names are linked in the scandal press, and Sherry's plans to become an actress are revealed, Carston is furious. Is their budding relationship doomed?


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