Performance Artist, Argyle Brink, lives his life as one big art exhibit. No matter if he is hatching from a gilded egg to show his emergence as a new persona, or donning a suit of mirrors to reflect reality back to his audience, he never misses an opportunity to take a chance and stand by his convictions. Only one thing has eluded him…fame.
In order to save her family’s estate, Malone Summersfield must never return to England. After conning an art critic into taking her across the pond as his fiancée, she thinks her life will be smooth sailing. However, when the man’s wife enters the picture, she realizes the con is all on her, and she needs to get married now. When the strange, yet handsome, performance artist offers to marry her for the price of co-starring in his reality show, she figures she’ll give it a go and become a living art piece.
The show takes on a life of its own, gaining ratings from the sparks between the two stars. Airing everything from their dirty laundry, to public sex in an abandoned zoo, and even living off the grid in a micro house, nothing is off limits. However, when the INS decides to investigate their marriage further, and Argyle uses their predicament to broaden his art, Malone wonders if she will ever come first in his life.
With their marriage, their show, and her citizenship at stake, the two must decide if the ultimate truth lies in the art or in their love.
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Kim Carmichael began writing twelve years ago when her love of happy endings inspired her to create her own. She has a weakness for bad boys and techno geeks, and married her own computer whiz after he proved he could keep her all her gadgets running. When not writing, she can usually be found slathered in sunscreen trolling Los Angeles and helping top doctors build their practices.
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“Yes, that is why we are sitting here. Get to it.” Sam lifted his fork and pointed at his wife.
Malone noticed no one touched the huge pile of fresh bagels. Though her stomach rumbled, she waited.
Bubbie stacked all the plates in front of her. She cut a bagel, put the cream cheese on it and then passed the dish to Judy.
Judy then unwrapped some brown paper holding a smoked fish. She peeled back the skin and proceeded to stick her fingers in the fish, squeezing each piece before placing it on the bagel.
Once the bagel was layered with the fish, she handed the plate to her husband. “Here it’s all squeezed.”
“It’s only good after it’s been squeezed.” Sam lifted his bagel half. “L’chaim.”
Judy then proceeded to do the same with Argyle’s bagel.
Malone could only stare at the scene before her. Not only did Argyle not complain, he bit into the bagel as if it were some great delicacy. Well, she made a lousy wife—she never squeezed any of Argyle’s food before he ate it. Maybe she needed to pre chew it as well.
Judy went to plate three and began her bizarre ritual of squeezing the fish. “Ah ha!” She held up the thinnest of bones. “Look, this is why I have to squeeze the fish.”
Everyone around the table grunted or nodded.
“This could get stuck in your throat, God forbid.” The fact the woman found a bone caused her to really put effort into the last few squeezes before handing Malone her plate.
They all echoed the God forbid.
Malone looked down at her bagel and over at her husband. The irritation of having his art interrupted seemed quelled by a bagel with squeezed fish. She only wished her mother could witness what just transpired. The woman would probably faint or drop dead, no God forbid required. Well, for better or worse or for squeezed fish, she was one of them and she took a bite. Smokey deliciousness coupled with the creamy cheese all delivered on a perfectly chewy bagel filled her mouth. Unsure if the taste sensation was due to the fish squeezing or not, all she knew was she would never take the chance to have fish that wasn’t squeezed. Maybe it made the flavors meld together or something.
Before she had the chance to finish her bagel, another half was put on her plate as well as a scoop of fruit. She supposed that made it healthy. In a show of solidarity, she lifted her bagel. “Long live squeezed fish.”
Judy and Bubbie both beamed at her.
“So tell me about the graphics for the hospital newsletter.” Sam polished off a second bagel. “I have to get it on press.”
“Must we talk about this right now?” Argyle shoved nearly a quarter of a bagel in his mouth.
“You said to act normal. This is my normal question.” Sam shrugged.
Before she had the chance to shoot Argyle a look, show Sam the pictures she drew for the piece, or even say a word, another knock came at the door.
Her body trained, she tensed at the sound.
“In a day of everything being electronic,” Argyle said in his performance voice, “it is refreshing to see a human touch now and again.” Argyle pushed back from the table and went to the door.
“Registered letter for Malone Summersfield Brink.” An official voice interrupted her squeezed fish and her heart seized.
Sam threw down his napkin and twisted around in his chair. “Shouldn’t she be Malone Feinstein?”
The cameras turned toward the door.
Argyle signed for the letter and shut the door and held the letter up. “Mother, you asked about cameras before?”
On automatic and with her body heating, she stood. What did a registered letter mean? The good news was with a letter she would have time to react, plan properly.
“Here’s proof that everyone, everything, every action is under scrutiny.” Argyle held his hand out to Malone.
She reached for her one lifeline. “What is it?”
With his normal drama, he managed to open the letter and give it a quick scan. Before she even had a chance to blink, he crumpled the page in his hand. “The Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services needs Malone and I to file more forms.”
At the mention of the feared agency, her stomach tumbled. The squeezed fish threatened to reappear in a not fit for film moment.
“Forms.” Argyle dragged her over to the scale. “Applications, signatures. The world has this need to make things official. My wife and I got married, we have a license, and we will not be part of further red tape meant to complicate something so very simple.”
What did the INS want? What form? What happened if they didn’t fill it out? What happened if they did?
“Balance!” He tossed the letter on the scale and slammed one of his weights on top of it. The dish slammed to the floor. “There has to be balance, and my wife and I are going to get that balance.”
Once more he lifted the letter, now crumpled mess, and tore it into a ton of little pieces. “We will remain balanced in our marriage because we are together.” He took her hand, led her to the window and tossed the pieces out. “Balance. That is art.”
Malone watched the pieces float away. She prayed her husband didn’t just risk everything for the sake of his art. Balance was one thing, but they were anything but balanced.
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