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She gave up on family a long time ago. Now she’s been ‘adopted’, is there anything she wouldn’t do to protect those brave enough to take her on? Heck no there isn’t!

     Brenda Munroe was mercenary even as a child. It was that or going hungry, or worse. From stealing school lunches, she’d moved onto bigger, better and even legal things. Life is finally looking up for her when her carefully created world comes crashing down. Stuck thousands of miles from home and broke, it’s going to take every ounce of her street smarts to survive this time.
     Strapped for cash — and with a real aversion to the old nine-to-five — Brenda opens a residential school for girls, teaching them in weeks what it’s taken her years to master. Namely, how to get by on good looks and a bucket-load of charm.
     Will her students be the only ones learning new skills, or will Brenda finally understand family’s about a whole lot more than the blood relations you’ve been lumbered with? 
     Strapped for Cash is a rollicking, laugh-out-loud book for any woman who’s ever wanted to take life by the scruff of the neck and shake the heck out of it.

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Chapter 1

All this effing white! Jeez, Martin might just as well have popped his clogs already. Cue the sodding harp music.

     Brenda hates hospitals with a passion and adding to this misery, her arse hurts, thanks to a chair designed to ensure any visit is brief. It hasn’t been upholstered: the bloody thing’s been panelbeaten.

     Holding the clammy hand of her elderly lover, Martin McGowan, she can’t help but feel responsible for his current condition. It had been her idea to try that particular position and it was only due to her rough and ready mouth-to-mouth that he hadn’t snuffed it on the spot. Although, he’d assured her while they were waiting for the ambulance that he wouldn’t have minded kicking the bucket in such a spectacular fashion.

     A vision in white pops her head inside the door of Martin’s private room. “She’s on her way.”

     “Bloody hell, I’d better go.” Brenda disengages her hand and is unable to stop herself from wiping it on her jeans. A quick kiss to Martin’s forehead confirms this is also covered in a fine sheen of cold sweat, though how anyone could feel chilly in Melbourne in the middle of a stinking hot February is beyond her. If anything, it feels even hotter inside the air-conditioned hospital than it had outside where there had at least been a lacklustre breeze.

     Thoughts of longer goodbyes are forestalled when they both hear Mrs McGowan’s strident tones at the other end of the ward, already ordering people about.

     “You’d better go or we might have another heart attack on our hands,” says Martin, grimacing.

     Brenda isn’t sure if he’s referring to his harridan of a missus or if he’s experiencing more chest pains. Either way, she punches the call button before hightailing it out of the room, managing to disappear into the patient lounge just along from his room without being spotted.

     Waiting in hopes that Mrs McGowan’s visit will be of the brief variety, Brenda stares out the large window that allows unforgiving light to flood the room. If it hadn’t been an emergency, Brenda doubts Martin would be in a public hospital but the ambulance had come here and so here he stays. His bitch of a wife hasn’t stopped living up to her reputation since the first hospital corner had been tucked in using a T-square and protractor.

     She’s flipped through all the women’s magazines and is down to reading pamphlets on prostate health before she decides to bail. Bloody woman’s arse cheeks must be iron.

     After a steadying breath, she readies to make good on her escape, releasing her long, dark hair from the ponytail high up on the back of her head and draping it artfully around her face. Pulling her jacket on to cover her skimpy red boob tube, with head down, she hurries past Martin’s glass-windowed room as fast as her platform shoes and ankle-trapping flares will allow. It’s not that she’s worried about having a showdown with Mrs McGowan but she’d prefer to avoid anything that might upset Martin.

     She’d take that cow on in a heartbeat.

   

     Taking a quick sneaky peek into Martin’s room as she speeds past, she’s pleased to see a nurse taking his pulse. If nothing else, this will gag the pile of crimplene and pearls that’s spread like cottage cheese over the visitor’s chair.

     Brenda’s surprised at how upset she is over Martin’s ill-health. Sure, he’d started out as a meal ticket, but she’s come to care for the old codger. Even the sex hadn’t been too bad, although she’ll be cautious about that in the future. It wasn’t as if either of them wanted to risk necrophilia.

     Near the double doors fronting the ward, she hears Mrs McGowan’s cut-glass tones. “For goodness sake, if you haven’t managed to find a pulse by now, he doesn’t have one.”

     Freezing, Brenda listens hard. Unable to hear the nurse’s response, she retraces her footsteps to one side of the door to Martin’s room. On hearing him trying to placate his wife, she slumps back against the wall.

     “How much longer must I suffer visiting my husband in this, this …?”

     Brenda can clearly envisage the expression that must be pasted on the woman’s face. It’s the ‘poo under the nose’ look she uses at the least provocation and Brenda’s borne the brunt of it in the past. So what if she was caught swimming in the McGowan’s pool in her undies? Martin hadn’t given a hoot.

     The distinctive rattle of the clipboard being unhooked from the end of Martin’s bed follows, then the sound of charts being flipped.

“It looks as though it’ll be another week,” says the nurse, her voice firm. She adds “Maybe even longer,” and Brenda hears a touch of glee.

     “For goodness sake, this simply won’t do! I’m going to arrange a transfer right now.”

     The visitor’s chair screeches in relief and Brenda knows she’ll never make it out of the ward in time. Luckily there’s a door right behind her and, without hesitation, she opens it, walks in and closes it quietly before sliding to the side so she’s not visible through the tall skinny viewing pane. Her hopes that the room is vacant are dashed when a creaky and rather hopeful voice says, “Are you here to give me my enema?”

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