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The Girl Most Likely To ...
By Dorien Kelly
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDana Devine didn't believe in revelations. That is, until her personal epiphany arrived in the form of carrot cake. "Let me get this straight," she said to her best friend, Hallie Whitman. "You think this cake I whipped up is better than sex?" Hallie set down her fork and subtly pushed her slice toward the center of Dana's kitchen table. "Maybe just the cream cheese frosting ..." Dana drew a deep breath. With luck, the mingled scents of cinnamon and freshly brewed coffee would have a sedative effect. Otherwise, someone was going to have to die. Hallie had activities other than baking to fire up her nights. Dana, however, had occupied herself most of the past year with the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Recently, she had moved on to cakes. She had never imagined the day would come when thoughts of rich, dark chocolate and lighter-than-air angel food cake would make her feel sick and lonely, but there you had it. "I know this is going to be a stretch for you, with your blissful newlywed attitude, but pretend you can bake yourself a big, fat carrot cake any night of the week. Now imagine you haven't had sex in, say ... almost a year." "Oh, Dana ..." "Let's up the ante," Dana said, flicking the edge of her plate with one fingernail. "Now I'm talking devil's food cake. And frosting made with the best Swiss cocoa I can get my hands on. What then? Would you take the cake or the sex?" "I'm dead no matter how I answer this, aren't I?" Dana sighed and absently ran her fingers through her short blond hair. "It's not like you can help it. After all, you married the guy of your dreams. But you know it's tough on those of us with a choice between carrot cake and ... carrot cake. It's been six months today since my divorce was final and - and -" Dammit! She was crying. Dana detested feeling sorry for herself. It wasn't as though she missed her ex-husband, Mike. After all, it was tough to miss a guy who'd been unfaithful before he had to decide on that traditional paper first-anniversary gift. Dana had presented him with some paper of his own - a divorce complaint. Hallie pushed away from the table and retrieved a box of tissues from the counter. She handed one to Dana. "Are you okay?" Dana wiped her eyes then rid herself of the tissue as if it were a smoking gun. "I'm fine. Really." At her friend's disbelieving scoff, she added, "I guess I'm a little tired." Hallie accepted that, at least. "No shock, with the hours you've been keeping lately." Life in their hometown of Sandy Bend, Michigan, generally made for a skewed existence of empty winters and wild summers. A sleepy town nestled between the Crystal River and the sugary dunes of Lake Michigan, Sandy Bend had been "discovered" by wealthy city-dwellers from Chicago seeking a more relaxed pace. Each summer, growing numbers of them packed the town. Enormous shoreline vacation homes were gradually replacing quaint cottages. Trendy boutiques occupied formerly vacant storefronts. Some longtime residents resented the influx of both cash and trunk-slammers, as the weekend residents were called. Dana wasn't upset. She could sniff out an opportunity at fifty paces and design the perfect plan to seize it. Dana was big on plans. After all, a girl needed to be prepared. Her current plan filled half a notebook and most of her waking thoughts. She'd been working at a frantic rate to expand her hair salon into a full-service day spa to cater to the summer population. It was only late February, but already she felt as though she were running out of time. Dana said as much to Hallie. "What's the point of having the day spa done if you're too exhausted to run it?" Hallie asked before digging into that cake she found better than sex. Dana moved her piece aside. She wasn't very hungry, at least not for cake. "Tell you what, I'll be my own first customer." "Very funny." Seeking neutral ground, Dana asked Hallie for more detail on the mural she was planning for the Eden Room, one of several private spa rooms Dana was adding to Devine Secrets. It wasn't as though she was really worried about the design; Hallie was a fabulous artist. As her pal moved on to other topics, Dana lapsed into silence and served up another slice of cake. She was feeling pretty absurd for letting loose on Hallie about Mike. While Hallie wasn't directly involved, she wasn't a disinterested party, either. Back in high school, Hallie had been Mike's date for the senior class bonfire. It had been a one-time thing - Hallie had been trying to get over a crush on wealthy and older Steve Whitman, who was now her husband. Mike was being a total ass, and trying to prove to Dana, whom he had a thing for, that she wasn't the only girl he could get. Dana had taken the bait, just as he'd planned. One thing had led to another, and Hallie had stumbled on the two of them in the midst of a fully naked "apology" session in the back of Mike's car. Hallie had treated them to a beer bath, then escaped. Dana had carried a case of the guilts over the incident until this past summer, when Hallie had returned to Sandy Bend after several years away. Hallie and Steve Whitman had fallen in love, and Dana and Hallie had made their peace and become true friends. Theirs was Sandy Bend's most unlikely friendship, which made Dana cherish Hallie all the more. Hallie pointed her fork at Dana. "You're not listening to a word I'm saying." Dana winced. "Guilty as charged." "I was saying that you need to focus on something other than work for a while." With only the shortest pause, she added, "Have I mentioned that Cal broke up with Linda Curry last week?" "Several times." Cal was Hallie's older brother, and somewhere along the line, Hallie had decided that her purpose in life was to nudge Dana in Cal's direction. Dana was pretty sure her purpose in life was to steer clear of Cal Brewer. Being around him made her crazy - and not a good kind of crazy, either. "You know, I'm sure all you two need is -" Dana reached across the table and hijacked Hallie's carrot cake. "Hey, give that back!" Hallie made a grab, but Dana was too quick. "No way. You can have it when you agree to stop talking about Cal." The mutinous set of Hallie's jaw battled with her yearning expression as she eyed the carrot cake. "Fine, no more Cal," she finally agreed. Dana slid the cake halfway back. "Promise?" Hallie seized her plate. "At least until the cake's gone, I promise. Here's a non-Cal question for you.... When was the last time you got away?" It was one thing for Dana to dwell on the rotten state of her life. It was another to admit to it aloud. "Counting the hair show in New York?" "The one last fall where you got food poisoning and didn't make it out of your hotel room? No dice." "Okay, not counting New York, it was when I went Christmas shopping in Grand Rapids." "A couple of hours down the road to shop isn't much of a vacation, but it's better than nothing." Dana couldn't help the smug smile working its way across her face. (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Girl Most Likely To ... by Dorien Kelly Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.