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The Wish-List Wife/Made About Mindy ... And Mandy
By Barbara Dunlop Toni Blake
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I've decided to become a lesbian." Haley Roberts hooked her glue-sticky thumbs into the belt loops of her worn blue jeans and took a step back from her kitchen wall. There she could get a good look at the seam of her new wallpaper. "Excuse me?" Her older sister Laura looked up from the sink where she was scrubbing dried glue off her hands. "A lesbian," Haley repeated, tilting her head sideways and considering the matchup of a clover-leaf and stem. She'd given this a lot of thought. Getting men out of her life completely would solve so many problems. "That's ridiculous." Laura shut off the water and shook the excess droplets from her hands. A cool, summer night breeze gusted in through the kitchen window, dissipating the smell of glue. The seam was almost invisible, Haley decided. She rubbed her palms together and the rubbery adhesive balled up into little gray cylinders. "It's not ridiculous," she said, rattling her way into the hardware store bag for the next roll. She was through with men. She'd just moved into a brand-new house in a brand-new town. It was time for a fresh start. "Being a lesbian is a perfectly valid lifestyle choice these days," she asserted. "Sure it is," Laura agreed. "For actual lesbians." "What is a lesbian?" Haley brandished the vinyl roll in her sister's direction for emphasis. "If not a woman thoroughly sick and tired of relationships with men?" She reached up and ripped the cellophane off with a flourish. She'd chosen a beautiful wild-flower pattern. Very cheerful, very feminine. "Anyone would be tired of men after Tony and Raymond," said Laura, referring to Haley's last two loser boyfriends. "You simply need to develop better taste." "I have great taste," said Haley. "I matched you up with Kyle, remember?" She set aside the wallpaper roll and picked up her measuring tape from the scatter of tools on the kitchen table. "And you are but one of my success stories." Haley's lifelong obsession with romantic relationships had been a boon for her friends and family. It was only her own romantic life that went south with such regularity. But, a romantic life couldn't go south if it didn't exist. "True enough," Laura admitted, nodding her honey-blond head. "But when it comes to me." Haley set her jaw with determination and resolve. "I'm a jinx. And it's mentally unhealthy to keep looking for something that doesn't exist." There was no man in her life now, and she'd decided there never would be. No more looking for Mr. Right. No more matchmaking. No more obsession. "He exists, Haley." Laura's voice softened. "You just haven't found him yet." "Oh, I've found plenty of hims," Haley corrected. After all, man-hunting was practically a full-time hobby for well-bred Nelson girls. "And they all start out nice enough, but after a while their true nature shines through." Tony was involved in a cleaning product pyramid scheme - he wanted Haley to become a "distributor" and attend inspirational conferences with him in Florida. And, Raymond - well, Raymond had a relationship with his domineering mother that still sent chills up Haley's spine. The really scary part was that she'd tried so desperately to make each of the relationships work. "So, you're telling me you're going to have relationships with women instead?" Laura folded her arms, leaned back against the countertop and arched a shapely eyebrow. Even in the midst of wallpapering, her makeup and short hairstyle looked perfect. "Why not? Women are nice. I like women. I hug them all the time." Laura's mouth tightened in the beginnings of a grin. "And you're going to start kissing them now?" "Sure." Haley shrugged. "On the mouth?" Haley repressed a small shudder as she stepped up to the wall. "Okay, so there are a couple of flaws in my plan." Laura made a condescending sound behind her. "I don't have to be in a relationship," said Haley. After noting the measurement for the final wallpaper panel, she reeled in the metal tape with a snap then turned and picked up her pencil from the countertop. Crouching down, she sent the paper sprawling across the linoleum floor. "There are plenty of lesbians who aren't actually in relationships." "So ... what ... you'll be a nonpracticing lesbian?" Lauren stepped forward to anchor the wallpaper roll while Haley measured. "Right." "Can't wait to tell Mom." Haley ignored that, continuing with her own train of thought. "Then, when a man says, 'wanna come upstairs and see my etchings?' I'll simply say, 'no, thank you, I'm a lesbian.'" Nipping new relationships in the bud would save a whole lot of time. Laura burst out laughing. Then she quickly stifled the sound, glancing in the direction of the staircase that led to where Haley's daughter, Belinda, and Laura's two daughters were asleep upstairs. "What if they offer to cure you?" "They won't. I wouldn't be worth their trouble." Haley frowned at her paint-spattered T-shirt. The messy sister, she was hardly what anyone would call a hot babe. And, as a professional potter, she looked like this all the time. "I've decided I will no longer let men impact on either me or Belinda," she continued. Since her husband's death five years earlier, Haley had worked hard to provide stability in her daughter's life. But Belinda was nine years old now. Old enough to understand about dating. Old enough to know that when mommy went out with a strange man he might someday become part of their lives. (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Wish-List Wife/Made About Mindy ... And Mandy by Barbara Dunlop Toni Blake 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.