A Perfect Life? by Dawn Atkins released on Feb 23, 2004 is available now for purchase.
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A Perfect Life?
By Dawn Atkins
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"SO,CLAIRE QUINN, it says on this card you're in love. That right?"
"Huh?" Claire pressed the phone to her ear and squinted at her bedside clock, wondering who the hell was calling about her love life at 7:15 a.m. This early, she hardly knew her own name.
"Frank and Phil here, Radio K-BUZ, double-eleven on your dial," the lush voice answered. "How are you this fine morning? On the one-week countdown to Valentine's Day."
"Asleep," she mumbled. "And you?"
"Oh, we're just fine. But not as fine as you're going to be."
"Why is that? And how did you get my name?" She never listened to K-BUZ, which was easy-listening elevator music for fortysomethings. She jerked to a sit.
"Wait. Am I on the air?"
"You bet your sweet, um, heart you're on the air. You're on our Morning Madness Show, where you've been selected as today's 'Someone Loves Me' winner."
"I've been selected? I'm a winner?" She vaguely recalled her friend Kitty laughingly dropping Claire's business card into a fishbowl plastered with radio call letters at Vito's Bistro after lunch two weeks ago, when she'd first told her friend that she and Jared were in love.
Claire was not the radio contest type, but then she'd never been in love before, either, so Kitty's gesture had seemed the perfect ending to their lunch, during which Claire had talked nonstop - from the focaccia bread through the blackened mahi-mahi salads to the decaf mocha lattes and fat-free flan - about how Jared was the perfect man for her about-to-be-perfect life. Maybe not perfect, but you had to set your sights high, right?
"So you're in love?" Frank or Phil asked again.
"Uh, yes, I am," she said. "You bet." She was pretty sure. Who really knew about love? Everyone told a different story and none of it matched the movies.
Still, doubts and all, she'd just pronounced herself a woman in love to thousands of radio listeners. She wondered who had heard her happy news. Not Jared, who was back in Reno until Saturday, when he'd move into their perfect apartment in CityScapes, the brand-new building on Central Avenue, in which Claire had lived for five fabulous days.
At first it would only be part-time for Jared - he was only in Phoenix three days a week - but he'd look for a sales job here, she was sure, or transfer to the Phoenix office ASAP.
"Tell us what you love about this guy," the disc jockey asked.
"What I love? Um, lots of things." How romantic he was, how he focused on her - really focused - and made her feel vital to his well-being. That was powerful. "It's personal."
"Okay, if you're not gonna give us the juicy stuff ..." Frank/Phil gave a theatrical sigh. "I guess we'll just have to tell you about your prize."
Hadn't she already won the best prize of all? True love? On the other hand, overkill in the prize department was okay by her. "What is it?"
"Claire Quinn, you have won a Valentine's Day gift from the man you love, courtesy of K-BUZ Radio."
"Truly. Tell us his name, this master of love."
"How do you know Jared loves you, Claire?"
"Well, he told me so." And it had been perfect. He'd just blurted it out. And it had sounded so right that she'd said it back. And then there it was - floating in the air between them like a soap bubble. They were in love. And she'd been floating right along with the words ever since.
"He told you ... sounds good. What other evidence do you have?" The DJ paused for her to say something clever or funny or romantic or profound. But all she could do was breathe into the phone. It was too early to even be conscious, let alone clever or funny or romantic or profound.
"Okay," the DJ said, sounding exasperated at her lack of showmanship. "Just give us his number and we'll tell him what he's won for you."
"You want to call him? But he's in Nevada right now."
"Not a prob. Give us the four-one-one. You just stay on the line and listen in. Don't say anything and we'll surprise him."
The phone rang three times and Jared answered sleepily. So cute. She loved when he sounded sleepy.
"This Jared?" Frank or Phil asked.
"Yeah. Who's this?"
"Frank and Phil, K-BUZ Radio. You're a 'Someone Loves Me' winner on our Morning Madness Show."
"I'm a what ...? On the where? A winner?"
"Is this for real? Am I on the air?"
"Yeppers. And you've just won a dozen roses to be delivered to the woman you love."
"You're kidding! Wow!" He sounded as excited as a kid. That was one thing about Jared that bothered Claire - his immaturity. He sulked when he didn't get his way and ducked any serious topics. He was sweet, though. The huskiness in his voice reminded her how gentle he was in bed. Not the most suave or exciting, but that was beside the point. The point was that he didn't sleep well when he wasn't wrapped around her. She loved that. So romantic.
She held her breath so Jared wouldn't know she was there. This was so great. If she'd had any doubts that she was doing the right thing, here was proof from the universe. Falling in love had earned her a prize. And just in time for Valentine's Day - always a sucky holiday for her. Maybe her friend Zoe, who was into woowoo, was right about karma. And Claire's karma was suddenly coming up roses.
"So, Jared, who should we make the card out to?" Frank or Phil asked. "Who is the lady you love?"
Here it came. Jared would say her name to thousands of radio listeners.
"Make the card out to my wife Lindi. Lindi with an 'i.'"
Claire gasped. "Your wife?!" The floor seemed shift to the side and she felt dizzy.
"Who is that?" Jared asked.
"Your wife?!" Claire repeated, the words thundering through her. Jared was married? He had a wife?
Probably right there in bed next to him. In something filmy and pink. But maybe her legs weren't shaved.
"Uh-oh," Jared said, his voice filled with dread. "Claire?"
"You're damn right it's Claire," she yelled. "You're married? How could you? You prick!"
Frank and Phil's barely stifled laughter made her realize that they'd listened in on her betrayal, along with thousands of people out in radio land. Omigod!
Claire slammed the receiver on Jared's plaintive, "Let me explain," her face burning. She felt like one of those women on a TV special who was clueless that her husband was a bigamist. Her heart thudded so hard in her chest she thought her ribs might give way.
My wife Lindi. Lindi with an "i," for God's sake. She couldn't believe it. What kind of woman had the name Lindi? Some perky housewife who ironed her husband's boxers and made her own clothes.
A memory zipped through Claire's mind - Jared telling her he loved her, his eyes full of adoration - and then sizzled in the bug zapper of his last sentence. Make it out to my wife Lindi. No hesitation, no question who would get his love roses. How had Claire been so stupid?
Excerpted from A Perfect Life? by Dawn Atkins Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Phoenix the radio station selects Claire Quinn as the winner of their Valentine¿s Day contest. The emcees ask Claire if anyone loves her and she mentions Jared. While still on the air they call Jared informing him he won the contest and ask him the name of his beloved. Jared says his wife Lindi................................ Swearing to keep men in their place to her fellow Chickateer pals, suddenly Claire finds herself swamped with males desiring her. Jared wants her back and her mentor at work suddenly turns offensively lecherous. Solace is found in ice cream and musician Trip Osborn, who has no long term room for Claire in his life even if he loves being with her and misses her when he is not................................. A PERFECT LIFE is a an amusing chick lit tale that is at its best when the Chickateers hold street corner philosophical forums on the little failures of that second class other gender. The story line uses wit to intelligently and entertainingly tell what could have been a trite tale of girl falls in love with commitment phobia stud. Fans will laugh along with Claire and her pals as she seeks a sweet Santa for Valentine¿s Day............................ Harriet Klausner