The Yellow Brick Road Gang, otherwise known as Metaphysical Misadventures in the Search for Enlightenment, was once just a book club. Now, they are a circle of friends as close as family. Together they embarked on a spiritual search and throughout the last eight years each woman has come to realize that the only constant is change and that anything is possible.
Cristine and her partner have always approached their relationship like a business, and Cristine prides herself on her cool-headed and logical thinking. But when Cristine's partner decides he doesn't want to renew their relationship contract, she is devastated. Trying to help her, the Yellow Brick Road Gang devises a ritual to bring Cristine a new lover: Mix cayenne pepper for hot passion and dried mustard for strength, add a tiny bit of mint for sweetness, then cast into a fire.
Enter Daniel Burns. He is no ordinary man. In fact, he isn't a man at all…
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Product dimensions:||3.97(w) x 6.94(h) x 0.94(d)|
About the Author
Constance O'Day-Flannery is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who revolutionized the genre of paranormal romance with her stunning time travel novels in the 1990s. Best Laid Plans is the beginning of a trilogy about three remarkable women, at three different stages of life and the remarkable men who love them. She lives and writes in Pennsylvania
Read an Excerpt
Best Laid Plans
By Constance O'Day Flannery
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2006 Constance O'Day-Flannery
All rights reserved.
WASN'T SHE A LUCKY WOMAN?
Well, maybe not lucky. Fortunate.
Luck implied chance, and it was not chance. More of a blessing.
Yes, you are a fortunate woman, Cristine Dobbins, blessed with a wonderful life, she thought, maneuvering her way through rush-hour traffic. Even the weather seemed to be smiling down on her as a warm breeze played with the tendrils of her hair. She quickly looked into the rearview mirror at a red light and decided her hair would have to do, but she could use some lip gloss. Checking the traffic light, Cristine reached into her purse and fumbled through the mess until her fingers felt the little pot. She quickly unscrewed the lid and dipped her pinky inside. Spreading the goo on her bottom lip, she pressed her lips together and thought of the note Charlie had left this morning by the coffeepot.
Don't make plans tonight.
She dropped the gloss back into her purse and grinned. Charlie ... just thinking about him brought a smile and a warm cozy feeling. She looked at her left hand on the steering wheel as the last of the sun's rays caught the diamonds in her wedding band, tiny, perfectly cut diamonds channel-set into wide gold. It wasn't a true wedding band, not really. She and Charlie weren't so provincial as to get married. Seven years ago they had fallen in love and within three months had moved in together. Bliss. Well, mostly bliss. She tried not to think about the challenging times. It was a pretty darn good relationship in a world where over fifty percent of marriages ended in divorce. She and Charlie had stayed together, working their way over little hiccups along the way. Nothing ever serious.
As she pulled away from the light, she was excited to arrive home. Maybe he was taking her out to dinner, or maybe he had made dinner for them. He didn't do it often, but when he did she felt like a pampered woman. In her mind, she pictured the last time ... months ago, when she had arrived home in the dark to find the door open, soft music playing, candles lit, and the table set on the patio. It had been an unusually warm autumn evening and so romantic. Charlie knew how to do romance when the urge hit him. Too bad they had consumed so much wine during the evening that they'd both fallen asleep while attempting to make love.
Her eyes narrowed at that thought. With both of them so busy with work and the remodeling of the kitchen, it had been a while since they'd made love. Excuses. A frantic life got in the way of romance. But now Charlie was making it a priority. One of them always brought the relationship back into the center again. A little flutter of excitement began in her stomach and she was glad she'd washed her hair this morning in the shower. Shoulder length, it needed to be trimmed and she might also treat herself to having it colored, streaking the brown with some blond highlights for the summer.
Charlie would like that.
Again she smiled as the diamonds in her ring glittered in the sun. Charlie had one just like it. They introduced each other to strangers as husband or wife, since it was easier than trying to explain their partnership after seven years together. She and Charlie thought alike, truly believing that marriage was an obsolete institution. Really, who in their right mind would want to live in an institution? Wasn't it better for two people, two relatively sane adults, who loved each other to remain together for just that ... love? Wasn't it far healthier to be together because you truly wanted to be with that person? It was much more civilized to have a renewable contract every seven years. If you knew your contract was up for renewal, you wouldn't take your partner for granted. You would communicate and resolve issues. And if you didn't want to renew, the parting was spelled out without all the high drama of conventional split-ups. It was the only sane thing to do, she thought as she turned onto their street.
Feeling very happy and more than a little sexy, she tried to suppress a giggle of anticipation as she continued the rest of the way home. She loved their house with its wide wraparound porch. Actually, it was her house, her first house, and she had seen the possibilities in remodeling it herself. And then Charlie had come along and had taken over. The kitchen was the last and most expensive room, and that should be done within a few months. Then they would be settled, and she almost laughed when she thought how Charlie would cringe at describing them with such a boring term. But they were comfortable with each other, accepting of each other, and she trusted him with her life. Most importantly, they loved each other and they were a good team. Together, they had accomplished so much. Pulling the car into the driveway, she noticed Charlie's SUV in the garage and it looked full.
Grinning, she wondered what he had bought now. Maybe something for the kitchen, she thought as she turned off the car engine and grabbed her purse. She'd have to remind him the garage door was open. He probably just forgot. Again, she smiled, anxious to see what surprise he had in store for her.
She unlocked the front door, walked inside, and dropped her keys onto the foyer table. From some distant corner of her mind, she had the sensation that something was not right, something was different ... missing. The sculpture she and Charlie had bought together on their trip to Europe was gone. Blinking, Cristine turned her head toward the living room and her jaw dropped. More than half the books were missing from the built-in shelves around the fireplace. Everything looked different, as though someone had gone through all their belongings, removing certain things and disrupting the flow of the room. "Charlie?" Even to her, her voice sounded tiny, scared. Had they been robbed? "Charlie!"
"I'm right here."
She spun around at the sound of his voice. "What happened?" she demanded, rushing to him and clasping his forearm. "Were we robbed?"
He shook his head. "No, Cristine. Sit down."
"I don't understand," she muttered as he led her into the living room where she perched on the edge of the sofa. Her stomach muscles tightened and she suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Something terrible was coming. She just knew it, as she stared up into Charlie's serious expression. "What's going on?"
He sat opposite her, on the edge of the square coffee table. Blowing his breath out roughly, he ran his hand through his hair. "Cristine, there's no easy way to say this."
"Say what?" she demanded, feeling her heart begin to race. Had someone died? But then why was the house looking like this and —
"We need to talk," Charlie said, looking very uncomfortable as he interrupted her thoughts.
"Okay," she said slowly, feeling as if she had stepped into someone else's life.
"I ... I don't know how to begin this, Cristine."
He looked so forlorn that she reached out and touched his hand. "Just tell me, Charlie. We can talk about anything."
"I'm leaving," he said, pulling his hand back from her fingers. "It's what we agreed to. Seven years. The contract. I don't want to renew. It's over, Cristine."
She stared at him as he rattled off his short, clipped sentences, stared at his tall lanky frame, those long fingers that had so lovingly caressed her body; his sandy hair that gray strands were weaving through, his brown eyes behind his rimless glasses, that Ralph Lauren pale blue shirt she had bought him last year. It was as though time stood still as seven years of love flashed across the expressway of her mind. This couldn't be happening. She couldn't have heard him correctly. "What?" she asked in a shocked voice.
Just two words, yet their impact made her feel as if she had been shot under the center of her breasts. Instinctively, her hand pressed up against her solar plexus, as though to protect it from further assault. "Why?" she whispered, still unable to grasp the reality of his words. It didn't seem real. He didn't seem real. She felt as though she were falling into an alien world where nothing made sense.
"C'mon, Cristine, things haven't been right for months now."
"What hasn't been right?" she asked, hating that her voice was beginning to tremble. "I've been under pressure at work and exhausted when I come home and I haven't given you the attention you need? Is that what hasn't been right?"
He got up and began pacing in front of the coffee table. "I'm not going to do this. We had a contract. I've fulfilled it. Seven years. Now I'm moving on."
"Why, Charlie?" she demanded, no longer able to stop the tears from sliding down her cheeks. "I deserve to know why. What have I done? We don't argue. You're my best friend, and I thought I was yours. Why are you doing this to us?" This was insanity. It couldn't be happening. Not to them! Everyone thought they were the perfect couple ...
He shook his head. "You don't get it, do you?" He looked away from her to the darkened television. "I've met someone else and I want to explore that relationship. I have the right to explore it."
She lost her ability to respond. She didn't even know if she was breathing. She could only stare up at him as the truth finally was revealed and she felt the bile rising in her throat. He was forty-six years old and he was talking like some young kid who didn't know about commitment, who thought seven years of love could so easily be flushed down the toilet. "I ... I ... don't understand," she said stupidly. Of course she understood. He was dumping her for another woman! She just didn't want to believe it.
"I'm leaving, Cristine," he answered more forcefully. "I took the day off to pack and I'll be back sometime this weekend for the rest of my things."
She knew she must look like a wounded deer because she felt as if she'd just been run over by a Mack truck. "Where are you going?" she asked incredulously, still not accepting his words.
"I have a place."
"A place?" She gulped, finding that shock was robbing her of her ability to communicate in anything but questions.
He nodded, jamming his hands into his pockets.
Her eyes narrowed as her brain started to kick in. Wait a minute ... "Who is this woman? How long have you been seeing her? Are you going to her now?" Okay, so she was still asking questions, but now they were the important ones.
"You don't know her," Charlie said, looking out to the foyer, as though he couldn't bear to see what he was doing.
"So you've been cheating on me? For how long?"
"Do we have to go through this?"
She rose to her feet, a little surprised that they actually held her upright. "Yes, we do," she stated in a stronger voice, hating that tears were brimming in her eyes and blurring her vision. "You didn't communicate before, so yes, now would be a good time!" Shock was quickly segueing into something far more powerful. "How long, Charlie?"
"I met her before Christmas."
She knew her mouth had dropped open like a dead fish, yet all she could see in her mind's eye was Charlie on Christmas Eve, asking whether she minded if he went to his office Christmas party with a few of the guys from work. He'd acted as if it were a chore he'd had to perform for his coworkers. He'd even bought himself a new outfit, and she had complimented him, telling him how great he looked and wishing him a good time. He'd said he was only making an appearance, yet hadn't come home until almost midnight. She remembered sitting on the sofa at ten o'clock, feeling a little hurt that he was leaving her alone on Christmas Eve, her first real day off after months of working overtime. He had been with her, and now she knew it in every cell of her body.
What an actor he was, deceiving her so easily ...
"You bastard," she spat at him. "You liar, deceiver. So for months now you've been cheating on me, plotting behind my back, and now, now you've decided you can communicate?"
"I knew you were going to make this ugly," he said, and walked out of the room into the kitchen.
"It is ugly!" she nearly screamed as she followed him. "And you broke our contract! I trusted you with my life, and you could do this, like this? As a done deal? I don't have any say in the matter, except to accept it? Who are you? You're like this stranger, this ugly, manipulative stranger."
"Well, then you should be glad to be rid of me," he said, picking up a square brown box and carrying it toward the laundry room door that led into the garage.
"Get the hell out of my house," she said in a deadly quiet voice. Thank God the knives were behind her in the kitchen because her fingers were itching to hurt him, to rip at him the way his words were slicing away at her heart, her dignity, her very soul ...
"As you can see, Cristine, that is exactly what I'm attempting to do." He threw the box onto the passenger seat and got into the driver's. "I'll call you in a few days after you've calmed down and we can discuss me finishing up here."
She watched him throw the car into reverse and back out of her garage, out of her house, out of her life. Just like that, she thought, gripping the door molding to keep herself upright.
Charlie was gone.
Wasn't it only minutes ago she was patting herself on the back, telling herself she was a fortunate woman?
She had no idea how long she spent at the laundry room doorway, staring out to the parking space that always had been Charlie's. It was the pain in her feet that broke through her shock. Blinking, she touched the button to automatically close the garage door and backed up into the laundry room. She closed the interior door, removing one high heel and then the other. She felt like a ghost as she carried her shoes through the house, through the half-finished kitchen, the foyer, and up the stairs.
She didn't want to go into the bedroom, afraid of what she'd see, but it was almost as though something else or someone else was pushing her down the hallway, past the guest bathroom and into the place where she had shared all her intimacy with a man who had turned into a cruel stranger. She dropped her heels onto the rug and walked up to his closet. She watched her hand shakily open the door.
She knew his dresser drawers would also be cleaned out so she didn't put herself through that slice of pain. It was enough to see his matching ring placed in the center of the wooden top, discarded, just like her. Instead, she slipped off her skirt, stepped out of it, and sat on the edge of her bed, slowly unbuttoning her suit jacket. She pulled the sleeves off and dropped it to the foot of the bed, then attempted to unbutton her blouse, but her fingers wouldn't stop shaking so she gave up and crawled up to her pillow.
Sinking onto the mattress, she reached out and grabbed Charlie's pillow and clasped it to her chest, hearing the raw wail of agony bubbling up in her throat and choking her.
How unfair of him, she cried, gasping for air, for sanity.
He had taken everything, and left his damned scent on the pillow.
She glanced at the clock in the kitchen and sighed deeply as she reached for the bottle of red wine. At least the bastard hadn't touched the wine collection. And if he thought he deserved any he was truly crazy, she thought as she poured herself another glass. Sipping the Merlot, she tried not to think about missing work again. So what? She deserved a few days off, didn't she? After all, the man she'd trusted with her life had just betrayed her and she hadn't the energy to continue with life as normal. Nothing ever again in her life was going to be normal.
How could she have been so wrong? Why hadn't she seen this coming?
Because you loved him and trusted him and never would have believed he was capable of such deception, her mind screamed back at her.
She felt so foolish as she glanced at the telephone, silent for the last two days. He hadn't even called to find out how she was, if she'd slit her wrists or ... no, he knew she wouldn't do anything to herself. She was the strong one. He was weak and needy. His damned allergies to dust mites or anything else that might upset his delicate immune system had ruled their lives, but it was a trade-off, right? No one was perfect. Charlie had come with his own matching set of baggage, but the love they'd shared had offset that near-anal obsession of his with dust. At least that was the deal she'd been telling herself for the last seven fucking years of catering to his every need ... and boy, did he have a lot of needs. He was as close to a hypochondriac as she ever wanted to know, always prone to colds and upper respiratory diseases. How many times had she nursed him through bronchitis? Or ear infections, or some other ailment that demanded her attention? Talk about high maintenance. She'd run her life around him, what was best for him, what was healthy for him, denying herself to keep him happy and healthy and ...
Excerpted from Best Laid Plans by Constance O'Day Flannery. Copyright © 2006 Constance O'Day-Flannery. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
They met seven years ago and within three months Charlie and Cristine moved in together. Now he says the contract between them expired and he is leaving her for someone else he recently met. Upset as she thought they would move on to the next relationship plane, Cristine turns to her friends at The Yellow Brick Road Gang. The crew decides that their heartbroken member needs a fling with no lasting commitments beyond the one night so they begin a ritual to bring a throwaway hunk to Cristine. --- Her fun fling frolic turns into a terrible tramatic twist when she hurts her back dancing with strange lights. However, when the lights appear in her kitchen in human form, she is not frightened at all. Daniel Burns explains her soul called out to his across dimensions he felt he had to come especially since he believes she is one of the women who is humanity¿s last chance to be saved. --- The first Guardian tale is a terrific fantasy romance starring a delightful hunk from another plane and the woman whose soul brought him to earth. The story line is fast-paced, but clearly driven by the lead couple and a strong support team, mostly the Yellow Brick Road Gang, experts in metaphysical mishaps. Fans who want something different will enjoy this deeply spiritual tale that casts a spell on the audience starting with pepper, mustard and mint and ending with love. --- Harriet Klausner