A Slight Change of Plan

Other Books by Dee Ernst

A Different Kind of Forever
Better Off Without Him

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Text copyright © 2013 Dee Ernst
All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle

www.apub.com

ISBN-13: 9781477848227
ISBN-10: 1477848223
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013909205

This one is for Toni, Marsha, and Jane, who were with me from that first flush of true love to the final, bitter, Sara Lee days.

C
ONTENTS

C
HAPTER
O
NE

C
HAPTER
T
WO

C
HAPTER
T
HREE

C
HAPTER
F
OUR

C
HAPTER
F
IVE

C
HAPTER
S
IX

C
HAPTER
S
EVEN

C
HAPTER
E
IGHT

C
HAPTER
N
INE

C
HAPTER
T
EN

C
HAPTER
E
LEVEN

C
HAPTER
T
WELVE

C
HAPTER
T
HIRTEEN

C
HAPTER
F
OURTEEN

C
HAPTER
F
IFTEEN

A
UTHOR

S
N
OTE

A
BOUT THE
A
UTHOR

C
HAPTER
O
NE

Look out, New Jersey! After living alone for the past few years, I’m ready to take a new chance on love. I already have everything I need—a successful career, a beautiful home, great friends, and three fine adult children. Now, I’m going after what I want—a smart, fun-loving, and adventurous man to share it all with. At 55, I don’t need young and handsome, but I insist on kind, honest, and thoughtful.

I
sound old and desperate.”

“No, you don’t. You’re overreacting. You sound fine.”

“I need to take out the part about living alone for a while. And about having three children.”

“Kate, first of all, it’s not like you have toddlers. Three adult children is a good thing. It sends a signal that they are out of the house, you are alone and independent, and if you run away for a romantic weekend, you’ll have a built-in pet-sitter.”

She was right there. My youngest son, Sam, was graduating from college in two months with a degree in something to do with computers that I didn’t understand at all, but he assured me it would guarantee him a very good-paying job. My middle child and lovely daughter, Regan, at twenty-five, was getting married sometime in the not-too-distant future, and had already moved in with her intended. My oldest, my son Jeff—a year and a half older than Regan—was living with his soul mate, Gabe, in a West Village apartment which was the only place I could ever see him living. So yes, I was alone.

Independent? Well, sure. I had to be. I’d been a widow for the past eight years. I’d learned to kill spiders, empty mousetraps, change flat tires, and hook up a cable modem to my computer. If that wasn’t real independence, I didn’t know what was.

“Then maybe I’ll take out the part about being fifty-five.”

“Then you wouldn’t have anything.”

“Exactly.”

My sister, Laura, smacked the side of my head with her open palm. “Kate, I’m telling you, this sounds amazing. You’ll have men snapping you up like a bright new penny.”

“Why am I Kate Freemont Everett? I was married way longer than I was single. I’d almost forgotten my maiden name.”

“In case anyone from your past stumbles over your profile, you need for them to be able to recognize you. I mean, you look pretty good for your age, but I can’t say you haven’t changed.”

“My past? You make it sound like I left a trail of broken hearts behind me.”

The truth was, I hadn’t been the breaker of any hearts. If anything, I was the breakee, having been seriously dumped in college by the guy I thought I was going to live happily ever after with.

“I can’t imagine anyone from high school being remotely interested in me now. And I can’t imagine my being interested in any of them. Not after thirty-seven years. Maybe we should just forget this whole thing,” I suggested.

Laura is my little sister. After my father died, our mother had to work, often pulling the three-to-eleven shift, leaving me in charge of Laura during the long evenings of her childhood. It was then that she formed a rather distorted view of my life: She thinks I’m perfect. Possibly because I let her stay up as late as she wanted when she was a little kid, or maybe because she grew up on a diet of Coke and Hostess Twinkies, which I think would affect any person’s rational thinking.

Laura was trying hard. “Honey, fifty is the new thirty.”

“I bet the thirty-year-olds don’t say that.”

She sighed. “You need to put in your age, Kate. It’s for everyone’s protection. Do you want men answering you who say they’re sixty when they’re really seventy-two?”

Trying an online dating service was all Laura’s idea. Let me get that out there right away. My husband, Adam, had died of a sudden heart attack. I was over the pain of his loss and had been quite content in my singlehood. But lately I really wanted somebody who was happy to see me when I got home who didn’t have a separate water bowl. I did not enjoy the solitude as much as I used to. I really didn’t like
going out alone anymore—restaurants, movies, places like that. And I was tired of spending long weekends in interesting places when I had no one to share the experience with. I had kind of been hoping a perfect gentleman would somehow fall into my lap, but Laura pointed out that if I wanted somebody, I’d have to go out and find him, and online dating was the quickest and most sensible way to go about that.

I was moving on to what was generally called “the next phase,” and was looking for things to shake up my life. I was seriously thinking about selling the five-bedroom home I had raised my family in, even though the real estate market was still deader than a doornail. I had my eye on a very chichi townhome in a gorgeous complex that had its own pool, jogging trail, and health club, as well as basketball and tennis courts. And a golf course.

Maybe, in the “next phase” of my life, I could become a professional athlete.

Two weeks earlier I had given notice at my law firm that I was planning to cut my hours there in half, starting on May first, which was two months away. As I expected, they immediately offered me a very nice little package to just leave, which is what I had wanted in the first place. I had been sniffing around the possibility of teaching. Because I had an MBA on top of the law degree, I got a sweet offer from a small private college to teach Intro to Tax Law and Business Law 101. It was going to be perfect, and they wanted me to start in the fall.

Which would leave me plenty of time to work on the professional-athlete thing.

But for right now, I was unemployed. Which was why I was sitting home in sweatpants and a flannel shirt on a Wednesday afternoon, arguing with my sister.

“Laura, I’m not comfortable with this. I haven’t been on a date in thirty-two years. Besides, I’m starting to get hot flashes. I have to pee every ten minutes. I’m very short-tempered. I have a very uneven libido. I’m pretty sure that menopausal women are not ideal dating material.”

“You don’t have to put that in your profile, silly. Besides, most of these men have been married before and have probably been through that once already.”

“So why on earth would they want to go through it again? Laura, men my age don’t want me; they want twentysomethings.”

Laura sighed. We looked very much alike, my sister and I. We both had our mother’s dark eyes and wavy hair, our father’s lean build and square jaw, and the curse of the Freemonts, big, flat feet. Being five years younger, Laura hadn’t started dyeing her hair yet, so hers was a dark, rich brown. Mine was slightly lighter, with hints of auburn that came from trying to cover all that gray with Medium Golden Brown.

We were both tall and thin and flat chested, another family trait, one that drove my daughter, Regan, to tears of despair as a teen. Not the tall-and-thin part, but being flat chested was something of a trial for her. Poor thing. She swore that she wanted implants for her eighteenth birthday, but that was the year her father had died, and she finally realized what was important to have and not have, and big boobs ended up at the bottom of the list.

“Listen,” she said. “I have to pick up Wade in twenty minutes. Just go through the site, Kate. Read what the other women have to say. Then read some of the men’s profiles. You don’t have to go live right away, but you’re all set to go when you feel the time is right, okay?”

She leaned down to kiss my cheek, then scurried away to pick up her son. Laura had two boys in high school, both involved in sports. She was also a fairly successful Realtor, and had mastered the art of sandwiching clients in between ferrying her sons from one ball field to another.

My two boys had never been involved in sports. Jeff started drawing in crayon at thirteen months and never stopped. He was now a very successful cartoonist, with his strip syndicated in more than fifty daily newspapers. You may have read it—
Bennie’s World
. It’s the one about the cute little boy who wants to be a ballet dancer, while the world around him thinks he should be a baseball player. And as for Sam, well, Sam was a geek in preschool and never outgrew his love of fantasy action figures, old sci-fi television shows, and math. It was kind of sad, because when he talked about what he loved, my eyes glazed over after thirty seconds and then my hands started to twitch. I couldn’t even tell you what his major was in college. He’d tried to explain it to me several times. He was very patient and always used small words. He was doing something with computers. That’s all I got.

But not even Sam could explain the attraction so many people have to online dating. I had actually asked him, since he was my only unattached child, and therefore the one most likely to be trying it himself. But he’d just grunted, leaving me to ponder: Is this how people really meet now? Whatever happened to hanging out in bars?

I did not read anyone else’s profile. I turned off the computer, made a cup of tea, curled up on my couch, and watched the birds in my backyard fight over sunflower seeds.

I also napped a little, waking up with two cats on my lap and a dog on my feet. Maybe I wasn’t having hot flashes after all. Maybe it was just additional body heat that was causing me to break into a sweat at random times. My cats were rescue cats, both gray. They were named Seven and Eight. Without the kids around to name them, I’d just counted thirty years of family cats on my fingers and came up with the perfect names.

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