Authors: Cheri Allan
Kate Mitchell never planned to be a 31 year-old widowed single mom, but when her soon-to-be-EX husband up and dies, her dreams of finishing college and starting over are thrown in the air like a game of ‘52 pick-up.’
If only life had a refresh button…
LUCK OF THE DRAW
by CHERI ALLAN
~ Book One ~
A Betting on Romance Novel
© 2014 Cheri Allan
by Orchard Edits
Image © Elena Elisseeva | Dreamstime.com
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This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
For my husband,
Who believed in me long before I believed in myself and gave me the gift of following my dreams. You are my every hero. Love you madly!
~ Your Cookie
T RAINED THE NIGHT
ANDY DIED—scattered spring storms that left shimmering puddles on the pavement under the streetlight outside the house. They swirled with surreal, iridescent color as Kate opened the door with one hand and clutched her robe closed at her throat with the other.
There were two of them, their uniforms dark with rain, eyes dark with fatigue. They spoke with gently dispassionate voices as they delivered the news.
Single car accident…
They asked if she understood.
, she said.
. Was she alone?
Would she like a drink of water?
No. No, thank you
. She didn’t want them in her home, didn’t want them searching for a clean cup in her kitchen, compassionately detached as they watched her and waited for her to fall apart.
After they left, she stared at the wet boot-prints on the living room carpet and wondered what she should do or whom she should call. Her limbs felt strangely heavy as she wandered through the house to her room, too stunned to cry, looking around for traces of
, but, of course, she’d already packed away the pictures and mementos of their life together. All that remained of their ten-year marriage sat in a small bowl on her dresser.
She picked up the ring, her breath held tight in her chest, and slid it back on her finger
—as if, somehow, by putting it on, she might magically go back in time and make things turn out differently.
But the miracle never happened, and then Liam woke up. She assured him everything was all right
—even though it wasn’t—and curled up with him on his small bed, in the dark, trying not to hug him too tight.
She didn’t sleep.
She didn’t weep.
She simply stared at the plain gold band on her finger as the pre-dawn hours slid into day.
Time. They talk about it flying, as if it were a child’s kite, but as I get ready for Liam’s third birthday party today, it occurs to me that for every year of his life, I’ve lived TEN. That’s not flying, that’s careening. Just sayin’.
Seven weeks later…
ATE—I THINK I’D
if I were you.”
Kate Mitchell’s hand froze in mid-air, a m
ini wiener inches from her lips as she tried to think of an appropriate reply. Granted, wieners weren’t considered top-drawer fancy fare, but Liam loved them, and it was
day. She lowered her hand to her plate and forced a smile.
It was stunning how tactless people could be when expressing their condolences. Here they were, surrounded by streamers and giddy children, and yet Betsy’s china-doll blue eyes blinked earnestly as if they were standing next to Randy’s casket instead of eating finger foods at a three year-old’s birthday party.
Kate cleared her throat. “Yes, well, you know what they say about not being given more than you can handle.”
“Still, you’re so
. I mean, how will you get by? I heard Randy didn’t even have life insurance!” Betsy finished
, her china-blues blinking back compassionate tears.
“Well, under the circumstances...”
“I know,” Betsy touched Kate’s arm meaningfully. “I heard about the DUI.”
She pronounced it ‘dee-wee’ as if it were some child’s game and not a misdemeanor crime. Kate fought the urge to stuff her mini wiener up Betsy’s pert, surgery-enhanced nose. She pasted what she hoped was a suitably neutral expression on her face. “Oh?”
Lord, she hated this. Hated, especially, feeling like she
had to defend Randy even though he’d been days away from being her
-husband, even though—ironically—he hadn’t actually been drinking the night he’d plowed his Lexus into a tree. No, it was enough he had the reputation of drinking and driving. It was enough he’d still, technically, been her husband.
Betsy gave her hand another pat. “I understand,” she said.
Kate stifled a bubble of hysterical laughter. How could Betsy possibly understand something she couldn’t understand herself? She couldn’t explain why Randy had run off the road that night any more than she could explain the wild mood swings that had plagued her the last few weeks, her gut turning over itself like she’d eaten bad chicken salad or something. Grief, the counselor had told her. But, it didn’t feel like grief. It felt like fear.
Kate glanced around for escape from Betsy’s glistening eyeballs and spied Nana
—dear Nana!—in the corner with elderly Mrs. Pemborly who lived next door at the end of their southern Connecticut cul-de-sac. It was a quiet neighborhood, picturesque, with forsythia bushes and mature trees shading small, well-tended yards. Just the place to raise a family. Or at least, that’s what Nana had insisted nearly three years ago when she’d offered to rent the house to Kate and Randy after Poppy died. Nana had decided to move back to her hometown of Sugar Falls, New Hampshire. She’d said she didn’t have the heart to sell the house in Connecticut but didn’t want to rent to strangers, either.
It hadn’t surprised Kate when Randy jumped at the chance to move out of the tiny second-floor apartment they’d rented since their wedding day. He’d always cursed the too-short shower and cramped kitchen. Made fun of the baby-blue walls.
But Kate hadn’t hated it. Snippets of memories flooded her. The bouquets of wildflowers she used to put in mason jars on the window sills. Liam asleep in his bassinet in the corner of their bedroom. How Randy had carried her up the narrow stairs and made love to her on the living room floor when they’d first moved in.
Lord, it all seemed a lifetime ago.
Another mother smiled and reached across Kate for a celery stick, her hand hovering momentarily as if assessing it for calories. The woman finally picked it up and nibbled delicately, her white linen pantsuit looking impossibly fresh and sophisticated next to Kate’s khakis and plain blue tee. Kate stepped aside and nodded politely in case the woman gave into temptation and picked up a carrot.
Liam waved from across the room and smiled, his forehead sweaty, his hair sticking up adorably on the side. Kate waved back, her heart squeezing in her chest as a swift surge of love flooded her.
She watched the woman pick up another celery stick, and the surge of love turned to a wave of guilt. She should be taking better care of herself, for Liam’s sake if not for her own. She should be reaching for carrots instead of loading her body with salt and nitrates. Hadn’t she given Randy heck every time he’d brought mini wieners home? Of course, she’d never expected to
them. She’d never expected she’d be a thirty-one year-old widow, either, for that matter. Kate stabbed another mini wiener and stuffed it in her mouth, resenting the celery-eating mom’s self-restraint immensely.
“So,” Celery Mom said. Kate couldn’t for the life of her remember the woman’s name, but she was pretty sure she’d come with the girl dressed entirely in Hanna Andersson who was currently jumping on the sofa. “Kate,” she continued, her face creased in delicate sympathy, “have you made any plans?”
Kate looked around at the three year-olds running rampant in her living room and wondered how these people could be so incredibly insensitive. How was this any of their business? “I don’t know,” she murmured, grasping for something to say besides the impolite retort that came to mind. “My grandmother suggested I meet with her financial planner—”
“Oh, honey, I don’t mean
kind of plans.” Celery Mom backed up a little. “I was just wondering if you had any plans, you know, for the summer. Vacation?”
“Oh! No. No plans,” Kate said. “No plans whatsoever.” Without a plan.
That wasn’t precisely true, of course. Kate had lots of plans. Plans to get her life back on track. Plans to finally finish her art history degree and get a real job. Plans to prove to her parents once and for all she hadn’t flushed her life down the toilet the day she married a smart-talking bad-boy from nowhere.
Unfortunately, Randy’s accident had thrown all those plans up in the air like a messy game of
. Without alimony or child support and, just as importantly, another adult to watch Liam, she wasn’t sure how she would manage classes and tuition now. If she could convince Nancy to let her switch to a reduced schedule or even a four-day workweek, that’d save on daycare expenses. She might just be able to swing it.