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A selection from If the Ring Fits

"I'm divorced." Rachel Palmer raised her chin after saying so and affected a smile.

Hmm. She sounded defensive. She wrinkled her nose at her reflection in the mirror and tried again.

"I'm no longer married." This time she added a careless shrug to the mix. It didn't help.

Hands on her hips, she announced baldly, "That's right. Mal has been doing the nasty with his secretary, and I was the last to know."

Sucker.

Maybe she should just stamp that on her forehead and be done with it. If only it were that simple.

As Rachel was discovering, divorce wasn't an ending. Nor was it a beginning exactly. It was a transition. An emotional, a physical and, certainly, a financial shift of seismic proportions. The problem was she had no idea where she would wind up once the tectonic plates of her life settled down again.

She needed to figure it out and fast. As of yesterday afternoon, her marriage was officially over, decreed so not only by the two parties involved but by the state of Michigan. Rachel Palmer, nee Preston, was a single woman once more. She wrinkled her nose again at her reflection. A single woman inching toward thirty-three and past her prime child-bearing years, as her mother so helpfully had pointed out during dinner the previous evening.

Dinner had been Heidi's idea. Her younger sister said they should go to Maxie's, the same upscale restaurant where Mal had proposed, and celebrate.

"It will be like erasing the past. A do-over. Come on, Rach. Now isn't the time for mourning," Heidi had insisted cheerfully as they'd left the Oakland County courthouse.

Against her better judgment, Rachel had agreed. She'd regretted it as soon as a round of fruit-garnished drinks arrived at their table. While their mother nibbled pineapple off the skewer, Heidi had raised her glass.

"Here's to the start of an exciting new chapter in your life."

Exciting new chapter? Her sister should have been named Pollyanna. It fit her perpetually optimistic personality.

Rachel had reached for her water. "Heidi--"

"If you're free tomorrow night, I have someone interested in meeting you. We can double date."

"Heidi--" Once again that was as far as she'd got before her sister cut her off.

"Oh, don't worry. He's nice and harmless." The younger woman had scrunched up her face and taken another sip of her overly sweet drink. "Kind of boring, actually, but he's polite and well-groomed. The first guy doesn't count anyway. Everyone understands he'll just be your rebound man."

"I don't think this week will work for me." Or the next, or the next. .indefinitely. But Rachel knew her sister. It was best to leave it open and save herself the inevitable argument.

"You haven't been out in ages, Rach."

Rachel's mouth had fallen open at that. "I just got divorced. Today."

Their mother had made an indelicate snorting noise. "That didn't stop Mal."

Heidi had taken a more diplomatic approach. "You and Mal were legally separated for the past year. You even stopped wearing your wedding band three months ago."

"In part to get you off my back. You kept hounding me about it," Rachel had shot back.

Besides, the ring represented a promise, one that had been broken. But Rachel didn't agree with Heidi's assessment that she needed to get back into the dating scene right away. It wasn't that she still loved Mal. Oh, she mourned the demise of their marriage and the failure it represented, but she wasn't pining over her ex any longer....

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