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Mr. Right, Mr. Wrong, Mr. Alien
by Cheryl Sterling
ON THE SCALE OF GRIEF, with one being a sniffle and ten the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, Sage Harding hovered at the two point four mark. She hadn’t hated Dave, but she hadn’t loved him, either. He’d just disappeared into the wallpaper one day, interested more in his career than his wife. The sparks had fizzled out of their marriage.
On the scale of guilt, however, the needle rested comfortably on ten.
I killed him.
Not by cutting his brake lines or ant poison in his coffee, but by her unhealthy obsession of internet dating sites. Keeping him “on his toes” by searching for his replacement, however teasing she’d meant it to be, wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done. It was tantamount to bragging about making the last car payment without expecting the transmission to fall out the next day.
Karma is a bitch.
Especially when she’d failed to clear her internet browser history and Amber, her nosy, older sister, found it hours after the funeral.
“You’re going to hell,” Amber predicted as she slid the laptop across the kitchen table. “You’ll never see the Pearly Gates.”
Sage clenched her fist and repressed the urge to thwack her sibling on the head. “Don’t be stupid. I don’t believe in the hereafter, remember?”
“It doesn’t matter. You’re still going to hell for killing Dave.” Amber’s green eyes, so like her own, bore into her, as if expecting an immediate confession.
“How, exactly, did I kill him? He died on the golf course.” One minute he’d been practicing his swing, and in the next—phzzt—a freak lightning bolt had hit him right in the nine iron. His shoes were still smoking when she reached him.
“With this.” Amber tapped the laptop screen. “Were you planning on divorcing him? Did he know?”
Dave wouldn’t have known if I walked naked in front of him. If it didn’t involve his work as vice president at Mickle, Mickle, Mickle and Ambersom, the fourteenth largest manufacturer of microchips, he wasn’t interested.
Sage riffled her hand through her hair, cut into a short wedge the week before. “I don’t think a glance or two at a dating site had the power to send a lightning bolt through him.” Though, somehow, it had. She could deny Amber’s accusations all she wanted, but tempting fate had sealed hers.
“Look,” she said, pulling the laptop toward her and clicking a few keys. “It was something to do. See this one? He’s searching for ‘Miss Voluptuous.’ And this one? ‘Never been convicted.’ Is that today’s criteria? And this one—’You smell terrific.’ Ew. I had to sign up to look at them, but I was never going to contact any of these losers. You’re making too much of this, Amber.”
Don’t tell her about the guy with the nice eyes. His profile had emphasized his love of adventure, but it was his eyes that had attracted her. They’d seemed to draw her in and tell her it didn’t matter what she did, he’d back her.
Fate wielded temptation like a well-honed knife. Within a week of her opening Nice Eye’s profile, Dave had been zapped dead.
The needle on her guilt meter twitched.
“God does not differentiate between types of lusting. You set events in motion by craving these men.” Amber snapped shut the computer lid and replaced it on the table with a plate of meatloaf and scalloped potatoes with ham. “Eat. You haven’t eaten in days.”
Sage pushed it aside. Who could eat with two sisters and a brother, all older, fussing over her? “For the record, I did not lust or crave anyone.”
“Including your husband, I’ll bet. You were never happy with him. He wasn’t your type. I told you that when you started dating him, when you got pregnant, when you forced him to the altar and even when you lost the baby. He was too tame for you. At least, be honest and admit it.”
Sage opened her mouth to protest then clamped it shut. Dave had been fun when they’d first dated. Then impending fatherhood had sobered him at the same time Mickle and Company had crooked its finger, turning him from Mr. Right to Mr. Wrong. Their marriage had gone downhill after that.
She’d stayed, lured by the independence of not being accountable to anyone. His family’s wealth and his generous salary had factored into her selfish decision to not pursue a divorce.
Her guilt meter twitched again.
“Just as I thought.” Amber glanced at Sage’s untouched plate. “Are you done?”
Sage shoved it toward her. “Take it. Take all of it. The lasagna. The Tex-Mex casserole and crockpot chicken. For once, I wish someone would remember I’m a vegetarian.”
Amber grabbed the plate and turned toward the garbage disposal. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
Sage gasped. “My husband just died!”
“Too bad for Dave, but you’re better off.”
Heartless, rigid Amber.
Sage cradled her head in her hands and wished her family gone, her husband alive and . . . married to someone else, and her guilt to disappear.
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