You can take the girl out of the trailer park...
Which Karleen Almquist had surely tried to do. But the thrice-married--and thrice-divorced!--personal shopper had sworn off men, and their inherent complications...aka babies. Until the most gorgeous widower moved in next door--complete with the two most adorable little boys she'd ever seen.
True, Troy Lindquist had been alone a long time, but the ice cream mogul was looking for a real relationship, and his next-door neighbor was clearly not his type. Still, that didn't stop him from turning to her one night--which resulted in Karleen being pregnant with Troy's child.
First came the baby carriage. Then came love. And then...marriage?
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March 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Pride and Pregnancy (Babies, Inc. ) by Karen Templeton
By the time she was thirty, Karleen Almquist had signed three sets of divorce papers, at which point she decided to make things easier on herself and just get a hamster.
After all, hamsters didn't leave their clothes scattered all over kingdom come, watch endless football or stay out till all hours. And their itty-bitty paws were too small to mess with the remote. True, they weren't of much use in the sack, but then the same could be said of most of her husbands.
Unfortunately, also like her husbands, hamsters didn't exactly have a long shelf life. Which was why Karleen was burying yet another of the critters underneath the huge, gnarled cottonwood at the back of the large yard of the aging Corrales adobe she'd kept after her last divorce, seven years ago. Each tiny grave was marked by a miniature cast-stone marker engraved with the rodent's name, ordered from this place online that promised a two-day turnaround, if you were willing to pay extra for FedEx overnight service.
Karleen sank the marker into the soft soil, praying the neighborhood cats wouldn't disturb Mel's rest, although he was probably fairly scavenger-proof in the little metal floral can from Hobby Lobby. Then she stood, making a face as she peeled off her gardening gloves. Fond of Melvin as she'd been, it had taken the better part of an hour to glue on these nails and damned if she was going to ruin them for a dead hamster.
A cool, dry breeze shuddered through the veritable orchard of apple trees lining the far wall, sending a shower of white blossoms drifting across her dusty pool cover. The peaches, apricots and cherries would bloom in a few weeks. By mid-summer, the ground would be a holy mess with rotting fruit. But right now, her heart lifted a little at the sight of all those blossoms glowing against the brilliant New Mexico sky, the twittering of dozens of redheaded finches scouting out the assortment of brightly colored birdhouses suspended from the branches--
What was that?
At the giggling, she swung around in time to see a pair of pale blond heads vanish behind the low wooden fence separating her yard from the one next door.
"Boys!" boomed an off-stage male voice. "Get over here!" Karleen zipped as fast as her beaded slides would carry her back to the house, dumping the gloves on a tempered-glass table on her flagstone patio as she went. Once inside, she scurried across the brick floor through the house, twisting open the slightly warped verticals in her living-room window to get a better view. And indeed, through the assortment of glittery, spinning porch ornaments hanging from the eaves, she saw a great big old U-Haul van backed in the next driveway.
The house was the largest of the four on their little dead-end road, a two-story territorial/adobe mutt centered in a huge pie-shaped lot crammed with a forest's worth of trees-- cottonwoods, willows, pines, silver maples. The property hadn't been on the market more than a few weeks (the old owners had gone to live with one of their kids in Oregon or Idaho or someplace), so the new owners must've paid cash for it, for closing to have gone through that quickly.
The little boys--twins, it looked like--raced around the side of the van, roaring in slightly off-sync unison (and loud enough to be heard through a closed window), "Daddy, Daddy! The house next door has a pool!"
Just shoot her now.
Karleen thought maybe they were a little older than her best friend Joanna's youngest, around four or so. Jumping up and down like that, it was hard to tell. God bless their mother, was all she had to say.
Then a Nordic god walked out from behind the truck, sunlight glinting off short golden hair, caressing massive shoulders effortlessly hefting a giant cardboard box, and her brain shorted out.