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Who Will Be My Valentine? Who Will Be My Valentine?


The insistent ringing of the telephone jolted Leah awake. Darn! Did I forget to turn that off, she thought, fumbling for the phone.

“Leah?” came an agitated voice, “Jill and I are on the way over.”

Leah peered at her bedside clock and flopped back into her pillows with a groan. “Jeez, Beck. I pulled a double shift at the hospital and just got in three hours ago. Can’t it wait?”

There was a slight hesitation. “I don’t think so. Have you seen today’s Spokesman-Review?”

Leah took a deep breath to keep from losing her temper. “Really, Beck. I need to sleep …”

“Put on some coffee. We’ll be there in less than 10 minutes.”

Leah glared at the receiver before slamming it down. Sometimes she thought her best friend had lost touch with reality.

While the coffee perked, Leah opened the newspaper. Her Siamese, Pywacket, jumped into her lap. Scratching the cat’s ears, she flipped through the paper, scanning an occasional article, and stopped to read The Slice. Giggling over the latest reader question, she glanced at the main picture and read the caption.

“Oh, Pywacket, listen to this. Some poor woman is so desperate, she’s advertising for a date on a billboard at Pines and Sprague. Isn’t that a hoot?” She scanned the article. It seemed the newspaper and a local TV station had joined together to offer the woman a fantasy Valentine’s Day date. Leah shook her head and started to turn the page when something stopped her.

Somehow, the picture seemed familiar. She looked at it again. No. It couldn’t be. The billboard picture looked like one of the Photazz glamour portraits Becky and Jill had given her for her 30th birthday. The photos had turned out surprisingly well, even though they didn’t really look anything like her.

Oh, my word. It was her Photazz picture. How in the world?

“I’m going to kill them.” She pushed her bangs away from her face and closed her eyes. “No, killing isn’t good enough for those two. I’ll … I’ll …” The doorbell interrupted her tirade.

She stomped to the door and yanked it open. Grabbing the taller blonde by the arm, she dragged her off the porch. “How could you do this to me, Becky? Why would you embarrass me like this?” Then she turned on the smaller blonde. “What in the world were you thinking, Jill?”

Jill hugged a grocery sack to her chest and bit her bottom lip. “Come on, Leah. We didn’t mean any harm.”

Leah slammed the door, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This was one time counting to a thousand wouldn’t be nearly long enough.

“I think we’d better have some coffee and talk,” Becky said, walking into the kitchen. Leah glared at Becky’s back. Following her friends into the kitchen, she slammed the folded newspaper on the table. “Do you know what kind of grief I’ll get at work if someone finds out about this?”

“It’ll be good for the crisis nursery,” Jill blurted out. “What are you talking about?” Leah demanded. “How could this disaster possibly be good for the Vanessa Behan Nursery?”

Becky handed Leah a letter. “The Spokesman and KHQ have offered to make a donation to the charity of your choice if you’ll let them use this for a human interest story.” She smiled hopefully at Leah. “Isn’t that great?”

“I’m supposed to make a fool of myself so they can write a story about it?” Leah sighed and slumped into a chair.

Becky eyed her friend cautiously. “Well, they’ve offered $2,000. That’d make it worth it, wouldn’t it?”

Leah glanced up in surprise. “You’re kidding, right?” She looked at Jill and back to Becky. “You’re not? They’re really offering that much?”

Becky nodded.

“I guess since it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, they think this will make a fun story.” She shrugged. “You know, it wouldn’t be so bad. You only need to go out with the guy once.”

“Look at all the choices you have,” Jill said, dumping the grocery sack full of envelopes on the table. “The last I counted, there were about a hundred. You ought do be able to pick one of these, don’t you think?” Leah’s eyes widened in amazement. “How long has that billboard been up?”

“A little over a week,” Becky replied. “We couldn’t believe the response, either.”

Leah idly flipped through a stack. “These guys must really be losers to answer a billboard ad.”

Jill shook her head as she shuffled another stack. “Oh, I don’t know. There’s a stockbroker, a couple of teachers, and a lawyer. There’s bound to be someone you’d feel comfortable with.” She looked up at Leah. “Think about what the nursery could do with that money.”

Leah sighed again and continued to look through the stacks for several more minutes. Finally, she pulled out an envelope, opened it and read its contents, smiling slightly.

“Well,” she said, lightly tapping the envelope on the table. “Maybe. OK. But only because of the donation, and,” she pointedly looked at her friends, “only this one time!”

She handed the envelope to a grinning Becky. “I’ll take this one.”

MEMO: See also sidebar which appeared with this story under headline “Seven-part novella”

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Terri Hildreth Special to IN Life

See also sidebar which appeared with this story under headline “Seven-part novella”

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Terri Hildreth Special to IN Life

Tags: novel, series