A Perfect Life?

perfect life

Harlequin Flipside
ISBN 0-373-44185-1
March 2004

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Claire Quinn had a perfect life — in her dreams

In reality, she had an advertising job headed for permanent entry-level, a pricey apartment and a rat of a boyfriend. So now she had to make her wish come true.

But she can get this figured out, right? She just has to hit on the plan and her life will get better. Good thing she has the Chickateers—her loyal girlfriends who regularly dish on their love lives, but never snivel! With their smart-ass outlooks and cheeky advice guiding her, how can she go wrong?

Except that it turns out her ad exec mentor is a closet lecher, her new roommate is a little, uh, wild and the cute guy who just captured her attention? He’s got a no attachments, no regrets mantra that doesn’t fit the plan.

Looks like she’s going to have to stop following her own advice.


Silence beat between Claire and Trip as they stood on the late-night sidewalk. Again Trip managed to pull that intimate blanket around them so that Claire felt like they were alone in a private space where Trip could read her mind, sense her hurt, and understand it all.

“He turned out to be married,” she said, relieved to say it out loud. “He was supposed to tell his wife about us and fly out tonight, but his wife is pregnant–or so she says–so he couldn’t leave her. Wouldn’t leave her.”

“That’s hard news.”


“And this was for him?” he said, looking her up and down, a warm light in his eyes.

She nodded, feeling stupid in the sexy outfit. “I’m an idiot, right?”

“No. You’re a romantic. And you look great, by the way.”

“Thanks. You’re sure making me feel better about it.” She raised the foil-covered Santa.

“I couldn’t let an emotion-exploitive holiday ruin things, could I?” He kept looking at her face, making her uncomfortable and overheated. When had he moved so close. Close enough that he could…see every fleck of smeared mascara under her eye. Ulp.

She stepped back and turned slightly away. “I’m a mess.”

“Uh-uh.” Trip took her by the upper arms and made her look at him. “You’re beautiful.” Then he focused on the right side of her face. “Except for a little something here…” She thought he meant the mascara, but he touched her cheekbone, then licked his finger. “Mmm. Chocolate mint.”

“Yeah?” She could still feel the pressure of his fingertip on her skin.

“Yeah.” It was so quiet and Trip’s expression was so intimate and he was so close…and moving closer, leaning in. Lord, he was going to kiss her. And she was going to like it. A lot.

“Is that all of it?” she whispered, encouraging him.

“There might be a little more…” he leaned in, “right…,” moved closer, tilted his mouth, “here.” And then he kissed her–his lips warm and giving, a flesh pillow on which her mouth could rest.

Oh, yes. Yes, yes. The kiss tasted cool and hot and of mint and chocolate and it was full of promise and held-back need. Maybe it was because of her heartbreak, or the champagne, or Valentine’s Day, or the chocolate Santa or Trip’s skill, or all of them combined, but this was the most romantic kiss she’d ever experienced.

After a long, glorious moment, Trip broke away.

“You sure you got it all?” she mumbled, leaning in, dazed.

He chuckled. “Unfortunately, yeah. I’m sure.”

She blew out a breath. “Wow.”

“Yeah, wow. You’d better go up,” he said, handing her the nearly empty ice cream carton. “Before I go after your Santa.” And you. That was what he meant and a chill raced through her. He backed away smiling.

She turned and scurried upward, the chocolate Santa clutched in her hand, her heart full and pounding.

Inside her apartment, she shut the door and rested her back against it. What had just happened? She’d kissed a stranger and loved it. Not quite a stranger. She knew his name and what kind of ice cream he liked, right? She touched her lips, which still tingled.

She looked down at her feet, bare inside her pantyhose. Trip still had her shoes! Now she knew how Cinderella must have felt after her night at the ball–excited and dreamy and full of hope about miracles and magic. Claire checked the clock. Midnight. Cinderella’s deadline.

She had it better than Cinderella, though. Her Prince Charming knew exactly where to bring back her glass slippers. She couldn’t wait to see him again.


“Dawn Atkins really delivers in the witty, fast-paced
and observant A Perfect Life?”
– Romantic Times – 4 Stars!

“Humor keeps the pain at bay in this delightful comedic romance by
Dawn Atkins. With her characteristic flair, A PERFECT LIFE kept me in stitches. Atkins has a gift for creating believable characters that have a knack for encountering life’s little problems with spirit and sass.
A Perfect Life? Kept me in stitches. Highly Recommended”
– Word Weaving

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