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The (Not So) Perfect Match

The (Not So) Perfect Match

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Everyone thinks they're the perfect match. Well . . . everybody except them.

In a town the size of Friar Hollow, there are only so many eligible young men to choose from. Even so, did everyone have to keep trying to pair Leah with the new, pompous know-it-all veterinarian? Surely there has to be someone else she could date to prove she's moved on once and for all from her controlling ex.

Daniel can't seem to get away from the crazy cat lady—er, Leah. From their first ill-fated encounter, to their blind date gone wrong, she's everywhere he turns. Can't he just find a nice, normal woman? But he has to admit, when the matchmaking matrons of Friar Hollow start to drive him nuts, at least Leah makes an excellent fake date. And it is fake, right? There's no possible way two opposites could get together...not when their favorite pastime is fighting like cats and dogs.

Main Tropes

  • Grumpy / Sunshine
  • Enemies to More
  • Opposites Attract

Intro Into Chapter 1

An icy gust of wind ripped one of the plastic hearts off a street lamp and it smacked Leah in the face. “Oh, for the love of Pete.” She snagged a corner of the laminated decoration for the town’s annual Valentine’s Day festival and peeled it off her face. 

She’d just been backhanded by cupid. Wonderful.

Main Street in Friar Hollow was all but deserted as the smart townspeople hid inside until this storm passed over. The not so smart ones? They were teetering around in high heels on an icy sidewalk, braving gale-force winds to attend yet another ill-fated blind date.

Another gust of wind made her shiver, tugging her heavy cream-colored coat tighter around herself. A deep inhale had her sinuses freezing, but at least it helped her come back to her senses. Forcing a smile, she headed toward the restaurant where a cozy orange glow beckoned at the end of the block.

Almost there. It was just bad luck that her car had gotten stuck in a snowdrift outside her house. It wasn’t a bad omen, just a wonderful story to tell her grandkids.

The night I met your grandfather? Well, kids, it was a dark and stormy night…and your grandma had to hike through the snow!

She buried her smile in her scarf. See? This wasn’t an ill-fated blind date, but the start of her epic love story, the one she’d be telling her kids and then their kids and then—


She stopped, straining to hear where the noise had come from.


The pitiful sound was coming from a narrow alley between two buildings to her left. She peered into it, her bare legs already itching to take off toward the warmth of the restaurant again. 


Her heart fought with her freezing body and won. Tiptoeing through the snow—as if that would help to keep her feet from getting any wetter than they already were—she started calling softly, “Here, kitty, kitty.”

A scrambling sound behind the dumpster had her delving deeper in that direction, holding her breath as another gust of wind wafted the smell of day-old refuse right into her face.

This is all part of the story for your grandkids.

One year of being single and she was chock full of stories for her grandkids. Single as the day is long, but quite the accomplished storyteller, thank you very much.

She shook off the sarcastic thought. Tonight was about to change everything. Her good friend Angela had set this one up, and no one in this town knew her better than Angela. Maybe Callie and Ellie, her other girlfriends in town, but Angela had known her the longest. That had to count for something. 

Unlike her well-intentioned dentist, Dr. Frank, Angela would never dream of trying to set her up with Larry Mulligan, with the prominent ear hair and the nose that cast a shadow before he walked into a room. And unlike her co-worker (and incessant matchmaker) Sheila Fischer, Angela would never leave her stranded on a terrible date with her own accountant.

Leah could only imagine how awkward things were going to be this tax season after that disastrous date. She shivered. “Come on out, kitty.”

A scarred and matted kitten face stared back at her with wide frightened eyes.

Leah’s heart melted even as the rest of her body turned into an icicle. A curvy, blonde icicle—that was something this town didn’t see every day. If she didn’t move quickly, she’d be mistaken for one of the Valentine’s Day festival’s ice statues, frozen to death en route to one last epically awful blind date. 

Then her ex Tad would truly be able to say I told you so. He’d been saying for years that she couldn’t live without him, that she needed him to take care of her. Freezing in an alley would be one heck of a way to prove him right. 

Her whole body shook with a violent shiver. No way would she give him that satisfaction. She and the kitty would be just fine without his help…if she could get the cat out of his hiding place. “Come on out, little buddy.”

The little buddy in question did not, in fact, come out. In fact, he retreated farther behind the garbage so Leah was forced to squat down in a manner her dress was so not intended for just to reach back there. “You can’t stay out here in this cold,” she chided.

She kept her voice soft and steady, murmuring promises that she had no idea how to keep. “You’ll be just fine, sweetie. We’ll find you a nice comfy home. Let’s get you some food, huh?”

The kitten came out right as Leah’s chattering teeth made speech all but impossible. “G-g-good k-k-kitty.”

Once in her hands, the kitten warmed up to her awfully quickly. Or at least, he used Leah to get warm quickly, curling up into a ball and pressing his tiny, trembling body against her new cream-colored coat. 

Cat fur. A little voice was squeaking in protest, but she didn’t have the heart to turn away the kitty’s pathetic attempts to find warmth. Besides, the little ball of fur was helping to warm her too.

“Win-win, kitty,” she whispered. “Now…” She headed back to the sidewalk and looked both ways as if there might be a sign there telling her what to do and where to go. When unexpectedly saving a small creature, head this way!

To her right was her home, but that meant backtracking through the snowy side streets and getting farther away from her waiting date. And even if she did take the kitty home…what then? She didn’t have cat food. She didn’t even know what cats ate. She didn’t have a litter box or a cat bath—did cats even take baths?

To the left was the restaurant—the warm, cozy-looking restaurant filled with yummy food, even yummier wine, and a man. A handsome man, according to Angela. 

A handsome, new-to-town mystery man.

She shivered again and a little moan escaped at the sight of that blissfully warm looking restaurant with its promise of red wine and the date that would launch a thousand grandbabies.

“What am I going to do with you?” she asked the kitty.

Kitty didn’t answer. 

Leah pulled out her phone and opened it to her contacts. Her first instinct was to call Tad. Nearly a year of being single and he was still the first person she thought to turn to at times like this. 

Well, not times exactly like this one. She looked down at the kitty. This was a first. 

It was natural that it would take a while to dim that urge. They’d been together since college, after all. He’d been the one constant in her life after her parents had died and her brother had taken that job overseas. 

He’d been there to pick up the pieces and help her to move on. The only problem was, she hadn’t moved on. Not really. He’d stepped into her life when she was desperate and lonely and so unbearably sad that she hadn’t been able to stand on her own two feet.

No, that wasn’t true. Maybe she’d have been able to if she’d been given half a chance. But as it was, Tad had stepped in and taken over. At the time, she’d been grateful. He’d seemed like a saint—a savior, even—coming into her life like some white knight, helping her to pick up the pieces and pave the way for a future.

It was Tad who’d urged her to get her degree in early education—a decision she’d never regretted. After school she’d followed him to Friar Hollow for his career, and had gotten a good job of her own teaching at the local elementary school. She’d happily moved into the house that Tad had picked out for them and for a few years she’d been…well, not happy, really.

Content. She’d been content.

A car driving down Main Street hit some slush on the side of the road and Leah gasped as cold, wet snow splashed her face, her hair, and the oh-so-pretty coat she’d bought on sale with the last of her paycheck.

Another moan threatened to escape but she swallowed it down, afraid that if she let it out, it would be accompanied by a sob. She pressed her lips together and willed herself to remain calm as the kitty burrowed against her deeper, trying to hide from any future ice baths that might be coming their way. 

It’s fine. This is all fine. 

So maybe her coat was ruined. And yes, she was definitely running late for her dream date. And maybe she couldn’t feel her toes anymore, but this would make a great story for—

Oh who was she kidding? This night was turning out to be a disaster and she had to get out of this cold before she succumbed to hypothermia and proved Tad right.

She scrolled through her contacts until she found Callie’s number. Callie would know what to do. Her friend and fellow teacher picked up on the first ring. 

“Callie.” It came out high-pitched and through a clenched jaw as she fought another shiver.

“Leah, is that you? What is it? What’s wrong?”

She heard a deep voice in the background. Callie’s fiancé Cole, no doubt. A sweetheart of a guy, even if he was a TV celebrity. Too bad he was thoroughly smitten with her bestie or she would have snatched him up herself. 

They put her on speakerphone and both of their voices were filled with concern as they asked her if she was all right.

The whole story came out on a rush of an exhale. “…and now I’m cold and wet and stuck with a cat—” And I need help.

She bit her lip before she could blurt out the plea for help. Man, what was wrong with her? She shouldn’t be calling people for help because of a stupid cat. 

She looked down at the cat. Sorry, Kitty. You’re not stupid, I’m stupid. How do I get myself into these situations?

But even without asking, her friends leapt into action. Cole went to look up the hours and address for a local vet’s office or animal shelter while Callie reassured her that she was already scrounging up some warm clothes and would be there to pick her up in a heartbeat.

“There’s a new vet in town,” she heard Cole call out to her in the background. “He’s only a few blocks from you. They close soon but they’re open to emergency walk-ins.”

She nodded, her teeth chattering too hard for her to speak. 

“Head there now so you’re not waiting in the cold,” Callie instructed. “I’ll pick you up there.” She rattled off the address, which fortunately was only two blocks away.

Leah started walking in that direction on autopilot. It seemed like the cold was making her brain slow down along with her limbs, which felt jerky and numb as she headed in the direction of the clinic.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can with dry clothes,” Callie said.

“O-o-okay.” She was about to hang up when a thought burst through her frostbitten brain cells. “M-my d-date.”

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