Love at First Sight - By B. J. Daniels Page 0,1

even more uncomfortable when her former classmate, who had nervously kept watching the door, confessed that she’d done something she probably shouldn’t have, then blurted out that she’d been seeing a mystery man, someone she’d met through the personals column in the newspaper.

“I really should get home and soak this dress, don’t you think?” Karen said to her neighbor’s grandnephew and her very-last-ever blind date.

She couldn’t wait to get out of the dress and end the date, and not in that order. Nor did she want to think about Liz and the man in the hotel hallway. Liz was a grown woman. She knew what she was doing.

But even as Karen said it, she feared Liz had gotten in over her head. She kept remembering the way the two had reacted to each other in the hallway. That was one romance headed south.

Twenty minutes later, Karen was trying to gracefully close her apartment door on Howie Iverson and the entire evening, when she was literally saved by the bell.

The phone rang. “Thank you again, but it isn’t necessary,” she said politely to Howie’s offer to have her dress cleaned. Hurriedly she shut the door, bolted it and ran to answer the phone.

“Hello?” She could hear breathing. “Hello?”

The line clicked.

Karen stared at the receiver.

Had it been Liz? Maybe.

Or a crazed serial killer checking to see if she was home alone? Probably.

Or a wrong number, she thought, trying to corral her imagination and shake off the ominous feeling she’d had since opening the door to find Howie peeking through a bouquet of the strangest-looking flowers she’d ever seen.

But as she started to hang up the phone, she knew it wasn’t the date—as awkward as it’d been—that had her so jumpy.

On impulse she hit star 69. The phone number the automated voice repeated didn’t sound familiar. A wrong number, just like she’d thought. The line began to ring. Hang up! You’re going to look like a fool!

“Good evening, Hotel Carlton.”

Her pulse pounded at her temples. Had Liz called her? “Yes. Could you please ring Liz Jones’s room?”

“One moment, please.”

It suddenly struck Karen that Liz wouldn’t have registered in her own name. Actually, she probably wouldn’t have registered at all. While Karen didn’t know much about clandestine affairs, she thought the male lover acquired the room, and probably under some assumed name like Smith.

So why was she still waiting on the line when she knew the clerk would come back any minute to say there was no Liz Jones registered?

The extension began to ring. Liz had registered—and under her own name? Well, it was a new decade for women.

Someone picked up after the first ring but said nothing.

Karen swallowed. “Liz?”

No answer. Just soft breathing.

What was she doing? Karen quickly hung up and stood staring at the phone. Who’d answered? More important, who’d called her from the hotel in the first place? She blinked. The answering-machine light blinked back at her, bright red.

Quickly she rewound the tape, surprised to find herself trembling. Jeez, she felt like a kid who’d been caught playing phone games. “I saw what you did. I know who you are.” I’m an idiot. Come and get me.

Except she hadn’t seen anything and knew even less. Not true. She’d seen Liz with a man. The lover who’d insisted his identity be kept secret? And now Karen had not only seen him—he’d seen her!

She jumped as the answering machine clicked on and Liz’s distraught voice filled the room. “Karen? Please pick up. I really need to talk to you. I found out who he is. You know, the man I told you about. I found out everything. This is so freaky.” Pause. “All right, I guess you’re not home. I need to talk to him first, anyway. You know, give the bastard a chance to…explain, huh?” She sounded close to tears and getting more angry by the moment. “I can tell you one thing. I’m not going to let him get away with this. He’s going to pay.” A knock sounded in the background. “That’s him now.”

The line disconnected, the silence too loud, too final in the suddenly morguelike room.

Liz had called. Karen checked the time on the answering machine: 7:48. That would have been just after Howie spilled her wine all over her dress while explaining greenhouse flower pollination. And just before—

Her pulse roared in her ears. My God, Liz had been on the phone calling her at the same time Karen had rounded the corner in the hotel and seen the