Perfect Fit (Serendipity's Finest) - By Carly Phillips


Perfection was overrated, Mike Marsden thought, as he approached his childhood home. He arrived in time for dinner, just as he’d done every Sunday since his return to his hometown of Serendipity, New York, almost a month ago. Sunday evening meal at his parents’ house was mandatory, and each of his siblings would be there. Nobody said no to Ella Marsden. And since Mike had been away for a half dozen years or so, his mother was especially glad to have him back, no matter how uncomfortable the notion of coming home made him.

He shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket and looked up at the white clapboard house with blue trim and matching shutters. Small but well kept, the two-story home on a residential street was as perfect on the outside as it was on the inside. Same as it was when he’d left for Atlantic City all those years ago. Maybe that was why he was itching beneath his skin now. The idea of perfection made him antsy. It always had. And despite wanting to please his parents, Mike was the kid who’d always tried their patience.

Impulse control issues, his teachers called it. Mike blamed heredity. He couldn’t stick with one thing very long, be it his small hometown, a relationship, or a monotonous job. Simon Marsden, Mike’s adopted father and the man who’d raised him, had been the police chief of Serendipity. Mike’s brother, Sam, had followed in his footsteps, becoming a homegrown cop like his dad. Their sister, Erin, was the assistant district attorney to Serendipity’s D.A.

And Mike? He liked his life, choosing his career as a New York City undercover cop, where he’d carved out a name for himself by skating the rules instead of strictly following them. He made sure his job, his women, and even his friends were easy enough to walk away from when the impulse arose. Never again would there be a repeat of a woman misinterpreting his intentions or expecting too much. He’d run from that strangled feeling once before, ending up in Atlantic City. He wasn’t about to repeat past mistakes or risk what he knew was a genetic inability to stick around.

Yet here he was, back in his small hometown, having taken over his father’s job as chief of police while his dad fought cancer. The doctors said it was treatable, and Mike forced himself to believe it. Coming home was the least he could do for the man who’d both raised him and treated him no differently than his biological children—even if Mike hadn’t always deserved it. The situation was temporary while Simon recovered, or Mike didn’t think he’d have been able to say yes to the position.

He knocked once and let himself inside, the smell of his mother’s pot roast seducing his senses and making his stomach grumble.

“Michael, is that you?” his mother called from her post in the kitchen. When he was a kid, he’d thought she had a sixth sense that told her which child walked in the door, but as an adult he realized they each had their own arrival time and his mother intuitively knew their routine.

“It’s me,” he yelled back, bending to give his parents’ new dog, a small white fluffball that resembled a dust mop, a pat on the head, still marveling that they’d named the furry thing Kojak.

“Well, come give me a hug,” Ella called out, as if she hadn’t seen him in ages. In reality, she’d stopped by the police station yesterday to say hello.

He grinned and his shoulders eased downward. The insecurities that always followed thoughts of perfection fled at the warmth in his mother’s voice and the comforting smells of home.

“Come on, little man. Let’s go say hi to Mom.” He headed for the kitchen, Kojak by his side.

Along the way he passed the family room, where his father lay snoring in his recliner, football game on the big-screen television he and his siblings had bought them for Christmas last year. Knowing Simon needed his rest, Mike let him sleep.

“Hey, Mom,” Mike said, entering the kitchen and giving her the requested hug before turning to the oversized pot on the stove. “Smells delicious.” He lifted the lid only to have his mother smack his hand with her wooden spoon.

“Hey! No sampling.” She waved her weapon in front of his face, a knowing smile lifting her lips.

Despite his father’s illness, she’d managed to retain her cheery disposition, and if a few more lines creased her