Page 73 of I Promise You

A hand in the front goes up. “What if we want to leave with our dates and go somewhere private?” It’s a girl in a Chi-O jersey.

He smiles. “Leave at your discretion, but we’d prefer that you stay and meet everyone. We’ve got a great group, and you might find more than one match.”

She stands up and looks around. “Are there any football players present, specifically Dillon McQueen?”

“Please, girl, sit your ass down,” Chantal grumbles under her breath. “Gah, I hate that I was as desperate as she was to hang with them. I’m still doing it.”

“You love the game,” I insist.

I focus on Kevin as he replies to the girl. “The guys are in another room, getting their instructions. It wouldn’t be any fun if we all knew who was here, would it?”

More murmuring comes from the crowd, the excitement rising. Another girl stands and asks a question, her blonde hair billowing in loose waves down her back, her halter dress tight and clingy. There’s a cute pink cloche on her head.

“Alexa, play ‘Raspberry Beret’ by Prince,” I murmur.

“Who are you talking to?” Chantal hisses.

“Myself. It happens.” I blow at a piece of hair in my face then sniff my armpits. Deodorant still works. No date clothes, but hey, I smell like cucumber.

Kevin continues with, “Each female has been assigned an ID number and a scorecard for her mystery man. Simply turn that in at the end of the event, and our computers will tally up your best matches along with photos of the men you liked. Will he be what you thought? Will he like you?” He grins, a hint of slyness on his face. “That’s up for you to decide—after you both receive your match’s phone number.”

Great. If there are the same number of guys and each one gets seven minutes, this event is going to last almost three hours. I twitch in my chair. Yeah…so? What else do I have to do? Romy is situated for the night.

After the introduction is done, we head up to the third floor, and I’m assigned a room at the end of the hall near the stairwell, tucked between nonfiction shelves. Seems appropriate that I skim them and grab How To Unf*ck Yourself. If the dates get boring, I can always do some self-improving.

Bambi and Chantal have wandered off to do their duties for the event, and it’s a pledge that leads me inside the room. It’s on the small side, about six by six, a desk with a partition in the middle.

“That’s so you can’t see faces,” the girl tells me as I settle into the seat. She instructs me to tuck my feet in since they would be visible if I didn’t, and I scoff.

“You think he’ll recognize me by shoes?”

She shrugs, unconcerned. “Use the tip sheet for questions, and there’s a buzzer if you need help—”

“Help?”

“If he comes on too strong—or if you do.”

“Don’t lunge for the mystery man, got it.”

“Have fun,” she calls as she slips out the door, and I exhale, glaring at the flimsy plywood in front of me. Will we even be able to hear each other through this thing?

I glance at the tip sheet. What’s your favorite color? What type of music do you enjoy? and so on. Meh. I mark them out and pencil in a few of my own. I read through the directions again.

A bell rings, people move out in the hall, and my door opens. Heavy breathing and a cough are the first things I notice, and I almost peek around to see if he needs me to resuscitate him.

“Are you okay?” I ask as he takes his seat. Looking down, I note the skinny jeans and leather flip-flops. His big toe is remarkably tiny.

He clears his throat, then another racking cough comes from his chest. “Just a cold. I think I have a fever.”

I don’t recognize the voice, although I didn’t expect to. “Oh. Well, uh, I hate to be uptight before we even get started, but my nana has a heart condition and COPD, and my sister has asthma, so if you don’t mind, please scoot your chair back.”

“Seriously? There’s wood in front of us.”

“Yes.”

He huffs and scoots back. When I ask him Would you rather live in a universe set in The Office or Game of Thrones? his reply is TV is destroying young minds. No, no it isn’t. I give up and let him talk about his crappy roommate who steals his clean underwear. Apparently, not seeing your date’s face encourages people to vent.

Another guy arrives, and after he tells me he likes his women to call him Sexy Daddy in bed, I zone out. Is this all I’ve missed in a year and a half of being without a man? I text Romy to see how her homework is progressing. She sends me screenshots of math problems and I text back directions. Multitasking.


Tags: Ilsa Madden-Mills Romance
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