“Sure. Do you want me to crush your opponent or just whup her butt gently like you usually do?”

She laughs. “A gentle whupping will suffice. But it’s not a she I’m playing with.”

I furrow my brow. “Who am I crushing on your behalf, then?”

“My new poker buddy. I met him at the car auction, and he’s quite friendly.”

“You’re flirting with a poker friend?”

“Did I say I was flirting?”

“Knowing you, you’re probably flirting. You said the view was nice.”

“I meant the view of the cars! The junkyard was full of gorgeous, lovely cars calling out to me.”

“Ah, so you were perving on the cars. Got it.” I tap my temple like I’m filing away this piece of intel.

“Just. Play. The. Hands.”

“What if he wants to chat?”

“Chat with him,” she says breezily.

I arch a brow, adopt a spooky tone. “What if he’s an ax murderer though?”

“He’s not, because I met him in person.”

“Question: do you think ax murderers wear name tags that identify them by profession?”

“I think you are as inquisitive today as you were when you were thirteen and I took you to the zoo and you had a gazillion questions. And do you know what I encouraged you to do then?”

I smile. “Talk to the zookeeper and ask all of them.”

“Yes, so feel free to screen this man to your heart’s content.”

“I will definitely handle your man-friend.” I wink.

She heads down to the garage, and I open her poker game, perusing the status. I see a chat window open, and I decide this is my chance to vet Grams’s new guy. To find out if he’s good enough for her. Just call me Inspector Kristen.

All right, LuckySuit, let’s see what you’ve got.

4

Cameron

A pocket-size monkey swings from a tree branch.

I snap a photo of the primate then several more as he somersaults to another branch inside Monkey Jungle.

Lulu points at my subject. “You’re going to tell me you want monkey-shaped chocolate next.”

“Sounds brilliant. Seems my photographic pursuits are good for our business. Maybe I should work on poker chips and slot machine pictures for good luck since Las Vegas is next on the itinerary.”

“And I have all the faith in the world you’ll nab more deals there, and soon Lulu’s Chocolates will be carried in the swankiest hotels on the Strip.”

“From your mouth to the dotted-line’s ears,” I say as we wander through the wildlife park teeming with monkeys of all shapes and sizes. When Lulu discovered the existence of a place called Monkey Jungle near our meeting location, she begged me to take her here once business was done.

She squeezes my shoulder. “And holy smokes, did we kick butt today or what?” She high-fives me for probably the tenth time since our pitch meeting with the hotel. They loved her and her energy, but especially her chocolate. And they love the deal I’m putting together for them.

We amble over to the swimming hole, chatting as I capture a series of shots of a monkey bathing. “What a little exhibitionist.”

“I don’t know. He looks kind of shy. Maybe it’s his first public bath,” Lulu suggests.

I linger on that word.

First.

I’ve no plans to take a public bath, but as we walk, I keep mulling over a little thing I never thought I’d do—online dating.

It’s not my style.

Not one bit.

I believe in the personal zip and zing. I believe in looking in someone’s eyes. I believe in instinct. Heck, that’s how Jeanne and Joe met, and they seem to have hit it off and, I suspect, will be dating any day.

I’ve been single long enough, and while I don’t need to put a ring on anyone today or tomorrow, I’d rather get down on one knee sooner rather than later. I’d like to find the right person. The person I want to spend my time with.

“Hey, what do you think of online dating?”

Lulu squeals, grabbing my shoulders as a monkey with a raccoon mask stares at us. “Are you trying it?”

“I might be . . .”

She pounces all over my answer. “Seriously? Are you? Can I help you set up your profile?”

“Maybe I already set it up,” I tease her.

“Can I see it?” She sounds like she’s about to bounce off the trees.

“Wouldn’t you like to see it?”

“Yes, I would. That’s why I’m asking you. I want you to find your soul mate.”

“And you think my soul mate is online? Hanging out somewhere on the interwebs, chilling and waiting for her man to upload his profile?”

“Yes. And when you find her, you’ll know it.”

“How will I know it?”

“You won’t be able to stop talking to each other. You’ll chat about all the things that keep you awake at night. You’ll talk until the wee hours of the morning.”

“Is that how things are with you and Leo these days?”

Lulu brings her finger to her lips. “Shh.”


Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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