“Why are you shushing me? Leo’s in New York. He can’t hear you.”

“I know that, but I don’t want to jinx it. I’m still trying to figure it all out.”

“I don’t believe in jinxes.”

“What do you believe in?”

“I believe in chemistry and chance when it comes to matters of the heart.”

A little later, I take her to the airport and send her back to New York, letting her know I’ll see her again in Manhattan. As I head to my car, I do some quick photoshopping on my phone then send her a picture of the gawking monkey now perched on her shoulder.

She replies with a string of monkey emoticons.

I return to my hotel. Since it’s June and high eighties even in the evening, I head to the pool area, grab a lounge chair, and enjoy a little sunset breeze and people-watching. A woman in a silver bikini rides a unicycle, followed by an Elvis impersonator on stilts. A sign hangs from his neck—Photos free, Hugs $5.

I snap a free photo.

As the sun dips lower on the horizon, I turn to the poker app, thinking about online dating as I consider how many cards to hold and how many to fold. They’re all stinkers, so I draw mostly fresh cards.

Can online dating truly lead to a soul mate? Call me skeptical. But curious too.

As I study the new cards—they aren’t any better—a chat window pops up.

HotRodLover: I’m doubtful you can win a single hand.

Whoa. Jeanne is going all in on the trash talk. That’s not usually her style, but I can play this way. I crack my knuckles.

LuckySuit: Is that so? Me beating you repeatedly isn’t enough?

HotRodLover: Tonight, prepare to be vanquished.

I blink and scrub a hand across my jaw. What has gotten into Jeanne? She’s so feisty today.

LuckySuit: Try me. Just try me.

HotRodLover: I will. There you go.

She plays her hand, winning easily. I regroup, order a beer from the poolside waiter, and we play a few more rounds. She demolishes me.

LuckySuit: Fine, fine. You’re on fire tonight. I’m man enough to admit you brought your A game.

HotRodLover: Don’t I always?

LuckySuit: That you do . . .

HotRodLover: Speaking of A games, what would you say is the most important thing on the path to happiness?

I crack up. I swear, this woman is a hoot.

LuckySuit: You’re awfully philosophical all of a sudden. You don’t want to segue into a new conversation topic? You just go for it?

HotRodLover: Please. Who needs segues? Plus, I like philosophy. And happiness. And contemplation. So fess up.

LuckySuit: I suppose I’d have to say kindness, fine chocolate, friends, family, giving back, good wine and great beer, and exotic travel.

HotRodLover: Ooh la la. You’re fancy-pants in a lucky suit.

LuckySuit: I’m not all about the jet-setting lifestyle! I did mention family, friends, giving back.

HotRodLover: I’m all for those things too, except wine, just for the record. Now, tell me what family means to you . . .

I laugh at her question. It’s like I’m being quizzed all of a sudden. I take a gulp of the beer.

LuckySuit: Wait a second. It’s my turn. What are your happiness must-haves?

HotRodLover: You can’t ask the same question!

LuckySuit: Why not?

HotRodLover: Rules.

LuckySuit: Rules? What rules?

HotRodLover: The rules of conversation say you must ask a new question.

As a woman in a black bikini dives into the pool, I look up, thinking of new questions and briefly wondering why my car auction and card-playing friend is so sparky tonight. A possibility tugs on my brain like a fish on a lure. I’m not sure if I’m right, but I’ve got a feeling, so I play out the line to see what bites.

LuckySuit: Do you believe in luck, chance, or fate?

HotRodLover: I believe fate is the creation of nonscientists. I believe luck is random happenstance and chance is simply a variable we scientists have to account for.

And that’s another clue. Right there, dropped like a delicious bread crumb. I pick it up.

LuckySuit: “We” scientists?

HotRodLover: I mean “we” as in the royal “we.”

LuckySuit: Now you’re royal?

HotRodLover: Royally going to beat you in the next hand.

And she does just that. Then she kills me again. Each time, she’s sassy. She’s witty. She’s firing off all sorts of one-liners, and it sure seems like my fishing line is catching something.

HotRodLover: Are you ready to admit defeat at my hand?

LuckySuit: Never surrender. I’ll soldier on.

HotRodLover: Ah, I see you are relentless. Would you describe yourself as relentless?

That’s an easy question to answer. All I have to do is look at the elbow grease Lulu and I put into building the concept of the stores and her line of chocolate. Yes.

But before I reply, I set the phone down on the wooden table next to my lounge chair. I stare up at the darkening sky, twilight falling at last. The stars will shove their way to the blanket of night soon enough.

Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
Source: www.StudyNovels.com