Page 26 of The Dating Proposal

Julia mimes dropping a ball then kicking it far, far away. “Ouch. No man is winning a Bell woman with that attitude.”

I place the martini glass on the counter and look straight at her. “Exactly. And even though I’m not looking for a boyfriend, and I’m definitely not looking to get serious”—I flinch momentarily at the memory of how such a relationship could go belly-up in one fast weekend away in Vegas—“I don’t want to date someone who thinks he’s better than, oh, say, my entire gender.”

Grabbing a cloth, she wipes down the bar, nodding in solidarity. “I hear ya, sister. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is where it’s at. I see no reason to waste time with any guy who doesn’t see eye to eye on such basics.” She tosses the towel onto a hook. “But it does raise some interesting questions. Have you thought about what happens when you go on a few dates with someone who does see eye to eye with you?”

I take another swig of the heaven in a glass, savoring the sugary finish. “What do you mean?”

“I know you’re into the whole ‘let’s see how this goes and have fun,’ which is awesome, and exactly where you should be at. But what if the next guy tickles your fancy, curls your toes, and stimulates your mind. What then?”

I part my lips to answer, but I don’t have a quick retort. I want to have fun, to get back out there, to test the waters. But I haven’t considered beyond a date or two, maybe more. My heart won’t let me. I still have a cage around that organ, protecting it from pain. It’s still bruised and tender to the touch.

That’s why I need to keep everything on the surface level. A few dates can’t hurt me. If I meet someone I like, I’ll simply keep it in check.

A customer at the other end signals he needs a refill, and Julia tells me she’ll be right back. I glance briefly at my sister, who is quite simply a heartbreaker. She’s sexy and curvy and has that kind of reddish-auburn hair that drives men wild. I bet someday some man is going to walk into this bar and sweep her off her feet.

But me? Being swept away? That’s hard to conceive of, especially when I’m zero for two at the dating plate.

Zero for ten in the toe-curling department.

And that’s A-OK. I don’t need my toes curled and my fancies tickled. All I need is another way to meet interesting men. I glance around the bar, and an idea strikes me. I could take a class. A mixology class. Or a cooking class. Or a cupcake class.

When Julia returns to my corner of the bar, I’m lit up like a bulb. “I should take a class. I can meet potential dates there.”

Her lips tip up. “Yes! I heard someone talking about a coffee-tasting class recently. Why don’t you try that?”

She gives me the name for one, and I google it and sign up on the spot.

Pleased with my can-do attitude, I set my phone on the bar with a flourish. “Take that, Dan Duran.”

Julia holds out a palm to high-five me. “Also, why don’t we do a girls’ night out? We can go to some hip bars on a Saturday night, and you can meet guys that way.”

“Boom!” I thrust both arms in the air. “I love it.”

She taps the bar. “And someday you’re going to meet someone you have an instant connection with.” She snaps her fingers to demonstrate then heads over to a new customer.

I flash back to Chris, to our easy conversation over fries, to the moment at the beach, to the store, to the coffee shop. There was something sort of instant in our connection, wasn’t there? We have the kind of quick banter and repartee that makes a girl think of possibilities, of days and nights and music and laughter. It makes a girl think songs were written for her, like “A Sailboat in the Moonlight,” my favorite Billie Holiday number.

Every now and then, I wonder what it would be like to find my sailboat in the moonlight. To find it for real.

As I take another swig of Julia’s concoction, I let myself linger on my text messages with Chris, scrolling through our last conversation. Our saucy comments and naughty replies.

I stare at the exchange, running my finger across our messages.




But what am I hoping for?

Just as soon as I ask the question, the answer touches down, landing softly but insistently before my eyes.

I see a kiss that starts sweet and soft and slow. Hands cup my face as if he’s claiming me, saying you’re mine with his lips. I imagine a thumb tracing a line along my jaw.

And I see myself melting into a moment that makes my toes curl.

Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance