“Fair enough. All right, McKenna. You ready for one more question?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
“Patrick from Seattle is curious: how do you get back into dating after a long-term relationship went kaput?”
“Ah, you’re speaking my language, Patrick. I hear you. I get you. And there’s one thing you need to do.”
“Tell us what that is.”
She meets my gaze. Her blue-gold eyes are tinged with a hint of sadness, but also a strength that’s incredibly alluring. She’s had the shit kicked out of her by love, but she’s back in the saddle. That’s bold, and bold is hot.
“You have to put yourself out there,” she says. “And you do that by saying yes to things. Going to a class, or learning a new skill. In my case, I asked my friends to set me up with any single guys they knew.”
“Did you have any basic requirements?”
“Just kindness. I think there’s a mistaken notion that women want a man with a big wallet or a hot body, and hey, there’s nothing wrong with either. But kindness matters more.”
So few people say that, and I couldn’t agree more. Still, my viewers want me to be entertaining, so I do bicep curls, mouthing But a hot bod is a nice bonus, as she continues.
“But I simply said to my friends, ‘Set me up.’ Here’s a hint—women love to set up friends on dates. Patrick, if you work in an office, let the married women know. And trust me, they’ll have dates galore for you.”
I turn back to the camera. “There you go, Patrick. You heard the woman. Put yourself out there. Boom!”
When the segment ends and the cameras go dark, Bruce strides in, all dapper in a three-piece suit with gelled-back hair that screams Mad Men.
“Hey, Dating Wizard, that was fabulous,” he croons to McKenna, dropping a kiss to her cheek.
“I’m so glad you liked it.”
“Liked it? I loved it. Loved it like I love the surf-and-turf special at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. And now, for some reason, I’m craving lobster. Thanks for that.”
I laugh. “You should go indulge, but don’t expect anything from the shellfish.”
He shakes a finger at me. “I expect nothing, Turkey Legs. That way I’m pleasantly surprised when I get anything.”
I jump in, explaining his ways to McKenna. “By the way, a nickname means he likes you.”
“Then I’m happy to be known as Pumpkin Pie and to keep working with you, Turkey Legs. Also, nice to meet you, Bruce,” McKenna chimes in.
“It’s a complete delight to meet you,” Bruce says, then turns to me. “By the way, I heard from Zander Kendrick’s manager. Says he’d be up for an interview soon. He’ll call you to set it up.”
I pump a fist, then look at McKenna. “Zander Kendrick is a game designer. I’ve been trying to get an interview with him for ages.”
“That’s awesome,” she says. “Good for both of you.”
Bruce tips his imaginary hat and exits. When he’s gone, she says, “I like him. He’s old-school and cool.”
“You like old-school?”
“I like hot new fashion and old retro tunes and meeting people in person. I’m eclectic.”
“Let’s go play an old game in person, then,” I say, and usher her out of the studio, grateful that my time with her isn’t ending.
And hopeful, too, that the time ahead is as good as all the other times with her have been.
In the game room at the store, Chris hands me a black plastic guitar. I strap it over my shoulder, and my neckline slides. Darn it. I fiddle with the hemline, pulling it back into place.
Chris moves in closer, whispering, “Nice try. It’s only slightly distracting when you do that.”
I hide a wild grin at the compliment, even as hot tingles sweep down my arms. “Far be it from me to distract my tutor.”
He shoots me a grin that’s equal parts sexy and sweet.
Chris turns on the Xbox and hits the on button on my guitar.
The game whirs on—a dark-pink mountaintop set against a black night sky appears on the gigantic television screen hanging on the wall in front of us. Chris moves closer to me and taps a few buttons on my guitar to click past various screens. His nearness is heady, and he smells like sunshine and ocean breezes.
I bet he tastes like sunshine and his hair feels like a warm breeze.
Since I haven’t played in a while, we review the basics, how to play the green, red, and yellow notes on the easy level of the game. How to hit them at just the right time. How to hit the strum bar at the same time too. I butcher my way through “Slow Ride” and “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” getting booed by the virtual audience and tossed offstage. I dig in like a batter at the plate; eyes fixed on the screen; feet planted firmly; index, middle, and ring fingers poised over the keys. Chris walks behind me, adjusts the strap a bit, moving the guitar a little lower. His right hand hovers over mine, flipping my concentration upside down and inside out. I’m not used to this feeling, electricity meets longing, and I don’t know what to do with it either. The last time I felt this way was in another lifetime, when Todd and I were planning a wedding and a future together.