I wave it off, because cats can be dicks, and I should have known better, given this dick’s track record. “I never should have left it on the bed. What can I say? I was distracted by a unicorn shirt. And hey, this gives me an excuse to visit Gadgets, Gizmos, and Geeks. They can fix it.”

She grabs my arm, pleading with big brown eyes. “I promise if you ever need a patent attorney for anything, I’ll handle it for free.”

“Well, duh. Who else would I go to when I finally invent a website that works without me needing to do a single thing to run it?” I add with a wink then pick up the laptop and the damaged drive.

She laughs and tells Lena it’s time for bed, since the other women are on their way over.

I dart back to my place, drop off the laptop on my desk, and return to Hayden’s.

After Lena conks out, my sister, Julia, and our good friend Erin arrive. I’ll save my news till the end of the show. The four of us pile onto Hayden’s couch and catch up on the latest in the saga of dragons and character deaths that leave you reeling.

“Whoa! I didn’t see that one coming,” I say when a beloved character meets his messy end.

“I did.” Erin enthusiastically brandishes the notepad with her predictions. In her triumph, her big red plastic hoop earrings swing wildly around her small, pert face and suit her sandy-brown spiky pixie do.

“Damn.” I grab my wine, and Hayden and Julia do the same, all of us imbibing as the drinking game requires.

When the show is over, I tell them it’s special bonus-viewing time.

I’m absolutely giddy about my red-hot idea. Nervous too. But definitely excited.

I click on a folder on my phone and show them the short video I recorded yesterday for my blog. I haven’t posted it yet because I want to know what they think of it first.

“Hey there, all you fashion hounds and fashionistas. I have a very special edition today. It’s a little more personal than usual, but it’s chock-full of the best clothing tips.” On-screen me pauses dramatically then declares, “It’s the best outfit for when you’re finally ready to date again after a prolonged time-out.”

Julia leaps from the couch, her red curtain of hair flying behind her. She crushes me in a hug while the video plays, detailing my attire when I met the restaurateur. “That’s what I wore when I was asked out . . .” I gasp dramatically, leaning into the camera to whisper, “in real life.”

Julia lets go and mouths, No kidding?

Girl scout’s honor, I mouth back.

The video finishes, and I’m engulfed in a group hug. No one has wanted this more than my best friends.

When we manage to separate, we return to the cushy couch where they pepper me with questions.

“When did this happen?” Hayden asks.

“How did you decide you were ready?” Erin tosses out.

I give a quick overview of running into Todd and Amber. They cringe and offer sneers for him and leg pats for me, but I assure them it didn’t hurt. “It reminded me that I’m over him. That I’m ready for the next phase.”

“And you met someone right away?” Erin asks.

“Yeah, who is this guy who asked you out? The one you mentioned on your vid?” Julia inquires.

“Are you on the apps?” Hayden asks, reaching for her wine with her long arm. Well, both arms are long. She might be part-giraffe. Her limbs are endless.

“Aha,” I answer. “That’s my grand plan, and I think it’s innovative.”

“To go on the apps?” Erin asks, deadpan. “Everyone’s on the apps, hon. That’s how I met Pete.” Pete’s her live-in boyfriend. “Hate to break it to you, but everyone meets on the apps these days.”

I heave a dramatic sigh. “I know. And since it’s been, oh, six long years since I dated, I’m a little app-averse.” Todd and I met when I graduated from college; we were together for five years. And back in college? No one needed apps. College was one gigantic hookup fest.

Ah, those were the good old days.

“Basically, I haven’t dated. Ever,” I say in a confessional tone.

Erin gives me the side-eye. “Really?”

“I had a couple hookups in college and then a boyfriend my junior year. So that would make high school the last time I actually went on a regular date.” I let out a long stream of air. “Damn, that was a long time ago. I’ve more or less missed the online-dating phenomenon.”

“So what’s your plan?” Julia asks. “Are you going to do Plenty of Fish or Bumble or Tinder or something else?”

I wiggle my eyebrows, bubbling with enthusiasm. “I’m going to get back in the saddle IRL.”

Erin tilts her head, like she didn’t understand. “IRL?”

“Yes. In real life.”

Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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