Alison took a deep breath as she grabbed her car keys off the counter and picked up her purse. This was it. Tonight she would try dating again, sort of. She didn’t think speed dating really counted, but her best friend Mandy had begged her to come, and there wasn’t a whole lot Alison wouldn’t do for her. Besides, Mandy had already RSVP’d for the two of them and paid the entry fee. A jailbreak would be easier than getting out of this night.
Mandy claimed she needed moral support, and she did, but they both knew this was also about getting Alison out of the house. Supposedly this was going to be the Super Bowl of speed dating. They were even holding the event in Denver’s largest sports arena. Three minutes to try to convince the other person that you weren’t a desperate loser. And then repeat with the next nervous specimen.
She drove to Mandy’s house and turned off the engine, studying the perfect rows of summer flowers lined up along the brick walkway and the rock garden spiraling out from under a pine tree. Mandy was…domestic. She wanted a husband to dote on and three kids with runny noses and messy curls. And she deserved her picture-perfect goal. That was why Alison had to do this with her. Mandy, one of the best people in the world, wanted a man and she needed Alison as her wingman…wingwoman…whatever.
Mandy’s front curtain parted and she waved to let Alison know she was coming. A minute later she was out her front door and in Alison’s car, her perfume filling up the space and making Alison itch to crack a window. It wasn’t a bad scent, but Alison could already feel a tension headache coming on. She wanted to drive back home and hide on her couch, covered in her favorite blanket. But if she did that, then today would end just like yesterday, and the day before that. Today had to be different. Even disastrous would be better than monotonous. Wow, her inner thoughts were sounding a lot like Mandy’s lectures, and she’d had enough of that already.
“Are you excited?” Mandy asked, her feet tapping in her peep-toe heels. She flipped down the car mirror and shook out her dark brown curls.
“Not really. More like resigned.”
Mandy laughed. “I shouldn’t have asked.”
As they drove to the arena, Mandy pulled a set of notecards from her purse and studied them.
Alison glanced over. “Oh, please. Not the notecards again.”
“I know myself. If there’s any guy worth talking to, my mind will go blank and I’ll run out of things to say. Or I’ll blurt out something totally stupid. This is my backup plan. If all else fails, I’ll go to my cue cards.”
“He won’t find it weird that you’re glancing down in your lap and reading?”
“What’s your plan then, Miss Chatty? What are you going to say to all these eligible bachelors?”
“As little as possible.” Alison passed a slow-moving minivan and checked the rearview for cops. At Mandy’s insistence, they were slated to arrive twenty minutes early, but speeding was second nature and she couldn’t bring herself to slow down. She turned to look at Mandy. “You said this was first names only, right?”
Mandy gave her a sympathetic smile. “Yes, I promise. Only the event planners have our full names and emails. They’ll send you any matches afterwards and it’s up to you from there. I’m just hoping someone will want to be matched to me. I’ve never done this before.”
“Plenty of guys will want to see you again. But be careful. Three minutes is a really short time to weed out creeps.”
“To you, they’re all creeps.”
Alison laughed. “Well, not all of them, but I’ll put a frowny face by the names of the ones you’re banned from calling.”
Mandy let out a squeal. “Ooh, we’re here. Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous.”
Alison circled around, finally realizing they’d have quite a walk no matter where she parked. She glanced over at her friend’s heels as she pulled into a spot, but Mandy was already slipping out of them and opening her door.
A sedan pulled in across the way and four men got out and smiled at them. Not bad looking. Not that it mattered. She was here for Mandy. “What do you think?”
“Not tall enough,” Mandy whispered back, swinging her shoes on the ends of her fingers. Not only did she want someone taller than her, she wanted someone to tower over her three-inch heels.
Alison sighed. Mandy was so stubborn. How could she make her understand that height had nothing to do with heart, with loyalty, with happiness? But she wouldn’t let her thoughts go there. Nope. Paul had changed her, permanently. But he didn’t have to haunt her tonight. She wouldn’t let him.