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Breakfast At Bethany's
By Kathleen O'Reilly
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSWF looking to meet good man. Must like romantic walks, fine wine and old movies. Geeks need not apply.
BETH VON MEETER WAS THE last one to leave the chapel. Weddings did that to her. For some people it was sloppy puppies, for her it was the magic of the whole bridal extravaganza.
Wistfully, she trailed her fingers over the cute little nosegays that were tied to the pews. She would have chosen daisies rather than roses if it were her day.
But it wasn't.
Beth would have opted for a storybook June wedding rather than a cold November day, but then Mickey had no patience for social obligations, and well, to be frank, she and Dominic were in a hurry.
Mickey's wedding ceremony had been small - pitifully small. The reception at the church afterward had been almost nonexistent. Of course, that was the best you could do when the groom had to keep his name under wraps. Top secret, hush-hush. I Married a Mafia Don: My Love Affair with the Mob.
A gorgeous, sensitive, undercover cop wiseguy. It was enough to make a girl fall on her knees, rail and shake a fist at the sky. "As God is my witness, I'll never be single again." Unfortunately, imaginary drama wouldn't do diddly to conjure up the perfect life.
Carefully she smoothed out the pale pink material of her bridesmaid dress. That made two bridesmaid dresses that were flying in her closet at half-mast. Oh, yeah, the Bachelorette Pact. Single forever! Long live the infinite torture of the dating ritual! Beth blew a raspberry, which she hoped wasn't sacrilegious, but she figured God would understand. God wasn't married, either.
Now Mickey was. And Jessica was. Beth wasn't.
"Forget something?" asked Cassandra, gliding into the chapel. Amazing. The woman oozed sexuality even on holy ground.
Beth took in one last sniff of the roses. "Not a thing." Then she bundled up in her coat and slung her bag over her shoulder in what she thought was a sassy move. "Are Jessica and Adam still here? We could get a drink," she suggested, hoping no one would actually take her up on it. She felt like the worst sort of party squasher. Possibly it was her sinuses. She was grasping at straws, but tonight she just wasn't feeling perky.
Cassandra picked up one of the nosegays and lightly traced a rose petal with her forefinger. "We could if you want. I thought you had a date."
"I have one scheduled for 9:45 p.m." Beth checked her watch. Two hours to liftoff. So far, she'd been on eleven dates with her Internet dating service. Yes, you heard that right folks, eleven. It was demoralizing, dehumanizing and downright depressing.
"Have you met your match?" asked Cassandra, sitting down on an old oak bench and looking as if she were actually interested.
That made Beth sit down, too. "I've been on eleven dates and I think I've found the dregs of the dating pool."
"I've met Viktor the eccentric - read 'mad' - Russian. Kyle, who's exploring his more feminine side. That man is going to need luck with cross-gender dating, because his feminine side is pretty pronounced."
"Poor baby," murmured Cassandra.
Beth waved her hand. "Oh, that's not all. We have Bob, who likes to eat - a lot, not that there's anything wrong with that. The painfully, and I do mean painfully, shy Ted. Bob II, whose favorite topic of conversation is himself. Blah, blah, blah, Bob this. Blah, blah, blah, Bob that." She wrapped her head in her hands. "It's a nightmare."
"Maybe you'll find more promising candidates."
"Those are the most promising candidates."
She was spared further depression when an elderly janitor opened the creaky door into the chapel, the cold wind cutting through the last of the heat. "I'm locking up for the night. You girls need to clear out of here."
Beth stood and looked at the remaining flowers, then shot a what-the-hell? glance at Cassandra. "Are you going to throw these out?"
The janitor winked at Beth and stuffed his hands into his coat pockets. For a moment she wished he were about fifty years younger, or even forty. "You're welcome to take some home. I used to bring the leftovers to my wife when she was alive."
Quickly Beth tucked a nosegay inside her purse. "Thank you. I'll give them a good home."
Cassandra was already walking out the door ahead of her, but just before the janitor shut them out, she whisked back in, wrinkling her nose. "Maybe just one."
Beth just smiled. For all her big talk, Cassandra looked to be just as jealous as the rest of single America. Even a great sex life didn't remove the lonely truth when you went home alone. Vindication was sweet.
SPENCER JAMES WASN'T USED to being kept waiting. He liked punctuality, he liked schedules, he liked organization. His ex-wife had called him anal. Thoughts of his ex sent his fingers tapping impatiently on the linen tablecloth. He preferred the term "driven," which was more precise. A reporter lived and died by his adjectives.
The waiter came by, and Spencer shook his head. Annoying toady. Then he checked his watch, but it'd only been thirty seconds since the last time he'd looked.
Finally he took out his notebook and began to jot down some ideas for his piece. Humiliating. Soft news. As the result of a misguided bet - Spencer had said the Cubs would win the pennant - he was now working in Tempo, that is, the lifestyle section. Fashion, gossip and food. Fluff.
It wouldn't earn him a Scripps-Howard Award like the article he'd done on corruption in the Chicago unions, but his editor seemed to think the feature profile on the age of Internet dating would be picked up by the AP.
Excerpted from Breakfast At Bethany's by Kathleen O'Reilly Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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