Read an Excerpt
Where R U???
Rebecca Thorpe didn't bother returning her friend Bree's text because there was no need. She was already walking up the pathway to the St. Marks church basement, the ready-to-be-frozen lunches she'd prepared in a large tote in preparation for the bimonthly lunch exchange. That wasn't what had slowed her pace though. She took her hand out of her coat pocket and stared again at the trading card she'd been toying with for the past fifteen minutes.
Ever since Shannon Fitzgerald had introduced the idea of using trading cards for trading men, the lunch exchange group, now numbering a whopping seventeen women, had been in a dating frenzy. The concept was simplicity itself: everyone involved recommended men they knew who were eligible and in the market. Whether they were relatives, friends or even guys without that perfect chemistryfor them at leastthere was suddenly a bounty of prescreened, fully vetted local men. None of whom knew that they were members of this very select group.
On paper Gerard had seemed ideal. He was gorgeous, not only on the front of the card, either. Tall, dark, handsome, he'd gotten his degree from Cambridge, then had come to New York to work for the United Nations. He was urbane, sophisticated, dressed like a dream. And he'd taken her to dinner at Babbo, which was never a bad thing.
Sadly, like the other three men Rebecca had gone out with, courtesy of the trading cards, there had been no sizzle. Maybe she'd see Gerard again because he was fascinating, and they had many common interests, but the man she was looking for wasn't him. She'd known ten minutes into the date that the magic was missing, and while she'd been disappointed, she hadn't been surprised.
She was too picky. Or something. She couldn't spell out her criteria for the one but she certainly knew when she hadn't found it. She'd never had luck with men, and that had as much to do with her being a Winslow as it did with her taste, but the end result was that she hadn't truly connected with a man, not for the long haul, and the trading cards hadn't changed her luck.
So, with all due respect to the trading cards and to the whole idea of dating, she was done. No more cards for her, no more setups, no more blind dates, no more searching and no more hoping.
If she met someone in the course of doing what she loved, then great. If she didn't, she was fine with that, too. At twenty-eight she wasn't willing to say she'd never try again. She wanted to have a partner, maybe even have kids. But for now? Work was enough. Work was almost too much. It barely left time for her to visit with friends, go to movies, the theater, read a book. She was taking herself out of the game.
Determined and damn cold, she walked into St. Marks. The sound of women, of her friends, greeted her the moment she stepped over the threshold. There was a lot of joy to be had in her world, and only a part of it depended on a man.
"There you are," Bree said, grinning as she met Rebecca at one of the long tables. "Charlie bet me you wouldn't make it today. He said the donor dinner is getting too close."
Rebecca started stacking the lunches she'd prepared. "What did you win?"
"Something juicy that would make you blush."
Rebecca was glad not to have to hear the details. Charlie Winslow was her cousin, and while he was her favorite cousin, and she'd played an integral role in getting him and Bree together, there were certain things she'd rather not have in her memory. "As long as you're happy, I'm happy. And he's right. The dinner is driving me insane. I hate this part. I despise having to ask for money."
"Hard to run a charitable foundation without funds," Bree said.
"I know. But it defeats the purpose if I have to wine and dine the donors to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars. That money should be used elsewhere."
Bree, who looked adorable in skinny jeans with a gorgeous camel cowl-neck sweater, patted Rebecca's arm. "You could always serve them dinner a la soup kitchen. As a statement."
"I've considered it. But I really do need their money. Besides, the Four Seasons isn't known for its soup-kitchen ambience."
"Keep thinking about how much good the Winslow Foundation does. Then suck it up."
Rebecca laughed, as Shannon, the most important member of the lunch exchange, came plowing through the door. The redhead didn't know how to make anything but a dramatic entrance.
"I have new cards!" she said, lifting up a box from her family's printing shop. "Brand-new delicious men. You guys have outdone yourselves this time. Truly."
Rebecca pulled out Gerard's card, which had been in the second batch of trading cards. The first exchange had happened in February, a couple of weeks before Valentine's Day. As this was only the group's third exchange, it was too early to say how successful the new venture would be overall, but none of the dates had been disasters, and that was something.
She headed toward the front table where the cards were spread out for the taking, indecisive about putting Gerard back into the mix. For a moment, she was tempted. Tempted to forget she'd decided only minutes ago that she was done with all this. Maybe one more try? But that thought was dismissed the moment she remembered what she had waiting for her back at the office. Even if she wanted to try again, now wasn't the time. The dinner, which was more of a banquet complete with orchestra and dancing, was in just over a week, and if she found time to sleep between now and then, it would be a miracle.
SomeoneBree?pushed into her from behind into the long table. "Hey, jeez." What was this, sale day at Barneys? Rebecca dropped Gerard's card on top of the pile and was in the process of getting out of the way when a tiny little tap stopped her.
She picked up the trading card resting against her hip. Then she stared. The name on the top was Jake Donnelly. The picture made all her female parts stand up and take notice. So to speak. Because he was the single most attractive man she'd ever seen. Ever. He wasn't the handsomest, but handsome was easy, handsome was proportions and ratios and cultural biases. No, Jake Donnelly was the man who fit her. She hadn't realized until right now that she'd carried a blueprint in her brain, made of exacting specifications down to the texture of his eyebrows.
They were on the thick side, dark. As dark as his hair, which was parted, long on the collar, unstudied, and, oh, who was she kidding, it was his eyes. They were an astonishing blue. Not pale, but a vibrant, piercing cerulean. The rest of his face was great, fabulous, a perfect frame; rugged enough that the parts of her that weren't transfixed by his eyes were doing a happy dance about the rest.
A happy dance? Okay, so it wasn't a sale at Barneys, it was high school and she was swooning over the quarterback. Even when she'd been in high school she hadn't swooned. This was unprecedented in every way.
She blinked. Took in a much-needed breath. Looked around. Just like in the movies, sounds returned, the picture in her hand wasn't the only thing in focus and she was Rebecca once more.
She turned the card over, found out Donnelly had been recommended by Katy Groft. Rebecca made her way through the tightly packed crowd and sidled up to Katy, an NYU postgrad studying physics.
"Oh, you found Jake."
"please tell me he looks like this picture."
Katy grinned. "Oh, he's even better."
"Oh, God." Rebecca didn't dare look to see which category he fell in marrying kind, dating or one-night stand. Not until she asked "Is he already taken?"
"Nope. You're in luck."
"Thank God. Because wow. He is "
Katy sighed. "It pains me, it truly does. Because he's a sweetheart and he's funny, decent and very discreet. But he doesn't want a relationship at all. He's extremely private, too, so if that's going to bother you"
"Private's good. Private and discreet is even better. Can you call him? Oh, he's probably at work now."
"Did you not read the back of the card?"
Rebecca felt a little blush steal across her cheeks. "Um." She turned it over.
* His favorite restaurant: Luigi's Pizza in Windsor Terrace.
* Marry, date or one-night stand: One night.
* His secret passion: No idea. But he's renovating his father's house in Brooklyn between jobs.
* Watch out for: Nothing, actually. He was great. I found him through my uncle whom I trust beyond measure.
* Why it didn't work out: Nothing scary here. Hot and fun. He's not sure what he's going to do with his life.
Katy laughed, which made Rebecca tear her eyes away from Jake's picture. "What?" she asked.
"Nothing," Katy said. "I'll call him right now."
"That would be very, very good."
The sink wasn't cooperating. It was a heavy sonofa-bitch, and he couldn't just drop it into the new vanity, but the guy on the DIY DVD was talking too fast and Jake needed to rewind to get that last bit. He shifted the sink in his arms until it was balanced between him and the wall, unfortunately on his bad leg, then reached for his laptop. A second before his finger reached the touch pad, his walkie-talkie squawked. "Jake?"
Jake swore, which he'd been doing a lot this morning. This week. This month. It was his father. Again. About to tell him another idiotic cop joke.
Jake would have preferred not to hear another joke. Not while he was installing his old man's sink in the new master bath. In fact, not while he was still able to hear. But that's not how this gig worked.
He paused the DVD, lowered the sink to the floor and pressed the transmit button. "Okay, let's hear it."
There was a muffled giggle, a hell of a sound coming from a man who was sixty-three years old. "How many Jersey cops does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
Jake sighed. This particular joke seemed to be stuck on repeat, as this was the third time he'd heard it in so many days. "How many?"
Now the laughter wasn't subdued and it wasn't only his old man laughing. The other two voices belonged to Pete Baskin and Liam O'Hara, all old farts, retired NYPD, bored out of their stinking minds and drunk on nothing but coffee and dominoes. "Just one" his dad said.
"But he's never around when you need him," finished Liam.
The three of them laughed like asthmatic hyenas. The worst part about it? Someone had to be pushing the transmit button the whole damn time in order for Jake to hear it.