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On the other end, her friend Sydney Shaw managed to make her tone both chiding and careless. "You heard me. I set you up on a blind date."
"But ... why?"
"You said you wanted to do something different," Sydney told her with a sigh, as if the answer should have been obvious. "You said you wanted to have more fun. You said you were getting into a rut."
"I was talking about getting a pedicure, or trying that Ethiopian restaurant on Washington Street," Alex protested. "Not ... dating!"
"Getting a pedicure is not 'different,' it's routine maintenance," Sydney argued. "And the Ethiopian place on Washington sucks."
"Alex. It's just one date. With a cute guy. Really. You should see his ass."
"It's a blind date, Sydney," Alex said between gritted teeth. "I don't care about his ass."
"Oh, but you will." Sydney's laugh was a burst of naughty glee. "I promise."
Alex sighed and switched ears, lowering her voice as one of her intermediate ballet students walked in. "Sydney, I don't know. A blind date? I haven't had a regular date in nine years."
"But that's the perfect thing about it," Sydney insisted. "It's not some guy you already like, whomight break your heart if he doesn't like you back. It's just a few hours, a couple of drinks-no pressure. You said you wanted to get out, so I'm giving you the chance. And believe me, if I wasn't seeing Mike, I'd be dating this guy."
Of course, Sydney's criteria was a little different from Alex's, which included a lot more than the shape of a guy's ass and the bulge in his wallet, but as Alex stared at her reflection in the mirror, she wondered if Sydney had a point anyway.
The last eight months since she and Noah divorced had been, in a word, lonely. And she'd fought it the only way she knew, throwing herself into work until she was eating, sleeping, even dreaming dance. When she wasn't actually in the studio demonstrating proper plié technique or teaching finger pirouettes, she was wrestling the account books into submission to scrape up a few pennies for advertising or better speakers for the sound system.
She wasn't miserable, but she wasn't having much fun, either. And she looked it. She hadn't done more than skin her hair back into its usual bun in weeks, and aside from Chapstick, makeup was a distant, fondly recalled memory. Her black tights were faded and her leg warmers-which were at least making a comeback, or so she'd been told-were pilled with gray fuzzies. Even her ballet slippers were worse for the wear, although that was no surprise. She went through almost as many of them now, teaching so many classes a week, as she had when she was dancing professionally.
"I know Steph is teaching the ballroom class tonight," Sydney said with an audible smirk. "I called her this morning. So you are free as the proverbial bird."
"That's playing dirty."
"No one has ever accused me of playing fair, thank God. Now write this address down."
"I didn't say I would go," Alex hissed, waving at Marissa Jenkins's mother across the studio as she led her daughter inside.
"Well, say it now," Sydney huffed. "Did I tell you he looked fascinated when I told him that you're a dancer?"
"You didn't even tell me his name," Alex said in exasperation, pasting on a smile as ten-year-old Courtney Little ran up and slid an arm around Alex's waist.
"His name is Matt Crawford," Sydney said, "and you're meeting him at Dive at eight. He's tall, about six feet, with dark brown hair, and he'll be wearing gray trousers and a black leather coat. Yummy is the word. Not the only word, though. He's only been working here about three weeks, and just about every woman in the office has had either a haircut or a facial since he started. Melissa bought a suit Ally McBeal would've loved, the skirt is so short."
He sounded like a player, Alex thought with dismay. The kind of smoothly charming guy she knew nothing about. And if he worked at Sydney's real estate office, he was probably a new broker. Which meant he was slick and very possibly a little bit sleazy.
"Alex? Are you there?" Sydney said. "Alex?"
"I'm here," she answered, looking down into Courtney's huge brown eyes with a real smile this time, and winding her arm around the girl's thin shoulders. "But my class is waiting. I have to go."
"But you'll be there, right?" Sydney insisted. "Tonight at Dive, eight o'clock. Do it for me, Alex. Be my vicarious thrill for the weekend."
Marissa's mother was waiting across the room, her face creased with a frown. Marissa was on tiptoe whispering furiously into the woman's ear, and Alex knew she was bugging her mother to ask about going en pointe. Courtney was tugging her elbow now, and Hannah Cohen was at the barre doing grand pliés badly, since she hadn't bothered to warm up.
And in another hour, Alex would be teaching giggling, fidgety seven-year-olds whose idea of being a grand ballerina had more to do with Barbie than Suzanne Farrell or Gelsey Kirkland.
Maybe a couple of drinks with a good-looking guy wasn't such a crazy idea. It wasn't a crazy idea at all, of course; it was just something she hadn't done in years. But she could do it tonight. Get back into the swing of things. She was divorced, and she didn't plan to spend the rest of her life on her toe shoes, all by herself.
She could have fun. She would have fun. Tonight. And it would be the start of a new attitude. No more hiding in the studio. She had a life-she was going to live it.
"I'll be there," she said to Sydney, who squealed. "But he'd better be worth it."
At five minutes after eight, Alex pushed open the door to Dive and smoothed her skirt over her thighs, trying to remember to breathe.
It was ridiculous to be nervous. It wasn't even a date, really-not the torturous formal-dinner-and-awkward-conversation kind, anyway. It wasn't even the kind of date that required heavy wardrobe analysis, even though she'd changed four times before settling on the twirly spring dress she'd picked up on sale last week with her favorite denim jacket and a pair of knockoff Manolo Blahnik mules. Comfortable, pretty, suitable for flirting, if it came to that.
Which was possible, she reminded herself. She was here to have fun. He was supposed to be cute. They were two people having drinks at a crowded bar. She could handle this. She squinted into the smoky depths of the room, peering around a bald guy shaped like a linebacker. If she could find him, of course.
The place was packed, and the atmosphere was pure Friday night, loose and hot and crackling with energy. A Shins song pounded from the speakers and the postage stamp of a dance floor was crowded with bodies.
Shouldering her way through the people at the bar running the length of the room, Alex waved at the bartender. The girl turned bright blue eyes on her and flicked one of her black braids over her shoulder.
"What can I get you?"
"Nothing ... yet," Alex shouted over the noise of two guys arguing about the Mets. "I'm actually looking for someone I'm supposed to meet here. I know it's crowded, but ..."
The girl grinned as she swiped the bar with a damp rag, shouting back, "A guy? Tall, dark hair, leather coat? Kind of slick?"
Oh, good. She swallowed. "That should be the one."
The bartender jerked her head toward the tables in the back corner, on the other side of the room. "Make him pay for the first round," she said with another grin. Her tongue was pierced with a tiny silver barbell.
Alex nodded as she walked away, nudging past a girl doing a Jell-O shot of something the color of Windex. It was hard to see very far beyond the shifting crowd of bodies, but as she got closer to the back of the room, she spotted her date, sitting alone at one of the corner tables, just like the bartender said.
Wow. Sydney wasn't wrong.
He was gorgeous. Well, maybe not gorgeous in the traditional sense, but definitely her type. The secret type she hadn't even known she had until she laid eyes on him, in fact, and found his close-cropped dark hair and strong jaw shadowed with stubble the sexiest thing she'd ever seen. He was leaning back in his chair, the fingers of one hand carelessly circling the lip of his empty glass, his dark eyes shifting back and forth over the crowd, watching, waiting.
He didn't look like a real estate broker. Unless he only sold homes to the mob, or in the kind of neighborhoods other agents were afraid to drive through. And his leather jacket wasn't exactly what she'd pictured, either. She'd been thinking tailored, metrosexual, buffed to a buttery sheen, and his looked as if it had been tied to the bumper of a speeding car and dragged across uneven pavement. Scuffed, worn, lived-in-but, she had to admit, as natural on him as a second skin.
He looked ... dangerous. Which was certainly different, for her, at least. She'd never known dangerous could look so tempting.
With a deep breath for courage, she edged past a couple who were taking turns sipping from the same drink, and walked up to his table. Now or never. Nothing to lose.
"Hi," she said. "Alex Ramsay. I'm sorry I'm late, but ... well, there's never a good excuse for that, is there? I hope you haven't been waiting long."
His mouth curved into a smile and he shook his head slowly. "Not long at all. Just long enough, I guess."
She pulled out the chair opposite his and sat down, nestling her bag on her lap. Now what? He was looking at her so strangely, as if he wasn't exactly sure what she was doing there, but definitely not unhappy that she'd shown up. Except for the way he kept glancing past her toward the short hallway that led to the bathrooms, if the stick figures of a man and a woman posted above the archway meant what she thought they did.
She wanted him to look at her again, she realized suddenly. Maybe it was the heated, sexually charged atmosphere, or the simple fact that she'd taken the plunge and come on this date, but she wanted to make the most of it. Getting out of a rut seemed a whole lot more appealing if she was going to be doing it with someone who looked like him.
"Have you been here before?" she asked him, wishing she had a drink in front of her. It would have given her something to do with her hands, at least.
"A couple of times," he said, that same slightly confused smile playing around his mouth. "Usually on business."
What kind of business could he do here? She couldn't imagine discussing escrow and variable-rate mortgages in a place like this.
"You?" he asked, leaning forward, his elbows on the table. Beneath the sweaty, faintly electrical haze of too many bodies, the sharply spicy scent of perfume, and too many speakers blaring at once, she could suddenly smell him-warm and dark, like a crisp night in front of a fire.
Delicious, she caught herself thinking as she looked up and into his eyes. Oh yeah, they weren't bad either. A rich dark brown, intent and curious and intelligent, the kind of eyes that saw everything.
"No," she answered finally. "I work a lot of nights."
His gaze sharpened, and she found herself explaining before he asked. "Teaching. Adults usually need evening classes, and after a few hours of the tango and the foxtrot I'm usually too beat to do anything but collapse in front of the TV."
"The tango, huh?" His head tilted sideways as his mouth quirked into another grin. "I didn't know anyone did that anymore."
"Oh, lots of people still want to learn." She crossed her legs under the table and her foot brushed against the solid weight of his calf. "Sorry. I'm usually more graceful than that."
His grin changed into a sultry smile. "I believe it."
She fought a blush. What were they talking about? Was this flirting? Because it felt pretty good-a little vague, certainly, and a little dangerous, but exciting. As if the conversation could twist into something new at any moment.
Maybe she should slow things down a little. She cleared her throat. "So how long have you been in real estate?"
Now his grin was a frown. "What makes you think I'm in real estate?"
"Uh ..." What? She was trying to think of how to respond to that when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned her head to find the bartender she'd talked to earlier leaning down to speak to her, blue eyes wide.
"The guy who told me he was waiting for someone?" she whispered fiercely. "That's not him."
Which explained why she'd apologized for being late, he mused. As pickup lines went, it was kind of a weird one.
He stuck his hand out gamely as the bartender disappeared into the ladies' room. "John Tanner," he said. "Did you think I was someone else?"
"Yeah." She was aiming for a grin, but didn't quite make it. Her mouth had twisted into an embarrassed grimace, which was a shame, since he couldn't remember the last time he'd met a prettier woman, or one he wanted to see smiling more.
Her voice was a surprise, low and husky, when he would have expected a light, purely feminine sound. She was the kind of pale blond that reminded him of the girls in the fairy tales his sisters loved to read when they were kids. All that long, shimmery hair, left to hang loose over her shoulders, and those big eyes that hovered between gray and pale blue, like the sky before dawn. She looked ... delicate. A little bit fragile.
Of course, that wasn't necessarily true. One thing he'd learned-when it came to women, his radar tended to short-circuit. Looks could be absolutely deceiving.
And she had legs that went on till next week, he noticed as she uncrossed them, about to scoot her chair away from the table. Gorgeous, smooth, up-to-there legs.
Which were going to carry her right out of the bar if he didn't speak up. He wasn't here to flirt, and he didn't know anything about her and whoever she'd thought he was, but he couldn't stand the expression of mortified embarrassment on her face. She looked ready to slink home and lock the door behind her for a good couple of months.
"Wait," he said, reaching for her hand. "Don't go. It's no big deal. So we had a friendly chat. No harm done."
"Right." She settled back into the chair, giving him a grateful smile, but her cheeks were still flushed hot with color. Her cheekbones were set high in her oval face, and the effect was twin pink flags flying.
"I take it you don't know the guy you were supposed to meet?" he said, pushing his empty glass to the side of the table. It left a damp trail.
"Yeah." She shook her head with another sheepish smile. "Blind date. The curse of modern society. He was supposed to be tall, with dark hair, and wearing a leather jacket ..." She shrugged, her shoulders like twigs beneath her denim jacket. "You fit the bill."
So did someone else, Tanner thought with a sudden twinge of alarm. Fuck. "This might sound weird, but would you mind telling me this guy's name?"
She blinked. "Matt Crawford-why?"
Bingo. Except in this case the prize wasn't a pot of money, it was an asshole, plain and simple.
"I ... well, I know who you're talking about." His tone was terser than he meant it to be, and he glanced up to see her brow furrowed into a worried frown.
"You don't sound happy about it," she said, sitting forward, her hair falling across her chest. "Not that it's any of your business, really."
Oh, it was his business, all right. Tonight, and every night for the last two weeks, Matt Crawford had been nothing but his business. Sleazy, two-faced, morally corrupt, and somehow irresistibly charming Crawford. Who had walked into the bathroom fifteen minutes ago, and should have been out after two.
To meet Alex Ramsay, who looked to be exactly the kind of woman Crawford loved-until he found his next lay and left Alex at home, wondering what she'd done wrong and why he never called anymore.
Excerpted from I Love You To Death by Amy Garvey Copyright © 2006 by Amy Garvey. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 9, 2008
¿My Love Life is Killing Me¿. With the ink not quite dry on her divorce papers, Alex looks forward to dating again, but is not sure how to take the dive. Her best friend comes through arranging a blind date. Things initially seem okay until her date dies in the men¿s room with undercover private investigator John looking into what happened. Alex wants to team up with John, but he wants to form a personal relationship only as he does not want Alex to get hurt. --- ¿Dial M for Mortified¿. With her coffeehouse Sacred Grounds grinding near bankruptcy, Darcy needs a gimmick to get customers to come in once she feels most will return. She throws a ¿blind date night¿ bash that turns into a monster success. At her gala is reporter Noah, who Darcy is attracted to even if he seems more like someone who failed to have his first caffeine fix. However, everything changes when someone adds a homicide to their coffee. --- ¿Dead Men Don¿t Write Checks¿. Elementary school teacher Franny feels she is a chivalrous knight protecting her neighborhood from the developers like the Landry Foundation that bulldoze historical buildings in the name of progress. She decides she must confront the dragon in his lair so she wears her sexiest outfit and crashes the Landry Foundation¿s annual fundraiser to tear down CEO Theo. Shockingly it is attraction at first sight between Theo and Franny until one of the opponents dies during dessert. --- These are three amusing blind date romantic suspense thrillers with homicides to spice up the relationships between the protagonists. Readers will appreciate Amy Garvey¿s fun I LOVE YOU TO DEATH as long as they do not have a blind date on the horizon. --- Harriet Klausner
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