Long Overdue by Tara Andrews
“I’m telling you, you need to call and arrange a date,” Melanie insisted.
“Sex with a stranger, you mean?” With a dating service called 1Night Stand, the name spoke for itself. Not that Jill disliked dating services per se, but her experience with cyber matching left her rather disappointed.
“No. To live a little.”
“Live? You want me to meet up with some random man in a hotel? I’m likely to wind up some tragic headline. Desperate woman killed in her quest to get some.”
“Don’t be crass.” Her friend shook her head, dismissing the concern.
“Crass? This coming from someone trying to pimp me out.”
“It’s not what you’re thinking. It’s very legitimate. Extensive background checks are done before any dates are set. Very safe, I assure you.” Spoken like the expert she wasn’t. Ever since her co-worker came back from Vegas, in love and swearing by the agency, Melanie had turned into a walking infomercial.
Too bad Melanie’s happily married status prevented Jill from suggesting she give it a whirl. Where did it leave her? Oh, yeah, trying to get her friend to drop the idea altogether. “I’m fine. I don’t need another dating service.”
They stopped at an intersection and waited for the light to change. The buzz of noise and the press of people reinforced the reasons she didn’t come down to the city often. She’d tried to get out of coming, but Melanie insisted.
“I’m only trying to help and well….” The walk signal flashed and they moved with the crowd across the street. Once on the opposite corner, Melanie pulled her to the side. “Ever since ----- broke off the engagement, you’ve been trying too hard to find a Mr. Right to replace him. But…” Melanie glanced in the direction they headed, as if weighing her words. She turned back, her mouth set with determination. “He’s not going to care, Jill. Okay? You could marry Bradley Cooper today, and he wouldn’t notice.”
The truth of the statement stung in her heart and in her eyes. She wanted to be angry, but some part of her knew her pride spurred her to even the score.
Melanie touched her arm. “I’m sorry for saying it like that. Come on.”
They walked half a block before Melanie stopped in front of a café window and peered inside. “Like clockwork,” she mumbled.
A chill ran down Jill’s back, igniting a sense of dread. She didn’t want to see what waited for her, positive it’d be unpleasant. But curiosity won, and she turned her head.
Her ex-fiancé sat across from a beautiful woman, smiling and holding her hand on the table between their coffees. They were deep into a conversation. Deep into each other.
Blinded by tears, Jill reached out and took the card Melanie offered her.
Almost three weeks from the day her friend sprang reality on her, Jill stood outside the Castillo Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, unable to move her legs, or draw a large enough breath, or even believe the moment arrived.
In hindsight, maybe she shouldn’t have rushed to fill out the form while emotionally charged. Sleeping on her answers first might have been a prudent idea. Perhaps she’d have provided a little more detail in describing her perfect man, other than someone who doesn’t screw around. No telling what awaited her, with so much wiggle room.
A trio of tourists exited the hotel. The movement snapped her out of her trance. She walked into the lobby, imagining herself as Alice going down the rabbit hole. It all worked out for her, didn’t it?
Her grip tightened on the handle of her overnight bag. She’d debated whether to pack one at all. What kind of message did it send? I’m here for the sex, baby. Let’s get it on. It seemed rather over-eager. Although, the idea of leaving the next day in the same clothes screamed a little too much of walk of shame for her comfort.
Besides, choosing not to carry a purse, she needed someplace to put her pepper spray.
She located the VIP elevators per the instructions provided. A uniformed employee pressed the up button for her. The elegance of the act made her realize she’d been so focused on each step, she’d walked through the lobby of one of the most luxurious hotels in the world without noticing a single detail. The elevator doors slid open and left her no time to consider the décor.
Her heart thudded. If she was going to walk away, it was now or never.
The employee held the door open, waiting for her to step inside. He offered her a slight smile and raised a brow.
Move forward or turn back?