“Who are you bringing for Valentine’s?” Hannah’s face fills the screen of my laptop as I fold the sixth pair of boyleg underwear I own and shove the garment in the top drawer of my armoire.
“No one,” I admit with my back turned to her. I don’t want to see the look on her face when she hears that I’m desperately dateless coming up to the most important day of the year. At least it is to my lifelong bestie, Hannah Fairfax.
When I glance back she has her face shoved right up to the camera and for a second I get a detailed shot of her left nostril. “I can’t believe you, Evie. You promised last year you were going to work on having a date for this year. How can I trust you to look after your love life if you can’t find one lousy date?”
“I don’t have time.” I cram four pairs of jeans into the next drawer down. “I don’t even have time to go shopping for clothes or underwear.” I swear my uniform has become denim and oversized cotton T-shirts in colors that don’t show stains. “Not with this nannying gig.”
“Don’t blame the kid,” Hannah tells me, pulling the camera back so that I can see her properly. Hazel eyes stare me down reproachfully. “It’s not her fault you’re lame.”
“I wasn’t. It’s just I don’t have a lot of time to socialize.” That’s the downside of nannying for a sports celebrity. Most of my time is spent at home with Abby while they jet off to galas, and tours, and events. It puts somewhat of a cramp in finding time to meet people. “Plus I’m studying.”
“What about that guy? The one who’s friends with your boss’s fiancée. Darren or David or...”
“Danny.” I stick my tongue out at her as I cram my T-shirts into the next drawer and shove it shut with my hip. “That was a one time thing. In my car. I mean, he was cute in the desperately need to scratch an itch way, but he’s not the kind of guy one dates. And now I see him way too often since he’s always visiting Erin. I caught him pinching Garrett’s balls the other day.”
“Kinky.” She smirks.
“Golf balls, Han,” I correct. “Golf. Balls.”
“He sounds like fun, Lane. You should totally bring him.”
“Not going to happen.” I take a seat on the bed and sling my hair back into a ponytail.
“Well then you better find a date or I’m going to set you up with Alison’s cousin, Neal. Do you remember him?”
“You wouldn’t.” I gape at her.
“He always asks about you.” She laughs. “I’m sure he would love to spend an evening trying to stick his hand up your dress.”
“He was a creep.”
“He was,” she agrees. “Which is why I know you’ll show up with a date even if it’s the ball stealing guy you bumped uglies with in the back of your coupe.”
I roll my gaze to the ceiling and blow out a breath. There’s only six weeks until Valentine’s Day. “How am I supposed to find a decent guy in that amount of time?”
“You could try Tinder,” she suggests. “Maybe you’ll luck out.”
“On Tinder?” I shake my head. “It’s not hard to tell you haven’t had to find a date in a while.”
“Tsk, tsk. All this time you’re spending on complaining would be better used fishing for a hot stud who looks good in angel’s wings.”
“Fine,” I begrudgingly agree. “I’m going to hang up now and see if I can find someone more agreeable than you to talk into a date.”
“Don’t forget hotter.” She laughs. “Which might be more difficult.”
“I’ll manage,” I tell her, my finger hovering over the button that will disconnect our video chat. “Talk soon.”
Crap. I stare at the screen long after it goes blank. How am I going to find a date for this party when I barely have time to go online and buy date worthy underwear? Not that it’s been a problem recently since no one has seen my underwear in a good while. Or my legs. The fuzz extends well beyond my socks. Thank you, winter.
At least there’s something I can do about that since I have a rare free evening to myself while the Frosts are out to dinner with their daughter. A couple glasses of wine, some wax strips and funny cat videos sounds like the perfect way to spend it.
After I heat the wax strips in the kitchen, I end up on the floor of my bedroom with the laptop at full volume. Who knew cats were freaked out by cucumbers? I snort and have to clamp my hand over my mouth to avoid spitting out a mouthful of boyfriend cheesecake. Hey, if there’s any chance yummy chocolate cheesecake can help me attract a date then I have to eat it.
Once I’m done with my legs I peruse Tinder over a couple glasses of white, and then switch to dogs doing funny things. There’s even a video of a tiny dog being chased by a duck that resembles my charge’s pet, Ducky.
I pour another glass of wine while I Google dating sites. Fetch another bottle while I dig up the courage to sign up for a few of them. Before I convince myself to toss my name into the cyber dating pool, I take a break and switch back to funny puppy videos. The first one dissolves into an advertisement for a dating show.
A cute chocolate Labrador puppy sits in the middle of the screen chewing on a heart shaped pillow that’s nearly as big as the dog. “Can’t find your perfect match? Tried dating sites and Tinder only to find people don’t live up to your expectations?”
Oh, don’t be silly. I can’t believe I’m nodding along to this lame ad for yet another dating site that isn’t going to help me find a date for Hannah’s Valentine’s party.
“Dogs are man’s best friend. With a canine what you see is what you get, so why not take the guess work out of finding your next date and sign up for Puppy Love? Date a dog, not a dawg.”
Pun-tastic. I lift my wine and eyeball the dry as bone glass. Through the walls a duck starts quacking, which is my cue to take it outside.
“Click on the link below.”
Argh. I jab my finger against the mouse pad and click on the link before climbing to my feet to go and deal with Ducky. Anything to avoid Alison’s cousin with the gropey hands. Or spending another Valentine’s alone.
When I get back, I flop on my belly and study the form. Turns out Puppy Love isn’t a dating website. It’s an online show sponsored by a pet food company. The idea is you have to go on dates with dogs and at the end of three dates you’re supposed to pick your favorite pup for a Valentine’s date with his owner. It’s ridiculous. It’s funny. Hell, the pups would probably be better dates than most of the men I’ve gone out with. I read through the form, filling in my details with no intention of submitting. I’m not going to, am I? This would be crazy, right? Possibly against my contract with the Frosts. I’m pretty sure there’s a clause about avoiding media attention, though with Garrett constantly in the spotlight I doubt anyone would notice me.
Tell us a little about yourself. Your likes, your pets, and why you want to be on Puppy Love.
Regarding pets, well, there’s a duck. Ducky. And I grew up with dogs, but unfortunately can’t have one in my current situation. And dogs are really smart, and they know when people are dicks. I don’t want to date a dick, but if I don’t find someone to share Valentine’s Day with I’m probably going to be stuck with one. Yep, because I am that much of a loser at this point that no one has seen my underwear in, oh, at least six months, and I’m probably growing cobwebs. I just want to date a nice guy for a change.
“Evie? Evie, are you in there?” A little voice is joined by little hands tapping against the door.
“Come on, Abby,” Erin says. “It’s Evie’s night off. She probably isn’t even home right now. You can tell her tomorrow.”
Because I have a life outside of work and study?
“But I wanted a story. She always does voices.”
“Well.” Erin drops her voice low and rumbly. “I’m doing the voices tonight.”
Abby’s squeal lasts all the way down the hallway.
I hit send on the form and get to my feet to go say goodnight to Abby. Possibly even to help Erin read her a book. Wait? Oh crap. I just submitted that, didn’t I?
“Crap.” I snatch up my computer. How do I take it back? There must be some way to take it back. Anything? Send. Shit. Send. Somehow I manage to send the same form three times. Okay, breathe. I suck in a breath, blow it out through my mouth. It’s okay. It’s not like they’re going to pick my submission out of the hundreds they’ll probably receive, and that whole thing about cobwebs and dicks is funny. Besides, I can always tell them someone played a joke on me if they call.
Putting my laptop down on the bed, I go to say goodnight to the kid. Best not to even think about puppies at all.
“Where are we going?” Abby asks from the back seat of the Land Rover her dad insists I drive when I take his daughter out.
I guide the vehicle through another set of traffic lights. “I thought we might go to the park.”
“Yay.” She claps her hands. “Will you swing me?”
“Absolutely.” I smile at her in the rear view mirror.
“High?” Her blue eyes light up and she wiggles in her seat.
“So high,” I agree, pulling into the parking lot of our favorite park. “But I have to meet someone while I’m there, okay?”
“A friend,” I tell her, climbing out of the car. It’s a small white lie, but one thing I’ve learned about being around small children is that nothing stays secret, and I’d much rather Abby believe I’m meeting a friend than interviewing for a dating show. What was I thinking agreeing to an interview?
“You have friends?” Abby’s eyes grow so huge they take up half her face while I unbuckle her seatbelt and grab the bag we tote everywhere.
Out of the mouths of babes. I shake my head. This is why I agreed to meet the producer of some crazy show about dating dogs. I might have friends, but I don’t even have time to see them, so I definitely don’t have time to find my own date. “I do.”
“I’ve never met any of your friends.” Abby almost falls out of the car with excitement. “Are they here now?”
“I’m not sure.” I check to make sure her jacket is done up, her mittens are tucked into the sleeves, and that the cute, kitten faced beanie that covers her pin straight, dark hair is secured. “Shall we go and find out?”
As soon as we’re out of the parking lot, Abby takes off for the park and I hurry along behind her, scoping out the few people that are out in this weather. A few adults, bundled into puffy jackets and boots, give me pitiful ‘what the hell were we thinking coming out in the cold’ looks that I return, but I’m pretty sure they’re also keeping an eye on their children who don’t seem to notice how icy it is out.
“Come on, Evie,” Abby calls.
“Coming.” I follow her to the swings. The idea of meeting someone new is lost to the magical anticipation of soaring.
A big, hairy mutt that’s more of a haystack than a dog zips past me as I step off the path, and barrels toward the little girl. All white and gray fur, its back legs move faster than the front ones, sending it into a roll that has Abby right in its path.
“Abby,” I yell as I run to catch up.
The little girl stands rooted to the spot, completely fearless, and squeals, “Doggy!”
“Barclay,” a man booms, and then he’s passing me to scoop Abby up and out of the way of the dog cum bowling ball. A few seconds later the beast comes to a dead stop on its face. A pink tongue rolls out of the dense white fur.
“I’m so sorry about that.” The man approaches, concern causing lines to crinkle around the corners of his brown eyes as he puts Abby down.
He’s a head taller than me when he stands up straight, with a well-defined jaw and neat black stubble. Perhaps I could be sold on meeting men through their dogs after all. “Gorgeous.”
“Sorry?” He smiles all the way to those dark eyes, almost cocky, as though he knows I meant him.
“Your dog. If it wasn’t a canine wrecking ball.” I crouch in front of Abby, checking her over, though the dog never actually made it to her. “Are you all right?”
“I want to pet the doggy.” She twists to look behind her, more interested in the animal than anything else. “Can I please play with your doggy?”
“Uh, I think he might be a little too excitable at the moment.”
“I want a puppy, Evie. I’m sure Daddy won’t mind.” Abby bats her eyelashes and pulls an I’m so cute face in the way only kids can when they imagine they desperately want something.
“I don’t think so. Besides Ducky wouldn’t like it.”
“Ducky?” the man asks and I look up to find him studying me.
I drop my gaze to Abby, bite my lip and try to hide the fact that I get a little warmer from that look. He’s definitely attractive, and he did save Abby.
“She has a pet duck,” I say, climbing to my feet. “Named Ducky.”
“And my uncle has a pet goat,” Abby informs him. “My other uncle has a kitty too.”
“Maxwell?” A woman calls out as she stomps toward us. “I can’t believe you dragged me out here in the cold for that ridiculous dog, and then you both abandon me. This is the worst date I’ve ever been subjected to.”
“Sorry,” he says. “I better go. It was nice meeting you.”
“You too,” I murmur as he strides away from us toward the woman in the chic Burberry winter coat and matching boots. Girlfriend? She has to be his girlfriend. Of course hot men don’t just barrel into your life while you’re busy on the job. But maybe Puppy Love might just be the right track after all.