Cupid she’s not—but she’s pretty darn close.
Nothing in the world feels better than finding her clients the perfect date. Finding one for herself might be nice, but creative bill paying is not for accomplished doctors in their forties. Satisfied customers keep the electricity on.
Everything in her life was fine until she quit her celebrity radio job to start a dating business. Two years, a cheating ex, and a very ugly divorce later, she’s back to living with her mother. Not that her mom isn’t great, but come on.
With her cop ex-husband doing everything he can to ruin her business, she’s at her wit’s end. Throw in another cop who makes her want to believe in love at first sight again and life is a mess. Another sexy bad boy cop is the last thing she needs.
Targeted Age Group:: all audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 2 – PG
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
After 50 plus romance novels, I wanted to write a series featuring old school romances with lots of sensuality and flirting, but with closed-door, sweet love scenes. The Perfect Date Series centers around an elite dating service with needy clients of all ages and run by a heroine in need of her own love and romance do-over. Some of the clients are 40 or older, but all of them are a bit jaded about love. These are not only satisfying romances, but like most of my stories, they are romantic comedy. In all my writing, my goal is to entertain readers for a few hours, give them a few laughs about the curvy path to love, and leave them smiling when the story is done.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My contemporary romances border on being women's fiction because I focus on the heroine's relationship with her family and friends as well as her search for a perfect partner. But I'm not slighting men's fiction because I have a series where the first three books feature a divorced father of 50 and his two adult sons who try to help him find love again. My original series features three women all over 40 who've been friends for years. This series–The Perfect Date Series–begins with a widowed mother who's 60 and a divorced daughter over 40. The daughter is the owner and founder of the dating agency. Some of the books are about friends. Some are about the children of friends. Some are about people who work for the dating agency. Some are about fun dates who didn't make the cut in one book but who I wanted to help out–lol. I'm at Book 9 in the series and it's ongoing.
Mariah lifted her head from her laptop and the task she’d hoped would distract her from her woes. Dr. Della Livingston, her twenty-seven-year-old multi-tasking miracle who worked mostly in exchange for research data for her book, looked ready to have a meltdown. “What’s wrong, Della?”
“I know you just got back from court, but there’s a Detective Monroe here asking to see you. He says he was referred by someone.”
“Oh, for pity’s sake. I’ve had enough of this,” Mariah said, rising from her chair.
She straightened her unfortunately super snug pencil skirt back down over her hips. Both pieces of her favorite suit had gotten tighter in the last couple of years, but it was still the best one she owned. That was why she’d chosen it to wear to court. The light shade of rose flattered her blonde complexion without looking too feminine.
Mariah marched to the door of her office. Taking one more deep breath, she moved by a still cringing Della, until she was standing in front of the still seated man. She glared down at him. “What can I do for you, Detective Monroe?”
To her annoyance, the man’s face blushed crimson just at hearing her tone. His gray eyes briefly dropped down to her legs, but they didn’t linger there long, before returning to her face. Good thing too. With that much gray at his temples, the man ought to know better.
“Is that how you typically greet your prospective clients?” he managed to choke out.
“No,” Mariah declared flatly. “It’s how I greet sleazy cop buddies of my detective ex-husband who think they’re going to come around and dig into my business for no good reason. The charges were dismissed today due to a lack of evidence. You’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here.”
“Uh… that’s not why I came,” he stammered out. Then his brow furrowed. “Who’s your detective ex?”
“Don’t waste my time with inane questions,” Mariah ordered.
She watched him reach up and run a nervous hand through his perfectly cut hair. Had the man really believed she’d accept his lame story? It would be just like Dan to plant someone as a client here to spy for him. Well, she was not buying this new detective’s innocent act. The man cleared his throat and stood, towering above her by a good foot or more even in her heels. Her gaze traveled up to his now pained-filled gray eyes. She glared until he finally looked away from her.
“I believe I made a mistake in coming here. Elliston said you were… well, it doesn’t matter. Sorry to have bothered you.”
“McElroy,” he said tightly. “Geeky nephew of mine. Said you were fixing him up with the perfect woman.”
Hands that had been fisted on her hips dropped to her side. “I will neither confirm nor deny to you that anyone is or is not a client of my business. Privacy is not just a buzz word I throw around. However, I appreciate all referrals. If this was an honest one, I’m sorry for jumping to wrong conclusions.”
He studied her for a few long moments and Mariah let him get by with it. The silence helped to calm her.
“Bad day?” he asked.
Mariah nodded. Why not confess? If the man was lying to her, Dan had already told him anyway. “Nothing life-changing, but I had to go to court this morning. The experience left me a little less trusting of anyone with the first name of Detective.”
“I caught the gist of that in your greeting. Ex causing you problems?”
“Let’s just say I’m not at my best at the moment, so this unfruitful conversation can end.”
His almost bashful smile over her defensiveness did strange things to her insides. What she felt in the lower regions of her body made her mad at herself. However, if he truly was Elliston McElroy’s uncle, she needed to be polite.
“Let’s start again.” Mariah put out her hand to shake. “I’m Dr. Mariah Bates—the owner, CEO, and general doer of every role here at The Perfect Date.”
He stared at her hand for a split second longer than proper, then swallowed her hand with his own extremely large one. He didn’t shake it so much as hold it for a moment. Mariah had to stop herself from wiping her hand on her skirt when he let go.
“What can I do for you, Detective?”
“First name’s actually John—not Detective,” he said, correcting her. “And I’m thinking that coming here really wasn’t the best idea. Can we just pretend I wasn’t here at all?”
Mariah rolled her eyes and drew in a breath. “Look, Detective Monroe…”
“John…” he corrected again.
Mariah sighed. “Look… John… normally I’d sit out here and talk you into feeling a certain comfort level before coaxing you into my office for a more private chat. Seeing as how I’ve already yelled at you and accused you of many things you profess to be innocent of…”
Mariah held a hand up. “No, no. That’s quite okay. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I absolutely don’t want you to dash away and tell the person who referred you that I was blatantly unkind. I normally am not unkind. I’m normally quite pleasant and supportive.”
Mariah fought back a sigh when his grin made a single dimple on one side of his face. His gray eyes lit with amusement. All in all… he was quite handsome.
“Unkind?” John asked. “Is that a new way of saying you tried to hand me my balls over something some other guy did to you?”
“Yes, and you’re a very wise man for understanding. Please accept that this is a rare, rare day in my otherwise drama-free life,” Mariah answered.
“Sure. I promise I will never tell anyone you were unkind to me,” John promised softly, grinning still.
“Good. I wish you’d change your mind then. If you stay and talk to me, I promise to do my best to find your perfect date.”
Head down and grinning even wider, John shook his head as he walked to the door. He raised his gaze to meet hers as he prepared to leave. “I bet you could find her easier than you know. Good day, Dr. Bates. Maybe we’ll run into each other again. Maybe I’ll find my balls and come back. Anything is possible.”
Mariah chuckled and felt her face heat. Lord, what had she done now? “I’ll be more gentle with you next time,” she promised, shocked to hear the flirty statement escape her mouth.
Laughing for real, John exited. Mariah turned to go to her office and saw Della still staring at the door. “What are you pondering, Dr. Livingston? The fact that I screwed up with a potential client or the fact that I just went nova on a man in front of you?”
Della shook her head. “I was wondering how in the space of five minutes you went from yelling at Detective Monroe to flirting with him. Also, I’m 99.9% confident he started the flirting part of the exchange with his balls comment. I feel like I should be taking notes, but I wouldn’t know where to catalog what just happened.”
Mariah waved a hand. “What you witnessed was two mistakes clearing up awkwardly. Detective Monroe was never going to let me help him find a woman. Which is just as well because I’m not sure I could have matched up a still working detective without advising the woman to run away as fast as her legs could move. It’s oddly fortunate that I ran him off because now I don’t have to worry about my conflict of interest. It was a fairly charming end to a less than charming problem.”
Della chuckled. “I’m pretty sure that was a beginning, not any kind of end.”
Rolling her eyes at her young assistant’s dreamy gaze, Mariah headed back to her office.
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