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C.J. Lake is a storyteller who is passionate about art, surfing, and skiing/snowboarding. Residing near the coast of Massachusetts, C.J. is currently working on a new book. Readers can get in touch via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow C.J. on Twitter @brightbluesurf.
“Hmm, is there a deep-seated reason for your pessimism about guys?”
“Ah, so there is a reason,” Jamie said.
“It’s a long story,” Sky said with finality, effectively shutting down the topic.
“I see,” Jamie commented, nodding.
“You couldn’t possibly,” she challenged.
“Okay, I don’t see everything,” he admitted casually, “but I get the general picture. You’re the girl your friends are always trying to set up—but you hate every guy, right?”
“No, not at all,” Sky insisted. How did he know? “Though my friends do claim that I’m too picky. But really, I’m not!”
“Ah, so you’re one of those too-picky girls.”
“I’m not!” she yelped, a grin fighting to break through. “The thing is, I know what I want and I don’t want to settle.”
“So, what do you want then?” he asked her pointedly.
“I’d just like someone normal and appealing and fun,” Sky said. “But, you know, smart and interesting and actually honest. He has to be employed,” she continued, thinking about it, “and preferably not a felon.”
“So is that it?” Jamie said, as he chomped on a steak fry. “Is that the whole list? Or is there more?”
“Um…yes, I’m sure there’s more.”
“Of course there is!”
Giggling, Sky said, “Hey, I like to be thorough. Did I mention employed?”
“Yes, you said that one, too.”
“Oh! I know. Insightful. Considerate. Funny without being a clown, and ambitious without being a showoff. I’d also like him not to be a total horndog.”
At that, Jamie froze. “Excuse me?”
Sky’s eyes roamed around Jamie’s kitchen in a way that was deliberately casual, as she explained, “I just don’t want someone who is totally obsessed with sex, that’s all.”
He set down his steak fry, assessing her. “Just to clarify here…you are looking for a guy, right?”
He shrugged. “Just checking. Wasn’t sure there for a second.”
“See, but that’s the whole problem,” Sky blurted, thinking about the past—even though she really, truly, deeply did not want to, “guys can fool you.”
“How?” Jamie asked curiously.
“They…they can have a dark side,” was all she said. “Of course they don’t show it until it’s too late. You know, sometimes I just don’t feel like putting in the effort to meet a new guy, because how can I know he’s not really a total A-hole?”
“You can’t,” Jamie admitted. “At first. But I could help you with that.”
Sky’s brows pinched as she studied him. “Help me how?”
“All right, Sky,” Jamie said, sounding confident, and pushed aside his plate. “I’m going to do you a personal favor. You can thank me later. Or now—your call.”
Squinting at him, Sky said, “What are you talking about?”
“I’ll help you filter out the losers right away.”
“Simple. I’m a guy myself. I know what other guys are about. Just the way you girls all understand each other—but guys don’t understand girls very well at all. Am I right?”
“Yes,” she agreed. “But…how would this work?”
“How about this? If I run into you while you’re out on one of your blind dates, I’ll let you know my read on the guy. Right then and there. We’ll need some sort of signal, of course.”
“Hmm…I’m tempted to go along with this,” Sky said thoughtfully. “But I’m skeptical.”
“Of course you are,” Jamie said, nonplussed. “You’re a cynic. Let me help you.”
She gave a laugh and rolled her eyes. “Fine, so is this a pass/fail type of thing?”
“Pass/fail, yes, that’s a good idea,” Jamie agreed.
“And what kind of signal should we use? It would have to be really subtle, of course.”
“Let’s keep it simple,” Jamie suggested. “Thumbs down means dump him. Thumbs up means hump him.”
Jamie laughed out loud. “I’m kidding.”
Shaking her head, Sky laughed, too. Then said: “Why would you even want to help me with my dating life anyway?”
“Why not?” Jamie replied. “You’re helping me, right?” he said, motioning to the plant on the windowsill. “We’ll call it even.”
“Why are you so pissed?”
Jamie spared her a cold glance over his shoulder. For a fleeting moment, she thought he might deny his anger or talk around it, but instead he muttered, “You know why.”
Sucking in a breath, Sky hesitated. For a long moment, she watched him picking up weights and stacking them (loudly), feeling like she had a wad of cotton in her throat. She wasn’t sure what to say or how to play this; she only knew that she needed Jamie to be her friend again—and so much more than that—and she wasn’t going to insult his intelligence by playing dumb.
“Look, I didn’t even want to go on that date,” she told him, still talking to his back. “It was a last-minute favor to Alison—she begged me!” Wordlessly, Jamie stacked two more weights, then scooped up a dumbbell.
Frustrated, Sky said, “Look, she begged me as a personal favor to go out with him.”
With his back still to her, he said, “Yeah, did she beg you to bring the guy back home with you, too?”
Sky winced at that. “The date didn’t mean anything, Jamie.”
God, he was being difficult. Was he going to make her say it first? Didn’t he know how scary that was?
Suddenly he whipped his head around, as if a thought had just occurred to him. “Wait—is he downstairs right now? Waiting for you?”
“No!” Sky nearly yelped. “No, he’s not there. He left.”
“Ah,” Jamie said with a nod. “So that’s why you’re here. Let me guess: you want my opinion now.”
“No,” Sky began, shaking her head, “that’s not—”
“Well,” Jamie declared, “my opinion is that this is bullshit.”
Stunned, Sky just blinked at him for a second. “Exactly which part?” she asked, confused.
“This whole thing with you and me,” he stated bluntly. “And I’m done with it.”
For a terrifying second, Sky panicked. How was he “done” with it? With her? “What does that mean?” she said, trying to keep her voice from betraying what a hot mess of emotions she was right now.
Jamie started walking toward her, his eyes burning with anger. “It means: I don’t want to be your friend and I don’t want to hear about these guys anymore.”
“That’s what I’m trying to—”
“What do you even need my input for anyway?” Jamie continued brusquely, and Sky’s breath hitched in her throat. She’d never seen him this angry (and was it wrong that it was turning her on?) “You’re a grown woman,” he practically barked at her, stopping his processional about five feet away from her. “You go be with whoever you want to be with.”
Nodding, Sky felt her adrenaline rise. “Fine, I will. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” she promised, walking closer to him. If he was missing her meaning, he certainly wouldn’t be missing it for long...