Excerpt From Dreams of Perfection
Darcy Butler sat across the table from her blind date in a trendy new SoHo restaurant contemplating the fact that he was no Blake Garrett. Blake was . . . perfect. But why wouldn’t he be? After all, she’d created him.
Listening with half an ear, she nodded at something he said. Her date was handsome, polite, successful, charming even. He had good taste in food, wine, and from the looks of his expensive suit, clothes as well. But the comparisons continued, and she found him lacking at every turn. Robert, or Russell, or something that started with an ‘R’ asked her a question.
She could hear her mother’s well-deserved admonishment. He’s buying you dinner. The least you can do is remember his name.
“What do you like to do with your free time?” He gazed into her eyes, clearly trying to make a connection.
“I love going to Yankees’ games,” she said, excited that the season started that week.
“Yeah, do you like baseball?” Her excitement rose at the prospect of finding a fellow baseball lover. Provided, of course, his loyalties didn’t run in the wrong direction.
“No. I find baseball boring. Too much standing around. I prefer boxing or hockey, something with a little action.”
Okay—first—baseball boring? Her excitement fell in proportion to the rise in her blood pressure. Second, boxing? Hockey? Where guys beat the crap out of each other? Did she want to date a man with a proclivity for violence?
All right, all right. Down, girl. Maybe she could educate him on the subtleties of baseball, the beauty of a breaking ball, the rarity of a no-hitter, the excitement of a bottom-of-the-ninth-down-by-three-full-count-with-two-outs-and-bases-loaded game. Help him see the light.
“Do you like boxing or hockey?” he continued.
“No. Sorry. I don’t.”
The clatter of silverware against china, the clink of glasses, and the low hum of conversation from other diners did nothing to diminish the uncomfortable silence that descended. “So”—he cleared his throat—“Laura tells me you’re a writer. What do you write, fiction, non-fiction? Murder mysteries? I love a good murder mystery.”
He signaled to the waiter for another gin and tonic. His third so far, but who’s counting.
“No, I write romance.” Was that an eye roll?
“Seriously?” he asked, his highball glass poised halfway to his mouth.
That was definitely an eyebrow lift, and not the wow-that-intrigues-me sort of lift, but the you-can’t-be-serious sort of lift. “Yes, really. I’m a New York Times and USA Today best-selling romance author,” she said, with no small amount of pride in her voice. “In fact, my latest book, The Doctor’s Dilemma, will be out in a few months.”
“That’s, um, great.”
“You seem surprised, and not pleasantly.” She tilted her head.
“Well, I mean,” he stammered, “Laura said you had a B.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia, and, well, using it to write books about half-naked men and heaving bosoms seems . . . a waste.” He made no further attempt to hide the disdain in his voice.
Her blood pressure soared, not to mention her temper. She set down her glass of Chardonnay so she could make her point without the risk of throwing the wine in his face, and propping her elbows on the table, leaned forward.
“Romance is serious business. Did you know that romantic fiction has the largest share of the U.S. consumer market? That romantic fiction generated over one billion, that’s billion with a ‘b,’ dollars in sales last year? That almost seventy-five million people read at least one romantic novel a year? And that includes men.”
He held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay. I get it. It’s a money thing.”
“No, it’s not a money thing,” she replied with a dash of snark. “I happen to love what I do. And so do my fans. All three hundred thousand of them.” Wow, I really need to get a grip. She’d caught the unwelcome attention of neighboring diners.
Mr. R.—and ‘R’ didn’t stand for ‘Right’—glanced around as if seeking the closest exit. His phone rang—one of those sultry sax tones—and from the look on his face, he welcomed the interruption. Excusing himself from the table, he stepped outside to take the call.
Darcy snatched up her phone and texted Laura, the instigator of this blind-date-gone-wrong.
He hates baseball. How could u?
Momentarily her phone buzzed.
How am I supposed to know he hates baseball? And who cares? He’s cute! And rich.
Darcy dropped her phone into her purse as Mr. R. approached the table.
“I’m sorry, I’ve got to go. My sister’s in labor. Twins.” He gave Darcy a lame smile.
She couldn’t tell if he was lying or not, but if he was, he got an ‘A’ for creativity. Either way, she didn’t care. The evening couldn’t end soon enough as far as she was concerned. “Well, congratulations.”
Darcy stood as he tossed a hundred dollar bill down on the table. “This should take care of it. I’m really sorry. Good luck with your new book.” And with that, he left.
Well, another one bites the dust. She sat back down with a sigh, before signaling the waiter. “I’ll have a Grey Goose Cosmo, and the Ahi tuna salad, with the dressing on the side. Oh, and the melting chocolate cake for dessert.” Since Mr. R. was buying, she might as well eat.