Blind dates don’t always go as planned. Fashion designer Katelyn Barstow, a veteran blind dater, knows all too well. When her date with the first geek she’s ever dated goes phenomenally well, she’s suspicious. Dating is rife with questionable men, boring dinners, and longings to be back home, cleaning the toilet. They always tank before the second date.
Geeky Derek Collins might be adept in computer languages, but women baffle him. He has an adorable dog, an amazing fixer upper house, and a successful business. He doesn’t need a woman. Don’t they complicate life? Yet when he meets equally successful Katelyn, his sister’s boyfriend’s stunning friend from college, he wonders if he should reboot his thinking.
As they embark on a whirlwind relationship their nearest and dearest tease them mercilessly about, in the back of their minds both wonder how this can work. Because, oh yeah, forgot to mention, they live in two different cities in two different states. Love has raised the stakes, but they have a geography problem.
Blind dates were interesting experiences. Dating in general tended to be “interesting” for her. Tonight’s fiasco would commence whenever her “date” called to let her know his third conference day had ended.
Katelyn Barstow hadn't heard from Derek Collins yet, but she still needed to figure out what to wear. She should attempt to make a good impression but saw no need to fry his circuits. The man had spent the last three days at a conference—fried already applied.
She selected that universal dating icon, the little black dress. She had designed this dress three years ago and it was still going strong. It had seen countless first dates.READ MORE
Dating was the stuff of fantasy. In theory, it should work, but the reality was comically awful. She knew good relationships existed. There were plenty of enamored couples out there. Only the cosmos must have it out for her because so far it had pummeled her with duds.
Thirty years old and she'd been on more first dates than she could count. But her attempts had never gone beyond the first date stage, despite her faithful little black dress. Other women claimed you could land a second date, but she had yet to be enticed enough to endure another torture session. Cleaning toilets was more agreeable than a second date.
Am I too hard to please?
Other people did this. Other people even got married, settled down, had kids. A cloud that resembled gloom hovered overhead. Maybe this negativity wasn’t a good way to start a date.
Nick had been clear this was just dinner between buddies. He could claim that all he wanted, but she knew a setup when she smelled one. And this was him and his new girlfriend setting her up with his girlfriend’s brother.
Ugh, please go well…
The ringing phone saved her from additional grim thoughts, and she snatched up the distraction with delight. "Hello?"
"Katelyn?" His deep voice wrapped around her.
"Yes. Hello, Derek."
"Hello. I'm finally free. And I'm hungry, tired, my feet hurt, and maybe my brain, too." She heard the smile in his voice, and it shoved out the gloom cloud.
"I can help."
Are we flirting? She blinked. That was a first, too. Usually, men came on to her so blatantly that harmless flirtation got flattened. "I believe so. There’s a small restaurant four blocks from me with a huge menu. The tables and chairs are comfortable and if you're where Nick said you are, you can grab the train for a stop and meet me there in about ten minutes."
"That sounds perfect." She heard him shuffle papers then a zipper sound. "My computer is now packed until tomorrow morning."
"Conferences can drag."
"This one has been especially difficult. I’m taking tonight off."
"Congratulations." Was he including her in that? He had to eat so perhaps he saw dinner as the means of fulfilling his obligation to Nick and then he intended to do other things.
"Do you have after hours plans?"
"Not this time. I've already seen the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Empire State Building on other trips. I’d like to see more of New York City but that might not happen this trip."
"You've been here before?"
"Yes. I know the city some. I consulted for a valued client here for a few weeks a year ago. But that job was so busy I only saw the company sites and people."
"Are you ready to eat dinner now?"
"Yes, I'm not planning to go back to my hotel room, if that's what you're asking."
"Good. I'm ready, too. How about we meet at the restaurant?"
"Ten minutes you said?"
"That's right." She gave him the name and address but assured him it was around the block from the train station.
They hung up and with butterflies in her stomach, she gathered a jacket, her purse and the present Nick had gifted her on her last birthday.
Derek waited in a corner for his “date” at the appointed restaurant. He enjoyed thinking about something other than the work conference that had brought him to NYC.
It couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. He had six different clients with issues that needed to be resolved in person and no one in the office to help him. Then this conference, which he had conveniently forgotten about, came as a surprise.
A slight commotion at the front door stole his attention. The woman who stepped through the door did not strike a pose or call attention to herself in any way. Yet everyone in the waiting area noticed her.
For one, her height made it impossible to hide. She had to be at least six feet tall, but he guessed she nudged six one or two. Then her platinum blonde hair could only be called eye catching.
Nick had called his friend Katelyn striking rather than beautiful. And Derek got it. Beautiful proved too tame for this woman.
He stepped forward. “Katelyn?”
A smile warmed the delicate planes of her face. “I’m Katelyn.” She eyed his height with approval. “Nick said you’re taller than me.”
He shook her extended hand. Derek could see where other men might be intimidated by this much woman. She had curves where a woman should but could probably stand to gain a few pounds.
“I’m Derek Collins. My sister is Alexis.”
“I’m interested in hearing about this woman who has captivated Nick.”
“I’m pretty sure you and Alexis will click.”
“How long have you known Nick?” she asked.
“Just met him for the first time on Sunday.”
One pale eyebrow rose but the host greeted them and instructed them to follow him. Derek followed her, not unaware of the glances thrown at them.
“People aren’t used to giants in this city?” He joked to break the silence. Obviously, this city boasted plenty of models.
Throaty laughter rewarded him.
“We do stand out, don’t we?” This fact washed off her.
He appreciated that in a woman.
He appreciated plenty of qualities of them, but he didn’t indulge very often. Dating tended to make him feel stupid. He’d be the first to admit he had never quite understood women.
Despite having a sister and a mother, and the copious books he’d read on the subject, Derek had concluded long ago that he’d missed a vital aspect of understanding the species.
However, Katelyn put on no airs or appeared to have an agenda.
Her direct gaze and forthright manner appealed in ways that might require exploration.
The host showed them to a table where Derek seated Katelyn. An air of intimacy surrounded them. When he took his seat he gazed into light seafoam green eyes.
“Are your eyes common in your family?” Pure interest directed this question.
“Yes. Although they skip around. My grandmother and a cousin once removed both have them.” She smiled. “Most people believe they’re contact lenses.”
His eyebrows rose. “That possibility never occurred to me.”
“Ah, you don’t delve into the fashion world.”
“Not even a little bit. My mom and sister take me shopping and tell me what to buy.” He barely suppressed a shudder. The blue button-down shirt and gray dress pants he wore were his typical work clothes.
“Spoken like a true man.”
“I know some men who do like clothes and fashion, but I’m not among them.” He had other things in common with those friends.
“It’s nice to hear a man not disparage others for indulging something that mankind has enjoyed for centuries.”
They might have continued to pursue this topic, but their server came to inquire about drinks. They ordered and he rattled off the special he spotted on the way in. Katelyn ordered a different one, and they handed over their menus.
“You didn’t bother to look at the menu either?” He wondered if she was the type to starve herself.
“I tend toward food that offers the most nutrition.” Her full pink lips pursed.
“That’s probably a good explanation of my viewpoint. I also look for what is most nutritional and select that.” He thought a little more about the subject. “I prefer simple dishes.”
“You haven’t spent much time with Nick then.” Her finger encircled the lip of her glass.
“I’m guessing he’s a foodie because my sister is.”
The finger rose to point toward the ceiling. “That explains why they’re so compatible then.”
Wait, did that mean…? His gaze met hers and her head tipped to the side.
“So that means we’re compatible because we’re not foodies?” He had to ask.
“It offers hope.” Her beautiful eyes inspected him.
Derek wondered if he’d just been noticed. As a man, not as Nick’s girlfriend’s brother. Huh. That rarely happened.
She raised her finger again. “I do make an exception for cheesecake though.”
“Who doesn’t?” He didn’t snort—because, hello, first time meeting—but he did agree. “It isn’t that I can’t enjoy a good meal.”
“Right. It’s just that there are so many other interesting things in life that I don’t want to spend time thinking about food.”
They exchanged smiles before their server stopped by to tell them their meals were coming soon. He also refilled their drinks. Derek and Katelyn both sipped iced teas.
“Tell me about your sister.” Katelyn set her glass aside and fixed him with those mesmerizing green eyes.
“She’s tall, like all of our family, and blonde haired, blue eyed.”
Katelyn’s pale eyebrow quirked. “She’s blonde?”
“She is. Our dad is also blonde, whereas Mom is dark haired, which is where I get it. But we all have blue eyes.” He straightened the knife beside his plate. “Alexis is a successful sales woman for Chic Tech, where Nick works.”
“I’m not sure I knew she worked for the same company as Nick.” She rifled in her bag and removed a flashlight looking device. “He sent me this.” Katelyn handed him the device.
He hefted it. “What is it? I can tell it’s not only a flashlight.”
“It’s an electroshock weapon.” The specs rolled off her tongue with the ease of any geek.
His eyebrows rose. “Nice.”
Her throaty laughter pinged areas within him that hadn’t been pinged in ages. Perhaps not since his teen years.
“Nick gave me a rundown of the device and I usually remember what I hear that I’m interested in.” Her casual shrug also heightened his awareness of her.
“He sent this to you for protection?”
“Yes. It’s a finished product. He sent it as a birthday gift.” She gazed at the device with amusement. “I haven’t used it yet, but I do carry it when I have to be out late at night.”
“Wise.” He handed it back. “This device came from Nick’s brain?”
“It did. He and his team worked on this model for over a year. I hear they’ve got a newer model they’re hoping to release soon, but I’m happy with this one.”
Derek nodded. “It’s good for women to have this sort of protection.” He was impressed with his future brother-in-law’s brain.
“I’m not surprised Nick ended up at Chic Tech. I am surprised he ended up with a sales lady.”
“She’s not only a sales lady, she’s the top seller.”
“Of course she is. And beautiful I imagine?”
He tugged out his phone and swiped through a few pictures before finding one of Alexis. He offered Katelyn the device and she gazed at the photo.
“She’s lovely. Absolutely gorgeous.” Katelyn’s forehead creased. “Yet I can see her with Nick.”
“They fit together as though made for each other.”
“She’s sweet and kind?”
“Yeah. Alexis has three brothers. She didn’t get coddled or pampered.” He nodded toward his phone. “She had to keep up, along with our youngest brother.”
“Your sister not only kept up, but she trounced you.” Katelyn returned his phone with a small laugh. Their fingers brushed and that little ping happened all over again.
“Probably. I’ve always been tall while she’s the shortest in the family. I’m also a year older.”
“She’s the shortest?”
“Alexis doesn’t break six feet. The rest of us do.” He bet Katelyn did. But maybe that wasn’t something a man should ask.
“Your mother does?”
“Mom is exactly six feet tall.”
“Ah. My mother is five-seven.”
“Your father must be tall?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never met him.”
He choked on his tea.COLLAPSE