Never Too Old To Date
LENGTH: 45,000 words, 252 pages
RELEASE DATE: February 2020
Her business is wildly successful, but the rest of her life is just wild.
Sixty may be the new forty, but not for the Honorable Eleanor J. Skyler. She’s retiring from the law firm she spent her entire career building. What’s wrong with wanting to wear yoga clothes every day and go zip-lining whenever the adventurous mood strikes? Nothing, that’s what.
She’s got no time for dating and drama. She certainly has no time to deal with her senior law partner, Andrew Carson, who has for reasons she can’t fathom, decided she’s his perfect woman. To say she’s confused in an understatement. They’ve known each other for over twenty years. They knew each other’s spouses before they died. Why is Andrew suddenly looking at her legs and telling her she’s beautiful? He’s barely over fifty. He has the tiny sports car. Why can’t Andrew chase a twenty-year-old like every other man having a mid-life crisis?
It’s bad enough her son bought her a membership to The Perfect Date. She’s going through that hot mess to stop her children from nagging about her love life. Just because Greg found sweet Jellica through that dating service doesn’t mean Eleanor’s going to waste her time going out with grumpy old men. No, thank you. That’s never happening. Neither is dating men younger than her shoes. The whole dating situation is ridiculous. Why does she have to date at all?
Before she went back to work to rescue Jellica, her life was perfectly calm and peaceful. Hope of returning to that flew out the window when one of Dr. Brentwood Colombo’s ex-wives mistook her for his new flame, Georgia Bates. Apparently whisky can make you appear taller. Who knew?
A video of the woman smacking her with her purse has gone viral. Now, she’s a social celebrity. If her broken nose is making the news, people need to get a life.
The only consolation to the wildness is Andrew having to stand in line to woo her out of widowhood because her list of potential suitors at The Perfect Date is out of control.
Read Chapter 1
After her assistant left and closed the door, life-long attorney Eleanor Skyler slipped off her three inch red heels, pushed her executive chair back, and propped her aching feet on her desk.
“Thank goodness for yoga or I wouldn’t be able to lift my legs right now,” she grumbled aloud while she pondered her own tiredness at just two in the afternoon.
A few months ago she’d abandoned her retirement plans and returned to work full-time, but today she remembered why she’d turned the law practice she’d built from scratch over to her senior partner, Andrew Carson, to run a few years ago.
Andrew was still doing the lion’s share of the decision-making and thank goodness that was the case. Just catching up and consulting with all the cases exhausted her daily and caused her to crash into bed every evening. Her lack of endurance for the work should have been all the evidence she needed to decide her sixty-plus self shouldn’t be trying to act like she was still thirty.
This week she’d fully realized how much she’d enjoyed the non-working routine she’d developed. Doing a bit of yoga in the morning before she came to the office now was all she’d been able to keep doing from the self-care portion of it.
“The work is hard enough to get used to again, but I’m too old to be walking around in three inch heels every day. Vanity, your name is still Eleanor J. Skyler,” she sarcastically informed her tired feet.
She remained exactly where she was when there was an almost musical rapping on her office door. Her tired body just didn’t feel like shifting at the moment. Only one person knocked on her door that way and he would not be surprised by her tiredness.
“Enter at your own risk,” she called loudly. Her most senior partner opened the door, walked into the office, and then burst out laughing as he sat in one of the plush chairs facing her desk.
“Laugh all you want, but I sorely needed to rest my tired feet—yes, pun intended,” she announced with a glare. “And you don’t have to tell me that I shouldn’t be parading around in high heels at my age. I’ve already been chewing myself out for my vanity.”
“Why don’t you just buy some flats, Elle?” Andrew asked with a grin. He grinned wider as he leaned around her feet to peer at the rest of her legs where they disappeared under her red skirt. “Although, speaking as a male who appreciates all things feminine, you do have incredibly nice legs which your heels showcase quite nicely.”
“Will you stop with the full-court press?” she ordered, frowning at his nickname for her.
No one had ever called her Elle, yet Andrew had been calling her that since she’d returned to work. Maybe she should try calling him Andy and see how he liked having his name butchered.
“I’m sure teasing me is highly entertaining for you these days, but I think you need get a wife for that sort of thing, Mr. Carson. You’ve been a widower as long as I’ve been a widow. The statue of limitations on mourning our spouses closed a long time ago for both of us.”
Andrew grinned and nodded. “I’m sure it did, but I think I’m too old to date in the conventional sense.”
She sighed at the truth. “I hear you. I’m too old too.” Then her head snapped up. “Old? You’re only fifty-three. Men your age are marrying twenty year olds and starting families, for goodness sake. We write prenuptial agreements for them all the time. You’re definitely not too old to date.”
Andrew motioned around the room with a sweep of his hand. “Why would you wish a twenty year old on me? This place provides all the drama I can handle. I’m not that much younger than you are, Elle.”
And there was that name again. Eleanor sighed in exasperation. She’s hinted every way she could that she didn’t like it.
“I’m only saying you’re too young to be alone… and too nice a man, Andrew.”
He smiled as he leaned back in his chair. “Thank you. I think you’re nice too. In fact, just about everything about you is nice, but at the moment all I can focus on are your legs.”
Eleanor pointed a warning finger. “Don’t start that kidding stuff again. I’m not your practice date. I’m too old for that nonsense.”
She frowned when Andrew chuckled and tried not to look guilty. When he narrowed his gaze at her, it was all she could do to keep her eyes locked to his. Something about the way he looked at her had changed. Maybe he was more resentful about her return to work than he’d let on, even though she’d done her best to defer to the decision-making role she’d put Andrew in years old.
“We exchanged personal compliments, Elle. You practically informed me that I needed to be dating. Don’t you think it’s reasonable for me to wonder if you were trying to ask me out? For the record, Counselor, if you were testing the waters, my answer would be yes. I’d love to date you.”
She pulled her feet off the desk and put them back on the floor as she glared at her emotional tormentor. “You know I’m not doing anything like that. Why would you tease me that way, Andrew? You’ve been doing that for weeks now.”
“Because I’m not teasing. You keep saying I’m teasing, but that’s because you’re wearing blinders. You know I’ve never liked younger women. I prefer someone with life experience. Let’s go to dinner, Elle. You can slip off your heels under the table and put your feet in my lap. I give great foot rubs, or at least I used to. I’m sure it would come back to me. You have pretty feet.”
“Pretty feet?” Eleanor repeated as she put on her glasses and glared at him over them. She leaned both arms on her desk and shook her head. “I’ve known you for over twenty-five years and this is not funny. Date someone in her thirties… or her forties. There are plenty of mature women out there.”
“I know. I’m looking at one of them. Didn’t you tell me Greg bought you a membership to that dating agency he used to find his future wife?”
“Yes, and I asked you not to remind me of my foolishness in letting my son blind-side me. Neither he nor Brittany said one word about worrying about my love life until Greg bought me that stupid membership. My accountant son spent nine thousand dollars on it. Nine thousand dollars, Andrew. You’d think Greg would know better than to waste his hard-earned money that way, but apparently not. Now I get lectured all the time about not using it yet.”
She didn’t like the way he kept smiling at her. “What’s so funny?” she demanded
“Tell them you’re dating me. It will make all the lecturing go away.”
She snorted and shook her head. “No. I’ve never lied to my children and I’m not about to start, even if they do deserve it.”
“Once you go out with me, our dating won’t be a lie.” Andrew leaned back in his chair and stared. “What are you afraid of, Elle? I’m harmless… well, mostly harmless. At the very least, I’m out of practice. That should slow me down enough not to rush you.”
His sudden interest in her as a woman was driving her crazy, but Andrew’s teasing was only the tip of the iceberg she was slipping and sliding across. She thought of her upcoming appointment and felt like groaning. Her son had tricked her into joining a dating database full of desperate singles. The thought of becoming a listing in it was as daunting as her return to the law office every day.
Both decisions officially made her cringe with regret. The need to resolve them had the same effect.
How had her peaceful widow life gotten so turned upside down lately?
Nothing had been the same since she’d taken on legal bully Martin Quartz to stop him from torturing her soon-to-be-daughter-in-law who’d been unfortunate enough to have once been married to him. That battle had gone spectacularly well for her, and for Jellica. It had ended in a sound defeat of a long-time legal bully.
From her standpoint, it had a triumphant return to her legal career. Yet when that fight ended, she’d kept coming into the office. Why had she done that? Why hadn’t she stayed home?
The reason she returned eluded her today and her tired feet bore witness to her confusion. She sighed as Andrew tilted his head to study her. She didn’t blame him for being confused when she felt confused herself.
She also wondered how badly her tiredness was etching more lines around her eyes. Her regular facials weren’t erasing them as effectively as they used to.
She frowned as Andrew scooted to the edge of his chair and put one arm on her desk to lean toward her. She saw the aggressive male move for what it was, but she was too tired to play her usual game of proving male posturing didn’t affect her.
Instead, she reached out and poked a finger into Andrew’s expensive coat sleeve until it pressed against his arm. He lifted an eyebrow and held her gaze.
“I know what you’re doing,” she told him.
“Will you explain it to me then? Because it feels like I’m crashing and burning with the only woman who interests me. It’s been a while, but I know I used to be a lot better at the game than this.”
“You’re not genuinely interested in me. That’s not what this is. You’re merely ready to get back in the dating game and I’m the person you’ve chosen to practice on. Once you start dating for real, the infatuation you’ve developed for me will pass away and never return.”
He reached out and brushed her fingers with one of his. “It hasn’t happened yet, Elle. Instead, I’ve concluded that I’m perfectly happy looking at you in your short skirts every day. Surely by now you’ve figured out that I’ve been waiting ages for you stop mourning and start living again.”
“Andrew, really…” she said as she began to complain, then stopped at seeing his grin.
Hearing his low masculine laugh halted further argument.
Was he teasing her or not? Why couldn’t she tell?
Eleanor could tell she was close to blushing at his comments which would guarantee that he’d feel like he’d won their debate. She knew Andrew’s intimidation tactics as well as she did her own. They’d worked together for more than two decades.
Her primary law partner had been mock flirting with her since she’d returned to work to rescue Jellica, but Eleanor didn’t understand why. The idea that Andrew could be truly interested in her was too unbelievable to take seriously. She was turning sixty-five and was many years his senior. She’d been his boss for most of his law career and she’d been married most of that time. Both of them had been. Not a single inappropriate word had ever crossed their lips.
Until last month when she’d noticed Andrew staring at her legs. She’d jokingly called him out for it only to have him confirming his interest in her. This was just a phase Andrew was going through. That’s what it had to be.
Eleanor pulled off her glasses, tossed them down on her desk, and propped her chin with her fists while she stared at him. Andrew was a very handsome man in his fifties and an excellent attorney. He was a catch by any definition of that term. Any woman with eyes would want to date him, but besides the obvious physical appeal, he was also a decent and honorable man.
But knowing the facts of his masculine appeal didn’t change how she felt about him. She hadn’t felt that kind of interest for a man since before her husband died.
“You and I both know that I should never have come back to work. I’m too old to do this every day. It’s not sending a good message to our clients or staff when the head of this law firm needs a nap in the middle of the day.”
He lifted one shoulder and held her gaze. “So cut back on your hours. I’m getting ready to do that myself. Lyle is ready for more work and I’m ready for more free time. This place practically runs itself. Several of the junior partners have come into their own and need to be stretching their legal wings with more responsibility. Face it, Eleanor Skyler. You’re a successful woman who’s built a thriving law business. You need to find a way to enjoy it.”
She grunted and rolled her eyes. “I’m an older woman who needs to go home and soak her tired feet because she’s too vain to wear flats. As shocking as it is, I miss wearing my yoga clothes every day, Andrew. The energetic woman who created this law firm is long gone.”
He frowned as he glared back at her. “No, that woman is not gone. She’s merely tired and needs to eat because I know for a fact she didn’t bother with lunch today. Come to dinner with me. If we leave now, we can get the senior discount for eating between four and five. You can tell the restaurant people how old you are if you want to continue feeling sorry for yourself.”
Despite her irritation with Andrew’s teasing about her age, she laughed at the senior suggestion coming from someone barely over fifty. “You’re a little young to know about senior discounts.”
“Not true. I take my father out to dinner every Wednesday. He always asks for the discount no matter where we go. He even asked for it at La Belle.”
She fought the smile for a while, then gave into it with a groan to laugh. La Belle was a stuffy, ala carte only type of restaurant. Why in the world had Andrew taken his elderly father there? Her chuckling rippled as she bent down to slip on the red heels again. “I wish I could have seen your waitperson’s face,” she repeated, rolling her eyes again. “Senior discount—next thing you’ll be telling me is that I should be filing for social security.”
“Wouldn’t do you any good. You make too much money from this place,” he said with a wave of his hand.
“Yes, I do,” she confirmed. “And because I married an accountant who loved to invest, I will always make too much money. I’m not the typical senior.”
“I know. Why do you think I’m trying to get you to go out with me?”
Eleanor lifted a brow and stared at him. “I have no idea. Why are you doing it?”
Andrew pulled his arm off the desk and scooted back into the chair. “Because I’m interested in you. I’m not interested in anyone else. I took care of the law firm when you left it, but the moment you returned, it was suddenly very clear to me that even work I enjoyed was not enough. All those years you weren’t here? Well, the truth is that I missed you. I’d like a chance to find out why just the sight of you makes me so damn happy to still be alive.”
She closed her eyes and swore under her breath. “I don’t know what to say to something like that and you know it.”
“Maybe something clever will come to your mind while we’re eating,” he said.
She dropped her gaze, shook her head, and sighed heavily. “No. I… can’t…”
“Don’t you mean won’t?”
“No,” she denied softly, glancing back at him. “Dating is just not something I’m ready to do. You’re a great guy…”
“But not someone you want to date?”
She sighed again—this time in frustration. “I didn’t say that.”
“It was implied by your rejection.”
“I’m not rejecting you.” She heard her voice rising in irritation. The man knew exactly how to push all her buttons. Going out with him would be like taking work home with her.
He smiled. “Great. So we’re going to dinner after all.”
She stood and retrieved her purse from the drawer. “No, we are not going to dinner—at least not today. I’m going home and you are going to visit your therapist at your earliest opportunity.”
“How about I pick you up at seven? That should give you plenty of time to soak your feet and grab a nap.”
“Despite my complaints about work, I have yoga tonight, and dinner with my son’s family tomorrow night. Thursday is yoga again. Friday evening is the Heritage Foundation event. Add work into the mix and I’m going to need the weekend to recover.”
“If we were dating, you’d have company for all that stuff except yoga. I prefer the gym. Wouldn’t that be more fun than going alone? Come to dinner with me. It’s food and company for a couple hours. It will be good for you.”
She sighed for the gazillionth time since this insistent male version of Andrew walked into her office. Most men having their mid-life crises dated twenty-year olds. She was almost old enough to be Andrew’s mother—well, not quite, but she sure felt that way today.
“Here’s what you can do with your dinner invitation.” She lifted a manicured hand and saluted her flirty partner with her middle finger. Her wedding rings still gleamed on the finger next to the raised one. She’d never taken them off even though she was a widow. Why would she?
He laughed as he stood. “I really like how you’re thinking, but don’t you think it’s a little too early in our relationship to be discussing anything of that nature? I’m a take it slow kind of guy.”
Mumbling to herself about stubborn men and crazy law partners, she stomped out the door of her office in her three inch heels. All her previous pain was forgotten as she informed the receptionist that she was leaving for the day.
She did not turn around to see if Andrew had followed her out. She could feel his eyes on her as she exited.
Read Chapter 2
“Dr. Livingston, you have a degree in psychology, don’t you?”
“Please call me Della… and yes, I do. My studies were primarily in pair bonding and how people form intimate relationships,” Della said carefully. “Why do you ask?”
Eleanor waved an agitated hand in the air. “I’m just wondering why in the world a man still in his prime would want to date a woman well past hers. It makes no sense to me. There can’t be much compatibility between a couple when there is a decade or more difference in their ages.”
Della’s mouth quirked. “I’m not sure what you’re worried about, but you have the right to decline any date offer. You’re certainly under no obligation to date anyone younger than you are. However, here at The Perfect Date we do have an obligation to inform you of all expressed interest. That’s in our contract with every member. We let you decide whether or not to date a person.”
Eleanor shook her head. “I wasn’t speaking about The Perfect Date, although Jellica did warn me about the younger men wanting older women phenomena. I was actually asking because a man I’ve known for twenty-five years or more recently asked me out to dinner. I’m sixty-five. He’s fifty-three. I don’t know what he’s thinking. He’s been acting strangely for a few months, hinting at wanting us to be social, and yesterday he asked me out.”
“Maybe he just wanted to take you to dinner because he finds you interesting.”
Eleanor’s startled gaze swung to the woman by the camera and it bloomed into a glare because that was exactly what Andrew had told her. She snorted at what she considered naiveté for such an intelligent woman. “Men are never that simple. My friend hasn’t dated since his wife died. She died the same year my husband died. He doesn’t really want me. He’s just lonely and doesn’t want to spend time with a stranger.”
Della lifted a shoulder and smiled. “Maybe he thought you were a safe way to ease back into dating again. Maybe you should feel flattered and not take it too seriously.”
Eleanor frowned. Did Andrew think she was a safe woman because of her lack of interest in him? If true, why did that thought bother her? “When I didn’t take him seriously, he got upset with me. I fear any response from me is going to end a perfectly wonderful friendship.”
Della lifted a shoulder. “I’m still thinking your friend is attracted to you and wants to see if his attraction can go anywhere.”
Eleanor sighed. “I suspected he was pressing hard for his own reasons. That’s why I moved our interview up because I’m hoping he’ll leave me alone once I start dating again—if anyone wants to date me, that is.”
“They will,” Della said with absolute confidence. “You’re beautiful, outspoken, and sharp. Those qualities draw men. We’ve had other clients your age and most of them found their perfect match.”
“Like Georgia Bates, you mean?”
Della chuckled. “Well, she’s the most infamous one, but there were more than her.”
“Did Brent Colombo really pick her out of the database?”
“I can’t tell you all the details, but the day they met, she wasn’t in the database yet. She was replacing the flushing mechanism in the lobby toilet. She turned on the water before the hose was connected completely and sprayed herself and her clothes. The two of them were chatting and laughing through the whole thing. Brent asked her out then, but she wouldn’t go. She thought he was too young for her, and I suspect too out of her league.”
Eleanor thought of Andrew’s gym-honed body and nodded. She understand too alright. She did yoga, but that didn’t keep her muscles from softening more and more every passing year. “I understand her hesitation completely.”
“Yes, well, the short conclusion was that Brent stayed persistent and won her over in the end. Some men don’t take no for an answer.”
Eleanor sighed. “I’m just… I guess I simply don’t want to deal with Andrew’s reasons for asking me out. If it wasn’t for my children, I wouldn’t be doing this either. I don’t really want to date at all.”
Della stopped and nodded as she watched her new client. “Okay. How about you not think of your listing as dating? Instead, think of this as an adventure where you’re shopping for a new male friend who might want to do fun things with you once in a while. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guy friend you could ask to attend a function with you? Many of our clients use our database for exactly those sorts of events and most seem perfectly fine with how it works out. Not everyone is looking for true love or even romance. Sometimes they just want someone perfect for the moment.”
“That does make this a little less tiring to contemplate,” Eleanor said, sighing aloud. “I suppose it also makes sense for me. I do a lot of charity work, which means I make a bunch of appearances at all sorts of public events. It would be nice to be able to have a companion now and again.”
“Of course it would. So let’s get into the interview. You’re welcome to say just that or infer it. Whatever makes you feel comfortable is what you should say.”
Eleanor cleared her voice and stared at the camera. “Hello, I’m Eleanor Skyler. I’d like to say right up front that I’m not joining the database to look for my perfect date. However, I would be open to the occasional dinner or party. I’m a busy attorney with a thriving law practice. My work doesn’t leave me a lot of free time for personal pursuits outside of taking care of my health.”
“On your questionnaire you mentioned that you do yoga.”
“Yes. I do yoga every day. My daughter and I take classes from my now future daughter-in-law, Jellica Quartz. She’s an amazing yoga teacher.”
“Do you do anything else?”
“I pay a personal trainer for weight-lifting and cardio guidance once in a while. At my age, those activities keep me strong. I’m a pretty active person altogether—or I used to be. After my husband died a few years ago, I got away from working out for my health for a while, but now I’m picking up activities again.”
“Okay. Let’s switch topics. What’s the most adventurous thing you like to do?”
“Zip-lining,” Eleanor said instantly with both a smile and a laugh, especially when Della Livingston’s eyes grew wide. “I know all the best zip-lines in Ohio and in surrounding states. There’s something absolutely liberating about flying through trees and over river gorges.”
“Sounds like fun. Do you go alone?”
Eleanor lifted a shoulder. “Not many other women my age want that much adventure. I currently don’t have any males in my life who would want to go.”
“Speaking of that… got any preferences about your ideal male companion?”
Eleanor laughed at Della’s smooth segue. “I married in my twenties. It’s been more than forty years since I thought about what I wanted in a man.”
“Can you describe a few characteristics that you find charming or attractive?”
“What do I find charming?” Eleanor crossed her arms and tapped a finger against her painted bottom lip. “I suppose I prefer men who care about staying fit. I’d also need someone sharp who could hold his own in conversation. My brain never stops so he’d have to be able to keep up with me at least some of the time. A sense of humor would be nice too, but I’d prefer he not be gross with it.”
“Gross humor?” Della asked with a smile.
Eleanor chuckled. “Yes—gross. Are you going to edit this video?”
“Fine, then I’ll explain it to you,” Eleanor said. “I like bodily discretion. In the movies, you never heard James Bond telling gross jokes while he was wearing a suit. It would have ruined his persona and his mystique. I like mystique in people. I expect a man to maintain his around me.”
Della chuckled at her description. “But aren’t all men a bit gross in their sense of humor? I have a lot of women friends who are gross as well.”
Eleanor narrowed her gaze on the grinning woman. “I don’t like such behavior. You did say to describe my idea of perfect. That’s my perfect. The men in my life have to pass gas discreetly.”
“Well, yes, I did say perfect,” Della admitted with a grin.
“Anything else you want to know about me?” Eleanor asked.
Della smiled and nodded. “What’s your idea of a romantic evening?”
Sighing, Eleanor blew out a breath. “I think the best romance is spontaneous. It could be a walk in the snow on one of those crystal clear winter nights. It could be a glass of wine by a fire. It could be holding hands or sharing a dessert at a restaurant. It varies with the people involved. It certainly varies with the guy. I dated a lot of men before I married my husband. He was the most romantic man I ever met.”
“What was the most romantic thing your husband did for you?”
Eleanor smiled. “Before we were married, back when I was studying for the bar, he used to sneak coffee into the law library where I was practically living. He would deliver the coffee, kiss me senseless among the law books, and then order me to get back to work. I fell a little more in love with him with every cup of coffee. I never told him but I wanted to marry him long before he asked me.”
Della smiled wide at her client. “That’s definitely one of the most romantic stories I’ve ever heard.”
“And it’s absolutely true,” Eleanor assured her. “The coffee was appreciated, but my husband’s understanding of what I was facing was priceless. I knew he saw me as his work equal. My husband never tried to domesticate me or change who I was after we married. We ran two thriving businesses together and still managed to raise two children who turned out mostly fine. Our ongoing love affair was nurtured by a daily dose of mutual respect for each other. I had the marriage most people dream of having.”
“That’s wonderful. Anything else you want to say in your bio?”
Eleanor lifted both shoulders. “I’m doing this for my children and not for me. I think that’s important to put out there because I wouldn’t want to raise anyone’s hopes and then dash them. I’m a realist. So if someone wants a fun dinner companion, that’s what I’ll be. If they’re looking to get married, swipe on by. I’m not expecting to be anyone’s perfect match.”
“Great wrap-up. That should be all I need,” Della said as she stopped the recording. “Want to review your recording before I put it up?”
“Heavens, no,” Eleanor exclaimed, laughing with great relief. She paused and looked at Della. “Does it work both ways?”
“Does what work both ways?” Della asked in confusion.
“The dating thing. Can I pick men out of the database and ask them out?”
Della nodded. “Absolutely. Your current membership will pay for three dates of your choice or nine months of being listed.”
“Intriguing. How fast can I use the three dates up?”
Delta chuckled and lifted a shoulder. “As fast as you want, but arranging a date takes a couple weeks. There are steps involved that allow everyone the best chance of connecting and having a good time.”
“I see,” Eleanor said, pondering the lengthy process. “So what are we talking about then? Two weeks per date?”
“Something like that,” Della confirmed.
“Wonderful. I’m going to pencil in a database search and get in touch when I find a few I’m interested in having dinner with.”
“If your preference matches someone who picks you back, we split the cost between you for the initial date. There are no costs for follow-ups.”
Eleanor chuckled. “You’re assuming I’m going to have a list of suitors who might be interested in me.”
Della lifted an eyebrow. “Oh, it’s more than an assumption.”
“I like confidence in people no matter how misplaced it might be,” Eleanor said with a grin. She waved at the camera setup. “Continue on with what you’re doing, Della. I’ll let that charming receptionist of yours show me out. Her accent is very pleasant on my ears and she’s always smiling. You found a gem in that one. I wish I’d seen her first. I would have hired her for the law office.”
“Sorry. We’re keeping Iris,” Della said. She wagged a finger. “So don’t be trying to lure her away with a mega-dollar prestigious offer.”
“No promises,” Eleanor said with a laugh as she headed to leave.
Read Chapter 3
Eleanor unlocked the door to her house and ushered the two women with her inside. “Let’s do it on the laptop in my office. The screen is bigger. I couldn’t see them well enough on the phone. We’ll order a pizza.”
“Better make that two pizzas,” Jellica said, patting her stomach. “I’m starved.”
“Me too,” Brittany seconded. “Of course, I have a good reason to be extra hungry.”
Jellica’s mouth quirk at one corner. “Tonight was relaxation night. The yoga wasn’t that strenuous.”
“No, it wasn’t the class that did it,” Brittany said with a laugh. Her gaze went to her mother in the chair. “I’m…”
“You’re what?” Eleanor asked, looking up as she felt her daughter’s stare.
“I’m…” Brittany swallowed and then blew out a nervous breath. “I’m not completely sure yet, but I’m fairly sure that I’m pregnant. I’ve missed my cycle for the second month in a row and I’ve been nauseated in the mornings for about three weeks now. I’m going to have it confirmed tomorrow.”
“Britt,” Eleanor whispered, rising to go hug her daughter. “That’s wonderful news. I’m happy for you—I’m happy for all of us. Mason must be over the moon.”
“He is,” Brittany said as she nodded against her mother’s shoulder.
“Oh, wow,” Jellica said, laughing nervously. “When it rains in this family, it pours. I think I’m pregnant too. I’ve missed two months as well and have an appointment tomorrow to confirm. How unreal is this?”
Eleanor turned to Jellica. “Well, my goodness.” She looked back at her daughter. “Did you and Greg plan dual pregnancies? You two are so competitive.”
“Mother, how could you ask such a thing?”
Eleanor lifted an eyebrow. “Because I still have to referee your competitions?”
When Brittany sighed, Jellica giggled at the guilty look on her future sister-in-law’s face.
Brittany looked around her mother and mock-glared at Jellica. “Damn my brother’s fruitful loins… and yes, you can tell him I said that.”
Jellica burst out laughing. “You think you have problems? Greg wants to move the wedding up so no one finds out.”
“He better want move it up,” Brittany said, fisting a hand on her hip. “No niece or nephew of mine is going to be born out of wedlock.”
“Girls,” Eleanor said, clapping her hands together loudly. “Stop lambasting my son for a minute and tell me what kind of pizza you want.”
“Veggie,” they both answered together, then burst into giggles at each other.
“Right,” Eleanor said, frowning when the doorbell chimed. She glared when the two women laughed at her tone. “Brittany, did you already order the pizza?”
“Mom, the three of us have been together for the last hour and half in Jellica’s class. I drove us there and back. When could I have ordered pizza?”
Eleanor pointed a finger at her daughter. “I’m not that damn old, Brittany. They make apps for that stuff.”
“Yes. Yes. You’re super sharp for a woman your age. Want me to answer the door since your hearing seems to be going?” Brittany asked.
She grunted in reply. “No. I’ll answer the door. I pulled up the database. You two find me a few good men while I’m gone,” she ordered.
She left them giggling over her command and walked through her house in a daze. She was going to be a biological grandmother—twice. She’d already accepted Jellica’s two teenage sons as her grandchildren, but in a few months the number of grandchildren was about to double. Her brain was struggling to take it in.
“When it rains, it really does pour,” she muttered as she looked through the peephole and saw a pizza box. “Brittany, I swear—your teasing is going to be the death of me,” she grumbled as she pulled open the door.
A male dressed in a snug shirt and expensive black sweatpants strolled inside carrying a pizza. Her gaze lingered on the lower half of him until the smell of pizza finally pulled it up to his face. Her mouth dropped open in shock.
He smiled. “In person—and bringing dinner—that way we can call this a date and get it over with. You have to eat sometime, Elle.”
“I…” Her brain shut down hard as her gaze dropped to the lower half of him again. Staring at his fit body made her nervous. Wasn’t that an odd reaction? It took every ounce of her self-control to look up again and meet his twinkling eyes. “I wish you’d called first. I have company.”
“Company? Oh,” he said sounding deflated as his gaze going over her head to look for whoever was there.
Without her heels, Andrew was much taller than her. Why had she never noticed how tall he was?
“Guess I have bad timing,” Andrew said after a few moments.
A voice yelled down the hallway. “Mom—we found some men for you to check out. Come see.”
When Andrew lifted an eyebrow and said “Elle” with an obvious question mark in his tone, Eleanor blushed to the roots of her silver hair. Her reaction to his curiosity made her as mad as his surprise appearance had. This embarrassing moment was not her fault. Why should she feel so off-kilter for Brittany teasing her? Her daughter was notorious for her desire to make her self-possessed lawyer mother as humanly uncomfortable as possible.
“That’s my daughter, and my new daughter-in-law, I mean, daughter-in-law to be. Whatever. Anyway, they both followed me home after yoga. They’re helping with something… a personal project.”
“Followed you home? Like two lost puppies?” Andrew asked with a grin.
“Mom, we found you some good ones. Get your toned butt back in here. You need to see how handsome they are.”
Despite Andrew’s low chuckle, Eleanor rolled her eyes and cleared her throat. “Yes, they followed me home like two stray mutts that I knew were going to chew on my furniture and do their business on my expensive rugs. What can I say? I’m a pushover.”
Andrew laughed and pushed the pizza box into her hands. “Here, pushover. Put this in the oven so it doesn’t get cold.”
“This is my house, Andrew Carson. You can’t just come in here and boss me around.”
“You’re right, Elle. I apologize,” Andrew said. He shoved the box further into her hands until she had no choice but to grasp it. “Please put this in the oven to keep it warm.”
“Mom, Jellica just ordered the pizza. Get your reluctant dating butt back in here. Oh…” Brittany said in shock, stopping in the hallway to stare at the smiling man who was shoving a pizza box into her mother’s resistant hands. “Hi, Andrew. Long time, no see.”
“I know. It has been a while. Hello, Brittany. Good to see you again.”
“You too. You look… very different than usual.”
“I’ve been at the gym this evening,” he answered with a shrug. “Your mother and I had a date tonight, but she seems to have forgotten.”
“We did not have a date,” Eleanor corrected. “We had no plans for any day this week. I distinctly recall telling you I had yoga tonight.”
“Sorry. We followed her home. It probably confused her,” Brittany told him with a grin. She turned to the hallway. “Jellica, come meet the company. Mom forgot she had a date coming by.”
“I did not forget. There was no date,” Eleanor said firmly, her voice rising to cover Andrew’s chuckling.
Jellica appeared in the hallway and hurried forward only to stop when she saw who it was. Her smiled bloomed. “Andrew. I almost didn’t recognize you without the suit,” she said.
“It’s very nice to see you again, Ms. Quartz.”
“Jellica, please. And it’s soon to be Skyler.”
“So I’ve heard. Elle is quite happy about adding you to the family. Congratulations,” Andrew said with a smile.
Brittany grunted. “Don’t tell anyone, Andrew, but my brother knocked her up. He has to marry her now,” she blurted, wincing when Jellica’s fist punched her arm. “Ow… I’m knocked up too. It was a freaking joke.”
“Your joke was not funny and your brother was right about you, Brittany. You need to learn some manners,” Jellica said.
Eleanor shoved the pizza box back at Andrew who took it automatically. She clapped her hands loudly again and glared. “Girls, it’s time for you to go. Even though I didn’t think I’d made plans for this evening, I can’t be rude and turn my guest away.”
She turned when Andrew chuckled and deliberately stomped on his closest foot—stomped hard too. While he danced away from her and fussed, she glared at the girls who’d both covered their smiles with their hands. “We’ll do the… other thing… some other time.”
“What other thing?” Andrew asked, limping sideways while still clutching the box. “Sounded like they were man hunting for you.”
“We were—sort of,” Brittany admitted with a chuckle.
“Brittany Ann Skyler!”
Jellica laughed full out. “Ooo… she used your whole name. You’re in big trouble now, Princess Bigmouth.”
“Come on,” Brittany said with a grin. “I told Greg I’d bring you home. We’ll stop for pizza along the way and laugh about Mom not remembering her date.”
“Deal,” Jellica said, finger waving at a furious Eleanor and a grinning Andrew.
“I did not forget. There was never any date,” Eleanor said again while both women laughed.
Before you could sneeze, they had both slipped away amid giggles and tittering comments about hoping they didn’t get that forgetful when they got older. When the door closed behind them, Eleanor swung to glare at Andrew. “They both just informed me they were pregnant. I’m getting more grandchildren. Apparently the next two are being made from scratch.”
Andrew nodded. “Congratulations. Why did you stomp on my foot?”
“Because you lied. We did not have a date.”
Andrew looked at the door and then back. “But you just told them we did—sort of. It was implied in you running them off so I could stay.”
“Because I needed time to think,” Eleanor spat. She turned on her heel. “Bring the pizza to the kitchen. We’re probably getting two more veggie ones shortly. I think Jellica ordered before she left. See all the trouble you’ve caused by showing up this way?”
Andrew laughed. “All I really wanted was to catch you in your yoga clothes. You look great, by the way. You really do have a toned butt.”
She swung around. “Are you serious?”
Andrew grinned. “That answer would only incriminate me.”
Eleanor rolled her eyes and jerked the pizza box from his hands.
* * *
Andrew sipped his wine and smiled. “So I was right. They actually were man hunting for you.”
She rolled her eyes at his comment. “You might call it that, but I consider it getting expert assistance. I asked them to pick a few men that I could date so I can get the whole stupid thing over with. Greg and Brittany need to be focused on the babies coming instead of worrying about me.”
“Explain this dating situation to me,” Andrew said, picking another slice of pizza from the box. “Should I join this database too? I would feel terrible though if you had to spend big bucks just to date me. The pizza barely set me back twenty dollars. Somehow that doesn’t seem fair.”
Despite her frustration, she ended up laughing at his comments. “My finances are safe because I’m definitely not dating you.”
“So you’ve said… and I still don’t know why.”
Eleanor sighed as she sobered. What reason would he understand? “Because I don’t want to lose you as a friend. I can’t afford that, not after all the years we’ve known each other.”
“You wouldn’t lose me as a friend.” Andrew smiled and lifted a shoulder. “If you dated me, maybe we’d become even better friends.”
“The moment you came to your senses and realized I was nearly old enough to be your mother, all your inappropriate fantasies would come crashing down around both of us. Things between us would get incredibly awkward, and then where would we be?”
Andrew thought for a moment as he chewed. “I don’t know. Married for twenty years by then?” he suggested.
Eleanor burst out laughing. “As both my children would say—you’re being a total dork about this.”
“Maybe,” Andrew admitted. “That bad stuff wouldn’t happen to us, Elle. We have—now don’t kill me—but we have real chemistry. That can be some strong glue for a relationship.”
“Chemistry?” She snorted. “I haven’t felt chemistry with a man in a long, long time. I’m sure I would have known if I had felt it for you.”
He lifted a shoulder. “Really? How about when you stared at my lower half when I carried the pizza through the door earlier? You didn’t even know it was me for a full thirty seconds. I was a little fearful of my reaction to your intense interest.”
“Not true—I did not stare at you. And you were not affected.”
“You can shake your head all you want, but it was absolutely true and there’s nothing shameful about either of our reactions. Call it attraction, or lust, or whatever name you want to tag it with, the bottom line is you felt something that made you uncomfortable with yourself. I think you’re keeping your distance because you’re afraid I’m going to wake up the real woman who’s sleeping inside you. It probably wise of you to be wary because that’s precisely my intention.”
Eleanor narrowed her eyes and glared. “Have you always been this full of yourself as a man? How did I not notice this?”
Andrew smirked as he lifted a brow. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just know when I’m right about something.”
“That I did know about you, but in this instance, you are mistaken.” Eleanor snorted and gave him her most intimidating look until he shrugged and grinned. They ate in silence for a few minutes.
“Maybe some random dating will be good for you, Elle. I’ll just have to hope you don’t find someone you like. The few dates I’ve had in the last couple of years were disappointing. Be warned.”
Eleanor stopped chewing and swallowed as she stared in surprise. “I thought you said you haven’t been dating.”
Andrew lifted an eyebrow. “I thought you ordered me to date whether I wanted to or not.”
Eleanor stopped and stared. “You lied to my face, Andrew Carson.”
“No, I lied by omission because at the time we talked about dating I wasn’t counting being an escort for a friend to some fundraiser or my father’s attempt at matchmaking. Those two don’t exactly fall into the same kind of dating I have in mind for me and you.”
“I find it difficult to believe that your elderly father tried to fix you up with someone.”
“He did and it was quite the surprise to me as well. The woman in his assisted living complex was at least in her seventies. He said they had no chemistry, but that she was a hottie and someone I should consider so I don’t have to be alone all the time after he’s dead. This led to a discussion about how statistically women tend to outlive their lovers. My father talks like that all the time. Usually I don’t pay attention to his elderly philosophizing, but you can bet I will in the future.”
“Stop,” she ordered, holding up a hand as she laughed. “That’s totally outrageous and I don’t know what to believe anymore.”
“Are you now unbalanced and unsure of yourself?” he demanded.
Eleanor chuckled. “Yes. I believe I am.”
“Good,” Andrew said, going back to his food. “Will you go out with me now?”
“No,” Eleanor answered. “But I will let you be my escort to Friday night’s fundraiser. We’ll go as… friends.”
Andrew grinned. “Is this one of those black tie things with pretentious food and no carbs?”
“Heavens, no. It’s Western-themed,” Eleanor said.
“As in cowboys yelling yee haw?”
The giggle blew past her self-control. “I have no idea how to answer that, but I’m wearing jeans and boots. You don’t have to come, Andrew. I was just joking.”
“You can’t ask a man out on a date and then take it back. Geez, Elle… you’ve been out of the game for far too long if you think that’s okay.”
“Andrew, this conversation is about to end poorly. I think it’s time you went home.”
“I agree,” he said with a grin, sliding off the counter stool. He held out a hand. “Walk me out.”
Eleanor sighed, but she was afraid not to put her hand in his. She badly needed Andrew to leave her alone so she could think this madness through.
Her fingers slipped into his. His hand immediately swallowed hers. She felt tiny and fragile. And maybe more feminine than she’d felt in a while.
“Thanks for the pizza,” she said to stop herself from dwelling on how nice his hand holding hers felt.
“You’re welcome,” he said, stopping at the door. He lifted her fingers to his lips, kissed her knuckles, and smiled. “I’ll see you Friday night. If I show up in spurs and find out it’s all a joke, you’ll pay in ways you can’t imagine.”
“It’s not a joke,” she promised.
“Fine—you’ve been warned,” he said and eased their hands apart.
She fought the urge to flex her fingers. Her heart fluttered in her chest. This was crazy.
“Don’t you dare show up tomorrow. I’m having dinner at my son’s so he can tell me about the baby that’s coming. This crazy week is finally starting to make karmic sense.”
Andrew chuckled. “Even me wanting to date you.?”
“No, but I’ll have to figure your insanity out later. Right now I need to prioritize and pregnant women get sorted out first.”
Andrew chuckled, bent, and swiped a quick kiss before she’d realized what he’d done. Then he was out the door and gone before she could question his action.
Her fingers flexed at her side as she watched Andrew slide his fit body into his very nice car. He backed out of her driveway then waved as he drove off.
Eleanor looked down at her hand that still felt the impact of his and shook her head. It had been a long time since she’d held hands with anyone. As she shut her front door, she couldn’t help reflecting on the state of her currently crazy life.
She used to handle attention from men much better than she was handling Andrew’s infatuation with her. Being married had slowed the attention down over the years, but she’d had her share of persistent admirers to discourage. She’d rebuffed grateful clients and lecherous colleagues without a qualm. Why was she struggling to push off a friend?
There was no doubt about it. Getting old sucked when you were female.
About THE PERFECT DATE Series
The essence of all romantic comedy is that falling in love and navigating an unexpected romance is never easy or simple. Instead, it’s messy and emotional, and if you’re lucky, it’s also sexy and fun.
Some relationship professionals, like my character of Dr. Mariah Bates in this series, sincerely want to help people find their perfect love match. For the various heroines I’ve created, many of whom are older, Mariah’s going to need all the help she can get. Or maybe she just needs to step out of the way. You can be the judge.
NOTE ABOUT THE HEAT LEVEL: I’ve taken a nearly-closed-door approach to the eight books in this series. The focus is on sensuality and I’ve packed a lot into these stories. I categorize them as “Sweet Romance” by today’s industry standards for romance, but these books are definitely on the Spicy end of the spectrum.