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Truth or Date
 

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Truth or Date


  Truth or Date

  by

  Susan Hatler

  Truth or Date

  Copyright © 2013 by Susan Hatler

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  License Notes

  This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

  _______________________________________

  Cover Design by Elaina Lee, For The Muse Designs

  www.forthemusedesign.com

  PRAISE

  “Susan Hatler’s books make me laugh out loud while also touching my heart. She reminds me to focus on the joy in life right along with her characters!” — Virna DePaul, National Bestselling Author on Love At First Date

  “Seriously you guys, you have to pick this one up if you are a romantic at heart. Deliciously sweet.” — Getting Your Read On Reviews on My Last Blind Date

  “Absolutely a cute little story about how that perfect someone is sometimes the person right under your nose.” — Beck’s Book Picks on The Boyfriend Bylaws

  “It was amazing, fast-paced and action-packed, with a little bit of teenage crushing in there too! Hats off to Susan Hatler for a five star book!” — Books Are Sanity!!! on Shaken

  “An Unexpected Date is a wonderful and perfect release to a stressful or crazy day.” — Cafè of Dreams Book Reviews

  Truth or Date

  by

  Susan Hatler

  CHAPTER ONE

  Nobody ever said finding the right person was easy. But, nobody said it would be this hard, either. I just wasted ten years on a guy who, when given an ultimatum, finally admitted he didn’t want to get married. Ever. A nice tidbit of info that would’ve been helpful a decade ago. George even had the nerve to ask me why I couldn’t just be happy with the way things were—living together indefinitely, but with no permanent purchase. Um, because I want to be married with a family one day? Which I made very clear from the beginning?

  Call me disappointed in men, but if marriage isn’t on a guy’s list, he’s out. Until I find this devoted love of my life, if he actually exists, I’m committing myself to dessert. All kinds. Any time of day. If my heart can’t be satisfied, then at least my taste buds can swoon.

  To twist the proverbial knife in my already distraught gut, my co-worker and friend, Ellen, just asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. Apparently, she’d been so blissfully happy with her boyfriend of four months that they’ve decided to get married next weekend. Yay love!

  I’d agreed to be her bridesmaid because, after working together for several years, we’d become close friends over the last four months. She’d really been there for me after the break-up and I was happy for Ellen even though her sappy relationship felt like hot lava being injected into my arteries. Such was the current state of my life. It could be worse I guess. Like instead of trying on a cherry red evening gown right now I could be swimming next to a great white shark during feeding time. Or maybe both were equally appealing.

  “Ouch!” I gasped as Ellen tried to zip up the back of my strapless dress, which got stuck just below my shoulder blades.

  “Gina, you told me to order a size six. Right?” Ellen frowned.

  “Yes. Check the tag.” I groaned even though I’d already guessed the truth. That my nightly routine of watching reality TV with my new boyfriend, Cookie Dough Ice Cream, had finally caught up with me. He may be high in calories, but at least he doesn’t have a fear of commitment. I can be with him (or a new carton of him) until death do us part.

  Staring into the three way mirror, I watched Ellen peek inside the back of my gown, then give me an apologetic look. “Maybe the sizes at Blissfully Bridal run small.”

  “Right.” Because that kind of error would definitely happen at the most popular bridal boutique in downtown Sacramento. Never mind that Rachel’s maid of honor dress fit like a glove as did the bridesmaid dress for Ellen’s very annoying friend from high school, Kristen. Not to diss one of Ellen’s longtime gal pals, but if I had to hear Kristen rave on about her perfect boyfriend, Jake, one more time . . . well, let’s just say I shouldn’t be accountable for my actions.

  “Maybe the seamstress can take it out a little?” Rachel suggested.

  I raised my brows hopefully.

  “Not enough material.” Kristen shook her head. “We’ll have to order a larger size.”

  Was it my imagination or did Kristen seem cheerful delivering that news?

  “No way.” I shook my head, emphatically. “I’ll go on a liquid diet. Those lemonade drink thingies.”

  Desperate? No, not me.

  Ellen put a hand on my shoulder. “Sorry, Gina. A dress size in a week isn’t healthy and isn’t going to happen. I’m gonna ask the saleslady if they can do another rush order.”

  “What?” I gaped after her retreating figure. “That’s it? I’m supposed to accept a size eight? The bride has spoken?”

  “Don’t stress, Gina. You’re entitled to a few pounds after what you’ve been through the last few months.” Rach dropped into a wingback chair and crossed her legs. “Speaking of . . . how’s the current sitch at home? Did George get off his rear and move out?”

  “No.” I fell back against the iridescent satin wall and slid to the ground, chastising myself for eating that donut for breakfast this morning. And the one from yesterday morning. . . .

  Kristen played with a strand of her silky red hair. “Who’s George?”

  “My ex.” It still felt weird calling him that. Especially since he hadn’t vacated our apartment yet. “We broke up four months ago and he hasn’t gotten his own place.”

  “Oh, right.” Kristen snapped her French-manicured fingers. “I remember hearing about him. He’s the one you’d been with forever, but never proposed?”

  Ah, how I loved being reminded what a sucker I’d been. “Your point?”

  She knelt next to me on the fluffy white carpet, smoothed the front of her shimmering red dress, and stared me in the eyes. “Sweetie, I’m going to tell you what your friends are apparently too afraid to. Your ex-boyfriend, George? Moving out? It’s never going to happen.”

  I guffawed. “How would you know?”

  “Obviously, taking action is not his m.o. I mean, you waited how many years for a ring and that never happened?” She raised a hand in the air, as if to say, hello?

  “Leave her alone, Kristen.” Rach unzipped her fancy dress, let it fall to the floor, then stepped out of it. “She’ll move out when she’s ready.”

  Rachel’s tone spoke volumes and my mouth dropped open. “You think I should be the one to find another place even though I’ve already put myself out staying in the guest bedroom for four months?”

  First ten years. Now four months. I was beginning to see a pattern. . . .

  Rach raised a shoulder. “Unless you want to change the locks and throw his stuff out, what choice do you have?”

  My mouth opened and closed like a guppy out of water. “You know I could never do that.” I sighed. “I’m the one who found that apartm
ent and it’s only three blocks from work. It’s just not right.”

  Kristen cleared her throat, possibly to ease the obvious tension. “Listen, I just closed escrow on my condo and it has a spare room. I was going to advertise for a roommate, but you’re welcome to it.” She furrowed her brows. “If you really want to go forward with your life, that is.”

  My blood began to boil, not because Kristen had delivered this offer absent any shred of sensitivity—which, as a licensed marriage and family counselor, you’d think she’d have a little of—but because she was so clearly and obviously right. Why was I, once again, waiting on him? Was that my m.o.? What was wrong with me?

  Although it seemed grossly unfair to have to let go of the place that had been my home for most of my twenties, it was time to stop waiting and start taking action.

  I straightened my spine. “When can I move in?”

  Her chin pulled back in surprise, then she smiled. “It’s Saturday. No time like the present, right?”

  Rach let out a cheer. “Way to go, Gina! I’ll help you pack.”

  “Thanks.” With the decision made, it felt like a weight had been lifted. “And let me state, for the record, that I will never again date a man who isn’t into marriage. N. E. V. E. R.”

  “That eliminates the hot rebound I was about to suggest.” Kristen stood and scooted up to the mirror in her size four dress (that fit her slim figure perfectly). She smoothed a wandering eyebrow back into place, then snapped her fingers. “I’ve got the best idea. I have a friend and Jake recently suggested I set him up with someone.”

  Ah, Jake. I hadn’t heard about him in at least ten minutes.

  “Gina, he’d be perfect for you.” Her face lit up in a way that made me wonder if she wanted to be with him. “Ethan’s an amazing guy, absolute marriage material, and recently single. He can be your date to Ellen’s wedding.”

  “Mmmm.” Rach flipped the page of her magazine with a small smile that told me she thought it was a good idea.

  I’d just made the decision to move. It was hard to think about dating. “I don’t know.”

  “Truth or Dare?” Kristen said, suddenly.

  I narrowed my eyes at her. “Are you really a marriage and family counselor?”

  She rolled her eyes. “It’s a simple question, Gina. I’m sure you’ve played the game a million times.”

  I bit back a laugh. “Yeah, in junior high.”

  “Hmmm.” She bent her index finger and rubbed her chin. “I can’t tell which you’re uncomfortable with. Revealing the truth or doing something out of your comfort zone.”

  “Dare.” An inane task sounded better than analyzing my psyche.

  She grinned, triumphantly. “I dare you to take Jake’s friend to the wedding. If you two end up wildly in love, then I get to be a bridesmaid in your wedding.”

  “Are you allowed to put those kinds of conditions on a dare?” Okay, I was stalling. Mostly because Kristen was right again. There was no good reason not to give this guy a try. “Fine, as long as I can meet him ahead of time. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable on such a special evening if we don’t click.”

  “Deal.” Kristen exchanged a satisfied smile with Rach, then clapped her hands faster than a butterfly flapping its wings. She added a squeal for good measure. “You’re not going to regret this. Ethan is divine.”

  I paused a moment, suddenly remembering some rules to our childhood game. “Truth or Dare back to you.”

  Kristen’s eyes lit up as if she hadn’t expected to be put in the hot seat. “Truth.”

  My brain searched for the perfect question. “What is Jake’s worst character trait?”

  Rach snickered, then tried to hide it with a cough.

  “That’s easy.” Kristen leaned forward, her expression showing she could hardly believe she was about to reveal this. “He wants me all the time.”

  My eyes narrowed. “You’re counting that as a flaw? Come on.”

  She thrust a hand to her chest. “My career is emotionally draining. In the evening, before bed, is fine. But he can’t wake me in the middle of the night or early in the morning and expect me to always be willing.”

  “Sounds rough. I feel so sorry for you.” I should’ve known she’d never find anything wrong with the ever perfect Jake.

  As I pulled my clothes off a hanger and began changing out of my too-small gown, I couldn’t help wondering if staying with George so many years had made me miss my window to find a guy who wanted me morning, noon, and night. Let’s face it, at my age, the best guys were taken. Not that twenty-nine was over the hill or anything, but weren’t the odds getting microscopic at this point?

  “Crisis averted!” Ellen burst into the room and pretended to wipe her brow. “The dress designer has a size ten in stock that they’ll messenger over to the seamstress who will take it in for you. Can you believe the luck?”

  “What a relief,” I said, flatly. Although, my mouth started watering as I pictured all the cookies I could snack on and still fit into a size ten. . . .

  The room fell silent and Ellen checked out each one of us suspiciously. “What’d I miss?”

  “Gina’s moving in with me and I’m setting her up with a date for your wedding. Which just leaves Rachel.” Kristen turned to Rach. “Should I hook you up with—”

  “No way.” She shook her head. “I’m going stag.”

  I suppressed a laugh at Rachel’s emphatic response. Ellen had recently arranged a blind date for Rach with her fiancé Henry’s friend. The date had started out promising with a pleasant dinner, then the guy suggested they make hot fudge sundaes at his place for dessert—naked. To say he’d misjudged Rach’s fondness for ice cream à la nude would be putting it mildly.

  As we were packing up our stuff to leave Blissfully Bridal, Ellen put an arm around me. “You okay?”

  I gave a small laugh. “About moving out of my place with George or moving in with Kristen?” Her hazel eyes filled with concern and I sighed. “Truth?”

  She tilted her head. “Of course.”

  “I’m good, just nervous. What if I waited too long to get out of the wrong relationship? What if I missed my chance to find the guy for me?”

  “Maybe it wasn’t the right time before.” Ellen’s gaze drifted down to the sparkly gem on her left ring finger and the corners of her mouth lifted. “We never know when the right guy will come along, but he will. Trust me. And now you’ll be ready for him when he does.”

  “I’m really happy for you, Ellen.” As I pulled my friend into a hug, I imagined her walking down the aisle toward the love of her life and this time there wasn’t an inkling of pain.

  George wasn’t the right guy.

  Maybe timing really was everything. Maybe agreeing to live with Kristen would be the best decision I’d ever made. And maybe I should switch to low-fat ice cream.

  CHAPTER TWO

  I showed up to work Monday morning wearing sweats. Normally, I dressed up for the office, but I’d been at this software company for five years and worked in the accounting department so it’s not like I ever met with customers. Besides, I’d taken the afternoon off to haul the last of my stuff over to the condo. Yes, that’s right. Finally. As annoying as Kristen was, she’d made me realize my part in the entire debacle that had been my relationship.

  I mean, what kind of girl gives her boyfriend the ultimatum to propose or it’s over? So not romantic. George and I started dating in college after we’d participated in a game of Quarters. He’d impressed me with his ability to bounce that silver coin into a cup. Ah, young love. Somewhere along the way, beer games stopped being as impressive to me.

  “Going somewhere special after the office, I assume?” a sarcastic voice startled me out of my thoughts.

  My head whipped up and I saw Rach standing in the doorway to my office, eying my outfit with raised brows.

  “You scared me.” I flared my eyes at her, then plopped back in my chair. “Just getting the last of my things out of the apart
ment this afternoon while George is at work. He got a little psycho dividing up the CDs yesterday. Like each and every one were precious to him or something.”

  Rach adjusted the clip holding her hair up in a messy twist. “That’s ridiculous.”

  “It wasn’t just that.” I sighed, fingering my own short, dark curls, then tucked one side behind my ear. “George said he misses me and thinks maybe he can change.”

  Her eyes narrowed. “You’re kidding me.”

  “It’s fine.” I clasped my hands on my desk and leaned forward. “A couple months ago I would’ve crumbled, thinking I could find a way to make it work. Now, I realize that George’s mastery of Beer Pong? Not so hot at twenty-nine years old.”

  She chuckled. “Well, I’m glad you didn’t fall for his desperate plea now that he’s supposedly figured out what he lost. You deserve better.”

  I shrugged my shoulders and reached for my candy jar. “I’m not even mad at him anymore. He is who he is, you know? I just want to get the rest of my things without a hassle.”

  She hesitated, appearing deep in thought, before accepting the wrapped butterscotch I held out for her. “So, you’re over George. Is that what you’re saying?”

  Her body language told me she was up to something. “Why would you ask that?”

  “No specific reason.” She shifted back and forth on her feet before taking a breath. “I, uh, do have a favor to ask of you though.”

  I hesitated, wondering why she looked so tense. “What’s up?”

  She stepped toward me and lowered her voice. “You heard that Chris Bradley gave his two weeks notice last week? The traitor is going to work for the enemy.”

  Chris was an amazing sales associate and we paid him well, but apparently our biggest competitor had made him a better offer. “Good for him. Too bad for us, huh?”

  “Yeah, it’s sad to see him go.” She fiddled with the empty plastic candy wrapper, avoiding my gaze. “So, I’m totally swamped with work this week. Since you and I are the only ones left on the party committee, would you mind handling the cake, food, and decorations for Chris’s bon voyage bash? I know it’s my turn, but it’d really help me out.”

 
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