One Little Kiss (Smart Cupid)

By: Maggie Kelley

Chapter One

Kate Bell, suddenly single and regretting the four doughnuts she’d eaten this morning while watching Dr. Phil On Demand, sat across from her boss and considered the idea that she might have a knack for the wrong guy.

“So, the latest Prince Charming decided to hit the road?” Jane Wright tucked the dark curls of her pixie cut behind both ears and flashed a high-wattage, suspiciously Zen smile.

Clearly the shit is about to hit the fan. The Manhattan matchmaker might look all cool and breezy, but nothing got in between her and the success of SmartCupid.com. Certainly not a friend’s rant-filled, anti-dating breakup tirade.

Kate bit her bottom lip. “I guess you read my blog.”

Jane pushed aside the remains of a pastrami sandwich and nodded at the glowing tablet on her desk. “Oh, I read it all right, and if the whole thing wasn’t so sad, I’d tell you it was funny.”

Kate winced, knowing she was in serious trouble. Not only could she lose her job, but her meltdown had undermined all the work she’d done to catch the attention of a junior editor at Cosmopolitan. She’d been dreaming about landing a job as the magazine’s authority on Happily Ever After forever. Now she was one Google search away from working at The Farmer’s Almanac. “Probably not such a smart move—writing an anti-love piece for a matchmaking site.”

Jane snapped the tablet cover shut in one quick motion. “Probably not.”

Cringing at the less-than-subtle sarcasm, an apology raced out of her faster than the D-line into the city. “I know. I’m sorry. I was a total train wreck this morning, especially after the closet purge, and yes, I went too far with the whole pathological man comment, but…”

“You think so?” Despite her obvious annoyance, a sympathetic frown worked its way across her friend’s face. “Did he really leave a half-eaten box of doughnuts on the counter?”

“He really did.”

The frown deepened. “Did he leave a rent check? A parting gift, maybe?”

Kate considered the undershirt she’d stuffed in her tote bag this morning so the apartment wouldn’t reek of Irish Spring. “Not unless you count the T-shirt he left next to the doughnuts.”

“I don’t,” she said, her eyes narrowing over the half-empty coffee cup on her desk. “Did he steal your MasterCard again?”

She shifted in her seat, hoping to avoid a rehash of the whole credit card disaster. “Not funny, Jane.”

“Who was being funny?” she asked, glancing around the office. “It’s a serious question.”

A wave of heat infused her cheeks. “Borrowing your girlfriend’s credit card one time does not make you a felon.”

“It does if you disappear to Vegas with it, run up the bill, and refuse to pay.”

“It’s not like he killed somebody.”

Jane tore at the edges of her sandwich wrapper. “No, he’s too dumb for that.”

Kate drew in a long breath. A small—thankfully, very small—part of her wanted to defend him, but her friend was right. The man had cleared out without so much as a backward glance and stuck her with the remainder of the lease. Not technically a felony, but definitely romantically criminal.

She slumped down in her chair. “I make terrible choices when it comes to men.”

Silence filled the space between them, punctuated only by the sound of her boss tearing at the wrapper. “Well…not terrible terrible.”

“No—more like disastrously terrible. The only question is why—why?” she asked the bronze Cupid perched on the edge of the desk. “I practice self-actualization, cultivate personal growth, embrace my ch’i, but hey, show me a guy with a sketchy romantic past and a working penis, and Hallelujah, I’m in love.”

Jane’s smile aimed for reassurance, but landed closer to sweetie-you-need-a-new-game-plan. “You’ve got a super-sized heart, that’s all, and you’re lovely and trusting and … What is the term all your self-help books use…other-oriented? You’re other-oriented.”

“Well, being other-oriented sucks.” Kate yanked a loose thread from the hem of her skirt and hoped the fabric wouldn’t unravel like her love life. “My super-sized heart is tired of being crushed. I’m a dating disaster. Why can’t I just find The One and be done with it?”

“With dating or with love?”

“Both.” A soft breath hitched at the back of her throat, and the longing in her voice broke her misguided heart all over again. “Dating and love.”

Jane leaned forward in the upholstered chair and steepled her fingers. “Maybe you need to try a different tactic. A change of perspective. What if you stopped focusing on finding The One,” she said, tossing out a set of air quotes, “and started exploring more…possibilities?”

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