Wedding Date by Monica Murphy

One





Kelsey





As time goes on, and the dating scene becomes bleaker and bleaker, I made a secret vow with myself. None of my friends know this, though I have said it out loud a few times around them. Problem is, none of them take me seriously. They all just laugh and think I’m kidding.

I’m not.

Anyway, my vow is this:

I’ve sworn off men.

It sounds extreme, I know, and let’s be real—this is a temporary situation. But come on. They’re all terrible. And I know I’m painting with a wide brush by saying that, but it’s true. The last few guys I’ve tried to go out with, the dates ended spectacularly—and not in a good way. A while ago, I convinced my friend Eleanor to get on that Rate A Date app with me so we could each find someone, and she meets the man of her dreams, who just so happens to be a pro athlete.

While I meet a total jerk who treated me like garbage and harassed me for weeks afterward.

Yeah. See? Terrible.

One good thing that came out of meeting the harassing jerk (his name is Paul, though that really doesn’t matter) is that I have become friendly with his best friend, Theodore Crawford. Theo is sweet. Kind. He just got out of a serious relationship—engaged serious, which is super-duper serious—after he found out she cheated on him.

With his cousin.

He’s in the anti-dating club as well. He’s given up on women. He made that declaration to me a few weeks ago, when we went out for drinks together.

Yes, we’re just friends. That’s all I want from Theo, and that’s all he wants from me, and it is positively liberating.

How did we meet up again after the disastrous double date I had with Paul and Theo and my friend Eleanor? Picture this:

I’m at a business mixer on a Wednesday evening at the Wilder Hotel in Pebble Beach, where I work. I’m already bored and wondering when I can leave when I hear someone say my name in this wondrous, questioning tone. I turn to find Theo approaching me, his big brown eyes drinking me in as if I were the best thing he’s ever seen.

It was flattering, don’t get me wrong. But considering I associate him with one of the worst first dates I’ve ever been on, at first I was reluctant to chat with Theo. Plus, I remember him being so incredibly sad. He’d only been separated from his ex-fiancée for a few months when I first met him, and he was still in a major funk.

But he was so fun that night at the business mixer. Talking nonstop and making me laugh. Telling me funny stories. Reminding me that if I was interested in investing money, he could help me.

I took him up on that offer and made an appointment with him. He took me to lunch. He convinced me to invest the five grand I had in savings, and I’ve seen some growth, which makes me happy. Since then, we’ve gone out for a few dinners, mostly for business-type stuff. We cross paths frequently at community events. I like Theo.

A lot.

But not enough to want to have a relationship with him. I have my guard up. A wall that is solid steel and no one can penetrate it. Like I mentioned, I’ve given up men, and while I know it’s not a forever type of thing, I am making myself do this for the betterment of my soul. So I won’t settle. I need to find a good man. One who’ll take care of me. One who won’t have a wandering eye. One who’ll treat me as an equal. One who’ll give me multiple orgasms.

I might have high standards, but shouldn’t we all?

Theo understands me. He understands what I want right now, and all I want is friendship. Same with him. I don’t think he’s interested in me at all. He doesn’t act like he is, and that’s perfect.

Perfect.

We’re meeting for lunch right now, as a matter of fact. He’s coming to the hotel because he has a business meeting here at two. We’re going to have a long lunch at one of the hotel restaurants, which has a patio outside with a gorgeous view of the beach. The weather is perfect for outdoor dining. The sun is shining, the water is a deep, dark blue and there’s a slight breeze.

“Sorry I’m late,” Theo calls in greeting.

I lift my head to find him making his way toward me, winding his tall, trim body through the tiny tables scattered on the brick patio. He’s got a smile on his face and his brown eyes are warm and friendly as they meet mine.

He just instantly makes me feel comfortable, and that’s rare.

Rising to my feet, I give him a quick hug. He briefly kisses my cheek. We settle in at our tiny table and he picks up the menu, though I already know what he’s going to order. I always get a salad and he gets a cheeseburger. While we eat, I secretly salivate over the juicy burger he eats, and when he spots me making puppy-dog eyes at his food, he always cuts off part of it for me.

Theo is very generous. He also shares his fries.

“I have news,” Theo says gravely after he sets the menu down.

I study his face. When I first met him, I thought he looked like the saddest version of Ross from Friends and Eleanor totally agreed with me. Now I don’t get that vibe at all. He’s got the dark hair and the dark eyes, but the glum expression has completely disappeared. He smiles a lot, and he has a nice smile with straight, white teeth. Those warm brown eyes that seem to dance every time he looks at me, and the thick dark hair that’s a little too long on top, though he can carry it off. He’s tall and fit and he wears impeccable suits that look expensive because they are expensive.