Dream Date with the Millionaire: Excerpt

At three o'clock, Dani sat at the rectangular table that functioned as the "conference room" as well as the "break room" with her five coworkers at the fledgling Internet dating site www.hookamate.com. Pacing back and forth across the floor of the converted warehouse was their boss, James Richardson.

James wore ripped at the knee jeans and a black T-shirt. He had long, scraggly blond hair. He spoke fast and loud, as if fueled by caffeine and junk food. He reminded her of a stereotypical computer science graduate student in desperate need of a balanced meal, sunshine and a girlfriend, but his first two Internet ventures had made him tons of money. He'd sold them, and now wanted to replicate that success with a new on-line dating site.

Succeed at any cost, Dani had finally figured out.

During her interview, James had seemed more captivated with her double D bra cup sized breasts than the qualifications on her resume. Yet he'd surprised her by asking detailed questions about her schooling and work experience. He'd known exactly what he wanted for a marketing person.

She had the skills so she'd made the most of what nature had given her, just as her mother had taught her to do, and secured the job. Which meant she only had herself to blame for where she found herself today. She wanted to bang her head against the table for her stupidity.

"The good news is we had an increase in traffic thanks to Danica's marketing efforts." James winked at her. No one at the company except him knew she was undercover, so to speak, spying on the local competition, blinddatebrides.com. "Unfortunately the traffic exceeded our capacity so we've been having to add machines. But that's not a bad problem. Traffic will drive our advertising revenue. That means more money for us. Anyone have other ideas to generate more users?"

No one said anything.

"Rethinking our branding might help," she suggested. "Taglines, image, ads, name."

James clenched his jaw. "Our website name rocks."



Dani listened to the men in the room support their boss who they held with almost cult leader esteem. The only other woman at the table, Shelley, the office manager, shook her head and mouthed the word sorry to Dani.

The responses didn't deter her. She had to do something. Say something.

"Look at blinddatebrides.com." The name of the fastest growing competitor brought groans from the three engineers at the table, but Dani kept going. "When people hear blinddatebrides.com, they can't help but think about brides. That word connotes weddings which makes people think relationships, marriage, permanence. That's appealing to users."

"Only if you want to end up with a ball and chain," a Ruby on Rails developer named Andrew murmured.

Dani ignored him. "Granted, your, I mean, our site's name does have 'mate', but 'hook' makes people think of..."

"What?" James asked.

"One night stands," a PHP programmer, who probably hadn't showered let alone had a date in a month, said.

People--okay, guys--laughed.

"Yeah, sex," the interface hacker offered. "Sex appeals to a lot of people, too."

The two men gave each other high fives.

Dani sighed. "I worry the name brings about images of hook-ups, not serious relationships."

No one spoke.

"There's such thing as a niche market," Andrew said. "Hook ups can be our niche."

She stared at all the nodding heads. Male heads. No wonder women had a hard time finding good men to date these days. Not that she was interested in anything having to do with dating.

"I appreciate you bringing this up, Danica," James said finally. "I'll have to think about what you said."

Which meant he would never mention it again. That was how things worked around here. James' way or the highway. He'd given her a choice, join blinddatebrides.com or quit. She needed the paycheck so did as he'd requested. Up until that point, she'd really liked the challenges of being in on the ground floor of a start-up again. Now she hated getting up in the morning.

"Anything else?" he asked.

No one said a word. No one ever did. Except her. She didn't know why she bothered.

"Get to work, people." James clapped his hands together. "We don't want anyone to be lonely tonight. They need to hook a mate!"

Dani trudged back to her cubicle, frustrated and tired. She'd stayed up late last night sending out another batch of resumes. Speaking of which, she'd better check her email in case someone replied. She clicked on her inbox. There, at the top, was a new message, but not from a potential employer. This was one was from bigbrother@blinddatebrides.com with the subject header "I read your profile."

Oh, no. She squeezed her eyes shut. Another guy who wanted to get to know her.

Her stomach churned. She hated this. Sure, she could just hit delete-that was par for the course on many dating sites-but blinddatebrides.com was different. The site touted itself as a community where politeness and manners mattered. Users were requested to reply even if the intent was to give someone a brush-off. Still the thought of telling another guy she wasn't interested in getting to know him better made her feel physically ill.

But what else could she do?

Leading a guy on when she was on the site under false pretenses ranked right up there with corporate spying in her book. She massaged her forehead to stop a full-on headache from erupting. Okay, one rejection wasn't going to send some guy scampering back to his mommy in tears, but...

Why did this keep happening?

Dani had taken steps to ensure it wouldn't. What sense of honor she had left made her fill out the profile questionnaire truthfully so she understood when the compatibility programmed deemed her a match with someone. But Dani had hedged against the computer algorithms by uploading the most unattractive photo of herself she could find. She looked downright ugly. While other women uploaded more than one picture to their profile page, she hadn't.

She also downplayed her interests to make herself sound, well, about as exciting as a slug inching across a driveway at dawn. She'd listed the library as her favorite place to spend a Saturday night and a collection of Jane Austen novels as her must have item if stranded on a deserted island.

No man should want to date her.

Maybe this one didn't. Maybe he was one of those guys, the players, who only wanted to have sex. If that were the case, she wouldn't mind telling him to get lost.

Dani opened her eyes and read the entire email.
From: "bigbrother", bigbrother@blinddatebrides.com
To: "sanfrandani", sanfrandani@blinddatebrides.com
Subject: I read your profile

Who are you searching for? Mr. Darcy? Or Mr. Knightley?

Dani reread the message. Twice.

Okay, she was impressed some guy knew the names of two Jane Austen heroes, but who did he take her for? Intelligent, impulsive Lizzy or smug, interfering Emma?

Still his message intrigued Dani. She typed a reply and hit send. With a satisfied smile on her face, she leaned back in her chair. And almost fell over backwards.

Uh-oh. What had she done?

She shouldn't have replied. Dani grimaced. She wasn't supposed to engage bigbrother in more emails. She was supposed to tell him she wasn't interested. To. Go. Away. Politely, of course.

Only she hadn't wanted to do that.

Not when his email had been unlike any of the others she'd received. He'd obviously read her profile and asked his question based on what she'd written. Not on her photo or bra size. Maybe he was genuinely interested.

Or maybe he was ugly.

Her eyes locked on the link to his profile that would transport her to a page all about him, a page with his picture.

Curiosity trickled down the length of her arm to her fingertip hovering above the laptop's trackpad. She wanted to know more about bigbrother. Read what he'd written about himself. See what he looked like.

Temptation flared. She moved the cursor to the link. All she had to do was click, but she couldn't.

The less Dani knew about bigbrother, the better.

She wasn't looking to meet a guy. She didn't want to meet a guy. Especially one from blinddatebrides.com.

Not under these circumstances.

Ignoring the twinge of regret, she closed his email.

Goodbye bigbrother.


kierakhim said...

a very nice love story! godbless!!!

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

i read this on pocketbook Precious Heart Romances. Tagalog Version of Dreamdate with the millionaire. gusto ko yung story ni Dani and Bryce. :))