Thursday, August 16, 2018

Blog Tour Stop - Four Last First Dates by Kate O'Keefe


“TELL ME SOMETHING. DID IT HURT?” The guy I’d known for less than fifteen seconds leaned his hairless, muscular arms on the sticky wooden table, his blue eyes dancing.
I blinked, trying to understand his question. “Did what hurt, exactly?”
“You know, when you fell down to Earth from Heaven.” Satisfied with his pick-up line, he sat back against the vinyl booth seat, flicked his ’seventies Bee Gees hair, and raised his eyebrows in expectation.
I did an internal eye roll. That had to be the tackiest line I’d heard tonight—and I was afraid to report, I’d heard a few. There was something about the short amount of time you got in speed dating that brought out the cheesy in these guys.
I was beginning to regret ever having agreed to this.
I forced a smile. “Oh, sure. I get it. I’m an angel who fell to Earth. That’s a good one.” I tried not to allow the sleaze-factor crawl across my skin.
Oh, how I wished this whole thing could be over and I could go home, throw on Netflix, and eat leftover cake from the Cozy Cottage Café. So much better than having to listen to guys like this one try to “charm me.”
“Shame I wasn’t there to catch you. I’m very strong, you know.” He flexed his bulging muscles, just to make sure I got the message.
“I bet.”
Satisfied with my response, he flashed me a row of perfect pearly whites as he stroked his chin. His thick, designer five-o’clock shadow must have felt like sandpaper.
I glanced over at my friends sitting at the bar—Cassie, Paige, and Marissa—working hard at pretending not to watch my every move. I gotta tell you, they weren’t doing a good job. As soon as they noticed me glaring at them, all three of them snapped their heads away, focusing on anything but me.
Thanks a lot, girls.
Still, I could only blame myself for the predicament I found myself in, sitting across from this guy, listening to his dreadful pick-up lines. You see, I was at this speed dating event down at O’Dowd’s Pub because I was trying to find my Last First Date.
Yes, that’s right. I was trying to find the last man I’d ever go out with. The man I would marry. Although right now, I’d have preferred to forget the whole darn thing.
Why was I subjecting myself to this torture, you may ask? It’s a good question, and one that had me glancing at the exit with longing in my eyes.
It’s a long story. Suffice it to say, I’d agreed to a pact with those three friends of mine at the bar to marry the next guy I dated—just like they had.
Totally insane, right? Certifiable, even. Well, optimistic at the very least.
But whatever a shrink might have to say about it, it meant I needed to find Mr. Right, which was what I was trying to do tonight. And he had to be Mr. Right—not Mr. Okay, Mr. He’ll Do, or even Mr. Right For Now.
No way.
I wasn’t settling for anything less than the absolute perfect guy for me. Because I’d already been there with the guy I thought was perfect for me, the one I planned on spending my life with.
Yet here I sat, single, alone, still looking for love.
The good news was that the pact had worked for Cassie, Paige, and Marissa. All three of them were happily and blissfully in love with their respective guys.
Now, it was my turn. Although looking at the Bee Gees wannabe across the table from me, I was having serious second thoughts about the whole darn thing.
I clenched my fists under the table, determined to turn this conversation around. I decided to change it to something less . . . icky.
I cleared my throat. “You sound British. Are you?”
“I am. London, born and bred,” he replied, tilting his chin up and puffing out his chest. His accent definitely sounded cockney, more like Michael Cain than Hugh Grant.
“I love London. What do you do, ah—” I glanced down at the name tag clipped to his white open-necked shirt, “—Jamie?”
He leant back in. “Actually, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, darlin‘.”
I pressed my lips together. If his opening line was anything to go by, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to hear one of his “little secrets.”
“Jamie’s not my real name.”
“Oh?” I wondered why he chose not to have his actual name on a name tag at a speed dating event.
He shook his head. “He’s my idol, you see. Jamie Oliver.”
That piqued my interest. “Really? I adore Jamie Oliver!”
He shrugged. “A lot of people do. I’m a chef. Pretty famous where I’m from, actually.” He shot me a self-satisfied look.
“Famous, huh?”
What was he doing speed dating at O’Dowd’s Pub in downtown Auckland, literally on the other side of the world, if he was famous?
“Yeah, it’s a bit of a drag. I used to get fans throwing themselves at me. Female fans, usually, of course.” He raised his eyebrows, as if to say “see how desirable I am?”
I didn’t.
Instead, I had an image of a group of frenzied women lunging themselves at him, a frightened look on his face as he scrambled to get away. I had to stifle a giggle.
“That’s why I’m here, you see. I want to meet someone real, someone who doesn’t know me or my work. Know what I mean?”
“Well, I don’t know you or your work, Jamie.”
“Exactly.” His eyes dropped to my chest and lingered there. I self-consciously pulled at my top.
I glanced down at the checklist of questions I’d prepared for tonight. With only four minutes per “date,” I’d decided I wanted to make the conversation as targeted as possible—without making the guys feel like they were being interrogated by the S.S.
Well, maybe a little interrogated. This was meant to be my Last First Date, after all.
I looked back up at Fake Jamie—although with the flicked hair and square jaw he looked much more like a Fabio-wannabe than the chef. “So, tell me, with the limited time we have right now, what do you want me to know about you?”
Clearly not your name . . .
I’d gotten that question from a list on the Internet. I liked it because it wasn’t your usual “what do you do for a living” and “where are you from” line of questioning. And it would hopefully tell me something a little more interesting about each of these men I was meeting tonight.
I sat back and waited for the cheese to ooze right out of him.
I wasn’t disappointed.
“Only that you’re the most beautiful woman in this room, and if you don’t let me take you home tonight, I think I may die.” His eyes slid down to my chest once more where they remained for some time.
Really, I could’ve vomited.
I smiled weakly at him. Four minutes with this guy suddenly felt like a lifetime.
He reached across the table and placed his hand on top of mine. It was warm and clammy. In the interests of being polite, I resisted the urge to pull away—and apply a serious amount of hand sanitizer.
“Bailey. That’s such a beautiful name.”
“Thank you.” I slipped my hand out from under his, shooting him a smile.
“Are you named after the milky liqueur?”
The liqueur? Was he crazy? Who named their child after an alcoholic drink?
“Ah, no. It’s a family name. From my dad’s side.”
“So, our firstborn daughter could be ‘Bailey,’ too.”
Our what? Man, this guy was laying it on by the shovel load.
I laughed nervously, my eyes darting over to my friends once more. Cassie gave me a hopeful look, her hesitant “thumbs up” gesture completely at odds with the way I felt about Fake Jamie—his blatant advances and Fabio looks.
Not that I had anything against this Fabio slash Fake Jamie guy, of course, but I didn’t think I wanted to date him. Let alone have children with him.
My eyes drifted from Cassie to a tall, imposing man standing beside Marissa. After a moment, I recognized him, my tummy doing an involuntary flip as my eyes glided over him. Ryan Jones, Marissa’s older brother. He didn’t look like he did when I last saw him. Sure, he was just as tall, broad, and athletic looking, just as cute—not that I’d noticed any of that before of course.
Oh, okay, I had noticed. In my defense, it was hard not to notice a guy like Ryan. Tall, wide shouldered, handsome, charming. You got the picture.
He was dressed in a pair of jeans and a shirt with the sleeves rolled up, exposing his strong arms. That hadn’t changed. But now, his dirty blonde hair was longer than before, sexier, like he’d just messed it up absent-mindedly with his fingers. He was also sporting a new close-cut beard. And it suited him.
I bit my lip.
Put a hammer in his hand and he’d look like freaking Thor.
The last time I’d seen Ryan Jones was the night Marissa had performed a song for her Last First Date, Nash, at my café. Ryan had flirted with me and made me smile. I didn’t think much of it at the time. You see, he’d flirted with me once before and nothing had come of it. I figured it didn’t mean anything.
Although I’d wished it had.
His eyes found mine, and he flashed his handsome grin. I smiled back before tearing my eyes back to my “date.”
“Umm, I’m not sure we should get that far ahead of ourselves. You know, selecting names for our first born,” I said.
There would be no firstborns called Bailey—or anything else with this guy for that matter. And I could tell you one thing right now; there wouldn’t even be a second date.
Mercifully, the bell rang, indicating our speed date had come to an end.
I smiled at him across the table. “Nice to meet you Fa-Jamie.” I pressed my lips together, glad I caught the nickname I’d given him in my head before it completely escaped my lips.
“You too, beautiful Bailey.” He reached across the table for my hand, but there was no way I was letting his clammy mitts get ahold of me again. Instead, his hand made contact with my elbow which, rather weirdly, he didn’t let go of.
Awkward much?
“I’ll be back later to take you home.” His gaze was intense.
I let out a small shudder.
Before I could say “vomit bag,” another guy materialized at my table. He shot us a puzzled look, and I couldn’t blame him. You didn’t see a man awkwardly holding a woman’s elbow over a table every day of the week.
“Ah, I think you’re needed at the next one, mate,” New Guy said, nodding at the table beside mine where a petite blonde woman with a top that plunged almost to her navel was seated.
Fake Jamie glanced over at the woman, who smiled back at him. In a flash, he dropped my elbow and sauntered over to her table, flicking his Bee Gees hair as he went.
I let out a relieved puff of air and glanced at the woman, hoping she could manage him better than I had.
New Guy sat down in the now-vacant spot, and the whole thing started over again.
“Hey, I’m Adam.” He reached across and we shook hands. “And you’re—” He glanced at my nametag then back up into my eyes. “Bailey.”
Already, things were off to a better start than the previous four minutes of my life. Which, let’s face it, wasn’t exactly hard.
“Hi, Adam. It’s great to meet you.” I flashed a smile, more than a little relieved this guy seemed normal—so far, anyway.
And did I mention quite cute, too?
“So, shall we begin? I mean we only have four minutes,” Adam said.
“Right. Bailey, what’s the one thing about yourself you would like me to know?”
I let out a laugh. “That’s my question!”
“Really?” His smile was broad, and I noticed how open and kind his face was. He wasn’t Hollywood-star handsome, with his slightly receding hairline and eyebrows a beauty therapist would have a field day with, but he seemed nice—and a million miles from Fake Jamie’s creepiness.
“I just asked that last guy the very same question. His answer was . . . how do I put this?”
“Too smooth?” Adam replied.
Adam and I both glanced over at the adjacent couple where Fake Jamie was leaning across the table and had taken the petite blonde woman’s hands in his. I guessed he was delivering the same lines as he had to me. She looked about as enthralled as I had been.
Poor girl.
Adam returned his attention to me. “I should be honest with you. I did some research online to find questions for this speed dating thing. You see, I’ve not done it before, and my friends kind of pushed me into it.”
I glanced across at my own friends, sipping their wine and being about as subtle as a sledgehammer as they watched me and Adam on our “date.”
“You know what? I can relate to that.”
“You got railroaded into this, too, huh?”
I shrugged. “Kind of. It was my friend Marissa’s suggestion, but I guess I’m the one sitting here, right?”
“Right.” He smiled, and I couldn’t help but return it.
This is going well. Maybe Marissa was right? Maybe “going old school” by speed dating instead of using those dating apps or sites was the right thing to do?
“Anyway, to answer your question, I guess I would like you to know that I’m here genuinely looking for someone.”
His smile grew. “That’s good to know. Me too. Or, at least, I am now.”
Unlike with Fake Jamie, the compliment didn’t have even a whiff of cheese to it. In fact, it was . . . nice.
“Ready for my next question? I’ve got a huge list.” He laughed.
“Sure. Fire away.”
“What are you most proud of?”
“Great question! I hadn’t seen that one.”
“Thanks. It’s all in a day’s work.”
“Okay, I guess it would have to be my business.”
“What do you do?”
“I run a café, and I love it.” I thought of the Cozy Cottage Café and smiled. I’d been running it with Paige, my dear, sweet friend, for some time now, and we had taken it to new heights. We were always busy, feeding and watering the masses in our homely, welcoming café.
“A café? Nice. I like coffee. And eating.”
I laughed. “Well, you should stop by some time.”
“What’s it called?”
I told him about the Cozy Cottage, and we continued to chat, the four minutes whizzing by. All too soon, the bell sounded, and Adam got up to leave.
“I hope to see you again.” The skin around his eyes crinkled as a smile lit up his face.
“You, too.”
I looked over at the girls, all three giving me the thumbs up. I beamed at them. Perhaps this speed dating thing hadn’t been such a bad idea, after all?

Four Last First Dates by Kate O'Keeffe
Series: Cozy Cottage Café #4
Published by Wild Lime Books on August 9, 2018
Genres: Romantic Comedy
What do you do when you’ve agreed to a pact with your friends to get married, but neither you nor the guy in your sights is quite ready to fall in love? Bailey De Luca is the last of her friends to complete the Last First Date pact—to marry the next guy she dates. But lady luck must be in a bad mood, because so far, it's all come to nothing. Everywhere she looks people are in love. Everyone except her. Is she fundamentally unlovable? Or is it that she’s already found—and lost—The One? Whatever the reason, one thing's for sure: Bailey never expected to be alone at thirty. When one of her friends announces her engagement with a rock that could eclipse the sun, Bailey throws herself into a new business. Starting up Cozy Cottage Catering seems like the perfect way to bury her head in the sand. But fate has other ideas, and soon Bailey is swept off her feet by the oh-so cute Ryan Jones. Ryan may seem like the perfect combination of Prince Charming meets Thor (without the hammer), but is Bailey ready to be with him? Or will the ghost of her past love prevent her from finding happiness again? Escape to New Zealand in this fun, feel-good sweet romance. Books in the Cozy Cottage Café series: Book 1: One Last First Date Book 2: Two Last First Dates Book 3: Three Last First Dates Book 4: Four Last First Dates

About Kate O’Keeffe

Kate O’Keeffe is a bestselling author of fun, feel-good romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he’s a scruffy dog too. He’s not: he’s a cat. When she’s not penning her latest story, Kate can be found hiking up hills (slowly), travelling to different countries, and eating chocolate. A lot of it.
Kate has written the Amazon bestsellers the Cozy Cottage Café series, the popular chick lit stories, the Wellywood Romantic Comedy series, as well as some standalone titles.

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