Sex, Lies, and Online Dating

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Lucy Rothschild pulled her BMW into the closest parking slot and shoved the vehicle into park. Rain pounded the hood of her car and bounced off the asphalt as she turned off the Beemer. Her gaze slid to the front of the strip mall and sought the green and white Starbuck's sign next to the golden glare of Blockbuster Video. Light from within the coffee shop poured out onto the wet sidewalk while the raindrops slipping down Lucy's window smeared vivid color and inky shadows like an abstract painting.

She opened the car door then hit the button on her umbrella with her thumb. The red canopy opened as she stepped from the car. She paused briefly to shut the door behind her before moving across the parking lot, dodging puddles on her way.

Unless this internet date was different from the other, she wouldn't even use the pen and paper in her pocket. Unless hardluvnman was different from the others, while they waited in line for coffee, he'd give her the slow up and down as if she were an Airedale at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. If she passed inspection, he’d pay for her triple grande skinny latte (hold the whip, please), ask her what she did for a living (although she'd clearly lied on her bio and stated she was a nurse), then proceed to talk about himself (what a great guy he was) and his former wife/girlfriend (and what a dumb bee-yatch she was). If Lucy didn’t pass the slow up and down, she’d pay for her own coffee. Which had only happened to her once.

Bigdaddy182 had been a real cheap bastard with a silver tooth and a neck-hair ponytail. He'd taken one look at her and said, "you're skinny" as if that were a bigger abomination than his beer belly. She'd bought her own coffee then proceeded to listen to him talk about himself for the next hour. While he'd rambled on about his run to Sturgis and his bitch of an ex-wife, Lucy had thought about different ways to kill him off. Bad heinous ways. In the end, she knew she’d have to stick to her female serial killer’s m.o., but erotic asphyxiation seemed too good a way for him to die.

Two steps from the sidewalk, Lucy planted her foot in a puddle. She'd almost made it. Cold water rushed over the toe of her black ankle boot and splashed the bottom of her black jeans.

"Crap-ola!" she said and stepped up on the curb. She opened the door to Starbuck's and moved inside. The smell of rich dark coffee filled her head, and the low steady hum of voices coalesced with the sound of the coffee grinder and espresso machine.

Lucy closed her umbrella and her gaze took in the gold walls and the patrons sitting at brown tables and hard wooden chairs. No man in a red baseball hat. Hardluvnman was late.

She shoved her umbrella in the stand by the door and moved to the counter. When he'd e-mailed her and asked her to meet him, he'd written that his real name was Quinn. Lucy preferred to think of him as hardluvnman. She didn’t want to think of him or any of these dates as real people. It was easier to kill them off that way.

She ordered her latte, sans whip, then took a seat at a small round table in the corner. She supposed it was a sad commentary on her love life that the only dates she'd had lately weren't even real dates at all. The only reason she was subjecting herself to men like bigdaddy182 was because she needed research for her new mystery novel, dead.com.

Lucy raised the latte to her lips and took a cautious sip. She just needed one last victim for her book, but even if hardluvnman turned out to be a decent guy who didn't need to die, Lucy was done with internet coffee dates. She'd had enough of the men who acted like it was her job to pursue them. Like she had to convince them to ask her about again. If this last date didn't prove fortuitous, she’d figure something else out. Like taking all the lying, cheating, needy characteristic of all her former boyfriends and roll them into one. But she'd done that before and she was afraid her readers might catch on that the victims in all her books were starting to resemble the same recycled losers.

No, it was time for new losers. She'd agreed to meet hardluvnman, as opposed to some of the other candidates, for several intriguing reasons. First, his photo on the dating site was so grainy it was hard to determine what he actually looked like. It just gave an overall impression of dark, intense broodiness that she found a little mysterious. Second, in his bio he stated he was a plumber who owned his own business. Which could be a lie, but was probably the truth because really, why would anyone lie about being a plumber? Third, instead of falling into the thirty-five to forty-year-old never been married or divorced categories, hardluvnman had written that he was a widower. Which could be the truth, or could be a sleazy way to score sympathy points and trick women into bed. If the latter were the case, Lucy had her last victim. Voila!

The front door swung open and a man with thinning red hair stepped inside. Lucy recognized him immediately. His name was Mike, a.k.a. klondikemike. He'd been her first coffee date, and the first murder victim. He moved toward a blonde woman standing next to a display of mugs and together they walked to the counter. Mike did the up and down thing with his eyes and paid for the two cups of coffee and a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans. As the two made their way to a table a few feet from Lucy, Mike's gaze met hers then slid guiltily away. He hadn't e-mailed her again after their date, but she could have told him not to worry. She had no interest in a guy who talked none stop while popping coffee beans like they were cross tops, and whom she’d left with a plastic bag over his head in chapter one.

Before she'd decided to online date in the name of research, she'd always thought online dating was... well, desperate somehow and more than a little lazy. While Lucy could certainly understand why women sought men online, she could not understand the reverse. Why would any reasonably attractive man, who had a job, his own neatly brushed teeth, and did not live with his mother, have to search for a date online? Wasn't picking up women in bars and restaurant or even in the vegetable aisle at Albertson’s in a man’s job description?

A month after her first online date, what she discovered was that the men online like bigdaddy182 and klondikemike not only expected her to purse them, they seemed to fall into two categories. Those in want of killing, and those so boring she'd wanted to kill herself.

Oh, she was sure that out there somewhere were some great online guys. Nice men who just wanted to meet nice women, and perhaps didn't meet a lot of single women in their everyday lives. Great guys who didn't hang out in bars or veggie aisles, but she hadn't met any of them. In fact, she hadn't met any great guys, online or otherwise, in a very long time. Her last boyfriend had been a charming alcoholic who'd been off the wagon more than he'd been on. The last time she'd had to bail him out of jail, she'd finally had to admit that her friends were right. She was an issues junky with rescue fantasies. But not anymore. She was tired of trying to rescue assorted lame asses who didn’t appreciate her.

Lucy pushed back the sleeve of her jacket and looked at her watch. Ten after seven. Ten minutes late. She'd give hardluvnman another five and then she was leaving.

She'd learned her lessons about dysfunctional men. She wanted a nice normal guy who didn't drink too much, wasn't into extremes of any kind, and didn't have mommy/daddy issues. A man who wasn't a compulsive liar nor serial cheater. Who wasn't emotionally retarded nor physically repugnant. She didn't think it was too much to ask that he have sufficient verbal skills either. A mature man who knew that grunting an answer did not pass for conversation.

Lucy took a drink of her coffee as the door to Starbuck's swung open. She glanced up from the bottom of her cup to the man filling up the doorway as if he'd been blown in from a "mad, bad and dangerous to know” convention. The bill of his red ball cap was pulled low on his forehead and cast a shadow over his eyes and nose. His tan cheeks were flushed from the cold, and the ends of his black hair curled up like fish hooks around the edge of the hat. Rain soaked the wide shoulders of his black leather bomber’s jacket. The jacket's zipper lay open, and Lucy's gaze slid down a bright strip of white T-shirts to the worn waistband of faded Levi's. As his stood there, his gaze moving from table to table, he shoved his fingers into the front pockets of the worn denim, his thumbs pointing to his button fly.

Mr. hardluvnman had finally arrived.

Like his photo on the internet site, Lucy could not see him clearly, but she knew the second his gaze focused on her. She could feel it pinning her to her chair. She slowly lowered her cup as he pulled his hands from his pockets and moved toward her. He walked from his hips, all long and lean with a purpose to each step. He navigated his way through chairs and coffee drinkers, but kept his gaze on her until he stood across the small table.

The shadow of his cap rested just above the deep bow of his top lip. He raised a hand and slowly pushed up the brim with one finger. By degree, the shadow slid up the bridge of his nose and past black brows. He looked down through eyes the color of a smoldering Colombian blend.

Lucy was a writer. She worked with words. She filled each of her books with a hundred thousand of them. But only two words came to mind. Holy Crap! Not eloquent, but fitting.