Breaking the Bachelor

By: Maggie Kelley

 (Smart Cupid)

(Entangled Lovestruck)

Chapter One

@KathieLeeandHoda Lay down your bets, America, the NYC Love Gamble starts now!

“Totally. Screwed.” Standing outside Rockefeller Center, Jane Wright pulled out her phone one more time to look at the article on the NY Singles Facebook page. Even clad in her super-insulated North Face jacket, reading the post made her break out in a cold sweat.

Love’s a gamble, right? Not according to local matchmaker, Jane Wright, who claims a logic-based algorithm in her company’s new dating app can find a perfect match for any New Yorker in five days—she’s even willing to bet on it.

Bet on it? Had she suffered a blow to the head she didn’t remember? Sure, her pain-in-the-ass, push-her-to-the-limit business rival had made her furious, mocking her logical love theories on television, but betting her company down to the studs to prove her point was Crazytown. Crazy. Town.

Boy, had that bastard cornered her.

The interview with Kathie Lee and Hoda had been complete sabotage. What should have been a morning spent sipping Prosecco, and chatting about the success of Smart Cupid, generating buzz for her company’s new dating app, had morphed into her nemesis making an appearance to tout his company’s new matchmaking strategy.

Oh, yes, the battle lines had been drawn. DatesRUs—and, really, who could take a matchmaking service with the nomenclature of a giant toy store seriously—had thrown down the gauntlet.

On live television.

“We generate fifty matches a week,” the Antichrist, Adam Walters, had said.

Hoda and Kathie had bobblehead-swiveled at that comment. The whole studio audience had waited silently for a rebuttal. Jane recalled the panic, the just-keep-swimming mantra she’d repeated in her head. Sweat had popped on her brow and she distinctly remembered hoping she wasn’t glistening all over national television.

“That’s wonderful, Adam.” Kudos on not sounding snarky. “But here at Smart Cupid our focus is quality. Not quantity. We take the gamble out of love. Our matches have a statistical compatibility criterion that guarantees success.”

“Is that right?” Adam had replied.

She should’ve bolted right then and there.

“So you wouldn’t be opposed to a little wager then, would you?”

Bet? Oh, no. She didn’t gamble—ever.

“Let’s see,” Adam-the-Asshole had begun, conspiratorially nudging Kathie Lee until a picture popped up on the screen behind them. A picture that had the sweat on her face turning to ice. He hadn’t picked a normal New Yorker. No sirree. A-hole had done his homework. By the glint in his beady little eyes, he knew it, too.

“Hold the phone!” Hoda shouted. “Isn’t that Charlie Goodman?”

It sure the hell was. He smiled back at her from the photo, casual and seductive in a pair of faded Levis and white shirt, unbuttoned at his throat. She looked away. Maybe if she refused to look at him, she could pretend it was someone else—someone other than New York Magazine’s sexiest mixologist. Someone other than Charlie Goodman.

Talk about Karma biting her in the butt.

Adam leaned back in his chair, “I dare you” written all over his face. “Think your new dating app can handle him?”

The ON AIR light blinked bright red across the studio, and she fought back the urge to give that chair of his a little push. “Absolutely, Adam,” she said, amazed by the calm in her voice. Calm was the last thing she felt. Panic. Anxiety. Assaulted by her own personal shitstorm.

Much closer.

The hosts swiveled back in her direction. “Ready to take a risk for love, Cupid?”

Jane smiled. “If Adam agrees to sit outside my office on Valentine’s Day, passing out conversation hearts and chocolate…”

“No problem. It’s a bet!”

Jane refused to rehash any more of the memory. Could she ignore the social media surrounding her Today Show appearance? Um, no. Could she undo the wager she’d been cornered into taking in front of an audience of five-point-two million viewers? Again, no.

Today was all about damage control.

She pivoted to walk down Fifth toward Bryant Park, forced her attention back to the article on her phone, and tried not to pass out.

Rumor has it DatesRUs has chosen super-stud Charlie Goodman, the city’s sexiest bartender according to the annual Hot List unveiled in this week’s New York Magazine. According to the interview, while the Midtown mixologist is habanera hot, after a break-up earlier this year, this particular NYer claims to be a confirmed bachelor. Tough luck, Cupid. Better aim for the <3.

“Aim for the heart, my ass.” There were already six hundred and nine comments. Seems New Yorkers had a lot to say on the subject.

Or maybe they smelled the blood in the water.

She glared at the screen looking for a loophole—wiggle room, even. But no. Damn her for staring at Kathie Lee like a tourist in the middle of Times Square.

Unable to take it anymore, she shoved the phone deep into her pocket, only to stop short in front of a local newsstand stacked with copies of the offending New York Magazine. Unbelievable. The man was literally everywhere.

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