Home > Single Dad Seeks Juliet(5)

Single Dad Seeks Juliet(5)
Author: Max Monroe

I sigh, and when I look up from my desk, I come face-to-face with the only five women who seemed like it wouldn’t be an actual crime to make our nominated bachelor date. In the glass-walled conference room across the hall from my office, they sit, waiting for me to join them.

Damn, sometimes Dolly—one of the main office assistants here at the Tribune—is far too prompt.

I sigh again. I thought I’d be meeting with them after getting verbal confirmation of participation from our bachelor, but I was clearly a little too ambitious with my timing.

Oh well. The NDA I’ve had the legal team draft should be all-encompassing. Even if we had to make a change to Bachelor Anonymous at the last minute, it wouldn’t make a difference in the paperwork.

At least this part will be out of the way.

I shove my chair back with my hips and press the button on the front of my computer monitor to shut off the screen. The glass walls may have seemed like a good idea to the designer when they remodeled the Tribune two years ago, but I can tell you, they were not.

My neighbor to the left—Fritz Callo, the contributor responsible for the oversensationalized Men Want More column—is a snoop and, in all honestly, kind of a pervert. I make a point to steer clear of him and his wandering eyes at all costs.

Meanwhile, to the right of me sits Gianna Welsh, the woman in charge of obituaries. Sounds innocent enough on the surface, but let me tell you, she spends half her workday video-chat flirting with all the widowed men. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen her reach into the V neck of her top to pull her boobs up and inward for more camera exposure just before signing on to—or during—a call.

I do have to hand it to her, though. She’s frighteningly, impressively shameless. Everyone in the office other than the editor knows of her behavior and knows of it well. I’m actually surprised her name didn’t show up on any of the applications I’ve been sorting through over the last two weeks for this contest.

But I guess all the competition for his affection makes Bachelor Anonymous too hard of a mark.

The hustle and bustle of the office amplifies as I shove through the glass door of my office and step out into the hall. A huge network of cubicles just on the other side of Fritz buzzes with the anxious anticipation of our print deadline. Beat reporters pull phones away from their ears and cover the mouthpieces to shout at their compadres, and runners sweep the grid, looking for articles that can get picked up, proofread, submitted to the editor, and fast-tracked over to layout. The timeline of our paper’s release never changes—ever. And yet, we’re almost always comically, agonizingly in a rush. Either the expectations to fit this much work into the timeline given are ridiculous, or we’re staffed mostly by procrastinators.

Based on myself, I’d wager a guess that it’s a healthy mix of both.

My phone pings with a text from my blazer pocket, and I pull it out quickly to make sure it’s not something of immediate importance. A single text from my dad previews on my home screen, cutting the message off somewhere in the middle.

 

Dad: Went fishing this morning. Caught some bass and a couple of sunnies, but when I went to take the boat out of the water, my stomach got to gurgling something fierce. Nearly crapped myself right…

 

A small smile curls one corner of my mouth upward as I click the screen off and put the phone back in my pocket. Dad and his fish-capades. He’ll be going on about this for a while—I’m sure of it. I expect no fewer than twenty texts in the next hour. But with the time constraints of getting this contest/dating column up and off the ground, I’ll have to humor him later.

I shove open the glass door to the conference room—where the bachelor’s future dates sit—and step inside, letting the weight of the door bring it closed behind me.

Five sets of eyes come up from their phones and land squarely on me. The technology in their hands ticks in my mind like bombs. Normally, I wouldn’t look at something so harmless so skeptically, but I know the power of social media these days.

All it takes is a tweet to bring a whole empire crashing down. By my calculations, that means it would only take about twenty characters to ruin me and my contest.

Quickly, I set my folder down on the table and open it up. Five NDAs are stacked on top, and if I were an investigator, I’d be slamming them down on the surface in front of each subject. But, obviously, this isn’t an interrogation and I’m not the FBI.

Calmly as I can, I take the stack and pass it around to each of the ladies. Honestly, these NDAs cannot get signed soon enough if they’re going to be the official contestants. Thankfully, though, at this stage in the competition, there isn’t that much meaningful information they could have leaked. I haven’t revealed the Bachelor to them—or myself, frankly. All I have is a weird phone conversation with Jake Brent’s daughter. Until he signs all the documentation, it could all go down the drain.

Ha. Ha-ha-ha.

Man, nothing makes you laugh in absolute terror like the threat of sheer and utter devastation to your livelihood, right?

“Hi, ladies,” I greet, trying my damnedest to make a smile reach my eyes. I’m a skeptic at my best, and a cynic at my worst. Honestly, since my breakup with Raleigh, I’m barely functioning on a human level.

I’m more like Skeletor, the almost human woman.

Though, considering everything I’ve been through with my bastard ex, I think that’s pretty damn understandable.

Ugh. Do not go there, Holley.

On a discreet breath, I shove all thoughts of Raleigh Reynolds and his cheating dick aside and focus on the job at hand—this dumb, wait, I mean, awesome contest.

“Thanks for your patience as I finished up a call…” I smile conspiratorially. “With your bachelor!”

They all clap and giggle, and I have to fight the urge to cover my ears. It’s good that they’re excited. It wouldn’t make for an interesting read if they were feeling super lackluster about the whole thing, but that doesn’t make me enjoy it any more. Frankly, the shrill sound of their joy kind of makes me want to ralph.

“Let me tell you…he is great,” I lie. I know absolutely nothing about him—don’t even know for sure who he is. “You’re all going to be so thrilled with the man who’s been chosen.”

They all squeal. I wince and look around to make sure I haven’t somehow stumbled into the middle of a pig farm, but all I find are relentlessly attractive, svelte women.

“Great,” I mutter to break up the noise. “I’m so glad you’re all excited. But in order to get started, we need to get some paperwork out of the way. First, you’ll find a document in front of you. It’s a nondisclosure agreement. Essentially, it means that you agree to keep the details of the contest to yourself. That means your dates, the bachelor, your involvement in the contest…anything pertaining to Bachelor Anonymous, you’re strictly—legally—forbidden to talk about.”

“But what about, like, Twitter?” one of them asks, her blond bob swinging side to side.

“No Twitter.”

Her eyebrows knit.

“Instagram?”

“No. No social media platforms, no texts, no phone calls, no letters…” I laugh to myself. Suddenly, I have a handle on every method of communication, and yet ten minutes ago, all I could come up with was carrier pigeon. “It’s all legally forbidden. You are not to discuss the details of this with anyone.”

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