Chapter 3: Je Ne Sais Quoi
Zoe is standing in a modern art museum, scrolling through her latest post on The Bachelorette Blogger, the one where she explains the bet she made with her matchmaking mom. The comments to her post include things like:
“I would never let my mom set me up.”
“Good luck. You’re gonna need it.”
“Brave. Or stupid.”
There are more than fifty similar comments. Zoe frowns, then feels reassured by the twenty or so followers who seem to understand her dilemma.
“Win the bet for the rest of us with nosey moms.”
“You have to win. You can’t shut down the blog! Where else will I go vent and laugh online?”
Zoe closes the browser and tucks her phone into her clutch bag. She stands beside a piece of multimedia art. Several TV screens flash odd videos of people screaming, a dog peeing, and kangaroos boxing. There’s a huge collection of various toilet parts in front of the TVs. A massive heap of toilet seats, handles, tank pieces, and lids. Of all the art in the museum, Zoe had to be placed next to this. Of course.
A guy walks over to her and smiles. “Zoe?”
He’s looking at the white sticker with her name on it. He stands at about six feet, with a lean physique, olive complexion, playful smile, and a fun hairstyle to match. This guy makes it hard for Zoe to turn away from his emerald gaze. A warmth creeps over her cheeks, and she can only hope that her face hasn’t bloomed to pink.
“Hi,” she replies, then glances at his name tag. Trevor.
It can’t be the Trevor that Zoe’s supposed to meet, the one who her mom has set her up with. Trevor was supposed to be like the other guys her mom has introduced her to: luke-warm, a little too short, a little too awkward, a little too not-Zoe’s-type.
But this guy, he’s not luke-warm at all. He’s…he’s…exactly the kind of guy she’d want to be with.
This is not the way it’s supposed to go. Trevor needs to be another one of her mom’s matchmaking duds. How can she win the bet if her mom throws this crazy curve ball? This handsome, friendly…
Slow down, Zoe tells herself. She doesn’t even know him. She’s met really cute guys before, and it hasn’t worked for one reason or another. She only needs to give this guy five minutes, which is perfect, since that’s the amount of time they’ll have together at this speed-dating event anyway.
He shakes her hand then casually tucks his own in his jeans pocket. She’s relieved he didn’t try to do an awkward meet-hug. His smile is really inviting, though, almost mesmerizing. She’s also glad that he doesn’t have dimples. Zoe isn’t sure if she can handle a dimple on top of everything else.
“I’m glad I found you.” He glances around the room. “I’ve gotta say, this is definitely the most unique first-date experience I’ve ever had.”
“It’s not a first date,” says Zoe.
He tips his head to the side. “But this is a speed-dating thing, right?”
Nine other couples are dotted around the small museum, meeting each other for the first time, just like she and Trevor.
“I guess we’re having a lot of first dates tonight,” Zoe says. That’s why she suggested this event. She wants to take off the pressure, lower expectations.
“I’m on the clock.”
She holds up her palm. “Five minutes.” That’s how much time they have before Trevor rotates out and the next guy rotates in.
He peers at the colossal art of toilet parts next to her. “I noticed how riveted you were by this piece.” He smirks. “What really makes it stand out is that the artist used Kohler parts instead of American Standard.”
Zoe feels her mouth wiggle. She tries to keep it at bay. It will be easier to dislike him if he doesn’t make her laugh.
He adds, “Gives it a certain je ne sais quoi. Don’t you think?”
She lets out a chuckle.
“As you’ve probably heard from Marcy,” he says, “my house is in desperate need of decorating. Perhaps I should buy this piece to start my collection. What do you think?”
Why is he being funny? Shouldn’t he be looking at his watch or yawning or checking out the cute blonde standing near the mannequin draped in a recycled paper dress?
Instead, Trevor’s eyes twinkle in Zoe’s direction, and he’s genuinely trying to make the most of this five-minute-speed-dating moment with her.
She gives into his easy charm. “I think this would be a fine centerpiece for your living room,” she says.
“Agreed. Putting it in the bathroom would be so meta. What’s the creativity in that?” He lifts the price tag dangling from one of the toilet handles and turns it in their direction. $138,500.
“That’s it,” Zoe jokes. “Maybe they used American Standard after all.”
“Must’ve caught a sale at Lowe’s.”
They chuckle at each other’s wit. A warmth ripples through Zoe as a wave of attraction passes between them.
His emerald eyes soften. “Marcy’s picture of you is nice, but you’re even prettier in person.”
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