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The Boyfriend Collector
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From New York Times Bestseller Mimi Jean Pamfiloff comes The Boyfriend Collector.
FIND MR. RIGHT IN 30 DAYS? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
But when Rose discovers she must marry before her twenty-first birthday to claim the money, she has no choice but to push herself out into the world in search of a man she can love and trust. Unfortunately, those are the very things that have been used as weapons against her.
With only a month to go, can she find true love? Or will her past hold her back, leaving her penniless and alone?
(Part One of Two)
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Well, this is not a promising start. Seated in my black leather armchair, I rub the stubble on my jaw and glance down at the questionnaire in my other hand. The agitated young woman lying on the couch in front of me has left the entire form blank except for her name at the top. Rose Marie Hale.
Rose. The name fits her. At first glance she looks like a delicate, fragrant flower—long, lean stems for legs, trim body, and blonde silky hair—but a sharpness in her dark brown eyes tells me she’s not all soft petals.
I make a quick note of my observation in the margin of the page before interrupting her fast talking—something about dating…or men…or I’m unsure, actually. “Miss Hale, excuse my insensitivity, but I’m here to help people, not waste their time. Or mine. So what, exactly, do you mean when you say you have to find a husband? Sounds like you need a friend or a dating app, not therapy.” I rest my gold pen across the clipboard on my lap, waiting for her to answer.
Like the pen, this office—situated in a renovated brick warehouse in Atlanta’s trendy Buckhead district—once belonged to my father, who was also a psychologist. I stepped in, merging my practice with his when he became ill last spring. By the time he died a month ago, I learned many things about the man, bad things I loathe him for. The first disappointment came when I discovered he never practiced what he preached in terms of treating his patients, who were receiving little more than touchy-feely pep talks: You can do it. I believe in you.
Complete bullshit. The only thing he accomplished was creating a steady stream of customers who became dependent on him instead of themselves.
I don’t blow smoke up patients’ asses just so they’ll come back next week for another fix of self-esteem injections. I say it like it is, and if they truly want to get their lives together, they listen.
As for this woman on my couch, I don’t know what to make of her other than the obvious that she’s in her early twenties, her attractiveness is distracting, and I’m unsure why the hell she’s here. If she’s looking for boyfriend advice, she’s come to the wrong place.
“Dr. Hughes? Are you listening?” she says, her slender body stretched across my white couch.
Not really. Her lips are moving so fast, I feel like I’m at an auction. “Rose Marie—”
“I prefer Rose. Just Rose,” she corrects.
“Okay. Rose, I’m sorry, but I’m a psychologist, not a romance coach.”
She sits up and plants her feet on the floor. Her red heels look expensive, as does the matching red sweater. Her jeans are the type most men like on women—tight, a bit short to show off some toned calf, and cut to accentuate the feminine curve of her hips.
“I’m not here for love coaching,” she says with a frantic tone. “I have to get married. Quickly. My entire life depends on it.”
Trying to hide my impatience, I lift my brows. She strikes me as the quintessential entitled princess who thinks her social life is the most important thing on the planet. Oh no, someone didn’t like my selfie on Instagram. Whatever shall I do? If she can’t give me a legitimate reason to see her or convince me that she’s here to work, I’ll turn her away.
“This isn’t the Dark Ages,” I say. “Many women lead long happy lives and never marry.”
“I know. And that’s not what this is about. Not even close.”
“All right.” I inhale slowly, taking a moment to rally my patience. “Why don’t you try explaining it once more.”
She lies back down, crossing her long legs at the ankles, her large eyes focused on the exposed wooden beam running across the ceiling.
I wait while she mulls. She’s hopefully realizing how silly it is to pay a licensed therapist, with a doctorate in social neuroscience, just to talk about boys. I never would have agreed to see her if I knew this was her “problem,” but Rose left a frantic message with my service last night. A short conversation followed, where she disclosed nothing and pleaded to see me first thing this morning.
Fast-forward to fifteen minutes ago. I get to my office before my assistant has arrived and find Rose walking around the hallway. My office is one of many on the second floor, so it’s easy to miss. Downstairs are several boutiques and a small coffee shop, where I practically live between patients.
Which reminds me that I skipped the latte this morning, and I’m wishing I hadn’t because I’ll need a heavy dose of caffeine to keep up with all the whining I’m hearing.
Yes, if I were a lesser man, I might be content to sit here all day, staring at a gorgeous woman while she rambles on about her love life. But I am not that man. I’m here to help people. And I think this woman came to the wrong place.