What do you look for when deciding whether or not to date someone?
“That’s quite a stack you’ve got there,” Cammie said as she handed Gray a steaming mug of coffee. He grasped the handle gingerly so as not to scald himself on the hot ceramic and smiled at the creamy color. She remembered the milk. He didn’t often drink coffee so late in the day—two black cups in the morning usually sufficed—but if he did, he preferred a splash of milk in it. “How many applicants for Newport’s Most Eligible Bachelor’s Future Spouse?”
He rolled his eyes as she giggled. “I have no intentions of marrying anyone in any of these… resumes.” He slapped the short stack of papers full of personal details and promises of a perfect romance. There were one hundred and thirty-seven in this batch. He sipped the coffee and sighed. He might need another before he was through all of these. “I’m just doing this to get my parents off my back for another year.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Cammie settled onto the cushion next to him in the den and picked up half the pages. She casually flipped through them and smirked at him. “Must be tough being such a princess.” Her devilish grin put a smile on his own face. She hadn’t stopped calling him that since they played pretend as kids.
She couldn’t be the princess, oh no. She wasn’t the one who lived in a castle. Not that the modest mansion was remotely anything like a real castle, but to a child it had seemed so. She was the groundskeeper’s daughter, and they had met while playing in the garden. He had tried to make her a princess once, but she preferred to be a knight. Knights protected princesses though, not princes, so Gray had donned his mother’s old dresses and pretended to be a princess for Knight Cammie to rescue.
“Oh, Evelyn is throwing her name in the hat again,” Cammie mused, poring over one of the applications and shaking Gray from his reminiscing.
He snatched it from her. “Really? She probably just wants to get close to me so she can stab me after how poorly our last date went.” It wasn’t just an old application stuffed in by mistake. This had a recent picture of the heiress from a croquet tournament Gray had avoided because of her presence.
Cammie laughed, a throaty chuckle that reverberated off the high ceiling and surrounded them. “You mean the one where you took her out onto the Sound and got so seasick you threw up all over her new Givenchy summer dress?”
He wilted. “That would be the one.” He tossed Evelyn’s application into the discard pile.
“If she’s in here again, it probably means she’s forgiven you,” Cammie said.
“Maybe, but I still can’t face her after that. Who else have we got?” He riffled through the pages in his hands. Plenty of beautiful young women from all along the sea walk, socialites eager to improve their station or have a bit of fun. A handful of attractive men too, though far too many of those were too old for his tastes.
“Somehow I don’t think Claudia would approve of her book club members dating her son, but then again some of those women are widowed.” Cammie smirked again as she handed him a fistful of applications from the older women in town.
Speaking of too old for his tastes… He immediately added those to the discard pile. “This one looks promising.” Gray handed her the application of a twenty-three year old engineering student with striking amber eyes and a love of rock climbing.
Cammie raised an eyebrow at his bio. “He’s more interested in the house than you. Plus, he’s definitely straight.”
Gray snatched the application back. “What? How can you be sure?”
“Woman’s intuition. Your gaydar has never been any good anyway.” She pointed to the part in the bio where the guy mentioned he started school as an architectural design student before changing to engineering. “And since when is rock climbing an interest of yours?”
He pouted as he threw the application into the pile with the rest. “I could have learned how.”
“You hate heights.”
“Didn’t say I would have climbed very far,” he muttered. She chuckled.
They removed all the applications from minors and anyone older than thirty. He still had ninety-three to go through. He tossed out applications from cousins who thought they were being funny and those who maybe weren’t being funny but just shooting their shot because they figured they were distant enough. Eliminating exes and obvious prank applicants left him with thirty-one possible dates.
“I think she’s friends with Alana’s group and I don’t know if I have the fortitude for that much drama,” Gray sighed.
“Ah, then I guess we’ll be putting Alana’s application in the trash pile with Angela’s,” Cammie giggled as she folded them into paper planes and sent them flying across the room.
Cammie shook her head. “She’s sweet, but she isn’t really passionate about anything. Makes it really hard to have in depth conversations.” She knew Madeline from her school. He tossed the application to the growing pile. “Hugo’s kinda cute.”
Gray shrugged. He was, but he was too also tall. Gray didn’t mind taller men, but Hugo would tower over him and he preferred someone closer to his own height. Plus the guy’s name just annoyed him. “He’s named after the founder of the first science fiction magazine but has no interest in reading science fiction, or anything literary for that matter.” Why had he even offered that in his bio?
“When was the last time you picked up a science fiction magazine?” Cammie gave him a sly grin. He was making excuses and she knew it.
“At least I enjoy reading it when I have the time!” He crumpled up Hugo’s application and heaved it towards the wastebasket. It went in. “Kobe!”
“Speaking of basketball, this guy is a player.”
Gray glanced at the sheet and shook his head. If Hugo had been too tall for him, this guy definitely was. “Somehow I think that’s probably true in the other sense of the word.”
Cammie giggled. They went through the remaining two dozen much the same way. Too flashy. Too dull. Too aggressive. Not interested enough. There was always a reason to toss it in the discard pile.
Gray flopped onto his back and groaned at the ceiling. “Not a single one was the right person for me. How many years have I been doing this?”
“How old are you?”
“Har har. I have not been doing this for twenty-seven years.”
Cammie shrugged. “Close enough.”
It was when he had come home from college five years ago. Their arrangement was that as long as he pursued at least one relationship each year, he could live at the family home until such time as his inheritance was owed him. He had no siblings so everything would go to him one day. He knew it was a lax deal, but he liked being close to his parents and learning the business from his mother. If he didn’t pick someone, she certainly would.
“Aren’t you just being picky?” Cammie leaned her back against his knees. “What aren’t you finding in any of these people? What do you want?”
“I don’t know,” he sighed. How was it he was twenty-seven years old and still had no idea what he wanted in a partner? “Someone I can be myself with, I guess. I know it’s cliché,” he stuck his tongue out at her as she raised an amused eyebrow at him. “I just feel like none of the people on those pages really have any interest in getting to know me to the point I would be comfortable opening up to them.”
“Well you know Gray, you have to get to know people for them to get to know you too.” He pushed her over with his knees. “Alright, alright,” she laughed, crawling up next to him on her stomach, resting her chin in her hands. “What else?”
He rolled onto his side and propped himself up on his elbow. “Well they have to have similar tastes. If we don’t like any of the same types of food or music or entertainment, we’re not going to last very long.” She nodded agreement, her honey eyes still flashing with amusement. Was she just teasing him now? Had she found the perfect application and was she keeping it from him? “Someone who’s actually interested in me, not my house or my family or my fortune.”
“Your parents’ fortune” she slyly reminded him.
“Potato, po-tah-to.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Ok, you’re acting like you know something I don’t. Was there another application in that pile? Someone who meets these ridiculous requirements of mine?”
She affected a long-suffering sigh and shook her head. “It’s a good thing you inherited your father’s moderately good looks because you certainly didn’t get any of your mother’s brains. What did you learn at that fancy college anyway?”
“I earned my business degree,” he said.
“So you have some smarts after all,” she grinned. “Alright then Mr. College graduate, riddle me this. Who in this overly pompous town lets you feel most like yourself? Who knows how you like your coffee and which memes will make you laugh the most when you’re feeling overwhelmed by all your family responsibilities?”
Gray glanced at his empty coffee mug without thinking. Of course. It was so obvious. “But, you never apply,” he frowned. “You’ve known me for twenty years, why would you?”
Her grin softened, became almost shy, a word he did not associate with Cammie the Knight. She pulled a folded wad from her pocket and passed it over to him. “I figured if you were interested, you would have done something about it before now.” He opened it and found her smiling face beaming out of the page. “Seems like I still need to rescue the princess from his ivory tower after all.”
Gray smiled and reached out his hand to her. She took it and clasped it gladly. She knew him best after all.
Notes: Well this one got away from me. That’s ok though. Sometimes you just have to write warm fuzzy childhood friendships turned romance. I didn’t actually set out to write these two together at the end, but sometimes the characters decide these things for themselves. I would write a bit more in these notes, but I’ve written way more tonight than I have in a single night in a long time and I have to be to work early tomorrow and I think I’m coming down with a cold so I should really get to bed.
Have a great night! See you tomorrow!
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