All He Needs - Ace & Stephanie

By: Melanie Shawn

 (Crossroads #10)


Chapter 1


Stephanie Holland couldn’t decide if being recruited to be a case study for a self-help book on dating and relationships was flattering or horrifying. She was leaning towards the latter.

“Are we talking about, um…,” Stephanie scooted forward and glanced around the crowded hospital cafeteria before lowering her voice as she clarified, “sex?”

“Sure. It can be sex.” Unlike Stephanie, Misty spoke at the same volume as if she’d just commented on what a sunny day it was. “Or it can be dating, just hanging out. It’s totally up to you.”

“Okay. And you said there are categories. One and done. Two and through. Three and free. And four means more. Right?” She’d been trying to take mental notes on her friend’s dating philosophy, but it was a struggle. As a nurse, she was accustomed to long hours but she was halfway through her fourth consecutive twelve-hour shift. Actually, two of those were fourteen-hour shifts. Not that she was complaining. She needed every penny.

“Correct,” Misty verified, adding a decisive nod.

Stephanie had never subscribed to any particular method when it came to the opposite sex. Although judging from her disastrous track record in the love department, maybe she should’ve been doing just that. “And you actually followed these um…rules?”

“Yes.”

Questions were whizzing around in Stephanie’s brain like racecars on a track, but there was one that was definitely leading the pack. “Why?”

A knowing grin pulled at the corners of Misty’s heavily glossed lips. “It started because I got so damn tired of wasting my time on guys that weren’t worth it. A couple years ago, I had just broken up with a guy who I dated for over a year even though I knew, knew, on the first date that he wasn’t right for me. But I was lonely and I projected all this stuff onto him that I shouldn’t have. After we broke up I was so mad at myself for the months, years that I’d wasted on the wrong guy.

“Then one night, about a week after the breakup, I was hanging out with my brother and his friends at The Plate and this girl walked in. One of the guys in the group was seeing her at the time and he told us that she had four-means-more potential. I had no idea what they were talking about and they explained that when it came to hookups they lived by a code. One and done. They liked someone, hooked up, and moved on. That was it. No follow up, no second date. Then there was two and through. They liked someone enough to see them again but then had no interest in a three-peat. Three and free was basically a third hookup but then getting out before things got serious, thus the free. And four means more was still being invested and wanting to spend time with someone after four encounters.

“For some reason their ridiculous code clicked in my head. I’d been forcing long-term relationships on one and dones, two and throughs, and three and frees. So, I took a page from my brother and his friends. They didn’t meet someone and immediately start planning their wedding like I did. After that day I stopped looking at every guy I met as potential husband material.

“Instead, I started evaluating guys I dated and putting them in these categories. It was liberating. I didn’t waste time on guys just because I wanted to be with someone. I felt empowered. It was the best two years of my life which finally led me to this.” The blonde beauty lifted her hand causing the two and a half carat rock that sat on her ring finger to sparkle under the overhead fluorescent lights. “In three months I’m marrying the man of my dreams. If I hadn’t been living by the code I would’ve probably spent a good six months on a two and through and not been single when I met Julian.”

Her friend was happily engaged to a professional football player and obviously attributed her engagement to the code system that she’d just laid out. The same code system she was turning into a self-help book.

“And you want me to follow this code and report back to you?” Stephanie clarified, wanting to know exactly what she would be signing up for.

“That’s the basic idea. But just so you know, it is totally anonymous. I won’t know that it’s you and no one else will either. I need data. My agent loves the book proposal. My title is Casting Love and I’m giving the code a Hollywood take, to make it more palatable and marketable. The tagline is: You are the leading lady of your life, are you ready to cast your leading man? One and done is going to be: The Audition. Two and through is going to be: The Callback. Three and free is going to be: The Screen Test. And four means more is: Booking the Role.”

Stephanie nodded. The Hollywood spin didn’t surprise her. She remembered that Misty had always had a flare for the dramatic. The girl had starred in every school play and musical from first grade all the way through senior year. And she had to admit, it was kind of genius. Although Stephanie had never had a burning desire to “cast her leading man” she knew that she was in the minority.

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