Chapter One of My Last Chance – Ali Parker

Chapter One of My Last Chance

Chapter One


I sat drumming my nails on the table as I waited for Andrew Croft to arrive for our blind date.

I’d done a little bit of preliminary research to see what my sister Janie had gotten me into by forcing me to agree to a date with him. Based on his social media profiles, I had come to a couple conclusions.

Andrew was a big football fan. He went to every Seahawks game at CenturyLink stadium, wore foam hands, and ate a minimum of two stadium hot dogs per game—but only with mustard. His everyday attire was jeans and a V-neck, and for my tastes, the V-neck was a little too low. He looked like the sort of guy who was trying to land a modeling gig for the window signs in stores like Hollister and Abercrombie. I hoped he didn’t smell the way those stores did. I would have to leave before having a chance to try the famous steak this restaurant was known for.

I had also established that he was a bit of an egomaniac. A couple of his profile pictures were selfies he’d taken in what I assumed was his bathroom in front of the mirror. His abs were impressive, sure, but all the toothpaste stains in the bathroom sink and beard hairs all over the counter were enough to make my inner germaphobe squeal in detest.

And yet, I’d agreed to meet him.

Janie wouldn’t have taken no for an answer, anyway. After hours of relentless pestering, I finally caved and said I’d meet up with the guy she knew through a friend’s friend. It was the typical way she set me up on all my dates with men who couldn’t hold my interest for more than fifteen minutes—and even those fifteen minutes weren’t all that great. During most of that time, I was picking apart everything that I didn’t like about them.

The last guy had really small hands and touched his face a lot, so I was constantly reminded of the fact that his fingers were the same length as mine. And I had small hands as it was.

The guy before that had chewed with his mouth open. I already had a six-year-old, and teaching him to chew with his mouth closed was enough of a struggle. A grown-ass man who couldn’t keep his lips together while his chompers mashed up his steak and asparagus was too much for me to wrap my head around. Pass.

And the guy before that had talked about himself in the third person. I didn’t even need to explain why that was weird. It just was.

And now, here I was, waiting on guy number four, who I wasn’t even excited to meet and who was running fifteen minutes late.

“Thanks for nothing, Janie,” I mumbled as I crossed my legs and then my arms. I wanted him to have visual cues as to how annoyed I was for having to wait on him when he first saw me.

I sighed as the waiter strolled over to my table for the third time since I’d arrived. He looked down at me, a smile full of pity plastered on his thin lips, and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to order anything yet?”

I wanted to tell him to get lost. He for sure thought I was being stood up, but I was certain the guy would show. He was just an inconsiderate asshole like all the others had been.

“I’ll take your most expensive glass of red wine,” I said.

He blinked a few times and then looked at the open chair across from me.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

The waiter shook his head. “No. No problem at all. It’s forty-two dollars for the six ounce. The nine ounce is—”

“The nine is fine,” I said.

The waiter gave me a courteous nod and left me alone once more.

The more time that passed, the sourer my mood became. At first, I defended him, telling myself that he was probably caught up in traffic. Maybe he got held up at work. There were dozens of perfectly acceptable reasons to be late.

Then he strolled in the restaurant, and every one of those acceptable reasons were swept off the table. As I looked him over, the waiter came to my table and filled up my wine glass. Perfect timing. This date of mine that Janie had spoken so highly of would have no idea how much I’d cost him before he even set foot in the restaurant.

He was tall. Probably close to six foot five. He had shaggy blonde hair that was swept back and held in place with far too much product. He kept wearing his sunglasses—aviators, naturally—until the hostess started walking him through the restaurant and the dim lighting made it impossible for him to see where he was putting his feet, which I noticed were in a pair of loafers. No socks. Just bare ankle between loafer and the hem of his khakis.


He hooked his aviators in the collar of his white button up as the hostess brought him to the table. The waiter left, and the guy, Andrew, slid his hands into his pockets and gave me a crooked smile. He was handsome—that much was true—and his white smile pushed dimples into his cheeks, which were shaded by a five o’clock shadow.

“Hey there, Lana?”

I nodded.

“Nice to meet you. You’re even prettier than your sister led me to believe.”

The hostess left as he took his seat across from me. I gave him the most pleasant smile I could muster and said, “Lucky for you.”

Andrew chuckled and did not pick up on my sarcasm. He spotted my glass of wine and gave me an apologetic look. The way his eyebrows drew together suggested this was a rehearsed expression that he had done in front of a mirror thousands upon thousands of times. “Sorry I’m late. I got caught up in work.”

“That’s all right,” I said, reaching for my wine and taking a sip. “Janie warned me you might be.”

“She did?”

“Mhm.” I nodded. It was a lie. She hadn’t told me any such thing, but I wanted to keep him on his toes. I wanted him to think I knew more than I actually did. At the very least, I could make the night somewhat enjoyable for myself, seeing as how I’d already written him off and decided he would not get another date

No sir.

Andrew rolled up the sleeves of his button up and cuffed them just beneath his elbows. He had nice forearms. I tried not to let my eyes linger there too long for fear of making his ego even bigger than it already was.

The waiter came by and took our orders. Andrew ordered a beer, which is exactly what I expected from him, and I shot the waiter an I bet you feel like an ass for thinking I’d been stood up now look. He shuffled away and left me and my date alone.

Andrew crossed his arms and rested his elbows on the table. His eyes were nice. They were a bright green flecked with streaks of hazel. But the way he looked at me wasn’t so nice. His thoughts were already straying to what he hoped would happen after dinner.

I arched an eyebrow. “So, Andrew. What do you do for work?”

Andrew delighted me—or rather, thought he delighted me—with a dazzling white, handsome smile. “I’m a merchandise rep for the Seattle Seahawks.”

Of course you are, I thought. “You’re a big fan?”

“I haven’t missed a home game in three years.”

“Wow. I’m impressed.” No. I wasn’t.

“Yeah. It’s a great gig. Plenty of free shit, VIP booth seats every now and then when they’re available. You know, if things go well here, maybe I could bring you to a game.”

“Wow. How generous. I’m flattered.”

Andrew grinned. “What about you? What do you do?”

“App development.”

Andrew’s eyebrows crept up his forehead. I liked telling guys what I did. It always elicited a surprised reaction of some sort. He shifted a little in his seat. “What does—uh—what does that entail?”

I shrugged. “I bring concepts to life by building a high-functioning smart phone or web application to simplify people’s lives.”

Andrew’s mouth was slightly open, and he looked like I’d just told him I worked for NASA.

I sighed. “I make applications like the ones on your phone.”

“Oh! Of course. That makes sense. That’s cool. You’re successful with that?”

“So far.” That was a rude question. Success could be defined in many different ways, but I assumed he was referring to how much money I was making. I wasn’t making the big bucks yet, but I had a plan in motion that would hopefully land me some consistent income.

I had an interview on Monday morning at one of the biggest marketing firms in Seattle. The company had represented apps similar to mine, but not as good, over the last two years, and every single launch had been a raging success. I wanted mine to follow that path. Burbank Marketing was going to be my big break. I knew it.

And it would be what changed my life and my son’s life for the better. I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck, designing fluffy apps, or fixing other people’s code. I wanted to set out on my own. I had the smarts and the skill to succeed. I just needed someone to see the worth in the app I had built.

Andrew tried to make small talk with me. I didn’t want the night to feel any longer than it needed to be, so I indulged him a bit and told him about some of my other interests while we ate our meals.

After I told him one of my favorite things to do was dance, he said, “I thought so when I walked in here. You have the figure of a dancer.”

I held in the sigh that threatened to escape. “I’ve never done it professionally. I just like going out dancing and what not.”

“Do you work out? You look like you work out.”

That time, I did sigh. Then I took a bite of salmon, savored the sweet lemon glaze that had been dribbled on top, and swallowed. “I do. When I can find the time.”

“What do you do? You look like a runner.”

And you look like a guy who can’t think of anything besides the tits of the girl across the table from him. “I don’t like running. I get shin splints. But I like spin class. And yoga.”

“Yes,” he said slowly, like he was on the cusp of an orgasm. “Yoga is sexy.”

I stared down at my salmon. This clown was actually making me lose my appetite. I pushed it around on my plate. “Tell me something most people don’t know about you, Andrew.”

“I’m an open book. Everyone I know already knows everything about me.”

I popped the salmon in my mouth and washed it down with a mouthful of wine. “That’s impossible. Come on. Don’t be shy. Tell me something you haven’t told someone. If you’re too nervous, I can go first.”

Saying something like that to a guy like Andrew and suggesting that he was too nervous was a sure-fire way to get him to spill the beans.

“I used to be a Patriots fan,” he said.

“That’s it?” I asked. “That’s your big reveal? I was hoping you’d do better than that.”

“You go ahead, then.”

I finished my meal and leaned back in my chair. “I’ve never had an orgasm during intercourse.”

Andrew looked like I’d just pulled down the top of my dress and flashed him in the middle of the restaurant. His cheeks turned pink, and had I not thought he was a total waste of space, I would have found his shell-shocked, dubious expression somewhat endearing. But I did think he was a waste of space. So this only amused me.

He waved down the waiter and handed him a fistful of cash to cover our bill. Then he got to his feet and pulled out my chair. Andrew walked me outside the restaurant and flagged down a cab.

I slid in the back seat but didn’t move over for him. I rested my hand on the door panel and smiled up at him. “Thanks for dinner, Andrew. It was delicious.”

“Wait. Aren’t we going to go back to my place or something?” He stood on the sidewalk like a kicked puppy dog.

“No, sweetie. Sorry. You were twenty minutes late, and all you did the whole time was picture me naked. And I’m just not in the market for someone like you. I want someone who wants to have conversations. You know?”


I tugged the door closed. He stared blankly at me as I waved at him through the window.

The driver looked over his shoulder at me. “Where to?”

I gave him the address to my townhouse across town. He pulled away from the curb, and I didn’t look back, but I was sure Andrew was staring after us as we drove away.

I met the driver’s eye in the rear-view mirror. “What?” I asked.

He shook his head. “That was cold.”

I smirked. “That was me being nice.”


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