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Access to Love

Pursuit of Passion

By Gracie Lonsdale

Copyright 2014 Gracie Lonsdale

ISBN: 978-0-9915555-0-5

Pursuit of Passion: Access to Love Series Copyright © 2014 Gracie Lonsdale

Edited by Tracy Roelle and Melisande Scott

Cover art by Gracie Lonsdale

Formatting by Sara Wilson

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Dedication

First, a huge thanks to my family for their continued love and understanding. To two people, who from the very beginning of this project, were in my corner offering their support and spurring me on…TL Reeve and Frank Lee. To Dee Allen, a big thank you for your time and encouragement working with me on Photo-Shop.

To Jeannemarie, Shannon and Amy, the best beta readers a girl could have. Your friendship and encouragements are invaluable!

To the my editors Melisande and Tracy, thank you for taking this rough cut and making a diamond out of it!

Chapter One

“So, have you heard anything yet? You know, the internet dating thing.” Amanda leaned forward as she set her cup of coffee down on the small, round bistro table that separated her and her best friend, Ivy.

“Nope. Not yet, and the waiting is killing me. Have you considered filling out the application for yourself yet?” Ivy asked, as she raised the steaming hot cup of coffee to her lips and blew across the top.

“I’m considering it. I figured I’d wait to see how things turned out for you. The last thing I need is yet another dating service that doesn’t deliver. God, if I had five dollars for every bad date I’ve been set up on,” Amanda raised her hands in air quotes, “with the ‘perfect match’, I’d be rather rich, instead of single and alone.”

“I hear you, but something seemed different about this one. They were thorough, and the fact that they did a background check as well as medical clearance gives me peace of mind. It’s not some shoddy internet site where everyone is just trying to hook up. They were professional, and it seems like they’re serious about what they do. What do I have to lose?”

“Nothing, I guess. I’ll still wait to see how things pan out for you Ivy. Then maybe I’ll give it a shot.”

Ivy made it back to work with plenty of time to spare. She and Amanda worked blocks apart and often met at the coffee shop for lunch. Amanda McClave was a paralegal for a big law firm. Ivy was a graphic artist for an advertising agency. They had met in a self-defense class in their Brooklyn neighborhood five years earlier and had become the best of friends, solidifying their friendship over body slams, coffee, and their commute into Manhattan every morning and most evenings.

Ivy Hughes had spent the last few years focusing on her career, leaving very little time for dating. Not that she didn’t date at all—there were dates—but most of the time a second date was out of the question. Physical attraction was not enough to warrant a second date, especially for men like Paul, the last man to take her out. Paul, who was newly divorced, spent the whole night talking about his ex. She had heard every detail about their relationship, and then, the sordid details about their divorce, and how he’d caught his wife cheating on him with one of her co-workers. When he’d started to cry over dessert, it was time to end the night. Oh, and then there was Jacob, who she’d thought was going to be a dream. He was handsome and smart. She had met him in the library and they’d talked for over an hour about books, but on their date, his mother called…nine times! She’d wanted to make sure he’d taken his scarf, and then reminded him not to order anything with nuts in it, due to his allergy. When she heard him say, “I love you mommy,” she was out of there.
Mommy
? What thirty-six year old man calls his mother
mommy in the middle of a date? There was no way she
wanted to compete with someone’s mother, besides the fact that it was creepy as hell.

So, when she came across Access to Love, Inc., she thought,
what the hell, may as well have someone else try to find the perfect match for me
. Today had been four weeks since she’d filled out all the papers and submitted her medical clearance. She’d tried not to dwell on the amount of time it was taking—actually, she would have been suspicious if they’d found a match right away. She was hoping they were carefully going through their files and that they’d set her up with someone she was truly compatible with.

The rest of her day was uneventful. She gathered her things to head home, and the minute she got off the elevator she heard the familiar
ding of
email arriving on her smart phone. She’d been bundled up for the cold, January weather—hat, scarf, gloves, as well as her heavy woolen coat— ready to brave the Manhattan streets for her four block walk to the subway. Sliding her phone out of her coat pocket, she glanced at the notification on the screen. Her heart began to beat out of her chest when she saw it was from Access to Love. Quickly biting the fingers of her gloved hand, she pulled her leather glove off with her teeth and stared at the screen. This was the moment she’d been waiting for. Drawing in a deep breath, she swiped her finger across the screen, put in her security code, and brought up the email, practically squealing after reading the first few lines.

Dear Ivy,

We are pleased to announce that Access to Love, Inc. has found your perfect match. We believe that, based on the paperwork you submitted, through our thorough screening process, we have found someone who is compatible to the highest degree, and have arranged for your extended date. Please be ready on Thursday, February 13, at 6 p.m. Pack a suitcase, including heavy winter wear, as well as a bathing suit. Your date will conclude on Sunday, February 16. A limousine will pick you up in front of your apartment building promptly. Please do not be late, as a flight has been arranged to your final destination. Congratulations once again, and if you have any questions, please contact us.

Access to Love, Inc
.

Oh my God…oh my God. She was beyond thrilled, and glad that it
was almost a month away. She had time to request an extended weekend off from work—after all, she had it coming to her. She never used her personal days, and her boss had to beg her to take her vacations. Her mind started to race—so much to do in those four weeks. Clicking off the email, she placed her phone in her pocket and put her glove back on. She was on such a high, she barely remembered walking to the subway and boarding the train. It was as if she were on autopilot, contemplating and wondering who her date would be, when she felt someone tapping her on the shoulder.

“Earth to Ivy. What is up with you? I’ve been chasing after you since the turnstiles!” Amanda’s tone was somewhat annoyed.

Startled to attention, Ivy focused on Amanda and let out a little shriek. “Amanda, you are never going to believe it. I got the email…you know…from Access to Love! They’ve found a match.”

“No fucking way! Oh my God. Deets woman. I need the details.” Taking the phone out of her pocket, Ivy quickly accessed the email

and read it aloud, careful to keep her voice down so no one else could hear. In her excitement, Amanda playfully punched Ivy on the shoulder.

“GET. OUT. OF. HERE. This is totally awesome, and, holy shit, it’s Valentine’s weekend. Maybe it’s a sign.”

Suddenly, Ivy’s eyes widened as she looked into Amanda’s. “Oh my God, I didn’t put two and two together. I never realized it would be over Valentine’s weekend. That’s kind of odd, isn’t it? A blind, extended-weekend date? What happens if we don’t like each other? What if he’s a momma’s boy like my last date? What will I do? I can’t just walk home! “

“Ivy, take a breath. You said yourself that Access to Love was professional. You read the testimonials, and they have a proven track record, right?” Putting an arm around her, Amanda patted and smoothed her hands in circles on Ivy’s back. “I’m sure everything will be fine, and, who knows…maybe it is a sign after all. You said it yourself. What do you have to lose?”

Ivy nodded and took a deep breath. “You’re right. I need to take a chance. I need to step out of my comfort zone and take a leap of faith. Right?” she questioned.

“Right!” Amanda answered, confidently. “Besides, girl, you have only one month to get that ass in shape!” she kidded, as she slapped Ivy’s butt.

Ivy’s mouth gaped open. “My ass is in perfect shape,” she said, looking over her shoulder.

Amanda laughed and rolled her eyes. “I’m just kidding Miss. I go to the gym four days a week with you. I know you have that perfect heart-shaped ass, which I’m sure Mr.-Mystery-Valentine’s-Date will just love!”

Ivy shoulder-butted Amanda and chuckled. “Shut up!”
Chapter Two

The month had just whizzed by. Before Ivy knew it, it was February 12
th
. Working only a half-day, she had made an afternoon appointment at a spa, where she was buffed, waxed, plucked, massaged, had her hair highlighted, and her nails done. She didn’t really know what to expect,
and had been running over all of the possible scenarios in her head. Would he be tall, dark, and handsome—perhaps a dashing professional who worked in a metropolis, like herself—or a blond Adonis from a small town, who worked with his hands? The email and correspondence had said to bring warm clothing and outerwear, so that could mean anything. She hoped they wouldn’t be skiing. That was not her strong point. She had gone a few times, but she was sure she had let Access to Love know that on her application. Ivy was nervous, but very excited for what the next few days held.

Amanda had come over on Wednesday night. They’d ordered Chinese food, shared a bottle of wine, and helped Ivy pack for her adventure, carefully choosing each garment, accessory, and pair of shoes and boots.

Hugging her tightly at the end of the night, Amanda grasped Ivy by the sides of her face, cupping her cheeks in the palms of her hands. “I know you’re nervous, but you are about to embark on what could be the best thing to ever happen to you. Relax and enjoy yourself Ivy…you deserve to be happy and find Mr. Right. Who knows, by this time tomorrow, you may have met the man of your dreams.”

Ivy’s lips curled in a nervous smile. “I hope you’re right! I love you. Thanks for supporting me and being here for me, my friend.”

Hugging her one last time, Amanda slipped out the door and headed down the staircase.

Ivy waited until she heard Amanda leave, then locked the deadbolt. Leaning back against her door, she thought about what Amanda had said. Maybe this was going to be a life changing experience after all.

*****

She barely slept, tossing and turning all night long. Finally, when she fell into a light sleep, she dreamed of meeting a tall, dark, handsome man. They laughed over dinner—clear crystal glasses filled with burgundy wine glistened in the light of the fire flickering in the large, stone fireplace. He held her hand and they made sweet love by its glow.

She was in the midst of her dream orgasm when she woke. Her eyes flew open—the room dark, her body humming—as if she had really been in the middle of a mind-blowing release. Jackknifing to a sitting position, her nightgown plastered to her skin, she kicked off the covers and drew in a few deep breaths, her mind somewhere between that dream state and reality.
Holy Hell…why can’t I dream like that every night? She shivered as the cool
air of the room kissed her dewy flesh. Standing on shaky legs, she carefully maneuvered over to her dresser and pulled out an old T-shirt, exchanging it for her nightgown, now dampened by sweat. Ivy settled back down in her bed, turned to her side and fell into a deep sleep, not waking until nearly noon. Only six hours left of the unknown.

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