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20

Fleeced

Lydia sat propped up on one of her love seats, cordless phone in hand, calling all her lovelorn pups who had been present the night before. There had been nineteen of them. Not bad, she decided. Shed been having three parties a week since Valentines Day, and as an introductory offer, her clients had only had to pay twenty-five dollars a shot if theyd bought a package of four.

She had to admit she felt like she was stealing from some of them. Like the man who wore sandals with his suit and seemed to end every sentence with the phrase and stuff like that. Or the fortyish woman who hung on to her Snoopy purse all night, as though it were a security blanket. Actually, Lydia thought, its too bad those two didnt hook up. There should be someone for everyone out there.

By the time she had finished making her calls, talking to some and leaving messages for others, ten had said theyd be glad to come by, a couple had told her they wanted their money back, and three more said theyd prefer to meet a new batch of people.

Why would I want to come back tonight? one guy had said. Nobody there was my type. Isnt the clubs big anniversary party going to have new people at it?

Yes, Lydia had answered optimistically.

Ill see you then.

After he hung up, Lydia had added his name to her list of those who wouldnt be in attendance. Shed give the list to Regan later.

Lydia felt suddenly unsettled. What if it was someone in this group who had stolen the diamonds? She was in the business of welcoming strangers into her home. Shed invested her money in a business that could actually be dangerous. She never did background checks on people who came to her parties. How could she?

There were so many creeps out there. Shed met enough of them in her thirty-eight years of being single. She wanted her business to be a happy one. She wanted Meaningful Connections to bring love into peoples lives in New York City. She wanted to boast the most marriages of any dating service.

Lydia looked at her watch. She wished Maldwin would get back soon. It would be at least another hour.

Her phone rang. She pressed the button and answered in a cheerful tone. Meaningful Connections.

Lydia, I want to come to your parties.

Lydia s face flushed. Burkhard, no. I told you I dont want to see you anymore.

You cant keep me away.

Yes I can.

I love you, Lydia.

No you dont. Lydia pictured her recent boyfriend, who at first seemed so impressive. It didnt take long to realize that behind the one expensive suit he owned, there was nothing there. He took Lydia for granted, then when she dissed him, he hounded her. The guy had no job, no employment record-it was as if he appeared out of thin air.

Im going to join the club.

Burkhard, please, just go away.

I always get what I want, he said in a tone that, if it werent so scary, would have been pathetic, like that of a spoiled child.

You cant come to my parties.

Then Ill see you at the anniversary party. And I want to get a picture taken with you, Lydia. I know the press will be there. Im sure theyd be interested to know how you make fun of all your clients.

I do not! Lydia shouted, but the phone clicked in her ear.

Why did I ever have to meet him? Lydia screamed as she threw the phone across the room. She felt as if she were about to throw up. No one would want to sign up for a dating service if they thought the owner was unsympathetic. Or if they thought the matchmaker herself made terrible choices in her own dating life. Its like going to a dentist who has bad teeth.

What am I going to do? she thought frantically. What am I going to do?


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