Second Act - Diana Xarissa

Chapter 1

“You look fabulous,” Terri Briggs told her friend, Camille Quinn, as Camille joined her at the restaurant table.

“Thanks,” Camille said. “I thought a night out with my best friend needed a new dress and a haircut.” She was wearing a sweater dress in an autumnal shade that was perfect for the middle of September.

Terri had chosen to wear one of the little black dresses that had been her wardrobe staples when she’d been married and attending events on a regular basis in New York City with her now ex-husband. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you looking so happy. I assume that means things are going well?” Terri asked.

“Things are going very well, yes, but let’s talk about you over dinner. I want to hear how the challenge went,” Camille replied.

Terri sighed dramatically. “I don’t know how I ever let you talk me into that stupid challenge.”

“You’ve been divorced for years now and I know how hard it is to find single men in Ramsey. It’s a wonderful small town, but it isn’t exactly a hot spot for single, middle-aged men.”

“And the ones who are here aren’t interested in dating middle-aged women,” Terri added. “I’m fifty-one. My blonde hair would be mostly grey if I’d let it and I’m never going to be a size two again.”

“But you’re beautiful and smart and a wonderful teacher and mother,” Camille reminded her. “There’s a man out there for you somewhere. You just need to find him.”

“Easier said than done.”

“Which is why I gave you the challenge.”

Terri laughed at the dramatic tone Camille gave to the last two words of the sentence. “Just remember, you promised that you’d stop nagging me about finding a man if I did your stupid challenge.”

“And I will, but first I want to hear how it went.”

“Can I take your drink order?” The waiter looked nervous about something as he stood and waited, glancing over his shoulder more than once as the women requested soft drinks.

“We’re both driving,” Camille told him.

“Very good,” he said politely before he rushed away.

“Was he behaving oddly?” Terri asked.

“He seemed nervous. Maybe Douglas Holloway is in the kitchen tonight.”

Terri nodded. Douglas was the man who managed all of Lucas Hogan’s properties in the Ramsey area. She wasn’t sure how many hotels and restaurants that included, but she knew the Riverside was one of them. It was the area’s only luxury hotel and its restaurant was generally considered one of the best Ramsey had to offer.

When the waiter returned with their drinks, the women ordered a shared appetizer and their entrees.

“We’ll have to see if we have room for dessert,” Camille said as she handed her menu to the waiter.

“We have a flourless chocolate tart today as our dessert special,” he replied.

“I may have to get a slice to go,” Terri said with a grin.

“Okay, so, tell me everything,” Camille insisted as the waiter walked away.

“There isn’t much to tell. I did exactly what you wanted. I set up a profile on an online dating site and limited my search to men within a hundred miles of Ramsey. You wanted me to go out with at least three men and that’s what I did. I went out with three men.”


“And it was uniformly awful.”

Camille laughed at the face that Terri made. “You have to give me more than that,” she demanded.

“I’m not going to use their real names, just in case you ever actually meet any of them anywhere,” Terri told her. “The first man I met was, um, Mike. According to his profile, he’s fifty-nine, but I think he may have miscounted by a few years. He works with computers and he claimed he’d been married once and divorced once.”

“Claimed? You didn’t believe him?”

“I think he’s still married. I’m pretty sure he was just looking for an affair, although he did his best to pretend that he was looking for a life partner.”

“What gave him away?”

“He had us meet at a tiny little restaurant in the middle of nowhere, for a start. He said it was a favorite of his, but the staff didn’t act as if they knew him and when I asked him what was good, it seemed very much as if he’d never seen the menu before.”

“Oh, dear.”

“He took three phone calls in less than a hour, as well, which is rude if nothing else.”

“That is rude.”

“He kept apologizing and insisting that it was work, but the third time he got up and walked away from the table, I heard