Title: THE BOYFRIEND COLLECTOR
Author: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Genre: Contemporary Romance
FIND MR. RIGHT IN 30 DAYS? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
Treated like a servant in her own home,twenty-year-old Rose Marie Hale can’t stop dreaming of her next birthday. It’s the day she’ll inherit a fortune, break free from her cruel family, and finally start living her life—finish school, travel, find love. After a lifetime of hardship, it’s all she’s ever wanted.
But when Rose discovers she must marry before her twenty-first birthday to claim the money, she has no choice but to push herself out into the world in search of a man she can love and trust. Unfortunately,those are the very things that have been used as weapons against her.
With only a month to go, can she find true love? Or will her past hold her back, leaving her penniless and alone?
(Part One of Two)
Grab Your Copy Today:
Well, this is not a promising start. Seated in my black leather armchair, I rub the stubble on my jaw and glance down at the questionnaire in my other hand.The agitated young woman lying on the couch in front of me has left the entire form blank except for her name at the top. Rose Marie Hale.
Rose. The name fits her. At first glance she looks like a delicate, fragrant flower—long, lean stems for legs, trim body, and blonde silky hair—but a sharpness in her dark brown eyes tells me she’s not all soft petals.
I make a quick note of my observation in the margin of the page before interrupting her fast talking—something about dating…or men…or I’m unsure,actually. “Miss Hale, excuse my insensitivity, but I’m here to help people, not waste their time. Or mine. So what, exactly, do you mean when you say you have to find a husband? Sounds like you need a friend or a dating app, not therapy.”I rest my gold pen across the clipboard on my lap, waiting for her to answer.
Like the pen, this office—situated in a renovated brick warehouse in Atlanta’s trendy Buckhead district—once belonged to my father, who was also a psychologist. I stepped in, merging my practice with his when he became ill last spring. By the time he died a month ago, I learned many things about the man, bad things I loathe him for. The first disappointment came when I discovered he never practiced what he preached in terms of treating his patients, who were receiving little more than touchy-feely pep talks: You can do it. I believe in you.
Complete bullshit. The only thing he accomplished was creating a steady stream of customers who became dependent on him instead of themselves.
I don’t blow smoke up patients’ asses just so they’ll come back next week for another fix of self-esteem injections. I say it like it is, and if they truly want to get their lives together, they listen.
As for this woman on my couch, I don’t know what to make of her other than the obvious that she’s in her early twenties, her attractiveness is distracting,and I’m unsure why the hell she’s here. If she’s looking for boyfriend advice,she’s come to the wrong place.
“Dr. Hughes? Are you listening?” she says, her slender body stretched across my white couch.
Not really. Her lips are moving so fast, I feel like I’m at an auction. “Rose Marie—”
“I prefer Rose. Just Rose,” she corrects.
“Okay. Rose, I’m sorry, but I’m a psychologist, not a romance coach.”
She sits up and plants her feet on the floor. Her red heels look expensive, as does the matching red sweater. Her jeans are the type most men like on women—tight, a bit short to show off some toned calf, and cut to accentuate the feminine curve of her hips.
“I’m not here for love coaching,” she says with a frantic tone. “I have to get married. Quickly. My entire life depends on it.”
Trying to hide my impatience, I lift my brows. She strikes me as the quintessential entitled princess who thinks her social life is the most important thing on the planet. Oh no, someone didn’t like my selfie on Instagram. Whatever shall I do? If she can’t give me a legitimate reason to see her or convince me that she’s here to work, I’ll turn her away.
“This isn’t the Dark Ages,” I say. “Many women lead long happy lives and never marry.”
“I know. And that’s not what this is about. Not even close.”
“All right.” I inhale slowly, taking a moment to rally my patience. “Why don’t you try explaining it once more.”
She lies back down, crossing her long legs at the ankles, her large eyes focused on the exposed wooden beam running across the ceiling.
I wait while she mulls. She’s hopefully realizing how silly it is to pay a licensed therapist, with a doctorate in social neuroscience, just to talk about boys. I never would have agreed to see her if I knew this was her “problem,”but Rose left a frantic message with my service last night. A short conversation followed, where she disclosed nothing and pleaded to see me first thing this morning.
Fast-forward to fifteen minutes ago. I get to my office before my assistant has arrived and find Rose walking around the hallway. My office is one of many on the second floor, so it’s easy to miss. Downstairs are several boutiques and a small coffee shop, where I practically live between patients.
Which reminds me that I skipped the latte this morning, and I’m wishing I hadn’t because I’ll need a heavy dose of caffeine to keep up with all the whining I’m hearing.
Yes, if I were a lesser man, I might be content to sit here all day, staring at a gorgeous woman while she rambles on about her love life. But I am not that man. I’m here to help people. And I think this woman came to the wrong place.
I knew it would be a waste of time coming here, but this exceeds my worst expectations. Everything about this guy says he doesn’t care. The drab gray tie, plain white dress shirt, and black slacks tell me he doesn’t have a warm bone in his body. All business. The polished concrete floor and a bland gray rug to accent his work space confirm he lacks imagination. And not one item in his office indicates he has any hobbies or passions. I don’t even see a family photo despite the fact he’s fidgeting with his wedding ring. Married. But he obviously doesn’t want to think about her at work. What does that say about him?
“Rose,” he says in a deep, authoritative voice that sounds rehearsed, “this session is only an hour, and I get paid either way.”
In other words, I should start talking if I want my money’s worth. But Dr. Bexley Hughes doesn’t seem interested in hearing anything I have to say. I doubt I’d be sitting here at all if I hadn’t begged him last night over the phone. But I need help, and now that his father is dead, I have no one else to turn to.
I squirm on his lumpy couch. The fabric is soft—some sort of white velveteen—but the springs are pushing into my ass. Another bad sign. He doesn’t care about his patients enough to buy comfortable furniture.
I get up and walk over to the wall of books behind the black leather armchair where he’s seated. I know he’s waiting for me to explain why I need to get married, but his intense stare makes it difficult. I don’t like it or him one little bit.
Ironically, if I saw him walking down the street, the two of us complete strangers, he’d have me looking twice. Dark hair, light blue eyes, and a hard jawline. Classically handsome. Just my type. Though he’s a little older, maybe twenty-nine or thirty.
Of course, all that’s irrelevant. Doesn’t matter if he’s good looking. Doesn’t matter if I like his personality. The question is, will Dr. Bexley Hughes help me? He seems more uncaring and heartless than my family, if that’s even possible.
With our backs to each other, I pluck a book off the shelf and thumb through the crisp white pages. It’s inscribed to Dr. Murdoc Hughes, his late father.Funny, they look nothing alike. Murdoc had warm brown eyes and an even warmer smile.
“I met your dad before he died.” I turn and speak to the back of Bexley Hughes’s head. “He was a good man. Maybe the only decent person I’ve ever met.I hoped you’d be like him. Are you?”
“You knew my father?” he says with a tinge of skepticism, pivoting in his seat to face me.
“But you were never a patient.”
“No,” I confirm. “He told me to see you if I changed my mind.”
“Changed it about what?”
I shut the book with a clap, place it back on the shelf, and walk over to the white couch, where I sit with hands clasped. I don’t know why this Dr. Hughes makes me so uneasy, but he does. It’s odd given how I’m no stranger to unpleasant people.
“I met your father last spring,” I say, “when he gave a lecture at my university about the psychology of storytelling. I am—I mean, I was an English major. I dropped out.” I had promised myself that no matter what my grandmother did or said, I wouldn’t leave school this time. But she has a way of slithering inside my head and undermining every positive thought, every productive intention—“You should be home, Rose, fulfilling the promise to your dead mother. There will be time for college later.” After weeks of being guilted, I finally gave in. Idiot.
Or maybe it was fate?
Had I not stopped taking classes, I never would’ve been home on that fateful day when I overheard a strange conversation my grandmother had with her lawyer.Then I wouldn’t have had that quiet nagging feeling in the back of my mind,telling me that maybe, just maybe there was more to my mother’s will. And I certainly wouldn’t have been prompted to go through my grandmother’s safe a week ago when she left it open by accident.
But now I know the horrible truth: The copy of the will shown to me all those years ago was a fake, and everything I’ve been promised is about to be taken away.
I continue, “I liked your father’s perspective about how every epic story has a villain, a victim, and a knight.” The older Dr. Hughes said that in the world of psychology, a therapist’s job is to make every patient their own knight, the hero of their story. “When I decided I needed to talk to someone, I looked him up. He called me back right away, and it was the first time I remembered anyone just listening and wanting to help. Nothing in return.”
I was really sorry when I found out he was ill, but he urged me to come in and see his son instead. Trusting strangers isn’t easy for me, so I told him I’d think about it. Of course, the situation I’m facing now is entirely different. It’s no longer about the guilt or the shame my family has poisoned me with. This is about justice. This is about wrong versus right.
I look away from the younger Dr. Hughes’s judgmental gaze and add, “Your dad told me if I ever needed someone to trust, someone who’d help me, it would be you.”
I suddenly notice Dr. Hughes’s face is a hostile shade of red, and while I didn’t think it possible for anyone to look more anal retentive and intimidating, he’s just proven me wrong.
He sets his clipboard on top of a little wooden table to his side and leans forward. “I think it’s time for you to go.”
I blink. “Sorry?”
“I can’t help you.”
“Did I miss something?” He’s clearly pissed, but what did I do?
“I am not the right therapist for you, Miss Hale, but I can suggest a colleague who specializes in relationships and commitment issues.”
I frown. “Why would I need help with that?” All right, yes, I have issues in those areas, but not how he thinks.
“Didn’t you say you’re here because you’re trying to find a husband?”
“But then I’m not the doctor for you,” he cuts me off.
The anger percolates in my stomach. I’m done with being dismissed, and I won’t tolerate being treated like I’m worthless. Not anymore.
“You said you’re here to help people,” I argue. “Well, here I am, needing help.”
He stands, walks to the door, and opens it. The expression on his face turns from anger to simple disgust.
What kind of therapist just shuts a person down like this? It’s humiliating,and with all I’ve been through, I’m not game for his special breed of head trip. He has no clue what’s at stake and the mental torture I’ve survived.
Doesn’t matter. He’s right. He can’t help me. I stand and walk to the door,stopping in front of him. I’m five seven, but he’s much taller, so I tilt my head back to look him in the eye. There is no compassion to be found in their soft blue hues. Just ice. “I don’t know what I said to piss you off, but you’ve got the wrong impression about why I came here. I’m just trying to survive.”
“Aren’t we all.” He jerks his head toward the doorway as if to say get the fuck out.
This man doesn’t just have a stick up his ass, it’s an entire forest. “You’re nothing like your father. You’re not even half the man he was.”
“Thank God for small favors,” he replies.
I sail out, wondering what he means, and the door slams behind me.
Heartless bastard. He couldn’t just hear me out?
Suddenly, I realize how alone I truly am. I stop in the hallway and cover my face with my hands, fighting off an imminent meltdown. I hate to cry. It makes me feel weak, and I don’t want to be weak anymore. But I don’t know what I’m going to do. The clock is ticking, and right now, the whole world is against me. Not hyperbole. Not a joke. Everyone I’ve ever known is against me, and I need at least one—just one goddamned person to trust
About Mimi Jean Pamfiloff:
MIMI JEAN PAMFILOFF is a USA Today & New York Times bestselling romance author with over a million books sold worldwide. Although she obtained her MBA and worked for more than fifteen years in the corporate world, she believes that it’s never too late to come out of the romance closet and follow your dream. Mimi lives with her Latin Lover hubby, two pirates-in-training (their boys), and the rat terrier duo, Snowflake and Mini Me, in Arizona. She hopes to make you laugh when you need it most and continues to pray daily that leather pants will make a big comeback for men.