From romantic comedy author M.J. Pullen comes a unique story about finding help when you need it most, and love where you expect it least. Even though their daughters have been in the same Jewish preschool class for three years, struggling store owner Julia Mendel and sports blogger Dave “from the Man Cave” Bernstein have never gotten along. She sees him as a definitely arrogant, possibly misogynist symbol of everything that’s wrong with the men in her life. He sees her as the odd, short-tempered PTA president, out to make his life more difficult at every opportunity. As part of his job, Dave accepts an on-air challenge: go out with a different woman from a Jewish dating site every Saturday for the next four months, and blog the results. He quickly secures his daughter’s favorite preschool teacher (and super-nanny) Ms. Elizabeth to make the experiment possible. Little does he know Julia is in desperate need of the same sitter for the same schedule, so that she can take a part-time job while pacifying her son, who has severe OCD. A confrontation in the carpool lane leads to an uneasy compromise: they will pool their resources to share Ms. Elizabeth’s services every-other Saturday night. After a while, Dave finds himself sharing his dating stories with non-Jewish Julia across her kitchen table; while she reluctantly turns to him for the masculine perspective – especially for her son – she’s been missing since her divorce. As the Saturdays wear on, however, they may discover they have more in common than car seats and custody schedules.
Dave walked through the barn doors, following the sound of heavy metal music. He saw movement and gave his eyes a minute to adjust to the dark. Julia was facing away, sanding something on the work table in front of her. She had changed into a black tank top and frayed olive cargo shorts, cut off above mid-thigh to reveal the surprisingly athletic curves of her ivory legs. He could see more of the rose tattoo—a dark crimson bud in partial bloom, with a thorny vine that disappeared beneath the tank top. Dave let out a slow breath and forced himself to look around at the barn instead of gazing at the back of Julia’s neck.
There had once been horse stalls along both sides: a few of the large square posts at their corners remained. On these were tacked everything from power tools on orange utility hooks to an old straw hat and a bunch of dried flowers. There was an old school wagon-wheel chandelier in the middle of the long room, but most of the light came from a few open windows on either side. Someone had added a rough interior wall at the far end of the building, converting a couple of the stalls and maybe an old corn crib into a small apartment with a loft. Through the big open windows, he caught a glimpse of a kitchen on the ground floor and a double-bed with a faded plaid bedspread upstairs.
“And I thought I had an awesome Man Cave,” he said.
Julia jumped, startled, and dropped her sanding pad. “Jesus. Dave,” she breathed, chest heaving. “You scared the shit out of me.”
“Sorry. The lady inside said I would find you out here.” He gestured at the open barn door. “I couldn’t figure out how to knock.”
“Myra.” Julia put a gloved hand on her hip. There was definitely something about a woman in short-shorts and work gloves. “Can I help you with something? I don’t want to be rude but…”
The reason for his visit snapped back to him, along with a touch of the anger he had felt earlier. “Yeah. Listen.” He had an absurd impulse to call her “Mia Mendel’s Mom.” He swallowed. “Julia. I was thinking about our situation with the babysitter. I’m wondering if we can work something out.”
MANDA (M.J.) PULLEN, former therapist and marketer, is the author of complex, funny contemporary romances. She was raised in the suburbs of Atlanta by a physicist and a flower child, who taught her that life is tragic and funny, and real love is anything but simple. She studied English Literature and Business at the University of Georgia, and Professional Counseling at Georgia State University. Manda has a weakness for sappy movies, juicy gossip, craft beer and boys who talk baseball. After traveling around Europe and living in cities like Austin and Portland, she returned to Atlanta where she lives with her family.