The Date, the fifth book in my A Keeper Series, is now available! This book features Dani Bennett, who works in marketing for an online dating service called hookamate.com in San Francisco, and Bryce Delaney, the founders of BrideDateBrides.com, also in San Francisco. When Dani is asked by her boss to make an account on their rival's website, she does all she can to make her profile unattractive as possible so no one wants to date her. Unfortunately, that doesn't quite work out the way she planned.
Cover and Blurb
When Dani Bennett lands a new marketing job, she can't wait to prove herself. But her excitement fizzles when her new boss insists she create an online dating profile to spy on the competition. Quitting isn't an option; she needs the money. Now, she must meet the charming guy who's been messaging her. Dani, however, has played this game before. She knows exactly what he's after—what they're all after. It's a good thing she has a foolproof plan to keep her date from being interested in her.
Bryce Delaney works hard to keep scammers from infiltrating his dating website. He'll do anything to keep his clients and his company safe, like asking a potential corporate spy to meet him for coffee. When the woman turns out to be more hobo than hottie, he's intrigued. She has no idea he founded the dating website, and he plans to keep it that way until he can uncover her agenda.
As one date leads to another, sparks fly. Dani knows a relationship built on lies will never work, but she's not the only one with a secret. Will the truth bring her and Bryce closer or send them back online to find someone else to love?
“There’s something you should see.”
Bryce Delaney heard his assistant’s voice, but he didn’t glance up from his computer monitor and the database query he was writing. He didn’t have to.
Joelle Chang would stand two feet from the edge of his walnut-stained desk, holding a manila file folder with a pen—blue ink only to tell the difference on photocopies—tucked behind her ear. Despite her college-girl long hair and trendy clothes, his forty-one-year-old personal assistant was dedicated, thorough, and one hundred percent predictable. Exactly the way he liked things. And people. “I pay you enough to see for me.”
“You wanted to be kept in the loop about security issues.”
Security was a top priority at his website, Blinddatebrides.com. Bryce glanced up. “What’s up?”
Joelle’s gaze darkened with irritation. “Two red flags.”
Seriously? He didn’t need this on top of the other problems they’d been dealing with. Scammers, spammers, hackers, marrieds, the list went on.
“It might mean nothing,” she added.
In the last year, they’d experienced a handful of false alarms. “But it might mean we have a troublemaker on board.”
It wouldn’t be the first time. He’d dealt with escorts, cheats, thieves, and liars. Had charges brought against the criminals when possible, too.
He was determined that no one would take advantage of his customers. Too many people pretended to be someone they weren’t, both in real life and online. He had experience with that. His sister, as well. But Caitlin was more trusting than him. That was why he’d started an online dating—make that a relationship—service: to protect people like her.
“What do you have?” he asked.
Joelle handed him a file. “This client has been a member for over six months. Everything about her appears legit, including her background check.”
“Yes,” Joelle answered. “No filters picked up anything to suggest she’s an escort.”
Those were usually easy to detect since they asked for money in almost every message.
“But the chat filter pinged something, so we did a little investigating,” Joelle said. “The subject spends hours logged on to the site each day, but she hasn’t accepted a date yet, even though her profile has been marked highly compatible with several men.”
Bryce had worked with a psychologist to create an algorithm to match clients based on their interests, backgrounds, and personalities. Chats, based on compatibility, were also arranged with groups of well-matched personalities since many people preferred group interactions to one-on-one. Some clients, though, preferred to peruse the profiles and pick matches themselves.
He opened the file and studied the photo of a woman. The messy blond hair piled on top of her head and secured with a red bandana caught his eye first. Not the most appealing hairstyle. The picture itself was far from flattering. She wasn’t smiling or looking at the camera. Shadows obscured much of her face, though she appeared flushed unless her skin was always red like that. Her profile stated blue eyes, but he couldn’t distinguish the color—or really anything about her.
“The compatibility program matched her?” he asked.
“Yes. With seventeen clients so far. Five contacted her. Others must have seen something they liked because they emailed her, too. She replied to each one, but that was it. No additional correspondence. No chat invites. Nothing.”
“At least she’s following the guidelines about replying to messages, even if you’re not interested in the person.”
He read more in the file. Clients turning down potential dates wasn’t unusual. Bryce remembered a shy woman in particular, but several others had misrepresented themselves. Better to err on the side of caution. “You’ve taken the usual steps?”
Joelle nodded. “Customer service called to discuss her experience. She asked as many questions as they did, and they were on the phone for two hours.”
Another nod. “I contacted her myself after that. She came across as highly intelligent and friendly, but remember that identity thief? Assume no one nice is also harmless.”
“That’s for sure.” Bryce flipped through the other pages in the file. He noticed a familiar zip code. She lived here in San Francisco. Many scammers he’d dealt with were overseas. But this was his home turf. He would be able to follow the prosecution to the end if she were guilty. “Where does she go on the site?”
“Chat rooms, particularly the Ladies Lounge, and private IM chats. She spends most of her time exploring the website. Not client profiles, but the content itself.”
Most people, whether or not they wanted to date, enjoyed checking out the profiles of others in their area. On some internet relationship sites that earned revenue through advertising, anyone could register and search profiles for free. Not on Blinddatebrides.com. Only paying members, who’d filled out a detailed questionnaire and agreed to a background check if they lived in the United States, were able to search the database, read profiles, and contact members.
Joelle continued. “She’s online during normal work hours and late at night. Two different IP addresses have been linked to her account name, depending on the time of day.”
Nothing unusual about that. “Work and home.”
“Seems likely, but few employers would encourage their employees to spend that much time on a dating site while at work.”
“Unless her boss has no idea.” Bryce skimmed the rest of the pages and zeroed in on one of the red flags. She’d said she was a spy during a chat. “Or her employer wants her checking us out.”
The online dating world was a cutthroat one. The competition stole from each other regularly, but pretending to want to meet dates went against the terms of service users agreed to when they joined Blinddatebrides.com. She’d mentioned nothing about her job before saying she was a spy.
“What does she do for a living?” Bryce asked.
“She listed sales as her occupation.”
“That’s too vague, given the list of options to choose from.”
“Red flag number three?”
Bryce nodded. He prided himself on making his website a safe and secure place for his customers to meet and fall in love. His sister’s heart had been broken, and her bank account drained, thanks to the “love” she’d found on a competitor’s site. The guy had turned out to be the exact opposite of what he’d claimed to be. No one would pull a stunt like that on Bryce’s website during his watch. “I’ll get right on it.”
Joelle smiled. “I almost feel sorry for her.”
“Why is that?”
“Because, once you get started, you don’t stop.”
He shrugged. “Just doing my job.”
“Remember, it’s just a job.” She pulled the pen from behind her ear. “Grant is emailing you a file with additional information you might need.”
“Thanks.” As she left the office and closed the door, Bryce stared at the picture in the folder. He glanced at the username. “Who are you, SanFranDani? And what are you doing on my site?”