The Blind Date

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Maghen was exactly like her mother. Right down to the white tips at the ends of her nails, which she tapped on the table as they finished dessert. Dressed in a fashionable black dress, she'd expressed disapproval of his jeans and hoodie. It was true he might be a little underdressed for the restaurant, but she was certainly overdressed. Then again, Maghen didn't seem to mind standing out. Their table was in the middle of the long, busy, candlelit restaurant, and Hazen had lost track of how many men glanced Maghen's way.

She'd spent dinner talking about the boutique where she'd spent two grand before coming to dinner. Hazen had zoned out but tried to recover by mentioning a brand of shirts he liked. He'd apparently mispronounced the name, and Maghen's expression suggested she thought he was an idiot. That had led to their lengthy silence now.

"So," Hazen tried, "do you read much?"

She perked up. "Yeah, lots. I love Fantasy. Anything with magic, hunky heroes, love triangles, that kind of thing." She took a drink of her wine and tried to look smart. "But I'm so sick of clichés in books these days."

"Like what?"

"You know. Magicians, elves, loyal sidekicks, prophecies of the future."

Hazen flinched. He covered with a chuckle. "Think predicting the future's nonsense, huh?"

Maghen rolled her eye. "It's so overdone."

He reached for his water. "It is annoying when you see them everywhere. But-"

"Right? If a book has a prophecy in it, I stop reading. Or, like if there's a quest or an evil lord or-"

With an exaggerated groan, a dark-skinned, young woman seated behind Maghen turned to face them. "Those aren't necessarily clichés! Those are just things in Fantasy stories! They're tropes. They only become clichés when they're used the same way they've been used hundreds of times. If a writer puts a twist on the trope, the magicians or prophecies or quests or whatever aren't clichés. If you see a trope and automatically stop reading, how will you know if things get more interesting? That's pretty shallow reading, Miss Chick-Lit Critic. It's all subjective, anyway. Some people love tropes that other people think are cliché – you said you like love triangles, which in my opinion-"

"Who asked you?" Maghen made a face at the woman. Then her gaze moved to a notebook beside the woman's wineglass. "Oh. You're a writer, aren't you? You all act like it's so hard." She made an exaggerated eye roll.

Hazen inspected the lone woman. She was his age, around thirty. Her dark hair was buzzed almost as short as his. Her eyes were beautiful. She wore retro gold earrings, which stood out because of her short hair. Her nose held a small gold stud. Her blue, satin shirt and black pants hugged her lean frame.

The woman inhaled to calm herself. "Sorry, but I couldn't sit by and listen anymore. First you order the most expensive thing on the menu – I saw you checking before your date got here. Who does that? Then you go on and on about shopping. Then you judge this poor guy for not being as shallow. And now you act like you're a literary expert. You're entitled to like what you like, but you were hurting my Creative Writing degree's heart when you got all uppity about it. And if you hate clichés so much, you could try to be less of a stereotypical rich girl."

"I don't have to listen to this!" Maghen looked around for the maitre d'. Then she caught Hazen trying not to laugh. "You think this harassment is funny?"

He held up his hands. "I didn't know you'd get so riled up."

"You're not going to defend me?"

"Well, you're being kind of mean. And you didn't seem to need assistance."

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