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While most of the other attendees had rushed out of the bar—likely hoping to put as much distance between them and their supposed 'matches' as possible—Hailey walked up the rickety stairs of the bar to see the weather outside had taken a nosedive while she'd been forced into being social. Through the windows, she could see snow gusts howling and traffic moving at a snail's pace, so instead of trying to trudge back to her apartment or wait forever for an Uber, Hailey pulled out one of the open seats at the bar and settled in.

The place wasn't busy at all, likely due to the weather and the fact it was just passed eight on a Sunday night, but the few people who were there seemed to be coupled up and enjoying their drinks in the booths.

Which suited Hailey just fine; she'd had enough interactions with strangers for the night.

"So, what can I get you?" the bartender asked, lifting his eyebrow after realizing he'd made her jump.

"Sorry," Hailey said shaking her head, quickly scanning the cocktail menu posted behind him. "Um, can I get a raspberry mojito with lime?"

The bartender nodded, taking no time at all to whip up the delicious pink drink. Placing it in front of her in a frosted glass, she took a sip while handing over a few bills, sighing with thanks as he let her be. Alone with her cocktail, she pulled her e-reader out of her purse and clicked open the holiday romance novel she'd started earlier that morning and was already falling in love with.

It was steamy, heartwarming, and full of holiday joy. Pretty much the exact opposite of Hailey's own life at the moment, but it brought her happiness nonetheless.

That was, until she heard the stool next to her scrape against the hardwood floor and was drawn out of her happily-ever-after land.

Annoyed, she turned towards the intruder with a scowl. "Did you really—" Biting her tongue as she recognized the mystery man from earlier this evening, the one she unfortunately hadn't been paired up with, Hailey's features softened. "Oh, sorry. I, uh, didn't realize you stuck around."

"I hadn't meant to," he replied, rubbing his hands together. His cheeks were red from the cold and a few snowflakes yet to melt speckled his hair. "I thought I'd wait outside for my roommate to pick me up, but he just messaged letting me know his car won't start. So, I thought I'd grab a beer while I wait for my Uber to show up."

"Smart call."

Nodding in agreement, still appearing to be warming up, the man asked the bartender for a Guinness before turning his attention back towards Hailey. "I'm Elliott, by the way."


"Beautiful name for a beautiful woman," he said smoothly, the corner of his lips curving upwards as he accepted his beer and took a swig.

Hailey couldn't help but roll her eyes with amusement. "Nice line, casanova."

"Thanks, I try," Elliott mused before gesturing down at her e-reader. "Reading anything good?"

"I don't know," she trailed off, deliberately being flirty (which was so not her thing) as her gaze locked on his. "How do you feel about a woman in her mid-twenties visiting her family over the holidays and falling in love with the new man next door?"

Elliott's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Romance lover?"

"One hundred percent."

"Nice. My sister and mom love those kinds of books," he said. "Not personally a fan, but I've been known to sneak a peek every so often and flip to the sex scenes."

A laugh bubbled from Hailey's lips. "Somehow, I'm not surprised."

"Gotta get the inside information any way I can, you know." Elliott's grin was hidden as he took a long swig from his beer. "But I'm guessing since you're here alone with a book, tonight didn't go too well?"

"Not even remotely," Hailey admitted, sipping at her own cocktail. "I'm honestly questioning how Mixr's servers ended up matching people off tonight. Like, did they just see who RSVP'd and then randomly paired us up with someone in the age and gender range we were looking for?"

"Considering I had probably the same amount of luck you had tonight, I wouldn't be surprised."

"Oh?" Hailey quirked a brow. "Did you also get a wedding invitation?"

Elliott's eyes widened momentarily before he chuckled. "Uh, no, can't say I did. But I definitely got my fair share of women who were either overly nervous or just not my type."

"And what is your type?"

"Looks wise, I wouldn't say I'm picky, but when it comes to personality, I feel like I vibe best with people who are introverted extroverts." His gaze dropped to the bar momentarily, taking in Hailey's e-reader before sweeping quickly back up her body. "Women who are a bit shy but can hold a conversation, and who are brave enough to sit alone in a bar and read."

Hailey felt heat spread across her cheeks, not at all oblivious to the fact he was alluding to her. "Well—" She bit her bottom lip. "—that leaves your options pretty open then."

Elliott's phone chimed with a notification and he quickly finished off the rest of his beer before grabbing a napkin off the bar top. Waving the bartender over to ask for a pen, he quickly scribbled something down.

"My Uber's pulling up, but here." He slid the napkin with his cell number over to Hailey, the corners of his lips turning upwards. "If you want to grab a coffee or another drink, I wouldn't say no."

"You don't think that's a little dangerous?" Hailey asked, half joking and half serious. "After all, we weren't exactly matched up tonight."

"I'm willing to take the chance," he replied, sliding out of his seat, "so just let me know if you are."

Hailey stayed silent as Elliott left the bar and headed out into the snowy, winter night, once again leaving her alone in the bar. Though this time, as she turned her attention back to her book, she couldn't do away with the small smile on her lips.

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