“Lauren, I barely even know how to use email,” Dina said. “I don’t think this ‘app’ dating, or whatever you call it, is going to work for me.” She flung her phone down on the sofa, and gazed around her cozy, tastefully-decorated apartment. She’d long ago resigned herself to being single, and she’d worked hard at making her surroundings as comfortable as possible. She wasn’t even sure that she wanted to disturb the calm that she’d created for herself.
“Dina, when’s the last time you had a date?” Lauren asked. Her voice was calm, but her eyes were sparkling with amusement.
“Um, there was that time when I went out for dinner with the guy who works at the DHL office,” Dina said.
“And how long ago was that?” Dina counted on her fingers.
“Maybe a year ago?”
“Exactly!” Lauren said, in a tone of satisfaction. “Dina, you can’t sit here alone, night after night, wasting your life, when there are so many great guys out there you could be having fun with.”
“I don’t know. I just feel so inexperienced at the dating game. I thought things were going to be forever between Trey and me. And we met at high school, so we didn’t ever had to deal with any of that artificial, awkward dating stuff.”
“And how many guys did you date before the DHL guy?” Dina joined her thumb and index finger together into an O shape. Lauren stared at her, her huge brown eyes open wide.
“You’re saying you’ve never been on any other dates?” Dina shook her head sheepishly.
“Girl, we have to fix that right now! And you can stop looking like I’m trying to force you to go to the dentist, or something. Dating guys is so much fun,” Lauren said. Dina took a gulp from her glass of white wine.
“I’m too old for this. Internet dating is something kids do. You know, people who actually look good in photos.” Lauren’s eyebrows shot up, halfway to her hairline.
“You have some crazy-ass ideas about things! You’re a stunning, curvy woman. Look at you! And you’re 36; you’re in the prime of life.”
“Yeah, that’s why Trey left me for somebody almost two decades younger than me,” Dina said, her voice sharp with bitterness.
“He left you for an intern in his office, right?” Dina nodded. “Trey left you because he’s a weak man, and he couldn’t handle a strong sexy woman like you. That’s why he was chasing after teenagers. Now, let’s forget about this asshole. He is over with. Will you at least try online dating? I promise you that there are lots of guys out there who will be so excited to meet you!” Dina glanced down at her phone.
“I don’t know. I –” Lauren took Dina’s hand, her eyes soft with compassion.
“Dina, I’m your best friend, and I love you. I wouldn’t be suggesting this if I didn’t think it was a good idea.”
“I know,” Dina said, and let out a long breath. Her hand crept over to her phone and she picked it up again. “Ok, I’ll try it, but just for you. Tell me what I need to do?”
“Great!” Lauren came to life. She was at her best when she was helping people out. She took the phone from Dina and began installing several different apps. When she was done, she showed Dina her handiwork.
“Ok, an app on a phone is just like a button that helps you access a website real fast. So, I’ve installed Matchmakr for you,” she said, pointing with an immaculately-manicured fingernail to a pink icon with a heart on it. “It’s a good app, and lots of people like it. And there’s definitely a lot of guys on there. And this one – ” She pointed at a blue icon with a white wedding cake on it. “It’s called Find the One. It’s a great one for people who know they’re ready to settle down, and are not just casual dating. I haven’t used it myself, but it does have a good reputation. We can look at both of these, but there’s one I just wanted to show you first.” She pointed at an orange icon featuring what looked like an animal paw print, but the pad of the paw was in the shape of a heart. It was called Shiftr. She glanced sideways at Dina, and Dina noticed that her friend seemed unusually tense. Lauren placed her hand on her chest. “Dina, I know in my heart that this is the perfect app for you. But I need to ask you one thing: please be open-minded about what I’m going to show you. Can you promise me that?” Dina stared at her in confusion.
“Sure?” she said, shrugging her shoulders. Lauren pressed a purple-tipped finger on the little icon and the app opened. Dina shuffled closer, her curiosity piqued.
“In a moment, it’s going to ask you to sign up, but first it’ll let you take a sneak peek at a few of the guys.” Lauren selected a couple of options, and suddenly the screen of Dina’s phone was filled with the naked upper body of one of the best looking men she had ever seen.
“Wow!” Dina breathed. The guy’s torso looked like it had been sculpted from marble, every muscle honed to perfection. He had shaggy brown hair, a strong jawline, and sexy eyes in an unusual amber shade. Lauren broke into a grin.
“See what I mean already, huh?” Dina nodded, too stunned to speak. Lauren flicked her thumb upwards, and a second guy filled the screen. He was also bare-chested, and his torso was the equal of the first one. He had dark brown hair, and mischievous-looking pale green eyes. Lauren flicked her thumb up again, and a guy with short black hair appeared. He had a lovely, handsome face, with delicious, chocolate-brown eyes, short black hair and a hint of a goatee. He had a sturdier body than their previous two, and his muscles looked powerful and meaty, like he did heavy, manual work for a living. “Girl, you’re practically salivating,” Lauren said, with a wicked cackle.
“It’s just that I’ve never seen guys this hot in real life before,” Dina said weakly. “But why are you showing them to me? They’re way out of my league.” Lauren shook her head.
“You are so deluded. Ok, I’m going to show you something else now,” she said, and swiped her thumb left on the phone’s screen.
“What?” Dina said, frowning in confusion at the large black bear now filling the screen. Ignoring her, Lauren swiped back up to the brown-haired guy. She flicked her thumb to the left and there was now a big cat in his place. It was black, and green-eyed, and it looked coolly at the camera from its position up high in a tree. Was it a jaguar? Dina wondered dazedly, before Lauren swiped up to the first guy. Again, her thumb moved left, and the shaggy-haired guy was replaced by a large gray wolf, with amber eyes.
“What, so all these guys are nature lovers, or something?” Dina said. Lauren pressed her lips together.
“In a manner of speaking,” she replied. “Did you notice that all of the guys look a little like the corresponding animals on their profiles?”
“Yeah! I guess they do, actually. So the photos are included in their profile to demonstrate their wild side?” Dina said.
“Pretty much. But it’s more than that.” Lauren swallowed. “Dina, what I’m about to tell you is going to sound real crazy, but please bear with me, and don’t freak out.”
“These guys are all shape shifters. This means that they are half human and half animal, and they can shift between their human and animal sides at will.” Dina’s mouth fell open.
“This is a joke, right?” she said. Lauren shook her head.
“No, it’s for real. It’s a real site, and these guys are genuine shape shifters.” Dina struggled for words.
“This is total nonsense!” she managed at last. “Lauren, you’re the smartest person I’ve ever met. How can you take this crap seriously?”
“I know this site is genuine, because it’s how I met Connor,” Lauren said. “Ok, look.” She rummaged in her purse and pulled out her own phone. Dina watched as she tapped an identical paw print icon on the screen and the app opened. The first thing they saw was a photo of Lauren’s handsome boyfriend. He was posed in a forest, leaning on a tree trunk, and he was also bare chested. Lauren swiped her thumb to the left, and in his place was a dark brown bear. Dina gaped.
“You’re telling me that Connor is half man, half bear?”
“Yep!” Lauren said, her voice full of pride.
“I’m sorry, Lauren, but this is obviously a made-up story. You don’t think he might be a bit of a fantasist?”
“I know it’s true, because I’ve seen him in his bear form,” Lauren said calmly.
“But, what? How?” Dina stammered.
“I knew he was a bear shifter, of course, since we met through the site. And, after a couple of dates, I was dying to see the other side to him. I realized that if I only ever saw him as a man, I was only getting half of him. One day, we went on a picnic in the forest, and he shifted for me. He stripped off his clothes, and one minute there was this hot naked man standing in front of me, and the next minute, there was a huge bear in his place. It was really cool.”
Dina took Lauren’s phone from her and swiped back to Connor, and then to the bear again, and back to Connor. As with the other guys she’d seen, the bear really did look quite a lot like Connor.
“This is the craziest thing ever,” she said. “But why haven’t I already heard that there are all these guys everywhere that are half animal?”
“Because there really aren’t that many, and it’s a closely guarded secret,” Lauren said. “When you sign up to the site, you have to sign a declaration that you won’t tell anyone about shape shifters until you’ve found your match. And then, you’re allowed to tell one person only, once they’ve been pre-approved by the site owners.”
“You had me pre-approved?”
“Yes!” Lauren replied, the edges of her lips curving with mischief. “You’re my best friend, and I knew this would be perfect for you, so you were my first choice.”
“But, how did you get me approved?”
“I vouched for your character, of course, saying what a sassy, cool, warm-hearted woman you are. And I sent them a photo.” Dina’s heart jumped into her throat. She had a deep aversion to having her photo taken, to the point that she’d never even look at photos of herself.
“Which photo?” she asked, her voice taut.
“This one!” Lauren located it on her phone, and Dina forced herself to look. From the long red dress she was wearing, she deduced that it was from the last Hope Valley winter ball. But she had no recollection that the picture had been taken. As usual, she zeroed in on the things she hated about her appearance, like the fact that she was six inches taller than most of the other women there, and her huge boobs and wide hips. But, she had to admit, her hair looked pretty good; her black curls were tumbling around her shoulders, and she was smiling. Her smile was the thing she liked best about her looks.
“This photo got me approved to the site?” she asked incredulously.
“Yes! You look stunning,” Lauren said loudly. “Don’t even think about criticizing your appearance!” Lauren pressed another button on her phone. “Look!” she thrust an email message in front of Dina’s face. It said:
Thank you so much for sending this beautiful girl to us! She’s so gorgeous and curvy. We’d absolutely love to have her on the site. I can tell the shifters will all be fighting for her the second she sets her profile up, so warn her to be well prepared!
How are things going with Connor? I just knew he’d be the perfect match for you!
Excited to hear from you!
Love and licks,
“Wow!” Dina said, short of anything else to say.
“Shifters love curvy women like us,” Lauren said. “Connor says it’s the most perfect match imaginable – a rough, rugged shifter, and a strong, voluptuous woman. Kind of makes sense doesn’t it?” she bumped shoulders with Dina. “And I can tell you, hun, my curves have never been worshipped like this before, in all my life!”
Dina’s head was swimming with all the things she’d just heard. Sense told her the whole thing was crazy. But Lauren was not the kind of person who’d make things up. Was it possible that maybe, just maybe, there were guys out there who would appreciate her body? Who would not see her as second best? A tiny bubble of excitement bounced around inside her at the thought. She picked her phone up and looked at the first guy again. His sexy brown eyes seemed to be imploring her to get in contact with him. She swiped left to see his animal form again, and a message popped up on the screen: Please register to continue locating your perfect match!
“You’ve got to sign up now to be able to access the profiles,” Lauren said, looking over her shoulder. “Let me help you.” She took the phone out of Dina’s hand. “I want to make sure you describe yourself at your best. Let me see – ” She began typing. “Female. Height – 5’10?” Dina nodded. “Hair – black. Eyes – hazel.” Lauren peered into Dina’s eyes. “Or green, depending on the light. Hobbies?” She looked at Dina expectantly.
“Tutoring vulnerable kids,” Dina said. “Interior design, dancing, hiking.”
“Good,” Lauren muttered as she typed. “And eating out.”
“No, don’t put that,” Dina said.
“Dina, you love eating out. Your passion for food is a really good quality; don’t be embarrassed about it. These guys aren’t looking for some yoga freak, who exists on a diet of lettuce. They’re looking for real women, with real curves, and real appetites, like us. Connor says my appetite is one of the sexiest things about me!”
“Ok, I’ll take your word for it,” Dina said, with a sigh.
“Now, tell me what you’re looking for in a guy.” Dina leaned back on the sofa and stared up at the ceiling.
“I don’t know. Someone kind, caring, smart, who appreciates an independent woman. Someone who’s passionate about what they do, no matter what it is. It’d be quite cool to be with a guy who works with his hands, but it’d be ok if he worked in an office, I guess.” Lauren chuckled.
“Shifters aren’t known for spending their lives cooped up in offices. There might be a couple of species that are ok with it, I guess, but most of them have physical jobs, like being craftsmen, lumberjacks, engineers, firefighters etc.” Dina’s eyes went dreamy.
“I’ve always fantasized about being with a guy who’s a firefighter,” she said. “They’re so brave.”
“Well, if you like, once we’re done with your profile, we can search by firefighters,” Lauren said, with a laugh. “What else?”
“A guy who wants a family, eventually,” Dina said.
“Oh, that’s a given. These shifters are all looking for their lifelong mate.”
“Mate? What?” Dina yelped. Lauren fixed her deep brown eyes on Dina.
“If you get together with a shifter, you’re not just boyfriend and girlfriend, or husband and wife, you’re mates, and that’s something really special. It’s a very strong, unbreakable bond, which will unite the two of you on a deeper level than is possible between two mere humans. It guarantees you everlasting love and protection,” she said. Dina shivered.
“It sounds like the daydreams I used to have when I was a little girl,” she said.
“Exactly! Who didn’t have those daydreams?” Lauren replied. “It was just a bit of a let-down when we all grew up and discovered that guys were more into lying around watching the game and drinking beer than getting the most out of a relationship. But Connor’s not like that. He’s so caring and attentive, and loves doing things in a couple. Family means everything to him.”
Lauren had finished typing her latest entry. “Ok. Is there anything else you want to add about what you’re looking for in a guy?”
“I don’t think so,” Dina said.
“Is there any species you’re not willing to consider?”
“Umm, I don’t know?” Lauren laughed.
“Of course you don’t. This is all new to you. It’s ok, we can add this bit later if you like. Now, you’re supposed to describe yourself in five words, but I’m going to do this bit for you.” Dina tried to grab her phone, but Lauren held it well away from her.
“Smart, funny, caring, sassy and warm-hearted. Right, that’ll do.” She stood up. “I’m going to use the photo of you in the red dress, but I’m going to take a couple of face shots too. Look at me.” Before Dina could think twice, she was gazing up at her friend, and Lauren snapped several shots. “Perfect!” she said triumphantly. She sat down again, and Dina watched as she hit ‘upload’ and ‘create profile’. An egg timer showed on the screen for a few seconds, and then, bam! There it was – Dina’s complete, brand new profile. The full body shot was the main photo, and all her details were underneath.
“Where are the other photos?” she asked. Lauren swiped left, and a close-up of Dina’s face appeared. Dina peered at it anxiously. The light from the window was shining right in her eyes, so they looked really green, you could see the scattering of freckles across her nose, and her lips looked nice and full. The way she was looking right up at the camera made her seem a little mysterious, as if she had a secret she was bursting to tell. She actually looked pretty cute, she admitted to herself.
“Sexy chica!” Lauren said.
“Not too bad,” Dina said, blushing. Just then, a fluorescent pink heart popped onto the screen. Lauren gave a little scream.
“Oh my god, you’ve got an alert already! That has to be a record, girl!”
“What do I do?” Dina said, adrenaline fizzing in her stomach.
“Tap it, of course!” Dina tapped the heart with her finger, and the graphic burst like a balloon, leaving a message in its place: Want to find out if we’re a match? it said, and it was followed by a happy face and a sad face icon.
“Ooh, he looks interesting,” Lauren said, frowning at the thumbnail of the guy who’d sent it. “Click on his photo.” Dina tapped again, and a photo of a stocky, muscular guy filled the screen. He had messy, dark brown hair, with the slightest hint of red, and a wide, angular face.
“He’s really hot, but there’s something a little arrogant about his smile,” Dina said.
“I agree,” Lauren replied. “It says he plays ice hockey, but when he’s not doing that, he loves lounging around, watching movies. Mmm, I don’t think that’s the kind of guy I’d get on with. Let’s see what kind of shifter he is.” Dina flicked her thumb and a lion appeared, sauntering along a forest trail. “I knew it!” Lauren said. “I’ve heard on the grapevine that lion-shifters don’t have an easy time finding human mates because of their very ‘particular’ personalities.”
“Yeah,” Dina said, biting her lip. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, because he’s insanely attractive, but I don’t feel like he’s the one for me. But how should I tell him?”
“Just tap the sad face icon, and he’ll understand.”
“That seems a little harsh.”
“No,” Lauren said firmly. “Shifters are very straightforward. One thing they don’t do is play games. They understand that finding someone you’re perfectly suited to is super important.”
“Ok,” Dina said slowly, and tapped the icon. Immediately, the lion’s profile disappeared.
“You won’t see him again now,” Lauren said. “That’s what’s so great about this site. You don’t have to scroll past the same old faces again and again. If you say no thanks to someone, they disappear, and if you see a profile you don’t like when you’re searching, you just swipe right, and they also disappear.”
“That’s so neat!” Dina said.
“Ok, this is the fun part. Tap ‘search’ and you’ll start to see the profiles. You can order them by certain criteria, or you can just go random.”
“I’ll do that,” Dina said, tapping ‘random search’. A photo of a lean, black-haired guy filled the screen. He had powerful shoulders, and a muscular torso with narrow hips, forming a classic triangle shape. His worn blue jeans sat low on his hips, revealing those diagonal grooves of muscle that drove Dina crazy with lust.
“Wooh, he’s hot!” Dina said. He had a nice face, with a strong jaw and firm lips, but there was something reticent in his eyes.
“What kind of shifter do you think he is?” Lauren said.
“Mmm, something canine, definitely. A coyote? Or a wolf?”
“My guess is wolf,” Lauren said. Dina swiped left, and a wolf appeared, pale gray in color, with blue-green eyes. “Wolves are an interesting one. Because they live in packs, they have this really strict hierarchy. My guess, from the look of him, is that he’s an omega, so will be of low status in his pack.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“No, not at all. It might mean that he’s a very soft and devoted mate. It just depends on what you’re into. Do you feel a connection when you look at him?” Dina shook her head.
“No. It’s weird, but it’s like I’ve got a voice in my head saying no.”
“That was my experience when I was on the app too. With shifters, it seems that you just know whether they’re suited to you.”
“So, I’m going to swipe right, so I don’t see his profile again?” Dina said. Lauren nodded, Dina’s thumb flicked right, and he was gone.
The next guy had a shock of light blond hair that flowed down to his pecs, an unusual, angular face, and a sensitive, slightly wild look in his eyes. His muscles were long and lean, and his olive skin glistened, as if he’d just gotten home from a run.
“Is he a horse?” Dina murmured.
“Let’s find out!” He was indeed a horse – a large, pale golden animal, with a broad white stripe running down the center of his face. His mane was exactly the same color as his hair. “He looks interesting,” Lauren said.
“He looks like he’d be a lot of work to tame,” Dina said with a giggle. “Maybe I’ll leave him for later.” She swiped down to the next guy.
Every few seconds, a message alert popped up.
“Wow! All these guys want to speak to me?” Dina exclaimed.
“Of course they do!” Lauren said. “But how about we have a little fun seeing what’s out there first, before we find out who’s fighting for your attention?” She temporarily disabled the alerts and refilled their wine glasses, and they hunched over Dina’s phone, going from one guy to the next, to the next. The guys all had amazing bodies, with great muscle tone, and striking good looks, but beyond that, they couldn’t have been more different.
It quickly turned into a game of ‘guess the animal’. Most of the guys turned out to be wolf, bear, big cat, or stallion shifters, but there were also beavers, foxes, deer, and even seals and dolphins.
“This is so much fun,” Dina said. “I feel like a kid in a candy store!” Lauren looked at her friend with affection, thrilled that she was enjoying herself so much. She’d known she wouldn’t regret making Dina the one she shared the shifter secret with.
“What’s the deal with shifters that live in the water?” Dina said, shuddering as she flipped between a photo of a surfer with long, tangled blond hair, and a shark. “How does that work?” Lauren laughed.
“I guess you’ll have to move to whichever beach town they live in, so they always have easy access to water!” she said. Dina kept staring at the shark photo. “I just can’t see myself with a shark-guy,” she said.
“Don’t worry about it!” Lauren replied. “There are plenty of other options out there. What kind of shifters are you drawn to?” Dina flicked through a few more profiles while she was thinking.
“Well, the big cats are hot, but I get the feeling that they’re too independent. I’ve always been more of a dog person,” she broke off with a giggle. “Sorry, that was a terrible thing to say. The wolves are sexy, and I like the whole idea of being protected, but that hierarchy thing is probably a bit too much for me. But the bears – there’s something lovable about them.” She scrolled up to the last bear shifter she’d been. “They all seem to have these big, sturdy bodies, with meat on their bones. That’s what I really love in a man, to be honest.”
“Me too!” Lauren said. “When I first saw Connor, it was a no-brainer. I visualized those strong arms wrapping around me, pulling me against his hairy chest, and I just melted! Bear shifters are known for being reliable, protective and warm-hearted. They love the outdoors, and going hiking on weekends.”
“That sounds so perfect for me,” Dina said with a grin.
“Ok, if you like, we can change the options, so you only see bears?” Lauren offered.
“Yes, let’s!” Lauren took the phone, unticked several boxes and handed it back to Dina.
“You know, I think I really liked the very first bear-guy we saw, you know, the one with black hair and brown eyes. I felt an instant connection when I looked at his photo. How can we find him again?”
“Umm, we’ll have to search for him,” Lauren said regretfully. “The first three profiles the app showed you were just a teaser to get you interested, so his profile could be anywhere on the site.”
“Damnit! It’s going to be such a hard job scrolling though all these sexy bear shifters to look for him,” Dina said, with a glint in her eye. Lauren picked up the bottle of wine.
“Well it looks like we’re all out of wine, so how about I leave you to your search, while I go down to the store and get us another bottle?”
“Sounds like a great plan!” Dina said. “Let’s order pizza too!”
“Definitely, girl! You know what I like,” Lauren said, picking up her purse and skipping out of the apartment.
Dina ordered a meat feast supreme with extra jalapeños, and a quattro formaggio, and returned to scrolling. She was almost going cross-eyed from the parade of insanely hot guys being presented to her, one after another, and she was worried that she’d miss the one she was looking for, lost among so many other sexy man-bears. But, suddenly – there he was!
“My goodness!” she exclaimed. Her soft pink lips curled into a smile as she stared at his photo. There was no way she could’ve missed him. He had those deep brown eyes, like dark pools you could get lost in, and his goatee was so sexy. She had a real weakness for light beards; there was something so rugged and masculine about them. His body was something else. His chest was broad and deep, with well-developed pecs, and his arms were strong and meaty. He had nice abs, but he looked like a guy who really enjoyed his food, rather than a scrawny gym bunny. His skin was deeply tanned, and he had a sexy scattering of hair, beginning on his chest, and running all the way down to the top button of his faded blue jeans. His hip bones were just visible, and he had a red lumberjack shirt tied around his waist. Dina read his profile, her excitement growing by the second. It said he worked as a wood carver and volunteer firefighter; he lived out by the national park; he loved eating out, cooking at home, hiking, and playing with his two nephews. He’d love to meet a tall, voluptuous woman, with an adventurous spirit and a love of life. She could hardly restrain herself from getting up and bouncing around the room. He was just too perfect! At the bottom of his profile was a pink heart. What does this mean? She muttered, tapping it at the same time. As before, the graphic popped to reveal the message: Want to find out if we’re a match? Without hesitating for even a second, she tapped the happy face icon.
At that moment, Lauren hurtled back into the apartment with the wine.
“You’re not going to believe what’s happened!” Dina exclaimed. Lauren opened the wine in the kitchen and brought it through to the living room.
“What?” she said.
“The bear guy’s contacted me already!”
“Let me see!” Lauren snatched the phone out of her hand. “Oh my god, he messaged you within ten minutes of us completing your profile. Let’s see what he said:
Hi, there. This is the first time I’ve messaged anyone on the app, but when I saw you, I knew I couldn’t let you pass by. You’re so beautiful, and you seem so genuine and good-hearted. But it wasn’t just that: I felt such a strong connection when I looked at your profile, that I’m desperate to find out if we’re fated to be together.
Hoping to hear from you,
“Wow!” Dina breathed.
“He felt the same connection with you! This is awesome,” Lauren said. “Shifters have destined mates, like, the one they’re supposed to meet, and they devote their lives to finding them. It sounds like you might be his!” Dina’s tummy tingled with excitement.
“But how is that possible?”
“No-one knows how. It’s just the way it happens,” Lauren said, but the end of her sentence was drowned out by the doorbell ringing. “I’ll get it,” she said, and headed downstairs again to pick up the pizza.
Dina stared at the guy’s photo, thinking of what she was going to say to him. This was all so crazy. He wasn’t playing it cool, like she expected guys to, and she felt like she owed him the same directness. While she was deliberating, she decided to see what he looked like as a bear again. She placed her thumb over his photo and swiped to the right.
“Huh?” she muttered. Instead of a photo of a bear, she was looking at the main list of profiles again. What have I done? I must have slipped off his profile somehow. She scrolled up and down, searching for it.
“These pizzas smell A-mazing!” Lauren yelled, coming through the door. She deposited them on the coffee table, opened both boxes, grabbed a piece, and immediately began eating. After a couple of seconds, she glanced at Dina.
“What’s the matter, honey? Why aren’t you eating?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I lost the bear-guy’s profile somehow.”
“What? What did you do?” Lauren shuffled closer, still chewing.
“I just wanted to see him as a bear again, so I swiped his photo, and he disappeared.”
“You swiped that way?”
“That’s right, honey. That’s what you do when you don’t want to see someone’s profile again.” Dina’s mouth fell open.
“I did swipe right! My gosh! I’m such an idiot! What do I do to get him back? Tell me quick!”
“Oh, god!” Lauren said. She ate the final bite of the first slice of pizza and wiped her hands on a napkin.
“Go ahead and eat. I’ll try to figure it out,” she said, snatching the phone from Dina’s fingers.
“I can’t find him,” she said, ten minutes later. “That’s how this app works. Swipe right and they’re gone for good.”
“No! Me and my clumsy fingers! Dina said with a groan.” How could I have been so dumb?”
“Hey, stop,” Lauren said. “It’s an easy mistake to make, especially for someone who’s not used to using apps. I shouldn’t have let you loose on it without supervision.”
“I have to find him, Lauren! There has to be a way! I’m serious. This guy is so hot, and he’s interested in me, and we might even be destined to be together. Not that I’m sure that I believe in this whole destiny concept. And now he’s going to think that I don’t even like him!” Dina’s voice was becoming tight and panicky.
“Calm down, honey,” Lauren said, squeezing her shoulder. “There’ll be a way to find him. I’ll send Tamika a message, describing him, and hopefully she’ll know who he is, and then she’ll be able to put you in touch with him.”
“Really?” Dina said, eyes shining with hope. “Do you think that’ll work?”
“With a bit of luck,” Lauren said, licking her fingers. By now, they’d demolished both pizzas. She quickly typed out a message to Tamika on her phone, then flung herself back on the sofa with her glass of wine. “Now let’s chill, and check out some more of these sexy shifters.”
“I think I’ve made my choice already,” Dina said.
“But you don’t know for sure that you’re going to be compatible. And it would be a shame to limit yourself in the meantime,” Lauren said.
They looked through another 20 or 30 bear-shifter profiles. They were all gorgeous, but, for Dina, none of them matched up to the first guy. Then they went through her alerts. There were 15 different shifters wanting to find out if they could be a match for her.
“I don’t know about some of these guys,” Dina said. “But I have to admit, it’s doing plenty for my self-confidence!”
“That’s my girl,” Lauren said. Dina went through and said no thanks to the non-bear shifters. She had set her heart on a big, furry guy, and that was all she wanted right now. Two alerts remained– one from a blond guy who was a polar-bear shifter, and one from a grizzly-bear shifter.
“Click on the alerts and look at the messages they’ve sent you!” Lauren said excitedly. Dina’s finger hovered over them.
“I feel like I really want to wait and see if Tamika can find the first guy for me. I just have to know first,” she said. “Can I wait to reply to the alerts?”
“Of course,” Lauren said. If they think you might be their fated mate, they’ll wait for as long as it takes.”
Lauren was starting to yawn.
“Home-time for me,” she said. “I’ve got a sleepy bear waiting for me in bed. I’ll let you know what Tamika says as soon as I hear from her.”
“Thank you so much for tonight,” Dina said. “Goodnight, hun.” They hugged each other, and Dina waved Lauren goodbye at the door. She stood on the doorstep, watching Lauren’s retreating figure until she was out of sight. She was envious that her friend was going home to a big sexy man who’d take care of her. Normally her envy would have been a sharp, bitter pain deep in her stomach, a gnawing fear that she’d never find the right guy for herself. But tonight she had a sliver of hope that there could be someone out there for her. She brushed her teeth and climbed in between clean sheets, and fell asleep dreaming of a black-haired, muscular man with the most delicious deep brown eyes.