Dee was the perfect combination, beautiful and warm-hearted. She’d had had one or two boyfriends, nothing too serious but she wasn’t short of admirers. Indeed at times it had become a bit of a pest but she was determined to wait until the right person came along. She always managed to say no politely and without offence.

Dee felt that if she had had a boyfriend then she wouldn’t be too keen on the idea of the date and, if she was being honest, a little bit miffed by the thought that Brian had just assumed she wasn’t seeing anyone. But the competition was for a worthy cause and it might turn into a good story for her. Dee was ambitious enough to know that her cuttings book could be a vital asset in her next career move.

Brian had also assured her that all she had to do was share a meal with the ‘date’, pose for a few photographs and then say goodbye.

He went to great lengths to convince her that there would be nothing tacky about the project.

“Don’t worry love,everything will be done very properly. We’ve booked you in for a meal at the Manor Hotel, it’s the poshest in town. And Graham will be in tow all evening, he’ll be your chaperone.”

The idea was that Graham, the Gazette’s chief photographer, would be keeping a watching eye from a discreet distance and would take photos at the beginning and end of the meal and then take Dee home afterwards.

Graham was a 6ft 3in, gruff, bearded Scotsman in his mid-40s, who looked like the sort of rugby player who bit off ears just for fun.

Some colleagues felt he lacked a sense of humour but Dee had always enjoyed going out on jobs with him and she knew he would look after her.

After the deadline for entries passed, Brian made the draw with Dee at his side in the centre of the newsroom. Graham was poised just in front of them to take the appropriate photo.

By this time there were five bins full so all the entries were turfed out into a giant pile on a table normally reserved for kettles, cups, teabags etc. Everyone was astonished at the response.

Brian made a big show of delving around amongst the entries before plucking one off the table to announce: “And the winner is – Damien Wallace.”

“Oh my God” was the screech which echoed around the newsroom. Only it wasn’t Claire, this time it was Dee.

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