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Matching Mr. Right

By´╝ÜTamra Baumann


CHAPTER ONE

“Chester the monkey never meant to be bad . . . he just couldn’t seem to help it.”

Chester’s Very Bad Day

Shelby Marx narrowed her eyes, studying the man seated across from her. If he hired her to enhance his online dating image, she’d use words in his profile like tall, rugged, outdoorsman and sports enthusiast, because a body like his didn’t come from a gym. His dark hair had subtle streaks of red from the sun, and his arresting blue eyes bored straight into one’s soul.

Perfection—except for a slight bump on the bridge of his nicely proportioned nose. Probably broken in one of his manly pursuits. He’d be considered a ten on any woman’s scale.

“So, why should I use your little online service when there are so many other options, Ms. Marx?”

Until he spoke.

Arrogance dropped Nick Caldwell’s rating to a six. He’d been brusque and held a distinctly disinterested air from the moment they shook hands.

Ignoring his remark about her “little online service” she said, “I’m the best.” She slid her brochure across the table and beamed a confident smile. “Why settle for less?”

He grunted in a caveman-like way before his dark-haired head lowered to study the brochure she’d designed for her matchmaking business, Cyrano at Your Service.

While waiting for his next rude response, Shelby drew in the rich aromas of coffee and buttery goodness as she studied the crowded café her best friend, Joann, had opened nine months earlier. Shelby’s investment in Confections and Coffee gave her a forty percent ownership in the company. Maybe soon she’d start seeing some returns in actual dollars rather than in free coffee and turkey sandwiches. Then she could focus on writing children’s books full time, and convincing the man she’d loved since she was fourteen to quit regarding her as nothing more than his little sister’s best friend. Unrequited love stunk. But that would end soon, because she had a plan.

“Let me get this straight,” the cave dweller spoke, drawing her attention back to their meeting. “I spend all night filling out a questionnaire that you’ll use to tweak my online dating profiles, showing me in the best possible light. You filter the responses and arrange dates for the most promising women. And then, if I pay extra, you accompany me on the first meet? Like Cyrano? Standing in the bushes whispering words to help me woo a woman?” Laughing, he tossed the brochure aside.

His smile showed off perfect, straight, white teeth. He was a walking, and unfortunately talking, cliché. It just wasn’t fair. Some of that perfection should’ve been spread around.

She sighed. “Standing in bushes isn’t my idea of fun, so I usually opt to sit at a nearby table. By using tiny Bluetooth devices, I can listen to the conversation and then give my clients advice, helping them avoid those nasty lulls. But I don’t think a guy like you would be interested in that part of my service.”

His eyes narrowed. “What kind of guy do you think I am?”

Rude and stuck-up came to mind.

“Confident. I won’t know what you’re looking for in a woman until you spend all night filling out my form, but you don’t strike me as someone who’s seriously looking for his soul mate.”

“Soul mate?” He snorted. “You’re one of those?” He leaned closer and a wave of expensive, spicy aftershave filled the narrow space between them. “I’ll bet you dream of the knight on a white charger who’ll sweep you away to his castle so you can live happily ever after.”

Yup, and her knight’s name was Doctor Gregory Westin. He was due to return from a two-year stint with Doctors Without Borders next week. But the horse and castle she could live without. That’d just be overkill.

Shelby lifted her chin. “So, Mr. Caldwell, if you’re not in search of true love, why are you here? My website and brochure say nothing about providing pimp or escort services.”

He chuckled and leaned back in his chair. Studying her closely, he took a long sip from his coffee cup, as if contemplating the State of the union   rather than the answer to her simple question.

After sampling a bite of the chocolate chip cookie Shelby provided for all her first meetings, his eyes widened. “That’s damned good!”

She half-expected him to say “ugh” or beat his chest in approval. Instead, Nick finished the cookie off in three normal-sized bites, then wiped his mouth on his napkin.

At least he had nice table manners.

“I don’t need help in the sex department, Ms. Marx. I’m a realist. I’m not expecting to find love, just someone compatible who I can enjoy spending time with. I work a lot and have limited time to date.” Then he shot her what seemed like his first genuine smile all day. “But if you’re unattached . . . maybe we could just skip that long questionnaire?”

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