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The Matchmaker's Playbook

By:Rachel van Dyken

CHAPTER ONE

The tea? Cinnamon.

The coffee shop? Secluded. Dark. Inviting.

The girl? Late.

And not just fashionably late, but the type of late that had me thinking she was going to be a no-show, which was common for a first meeting. At least 15 percent of our clients were no-shows. It was nerves. And fear that our system wouldn’t work for them and they’d be in worse shape than before.

The wood chair creaked as I leaned back and examined the small shop. A year ago people would have asked for my autograph. Then again, a year ago I had just been drafted by the Seattle Seahawks.

I rubbed my knee self-consciously as the aching pain returned, causing a raw edge of irritation to burn through my chest.

I checked my watch again, biting my cheek in annoyance.

Twenty-three minutes late.

With a sigh, I reached for my tea one last time, drawing out the sip as I peered over the cup. Two more minutes and I was leaving.

The glass door shot open, the bell nearly clanging to the floor as it slammed against a nearby chair. A small mousy girl with plain brown hair stumbled through; her pale skin turned crimson as she touched her cheeks and nervously glanced around the room.

Most would give her a passing glance.

But I wasn’t most.

I stared.

Hard.

When her fidgety eyes finally settled on me, she blushed even deeper. It wasn’t unattractive, just very telling.

I pushed my chair back and stood.

I had a feeling she wanted to run.

They were always nervous. Which was expected. Besides, I knew what I looked like. I wasn’t being vain, just drawing a logical mathematical conclusion after adding how many times I’d gotten laid to how many times I’d been asked if I was an underwear model.

Chiseled? Check.

Caramel-blond hair that somehow managed to look wavy and thick all the damn time? Check.

One dimple on the right side of my cheek? Check.

Sexy crooked smile? Check.

Rugged badass-looking scar near my chin? Check.

Smoldering hazel eyes? Check.

And don’t even get me started on penis size. Really, it just gets better the farther south your eyes go—trust me.

She took a faulty step backward, colliding with the magazine rack. Several copies of the Seattle Weekly went flying across the floor.

With a flutter of busyness, she bent down.

Her jeans ripped at the knees.

Yeah, I was going to have to rescue her. She was already a danger to herself.

With a patient sigh, I slowly walked from my seat and approached her. Lowering to her level, I peered over at the newspapers, calmly collected every last one, and stood.

She was frozen.

It happened. Often. And unfortunately, it was a huge time-waster. Because my business? It was flourishing, and time was my currency.

She was late.

Meaning she was wasting not just my time, but my money. Typically, I met my clients elsewhere, but I was short on time and wanted to see her in action. I was having some serious second thoughts as she grabbed one of the paper napkins and proceeded to blow her nose before stuffing the napkin in her front pocket.

“Stand,” I instructed, trying to keep the scowl from my face.

She gaped up at me, her mouth ajar, her eyes widening as her skin went from pink to white, all within a few seconds.

“Or,” I whispered, pinning her like a bug with my stare, “you can sit. But I highly doubt that’s the way to get on the good side of that barista you’ve been trying not to check out ever since you walked in that door.”

“But I haven’t—”#p#分页标题#e#

“You have.” I nodded, giving her an encouraging look. “And if you don’t stand right now, you’ll lose your chance with him. Most experts believe that jealousy is the most crucial emotion men feel before falling in love.” I held out my hand.

She stared at it.

“I won’t bite.” I smirked, then leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Yet.”

She gasped.

“Take it.” I gave a curt nod. “That’s what I’m here for, remember?”

With reluctance, she placed her hand in mine and stood on wobbly legs. I eyed the barista with mock annoyance as I helped my new client to her seat.

“What’s this?” She pointed at the red cup in front of her chair.

“Tea.” I yawned. “But yours is probably cold.”

“I hate tea.”

“No.” I shook my head and leaned forward, my hands placed directly in front of her cup as I scooted it closer to her. “You love tea.”

She frowned.

“Smile.”

“What?”

“Just do it.”

She forced a smile, which actually transformed her face quite nicely. A bit too much tooth and faux enthusiasm, but I could work with enthusiasm. Apathy, despondency, despair . . . not as easy.

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