Heartstrings and Diamond Rings (5 page)

BOOK: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings
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T
hat afternoon, Alison sat at the bar at McCaffrey’s with Heather, feeling dumber with every moment that passed. The more she tried to explain Brandon’s taking over his grandmother’s matchmaking business, the more skeptical Heather’s expression became.

“Let me get this straight,” Heather said. “You actually hired a
man
to find you a man?”

“This is the twenty‑first century. Gender roles are blurred. A person can be anything he wants to be. It’s only narrow-minded people who don’t accept that.”

“Yeah? How do you feel about buying tampons when the clerk is a man?”

She hated it. In fact, she’d wait in a line twice as long just to get a woman to ring her up. “Come on, Heather. Do you really think that bothers me?”

“Would you buy a bra from a man?”

Alison’s face crinkled. “Well…”

“So I guess you’re narrow-minded, huh?”

“No, I’m not,” Alison said, regaining her composure. “If he were a trained professional…uh…bra-fitter-seller person, I wouldn’t mind at all.”

“Yeah? Picture him staring at your boobs. ‘No, honey. That fit is
all
wrong. I think you need a 34B.’”

“Hey! My gynecologist is a man.”

“Only because he was your mother’s gynecologist, he’s approximately a hundred and twelve years old, and you’ve been going to him since you were eighteen.”

“Brandon is a matchmaker. He won’t be getting anywhere near my boobs and my…whatever. It’s like hiring a lawyer or a plumber or something. I’m paying him for a service, and that’s that.”

“He just got started. That means he has no experience.”

“He said when he was younger he used to listen when his grandmother was talking to clients. He was inspired by her.”

“Which is not the same as doing the job himself. So what has he been doing up to now?”

Alison paused. “I’m not sure.”

“Yet you gave him fifteen hundred dollars? Just like that?”

I couldn’t help it. He was gorgeous and charming and I have the backbone of an amoeba.
“I had a good feeling about him.”

“You also had a good feeling about Randy. Look what happened there.”

“Oh, all right!” Alison said, resisting the urge to pound her forehead against the bar. “Look. It isn’t as if I haven’t second-guessed this a dozen times already. But I have to do something or I’ll be alone forever.”

“You’re better off never getting married than being married to the wrong man.”

Alison sighed. “Yeah, I know. But it doesn’t stop me from wishing the right man would wander by sometime before I’m on Social Security.”

“You’ll find him soon enough. I’m just not sure this guy can make that happen.”

“Well, he’d have to really be into matchmaking to take over his dead grandmother’s business, wouldn’t he?”

Heather thought about that for a moment. “Yeah. I guess so. But it still seems kinda strange. What has he done for you so far?”

“He gave me a questionnaire to fill out. I’m going to drop it by his office tomorrow on my lunch hour.”

“You filled out a questionnaire? This is supposed to be personalized service. That’s why you’re paying him an arm and a leg.”

“He needs to have the basics. Then I’m sure we’ll discuss what I’m looking for in a man.”

“Assuming he hasn’t already left town with your fifteen hundred bucks.”

“Will you stop being so cynical? Maybe he just believes in true love and wants to help people find it.”

“Come on, Alison. Does that sound like your average man?”

No, but Alison had already determined that Brandon had a few qualities that were definitely above average. If his intuition was as finely developed as his body, his business was going to be a screaming success. She just wished she had a handle on the way he made his matches. The questionnaire hadn’t asked her much more than online dating sites did, so how was he supposed to know the specifics of what she was looking for? And whether she was the right match for the men he set her up with?

But of course they would talk. Personalized service, right? That was what she was paying for.

Please, God, let this go well so I don’t look like a fool about men.

Again.

“So what does he look like?” Heather asked. “I’m picturing a little guy with horn‑rimmed glasses and a receding hairline.”

“Uh…no. That’s not exactly the right description. He’s more like—”

In that moment, she happened to glance out the window, and she couldn’t believe whom she saw.

“Oh, my God,” she murmured. “There he is.”

“Where?”

“Coming up the sidewalk outside.”

Heather whipped around to watch as Brandon made his way toward the door, and her eyes grew so wide Alison thought they were going to pop out of her skull.

“Him?”
Heather said.

“Yeah.”

Heather sucked in a breath, then let it out slowly. “Oh, my.”

Alison felt the tiniest bit of vindication that he had that effect on Heather, too. And judging from the way the waitresses’ jaws practically hit the floor as he walked through the door, that lack of immunity probably spanned most of the female population.

“What’s he doing here?” Heather asked.

“He lives nearby. Guess he’s coming in for…I don’t know. A beer?”

Unfortunately, Heather’s surprise turned back to skepticism with the speed of light. “I guess now we know why you had such a good feeling about him.”

“Now, hold on,” Alison said. “I know what you’re thinking, but his looks had nothing to do with it.”

“Oh, come
on
! You’re a sucker for guys like him. Did you or did you not buy a one-year gym membership from a guy just because he looked like George Clooney?”

Alison frowned. “His looks had nothing to do with that, either. It was January second. Buying a gym membership on January second is practically an American tradition.”

“You can’t think straight around guys like him,” Heather said. “You lose your head. It falls right off your shoulders and goes rolling down the street.”

“We have a business arrangement,” Alison snapped. “I hired him to do a job, and that’s that. His looks have nothing to do with—”

“He’s coming over here,” Heather said.

Alison went still, gripping her martini with glass‑​shattering pressure. “He is?”

“Calm down,” Heather said with more than a tiny bit of sarcasm. “It’s a business arrangement, right?”

Right. That was exactly what it was.
Business, business, business…

Alison hoped maybe Brandon would just walk past them and grab a booth, or head across the room to play a little pool, saving Heather the effort of going all judgmental on him up close. Unfortunately, he caught Alison’s eye, recognized her, and slid onto the stool beside her. He leaned one forearm casually against the bar and gave her a lazy smile, already melting into the place as if he’d been coming there all his life.

“Hey, Alison,” he said. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I didn’t expect to see you, either.”

“It’s one of the first things I do whenever I’m new in town. I find a good neighborhood bar. A man has to have his priorities.” He turned to Heather. “You must be a friend of Alison’s. I’m Brandon Scott.”

“The matchmaker?”

He gave her a warm smile of affirmation. “That’s right.”

“I’m Heather McCaffrey.”

“McCaffrey? You own the place?”

“My husband and I do.”

“I like it,” he said, circling his gaze around the room. “Comfortable. Friendly. Big screens. Pool tables. And the boar’s head above the bar is a nice touch. I assume there’s a story behind the wedding veil it’s wearing?”

“Yeah. There’s a story.” And the look on her face said
But I’m not going to tell you.

Alison wondered if Heather knew she was scowling at him. Probably. If there was somebody she didn’t like, she generally let the world know it. But there was no reason not to like Brandon. None at all. Being almost unbearably handsome was something he’d been born with and couldn’t help, and it certainly didn’t mean he couldn’t be a competent matchmaker. Horn-rimmed glasses and a receding hairline did seem more in line with that profession, but really, who was she to judge?

Just then, Tracy caught sight of Brandon and sauntered down the length of the bar to take his order. She was one of those women who had perfect legs, a tiny waist, and artificial boobs the size of twin Hindenburgs, who radiated an aura of leg‑spreading availability with all the subtlety of an Amsterdam whore. In other words, men couldn’t pry their eyes away with a crowbar.

“Hey, there,” Tracy said, giving Brandon a luminous smile. “What can I get for you?”

“Blue Moon,” Brandon said, returning her smile with a megawatt one of his own, which didn’t surprise Alison in the least. Pretty people always responded to pretty people. It was a law of nature. And in the meantime, average people had the misfortune of having to watch the kind of mating ritual they were genetically barred from taking part in.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before,” she said in that super sexy voice designed to waft right into a man’s ears and turn him to mush.

“I’m new in town,” Brandon replied.

“Why, that is just about the best news I’ve had all day. Am I going to see you around here a lot?”

“You kidding? Look around. What’s there to keep me away?”

“Not me,” Tracy purred. “That’s for sure.”

The moment a woman like Tracy entered the picture, it was as if a cloak of invisibility fell over Alison. She came
this
close to asking Tracy how she could flirt so shamelessly with Brandon when it was possible that, because he’d sat down next to her as soon as he arrived, they were a couple.

Oh, get over yourself. The woman isn’t blind.

Tracy walked away to grab Brandon a beer, her tiny little ass swishing back and forth. Right on cue, Brandon swiveled his head to watch.

Alison let out a silent sigh. She’d come to the conclusion a long time ago that an ass like Tracy’s had a built-in tractor beam, and men were helpless to resist it.

“So, Brandon,” Heather said. “Alison tells me your grandmother died and you’re taking over her matchmaking business.”

He turned back. “That’s right.”

“Isn’t that kind of a weird profession for a man?”

Alison cringed at the question, but Brandon seemed unfazed. “Yeah, I guess it is,” he said. “But my grandmother did a lot of good for a lot of people. I’d like to pick up where she left off.”

“What profession did you leave to become a matchmaker?”

“Real estate investment.”

“Hmm. I bet you’re one of those guys who flips houses.”

“Actually, yeah. Houses, commercial space, apartment buildings—whatever netted the most money at the time. Unfortunately, that industry isn’t looking so good these days.”

Heather flicked her gaze to Alison, and she read it loud and clear.
See? This guy is a wheeler-dealer from way back. Stay on your toes.

“So you were close to your grandmother?” Heather asked.

“Yeah. So were a lot of people. You should have seen her funeral. There must have been two hundred people there.”

“That’s nice.”

He nodded. “A lot of the people there were ones she’d matched up. They were married. Happy. And grateful to her. That’s when I made the decision to follow in her footsteps.”

“So you’re going to be finding people their soul mates?”

“That’s right.”

“Happily ever after? Till death us do part?”

“That’s the goal.”

“Ever been married yourself?”

“Nope,” Brandon said. “Never have.”

“Committed relationship?”

“Heather,
stop
,” Alison said.

“I’ve been traveling all over the country for a long time now,” Brandon said. “Hard to commit when you’re here today, gone tomorrow. How fair would that be to a woman?”

Good answer
, Alison thought, but Heather still looked skeptical.

“So you’ve never even had a committed relationship,” Heather said. “Isn’t your being a matchmaker kind of like a person who’s never been in a kitchen trying to teach somebody how to cook?”

“Heather!” Alison said. “Will you
hush
?” Then she turned to Brandon. “Ignore her. She’s always like this when she’s off her meds.”

“Yeah, I do crazy things when I’m not popping pills,” Heather said. “Like hire a man to find me a man.”

“Heather is just a skeptic,” Alison said. “A great big
intrusive
skeptic. She doesn’t even believe men landed on the moon.”

“And I don’t believe little green men have landed here, either,” Heather said.

“Hmm,” Brandon said. “I’ve always heard they were gray, not green.”

“Their color is irrelevant,” Heather said, “since they
don’t exist
.”

“I don’t know. There’s some pretty compelling evidence out there.”

“Depends on how gullible you are.”

“So how do you account for alien abductions?”

“Vivid dreams.”

“Area Fifty-four?”

“Mass hysteria.”

“Crop circles?”

“Teenage pranks.”

“UFOs?”

“Weather balloons.”

“Bigfoot?”

Heather drew back. “What does Bigfoot have to do with aliens?”

“He came from somewhere, didn’t he?”

“Yeah. And I can’t decide which is more rare. Bigfoot, or a matchmaking man.”

“That’s easy,” Brandon said with a smile. “Bigfoot videos are a dime a dozen. But have you ever seen footage of a matchmaking man?”

“Exactly,” Heather said, smiling too. “It’s looking more and more like something you just made up.”

Alison wanted to hide her face in her hands, but Brandon didn’t miss a beat. “I admit it’s a little unusual, but make no mistake. I
am
going to find Alison her perfect match.”

A little shiver ran up Alison’s spine.
God, I hope so. And I hope you do it before Heather puts out a contract on you.

Tracy set a beer in front of Brandon, then looked disappointed when he grabbed it and stood up. “Think I’ll play a little pool. It was nice to meet you, Heather.” He turned to Alison. “And I’ll see you tomorrow. Noon, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Noon.”

BOOK: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings
3.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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