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Authors: Catherine Avril Morris

Mister Match (The Match Series Book 1)

BOOK: Mister Match (The Match Series Book 1)
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Mister Match

 

 

Book One of the Match Series

 

 

Catherine Avril Morris

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Catherine Avril Morris

All Rights Reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the express, written consent of the copyright holder, except in the case of brief quotations for book reviews.

 

For permissions requests, please email the author at [email protected]

 

Mister Match
is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents portrayed herein are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or real persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

 

Book cover and author images by Erica Nix

www.EricaNix.com

 

Book cover design by Wicked Smart Designs

www.WickedSmartDesigns.com

 

 

Also by Catherine Avril Morris

 

 

Miss Match

Book Two of the Match Series

 

 

Marry Me Twice

Book One of the Rose Quartz Series

 

 

Cassidy’s Daddy

Book Two of the Rose Quartz Series

 

 

 

This book is for Trista and Katy; Mary and Brandy; Erin and Christin; Genevieve and Tamara; the two Lisas; and Meg and Lacie. There is magic and power in a trio of women friends.

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

Big thanks go out, as always, to my dad and to my writer-lady friends (both ARWA and NSJA), and to Katie Graykowski in particular. A relatively minor suggestion you made helped me reshape this entire book in my head, and figure out exactly the book that it needed to be. Also, thanks to Evelyn, Susye, Sandra, Janice, Kit, Emily, Liana, and all my other early-morning writer buddies for checking in on Facebook at ungodly hours. You kept me plugging away at the book instead of sleeping in (we can sleep when we’re dead, right?). Thank you all!

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

____________________________________

 

 

W
ith friends like these, Lisa DeLuca thought, picking mutinously at the label on her beer bottle, who needed enemies?

It was Monday, which was no fun since it meant there were still four whole workdays until the weekend—and even the weekend wasn’t much comfort, since she was usually on call for drop-ins at the spa. Happy Hour at Diego’s Dive Bar had just ended, which was no fun since, if Lisa wanted another Negra Modelo, she’d have to pay full price. These days, an extra dollar-fifty was nothing to sneeze at. And Clare Fox and Willow Grace, supposedly her best friends in the entire world, were apparently competing for the title of Enemy Number One. That one was no fun for obvious reasons.

“It’s been a year,” Willow offered tentatively, shrugging a slender shoulder. The way she was coming across, so caring and sincere, was maddening. “We just thought maybe it was time for you to—”

“Lisa,” Clare interrupted, barreling right over Willow’s more tactful approach. “We didn’t think
maybe
anything. This is happening. It’s a done deal. Will and I already set everything up for you, and your profile is live. We even answered the Questionnaire on your behalf. Now, we just have to wait for the hotties to start rolling in.”

She looked triumphant. Willow looked slightly guilty.

Alarm bells were sounding in Lisa’s head. “What do you mean, you already—”

“This new dating site is perfect for you, by the way,” Clare interrupted. “It’s exactly how your over-analytical brain works.”

“Over-analytical?” Lisa protested, but Clare had already moved on.

“Sometime, if you want, you can log on and check out the Questionnaire, and tweak your answers if you need to.” Clare’s tone was dismissive. “But, being your best friends and all, we knew how you’d answer all of them anyway.”

Lisa had no idea what this questionnaire thing was, but whatever it was—her friends had filled it out for her, along with a profile on some dating website...and the profile was already live? This couldn’t be good.

Immediately, her mind switched over to damage-control mode. She could only hope Willow had had enough input to temper things, since Clare’s idea of a compelling dating profile tended toward thinly veiled allusions to hot sex and domination fantasies—not exactly Lisa’s thing.

This wasn’t just
not good
. This was a complete and total travesty.

“No,” Lisa said. “No. You guys know I’m horrible at online dating. I’m horrible at dating, period.”

“That’s why I’ll be managing your profile and choosing your dates for you,” Clare said serenely, and took a self-satisfied sip of her Jack and Coke.

“Willow,” Lisa pleaded, appealing to her other friend the way a child appeals to the other parent when one won’t budge.

“Sweetie,” Willow said, and reached across the table to give Lisa’s wrist a quick, sympathetic squeeze. “I know this doesn’t seem exactly—”

“No, you don’t understand.” Lisa was starting to feel desperate. “More than anyone else on this planet, you two know exactly how it went when I was on YesToEros.com and Social Butterfly and all those other sites—God, even that free trial I did on that Just for Cowboys site didn’t work out, and cowboys are usually the nicest.”

Clare snorted into her drink. “You don’t listen to nearly enough New Country music to bag a cowboy, and you own exactly zero pairs of tight-as-sausage-casings Wranglers. You had no business on that site whatsoever.”

Lisa’s shoulders slumped. Her friend was right, of course. But she liked country music—at least, she loved Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Hank Williams, and that had to count for something. And she liked going two-stepping at the Broken Spoke from time to time. And this was Austin, Texas, after all—a city where hippies and musicians, fitness freaks and frat boys all rubbed shoulders at bars and on the trail that snaked around the lake flowing through the center of town. Cowboy culture was still kind of a thing here.

But talk about a dating disaster. Every dating site she’d ever tried had only led to bad things.

Case in point: Rodney, her ex.

“You remember I met Rodney on Yes To Eros three years ago,” she pointed out. “That should be more than enough reason for me never to use any dating website ever again.”

Clare scowled, which made Lisa feel just a bit cheerier.

“Plus,” she said, feeling better by the moment, “there’s the minor issue of the IRS having repossessed my computer last year, and I don’t own a Smartphone. So online dating is obviously out of the question.”
There,
she thought smugly.
Done and done.

“Again,” Clare said silkily, “you won’t ever have to access your account. As an expert on men and sex, I have taken it upon myself to manage everything for you. All you have to do is show up when and where I tell you, and fall in love.”

The idea was preposterous. Lisa’s moment of cheeriness wilted, just as quickly as it had bloomed. She pointed her bottle at Clare. “No offense, but you’re not exactly the first person I’d go to for advice about men.”

Clare’s tawny eyes flew wide. “Quick tip—anytime you start a sentence with ‘no offense,’ that’s a pretty good sign it’s going to be offensive. And what are you talking about? I know everything there is to know about the opposite sex.”

“Yeah, all the wrong stuff.” She felt mildly cheered by Clare’s death glare.

“But you don’t want to just stay single forever, Lees.” Ever the voice of reason, Willow tilted her head. “Do you? You’re beautiful—”

Lisa winced. “Please, Will, please take my side on this one.”

“You are beautiful,” Willow repeated firmly. “And young, and highly eligible. You’re a total catch. And you’re twenty-nine years old, which means you’re right in the middle of your Saturn’s Return. You’re due to get back on track in your love life.”

“Saturn’s Return?” Astrology, again. Lisa should have known. She’d never placed much stock in fate or karma or destiny, and instead looked at life as a series of happy accidents. Or, in the case of experiences like her relationship with Rodney, horrendous ones.

Willow, on the other hand, apparently saw the entire world and everyone in it in terms of astrology, and believed entire lives could be mapped out in the stars.

She was smiling now, sagely. “Every twenty-nine years, Saturn cycles back around to where it was when you were born, and it marks a very significant juncture in your life. They call Saturn the Taskmaster Planet. It forces you to focus on your path and get serious about your future.”

Apparently sensing Lisa’s attention wandering, she waved a hand. “I’ll explain it better sometime. The point is, you deserve love in your life. This year you’ve spent alone and unhappy, it isn’t you. You’ve been paying for Rodney’s mistakes—”

“Literally,” Lisa muttered.

“—and that’s completely unfair. Which is all the more reason you shouldn’t give him the power to turn you into an emotional recluse.”

“Yeah,” Clare agreed vehemently. “Don’t give the jackass the satisfaction.”

“You guys,” Lisa protested lamely, “seriously, I appreciate the sentiment, I think, but you can’t just—”

“Lisa,” Clare interrupted. “Let’s be honest. You need this. Nuns get more play than you.”

Like Clare would know anything about anything related to church. The thought made Lisa snicker.

“This is an intervention,” Clare continued. “A dating intervention. We’re your best friends, we love you, and we’re sick of watching you hermit yourself just because you had a bad breakup.” She leaned in. “A year ago. That’s twelve entire months. With a schmuck you should’ve kicked to the curb the first time he made you pay for dinner because he was too broke.” She sat back. “It’s time to get over him. And everyone knows the best way to get over one guy is by getting under another.”

Willow giggled. Lisa managed not to laugh, but only because she didn’t want to encourage Clare.

“Look, you dodged a bullet when you and the Rod went splitsville,” Clare went on. “Seriously, thank God he broke up with you.” She waved a dismissive hand. “Or whoever it is out there who looks out for the romantically clueless.”

“It’s probably Guanyin,” Willow offered, looking thoughtful.

Clare blinked. “Who’s Gwan-yeen?”

“She’s the Chinese goddess of mercy and lost causes.” Willow widened her eyes at Lisa. “Not that—I mean, I don’t think
you’re
a lost cause—”

“Nice going.” Clare gave Willow a thumbs-up. “Way to smooth this whole thing over, nice and easy.”

“Well, you’re the one who just called her ‘romantically clueless,’” Willow shot back.

Lisa started playing with her beer bottle again. This whole conversation was sort of comical, but more just depressing. Kind of like her life.

Clare raised her eyebrows. “You know what it means when you rip the label off your beer, don’t you? It means you’re sexually frustrated.”

“Gee, how perceptive of you.” Lisa snorted. “How could you ever have guessed I might be sexually frustrated, after a year of being single?”

Willow raised her glass of gin and tonic. “Sweetie, we only wanted to help. So let’s make a toast. To love.”

Clare raised her Jack and Coke. “And sex.”

“I can’t toast,” Lisa said. “My beer’s gone.”

“Here,” Willow said, “have my water. I haven’t touched it.” She pushed her glass across the table to Lisa.

Reluctantly, Lisa lifted the glass, hoping neither of her friends thought clinking drinks equaled agreement to the whole online-dating idea. “Okay, sure. Fine. Whatever. To love and sex.”

They clinked their glasses together, tapped them once on the tabletop and took sips.

Setting hers down, Willow leaned in. “You know what? I have a feeling you’re not going to be alone for much longer.” She smiled in that sage, astrology-guru way she had. “Just a hunch.”

Lisa sighed. She hated Willow’s hunches. Somehow, they always seemed to come true.

“Look,” Lisa said, “you can post a profile for me on every dating site you want, but I’m not going on any dates. I’m perfectly happy with my life as it is right now.” She pushed the water glass back to Willow’s side of the table and sat back. “So, I appreciate your efforts, but they really aren’t necessary.”

Willow sat back as well, looking serene and enigmatic, as if she had a secret. Clare eyed Lisa with the pure pity of someone who was rarely without a boyfriend, or at least a boy-toy. And Lisa heard, loud and clear, the wistfulness in her own voice that belied her statement.

Well, she thought, if you couldn’t lie to yourself and your best friends, who could you lie to?

 

T
hree days later, Adam Masters yawned to pop his ears as the airplane he’d boarded in Chicago touched the ground in Austin.

He looked out the window as a little rush of something—could it be excitement?—zipped through his stomach.

Probably not excitement. That was a pretty rare emotion for him, these days. He rubbed his chin and gazed at the grass beside the runway, rushing past. He needed a shave. This morning in Chicago, he hadn’t even had time to make sure his shirt was buttoned correctly. He’d just grabbed his garment bag and his carry-on, run out of the hotel and leapt into the first cab he saw, late for his flight, as usual.

Which was partly why this sudden sense of anticipation was so pleasantly unexpected. It was just another Dream Date weekend, city number he-didn’t-even-know-what on this grand, grueling tour. He felt like a hamster on a wheel, going around and around and around, no end in sight. At this point, the cities were blurring together, just like the days, the nervous, excited couples, the interviews, the whole experience.

Of course, he loved Austin. If it was excitement he was feeling, it was probably because this was a homecoming, of sorts. The closest thing he had to a hometown was Dallas, and in high school, he’d made the four-hour drive south to Austin plenty of times to see shows with friends, or to go with his mom to visit his great-aunt in her nursing home. He had roots here, as much as he did anyplace. Though that wasn’t saying much.

“You here on business or pleasure?”

The question came from the man sitting next to him, an older guy with a paunch and a diamond pinkie ring that had been glinting in Adam’s eye the entire flight, every time the man took a sip of his ever-present bourbon and water.

“Business,” Adam answered. “And a little pleasure, I hope, if I can manage it.”

“Yep,” the man grunted. He leaned in. “Hear the girls down at The Palace treat you pretty good.” He drew out the last two words suggestively—
prit-tee goood
—and Adam found himself trying not to wince.

He knew the place, and it wasn’t what he’d meant, at all. Strip clubs weren’t his thing. Plastic smiles and silicone-perky boobs? No, thanks.

But if there was one thing he’d learned in his line of work, it was to be politic and keep his real opinions to himself. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he assured the man, as the plane taxied to a stop and the seatbelt sign dinged off.

BOOK: Mister Match (The Match Series Book 1)
2.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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