“There is.” Angie avoided eye contact. “In fact, more and more people are turning to professional matchmakers. It works, too—most of the time.”

“Now tell me how expensive he is.”


“Thirty thousand dollars.”


“You heard me—and apparently he’s worth it.”

“And you know about him because…” Cassie let the question hang between them.

“Because I went to him.”

Cassie slapped her hands against her sides. “Clearly you wasted your money.”

“It didn’t cost me a dime.”

“And why is that?”

Angie’s gaze darted in every direction except Cassie’s. “He wouldn’t accept me as a client.”

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“He rejected you?” The man was nuts! Angie was lovely and smart and a thousand other adjectives that flew through her mind. “What’s wrong with this guy, anyway?”

“He was right…. I’m not a good candidate and I would’ve been wasting my money.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about him before?”

“I…I didn’t want anyone to know I’d been turned down.”

“If he rejected you, then he’ll probably reject me, too.”

“No…he said he couldn’t accept me because I have feelings for someone else.”

“Do you?”

“I did—a long time ago,” she said without elaborating further. “But don’t let my experience dissuade you. Check him out. Like you said earlier, you’ve tried everything else. At least make an appointment and see what he has to say.”

Cassie was tempted to ask more about this man Angie had feelings for, but her friend had clearly signalled an unwillingness to talk about it. As far as the matchmaker went, she wasn’t convinced. “He actually does this for a living?”

“Yes. He has an office and an assistant. I asked him for his credentials and he has an advanced degree in psychology and—” Angie stared directly at her “—he guarantees his work.”


“Yes. If he doesn’t find you a husband, you get a full refund. So make an appointment and see for yourself. Remember—nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

“I’ll consider it,” Cassie said. She hated to admit that the idea intrigued her. Then again, it was rather archaic. Besides, if this man had rejected Angie, he couldn’t be any good. Still it was an opportunity, and nothing else had presented itself.

When she got to her condo building that evening, Cassie stopped at her mailbox in the lobby and immediately noticed that her newspaper was missing. No surprise there. It vanished every Tuesday when the shopping ads came out. Her neighbor Mrs. Mullinex, took it, although Cassie hadn’t been able to prove that yet. On Wednesday mornings, her paper mysteriously reappeared with the coupons clipped out. Twice now, Cassie had met her neighbor in the lobby. The grandmotherly woman didn’t resemble a thief and would’ve been above suspicion if not for the handful of coupons she clutched in her gloved fingers.

Grumbling under her breath, Cassie headed for her apartment. She tossed the mail on the kitchen counter without looking. The picture of Jill, Tom and their two children smiled at her from the refrigerator door.

The perfect family having the perfect Christmas.

Jill’s smile seemed to be telling Cassie “All this could be yours, too.”

“A matchmaker?” Cassie said aloud. “Am I really resorting to this?”

Angie had given Cassie his business card and then for good measure a hug and parting words of advice. “Just do it. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.”

Cassie hesitated and glanced over at the perfect family posed in front of the world’s most beautiful Christmas tree. Oh, for heaven’s sake, what would it hurt?

After rummaging around the bottom of her purse, she found the engraved card that read: Dr. Simon Dodson, Professional Matchmaker.

Heart pounding, Cassie reached for the phone.

Chapter 2

Simon says: A good matchmaker always knows his clients—especially after a background check! C assie had to wait a week before she could get an appointment with Simon Dodson. He made sure she understood that he was doing her a favor by squeezing her in at the end of the day. All right, to be fair, his personal assistant, Ms. Snelling, a rather unpleasant woman, made it sound as if an appointment was a terrible inconvenience. Frankly Cassie didn’t hold out much hope for this, and who could blame her? The matchmaking psychologist had declined to accept Angie, who was probably the most decent, kindest person Cassie had ever known.

The day of the appointment, Cassie went home to change clothes. She dressed carefully, choosing a suit that made her look confident but not formal, and she refreshed her makeup. When she walked into his office, it was with her head held high. She’d done her homework and was keeping an open mind. She’d checked two references the Snelling woman had passed on and felt she knew what to expect. Both couples had raved about Simon. The wives had warned her that Dr. Dodson wasn’t the “warm and fuzzy” type. One of them had suggested that Cassie should be patient and not take offense. Hmm…that was unusual advice.

“Dr. Dodson will see you shortly,” his assistant informed her primly after Cassie announced herself. The office had modern art decorating the walls, large green plants in the corners and soft leather furniture in a deep shade of brown.

“You filled out the paperwork I e-mailed you and brought it in?”

“Yes, I have it here.” Cassie thought applying for a job at the CIA would’ve been easier. Simon was interested in every aspect of her background, from the name of her first-grade teacher to her current shoe size. Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration—a slight one—but she didn’t see how most of the questions were relevant. Really, why did Simon need a list of any allergies she might have?

She handed the lengthy application form to the assistant, who scanned it, then took it into the inner office. Ms. Snelling reappeared a couple of minutes later and gave her a thorough once-over. Then, to Cassie’s surprise, the woman offered her a reassuring smile.

Cassie studied the assistant. She guessed Ms. Snelling was in her late fifties; she seemed efficient and no-nonsense. Cassie sat with her hands politely folded in her lap. This might be the most important appointment of her entire life. The best Christmas present she’d ever get—even if it was from herself. A husband for Christmas. Hmm…

The great Dr. Simon Dodson kept her waiting a full thirty minutes. Cassie knew because she glanced at her watch every five minutes, crossed and uncrossed her legs and flipped through three magazines. By then, she’d grown impatient and irritable and had started to wonder if she’d made a mistake—or, worse, fallen for a scam. She wasn’t accustomed to being ignored. She had better things to do than sit in a waiting room on what might turn out to be a fool’s errand, a complete waste of time. She trusted that wasn’t the case; still, the longer she waited, the less hope she had.

A buzzer made her jump. Ms. Snelling got smoothly to her feet, obviously used to such a peremptory summons. “Dr. Dodson will see you now,” she said. She motioned toward the massive double doors that led into his office.

Cassie walked inside and her gaze went instantly to the man standing behind the large desk. The Internet research she’d done hadn’t included any photos, so she hadn’t been sure what to expect—but not someone relatively young with shockingly good looks. He was easily six-two and loomed above her.

“Ms. Beaumont?”

“That would be me,” she said, straining to sound cool and collected.

“Please don’t sit down.”

“Uh…” The door closed behind her.

“Walk to the far side of my office and then walk back.”

Cassie paused, which apparently he didn’t like because he gestured for her to comply.

“Do I need to say, ‘Mother, may I?’” she asked.

He didn’t so much as crack a smile. “That won’t be necessary.”

“Okay.” She did as he requested and felt his eyes burning into her with every step she took.

“You could stand to lose five pounds.”

“I beg your pardon?” What a jerk!

“You heard me and you agree with me, only I doubt you’d admit it.”

Okay, maybe she could shed a few pounds, but her figure looked fine the way it was.

He continued to study her and his frown deepened. “That color doesn’t flatter you.”

How dare he! “I happen to like navy blue.” This was her favorite suit and she’d purchased it at a closeout sale for seventy percent off.

He frowned. “Pale blue would be better.” He came out from behind his desk and walked around her. “You should let your hair grow, as well. That style is becoming but you need more length.”

“I’m glad you think there’s something attractive about me.”

“I didn’t say that.”

This man was too much! Cassie was tempted to turn around and leave. She might have, only she decided to see how many other ways he could find to insult her. It was becoming a game to her.

“Sit,” he said.

“Please?” Someone needed to teach this man some manners.

“Sit,” he repeated, more loudly this time.

“Sit, please,” she returned pointedly.

A flicker of a smile showed in his dark brown eyes. “All right, sit, please.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” she said pleasantly, taking the chair across from his desk.

After a moment he said, “I’ve read your application.” He sat down across from her, reached for the papers and leafed through them. “Tell me about your father.”

“Why are you asking about him?”

He lifted his shoulder in a nonchalant shrug. “It’s my experience that most women want to marry a man just like their father.”

“Not me. Pete’s a poor excuse for a father. I want as little to do with him as possible.”

Simon immediately made a lengthy notation on a pad in front of him.

Cassie moved to the edge of the cushion. “What did you write?”

Simon looked up, a frown darkening his face. Clearly she’d offended him. She could only suppose he wasn’t accustomed to anyone questioning his actions. “What did you say?” he said frostily.

“I asked if you’d tell me what you wrote down.” She pointed at his notepad. “It was about me and my nonrelationship with my father, wasn’t it?”

He flattened his hands on the desk. “These are my notes. I don’t share them with clients.”

The urge to stand and simply walk out the door was nearly overwhelming. Gritting her teeth, she said, “Has anyone ever told you you’re rude?”

He grinned as if the comment pleased him. “As a matter of fact, yes. Several people have taken delight in revealing their opinions.” He shook his head. “It has more to do with them and their hurt feelings than with me.”

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