“It’s okay.” Cassie nodded. “He knows all about it.”

Shawn rolled his eyes. “Personally I think she’s nuts. So, what’s the story with you and this matchmaker?”

Angie ignored the question and returned her attention to Cassie. “Don’t keep me in suspense. What was your impression when you met him?”

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“He’s abrupt and ill-mannered, don’t you agree?”

“That’s putting it mildly.” She turned to Shawn. “He rejected me. I didn’t make it past the initial interview. I’ll admit it was a blow to my ego but I felt I had to tell Cassie about him.”

“I can’t believe he’d reject you.” Shawn looked genuinely outraged on Angie’s behalf. “I don’t understand why either of you would have any interest in someone who seems to enjoy insulting you.”

“Why?” Cassie answered. “We’re getting desperate, that’s why. It’s not easy to meet decent men, you know!”

“Not at our age,” Angie added.

“See that picture of Jill and Tom?” Cassie said, pointing to her refrigerator. “She has the perfect life, the perfect family and is about to have the perfect Christmas. I want all that.”

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“Me, too,” Angie murmured fervently. “And so far I haven’t even come close.”

Shawn blinked. “You two are actually serious?”

“Serious enough to pay thirty thousand bucks to find the right man.”

Shawn’s eyebrows shot up. “How much?”

Cassie didn’t feel like repeating it. “You heard me.”

Shaking his head, Shawn muttered something about being in the wrong business.

Angie sighed. “It’s a ridiculous amount of money, I know, but from what I understand, it’s worth every penny—if you’re accepted, that is. Now, Cassie, tell me about your meeting with Dr. Dodson.”

Mentally reviewing the appointment, Cassie suffered more than a few doubts. “I don’t think I went over well.”

“But you have a second appointment, right?”

“Supposedly.” Cassie shrugged. “He said he’d call….”

“Cassie, that’s great! Dr. Dodson read my application, took one look at me and said he didn’t have anyone who’d suit me.”

That wasn’t precisely what Angie had told her earlier. Simon had apparently said she already held feelings for someone. If that was the case, Cassie didn’t have any idea who it might be. She wished she’d questioned her further, but at the time she’d been too interested in hearing about this matchmaker and now didn’t seem appropriate. Especially since Angie was obviously reluctant to talk about her own situation. The man in question must’ve been someone she’d met years ago, which was what Angie had implied. It certainly wasn’t anyone Cassie knew, and they’d worked together for six years.

“Tell us what he said,” Angie urged.

“Simon was pretty rude,” Cassie said between bites of her salad. She added another layer of crushed tortilla chips to the lettuce.

“How?” Shawn asked. “I want specifics.”

“Well, he didn’t seem to like a single thing about me. Not my body type, not my choice of clothes or the color of my suit.”

“I love that suit!” Angie cried.

“I did, too,” Cassie said, immediately noting that she’d used the past tense. Hard as it was to admit, he was right about that. She would’ve preferred it in a soft robin’s-egg blue, but the only available color had been navy.

“Didn’t he have anything nice to say?” Angie asked.

“Well…he did mention that my hairstyle suited me but it needed more length. That was as close to a compliment as he got.”

“But you made it past the first interview,” Angie said again, as though Cassie had managed a feat of unparalleled skill.

“What I don’t understand,” Shawn said, pushing back in his chair, “is why you’d allow this man to insult you. I mean, everything he said was just a matter of opinion. His opinion.” He raised both hands as the women started to protest. “Okay, I understand you’re feeling desperate—to quote you—but I don’t get it.”

Cassie and Angie shared a look.

“I think it’s the promise,” Cassie said.

“The promise,” Shawn repeated. “What promise?”

Angie leaned forward, folding her arms on the table. “Dr. Dodson guarantees that he’ll find you a match.”

“Someone who’ll be a perfect match…”

“Someone who’s as eager to meet us as we are them,” Angie explained.

“The thing is,” Cassie said, “I can’t help wondering if the man of my dreams is actually out there.”

“Of course he is,” Shawn insisted. “Frankly I think all of this is nonsense. How can anyone guarantee that he’ll find you a perfect match?” Sarcasm dripped from his words. “I can’t believe you’re willing to pay the guy that much money when you’re completely capable of finding yourself a husband.”

“Where?” Cassie asked, opening her arms and gesturing widely. “Tell me where he is and I’ll send a search party to bag him.”

“I’ll volunteer,” Angie said. “Maybe there’ll be an extra man hanging around for me.”

“Where?” Shawn ignored their teasing. “There are men, decent men, everywhere. You can meet him at work—” they shook their heads simultaneously “—well, then, at…at the grocery store. Or on the street. Or in a bookstore. Or…”

Angie cocked one finely shaped eyebrow. “Did you hear what I just heard?”

“I did,” Cassie confirmed.

“What?” Shawn looked from one woman to the other.

“You used the word meet,” Cassie told him.

“Not marry,” Angie said.

“Now, just a minute—” Shawn started to speak but Cassie cut him off.

“You’re a prime example of what we’re talking about.”

“Me?” Shawn placed a hand over his heart. “I’m too busy for a wife and family. I’m constantly on the road. That’s no life for kids.”

“You don’t feel the need for companionship, then?” Angie asked.

“Not really.”

“Men don’t,” Cassie complained. “They don’t know they’re miserable until we tell them.”

“So I’m miserable now?” Shawn laughed as if she’d made a joke. “Too bad I’ve never noticed.”

Cassie wasn’t about to argue with him. “Men aren’t on the same timetable women are, and when they finally wake up and realize they want the same things we do, they can still father children.”

“A woman has biological limitations,” Angie said, “if she wants kids.”

Her brother’s look sobered. “You two aren’t kidding.”

“No way,” Cassie said. “In fact, we’re willing to put up with the criticism and scrutiny of someone like Simon Dodson in the hope of finding a good man we can share our lives with.”

Shawn grew thoughtful. “I don’t understand why he’d reject you, Angie. It seems to me you’d be an ideal candidate.”

“Well, he did, and it’s his prerogative,” she said briskly. Then she smiled at Cassie. “I can hardly wait until you have your next appointment.”

“Now, just a minute,” Shawn said again. “You should’ve asked me to set you up before you went to all this trouble.”

Cassie’s eyes widened. “You have someone you want me to meet?”

“Well, sure. I know a dozen eligible men. I could’ve introduced you.”

Cassie glanced at Angie. “He only thinks to mention this now?”

Angie frowned. “Do you really trust your brother to find you a husband?”

Cassie shook her head. “My idea of what I want and what he has to offer might be worlds apart.”

“Hey, you two,” Shawn said, breaking into their conversation. “I’m sitting right here. If you have any doubts, you can address them to me directly and not to each other.”

“Okay,” Cassie said. “Tell me about one such man.”

“All right.” He appeared to be deep in thought.

“I don’t think he can scrounge up even one,” Cassie whispered, raising her eyebrows.

“Give me a minute, would you,” he snapped.

“Notice how testy he gets when challenged.”

Her brother silenced her with a look.

“There’s Riley,” he declared triumphantly. He beamed a smile at Angie and then Cassie.

“I’ve always liked the name Riley,” Angie said.

“Riley.” Cassie threw back her head. “You’re joking!”

“What’s wrong with Riley?” Angie wanted to know.

“He’s an artist friend of Shawn’s. He’s got two ex-wives, a gambling problem and he drinks too much. You’re scraping the bottom of the frying pan if you’re suggesting either of us should marry Riley.”

“He’s reformed.”

“Yeah, right. And when did this happen?”

Shawn seemed unsure. “Not too long ago. He said he’s through messing up his life. What he needs now is a good woman.”

Cassie exhaled slowly. “Tell him to talk to one of his ex-wives, then.”

“Sorry,” Angie said, “I’m not interested, either.”

“You’re going to have to try harder than that,” Cassie informed her brother.

“What about Larry Upjohn? You couldn’t meet a nicer guy if you tried.”

“Do you know Larry?” Angie asked her.

Cassie nodded. “He’s Shawn’s CPA and in a word…b-o-r-i-n-g.”

“You didn’t say you were looking for a stand-up comic,” Shawn said, obviously annoyed.

“Call me superficial, but I don’t want to date a man who wears knee-high socks with his sandals and a pocket protector in his pajamas.”

“A little personality would be helpful,” Angie said in a defeated voice. “As you can tell, it’s not as easy as it seems.”

“Warren!” Shawn’s face lit up. “What about Warren?”

Once more Angie turned to Cassie.

She nodded, but without enthusiasm. “Warren’s a…possibility.”

“What’s wrong with Warren?” Shawn cried.

Cassie shrugged. “Nothing really. He just doesn’t ring my bells. He might Angie’s, though.”

Shawn leaned back, throwing out his arms in an expansive gesture. “I can introduce you, if you like.”

“Tell me about him first,” Angie said.

“He’s Shawn’s agent,” Cassie explained. “He’s a nice guy.”

“Nice isn’t a word I’d use to describe Warren,” Shawn commented. “He’s a tough negotiator.”

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