Friday, November 14, 2008
EXCERPT: Seducing The Matchmaker
SHE FACED THE CHALLENGE OF HER CAREER
As the owner of Love Unlimited, a matchmaking service, Noelle Brown’s firm has an enviable track record. When world-renowned and drop-dead gorgeous architect Derrick Brandt graces her doorway, she’s incredibly pleased. Hooking him up will raise her agency’s profile, and give it an incredible public relations boost. But after a few moments of conversation with the arrogant Derrick, Noelle understands why the tabloids have labeled him the most in-eligible bachelor in the city.
Derrick needs to find himself a wife - a woman who understands his demanding career. He’s stunned to find himself captivated by the sexy siren Noelle. As the sparks of passion heats up between them, they both wonder if their relationship is indeed the perfect match
Early December in Philadelphia, PA
Shortly after the first snow . . .
“I know what you must be thinking, Mr. Brandt.”
I doubt that, Derrick Brandt thought, sitting in one of the comfortable, overstuffed guest chairs facing the neatly organized desk that belonged to Noelle Brown, the owner of Love Unlimited, a small but unusually successful matchmaking service.
“You’re thinking why Love Unlimited and not one of the more popular online dating agencies. I have three words for you,” she lifted three elegantly shaped fingers, “the personal touch. That one-on-one human contact that simply cannot be determined with questionnaires and evaluations. It’s been my experience that any long term relationship is only forty percent compatibility and sixty percent chemistry. And if the chemistry is right, it’s instantaneous. So, that leaves the other forty percent.”
All the while she spoke Derrick struggled to keep his eyes above the low cut neckline of her mint greet silk blouse. He unconsciously licked his lips imagining the bountiful treasure that lay just beneath the thin material.
Try as he may, he simply could not help himself, as his eyes repeatedly drifted south. She was so wonderfully endowed, and he was such a devoted breast man.
Our methods are not always what one would consider traditional.” She stretched her body reaching around to the credenza behind her chair, and Derrick allowed his hungry eyes to roam over her taunt outline. Although the rest of her was hidden behind the desk, he already knew she was mostly legs. Long legs he could wrap around his waist. When she’d greeted him in the office lobby his first impression had been that of a luscious Amazon.
“But sometimes, finding just the right match takes something more than the conventional resources.” She placed a brochure on the desk in front of him. “As you can see, we offer complete customer satisfaction.”
She leaned forward to open the brochure, and the innocuous action thrust her bust up and outward in an irresistibly tempting display. “If we are unable to find a match for you within six months, you get an additional six months free. Fair enough?”
Derrick nodded mindlessly. The sum of his cognitive abilities was suddenly, otherwise directed—riveted actually—on the lush brown mounds presented before him, separated by only a few inches of space the desk top spanned. The smooth, velvety, flawless skin was as rich and creamy as a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter day.
If he leaned forward just a little, he could cup them in his hands, he could lift them to his face. He could inhale her decadent perfume which even now called to him from across the room. He could run his tongue over every curve and contour, even through the thin silk material of her blouse he could suck her into his mouth—
“We want the same thing.”
Guiltily his eyes shot up to her face.
“To find the right woman for you.” She continued blithely, “And if you allow me to do what I do best, I will do exactly that. Do you have any question?”
Derrick had questions alright. Was she a moaner or a screamer? The thought brought to mind images so provocative he felt the stirring of desire from his brain to the seat of his trousers. Most of the men of his acquaintance were attracted to the small, petite women, who graced magazine covers and television ads, but Derrick had always preferred the more robust, more rubenisque styled female body.
While his buddies were drooling over Halle Berry, he was having wet dreams about Queen Latifah. He shifted in his chair trying to hide his growing erection.
Derrick swallowed hard and tried to bring his mind back to the matter at hand. “No, no questions.” He cleared his throat loudly. “So, what do I have to do to get started?”
“Well, first I need to get some basic information.” She reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a file. “Just a short interview to give me a better understanding of the qualities you feel are most important.”
She clicked her retractable pen, and opened the file. “Let’s start with physical attributes. What do you find attractive in a woman?”
Derrick watched as she scribbled rapid notes in the file. “Okay, anything else?”
“She needs to be a good breeder.”
Her pen paused over the page for several seconds. “A good breeder?”
“Yes. Wide hips, sturdy pelvis, that sort of thing.”
“Hmmm, oookaaay.” The scribbling continued. “Okay then, how about looks?”
“Nice looking, but I don’t want a woman who attracts too much attention from other men.” His eyes narrowed in painful remembrance of the last great beauty he’d allowed too close. “I don’t share.”
She scribbled something on the page before her. “So, let’s say average beauty. And educational level?”
“Smart enough to know not to betray me.” Derrick crossed his ankle over his knee to pick off a piece of lint that had gotten trapped in his perfectly creased pant leg cuff.
“Hmmm . . . ” Her thin brows crinkled as she continued to scribble. “And personality?”
“Good with kids, not too demanding of my time, and financial self sufficient.” He snorted. “If I wanted to take care of something, I’d adopt a puppy.”
Uneasily Derrick watched as she sat the pen down, slowly closed the manila file, and folded her hands together on top of it.
“Mr. Brandt, I was under the impression you were looking for a permanent relationship, a wife.”
“Then, I must say, I’m a little surprised by your response so far.” She reopened the file, and glanced down at what she’d written. “An average looking woman, who will apparently spend her life in fear of your wrath, be at your beck-and-call. Not to mention, she is expected to fully support herself, despite your wealth and resources.” She glanced at him.” “I have to admit, I can’t think of a single woman in my client profiles who fits such a description.”
“Well, I guess you are going to have to expand your client profile list.”
She shut the file once more, and sat back in the chair. “Or . . . you’re going to have to find another matchmaker.”
Derrick flinched inward, knowing he was about to blow this interview that meant much more to him that he could ever let on. He nervously picked at his pant leg as his mind calculated the best way forward.
On some level, Derrick understood that despite his financial success, Love Unlimited was probably his best chance at romantic happiness.
For the past ten years, Derrick had dated countless women in the pursuit of one—just one . . . the right one, and had yet to find her.
What he had found instead was his fiancée, Anita, in bed with his college roommate, Chris. He’d also found, Carol, the stewardess who stole his Amex card and took a group of girlfriends on a two week, twenty-five hundred dollar vacation to Cancun. As pathetic as it is, Derrick knew in his heart, he would’ve forgiven her for the theft. Twenty-five hundred dollars wasn’t even a dent in his wallet. No, it wasn’t the theft that ended the relationship, but the advance case of craps she brought back from the trip that he found unforgivable.
Then there was Mira, a reporter for the Philadelphia Herald, whom he discovered was willing to do just about anything, include sleeping with a man she apparently despised, all for the sake of getting enough inside information for a front page expose.
Opening the morning paper to find his pillow talk smeared across the front page, was a particularly painful blow. Especially, considering the engagement ring he’d purchased the day before.
There were others, many other failed relationships, with fault lying on both sides to some varying degree. Derrick had almost given up hope of every finding a compatible woman to spend his life with. Then, about a month ago, Camille had dropped a small article on his desk. It was a Lifestyle piece about a small, local matchmaking service boasting a one hundred percent compatibility rate among its clientele.
From the moment he walked through the glass double doors of Love Unlimited that morning Derrick had known there was something special about the proprietor, Noelle Brown. Although, he couldn’t fully identify the sensation, he instinctually trusted her. And Derrick was a man who took instinctual reactions seriously. Most of his present success could be owed to instincts.
Along with an astute understanding of human nature that had served him well in business, if not his personal relationships, Derrick had overcome incredible odds to become one of the most successful architects in Philadelphia.
Now, all he sought to complete his life was the one missing piece of the puzzle , someone trustworthy to share it with. A woman with the social grace and poise of his business partner, Camille. The emotional openness of a rose in bloom. And the carnal appetite of a nymphomaniac.
Looking at the beauty sitting across from him, Derrick couldn’t help wondering about Noelle Brown’s carnal appetites. His eyes flashed to the small solitaire diamond wedding ring on her finger. Lucky Mr. Brown.
He cleared his throat, and sat up straighter. “Why don’t you tell me which part of what I’ve said you find the most difficult to work with.”
She gestured to the file. “All of it. But, if I had to pick one specific thing it would be the financial thing. I can’t think of a single woman who would agree to marry you, and then be expected to continue to support herself completely. You’re one of the wealthiest men in Philadelphia, and a marriage is a partnership, Mr. Brandt.”
She lifted a knowing eyebrow. “And the ‘smart enough not to betray me’ thing. Quite frankly, that statement causes me a great deal of alarm.”
Hearing it repeated back like that, it did sound bad, Derrick thought. Eloquence was never his strong suit. He knew that if he ever found the right woman, he would worship her with lavish gifts everyday and ravenous attention of his body every night. He would hold her as the dearest thing in his life, considering the many years he’d waited for her.
As always, he didn’t have the right words to express his feelings. A problem that had haunted him his whole life, and had cost him greatly on more than one occasion.
Camille was always telling him that he had no filter. That something in the brain that kept people from saying exactly what they were thinking, seem to be lacking in Derrick. It always had. That lack of tack on his part had also contributed to bringing him to this point in his life. Where he was requiring professional help in the most basic of human pursuits. The hunt for a mate.
“Maybe I didn’t articulate my thoughts properly.” He frowned. “Naturally, I would support my wife, with the usual contingencies. But, as for the selection process, let’s be perfectly clear. I won’t allow you to present me with a handful of money grubbing, promiscuous, opportunist.”
For several seconds, Noelle sat staring at him in silence.
Derrick stared back.
Finally, she blinked and released a deep sigh. “I will probably regret asking, but feel I must. What exactly do you mean by the ‘usual contingencies’?”
“Pre-nuptial agreements, of course.”
“Of course.” She muttered, with another deep sigh. She re-opened the file and started writing.
Every instinct in Noelle wanted to tell the illustrious Derrick Brandt to get the hell out of her office. The problem is that she could not afford to. She needed him, as much as he obviously needed her. Of course, she wasn’t about to let him know that.
For a few moments, she’d been terrified that he’d take her up on the offer to find another matchmaker. Thankfully, he’d stayed. Now, the question was . . . what to do with him?
The man was a Neanderthal, no doubt about it. But, he was a wealthy, influential well-connected Neanderthal. And if handled right, he could be just the boon her growing agency needed.
In the thirteen months since she’d opened her doors, she’d successfully matched almost forty couples. And of that forty, twenty-nine had married, and the other eleven were still together. It was an enviable record by any standard. Despite the lofty name of the agency, Love Unlimited, her resources were indeed limited and had been concentrated on the day-to-day business of running the agency, leaving little for the kind of advertising and publicity Noelle would’ve liked. With one positive endorsement, Derrick Brandt could change all that. That is, if she could stomach the man long enough to find a woman willing to put up with him.
She finished her noted and turned the file in his direction. “Okay, I just need you to complete this application, and these disclosures.” She flipped through the pages. “Sign, here and here.”
His eyes shot up to meet hers, and she was once again startled by the unusual flickers of gold that surrounded the light green pupils, both colors in stark contrast to those long, lush black lashes. It’s ridiculous for a man to have lashes that long, she thought.
The unique color was not the most unsettling thing about his eyes. It was the open window to his every thought that they expressed. Whatever Derrick Brandt was thinking or feeling was plainly expressed there in those eyes.
“I don’t sign anything without reading it first.” He sat back, and once again crossed his ankle over his knee and settled in to read the file. Derrick smoothed his silk tie, reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a pen. Using it as a guide, he began reading. Noelle frowned at his downcast head, still unsure just what to make of him.
Granted, he was probably the most beautiful specimen of masculinity she’d ever laid eyes on. Granted, he was rich as King Solomon and showed flashes of intelligence that bordered on brilliant, but still with all that going for him . . . it was hard to like the man. It all started with that smile.
Noelle felt her blood beginning to boil once more just remembering. Her secretary, Terri, had called off because her daughter had come down with the flu. She understood the woes of a sick child, but that created a problem considering Noelle had five appointments scheduled for the day. The first and most important of which was scheduled to arrive any minute.
She was scrambling around on Terri’s desk looking for the number to the temporary agency she occasionally used, when the glass doors to her suite was thrown open, and he walked in. Derrick Brandt.
Noelle immediately recognized him. His face was in the paper almost every week. The photographic images did not do him justice. He stood tall and broad shouldered, and moved with the precision of a dancer. His handsome face look chiseled from stone, all sharp angles and perfect lines. His light colored almond shaped eyes were in startling contract to his rich brown skin. A sharp nose and heart shaped pink lips completed the exquisite picture. Looking at the model perfect man, one would never guess he got his start in life as a mailroom clerk for a Philadelphia architectural firm. A firm he now owned.
Realizing her first and most important appointment of the day had arrived. Noelle stood straight and walked around the desk with her hand extended in greeting, fully prepared to be her professional best. As her eyes met his, she stopped in her tracks with several feel still between them.
His hazel-green eyes twinkled with wolfish delight, as he openly, blatantly, and completely without shame ogled her! There was no other word for it.
Noelle stood stunned. No man had ever looked at her like that before. She had to fight the compulsion to cover herself with her hands, as he mentally stripped her of every article of clothing.
Then, as if that scathing examination were not insulting enough, he looked her directly in the eyes and he smiled. Not just any smile. No, this smile held sinister promise.
Watching the ravenous expression fade from his eyes when they fell to her left hand, Noelle was very grateful for the diamond wedding ring, she wore as a prop. She’d originally bought it to lend credibility to her role as a matchmaker. Most people understandably wanted to believe that their matchmaker was herself a happily married woman. Noelle had decided long ago to answer honestly if anyone every dared to ask about her marital status directly, but thankfully, no one had ever asked.
Determined to ignore his lascivious behavior, she pasted on her best smile and continued moving forward with her hand extended in greeting. “Welcome to Love Unlimited, Mr. Brandt, Noelle Brown.”
He frowned. “You’re Noelle Brown?”
Didn’t I just say that? She grind her teeth together determined to keep the false smile firmly in place. “Yes, I am. It’s so nice to meet you,” she lied.
Gesturing behind her, she said, “please come into my office. Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?”
“Neither.” He grumbled.
She turned and walked back into her office. “A bottle of water, perhaps?”
“That will be fine. Thank you.”
Noelle crossed behind the desk and opened the small fridge built into her credenza and pulled out two bottles of water. Reaching across the desktop, she placed one in front of the guest chair.
As Noelle took her seat, she tried very hard to wipe the memory of that smile from her mind, determine to make the best of this golden opportunity. It was impossible as she watched the porn movie playing in his mind reflected in his eyes.
She’d only known him five minutes, and she could already see the signs of why this man, whom it was said had the magical touch of King Midas in his business dealings was such a blazing failure at romantic relationships.
She’d just met the man and already didn’t like him. She could only imagine what other woman must think. You don’t have to like him, just tolerate him, Noelle reminded herself. He was the key to Love Unlimited’s future success. Finding Derrick Brandt a mate would put her small matchmaking agency on the map.
For years, Noelle had read the stories in all the local papers regarding Derrick Brandt’s professional success, and personal flops. Usually, businessmen did not garner the kind of media coverage Derrick received. With his rags to riches background and camera perfect face, he was a fascinating figure to the citizens of Philadelphia. Especially, when it became obvious that despite his financial acumen, he had the social grace of a humped back camel. As far as the local tabloids were concerned Derrick Brandt was the best kind of celebrity figure, prone to public emotional outburst.
He argued with his girlfriends in busy restaurants. He assaulted camera men who got too close. He had a well-known reputation for being rude and surly, the by-product of which was that for the right price people in the service industry were eager to betray him. And although, he was considered a playboy not a very successful one.
In other words, Derrick Brandt was a paparazzi dream-come-true. They had even gone so far as to give him the odious label of The Most Ineligible Bachelor in the City.
And now, the man and all the media that went along with him were sitting in Noelle’s office seeking her help in finding his perfect mate.
When he’d called her last week to schedule the appointment, Noelle had immediately seen the opportunity for what it was. The chance of a lifetime. Although, growing fast due to their remarkable record for matching couples, Love Unlimited was still a small and essentially unknown entity on the Philly dating scene. Noelle had recognized right away that Derrick Brandt could change all that.
Finding the right woman for Derrick Brandt would garner media attention for her firm that could not be bought. It would be said that if Love Unlimited could find a match for the most ineligible bachelor in Philadelphia, they could find a match for anyone! Noelle could already see the headlines, and the droves of new clients that would follow.
First, in order to do that, she would have to put her personal dislike for the lecherous man aside and apply herself to doing what she did best. Matching couples based on common interest, physical attraction and the most likely long term compatibility. Or in Derrick Brandt’s case, . . . finding Ms. Right for Mr. Wrong.
Copyright © Elaine Overton by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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