Book #3 in the Bayshore series
Contemporary Matchmaker Rom-Com
As one of the best matchmakers in the industry, I could find a rotting stump its Prince Charming.
After a bad break-up forces me to uproot and start over, I’m feeling a lot like a rotting stump in need of a spa day. So when I find my dream gig in a new city, this is a chance for me to wipe the slate sparkling clean—professionally and romantically.
But this new gig has a few problems. The biggest one being that the man I have to match off is someone I went to high school with. Not only that, he’s less Prince Charming and more King Asshole.
Varsity baseball star turned rock star cardiologist. One of the hottest guys you’ve ever seen in the flesh. But also one of the most untouchable men ever, because five minutes around this man shows me he stops for nobody.
The holier-than-thou eldest Daly brother, who is only looking for a wife-of-convenience, even though his ice-blue gaze and chiseled jaw could send a woman to the ER.
Worse yet? There’s more to King Asshole than I thought. I know his perfect love match…and it looks a lot like me.
Except I’m not falling for the ‘dating in the professional pool’ trick again. So this thing between us? Just once—er, twice…nope, thrice—and done.
Even though the longer this goes on, the more I think Dom is trying to make me his.
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“London, London, London.”
Her name is Nancy, and the way she’s saying my name suggests that she’s either about to make a joke—and I promise you, I’ve probably heard it already—or she’s very pleased with our first in-person meeting.
Since I’ve only been in this office with her for about ten minutes, I can’t exactly tell. I barely know the woman, much less her tones. But I do know she loves purple, based on the infinite shades of lavender she has on her spiral-designed scrub top.
This is the final meeting in what I am absolutely, positively, persistently hopeful will be the last interview before I can stamp NO LONGER UNEMPLOYED on this chapter of my life.
She and I have been emailing back and forth in informal interviews for weeks while I packed up my apartment and left my life behind in Columbus, Ohio. This job opportunity appeared after I updated my profile on HireMe and waited with bated breath for an entire two weeks with absolutely no solid job leads here in Cleveland. Wait, scratch that. I’ve had plenty of job leads. But no job follow-through.
And I’m pretty sure I know why. It has everything to do with the fact that I’m the new girl in town. The new girl with an enormous, unsavory stain following her around. Like, you spilled wine on white carpet and then the dog shit on top of it. And then someone took a picture and put it on the internet, just to make sure everyone remembered forever.
“Nancy, Nancy, Nancy.” I offer a smile, though I’m not sure what comes next. Nancy and I are technically pen pals, if that was still a thing in this day and age, based on all the emailing. I feel like she’s my relatable aunt whom I’ve never spoken to my entire life until this one time I needed a favor. And she’s going to hire me because obviously.
Or maybe this is just my wild positive self-talk trying to con the universe into giving me a steady paycheck again. Please, Nancy and God, let me be hired by this doctor so that I can continue paying my bills and being a successful adult.
“I have to say, if it were up to me, I’d hire you on the spot.” Nancy grins, setting aside my resume, which I suspect she caresses each night before bed.
“I’d hire you right back,” I tease, adding a playful wink. Dimples flash as she sends me a warm smile. Yes, we are definitely on our way to wine-buddies level. Please, Nancy and God, let us be wine-buddies level.
“But you know, there’s one important last step.” She folds her hands over the desk carefully. The smile droops a little. A cold breeze rolls in from somewhere, reminding me that we might not be wine-buddies level after all.
“Yes,” I say, clutching my laptop-sized briefcase in my lap. This final step is the entire reason I’m here today. The final barrier between me and a potential big-ticket client that will pay my way through the next six months.
“You need to meet the doc,” Nancy says simply, pushing back from the desk as if to suggest it’s out of my hands. Her cinnamon-brown hair glints in the sunshine streaming into the office in the late-September morning. I can tell she’s a looker when she’s not scrubbed out and waiting for lunchtime to finally get here. The thin wisp of her eyebrow tells me all I need to know. This woman and I are more alike than she realizes.
And really? This is all part of my job. The job that Nancy knows I’d be great at.
The job that “Doc” has yet to hire me for.
“Let’s go into his office,” she says, standing.
I push onto wobbly legs, waiting for her to come around her desk and lead me to the plain black door nearby that says “DOCTOR DALY.”
I’m hesitant to think this job is in the bag, even though Nancy and I are probably long-lost friends in-waiting. Even though Nancy contacted me herself because she was so impressed by my HireMe profile.
I’m hesitant because I’ve been smeared by my ex-boss, though that wasn’t the only ex he qualifies as in my life. Nobody wants to touch me with a ten-foot pole, because that asshole knows everybody in the brand image industry. That’s why I thought the medical field might be a surer bet. I’ve never worked with doctors before. Only politicians, tech start-ups, football players, and bumbling data geniuses. But people who could look at the pinky toe I stubbed three weeks ago and tell me whether or not I actually broke it?
Yes. Sign me up.
I can only pray that my ex-everything hasn’t drained this playing field for me already.
Nancy leads me into the spacious and immaculate office of Dr. Daly. It smells faintly of cologne and latex, like a musky vetiver had sex with a doctor’s glove. Nancy encourages me to sit in one of the two spartan chairs facing the expansive desk. She promises that the doctor will be in soon, and as soon as the door clicks shut behind her I snap into analysis mode.
Dr. Daly. I still don’t know his full name, because this entire job offer is so hush-hush that she didn’t even admit that she was in the medical industry until interview email number four. A lot of people don’t like being associated with me, and I get it. It’s sometimes uncool to admit that you work with a brand manager, much less a matchmaker. And I am proudly both. Sometimes one more than the other.
But God help me, I will manage your image, whether it’s for the entire world or just one special lover.
I lean over Dr. Daly’s desk, searching out some clues for who he might be. The building we’re in is used by a hodge-podge of medical professionals, but I am most certainly in the cardiac unit. His desk yields no clues. A metallic cup of pens sits nearby, as well as a laptop cord waiting for the unit to return from wherever the doctor has carried it. The desk features no mementos. No heartwarming family pictures. No mess of folders or half-scribbled notes reminding him to thaw turkey or buy more underwear—URGENT.
This man has left no clues as to his brand or his potential matchability. I frown, sitting back in my seat and tapping my finger against the armrest as I scan the rest of the office for more. The place is so pristine that I wouldn’t be surprised if a carpet cleaning crew came in each night.
So the man values cleanliness. Probably he’s a neatnik—which makes sense, given germs and his general involvement with health. Maybe even bordering on germaphobe? I’ll have to make sure not to swipe at my nose or visibly pick a wedgie. Not that I’d ever do those things in front of a client; it’s just better to know the hard nos prior to meeting someone. Definitely don’t cough all over his face. Check.
But what else? I spot a few framed images on the far wall of the office, next to a tall, wooden wardrobe set off from another door that I can only assume is a closet or a secret, celebrity-doctor-only entrance to the operating room. I head over to the frames. Some showcase certifications. The largest one contains his degree.
THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON has conferred upon DOMINIC DAMON DALY the degree of MEDICAL DOCTOR.
Dominic Daly. I blink a few times, my gaze washing over the fancy script again as the words settle into me. The name is familiar. Too familiar.
Voices beyond the office door snag my attention, and I scurry back into the chair facing the desk. The door cracks open and I hear the rumble of bass, “Hang on.” Practically a bark. It has to be Dr. Daly. Nancy comes into the room a moment later, her smile straining at the edges.
“Dr. Daly is almost ready to see you,” she says. “He’s still finishing up with a surgical consult, and it takes him a few moments to switch gears.”
I understand what she’s saying, but I can also see through her words to the real meaning. He’s a prima-donna who I need to handle with white gloves. I’ve worked with everyone, on all rungs of the ladder. And this situation already smacks of white gloves and eggshells.
The door opens all the way behind her, and Dr. Daly strolls in. I’m not sure if it’s a full three seconds or only a half second for me to drink him in and recognize who I’m dealing with. At any rate, it happens quick. This is what I’m trained to do. And my computer input is telling me the following:
This man is a fox.
This man is a dick.
And this man is too busy.
His neck is bent as he studies some files in his hands, barely watching where he’s going, a laptop tucked under his other arm. He damn near barrels into Nancy, who leaps out of his way because that’s probably what she has to do every day, like ballet rehearsal.
Nearly pitch-black hair is swept away from his face in soft waves, framing black eyebrows drawn together in doctor-grade focus as he brushes past me and behind the desk. I’m not sure that he knows I’m here. I’m not sure he cares.
But once the breeze of his wake settles, I catch the vetiver tang of his cologne, and something inside me clenches. It might be paired with the squareness of his shoulders or the fact that he stands six foot sexy in a white coat and a frown.
When he comes to a stop behind his desk, he sets the laptop down with a sigh. Icy blue eyes sweep up over me, igniting parts of my body that I didn’t know existed. He could make my spleen feel erotically charged with that blue gaze shivering over it, and I wonder if his patients are getting turned on while under anesthesia.
But when his gaze settles on my face, something else courses through me. It’s the thick sludge of recognition. Not just the veiled horror of seeing someone you know in the grocery store after ten years apart, but the dim recognition that you’re suddenly in a very sticky situation.
I know this man. His presence connects with the name on the diploma in a final, thundering crack.
Dominic Daly. Of course.
This is a blast from my Bayshore past if I’ve ever seen one. An incredibly sexy, well-aged, super-hot-doc blast from the past. One that is currently scowling at me, his eyes doubling as daggers.
“You have to be kidding me,” he spits, that whip gaze flinging past me, landing on Nancy. I pray for you, my gal pal Nance. “Is this a fucking joke?”
Nancy comes to the edge of the desk, much more confidently than I’d have imagined. This guy has probably been less than peachy to work with. “What are you talking about?”
“Her.” Dom gestures toward me like I’m nothing. No, like I’m worse than nothing. Like unceremonious trash left on the curbside for six weeks. Like I’m the forgotten Tupperware in the way back of the third drawer, the place that people have been purposefully ignoring. “She won’t work. Interview over.”
I grit my teeth as I watch him press his fingertips against his desktop, leaning forward as though establishing dominance over my meek and seated frame. I straighten my back as I weigh my options. I wasn’t expecting Dominic Daly to be the other side of the interview today, but I definitely wasn’t expecting him to react like this.
He and I never had issues in high school. I can’t imagine why he’d be treating me like this.
Unless my ex-everything got to him somehow. But that seems impossible. Like something from an exaggerated fever dream.
I don’t have time to be treated like this. Not anymore. Not after what happened in Columbus. Not even if it means foregoing a five-figure payout for six short weeks of work.
“Great. Interview done.” I hold Dominic’s gaze as I come to my feet, making sure he can feel the razor edges of my gaze.
My only twinge of regret comes from seeing Nancy’s devastated expression as I march past her.
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