Make You Mine

By: Tawny Taylor

Chapter 1

Roughly three hundred sixty three days a year, I knew without a doubt I had the world’s best job. Spending afternoons lounging in a café, mainlining white chocolate mocha Frappuccino, and nights sipping top shelf wine was not a bad way to make a buck. Especially when I was doing so while socializing with single men who were--for the most part--extremely pleasing to the eye, unbelievably rich, and in the market for love,.

But every now and then, I had a day like today.

“I need to find a man.” Poking at my salad, I cast a hopeful glance around the restaurant-slash-jazz-bar where my best friend and I were having our regular Friday night dinner, or at least, I was eating dinner. Sasha had opted for a liquid meal, as usual.

“Don’t we all, honey,” Sasha said with a chuckle as she gave her long hair a flip. “I haven’t been on a date in months.”

“Not for me, silly. I need to find a new client. I haven’t closed a deal in over a month. Not one.” I stabbed a tomato with my fork.

“Don’t worry. Your boss loves you.”

“Loved. Past tense, Sasha. I’m new. And the honeymoon’s over. The way things are looking, I’ll be collecting unemployment soon…and living under a bridge. Marguerite doesn’t smile when she sees me anymore; she glowers. It’s only a matter of time before I’m kicked to the curb.” I poked at my house salad, light dressing, with my fork. Clearly my definition of light didn’t match the waitress’.

“You’re exaggerating.”

“I wish I was.” Sasha, a novelist who was still living at home with her parents, hadn’t sold a book in two years, and had recently “parted ways” with her agent, might be neck deep in denial, but I wasn’t. As the sole source of income in my household, and a girl who’d learned not so long ago that I needed to do whatever was necessary to survive, I knew I needed to land a new contract. Soon. Like, yesterday.

Or I’d have to go crawling back to my mother’s sister for help.

I’d rather die than do that.

After my mother and father had been unjustly convicted of murdering my little brother four years ago, my aunt had been shoved into the role of surrogate parent. It wasn’t a role she filled eagerly.

I had to get a new contract. Had to.

But signing a new contract was easier said than done. Premier was the most prestigious matchmaking company in the state, catering to highly selective clients who required discretion and complete privacy. The chances of stumbling upon a man who’d meet Premier’s minimum requirements in a place like this--not that it was a dump--were slim to none. Regardless of the fact that it was a Friday night. And every booth and table was packed. And eligible men of all shapes, sizes, and ages were filing through the door at a steady clip.

The crappy odds weren’t going to stop me from looking, though. For one thing, because I was desperate. For another, it was fun. And lastly, because I was a firm believer in miracles.

“You ask me, that’s where you’re going wrong, Daryl.” Playing with her unlit clove cigarette, Sasha shook her head, her trademark let-me-tell-you-how-it-is look firmly in place. “Girl, you keep handing all the keepers over to other women. You deserve a good man too. Or a bad boy, as the case may be.” She winked.

“Mmmm,” I said, intentionally ignoring Sasha’s last statement. This conversation played between us at least once a month. She told me I needed to find myself a man. And I told her I was one hundred percent content to remain single for the rest of my life. It was ironic, I knew, that I was selling the one thing I would do just about anything to avoid, but I had my reasons. Call me jaded, but I’d come to the conclusion that bachelors my age didn’t want to settle down. No matter what they said in an interview. At least, they didn’t want to settle down with a girl like me. Especially not the kind of men who paid for a Premier membership. “Seems to me, we’ve gone down this road before.”

Sasha sighed so hard her bangs fluttered in the breeze she stirred up. “I’m so tired of arguing about this.”

“So am I.” There was one surefire way to put a quick halt to this conversation before it got out of hand. “Look at that,” I said. “You need another beer. Maybe we’d better order two.” I waved the waitress over to order a couple more beers for my annoying but loveable friend.

“Mom is on another one of her trips.” Looking a little pathetic, Sasha plunked her elbow on the table and dropped her chin onto her hand. “And I don’t want to go home to an empty house tonight.” She tipped her head toward a group of male newcomers, crowding around the bar to watch the last few minutes of the hockey game. “Maybe I can find me some company.”

“Hey, what am I, chopped liver?” I asked around a mouthful of soggy iceberg lettuce. “I told you I would stay the night.”

“Oh, honey. Of course you’re not chopped liver.” Sasha gave me a little pat on the shoulder. “But, no offense, spooning with you just doesn’t cut it.” Her smile was slightly wilted around the edges, like my salad.

How I hated salad.

Deciding I’d eaten enough, I set my plate to the side. “I told you to come into the office and I would hook you up.”

“I don’t need any help picking a man. I do just fine on my own, thankyouverymuch. Hey, that one over there, with the dark eyes and wavy hair has promise. And look at that, he has a tattoo. That makes three hottie points in my book.” Sasha slid forward in her seat as the waitress trotted over with two longneck bottles of their best Canadian beer, set them on the table, and took my half-eaten dinner away. Sasha took a swig out of one then set it down, the glass clunking against the polished wood table. “I think I’ll go out to smoke later.” She dug into her purse, returning the cigarette to its case and producing a pack of gum. “How’s my lipstick?” She puckered. “I’m going in for a ring-check, instead.”

“Hold on.” I leaned over, getting a look at her target’s backside. “Forget it. Your three-point hottie is wearing jeans from Wal-Mart. You might as well go out and smoke.”

“What? Damn.” Sasha popped a couple of pieces of gum out of the foil pack and dumped them in her mouth. “Are you sure? How can you tell?”

“It’s my job. I can spot a pair of Wranglers from fifty yards.”

“You continue to amaze me.” Sasha leaned forward, her breath reeking of mint and beer. “Show me, oh wise one.”

Trying to look inconspicuous, I motioned to Mr. Wrangler whispering, “You can’t miss the big, ugly tag on the waistband.”

“Ah, but what if he’s wearing a belt?”

“Then, you can check the back pocket. But you’ve got to get closer to do that. The pocket tag is a lot smaller.”

“Mmmm, mmmm.” Sitting back again, Sasha snatched her beer up. “I wouldn’t mind getting closer to that tush.”

“Which is exactly why you need me to pick your next man.”

Bottle at her mouth, Sasha shook her head, setting her dangly earrings into a violent swing of silver flash. “You can’t. I don’t meet Premier’s minimum requirements, remember? What a joke. Who says a zillionaire can’t fall in love with someone like me? The girl next door. It happens all the time.”

I cringed. There was no denying the hurt I heard in Sasha’s voice whenever we talked about my job. But the truth was I wouldn’t meet Premier’s minimum requirements either. In Sasha’s case, though, it was only a matter of a few minor fibs. I was a total lost cause. “Like I said, I’ll lie about your smoking. Your job. Your--“

“Everything,” she interrupted.

“Not everything. You’re gorgeous. In shape, athletic--”

“No. You’d have to lie about practically everything but my name and my dress size. You can’t do that.”

“You’re exaggerating. But for you, I would lie. Yes, I could. And I would.”

“No, you won’t.” Sasha pointed the mouth of the bottle at me. “Because I won’t let you. And I know you’ll be fired if you do any matchmaking outside of work, so forget it. I’m on my own.” She checked her reflection in her compact mirror then stood. “And now I’m going to talk to Mr. Wal-Mart Pants because he has great dimples and a hot tattoo. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.” Smiling, she trounced off, a girl on a mission, target in sight, and all guns locked and loaded.

She returned less than five minutes later, her quarry trailing behind her, Mr. Wal-Mart Pants and a second guy, who was seriously cute, in a rough, slightly mussed kind of way. As they came closer, I noticed the friend’s hair was a riot of blond-tipped waves, the roots a deep brown. Sexy dark stubble shadowed his clefted chin. When he stepped up to our table, a stunning smile spread over his nicely angular face, the brilliant white of his teeth a stark contrast to his deeply tanned skin.

Sasha slid into the booth across from me. “Guys, this is my friend Daryl. Daryl, this is Andy and Tevin.”

Andy plunked himself down beside Sasha, leaving Tevin to sit next to me.

“Hello.” I gave each man one of my I’m-being-friendly-only-because-I-have-to half-smiles and scooted over, putting some space between me and Tevin.

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