A Perfect Match
Can a cynical reporter prove to an idealistic matchmaker they’re perfect together?
Journalist Mitch MacKinnon is giving his all to make the big time and he’s found his ticket in…but first he has to write an exposé on a local dating service and its owner, Juliette Lowell. Her unorthodox methods seem laughable…until they pair him with the sexy-as-hell Juliette. As they begin a series of dates to determine their compatibility, will Mitch have to eat his words and the story that will take him to the top in order to admit that Juliette is his perfect match?
A PERFECT MATCH is a “retro” release, throwing back to 2003—a time when “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence and “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera were two of the biggest pop songs of the year, when “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dawson’s Creek” both ended, Britney and Madonna kissed, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King topped the box office, and Internet dating was still in its infancy. So remember years past as you read Juliette and Mitch’s story.
As she passed a row of tables outlining the dance floor, a familiar voice called out, “Juliette.”
She recognized the voice right away by the shiver in her spine. Slowly, she turned. He deserved a Hunk of the Year award for the way he shaped a tuxedo jacket and his drop-dead dimpled smile.
Juliette inhaled, hoping oxygen would revive her suddenly malfunctioning brain. “Hi.”
“Hi, yourself.” He rose, eyeing the bared shoulders above her rosy gown intently. “Wow. This morning, I didn’t think you could look much better. What an idiot I was.”
Juliette actually felt heat crawl up her face. “Thank you.”
“Hey, since you look so good, and I’m all dressed up in this penguin suit, how about a dance?”
“Aren’t you with someone?”
“Yeah, but she’s gone to the bathroom.”
He was asking her to dance when his date had only slipped out for a moment? Though he wasn’t making a play for her exactly, asking her to dance when he was here on a date seemed like a really asshole thing to do. “Don’t you think she’ll mind?”
“Nah,” he assured, grinning. “My mother has accepted the fact I have other women in my life since puberty.”
“You’re here with your mother?”
He nodded, his smile faltering. “She moved out here when Dad died. Part of the deal was that I’d escort her to these fancy wing-ding parties.”
So he wasn’t a jerk—at least not totally. “That’s…considerate of you.”
He shrugged. “So how ’bout it?”
Juliette hesitated. Looking at Mitch was unnerving enough, but touching him and letting him touch her when she was wearing a backless dress… None of that seemed wise.
“I really should get back—”
“Oh, come on. Three minutes,” he cajoled, stepping closer. God, he smells fabulous. “I’ll ask you a few questions. It’ll be the second part of our interview.”
She met his dark stare with a quiver. “You’re difficult to turn down.”
“Thanks for not trying too hard.”
Juliette felt his fingertips at her elbow a moment later. His exhalations caressed the tingling skin of her neck. When they reached the perimeter of the dance floor, Mitch turned her into his arms.
His expression devoured her.
Juliette swallowed, unable to tear her gaze away. He slid his hand up the length of her arm and around to her bare back. Tingles danced all over her skin, through her body. Oh, wow! Reaching for her other hand with his, he swayed to the music.
Having Mitch’s strong arms around her felt like an embrace. She responded to it, heard her own breathing roughen in answer to his touch. His scent, teasing, musky, tickled her nose. Every pore opened to bask in his male aura. Every nerve strained toward him.
Deep within, her matchmaking intuition sparked, a gut feeling signaling that Mitch could be special to her.
Impossible. He wasn’t even sure love existed and was more interested in seeing the world than raising a family.
Then why did she feel this…deep curiosity to know Mitch, experience his every facet? Why did she want nothing more than to cast their differences aside and know the taste of his kiss?
“Nice music, huh?” He mocked the band’s selection.
Until he’d mentioned the blaring trumpets, she hadn’t noticed. She sent Mitch a shaky smile. “Fine.”
“Listen, about this morning… My turf is sports, and I’m a little cranky about having to cover “Community Happenings”. I’m sorry.”
Juliette met his gaze. Before she could drown in his dark, smoky eyes, she forced herself to reply, “Does your change of heart mean you believe in my methods now?”
He smiled ruefully. “No. It just means I could have been more polite in my disbelief.”
Not what she wanted to hear, but at least he was honest. Still, his write-up would affect her fledgling business. “Aren’t reporters supposed to be objective?”
“Ah, yes. The ‘impartial observer of life’ theory.” He twirled her around. “I’m an opinionated guy. That’s one reason my beat is sports. You’re supposed to tell it like it is.”
“All right. What would it take to change your mind?”
With a shrug, he answered, “It’s just not the kind of stuff I believe in, you know, astrology and handwriting analysis. But I’m willing to meet the Grahams and see your business from their point of view.”
His hand drifted down her bare back in something dangerously close to a caress. He fit her body closer to his, and Juliette almost lost her reply in the feel of his hard body against her own, in the thundering of her heart.
“I’m glad you’re keeping an open mind,” she squeaked out.
Mitch felt steady, substantial, like a thousand-year-old redwood. She allowed her hand to drift up the sleek, solid curve of his shoulder, her fingers pressing into his firm flesh. In his arms, surrounded by his scent, her imagination was beginning to let loose, complete with visions of she and Mitch in front of a roaring fire, naked and—
“Are you from Santa Clarita?” He spoke in a whisper, hushed as if it belonged among the tangled sheets of lovers. She’d never realized how arousing a man’s voice could be.
Juliette understood now, when her nipples stood up and all but begged for attention.
He laid his cheek against hers. His breath fanned into her ear. Shivers raced across her skin. Juliette knew she ought to pull away, and planned to…in a minute.
“No. Have you lived here long?” she asked, her own voice breathy.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Andrew twirling Kara across the sparsely-populated dance floor. The sight of her almost-fiancé jolted Juliette back to reality.
She and Mitch were dancing too close for acquaintances. With faces touching and mouths inches apart…what would Andrew think? A glance across the ballroom worried her. Andrew laughed with Kara as he glided across the floor with her, seeming oblivious.
Okay, maybe the better question would be, why did being in Mitch’s arms feel so good? Why was she so tempted by him? He really wasn’t her type.
“I’ve only been in Santa Clarita for ten months,” Mitch replied. “Before that, I lived in Vermont, Manhattan and Washington State. I did a brief stint in Birmingham, England.”
Juliette pulled away. “Did you move that much just to see the world?”
“You make it sound as terrible as a disease. Moving is exciting, as long as the job is good. Besides, I wasn’t sorry to leave Vermont or Washington. Too cold and rainy. And let’s face facts, it takes a special kind of person to live in Manhattan. I wasn’t special, I guess.”
“Do you plan on staying here now?” she asked, afraid she already knew his answer.
“Here?” Mitch laughed. “No. I’ve got an outside shot at a job at USA Today. If I get it, I’ll be packing up again.”
“And you’re excited by packing boxes, changing phone numbers, moving to yet someplace else where you know no one?”
“New places and people put adventure in your life.”
Stability clearly wasn’t the name of his game. Why did she find him so interesting when they clearly had so little in common?
“Don’t you ever feel…” she groped for a word, “…ungrounded? Like you don’t have any roots, any place to really call home? When you move away, don’t you ever wonder what kind of happiness you may have left behind?”
The downward slash of his brows and his blank stare gaze shouted confusion. Perfect. He didn’t even understand her question. There was no way he’d be able to give her, or himself, an answer.
“Not really. I mean, there’s a lot of great people I want to meet and a bunch of exciting places I’m dying to see. Why hang around, if you don’t have to?”
She gaped at him, open-mouthed, for a full ten seconds. “Because life is about security and having your friends and loved ones around you. Having someone to share joys and sorrows with. Knowing you’ll be comforted by the warm and familiar as you get older.”
He frowned. “You sound like my mom. Don’t you ever think about all the places you’ll never see trapped in this little town? You ever been to Paris? I have. Lived there for three months right after college. I loved it!”
“That’s what vacations are for.” She bristled.
He rolled his eyes. “You can’t really get to know a city in a week. Life may be about security for you. Me? I want to see and do it all. Growing up in a town so small that watching the grass grow thrilled the locals cured me of ‘stability’. I don’t want to wake up one day, middle-aged and miserable, and lament about all the things I never did, but always wanted to. That’s a waste.”
Juliette stiffened in his arms. This conversation was headed nowhere—fast. Mitch, along with his anti-root attitude, only proved that her matchmaking intuition wasn’t one hundred percent right.
And her gut feeling was wrong in this case. Andrew had to be the perfect man for her.
Why wasn’t her heart convinced of that fact?
5 Blue Ribbons! “Shelley Bradley is one of my favorite authors for a reason. Her talent is limitless and releases like A PERFECT MATCH further my admiration of this brilliant author.”
– Romance Junkies
5 Clovers! “A PERFECT MATCH is a wonderfully realistic romance that packs plenty of heat and lots of heart!”
– Ck2s Kwips & Kritiques
“This author knows how to take a happy ending and make you feel it clear down to your toes. A Perfect Match sizzles with energy and passion. Very highly recommended.”
– Two Lips Reviews
Joyfully Recommended! “A Perfect Match is pure delight from beginning to end. If you like your books sizzling, fast-paced, with some truly sigh-worthy romantic moments, then Ms. Bradley’s newest tale is your perfect match.”
– Joyfully Reviewed
“You’ll want to devour this captivating and pleasurable…then re-read it again and again.”
– Romance Reviews Today