Thursday, September 2, 2010


Cat Newbury sat in the back booth of Café Lola. A half eaten, cream filled canolis lay before her. She tapped a beat under the table with her foot as she sipped a Double Amaretto Espresso, high on the caffeine rush. It was a glorious way to start the day. Er, well, not as good as mind blowing sex. She chuckled then popped a piece of canolis into her mouth. The ink was barely dry on her divorce. "I'm horny, sue me."
She checked her watch. They were late. "Typical," she murmured, catching the attention of several other patrons. Smiling, she winked at the old lady by the window. Turning to her untouched newspaper, she began to flip through the pages of The Post, scanning the headlines. If they didn't arrive soon, she'd be so wired on expresso, they would have to peal her off the walls. Cat's fingers took up the beat of the cafe's upbeat music, drummed the table top, until one ad caught her attention. She stopped flipping the pages.
Millionaire seeks bride. No models, no actresses. Only serious applicants need apply.

Coffee spewed past her lips, dotting the page in a mire of brown fading ink. “Incredulous.”
Reaching for her reading glasses, she re-read the ad, lightly wiping away the moisture on the page. Even with her glasses on, it read the same. “Bloody hysterical.”
“Are you ok ma’am?”
Cat glanced up at the waitress. “Excuse me?”
“You keep muttering to yourself.”
She laughed. “I do that quite often.” After a searching glance, the young girl shuffled away. This is New York, she better get used to weirdo’s.
Underneath the bold advertisement was a phone number. Scrawling the number on a napkin, she waited for her friends to appear. I could match him with so many different women. Cat tilted her head to the side, pursed her lips then nodded. “Yes, perfect.”
It could work.
She grinned, gazed out the floor to ceiling French windows, and plotted just how she would approach her friends with the idea of opening up a matchmaking firm. Lost in thought, she jumped when her iPhone buzzed and Taylor’s number appeared across the screen.
“You're late,” she answered only to hear chuckles on the other end.
“You're shocked?”
Cat could picture Taylor rolling her eyes. "When should I expect you two?"
“Traffic is snarled along the Manhattan bridge.” Taylor mumbled something about the car's GPS. "Where are you again?"
“Café Lola, between Amsterdam and Broadway.”
“Ok, be there soon, love you!”
“Uh huh,” she clicked her phone off.
When she finally spotted her two dearest friends, she smiled, and signaled for three more cups of espresso.
“Cat, I’ve missed you. Why have you abandoned me for the city?” With a little pout, Taylor kissed her on the cheek and slid into the seat next to her.
“The house in the Hampton’s was part of the settlement deal. It was hot property, so I sold it.”
“Sold what?” Jess wanted to know as she hugged Cat and sat across from the two other women.
“Her house in the Hampton’s.” Taylor supplied, as she accepted her hot coffee from the waitress.
“Why did you go and do a thing like that?” Jess flicked her long blonde hair away from her steaming mug and blew lightly over the hot liquid.
“Must have burned Ed’s ass when you did that,” Taylor offered.
“I’m sure it did.” Cat responded, putting her messy divorce into a file stamped closed.
“So how much did you get?”
Cat shook her head and smiled. “You know I love you both like sisters, but . . . I can’t say. Gag order.”
“Tsk, tsk, Cat, you can’t even tell us?” When Cat said nothing, Jess sighed. “Well the whole damn city knows about my settlement, Taylor’s too. Just nod once if it was good, twice if it had anything to do with the bimbo you caught Ed with and smile if it’s a little of column A and a little of column B.”
She smiled brightly, and all three of them laughed.
“Oh God, I’m so happy your free from that man! Happy we’re all free. Waitress,” Taylor called. “Three glasses of whatever alcohol you’ve got.”
“A tad early, don’t you think? We have children to pick up.” Jess frowned when a flutes was set before each woman, a bottle of wine in the center of the table.
“At six o’clock,” Taylor muttered, sticking out her tongue like a child. The woman lived by her own rules. “According to my calculations that is eight hours and twenty-nine minutes from now. We have cause to celebrate.”
“Indeed, we do,” Cat poured them each a half glass and lifted her arm in the air. “I have a business proposition to make.” Taylor and Jess exchanged a look of interest as she placed the Post before them.
The women looked up at the same time and burst into roaring laughter.
“Is this guy serious?”
“Is this a joke? Has all the espresso gone to your head?” Taylor leaned over to place her hand on Cat’s head. She pushed it away.
“Cat, are you going to call him?” Jess wiped tears from her eyes.
“Yes, no, maybe. I read this earlier and had the same reaction. But just listen. How many people do we know who have trouble in love? Too many. And lets face it, this internet dating thing is so um, aloof, there’s no human interaction. He did give me an idea." All eyes were on her. “Matchmaking.”
Taylor threw her hands over her face. “Cat, I hate to burst your bubble, but who is going to hire three divorcee’s, two of which have children, to find them love? We can’t even find it.”
Jess peeked under the table, “Its not down here.”
Cat nudged Jess with a foot. “First of all, none of us failed in our marriages. We were not the one’s who had affairs with our assistants, agents, and assorted others. We did not stray, and we can hardly be faulted for divorcing them. Besides, with our connections, we know half the city.”
“I like the idea.” Taylor was the first to bite, which was not a surprise. She was a risk taker. A marketing exec with the top agency in New York. If she took you on as a client, you were golden.
Conservative Jess tapped something on her Blackberry. “Lets do it,” she said, smacking the table with her palm.
“Taylor?” Cat eyed her daredevil friend.
“Damn right! If you’re both in, so am I.”

Chapter 1

Two years later . . .
Cat sat in her office, and listened to the shouts and squeals of her friend’s children running through the offices of Ever After. It had taken her three weeks to convince her friends to pick up and take their kids away from the city for a well deserved vacation. The women worked their butts off and deserved a break.
And, thanks to their diligence, confidence and connections, Ever After was a raving success.
She leaned back in her soft leather chair, relieved all the renovations were finally complete. Her office was stunning. Her masterpiece. One she had painstakingly decorated down to the trim. Her mahogany desk, a steal at an auction, always remained uncluttered. A utilitarian at heart, it held her Macbook Pro, pictures of her nieces and nephews in silver gilt frames, and a Tiffany lamp. Simple.
The walls of her office were a soothing golden yellow.
“Ok, so she I'm a little OCD, no one’s perfect.”
Two bookcases, lined either side of the huge desk, filled with books and antiques from her personal collection. Two Edwardian wing back chairs, in deep green, sat before her desk. Two recently acquired John William Waterhouse paintings from private collectors adorned the back walls. The sweeping soulful way in which Waterhouse captured beauty was simply stunning. Cat could stare for hours.
She cringed at the sound of glass shattering somewhere beyond her office. Kids were great, she loved them, but her office didn’t.
“Ms. Newbury, your mother is here to see you.”Her assistant's voice buzzed over the intercom.
Cat groaned and ran a hand over her eyes. Her face felt gritty. Her mother was the last thing she needed in an already long day.
“Should I tell her you’re in a meeting?”

“Shall I send Mr. Delauncey in?”
She sighed. “Please do.”
Rising, she took a deep breath and waited by the door.
Always conservative, Andre Delauncey, the only man they couldn't match, strolled down the hallway, Blackberry planted against his ear. That was a huge problem. Taylor had mentioned his pension for answering calls while on dates. Nothing screamed not interested, better then a man who spent his time on the phone.
In a pair of dark blue straight-legged trousers, and fitted, charcoal gray shirt, he appeared classic, expensive. Versace by her estimation. To look at, he was perfect.
“Good day, Mr. Delauncey,” she said loud enough to break his concentration. He stopped speaking, and looked down at Cat’s extended hand.
“Oh, good day, Mrs.?” God, he can’t even remember my name! What a class act.
“Ms. Newbury,” she supplied and took his warm hand in her own.
“My apologies.” Was he apologizing for his lack of manners, not knowing her name, or thinking she was a Mrs.? “If you could give me a moment . . . ”
“No.” Cat controlled the urge to laugh when his eyebrows shot up. Sleek brown brows rose over deep, intelligent, green eyes.
“No?”Perplexed, he held the phone away.
“Mr. Delauncey, you’re late for your appointment with me and tardy for all of your dates. You’re on your Blackberry, just like you are on you're dates. So no, I’m not going to give you a moment. If you had prior engagements you should have canceled our appointment.” If she was anything, she was blunt, and always straight to the point. She made no apologies for it either. Her no holds barred comments just might work for Mr. I-HAVE-NO-PEOPLE-SKILLS.
“Excusez-moi, je dois aller.” He finished his call and took a seat.
“Can I get you anything, Mr. Delauncey? Espresso, tea, water?”
No thank you, Ms. Newbury.”
She tapped her fingers on the desk. “I know that Taylor is usually advises you, however, she’s taken an unexpected leave, so you’re stuck with me.” She put on her glasses and flipped through his file, waiting. He sat at the edge of his seat, knuckles white from gripping his vibrating phone.
“I’ve reviewed your matches and wanted to get some input from you. Were there any dates you particularly enjoyed? Women you would like to see again?”
He grimaced and glanced down at his phone.
Geez, were they all that memorable?
“Yes, there was. Emily.”
“Emma, you mean,” she corrected.
“Yes, that’s it. We had a pleasant dinner in SoHo. I wouldn’t mind seeing her again.” Glowing endorsement buddy.
Pretending to be interested in his file, she bit her bottom lip, barely able to contain laughter. Emma never wanted to see him again. She was dating a banker from New Jersey. “I’m afraid Emma has been matched with someone else. I do have a young lady, a recent graduate of Harvard Law; she joined Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. She speaks five languages, and, of course, is fluent in French.” Glancing up she tried to gauge his reaction. His perfectly sculpted face remained impassive, and frustratingly closed. Lovely. “Does that interest you, Mr. Delauncey,” she asked, and slid the photo of Francesca Pachino across the desk.
He scanned the image then nodded. “Certainly, if Emma is not available, I’m not opposed to seeing Ms. Pachino for dinner.” She liked the way he rolled his r’s.
“Ok, look, Andre,” Cat hated formalities. “None, and I mean not even one of your dates has turned into a second date. Do you not agree that is odd?”
He thought about it, she could see it in his eyes. “Well, what do you think?” She could see why women became frustrated with him.
“It doesn't matter what I think, Andre. What matters is what you think.”
“It’s difficult to say for sure.”
“Fair enough,” Cat agreed, and came up with a new strategy. “I’ll set up the date with Francesca, and at a discreet distance, I will observe, and see if I can’t come up with a few suggestions for you.” Secretly, Cat thought, he was a lost cause. All beautiful male and nothing up top.
“When are you available?”
Like lightening, he whipped open his Blackberry and began to furiously type and scroll. “I’m free next Thursday.”
“Very well, I will speak with Francesca, and call you to confirm.” She extended her hand again.
“Excellent, good day to you, Ms. Newbury.”
“Cat,” she said, as he began to retreat.
“Excuse me,” he turned and stared at her.

“Call me Cat. And Andre, lose the blackberry. Its not very conducive to a successful date.”

These two are just getting started, mon chéri.