Chapter One

Chloe Daniels was running late. Again. As always. It was bad enough when she was late in meeting her best friend, Jenna, for dinner or when picking up her visiting mother from the airport. But it was ten times worse when she was meeting a potential client for the first time. Especially that day’s potential client, Brad Maylis, the Yankees’ all-star pitcher.

As the taxi pulled up to the entrance of a corner coffee shop in the West Village, Chloe tossed a twenty in the direction of the driver’s seat and dashed out of the cab to the front door of the shop, which was abuzz with a flux of patrons desperately in need of coffee. She paused at the door, smoothed down the front of her skirt and took a calming breath. Then she entered in search of her client.

He had told her he would be wearing a black Atlanta Braves cap low over his eyes – as much of a disguise as Brad would permit himself. It did not take her long to scope out the hat in a sea of suits, ties and high-heeled boots. He was lounging at a corner table, sipping a grandé and reading a book. A mystery novel to be exact.

Chloe smiled at the fact that he was not reading the New York Metro’s sports section or the recent edition of NY Woman, which had crowned him the city’s most eligible bachelor. Chloe had read the story days before she got the call from Brad himself that he was looking for love and wanted to hire her as a matchmaker. She later chuckled at the irony that the editors at NY Woman had no idea their Mr. Most Eligible was not only looking for love, he was ready to settle down.

“Sorry I’m late,” Chloe said upon approach.

“No worries.” Brad smiled up at her, a smile of lazy confidence, of a warm and happy upbringing in a small town in Tennessee. Coupled with a pair of hazel eyes that contrasted quite sexily with his tanned complexion, Chloe could easily understand why the editors at NY Woman were so smitten.

He moved to stand. “You want something to drink?”

“Oh no, I’m good. Thank you,” she replied, sitting across from him.

“You sure? The coffee here’s really good.”

“Really? I’ll have to get some on the way out.”

“You must be a morning person.”

“Kind of. Why?”

“I can’t put two words together without a cup o’ Joe.”

She smiled at that.

“But I gotta say, Ms. Daniels, I’ve been looking forward to this meeting all week.”

“Please, call me Chloe.”

“When my buddy Clark told me about you, I was like, man, you gotta hook me up.”

Chloe’s face brightened. “Clark and Annie. How are they doing?”

Clark, a baseball scout, and Annie, an antiquities professor, were one of her first matches when she took a leap of faith, quit her job and began matchmaking full-time.

“They’re good,” Brad replied. “They’re expecting baby number two any day now.”

“No way!”

“And they can’t sing your praises enough.”

“Oh I’m so happy for them. Please tell them I said congratulations the next time you see them.”

“You got it,” he replied, that lazy grin of his making an appearance once more.

“So why do you think you need a matchmaker? Is it because of your busy schedule?“

Chloe had worked with a few professional athletes thus far and she knew that, despite their celebrity, the game and its lifestyle made dating and relationships difficult.

She also asked certain preliminary questions to make sure a person was truly ready for love. She never officially took on a client unless they were ready. And she found that it was best to screen a potential client in-person, so she could gage their body language. Hence this early-morning meeting at Brad’s favorite coffee shop.

Brad leaned forward, resting his arms on the table and wrapping his hands around the coffee cup. “Actually, it’s because of my parents. They met through a local matchmaker back home in Tennessee…”

“Really!” Chloe’s face brightened even more. Rarely did she meet someone who was the product of a matchmaker.

Brad nodded. “Mrs. Lucille. She didn’t have a matchmaking business or anything, she was just a cashier at the grocery store; the only grocery store in town. But that meant she knew pretty much everybody. And every now and again, she’d be talking to a customer, then out of the blue she’d say, ‘you know what, I know someone who’d be perfect for you.’ That’s exactly what happened to my dad. One minute he’s chewing the fat with Mrs. Lucille about heirloom tomatoes, the next minute she’s telling him there’s a girl she wants him to meet.”

“Your mom?”

“Yep. And my parents have been together ever since – 43 years.”

“That’s so awesome,” she said with a smile. “So… why now?”

“Why now?” he said, looking pensively into the coffee cup, giving the question the serious thought it deserved. “I’m just ready.”

He looked up, his eyes connecting with hers. “I’ve actually been ready the past two years, I just haven’t met the right woman yet.”

Chloe nodded, that was often the case with men. Some just woke up one day, ready for marriage. While others only got the marriage itch once they met the woman of their dreams, at which point they immediately started strategizing when and where to propose.

Chloe studied Brad’s eyes and his body language as he continued.

“Honestly, when it comes down to it, I just want what my parents have – a lover, a best friend, a family…”

As he spoke, Chloe noted how relaxed his body was, his eyes unwavering and sincere. Before her sat a man who knew what he wanted and meant what he said.

“I think there’s something really special about being able to build a life with someone you love,” he continued.

A man who had just become her newest client!

Chloe’s lips parted into a luminous grin.

“What? Too sappy?” Brad asked.

“Not at all. In fact, it’s exiting.”

“How’s that?” he asked, his eyes filling with curiosity.

“Because I can’t wait to help you find what you’ve been searching for.”

Brad smiled back at her as though she were Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all wrapped into one. Chloe was always blown away when a client truly believed in her gift as a matchmaker. Granted, since all of her clients were by referral only, they were almost always referred by someone whose marriage or relationship was a product of her matchmaking. Yet, it was one thing for someone to tell you that a matchmaker is the real deal, and quite another to blindly believe it yourself. Most of her clients came to her with a glimmer of hope that she would live up to her reputation, but they were prepared to be disappointed just in case.

Very few came to her with the blind faith she saw in Brad’s eyes. And while she always gave her clients 200-percent, it was for clients like Brad that she would scour the ends of the earth in search of their soulmate.

Time, money and self-preservation be damned.

“But before we get started, I’m curious… is Mrs. Lucille still alive?” Chloe asked.

She had yet to meet another true-blue matchmaker who was gifted like herself, and was secretly hoping Mrs. Lucille could be her first. It would be akin to meeting an elder artisan; a fount of wisdom who had mastered a craft Chloe had just begun to practice in an official capacity.

“Oh no, she passed, hell, about 10 years back,” Brad replied.

Chloe’s heart sank. Alas.

“But she lived a good long life. 98 years.”

Chloe’s eyes brightened. “Wow.”

“And she was matching people up even on her death bed.”

Chloe smiled. She wondered if she would go out the same way.

“So how did she go about introducing your mom to your dad?”

Brad chuckled. “Well, it wasn’t a hop, skip and a jump, I can tell you that. My mom was engaged to someone at the time, so Mrs. Lucille’s first order of business was finding a way to break them up…”

“You’re joking!”

“Hand on the Bible; I kid you not. But Farrow was, and still is, a small town. Back then, you couldn’t sneeze without a dozen people calling you to say ‘achoo.’ So Mrs. Lucille had to figure out a way to break off the engagement without anyone knowing she was pulling the strings…”

As Brad spoke, a thin thread, invisible to everyone but her, suddenly looped around his shoulders. The thread was pink in hue and shimmered as though it was comprised of thousands of miniature diamonds.

Chloe blinked.

Then she blinked again.

Then she blinked once more to ensure her eyes were not deceiving her.

Sure enough, the thread she had long-ago christened, the thread of kismet, remained looped around her new client.

This is definitely a first, Chloe thought, completely in awe of Serendipity.

She turned her head to the right and followed the thread, which had looped around a woman in her early thirties. The woman was dressed in a power suit and fierce heels, with a bang swept across her forehead and her jet black hair pulled back into an over-the-shoulder ponytail. She was typing a message on her cell phone as she stood fifth in line from the order counter.

Chloe’s entire demeanor shifted as she became laser-focused on the woman in the power suit. Her pupils dilated, her heart quickened and the noise in the shop faded away.

First things first, Chloe thought, her gaze zeroing in on the woman’s ring finger, which was wonderfully bare.

Yes!

But her elation was short-lived because, as Chloe knew all too well, just because a person was unmarried, did not mean they were unattached. Hard as it was for her to do, she always refrained from connecting soulmates when one of them was in a relationship. She took it as a sign that it was not the right time for said soulmates to meet.

Chloe’s demeanor shifted once more as she began to strategize a plan of action. The quickest way for her to discover the woman’s relationship status was to ask her directly. Which meant Chloe had to figure out the best way to approach a woman who did not know her from Eve, and ask her if she was single and looking for love—without coming across as weird… or flirtatious… or a snake oil salesman.

So focused was Chloe on her target that she barely heard Brad’s voice above the fog of her own thoughts. It took a second for her to register that he had asked if she was okay.

“Yes, uh…”

She forced herself to pry her gaze from the woman and back to Brad.

“I’m sorry. I think…”

Chloe hesitated. She hated lying as much as she loathed liars. But she needed a plausible reason to excuse herself from the table without rousing Brad’s suspicion or, worse, questions about her sanity.

“I just saw someone I went to college with. Someone I haven’t seen in years,” she said.

“Small world, eh?”

“Indeed.”

Chloe turned her head to the right once more. She glanced briefly at the woman, who was now third in line from the cashier, before resting her gaze on the front door – hoping to lead Brad to believe that her ‘old friend’ had just exited the shop.

“I hate to do this but, would you excuse me for a moment?” she asked.

Brad nodded. “Sure. Take your time.”

Chloe smiled to herself. That was one of the many things she loved about Southerners; they were rarely in much of any hurry.

Chloe stood outside the coffee shop, waiting for the woman to emerge.

As she did so, she mentally donned her sales cap. Sensing someone’s soulmate, that was easy. Approaching them and persuading them to go on a blind date, that was the tricky part. Thankfully, she had a few techniques to draw upon from her days as a business consultant, wherein it was her job to land and keep Fortune 100 clients.

The door to the shop jingled and her target emerged with a mocha latte in hand. Chloe’s senses shifted into overdrive as she watched the woman pivot in the direction of a nearby subway entrance.

“Excuse me, miss,” Chloe said, following after her. “Miss…”

The woman stopped and turned.

“Sorry to bother you,” Chloe continued. “I was hoping you wouldn’t mind…”

“I hate to cut you off, but I’m kinda in a hurry,” the woman said kindly but not too kindly, girding herself against unwanted solicitation – as any true blue New Yorker would do.

“I understand. And I promise this won’t take more than a minute of your time. It’s a quick 3-question survey on love.”

After months of trial and error, Chloe had found that this line almost always worked—simultaneously piquing a person’s interest while putting them somewhat at ease.

“Okay,” the woman replied, her eyes alighting with curiosity.

“What’s your name?”

“Lia.”

Chloe reached out to shake her hand. “Nice to meet you Lia. I’m Chloe. Okay, so first question…” she said, starting with the most important question of all. “Are you single or in a relationship?”

Chloe held her breath, hoping, wishing, praying that Lia’s response would be:

“I’m single,” Lia replied. “Woefully single,” she added with a sigh.

Chloe’s heart smiled. Not for much longer.

“Do you believe in soulmates?”

“I don’t know… I’d like to.”

“What if I told you that I’m a professional matchmaker and I know someone who is perfect for you?”

A shadow fell over Lia’s face. “I’d say, what’s the catch and how much?”

“No catch,” Chloe said, smiling reassuringly. “And it’ll only cost you a little bit of your time and an open mind.”

Upon hearing those last two words, Lia frowned. “Is he cute?” she asked.

You have no idea.

“Oh, he’s very, very cute,” Chloe replied.

Lia then asked the question most women asked after gauging a man’s attractiveness.

“What does he do?”

Chloe hesitated. She definitely could not reveal that Lia’s mystery man was a professional baseball player. That was something only Brad could divulge, if he felt comfortable doing so on their first date.

“He… works in sports marketing.”

Lia nodded, taking this in.

Chloe reached into her purse and pulled out a business card. “I’d love to set you two up on a blind date.”

She handed the card to Lia.

“Think about it and if you’re interested, give me a call and let me know your availability this weekend or the next,” Chloe added, creating just a hint of urgency.

“Okay, thanks,” Lia said solemnly, studying the card.

“Enjoy the rest of your day,” Chloe said as Lia continued on towards the subway.

From her days as a corporate consultant, Chloe had learned the art of the sell; and the importance of knowing when to hard sell and when to soft sell. While the hard sell had been an effective tool in the corporate world, when it came to professional matchmaking, she had found that she did indeed attract more bees with honey.

The key to success for anyone in the business of people was learning to put oneself in the customers’ shoes. Chloe understood that trusting a total stranger to set you up on a blind date with your supposed soulmate was a tall order. And she respected that some people needed time and space to think things through and decide if they were willing to take such a leap of faith.

I really, really hope she calls, Chloe thought as she approached the door to the coffee shop.

And on the off-chance that Lia did not call—that she ended up getting cold feet; or meeting a handsome stranger during happy hour that night; or quitting her high-powered job on a whim to cross ‘trekked the Himalayas’ off her bucket list—Chloe would have to accept the fact that Brad and Lia were meant to meet at a different time, under different circumstances.

She had long ago realized it was futile to tempt or argue with Fate.

“Actually,” came Lia’s voice from behind. Chloe turned to see Lia walking back towards her.

“I’m in,” Lia said with a smile, her eyes filled with anticipation.

Hallelujah!

“Great!” Chloe replied, barely able to contain her glee.

“I’m out of town this weekend, but next weekend I’m totally available.”

Chloe gave an enthusiastic nod. “I’ll try to set something up for next weekend.”

She already had an idea where she would have them meet. Since Brad was a high-profile client and a darling of the paparazzi – especially when it came to his dating life – his blind date would need to occur at a place that was private and off-the-beaten path, while still romantic. She had a former client whose parents owned a botanical garden on Long Island that was only available for private tours and events. The parents were always thrilled whenever Chloe called for a favor, since they credited her for gifting them with two adorable grandchildren (by way of helping their son find his soulmate four years before).

“Here’s my card,” Lia said, handing Chloe a business card that boasted the insignia of a well-known Fortune 100 company—one of Chloe’s former corporate clients, in fact.

“Perfect,” Chloe replied, grinning from ear to ear. “I’ll be in touch.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Lia replied, waving in farewell.

Chloe watched as Lia made her way down the block to the subway entrance; the thread of kismet slowly fading from view.

Chloe re-entered the coffee shop and navigated her way through the line of patrons back to Brad, who was engrossed, once more, in the mystery novel.

“Hi,” she said, her face aglow.

Brad looked up. “Looks like you had a memorable reunion.”

“Actually,” she began, sitting down. “I have a confession to make.”

Brad cocked his head. “Okay…”

“What I said earlier about seeing an old friend from college, it was a lie.”

Brad furrowed his brow. Chloe could imagine he was trying to grasp why she would fib about something so inane.

“I’m truly sorry about that. Lying is something I never really do. But it was for a good cause. A great cause in fact!”

Brad stared back at her, awaiting the punch line.

“Are you free next Saturday or Sunday?” Chloe asked.

“I should be, next Sunday at least. Why?”

Chloe grinned. “So I can introduce you to your soulmate.”

Brad blinked. “You think you’ll find her that soon?”

“I just did,” she gushed, still in disbelief herself.

“What, you mean in here?”

Chloe nodded.

Brad leaned back in his seat, as though a baseball had just slammed into his chest. “Well I’ll be. So that’s why you went outside.”

“Again, I’m so sorry about the little white lie.”

Brad’s lips widened into the sexiest of grins. “I gotta say, I already knew you were the real deal, but boy do you work fast.”

“Believe you me, I’m as surprised as you are. I guess Fate decided that you’ve waited long enough to meet your soulmate.”

Brad broke into a deep chuckle. “Auntie Fate’s sure got a funny way of surprising you when you least expect it.”

“Yes, she does,” Chloe said with a grin.


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