Matched to a Billionaire(3)

By: Kat Cantrell

He stared at the logo for EA International. The website was professional and tasteful, with earth tones and a classic font. Most importantly, this particular matchmaker catered to exclusive clients, promising discretion and a money-back guarantee. Guarantees warmed Leo’s heart.

The tagline said it all—Let us help you find “the one.”

Presumably, “the one” for Leo would fit all his qualifications. EA International would do the screening, the interviewing, the background checks, and ultimately filter out candidates who were looking for some mystical connection. Love didn’t pay the bills, and Leo would never allow the power to be turned off on his family, the way his own father had.

It was brilliant. The matchmaker would do everything required to find Leo a wife. One he could never disappoint. All he had to do was make a phone call.

Then, with that settled, he could get back to work.

* * *

Daniella White had dreamed of her wedding since the first time she’d created crayon invitations to a ceremony starring Mr. Fourpaws as the tattered velveteen groom and herself as the fairy-tale bride wrapped in dingy sheets. Someday she’d wear a beautiful dress of delicate lace and silver heels. The guests would receive heavy card-stock invitations with a vellum overlay and eat a three-tiered French vanilla cake with fondant flowers.

Best of all, a handsome husband-to-be would wait for her at the end of a church aisle, wearing a tender smile. Later that night, the love of her life would sweep her away to a romantic honeymoon somewhere exotic and breathtaking. Theirs would be a marriage of grand passion and enduring love.

When her real wedding day finally arrived, Dannie could never have envisioned it would involve a groom she’d never met in person. Or that in a few minutes, she’d be marrying Leo Reynolds in the living room of a matchmaker’s house in North Dallas, with only a handful of guests in attendance.

“What do you think, Mom?” Dannie beamed at her mother in the cheval mirror and straightened a three-quarter-length sleeve. A dress of any sort usually appealed to Dannie, but this unadorned ecru one would be her wedding dress and she wanted to love it. She didn’t. But she’d make the best of it, like always.

EA International’s sophisticated computer program had matched her with businessman Leo Reynolds and he expected a wife with a certain refinement—one who dressed the part, acted the part, lived the part. Dannie had spent the past month under the matchmaker’s intensive tutelage to become exactly right for that part.

Dannie’s mother coughed profusely, hand to her chest as if she’d clear the scar tissue from her lungs through sheer will alone. “You’re beautiful, baby,” she said when she’d recovered. “Every bit a proper wife. I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

Yeah, it was really hard to put my name in a database. Dannie bit back the comment. She wasn’t a smart aleck anymore. No one ever got her jokes anyway.

Two sharp raps at the door shoved Dannie’s heart into her throat. Elise Arundel, Dannie’s fairy godmother–slash–matchmaker, popped into the room, her sleek, dark pageboy swinging. “Oh, Dannie. You look lovely.”

Dannie smiled demurely. She needed a lot of practice at being demure.

“Thanks to you.”

“I didn’t pick out that dress.” Elise nodded once. “You did. It’s perfect for your willowy frame. I’ve never had anyone who glommed on to cut and style with such natural talent.”

“I made up for it by being hopeless with cosmetics.” Dannie frowned. Did that seem too outspoken? Ungrateful? That was the problem with changing your personality to become a society wife—nothing came naturally.

Elise’s critical eye swept over Dannie’s face and she dismissed the comment with a flick of her manicured hand. “You’re flawless. Leo’s socks will be knocked off.”

And there went her pulse again.

The figure in the mirror stared back at her, almost a stranger, but with her dark brown hair and almond-colored eyes. Would Leo be happy with her sophisticated chignon? The erect posture? The scared-to-death woman in the ecru dress? What if he didn’t like brunettes?

She was being silly. He’d seen her picture, of course, as she’d seen his. They’d spoken on the phone twice. Their conversations had been pleasant and they’d worked through several important marital issues: they’d allow the intimate side of their relationship to evolve over time, a clarification that had clinched it since he didn’t believe he was buying an “exchange of services,” and he was open to eventually having children.

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