The Right Click
The matchmaker and her enemy…
There’s another man out to steal her heart.
Colin is the successful creator and owner of the controversial ClickandWed.com matchmaking website. She wants to move into the international market but competition and loneliness thwart her plans. She needs a silent partner to back her ventures. Silent being the operative term.
Jaxon Stint has money and an interest in ClickandWed.com. His good friends met through ClickandWed.com and were the epitome of happiness. Jaxon wants happiness and a chance at investing in something worthwhile.
Unfortunately for Colin, Jaxon is anything but silent and he has opinions about both the business and Colin’s refusal to consider love again.
If Jaxon gets his way, he’ll get Colin as more than a partner.
If Colin wins, they both lose.
I jerked awake, gasping for air with tears streaming down my face. Anchoring myself, I focused on the softness of my sheets and the cool air puffing in and out of my mouth.
Why? Why couldn’t I escape the darkness of the pain? Just when I was busy enough to think I was covered and could let down my guard, the nightmares came, or a reminder blipped up somewhere in my day.
I was so ready to be over my grief.
Reaching up, I rubbed my eyes. I was tired. I needed sleep. Constant insomnia wasn’t good for anyone.
One of the first steps in grief was accepting the truth. I had no problem accepting my reality. None.
Mathias was dead. He was gone. I accepted the loss. It didn’t matter how many times I cried, begged the universe, turned to my left to find him, or even called his phone number, he wasn’t coming back.
There was nothing I could do to change my past. After years of being alone, I had finally accepted that living single was my fate. I couldn’t handle that. Then why did the nightmares continue to plague me? Why did Mathias look at me with his upper body lying in my arms and ask when I was going to be happy?
I was happy. My schedule didn’t allow for anything else.
A fine layer of perspiration cooled my skin. I slumped back on my nest of pillows and pulled the comforter up to my chest. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid recapping what I could remember of the dream. Where there were holes in the nightmare, my memories filled in.
Mathias in my arms, taking his last breath and staring over my shoulder after asking me why I wasn’t happy. Except that’s not what he’d asked me then. In both real life and in my dream, though, he’d left me.
Why had he left me? I hadn’t even had a scratch or whiplash. Nothing. Why couldn’t I have been the one to go? Nothing was fair about the last time I’d seen him. Even then, when he’d died in my arms, I’d been astounded at the depth to his blue eyes.
If I hadn’t called him, if we hadn’t been fighting…
We wouldn’t be apart.
My breathing didn’t slow enough to fall back to sleep. Pushing my long brown hair behind me, I shoved myself from the bed which was entirely too big for just one person. Size didn’t matter when I tossed and turned – nothing was big enough.
Glancing at the clock on the wall, I groaned. It was only three A.M.
Carlisle wouldn’t be on his way to the office for another handful of hours. As my assistant, he was used to my erratic hours, but I never expected him to keep pace. The man had his own life and a new bride to keep happy. A happy office manager was a kept office manager. Or something like that.
I grabbed my laptop and cuddled on the couch with a leg throw and a cup of tea. The sun would come up over the hill in a couple hours and I would get to face the day.
My computer booted up. I rolled my head on my shoulders and closed my eyes as my naturally tense muscles fought against my attempts to relax. Even the simple decorating of my house wasn’t enough to calm me.
After checking some work, I’d head out for a run. Maybe the cool spring air would snap me from my funk.
Sighing, I typed in my password and pulled up my email. My inbox was perpetually full, but I’d filtered enough things that the important messages got to the top of the inbox list.
An email from the ClickandWed.com members app. The subject read: An Update
I loved updates. Especially from past couples my website matched.
This one was from Rachel and Logan. The two were my first ClickandWed.com matched couple. I’d paired numerous couples before, even an aunt and uncle who were stuck in their own dating drama and couldn’t unstick from the barroom meetups.
When Rachel and Logan had been matched, I’d felt like I could do anything. If I could match them, then why couldn’t I match people all over the world?
We wanted to let you know our next baby is on the way!
Number three and we couldn’t be happier.
Today is our ClickandWed.com anniversary and I just wanted to thank you again for everything you’ve done for us.
Rachel and Logan
A picture attached to the email loaded at the bottom of the message. The blonde woman smiled beatifically at the camera with a rounded belly and a baby in one arm and a husband in her other. Logan grinned beside Rachel with his other arm cradling a small toddler with blond curls like his mother.
The picture reeked of happiness. To be honest, it made me a little nauseous at that early hour. The cheeky grins of the children though were hard to glower at. I smiled and typed some asinine well-wishes in reply and clicked send.
Back in the inbox, I perused the other subjects while sipping my chai tea. Chai was my newest obsession. I loved tea, but I needed a change once in a while and coffee and I didn’t get along.
A subject line caught my attention and I narrowed my eyes.
Interested investor for CnW
Investor? I hadn’t mentioned the possibility of selling or opening to a partner to anyone but Carlisle, oh and Jeremy, one of the other clients I’d matched toward the beginning of the matches. He was a businessman himself and I’d asked him a while back how to get backing without selling the company… or your soul. He’d responded with the suggestion that I get a silent partner.
Research on Google and in business forums gave me more information than I needed and pretty much pushed me away from the idea. I wasn’t sure a partner situation was for me. I didn’t need someone to tell me I was doing something wrong.
True, I’d been considering something, anything like that, for a while. A silent partner, someone to pretty much give me money and leave me alone. I’d share the profits but wouldn’t need to do anything else with them. That was ideal. The only reason I even wanted to consider the idea was because I needed more capital to increase my reach. Spreading ClickandWed.com around the world was my biggest dream – one of the only ones that didn’t wake me in a cold sweat.
I opened the email, curious to see what the possible investor had to say. If he’d heard I was interested, it had to have been from Jeremy. Probably a friend of his.
I snorted. Nope. Mister. That was funny and made it hard to take the interest seriously. I got the confusion a lot. My dad decided a boy name would help me in life, give me an edge. My mother had dressed me in more pinks than possible to make sure I knew I was a girl. I didn’t have any problems remembering I was girl, but she apparently thought I was in danger of forgetting my gender.
A mutual friend suggested I reach out to inquire about a possible investment opportunity.
Jeremy Akers is a colleague and he speaks very highly about your platform and the services.
I can be in your neck of the woods this weekend, if you’d be available for a consultation and some questions. We could see if we’re compatible for a partnership or other business venture.
Please, let me know if this is agreeable and I’ll work my schedule around it.
A bird could have walked up to the window and drawn on the glass in oil paints and I wouldn’t be more surprised. Jaxon Stint? He was one of the biggest business moguls from the west coast.
He didn’t strike me as an investor, more like the type of man who was in charge of everything. I wrinkled my nose at answering to anyone about my company.
The fact that he was interested in my little matchmaking company gave me a thrill, but also filled me with doubt. Why did he want to invest in my business? What had Jeremy told him? Were Jaxon’s expectations higher than I was willing to meet?
I was jumping ahead of the game before I’d even answered his initial inquiry. I would blame it on my tiredness. For all I knew, he would be perfect for ClickandWed.
All the papers and media channels reported on the amazing things he did with companies and his investments. His business intellect was daunting but it would be a boon for the company – as long as he could keep in mind the “silent” part of the partnership.
After a long drink of my tea, I set my mug on the table and leaned back to use both hands to type a reply. I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was interested and he’d made it easy – so I wouldn’t have to put an ad up anywhere… yet.
Just to be on the safe side, I would be prepared to not like him.
This weekend works fine. Please, let me know your itinerary and I’ll have a ride at the airport for you.
Hopefully, I wasn’t making any mistakes with something I cherished like a child. In a way, ClickandWed was my memorial for the love Mathias and I had for each other.
A love like that wasn’t replicable. I wanted to try to give that to other people.
Others deserved to be happy. I just deserved… insomnia.
Pulling on his tie, Jaxon twisted his face left and right as he tied the long silk strip under his chin at the base of his neck. His custom-fit shirt and suit clung to his muscular frame and Jaxon was bored with the same sight every morning in his mirror.
This morning was darker than most of his starts to the day – even for the Seattle clime of rain and clouds by the dark harbor. Usually he only had to face that shade of morning when he got up ridiculously early, like that three-thirty timeframe.
His phone glowed from the counter beside the sink, pulling his attention from his clean-shaven cheeks and the cologne he splashed on his neck.
An email. A new one that had passed through the filtering system he’d set up? He’d take it. Anything to keep him awake.
Re: Interested Investor for CnW
He clicked on the email and nodded as he read the reply. Great. He needed to get out of the city for a few days. There was a cloying emptiness in his world. Going into a small town in Nowhere, Idaho was exactly what he needed. The fact that he could mix business with pleasure would be even better.
Another buzz on his phone caught his eye as the text message preview scrolled across the top of the screen.
Are we getting together tonight?
Jaxon rolled his eyes and swiped the text message off his screen.
The email replaced the place of the message and he pressed on the subject line to open the contents. The contents were promising and gave him a reason to escape Seattle that weekend even more. The last thing he wanted was to deal with dodging Amelia.
Amelia Bronson was the regular socialite you saw in every rich community. She partied until early in the morning and slept all day. She didn’t know what work was or what values were.
Unfortunately, Amelia hadn’t stopped bugging him since he’d broken things off with her. All she wanted was his money, going so far as to leave Post-It notes with lists of things she wanted and when all over the place – even his car dashboard. Her greediness was only surpassed by her clinginess and apparent unwillingness to hear when things were over.
He’d dropped her when she’d brushed off his mother, saying, “I don’t need to deal with that hag until she’s my mother-in-law.” She’d looked coldly at Mrs. Stint who hadn’t reacted with more than an elegant smile and inclining tilt of the head.
Jaxon hadn’t needed his mother to respond. That probably would have incensed his anger further than it spiked. He’d kicked Amelia out and taken his mother with him to the event Amelia had demanded he get tickets for.
Speech-to-text helped Jaxon finish getting ready while rattling off a list of things for his assistant to do for him. Priority was to get some plane tickets and an itinerary off to Colin.
Only a couple days and Jaxon would be able to see what the possibilities were with regarding a business venture he planned to help him find a match.
Jaxon left the hopper plane that made the short trip from Seattle to Spokane on a regular basis. He rolled his carryon behind him. The Spokane airport was small but refreshing after the craziness of the SeaTac airport.
By the baggage claim area, a man stood with a cardboard sign with Jaxon’s name written in block letters and permanent marker.
The man was well-built and had a rough look about him that was offset by the business casual clothing he wore and his pleasant smile.
Jaxon approached him, waving as he shifted his carryon to the other hand. “Hey, Colin? I’m Jaxon Stint. Thanks for picking me up.” He’d thought for sure Colin would have an assistant or something and with the online-marriage program, Jaxon was embarrassed to admit he had expected Colin to be a little softer around the edges.
The man lowered the sign, his smile congenial as he reached out to shake Jaxon’s hand. “I’m Carlisle, Colin’s assistant. Colin sent me to pick you up and make sure you get settled in before your meeting.”
Colin did have an assistant. The business was doing well enough for staff. That was a good thing as far as Jaxon was concerned. For a second there, he’d been worried that he’d gone off Jeremy’s word and Jeremy was trying to uptalk a small business owned by a friend. But Jaxon knew better. Jeremy was nothing, if not ethical.
Jaxon walked beside Carlisle out of the airport and across the three-lane airport street. In the parking garage, Carlisle led the way to a sporty little ride Jaxon would never have the guts to drive around Seattle. Anything over there ran the risk of getting flattened, especially that small. He climbed in the passenger side, surprised that the Jetta was more spacious inside than it appeared from the outside.
As they got on the road, Carlisle leaned toward Jaxon. “Have you ever used the ClickandWed program? I mean, I know you haven’t been matched yet, or I would know everything about your profile and the progress on the app. If you have a profile, though, Colin will know. That’s part of the analysis that each member of the program has to go through. Colin approves or disapproves each potential match. The company is very hands on.”
“Matchmaking? No, not really my thing.” Jaxon smiled, shifting on the seat. Things weren’t working as they were, though, so maybe he needed to keep an open mind. Wasn’t he there to hope for a match? How could he be open-minded when he was doubting everything about it already? Jaxon paused and then asked, “Have you?” It wasn’t really something men talked about. He wasn’t sure if it was emasculating to be matched online or not. Jaxon had never researched that part of the business since he’d only considered being matched as a more desperate answer to his Amelia problem.
Carlisle nodded proudly. “You bet. I’m married to my match and we’re happier than I ever thought possible. We were more of a practice run on the beta program but we fit well.” He rested one wrist on the lower curve of the steering wheel. He was easy to talk to and Jaxon wondered if he’d come with the business when Jaxon bought it.
“Maybe I’ll give it a try.” What would he put on his profile? Billionaire looking for love, not leech?
The more Jaxon considered the possibility of actually being matched with ClickandWed, the more he realized he needed the program for more than a business venture. There were a lot of possibilities. All Jaxon knew was that he had a lot of plans both business-wise and romantically. If ClickandWed was going to have a role in his future, he needed to take over the company as soon as possible.
I yawned pitifully from behind my hand, closing my eyes at the intensity of my fatigue. Thank goodness, Carlisle had gone to get Jaxon. I was too tired from the last few nights of restlessness, tossing and turning on a bed I swore hated me.
Plus, I was more than a little nervous to meet Jaxon. I’d looked him up multiple times since our early morning emailing and, being honest with myself, I could admit that he was an extremely attractive man with bright eyes and strong features. He wore his facial hair short and close to his skin which only set off the angles of his face.
I was very irritated that I found him good-looking, which didn’t help with my sleep issue.
Carlisle and Jaxon should be at the office soon. I really didn’t feel like dealing with anyone. I wanted to put my feet up on my desk and lean back on my chair to take a short nap to recharge. So, where did I find myself? Downstairs at Panhandle Cones and Coffee, waiting in line to get a chai tea. I needed something stronger than that, but I still had a meeting with Jaxon to get through.
A delicious lemon and spice scent came off the man in front of me. I leaned forward to catch a whiff that would last longer than every few seconds. With his aroma and the dark, custom cut suit he wore, the man had money. Not rare in Sandpoint, Idaho, but not common in the little coffee and ice cream shop in the middle of a Friday afternoon.
There was a rumor that Tom Cruise owned property up along the Pend Oreille Lake only a mile from Harrison Ford’s compound. I’d never seen them, so I wasn’t sure of the rumor’s validity. I would think I would see someone since my office was right on Main Street and you couldn’t get in or out of the busy tourist area without passing by my window.
A friend of mine had claimed a year or so back that they’d seen Viggo Mortensen riding a horse through town, but that didn’t fit with his image of living in upstate New York or his pride in that residency. Trust me, I checked to see if it was possible when I was bored in the early morning.
I couldn’t help yawning again, checking the clock on the wall. Carlisle should be getting back any minute and I just wanted to get my drink and settle into my office before they got there. I needed to gird myself to answer questions and suggest what I wanted. I had to treat it like a job interview for him. I would be taking him on, regardless of how much money he’d be investing. A dollar or a million dollars didn’t matter, if I couldn’t stand him.
Jaxon Stint was supposed to be a shrewd but fair businessman. I’d done my research. He didn’t tend to go after businesses unless the company’s future looked promising.
Well, I knew ClickandWed was promising. Not only was it potentially profitable, but it helped others find love. Not me, of course, but other people. That was important and had potential. Maybe I could offer Jaxon a complimentary profile for him to try it out. He didn’t need help in that area, but you never knew anymore.
I was pretty proud of the little company that could and I was more than happy to show it off.
The lady with curls hastily thrown back in a sloppy bun in front of the rich guy finished her order and took a seat at the window counter. The money man stepped forward and ordered a caramel macchiato – whatever that was. His voice was distinctly deep and his tone was polite and formal.
He paid and stepped to the side, glancing behind him for the first time.
Dang, if it wasn’t Jaxon Stint.
His gaze slid over me and then past me toward the door only to return again and give me an appreciative once over. Charm oozed from the smile he sent me but he turned back to the counter to claim his drink before I could glare at him for reducing me to an object to smile at.
No, I’m not a crazy woman out to shrink men to an emasculated size. I was tired, missing Mathias something fierce and desperately lonely. Plus, Jaxon smelled so good and I didn’t think that was fair for women out there.
What was I supposed to do? I was frozen to my spot. He was even more enigmatic in person than on the images I’d seen on my Google search. Did he recognize me? He didn’t let on. Had he not done an image search like I had? That possibility just made me feel weirdly stalker-ish.
If Jaxon was on ClickandWed.com, he’d have to make sure and put in his profile how amazing he smelled. Women loved scents. That would help sell him to his match or he could mention the money. I think women loved money even more than a good smelling cologne.
I approached the counter and Sara, the single mother who worked the coffee shop during the day, smiled knowingly at me. “Chai with a splash of cream?” She pushed the button on the computer without waiting for my answer.
Teasing, I grumped at her. “Yeah, let’s make it a twenty-four ounce, Sara. I’m so tired. Not like you don’t get that, right?” The woman was one of the hardest workers I knew. I once offered her a profile on my site, but she didn’t want to find anyone yet. Not until her kids were grown up.
Curving her lips in sympathy, she pushed more buttons and sighed. “You seem to be having a rough week. This is your seventh one since Monday.” She nodded. “Today’s is on us. Plus, here’s a bagel.” Sara loaded up a bag with goodies for me.
“If it wouldn’t be weird, I’d reach across and hug you.” I grasped the bag she handed over to me with a slight desperation I hoped Jaxon didn’t see.
“Just a sec, I’ll make your drink.” She turned away and I stood at the counter, inhaling the fresh coffee smells and wishing I could chew on some espresso beans to get the caffeine faster into my blood stream.
A beep-beep-beep came from my left. I glanced at Jaxon, wondering why he hadn’t moved from the counter. He seemed to be getting lost in the napkins, straws, and cup jackets in the station. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a phone and answered, while trying to open one of the organically made jackets.
Placing my bag on the counter, I stepped closer to him. Taking the jacket out of his hands and popping it open, I slid the cardboard heat protector onto the cup in seconds and stuck two thin black straws into the small hole at the top of the lid. I didn’t smile at him as he stared at me.
He’d find out soon enough why I was irritated. Did it matter that I wished I was more noticeable? Why hadn’t he recognized me? Had he really not researched me? Did I want to do business with someone who was so distractingly good looking while not being very thorough?
Stepping back to my spot to wait, I couldn’t help overhearing his call after he muttered a thanks my way.
“Yeah, I’ll be back Monday. Well, you can hold the meeting until next Friday. There’s nothing even on the schedule yet. Look, no big deal. I’ll buy the startup from this guy, Colin or whatever, and we’ll section it out.” He took his drink to a seat at a table a few feet behind me.
The bold revelation plastered me to the floor. I didn’t move. He wanted to buy the company? I took a deep breath to cool my growing temper.
Sara motioned to me from the back. “I’m out of milk. Just a second.” She ducked into the cooler in the back. I nodded gratefully even though she wasn’t there to see my reply.
I had a reason to stand there and continue listening. I’d hate to be an eavesdropper for no other reason than to listen to his plans to dismantle my company – which wasn’t going to happen.
“No, we’re good. I’m waiting for the assistant to park the car. Of course, you can ask. Okay, so here’s how these small town deals go. I’ll lowball him. He’s just a Podunk business owner. I don’t see it hard to wave money in front of him and get what I want. This isn’t my first small town takeover.” He laughed and I closed my eyes at the rich tones that my ears wanted to like, but I decided I didn’t like at all.
I narrowed my eyes as he continued, cocky with assuredness. “Right, exactly. Well, don’t worry. After we get the business, we’ll complete the plans we talked about at the meeting. Can you see if Yukonaki would be willing to invest in the Asian market for it? Keep it discreet. We haven’t bought it yet. I’d hate for a competitor to get wind where we’re going with our funding and show up here to raise the ante. Yeah, okay.”
Fuming, I smiled tightly at Sara as she returned and finished my drink. She quirked her eyebrow my way and mouthed, “You okay?”
I nodded, gesturing over my shoulder. “Tourists.” And rolled my eyes.
She pursed her lips together and nodded knowingly. “They pay the bills but some days I want to throw their orders on their heads.” She laughed and wiggled her fingers at me.
I thanked her and inhaled the spicy deliciousness in my cup. I’d learned more in those few minutes than if I’d stayed upstairs researching my long-lost-investor.
I wasn’t Podunk. I wasn’t stupid. And, most importantly, I wasn’t a man.
Poor Jaxon would have to rearrange his very specific and biased thought process.
I couldn’t wait to help him do just that.