Read Matchpoint Online

Authors: Elise Sax

Matchpoint

Matchpoint
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Ballantine Books Mass Market Original

Copyright © 2013 by Elise Sax
Excerpt from Untitled Matchmaker series novel copyright © 2013 by Elise Sax

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

B
ALLANTINE
and the H
OUSE
colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming untitled Matchmaker series novel by Elise Sax. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

eISBN: 978-0-345-53225-1

Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi
Cover photograph: © George Kerrigan

www.ballantinebooks.com

v3.1

“You have to get back to work. There’s been a heinous murder, and there’s a murder victim who no longer has a face. Spencer, there’s a face wandering around out there. If you don’t get back to work, there’s no hope that the murder will be solved.”

Spencer’s color returned, and his smirk returned. “Pinkie, you complimented me,” he said. “I might pass out from shock.”

I squirmed in my seat. “I didn’t compliment you. I merely pointed out that you are the least incompetent of your police force. That’s not saying a lot.”

“You complimented me. You said I could solve the No-Face Case.”

“Shut up.”

“You can’t take it back now,” he said, interlocking his fingers behind his head. “Okay, so I’m a great cop. Tell me how sexy I am. Tell me you want me.”

“You are not sexy, and I don’t want you,” I lied.

“You’re almost naked. When you bend down, I can see the whole triple play. It’s only a hiccup to a grand-slam home run. Just say the word, and I’ll come up to bat.”

“You gross me out.”

Spencer leaned forward, studied my face for a moment, read something there, and then popped a Dorito into his mouth. “You can’t blame a guy for trying,” he said.

“Focus on your work, dammit. The town is going to pieces, and there’s a face out there. Why isn’t anybody impressed by the face?”

Chapter 1

L
ove is pain. Don’t let anyone tell you different. You may be surprised to learn that we’re in the pain business. It’s true. Love eats away at you like Murray’s homemade horseradish eats away at your stomach. Eats away until you cry and wonder why you wanted to find love in the first place. Eats away until you beg for mercy. But there is no mercy where love is concerned. It does what it wants, and you are powerless to stop it. So, you may have a couple of miserable clients, bubeleh. A couple miserable clients, in pain. They may even complain to you. Remind them this: pleasure and pain, they’re not so far apart. Like having your hair pulled. Sometimes, in the right context, having your hair pulled isn’t all that bad. It may feel a little good, even. John Schlumberger pulled my hair once, and I kind of liked it. Get used to the pain and you can enjoy the love. Get used to the pain and soon it won’t feel painful at all anymore
.

Lesson 64,

Matchmaking Advice from Your Grandma Zelda

“NO!”

“Don’t even think about going anywhere, Gladie. You can’t get away. I’ve got you where I want you.”

“Please. I’m scared,” I whimpered. My ears grew hot, and I saw little silver spots in front of my eyes. Her voice
came at me in a booming echo, as if in a cave. A cave with no exit. A cave with no exit and not enough air.

Great, now I was terrified, and I was claustrophobic. I made a play for her sympathy. “Please. Let me go. Please, I want to go home,” I said.

“No way.” She was tall and muscular, in much better shape than I was. I hadn’t exercised in months, not since I worked at the juice bar at the Phoenix Women’s Gym for ten days. What was wrong with me? Would it have killed me to hop on a treadmill or at least try yoga? Yoga. Who was I kidding? One Downward-Facing Dog, and I would dislocate something important, like my spine or gallbladder.

“Don’t look at me like that, Gladie. There’s no way you can take me.”

I gulped air. “Don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me,” I said.

“Gladie, at worst it will sting a little. This is bigger than the both of us. There’s no going back. Look at yourself.”

She turned my chair to give me a good look in the mirror. I looked just like I always did. My hair stood up in frizzy spikes around my head, mimicking my panicked mood. I shut my eyes tight.

“Fine,” I said. “Fine, Bird. Just do it.”

My hairdresser, Bird Gonzalez, clapped her hands together and hopped on her heels. “Oh, Gladie. Thank you, thank you. You won’t be sorry. I’ve been wanting to do this for ages. You’re going to be so happy. The Ecuadoran Erect will change your life. Straight hair, Gladie. Straight hair. You’ll be a new woman.”

Being a new woman wasn’t entirely a bad idea. After years of moving around from one temporary job to another in one city or another, I let my Grandma Zelda convince me to settle in with her in the small mountain town of Cannes, California, and work in her matchmaking business. I wasn’t a great success in my new career. So far
I had made two matches, one on my own and the other with her help. Two matches in four months didn’t set any records, but Grandma said I was cooking with gas.

My personal life was going at an even slower pace. There had been a burst of interest in me a few weeks ago. My first client thought I was Angelina Jolie on a Ritz cracker, and the womanizing chief of police, Spencer Bolton, flirted with me nonstop, but then I matched my client with a clumsy waitress, and Spencer moved on to dating half the town. My hunky new neighbor, Arthur Holden, took me out a couple times, even called me his girlfriend. Then he disappeared. Not totally disappeared, but he was busy every night and day and never offered one explanation to me. I didn’t know where he was going, didn’t even know what he did for a living. And I didn’t think I had the right to ask him.

I knew one thing for certain. I was a woman with wild, out-of-control frizzy hair. Maybe change needed to start at the top—in my case, my head.

Bird squirted Ecuadoran Erect solution into a bowl, added water, and stirred. The salon was at once filled with a noxious smell.

“It doesn’t cause cancer, does it?” I asked Bird.

“Gladie, you are going to look just like Kate Hudson with boobs.”

“So it doesn’t cause cancer?”

Bird painted the solution onto my hair. “I don’t think that was proven,” she said. I held my breath and thought healthy thoughts. It was too late to change my mind. Half my head was covered in stinky Ecuadoran Erect.

“It’s starting to sting,” I said.

“That’s normal. It will go away in an hour or two.”

Two hours later, my hair was straight as a board. Dark blond hair fell flat down past my shoulders. I was unrecognizable, unless I really was Kate Hudson with boobs. Bird was thrilled with her work.

“Uh,” I said.

“You have twenty-year-old hair. You know what I mean?” she squealed. “It’s soft and supple and luxurious, just like you’re twenty years old again.”

“When I was twenty, I was growing out a pixie cut. I looked like a cotton ball after it was plugged into a light socket.”

“But it was soft, right?”

“I don’t know. I was scared to touch it.”

I ran my hand over my new hair. It
was
soft.

“You look bitchin’,” Bird said. “Men are going to chase you down the street. Oh, speaking of that, I have something for you.”

She handed me a box. “Chinese tea,” she explained. “Special diet tea. Imported. Shh—don’t tell anyone I gave it to you. I’ve got a waiting list.”

“Diet tea?” I sucked in my stomach.

“Don’t give me that face, Gladie. You told me you wanted to lose a couple pounds. I know what you’re up against in that house with your grandma and her junk food habit. The tea works. Trust me.”

She was right. I had turned mushy in the four months I had been living with my french-fry-loving grandma.

My hair swished against my shoulders as I stuffed the tea into my purse. I paid Bird, emptying my bank account with the one check. Ecuadoran Erect and Chinese diet tea did not come cheap. I would have to make another match, quickly. Luckily, I was on my way to see Belinda Womble. Belinda had curly hair and heaps of disposable income. And best of all, she wanted me to match her.

BLISS DENTAL was located in the old Cannes Small Animal Hospital building on Pear Lane, just outside the historic district. Dr. Simon Dulur bought the
building about twenty years ago and transformed it into a cutting-edge dental practice.

I had a phobia of all things medical. I couldn’t even watch medical shows, so I never set foot in the Bliss Dental building. The idea of X-rays raised my blood pressure. The idea of a routine teeth cleaning made my gums bleed. No way was I getting near any possible root canals. Now I had no choice. Belinda Womble, the receptionist at Bliss Dental, was my new client. A job was a job, and Belinda had requested me as her matchmaker. It was my first request. Normally, clients wanted my grandma, and why wouldn’t they?
She
knew what she was doing.

I had to overcome my fears and the sympathy pains I experienced every time I was near suffering or disease. Successful matchmakers didn’t think they had tuberculosis every time someone near them coughed. Successful matchmakers didn’t imagine they had leprosy every time their foot fell asleep.

Sure enough, two blocks away from the Bliss Dental building, a searing pain shot from my upper right bicuspid through my nerve endings and into my brain. I grimaced in agony and gripped the wheel, swerving into traffic.

I narrowly missed a Toyota Camry and a Chevy Malibu, driving my ancient Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme up onto the sidewalk. I came to a screeching stop inches away from a fire hydrant and a group of backpackers who were walking down the street wearing tin pyramid hats and T-shirts with
ALIENS, TAKE ME FIRST!
written in pink neon.

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