By the time she slipped into the McDonald's restroom, Annabelle had stopped shaking. She changed into capris, a tank, and sandals. Today's experience had justified her lifelong phobia of snakes. But other women wouldn't see Heath Champion like that. He was rich, successful, and gorgeous, which made him a dream match, assuming he didn't scare his dates to death, which was a distinct possibility. All she needed to do was find the right woman.

She pulled her wild hair back from her face with a pair of barrettes. She'd always worn her hair short to keep it under control, but her curly pixie had made her look more like a college freshman than a serious professional, so she was biting the bullet and letting it grow out. Not for the first time did she wish she had a spare five hundred dollars to have it professionally straightened, but she couldn't even pay her utility bill.

She stowed Nana's pearl earrings in an empty Altoids box and took a swig of lukewarm water from one of the bottles she'd dug out of Sherman's backseat. She kept the car well stocked: snacks and water bottles; a change of clothes; Tampax and toiletries; her new brochures and business cards; workout gear in case the mood struck her, which it hardly ever did; and, just recently, a box of condoms in the event one of her new clients developed a sudden, desperate need, although she couldn't see men like Ernie Marks or John Nager being that impulsive. Ernie was an elementary school principal, good with kids, but nervous with grown women, and John the hypochondriac wouldn't have sex without running his partner through the Mayo Clinic.

One thing was certain. She'd never have to pass out emergency condoms to Heath Champion. A man like that always came prepared.

She wrinkled her nose. Time to rise above her dislike. So what if he was overbearing and dictatorial, not to mention too rich and too successful for his own good? He was the key to her economic future. If she wanted Perfect for You to be successful as a specialized, high-end matchmaking service, she had to find him a wife. Once that happened, the word would spread, and Perfect for You would become the hottest service in Chicago. Which it definitely wasn't now, because inheriting her grandmother's business had also meant inheriting her remaining clients. Although Annabelle was doing her best to honor Nana's memory, it was time to move forward.

She squirted soap on her hands and considered her place in the business world. Matchmaking services came in mind-boggling varieties, and the rise of inexpensive online dating services had forced a lot of brick-and-mortar companies like hers to shut down while others scrambled to find a niche. They offered speed dates, lunch dates, and adventure outings. Some staged singles dinner parties, others served only graduates of prestigious universities or members of specific religious denominations. A lucky few, like Power Matches, were holding their own as 'millionaire services,' accepting only male clients and charging them staggering fees for introductions to beautiful women.

Annabelle intended to set Perfect for You apart from all of them. She wanted to make her name the first one that upscale Chicago singles, male and female, thought of when they were ready for a committed relationship and realized that old-fashioned personalized service was the best way to get it. She already had a few clients-Ernie and John her most recent- but not nearly enough to turn a profit. And until she'd established her credentials, she couldn't charge higher fees. Finding a match for Heath Champion would make those select clients and bigger fees possible. Except why hadn't he been able to find a wife on his own?

She'd have to speculate on that later because it was time to get to work. She'd intended to spend the afternoon patrolling Loop-area coffeehouses, fertile ground for finding both prospective clients and possible matches for the ones she had, but that was before she'd known how quickly she needed to come up with a candidate who'd knock Heath Champion off his feet.

Heat shimmered from the asphalt as she made her way across the parking lot to her car. The air smelled of fried food and exhaust. Chicago had declared its first Ozone Action Day of the summer, and it was barely June. She tossed the hopelessly wrinkled yellow suit in a trash bin so she never had to look at it again.

As she climbed inside the stifling car, her cell rang. She propped the door open to get some air. 'This is Annabelle.'

'Annabelle, I have wonderful news.'

She sighed and dropped her forehead against the hot steering wheel. Just when she'd thought the worst of her day was behind her. 'Hi, Mom.'

'Your father talked to Doug an hour ago. Your brother is officially a vice president. They announced it this morning.'

'Ohmygod! That's great!'

Annabelle exuded enthusiasm, bubbled over with bliss, radiated relish, but her mother's ESP kicked in anyway. 'Of course it's great,' she snapped. 'Honestly, Annabelle, I don't know why you have to be so begrudging. Doug has worked hard to get where he is. No one handed him a thing.'

Except adoring parents, a first-rate college education, and a generous postgraduation cash gift to tide him over.

Exactly the same things Annabelle had been given.

'Only thirty-five,' Kate Granger went on, 'and vice president of one of the most important accounting firms in Southern California.'

'He's amazing.' Annabelle lifted her forehead from the burning hot steering wheel before it branded her with the mark of Cain.

'Candace is giving a pool party next weekend to celebrate Doug's promotion. They're expecting Johnny Depp.'

Somehow Annabelle couldn't imagine Johnny Depp showing up at one of her sister-in-law's pool parties, but she wasn't stupid enough to express her skepticism. 'Wow! That's impressive.'

'Candace is trying to decide between a South Pacific theme or going with the western thing.'

'She entertains so well, I'm sure whatever she decides will be perfect.'

Kate Granger's psychic abilities were worthy of her own 800 line. 'Annabelle, you have to try harder to get over your hostility toward Candace. Nothing is more important than family. Doug adores her. We all do. And she's a wonderful mother.'

Beads of perspiration were forming at her hairline. 'How's Jamison's potty training coming along?' Not Jimmy, Jamie, Jim, or any variation thereof. Just Jamison.

'He's so bright. It's only a matter of time. I'll admit I was skeptical about all those learning tapes, but here he is, only three, and what an amazing vocabulary.'

'Is he still saying asshole?'

'That's not funny.'

In the old days, when her mother had a sense of humor, it would have been funny, but, at sixty-two, Kate Granger wasn't taking well to retirement. Even though she and Annabelle's father had bought a spectacular oceanside home in Naples, Florida, Kate missed St. Louis. Restless and bored, she'd turned all the energy she'd once directed toward a successful banking career onto her three grown children. Especially Annabelle, her only failure.

'How's Dad?' Annabelle said, hoping to postpone the inevitable.

'How do you think he is? He plays eighteen holes in the morning and watches the Golf Channel all afternoon. He hasn't opened a medical journal in months. You'd think after forty years as a surgeon, he'd be a little curious, but the only time he shows any interest in medicine is when he's talking to your brother.'

On to chapter 2 in the amazing saga of The Granger Wonder Twins, this chapter featuring the dazzling life of that prominent St. Louis heart surgeon, Dr. Adam Granger. Annabelle reached for her water bottle, wishing she'd had the foresight to fill it with a nice peach-flavored vodka. 'There's a lot of traffic, Mom. I don't think I can stay on my cell much longer.'

'Your father's so proud of Adam. He just had another article published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Yesterday, when we met the Andersons for Caribbean Night at the club, I had to kick him under the table to get him to shut up about it. The Andersons' children are a terrible disappointment.'

Just like Annabelle.

Her mother swooped in for the kill. 'Did you get the applications I sent?'

Since Kate had sent the applications FedEx and undoubtedly tracked their arrival on her computer, the question was rhetorical. Annabelle's head started to pound. 'Mother…'

'You can't keep drifting like this-jobs, relationships-I won't even mention that awful business with Rob. We

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