Match Me if You Can(8)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

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.”

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