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Excerpt: The Perfect Match

Excerpt from THE PERFECT MATCH, in which Tom and Honor are together in a restaurant on a snowy evening, and Honor is getting advice from her aging eggs. 

 

     Maybe it was because he’d already seen her at her worst, or had already essentially rejected her, or simply because he’d been nice and pretended to be her boyfriend. Maybe it was the snow and the quiet of the evening.

 

     Whatever the case, Honor felt herself relaxing. Do something different.

 

     “How about you, Tom? Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

 

     “Sorry to say, I’m an only child. My dad lives in Manchester.”

 

     “Go United.”

 

     He winked and flashed that smile again. “I think I just fell in love with you.”

 

     Had she found him irritating? She couldn’t seem to remember why. “Don’t take it personally,” she said. “It’s my cocktail party brain.”

 

     “Say again?”

 

     “My cocktail party brain,” she said. “I can make small talk about anything.”

 

     “Anything?”

 

     “Mm-hm.”

 

     His eyes narrowed, a smile playing at his full, gorgeous lips. “Is that right? Tell me something about developments in medicine.”

 

     “There’s a new drug that stops the progression of Alzheimer’s. FDA approval expected within three months.”

 

     “Is there? Of course, you can make stuff up, I’ll be none the wiser. Music trivia?”

 

     “Ray Charles had twelve children.”

 

     “Did he? Fancy that. All right, let’s get to my side of the pond. Royal family?”

 

     “Phillip and Elizabeth, Margaret, Harry, Andrew, Kate, William, Beatrice, Pippa…you’ll have to be more specific.”

 

     “Divorces in the royal family, then.”

 

     “Everyone except the old folks and the kids.”

 

     He laughed. “True enough. American foreign policy?”

 

     “Speak softly and carry a big missile.”

 

     “Mechanical engineering.”

 

     She opened her mouth, then shut it. “I give. I don’t know anything about that.”

 

     “I’m a mechanical engineer.”

 

     “I thought you taught math.”

 

     “No. Do you know what a mechanical engineer does?”

 

     “Um…You can fix a lot of stuff?”

 

     His smile grew. Oh, sigh, said the eggs.Think of what we could do with his DNA.“Yes,” he said, “That’s it exactly.”

 

     “You understand how things are built,” she said. It sounded vaguely dirty.

 

     “Yes.”

 

     “You know how to…get things going.”

 

     His eyes dropped to her mouth. “Mm-hm.”

 

     “You’re good with your hands.”

     He leaned forward. “Are you flirting with me, Miss Holland?” he asked, his voice low.

   

     Oh, crap. Well, she’d been trying to. Honor straightened up and put her hands in her lap. “No.”

 

     “You don’t need to stop,” he said mildly. “It was quite nice.” He leaned back in his chair. “For the record, a mechanical engineer is responsible for how just about anything is built. We make sure any type of structure or vehicle or roadway is strong, safe and will stay together.”

     Strong, safe, stay together.

 

     Meow.

 

     Flirt with him. Do it! the eggs demanded.

 

     It was now impossible to flirt. She wracked her brain for flirtiness. Tried to channel Colleen. Nope. Nothing. She

shifted, her leg bumping his.We can work with that, said the eggs. Almost there.

 

     Shut up, Honor said. We’re not getting pregnant tonight, okay? Just go back to Dancing with the Stars.

 

     “I saw you at the college that day,” she said. “You seem to have a lot of female students.”

 

     “The barbarian horde, I call them, most of whom will flunk out before midterms.”

  

     They didn’t say anything else for a minute. The fire hissed and snapped, and the snow was piling up, a lot more than the dusting the forecasters had predicted. It would be smart to head home, as conditions on the Hill tended to be worse than here in the village, thanks to the difference in elevation.

 

     She didn’t move.

 

     “So you and Prince Charming are still chums?” Tom asked. “Even though he chose your friend?”

 

     She felt start the slow burn in her cheeks.

 

     “Sorry,” Tom said. “None of my business.”

 

     “No, it’s fine,” she said. “Brogan and I have known each other since elementary school. Slept together on and off for years.” Probably more than Tom Barlow wanted to know. “He wanted to tell me that he’s going to be a father.”

 

     “Are you joking?” She shook her head. “Bloody hell.” Tom rubbed a hand across the back of his neck. “And what does Brogan Cain do for a living?”

 

     “He’s a sports photographer. Baseball, football, basketball.”

 

     “I know what sports are, darling.” He took a sip of his drink. “Brogan Cain,” he said thoughtfully. “I hope they pick out a really shitty name for the kid. Candy Cain. Sugar Cain. Rain. Wayne. Jane. Hickory.”

 

     Honor smiled faintly. It was still almost too great a shock to process—Dana and Brogan, and now Baby Cain on the way. She’d like to laugh about it. It just didn’t seem probable.

 

     “I hope your friend gets really fat,” Tom continued. “No glow for her. Heartburn. Acne. Swollen feet. A full-blown, Jessica Simpson Pop-Tarts and ice cream kind of fat.”

 

     It seemed like she was laughing after all. “That’s cute. Jessicker Simpson.”

 

     “I did not say that.” He raised an eyebrow, the one with the scar running through it.

 

     “You did. It was cute. You have a nice accent.”

 

     “I haven’t any accent all, darling. It’s the English language, remember? And I’m English. You’re the one mucking things up, you ungrateful Yank.”

 

     Tom Barlow was growing on her.