“Relax, Alyssa. Gerri really isn’t as bad as you’re thinking,” Tally, her coworker, said to her.
Alyssa Moran added more sugar to her tepid coffee and winced. She didn’t even like that much sugar, but her nerves were all over. Placing the spoon on the plate with a small clink, she moved her hands to her lap. Unable to sit still, she wiped the sweat off her palms on her suit pants.
“I’m not nervous.” Liar! “Mrs. Wilder sounded like a lovely person over email.” A very strange but nice person. She’d asked some stuff Lyss had never been asked before. Ever.
“I know.” Tally chuckled. “Her methods are unconventional, but they work. Look at me.”
Yeah. Look at her. Before Mrs. Wilder had matched Tally with her two men, Lyss had sworn Tally was a man-hater. Nothing good ever came out of her mouth when it came to men. Especially if her ex-husband’s name was discussed. Then one day she showed up with a glow and a smile. Ever since Lyss had seen the change in Tally, she wondered if maybe she wouldn’t have to live the life of a thirty-five year old cat lady with an addiction to National Geographic and buying sex toys.
Unlike what her mother liked to say, Lyss was no prude. She loved sex. She liked it a hell of a lot, but she didn’t want to keep doing it with the wrong men. Getting into a relationship with a loser just because he could rock her world didn’t make sense anymore. Her last live-in boyfriend had the bad luck syndrome. If he got fired he blamed his eternal bad luck. She got so tired of it, she’d finally snapped at him and yelled, “No you dumb fuck, if you don’t go to work, you will get fired.”
And that was the end of that relationship. At least from her end. The moocher had tried to prolong the agony by saying he had nowhere to go. Asking her to please give him another chance. That he’d go find a job and make her proud. Then he went and tried to get her ATM card so he could ‘borrow’ some money.
If she was the kind of person who believed in bad luck, she’d think she was destined to be alone. Lyss was too positive for that. She knew there was a man out there for her. At this point she would take him being human, shifter or dead. Fuck that shit.
“Sorry I’m late girls,” a woman dressed in an impeccable peach suit said, walking toward them.
Mrs. Wilder. Lyss stared, open-mouthed as the older woman winked at the waiter passing by.
“Traffic was a bitch, but what can you do, right?” She stopped next to Tally who jumped to her feet and hugged Mrs. Wilder. “Lovely to see you, Tally.”
“Now that I don’t live in the same building I miss you more, Gerri.”
Mrs. Wilder made a dismissive gesture. “Nah. You miss my cakes.”
“That too.” Tally sighed.
Mrs. Wilder turned to her, her gaze piercing and filled with interest. “You must be Alyssa.”
She’d stood at the same time as Tally, so she offered Mrs. Wilder her hand. “Mrs. Wilder—”
“None of that. Gerri. Though Your Matchmaking Highness has a nice ring to it too. But no Mrs. Wilder. I’m still very young for that.” She pulled Lyss’s offered hand and gave her a hug.
That shocked her. She wasn’t used to public displays of affection. Her mother would complain over Lyss’s choice of perfume or body spray so she’d never given her hugs, kisses or kind words in general.
“It’s nice to meet you, Gerri.” She waited until everyone sat down again to follow suit. “Thanks so much for coming.”
Tally grinned. “Okay, now that you have some company, I’m going home early. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Tally came around the table and gave her a hug. “Don’t worry, Gerri will take good care of you. If I know her well, I bet she’s got someone in mind already.”
“Thanks for sitting with me.”
“Bye, darling.” Gerri hugged Tally as well. “Tell my nephew to bring you by tomorrow. I’ll make some of his favorite cake.”
Tally hugged Gerri again. “I so love you. And your baking.”
Once Tally had gone, Gerri ordered some tea and pulled out a notebook. “Let’s talk.”
Lyss swallowed hard. “What about?”
“Why what you want in a man, of course.” Gerri placed her elbow on the table and cupped her chin with her hand, tapping a finger on her cheek. “I know you said you wanted a man that likes cats.”
She nodded quickly. “He has to. Or at least not be allergic and not be bothered by them.”
“A man who likes pussy,” Gerri said as she wrote. “Got it.”
Lyss blinked. Then she burst into giggles.
Gerri gave her a side smile. “You got that, huh?”
“Heck yeah. I definitely need a man who likes erm…that. You know, Tally had said you were unique, but wow. I’m so glad you decided to help me.”
Gerri patted her on the hand. “I wouldn’t turn down a friend of Tally’s. Besides, your letter made me laugh and that’s not something that happens often.”
She didn’t remember what she’d written to make Gerri laugh, but she was glad she had the matchmaker on her side.
“I’m really sick of trying to be the savior. Fuck that,” she said then slapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry!”
Gerri laughed. “Don’t mind me, I have my moments with words that would make you blush.”
“Right. So men. I’m a big girl. But it seems like most of them I attract want to live off me because, according to some people, I can’t get anything better since I’m too big.”
“Who said that nonsense?” Gerri asked, her brows dropping in a fierce scowl.
“My mother, my exes. Don’t worry, I don’t believe them at all.” She didn’t. She knew that there were men out there that liked a bigger girl. So what if she had a tummy that was soft and big hips and thighs? Maybe her ass was larger than most but all that didn’t faze her. She believed in her heart there was a man out there who would like a woman like her. Why? Because there were more women that were big than small. And she knew Tally was not the only one able to get herself a set of hot men that loved her curves.
“I’m glad you didn’t listen to them. There is someone or in some cases a few someones for everyone. It’s just a matter of finding each other.” Gerri put her pen down and pinned Lyss with a serious stare. “You’re obviously aware that I don’t match women with just any man. They’re paranormals. Mostly shifters.”
She might be a hopeless romantic, but she wanted a man to love her like her father had her mother. Except, she wouldn’t treat him like her mother had her father. Lyss wanted to feel that emotional connection with someone and know he cared about her just as much as she did for him. Her hopes that every relationship would progress into the love she wanted was why she’d lasted so long in them. And why she always ended up disappointed.
She sighed and stared at Gerri. “My mother says I’m a fool. That love doesn’t exist. That I should give up on the idea.”
“Don’t you dare! Love exists. You just need the right man.”
“I want love,” she murmured softly. “I want to be wanted for once. Not just for the troubles I can fix for a man. I want to be wanted for who I am and what I can give back. I want to be loved.”
Gerri nodded. “And we will get you love.”
Lyss hadn’t found a single man who’d made her believe he truly loved her. Sure they were good at telling her words they thought she wanted to hear, but the proof was in the pudding. Her exes were selfish and it would take a man proving with actions and not words that he cared.
“There’s another thing,” she said. “This one is really the main reason why I contacted you.”
“Hit me,” Gerri said.
She’d probably never get used to how Gerri looked and the stuff she said. It never matched. “I want kids.”
“Kids?” Gerri looked at her, confused.
“My biological clock is gonna give me a concussion soon from hitting me so hard. I want babies. I need to find someone to be with long-term who wants children.” She sighed. “I’ve wanted a family for so long it’s kind of sad. The men in my past have always said yes and then turned out to be such losers I never saw them as father material.”
“So you want a man who wants a family. Children.”
She nodded. “I want a man who wants that as a priority. Marriage. Kids. The whole nine yards.”
Gerri scrunched her nose in thought and then smiled. “I think I can help you there as well. So you are okay that my male clients are shifters? You know that’s the kind of matchmaking business I run.”
Her hands shook again. She couldn’t stop the excitement dancing in her veins. Shifters were hot. Like nuclear-bomb-explosion-in-her-panties kind of hot. One who wanted babies as much as she did would be perfect.
“I know.” Actually, she was more than happy to see if she could be a potential mate to one of those sexy men with their alpha personalities. She’d heard they liked to tear panties off. She had a damn big collection and was willing to give them all up if her man wanted to try that.
“Great, so you’re okay with growls, hisses and roars during sex.” Gerri made more notes.
She cleared her throat and glanced around, thinking of the people in their immediate area, but there were none close enough to hear them. “Do you think you can help me?”
Shit. Maybe she couldn’t.
“Of course I can. I have a person I’d love for you to meet. Here’s the thing. He’s not close enough where you can just meet up for dinner. He’ll need you to go spend a few days where he lives to see if you are a match.”
She’d never really traveled. Not because she didn’t like it, but she really didn’t have anywhere to go. And nobody to go with. An out of town date sounded out of the ordinary. What if they hit it off? What if they didn’t? It was a game of chance. Her only hope was that if they did, they could figure out how to make it work without it being a strange long-distance relationship. That was not her idea of a happy future.
“I know going somewhere to meet a man can be a turn off,” Gerri admitted. “Especially when you’re unsure what you’re getting into. I really think this could be good for you.”
Hmm. Gerri had been right twice from what Tally said. Still, Lyss didn’t know what would be considered casual clothes. She spent her life in either work suits or sweats. There was no middle ground with her.
“This is so stupid to say, but I don’t know what I’d wear on a date where I’d be gone for more than a day or two.”
Gerri blinked, confusion clear in her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Are sweats considered to be the kind of stuff you wear on a trip to meet a possible match?”
Gerri inhaled sharply. “Oh, honey. Don’t you ever shop?”
“Not if I can help it. I can never find stuff that looks good. I know I’m a big girl, but why do clothes that fit at my hips have to be huge at the waist?” she grumbled. “And I don’t have the rack a woman my size should. I feel like I’m missing on top to even out the rest of my body.”
Gerri shook her head in mock horror. “We must get you new outfits. Not because sweats aren’t good attire, but do you really feel sexy in sweats or suits?”
Not really. In fact, she felt the least feminine in those things. “Okay. I’m game.” She pushed a stray lock of brown hair behind her ear. “I would like to feel sexy.”
“Then we’re going to make you feel like the sexiest woman in the world. And I want you to remember that if the man I match you with turns out to be the right man for you, he will say it. Don’t for a second think that he’d lie to you.”
She nodded. “He’d be my right match if things work out.”
“No, darling. He’s your purrfect match.”
Did she say purrfect? She must have heard wrong. “Can you tell me a little about this guy?”
Gerri shook her head and motioned for the check. “No. I don’t want you to go into this with any preconceived ideas. I’d like for you to get to know him in his um…natural habitat.”
That didn’t sound so bad. She’d heard Tally’s cousin had been matched with a bear-shifter. What if she got one of those? Did bears like cats? She didn’t think so. She bet bears didn’t really like much of anything. Maybe she’d get a wolf like Tally. Those guys were supposed to be wild in bed. She could use some wild in her life.
Gerri shooed her hand away when she attempted to make a grab for the check. She paid and stood. “Shall we go?”
“Any advice you can give me for this whole date thing?” She worried her bottom lip and grabbed her bag, ready to follow behind Gerri.
“Have an open mind. Speak your thoughts. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do and for goodness sakes be you.” Gerri slipped on dark sunglasses over her eyes. They left the restaurant and strolled down the busy street filled with shops. “If there is a time to show a man who you are and what you expect, it’s at the beginning. Whatever you do or don’t allow then is what will follow you through the rest of your relationship.”
Where had Gerri been when Lyss had been with David the loser? She’d spent so many months allowing him to feed her excuses. She’d known he was lying and cheating, but she’d sucked up David’s pathetic stories for a number of reasons. For one because she really didn’t want to hear her mother’s mouth about another man dumping her. How was it that her mom never believed Lyss was the one doing the dumping?
“Speaking my mind has never gotten me good results,” she muttered.
Gerri stopped and glanced at her. She couldn’t make out the other woman’s expression through the large sunglasses, but her pursed lips spoke volumes.
“Listen to me very carefully, Alyssa. The moment you allow anyone to slide with lies, cheating and treating you poorly, that person will take your kindness for weakness and do it again and again.”
She’d never really stopped to think about that. Not that she allowed her exes to really take advantage of her. She’d just given the relationship time. Even after she’d known it was going nowhere. “I do tend to stay in relationships even once I have come to the conclusion it’s not going to work.”
“If it’s not working, cut it loose. Your time is valuable. You won’t be young forever. Don’t waste months or years of your life on someone who’s not right when you could be looking for the one who is,” Gerri said. She stopped at a well-known ladies clothing store and opened the door. “Now let’s get you some feel sexy clothes.”
Two hours later and what she swore was the fiftieth outfit, Lyss was no closer to being done shopping. She left the fitting room in a pair of tight capri pants and sexy low-cut sparkly top.
Gerri sat on a chair messing with her phone. She glanced up and beamed. “You look great!”
Lyss turned to stare at herself in the mirror. She didn’t have sexy clothes in her closet. Her mother had taught her to be practical at all times. When she was growing up, she’d tried to hide behind her clothes. Not that she was shy, she just didn’t want attention drawn to her body. As an adult, she learned to be herself. To like herself for who she was, but now she had no clue about style.
“Do you think it looks okay?”
Gerri stood and turned Lyss to face her. “Look at me, Alyssa. You’re beautiful.”
She smiled. “Nobody has ever called me that.”
“Well you are. Are you looking to keep your hair curled like that or did we want to go check out a hairdresser and makeup artist as well?”
She cleared her throat and winced. “I don’t wear makeup.”
She shook her head. “I wear chapstick. Does that count?”
Gerri’s eyes widened. “No! We’ll have to—Wait. Do you even like makeup?”
“No,” she said and scrunched her nose. “I don’t like feeling stuff on my face. I get itchy and on the few occasions I’ve been made up I forget and start rubbing my eyes and end up looking like a raccoon.”
“That could be a problem.”
She snorted. “Tell me about it. I once had to be in a wedding party and the makeup artist used this great stuff to give me that smoky eye effect. I rubbed one eye during the evening and I started getting strange looks. When I finally saw my face, my eye shadow and mascara had run together and I looked like I had a black eye!”
Gerri laughed. “Oh, you poor thing.”
“The worst part was seeing my friend’s wedding photos. I was a mess in all of them.”
Gerri shook her head. “Let’s stay away from makeup then. What about your hair?”
Her shoulders slumped. “I have frizzy hair. Nothing anyone does makes it better.”
“There are products that can help tame the curls, Alyssa. Just because your hair is curly doesn’t mean it has to look…”
“Like I got electrocuted?”
Gerri burst into giggles. “Something like that.”
“If you can find me something to keep this hair from looking like dry straw I will be happy to try it. Taming my curls has been the bane of my existence. Cutting it wouldn’t help. It’d just puff up and I’ll end up looking like a giant Chia pet.”