Standing at the bar, I look around the ball at the many single men and women hoping to find love tonight. I have to give it to her, Delilah can plan a party. The place is set perfectly to lure people in and entice them to let down their inhibitions. When my brother Theo and I were younger, we would attend events like this with our parents, but it has been years since we’ve been.
The only reason I’m here tonight is that I let my mother guilt me into coming. Apparently, her friends have been sharing about the joys of being a grandparent. I guess she’s ready for her grandbabies since she sent my information to Elite Matchmaking Services and scheduled a consultation with the owner Delilah Rothschild, who is supposedly the best matchmaker in Atlanta.
If Theo could see me standing here in a suit I will never wear again, he’d laugh. Usually, I’m a jeans and graphic tee kind of guy. I feel so out of place in the company of all these people. This is my mother’s thing, not mine. In Theo’s last email, he had a lot to say about making sure the woman I ended up with was vetted properly and wasn’t out to steal the family fortune. He has nothing to worry about. There have been women in the past who have tried to lure me in, but I wasn’t interested. I doubt I’ll find someone here tonight. Damn, it’s been too long since he’s been home. I can’t wait until my little brother gets back from the middle east and we can hang out instead of emailing back and forth.
While at the meeting with Delilah I told her I wasn’t interested in finding someone. “You’re telling me if the right woman came along, one that was absolutely perfect for you, that you wouldn’t snatch her up?”
She had a point. I’ve never looked for love, was never interested in finding someone before, hell I’ve never been out on a date or had a girlfriend. When I was younger, I was consumed with learning everything I could about computers. I never gave having a family a serious thought, always putting it off until I was older. Now here I am almost thirty and doing well in my career as head of technology in my father’s company, Stone Enterprises.
After my meeting with Delilah, I got to thinking, what if on the slim chance that one woman happened to come into my life? There is no way in hell I would give her up. I called Delilah back a few hours after I had told her I wasn’t interested. She guaranteed that she would find me my match if I gave her two weeks of my time. I didn’t have anything to lose.
Here I am a week later and no closer to finding anyone to call my own. I’ve met with Delilah a handful of times going over the things I find important, and a million other things that I wouldn’t have thought to find out about a person. She showed me a few women she thought I would be interested in, and while they seemed like a good match, there wasn’t any interest on my part. No one in this room looks the least bit interesting or worth my time either. I’d rather be at home designing my next app than listening to another woman looking entirely too hungry for the money in my bank account. I shoot back the rest of my whiskey and set the glass down on the bar.
“What can I get you beautiful?” Leon, the bartender drawls, using a smooth southern twang he didn’t have when getting my drink order a few minutes ago.
“A glass of champagne?” Comes a husky, but timid voice.
My dick immediately hardens in my slacks, and I look over to find a petite, yet deliciously curvy woman standing to my left. Jackpot!
“You’ve got it doll.”
“Thank you.” She says when he hands her a glass filled halfway with the good stuff.
“You need anything else beautiful, my name is Leon, I’d be happy to help you in any way you need.” He says coming on strong.
“Another whiskey,” I say gruffly setting my drink down hard, making sure to grab his attention. I’m getting pissed watching how he’s looking at her.
“Yes, Mr. Stone,” Leon says immediately becoming the professional bartender he was not five minutes prior.
Once I get my drink, I sip it slowly, keeping my eye on the dark-haired beauty who looks scared out of her mind, yet determined to be here. The woman is trembling where she stands in a black dress that comes to right above her knees but is a bit lose on her. The longer I stare, the more I realize how out of place she looks compared to the other women at this event. Her long curly hair is worn down the middle of her back, while others have there’s in some fancy updo they probably spent hundreds of dollars on earlier today. Every other woman is sporting a full face of makeup, but she’s wearing very little, turning me on even more. Who is this woman and where the hell did she come from?
“Mr. Stone, please stop staring at me. You’re making me nervous.”
“I’m sorry. Where are my manners?” Reaching out my hand, I wait for her to place her hand in mine. “I’m Ford Stone, and you are?”
She stares at my hand, and after a few seconds, she shakes it firmly, surprising me. “I’m Jasmine.”
“Jasmine, you have a very beautiful name.”
“Thank you.” She says blushing then turns to watch the people mingling around us. I follow her line of sight and see that she’s watching a woman, beautiful by most men’s standards, throw herself at yet another man tonight. She turns back to me and shakes her head. “How can she do it?”
I shrug and look back at the woman, flirting heavily with a man who doesn’t seem the least bit interested. “I guess she’s looking for what we all are, she’s just going about it in an obvious way.”
“Not me. I don’t need love.”
I quirk my brow. “No? Then why are you here?”
She sighs. “You’re going to think it’s ridiculous.”
“Try me,” I smirk, curious as to what has brought this beautiful creature here tonight. Whatever it is, I’m thankful.
Setting her barely drank glass of champagne on the bar, she takes a breath and turns her body to face me. Fuck me, she’s beyond beautiful. As long as she’s not a serial killer I don’t give a damn why she’s here. The only thing I need to know is she’s mine.
She nibbles on her lip, and I can tell she’s nervous to tell me. “Have you ever heard of a marriage of convenience? Like you’re married on paper for whatever reason people need to do that sort of thing. You agree to be married for a certain amount of time and-”
“So you want to find a man who wants a fake marriage?” I ask, extremely repulsed by the idea.
She frowns. “It sounds dumb when you put it that way. I just want an equally benefitting partnership.”
I take a step closer to her. “Whatever happened to finding that one person you are meant to be with?”
Her sad eyes give her away before she speaks. “Fairy tales aren’t meant for girls like me Ford. I’m not worried about falling in love right now. There are more important things than happily ever afters in my world.”
Taking another step closer, I’m only inches from her soft skin. I reach up and push some hair behind her ear. “What is more important than spending the rest of your life with the person you love?”
Her breath catches in her throat and her pink tongue darts out of her mouth to wet her lips, and I know at that moment that I am gone over this woman, wholly and utterly.