Make Me a Match
by Mackenzie Lucas
Widower Mark Cage is rusty at relationships. He owns the micro-brewery that supplies
winning local craft beer. And he’s been focused on building his business and raising
his teenage daughter ever since his wife died ten years ago. Nothing else.
When he runs into a sweet kindergarten teacher who is vacationing in St. Augustine
and staying at Essence everything changes. A sudden, inexplicable encounter with a mystical tree
known for its legend of bringing lovers together, convinces Mark the schoolteacher is
his destined match. However, his encounters are disastrous.
His only hope of persuading the woman he wants to even consider a date with him is
working with Essence’s on-site relationship guru, Athena Sullivan. A reknowned relationship coach, Athena is the opposite of everything Mark wants in a woman. She’s feisty,
independent, and challenges him at every turn. Sparks fly between the two from their
first meeting and flare into a blazing inferno as Athena helps him navigate the dating scene.
After a series of too-perfect, mis-queued dates, Mark realizes maybe the woman of his
dreams is not a sweet schoolteacher after all. Maybe she’s a feisty, independent, sexy relationship coach who stands up to him and is everything he’s always wanted or needed in a woman.
If he opens himself up to true love, he might just find second chances at love are possible and that his perfect soul mate is closer than he thinks.
EXCERPT: Meeting the Kindergarten Teacher
Sally, Mark’s best friend, waved when she saw him. “Mark, I want you to meet someone.”
He walked over, hands shoved in his jeans pockets. “Hey, there.”
Daphne extended her hand. “Hello, I’m Daphne Moore.”
He froze, mesmerized by the elfin features of the pretty woman.
Sally poked him hard in the ribs, giving him a not so subtle hint.
“Oh, hi. I’m Mark Cage.”
He hadn’t done this in forever. He was a little rusty. Sally poked him a second time and stared at Daphne’s hand just as she started to lower it, looking unsure of herself.
Mark recovered. Pulled his right hand from his pocket and grabbed hers.
But in his rush, he fumbled. Yanked a little harder than he’d intended to pump it in an exuberant handshake.
He dropped her hand.
She smiled sweetly and rubbed her wrist and hand gingerly. Her face flushed pink. “Sally tells me you run a microbrewery.”
“Yes.” He nodded, at a loss about what topics to discuss with a kindergarten teacher. The silence stretched out.
Daphne looked between Mark and Sally. Her face flushed a deeper shade of pink. Almost as if she didn’t know what to say, either.
She sure was pretty. Mark liked the way her long skirt flowed easily over her slim hips. “You’re a teacher?”
“Yes, I teach kindergarten. Five-year-old kids.”
His daughter hadn’t been five for a lot of years. He could barely remember when she was five. “Learning to read and write,” he finally came up with after a long, painful pause.
“Exactly. Plus social skills. How to interact appropriately with others. How to play nice together. Those kinds of necessary life skills.”
Sally snickered and tapped his toe with her foot. “Maybe you should go back to kindergarten. Do you some good.”
Mark scowled, then turned back to Daphne. “What brings you to St. Augustine?”
“Vacation. A much-needed break.” She picked at the button on her sweater and her gaze skittered away from his. “I’m primary caregiver for my dad. He’s got terminal cancer.”
“I’m sorry. I lost my wife to cancer ten years ago. It’s never easy.” Now Mark really had no idea how to continue the conversation. “Were you waiting for someone?” His words sounded a little sharper than he’d intended.
Daphne hugged herself. “Actually, I am.” She glanced around like she was searching for a lifeline.
“Oh.” Shit. This was not going well.
She lifted a hand and waved at someone behind Mark. Her face split into a sunny smile and her shoulders sagged in relief. “Hello. Over here.”
“There you are.” The voice of the woman at the bar—the one who’d been coming on to Jason—sounded right behind Mark.
He stiffened. What could she want with his sweet Daphne? To corrupt her? Oh, no. Not on his watch.
Sally turned, all smiles. “Athena. When did you get here?”
Mark frowned fiercely at her. “Yeah, after a drink in the bar with Jason.”
She smirked. “Jealous?”
“Hell, no.” He barked the words. Daphne jumped. “Just thought that Sal should know what you’ve been up to.”
“Sally knows exactly what I’m up to here, don’t you, sweetie?” She smiled at Sally. “Plus, she bought me the drink.” Athena threw her head back and laughed, exposing the strong, tanned column of her neck.
In that instant, Mark had the insane urge to sink his teeth into the spot just below her ear. The tender one. Bite gently and scrape his teeth down along her skin. Make her moan and arch against him.
Fuck. Where had that come from?
Beads of sweat popped onto his forehead.
He glanced at Daphne who appeared as if she might take flight at any second.
He didn’t want Athena. So why the scandalous thoughts? Because Athena was the type of woman to inspire hot, dirty passion-filled thoughts. Not what he wanted or needed. Nope. He wanted Daphne. Sweet, kind Daphne.
Athena winked at Sally. “Jase and I go way back.”
“Yes, I’m well aware of what Athena’s job is here. And I welcome it. I am in no way threatened. I trust her. I trust Jason. She knows exactly what she’s doing.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” They could not be talking about what he thought they were talking about. “She was just coming on to your fiancé at the bar.”
Athena rolled her eyes. “Men.”
Sally slapped a hand over her eyes. “You are a Neanderthal, aren’t you? Do you only think with your small head?”
Pissed, he squinted at Sally. Then he glanced at Daphne. She’d blanched white, almost like she could pass out. Fuck. Working with kindergartners, she wasn’t used to this kind of talk.
Athena moved in and put her arm around Daphne. “Let’s go, girlfriend. We’ve got weekend plans to make for you, darling. You’re going to love what I have in mind.” She herded Daphne around Mark.
“It was nice meeting you,” Daphne said, weakly.
Mark turned to watch them go, only to catch Athena turn her head and stick her tongue out at him.
What the hell?
Sally turned to Mark. “I like her.”
“You would.” Mark grunted. “But you shouldn’t. You can’t trust her.”
“I’d better be able to trust her. I just hired her, for a whopping salary, as the resort’s new relationship coach. She’ll be running dating events over the next couple of months. Hooking people up. It’s a trial run. See if it’s a value-added service our clientele would enjoy. Daphne is her first client here.”
Great, just great.
She was searching for a mate. And now Athena had her claws into the poor, sweet woman. He’d better ask her out soon, or he might just lose his chance. “I thought the meeting with Daphne went well, what do you think?”
Sally stared at him like he had two heads. “You’re crazy, right?”
“No. I like her.”
“Of course you do. She’s sweet and pliable and kind. And absolutely not the woman for you.”
“You said that before. And I disagree. I think she liked me.”
“Of course you do,” she repeated. “She had no idea what to think of you—as you outright accused her coach of hitting on my fiancé. Way to go, maverick.”
“Tell your Athena woman to seek no further.” Mark waved his hand in dismissal, because in his mind it was a settled deal. “I want to date Daphne. No need for that chick to hook her up with anyone else.”
“Uh-huh.” Sally rubbed her hand over her forehead, then peeked back up at him. “You scared the crap out of Daphne, you know that, right?”
Mark shuffled his feet. Yes, he was over six feet tall. He had a big build. Wide shoulders. He could intimidate lots of people. But Daphne hadn’t quailed when she first met him. “She didn’t seem to mind my size.”
“Had nothing to do with your size, doofus. Had everything to do with your mean-boy attitude toward Athena and the comments about Jason. Scandalized the poor teacher. She can’t handle the kind of in-your-face conflict you dish out. I understand you, but I’ve known you forever. I get there’s no bite under that bark. Daphne doesn’t know you yet. If you want a chance at all with her, you need to tone it down, bud.”
Mark stared at the toes of his shoes. Was she right? Had he come across too strong? He’d forgotten how to play this game. How to put his best foot forward. He lifted his chin. “I’ll try. Talk to Athena, okay?”
“Deal. But I can’t promise anything.”
“Just talk to her.” With those words, Mark stalked out of Essence, certain Athena-the-shrew had just ruined his whole future love life. Damned if he’d allow that to happen. Not when he’d just found the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
Oh, hell, no. Not gonna happen.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Mackenzie Lucas is an avid reader of genre fiction. She writes contemporary and paranormal romance, and listens to an eclectic mix of music. She loves a good story, whether it’s an erotic short, a full-length romance novel, or the narrative slice-of-life found in country music. In any story, emotional integrity and authenticity are most important to her as well as a big dose of romping hot sexual tension. She enjoys smart-mouthed, sexy heroines, hunky alpha heroes who know how to take care of their women, and plot twists that surprise her, but most of all, she just wants to experience the satisfying emotional arc of a character falling in love and finding what he or she needs most in life.
Mac is a small-town country girl with a world-traveler’s heart. She grew up in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and she’s lived in Dublin, Ireland, within spitting distance of New York City in Long Island, and now in the Washington, D.C. area. She obtained her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Dickinson College and received her M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She’s currently an author for Soul Mate Publishing and is represented by Otis and Mackintosh Literary Agency.
With Mackenzie Lucas—whether you’re reading her light paranormal romance or her small-town-based contemporary romance—you’ll always find a heart-warming love story about connectedness, community, and emotional authenticity. And, no, it doesn’t hurt that all her heroes are panty-melting gorgeous alphas and all their sexy, sensually aware heroines know how to stand up to them, give no quarter, and love them just as they are.
Watch for new titles by Mackenzie Lucas.
Mackenzie Lucas will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
REVIEW: Another book in the Soul Mate tree series. Each book is written by a different author but every story includes the same soul mate tree, responsible for bringing our couples together. This one was a different because the tree communicated with the main character, Mark. Mark Cage lost his wife to cancer while raising his daughter. Mark is a bit of a cummudgeon - he is a big man, surly and can be abrupt. Now his daughter is going off to college, and she would like her father to meet someone. Mark agrees to date, and he sees Daphne, a preschool teacher, and decides he's head-over-heels in love with her. But he's at a loss how to ask her out. Despite his misgivings, at his daughter's insistance, (she pays for it - so he's stuck) he agrees to see Athena, a "relationship coach". Athena and he don't get along, to put it mildly. He's decided that Athena is 'That Kind of Woman' - loose, probably a marriage wrecker - and he's absolutely awful to her. But she's made of steel. She agrees to help him - even though she is sure that Daphne isn't the right woman for him. Enter the Soulmate tree - lured to it by the spirit of his dead wife, Mark agrees to try to let her go and seek a new love. In his mind, it's Daphne - the sweet, timid teacher who caught his eye. But soon he has to admit that Athena is the one for him. Now, to convince her! This was a sensual romance with lots of snappy dialogue and a very likeable cast of characters.