“Okay, maybe I am a little paranoid about being married because of Madison Commercial,” Gabe said quietly. “I’ve had a couple of close calls.”
“Give me a break. Are you telling me that the reason you’ve never married is because you’re afraid that every woman you meet is after your money?” She did not bother to keep the skepticism out of her voice.
“I find that a little tough to swallow. You haven’t always been wealthy and successful. Far from it. I know exactly where you came from, remember?”
He contemplated the mist that shrouded the darkening city. “During the time when I didn’t have any money I was too busy with Madison Commercial to get seriously involved with anyone.”
“Now that I do believe.”
There was a short silence.
“It isn’t just caution that kept me from getting married.”
“I wasn’t in any hurry to follow the Madison tradition.”
She watched him narrowly. “Which tradition, exactly, would that be?”
“Messy relationships and divorce run in my family. We’re not real good at marriage.”
She straightened in her chair. “Sorry, you can’t use that excuse anymore. Your brother put an end to that famous Madison tradition when he married my sister. Rafe and Hannah’s marriage is going to work out brilliantly.”
“You sound very sure of that.”
“I am sure of it.”
He glanced at her over his shoulder, intent curiosity gleaming in his eyes. “Why? You didn’t run them through your computer program to see if they were a good match. How can you be so certain that their marriage will work?”
“You can feel it when you’re with them,” she said quietly. “There’s a bond. I don’t think either of them will ever look at anyone else as long as they have each other.”
“You can feel it, huh?”
“Call it female intuition.”
“Intuition is a funny word coming from a woman who uses a computer to match people. Wouldn’t have thought you would be real big on intuition.”
She stiffened. “Every woman likes to think she has good intuition.” This was getting into dangerous territory. “Don’t you believe their marriage will work?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said with stunning casualness. “It’ll work.”
The absolute conviction in his words took her back for a second or two. “I beg your pardon? You just accused me of relying on intuition. What makes you so sure their marriage will hold up?”
“It sure as hell isn’t my intuition.”
“What is it?”
“Simple logic. For starters, it’s obvious that Hannah is Rafe’s passion. You know what they say about us Madisons.”
“Nothing gets between a Madison and his passion,” she recited evenly.
“Right. In addition, your family has a reputation for being good at marriage. I’ve never heard of a Harte getting a divorce. I figure that makes for a winning combination for Rafe and Hannah.”
“I see.” Time to change the topic. “Well, we seem to be in agreement on that point. Why are we arguing about it?”
Gabe turned away from the window and resumed prowling the room. “We’re not arguing. I just wondered how you could be so sure of your conclusions when you hadn’t run Rafe and Hannah through your computer, that’s all.”
She glanced uneasily at the laptop on her desk. She was not about to explain that in the past few months she had been forced to admit to herself that her computer program was not the sole secret of her success as a matchmaker. But the truth was too disturbing to discuss with anyone else, let alone a Madison. She was having a hard enough time dealing with it herself.
The realization that she was relying on her intuition and a hefty dose of common sense combined with the computer’s analysis to get successful matches was fraught with disturbing implications. She was, after all, assuming a huge responsibility with each client. She guided and assisted them in making one of the most important decisions of their lives. The possibility of making a mistake weighed more heavily on her with each passing day. Although nothing awful had happened yet, lately she’d had the uneasy sensation that she was on extremely thin ice.
The time to get out was now, before disaster struck.
She was ready to switch careers, anyway. While her rapidly accumulating qualms about the risks of the matchmaking field were not the main reason she had decided to close down her business, they definitely constituted an added incentive to shut her doors. Fast.
She was not looking forward to announcing her intentions to her family. She knew only too well that the news would not be greeted with wild enthusiasm in the Harte clan. But she had made her plans. The only thing standing between her and her new profession was Gabe Madison. He was the last client left on her active list.
Unfortunately, getting rid of him was proving more difficult than she had anticipated.
Gabe came to a halt in front of her desk, shoved aside one edge of his sleekly cut jacket and hooked his thumb in his belt.
“Let’s get to the bottom line here,” he said. “You want to ditch me because I’m a Madison and you’re a Harte.”
She raised her eyes to the ceiling, seeking patience and forbearance. When she got no help from that direction, she took a deep breath instead.
“That’s got nothing to do with this,” she said. “I don’t give a darn about the family feud. Even if I did, I could hardly use it as a reason to drop you from my list now that your brother and my sister are married.”
“Just because Rafe and Hannah got together doesn’t mean that you’ve changed your opinion about the rest of us Madisons.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Gabe, it was our grandfathers who started the feud. I couldn’t care less about that old nonsense.”
“Yeah?” He gave her a razor-sharp smile. “You mean that you really believe that I’m capable of making a long-term commitment?”
The sarcasm was too much. She had been through a lot since the day Gabe had shown up here in her office, demanding to sign on as a client. The way he had demolished her private fantasies was the least of it.
“I think you’re perfectly capable of a long-term commitment,” she said. “But it looks to me like you’ve already made it.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I’m not in a relationship.”