“Yes, you are. You’ve got a very serious, very committed, one hundred percent exclusive relationship with Madison Commercial.”
“Madison Commercial is my company,” he said. “Of course I’m committed to it. That’s got nothing to do with getting married.”
“That company is your passion, Gabe. You’ve devoted your entire life to building that business.”
“You’re a Madison,” she said, thoroughly exasperated now. “As you just pointed out, nothing comes between a Madison and his passion.”
“Damn, this is about me being a Madison.” He jerked his thumb out of his belt and planted his hands flat on her desk. “You are biased against me because our families have a history.”
“It’s not our family history that is the problem here.” She could feel her temper rising. She had a nasty suspicion that her face was flushed. Probably an unpleasant shade of red. “You’re the problem.”
“Are you telling me that just because I’m running a successful corporation, I can’t commit to a wife?”
That gave her pause.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” she said carefully. “But I do think that you’re going to have to refocus if you want to make a relationship work.”
She sighed. “You’re going about this all wrong, Gabe.”
“I’m trying to use a logical, rational, scientifically based technique to find a wife. I would have thought you, of all people, would appreciate that approach.”
“Why? Because I’m a Harte and you Madisons think all Hartes have ice water in their veins?”
“You do own and operate a computerized matchmaking firm, don’t you? Some people would say your line of work requires a pretty cold-blooded approach to marriage.”
Damn. She would not allow Gabriel Madison to make her feel awkward right here in her own office.
She was a Harte, after all. Hartes did not put up with this sort of behavior from Madisons.
“There’s a difference between going about the process of finding a mate in an intelligent, logical manner and going about it in a cold-blooded fashion,” she said evenly.
“And I’m being cold-blooded, is that it?”
“Look, you’re the one who filled out the questionnaire that I fed into my computer program, not me.”
There was a beat or two of silence. He watched her with a shuttered look.
“What was wrong with the way I filled it out?” he asked a little too softly.
She tapped the printouts in front of her. “According to these results, you want a robot for a wife.”
“That’s crazy.” He straightened and shoved his fingers through his dark hair. “If that’s the conclusion your idiotic program came up with, you’d damn well better see about getting some new software.”
“I don’t think the program is at fault here.”
“A robot, huh?” He nodded once. “Maybe that’s what went wrong on those five dates you arranged for me. Maybe you sent me out with five robots. Come to think of it, they were all a little too thin and there was something very computerlike about the way they tried to grill me on the subject of my portfolio.”
“You got exactly what you said you wanted, according to the questionnaire,” she said very sweetly.
“There was no strong emotion in any of your responses except when it came to the importance of not being matched with what you call arty types and your insistence on a prenuptial agreement.”
“What’s the problem with the lack of strong emotions?”
“For one thing, it makes it extremely difficult to find a match for you.”
“I would have thought taking emotion out of the equation would have made it easier to match me, not harder.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’m a big believer in approaching marriage logically. I’ve built this business on that premise. But you’ve gone to extremes. You’re hunting for a wife as if you were interviewing a potential employee for an executive slot at Madison Commercial. It won’t work.”
“Why not?” His eyes were emerald hard. His voice fell to an even softer pitch. “Because I’m a Madison and Madisons can’t do anything without getting emotional?”
“That does it.” She powered down the laptop. “It has nothing to do with the fact that you’re a Madison.
You can’t expect me to find you a proper match when you insist on concealing your true feelings on certain matters.”
“Concealing my true feelings?”
“Yes.” She closed the lid of the laptop, reached down, opened a drawer and removed her shoulder bag.
“Just a minute. Are you accusing me of having deliberately shaded a few of my answers on that questionnaire?”
“No.” She straightened and slung the strap of the bag over her shoulder. “I don’t think you shaded a few of your responses. I think you lied through your teeth about everything except prenuptial agreements and arty types.”
“Why the hell would I lie on that stupid questionnaire?”
“How should I know? You’d need to discuss that with a trained therapist. I can give you the name of one, if you want to pursue the matter. He’s right here in this building. Three floors down. Dr. J. Anderson Flint.”
Gabe’s expression hardened. “His name certainly popped up in a hurry in the course of this conversation.”
“Probably because he’s on my mind at the moment.” She glanced at the roman numerals etched on the jade green face of her watch. “I’m on my way to his office.”
“You’re seeing a therapist?”
“In a manner of speaking.” She went to the small closet behind the desk, opened it and removed the hooded, ankle-length rain cloak inside. “Anderson is doing research for a book. He wants to interview me.”
“Because he specializes in treating people who have problems in their uh, physical relationships with their partners.”
“In other words, he’s a sex therapist?”
She could feel herself turning red again. “I believe sex therapy constitutes the major portion of his practice, yes.”
“And he wants to interview you. Well, now, that would certainly raise a few eyebrows back in Eclipse Bay.”
“Try to get your mind out of the gutter.” She scooped the laptop off her desk and stuffed it into a waterproof case. “I’ve got a very high success rate here at Private Arrangements. Anderson feels my computer program is the key. He is looking for ways to incorporate the principles of that program into a useful guide for couples seeking committed relationships.”