“As far as I can tell, all you do is work. If work isn’t fun for you, where do you go and what do you do when you’re looking for a good time?”
He frowned. “You make it sound like I never get out of the office.”
“I’m here, aren’t I? This sure as hell isn’t my office.”
“You’re right. This isn’t your office. So, tell me, are you having fun yet?”
“I didn’t come here to have fun. We’re here because you received a severe shock back there in Dr. J.
Anderson Flint’s office. I figured you needed a glass of wine for medicinal purposes.”
“The only reason you’re still hanging around is because you’re trying to figure out how to get your sixth date. Forget it. Never happen.”
“Pay attention, Madison.” She leaned forward and narrowed her eyes. “It will never happen because Private Arrangements is closed.”
“So? We’ll talk about my sixth date when you reopen on Monday.”
“I meant closed for good. Today was the last day of business. As of five o’clock this afternoon, my firm ceased operations. Get it?”
She was serious, he thought. “You can’t just shut down a moneymaking enterprise like that.”
“What about your clients?”
“You are the last one.” She raised her glass in a mocking little toast. “Here’s to you. Good luck finding yourself a robot.”
“Whatever.” She took a sip of the wine.
“Why the hell would you want to go out of business? You’re a huge success.”
“Financially, yes.” She sat back. “That isn’t enough.”
“Damn. You really are into this work-has-got-to-be-a-transcendent-experience thing, aren’t you?”
“Yep.” She propped one elbow on the table and rested her chin in her hand. “Let’s get back to you and fun.”
“Thought you just got through implying that the two don’t belong in the same sentence.”
“Well, let’s talk about your relationship with Madison Commercial, then.”
“Relationship? Are you suggesting that the company is my mistress or something?”
“That’s certainly what it looks like to me.”
He was getting irritated. “Is that your professional opinion?”
“I’m a matchmaker, remember? I know a good match when I see one. Tell me, what, exactly, do you get out of Madison Commercial?”
He was wary now. “What do I get out of it?”
She gave him a bright-eyed, innocently inquiring look. “Do you think your relationship with the company is a substitute for sex?”
She was a Harte, he reminded himself. Damned if he would let her goad him.
“Got news for you. In case you don’t know, Ms. Matchmaker, there is no substitute for sex. What I get out of Madison Commercial is a lot of money.”
“And power,” she added a little too helpfully. “But, then, the two usually go together, don’t they?”
“Power?” he repeated neutrally.
“Sure. You have a lot of clout here in Portland. You mingle with the movers and shakers. You’re on the boards of some of the major charitable organizations. You know the players in business and politics.
People listen to you. That’s called power.”
He thought about it and then shrugged. “I do get stuck with a lot of board meetings.”
“Don’t try to pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. I can’t believe you would have worked so hard to make Madison Commercial such an important and influential company if you weren’t getting something very personal out of it. Something besides money.”
“You know,” he said, “this kind of conversation isn’t my forte.”
“Really? I would never have guessed.”
“My turn,” he said. “Just what were you doing in all those different places you were living in for the past few years?”
“You want my whole résumé?”
“Just hit the high spots.”
She put the tips of her thumbs and forefingers together, forming a triangle around the base of her glass, and looked down into her wine.
“Well, let’s see,” she said. “After I graduated from college, I worked in a museum for a few years.”
“Why did you quit?”
“The public never seemed to be compelled by the same art that fascinates me and the whole point of a successful museum is to attract the attention of the public. I wasn’t very creative with the exhibitions and displays.”
“Because you were not real interested in the subjects you were supposed to make attractive to the public.”
“Probably. After that I worked in various art galleries. I had no problem figuring out what would sell, but I wasn’t personally attracted to the art that most of the clients wanted to buy.”
“Hard to stay in business when you don’t want to give your customers what they want to buy.”
Her mouth curved ruefully. “Oddly enough, that’s what the gallery owners said.”
“What came next?”
She turned the base of the wineglass slowly between her fingers. “I switched to a career in interior design. It was okay for a while but then I started getting into arguments with my clients. They didn’t always like what I thought they ought to have in their homes and offices.”
“Nothing worse than a client with his own personal opinion, I always say.”
“Very true. I decided to get out of that field, too, but before I did, I introduced one of my clients, a software designer, to a friend of mine. I thought they made a good match and I was right. After the wedding, my software client got enthusiastic about the whole idea of designing a matchmaking program.
It sounded interesting, so I agreed to work with her on it. We consulted with some experts. I designed the questionnaire. She did the technical part. When it was finished, I bought her out.”
“That’s how you got into the matchmaking business? You just sort of fell into it?”
“Chilling, isn’t it?”
He exhaled slowly. “Well, yeah, as a matter of fact, it is.”
“You’re not the only one who has pointed that out recently. I never set out to get into the business, you understand. After my ex-client finished the program, I tested it. More or less as a lark, I tried it on some acquaintances and got lucky a couple of times. People went out on dates, had a good time. An engagement or two was announced. All of a sudden, I was in the matchmaking business.”