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Billionaire Online Dating Service. Let us find your perfect match!
Desperate to find a date to his own charity ball, billionaire Gage Tate agrees to give his friend’s online dating system a try. Tired of gold-diggers and society debutantes, he wants a woman who isn’t after his money, and won’t become a bridezilla-wanna-be when exposed to his high-society world and the trappings of wealth.
She never expected a computer program to be her fairy godmother…
Fiona McKenzie returns home from college to discover the family ranch threatened by foreclosure. Desperate to find a way to earn enough money to pay off medical and mortgage bills, she’ll do practically anything to save the home she loves. Unbeknownst to Fiona, her stepsisters enter her name in an online dating system, which she flat-out tells them she doesn’t have time or the inclination. Her focus is on saving the ranch.
When Gage’s date is reluctant to go out with him, he’s challenged to win her over. After a little digging, he discovers she’s in a tight financially. He sees this as an angle to pay for a date, help her out, with no strings attached when the charity ball is over. Only he didn’t count on falling for the pretty cowgirl, turned Cinderella. With her family ranch on the line, Fiona has no other choice than to accept Gage’s offer and she’s swept into a world of high-society, most girls would consider a dream come true. Fiona isn’t impressed, but finds her prince charming a little to attractive to forget when the spell wears off.
Note: Make a stop at Myla Jackson’s Ugly Stick Saloon in this story and say Hi to old friends.
If he’d thought his morning couldn’t get worse, he was most certainly wrong.
“Don’t leave love up to luck. Like I told you the first time we met, with the help of my firm and heavily tested computer algorithms, you have a ninety-nine point nine percent chance of finding your perfect match. So, who’s next?”
Leslie Lamb, the woman dressed in a soft gray suit, her blond, shoulder-length hair swinging, turned from the video screen to face the group of men seated around the conference table. On the screen was a picture of the first couple to find success through the Billionaire Online Dating System, or BODS as it was shortened to. Frank Cooper Johnson and his BODS match, Emma Jacobs.
Gage tapped his fingertips against the conference table surrounded by members of the Billionaires Anonymous Club, frankly amazed at how the first test of BODS had turned out. Who knew a computer program could pick the perfect match for one of their own? It had to be a lucky coincidence. Computers couldn’t account for all the human traits and personality quirks.
But Cooper sat back with the biggest grin on his face, happier than a pig in mud.
So happy, Gage shifted in his seat, an itch crawling across his skin. No man could be that in love. Could he? Didn’t he know what would eventually happen? No union lasted these days.
The men had formed the club back when they were five broke college students struggling to get an education at Texas A&M. On their last dime, and facing the distinct possibility of expulsion for various reasons—the most pressing reason having to do with money—they’d made a pact that they’d all become millionaires by the time they turned thirty. They’d formed a plan, stuck with it, finished college, each becoming, not millionaires, but billionaires by age thirty and achieving all their goals.
All except one. The one about getting married and raising a family. They’d all struggled with that one.
A year ago, Gage thought he’d be the first out the chute for the marriage goal. He’d been dating Alicia Welch, a beautiful blond who claimed to be crazy about him. She’d told him she loved him and he’d believed her. In the back of his mind he had images of the family-life some of his friends had grown up with—kids running around the yard, mothers kissing their babies goodnight. For a brief moment in his ambitious drive to the top, he’d paused, thinking this was his chance. Until he’d proposed to Alicia, asking her to marry him and start a family together.
Boy, had he been wrong.
She’d been horrified he’d wanted her to actually bear children. Alicia wanted the marriage without the family, afraid having children would destroy her figure and keep her from traveling the world. If he could promise her no children and an unlimited expense account, she’d marry him.
His ideal shattered, Gage ultimately figured he’d dodged a bullet. He retracted his proposal and went back to work, marriage no longer part of his equation for success.
“Ah, come on, guys. It’s not that bad.” Cooper pulled Emma into his lap. “You heard the lady, I found my perfect match using BODS.”
Gage shifted in his seat, ready for this meeting to be over. He had real issues to work through, like finding a date for the charity ball. “Leslie, you have to change the acronym. BODS might send the wrong signals.”
“Sorry, I have too much invested in letterhead, business cards and promo items to change it now.” She winked at him.
“Just because it worked for Coop, doesn’t mean it’ll work for the rest of us.” Gage drummed his fingers on the smooth surface of the mahogany conference table. “Sounds to me more like a crap shoot.” He leaned back against his seat, ready to tune out of the rest of the conversation.
“You won’t know until you give it a try.” Taggert Bronson stepped up beside Leslie. “Gage, you have a charity ball coming up in a couple weeks, don’t you?”
Gage snapped forward, the ball already making his stomach twist into a knot. He didn’t need to bring it to the attention of the rest of his friends. “Yeah, so?”
“Why don’t you give the system a shot and take the match it finds you. What’s it gonna hurt? At the very least, you’ll have a date for the ball.”
Gage bristled, hating being the one on the spot for the hair-brained scheme. “Who said I didn’t already have a date?”
Tag pinned him with a stare. “Do you?”
Gage thought through all the women he knew for a quick answer, trying to find someone he wouldn’t mind asking to the ball and solve the problem his lying to Priscilla had caused. Unfortunately, most of his go-to girls ran in her circle. They might let slip that his invitation had been at the last minute, and if one of them did, his goose would be cooked with Daddy. “Damn it, no.”
Sean O’Leary leaned over and nudged his arm. “I’m sure Priscilla Langley or Marilynn Tisdale would love to be your date. You could ask one of them. Maybe both.”
“Hell, no.” Gage sat up straight, staring across the boardroom table to Leslie. “Do the women you have signing up for this system know they’re signing up to be matched with a wealthy man?”
Leslie shook her head. “Not at all. Some of them have money of their own and don’t feel a need to marry well. Others may not have the kind of money you gentlemen have, but they are good people with sound ethics and values.” She tipped her chin up. “I hand-select all the applicants for my system to ensure honesty and strong moral fiber.”
Maxwell Smithson snorted. “Well, that rules us out.”
Sean, Tag and Cooper laughed.
Gage didn’t, his mind spinning with the possibility of finding a woman he could feel comfortable with to take to that confounded charity ball. “Can I get a woman who’s down to earth? I’m sick to death of society debutantes and women who are only interested in the size of a man’s bank account.”
Leslie held her hand up like she was swearing in at court. “No fortune hunters or debutantes are allowed. Give my system a chance. I promise not all women are after money. Most just want to be treated nicely and maybe find love.”
“I’m not looking for love or happily ever after. But I could use a date for the ball.” He rubbed his chin. A woman unknown to the social elite of Dallas would be good. At least Priscilla wouldn’t have any way of knowing he hadn’t asked her to the ball until after he’d told Priscilla he had a date. And going through with BODS would get the other guys off his back.
“I’m still not believing you’re throwing a ball in the first place,” Sean commented. “I thought you hated that kind of event.”
Gage grimaced. “Trust me. I’d rather slit my throat. Blame it on my image consultant. She insisted I throw one to demonstrate to the public I have a goddamn heart.”
Sean laughed. “You mean it’s not obvious to the media that our buddy, Gage Tate, has a heart of gold? What was it the news called you? Heartless, calculating and…what was the other adjective?”
Cooper, Maxwell and Tag answered as one, “Cutthroat.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Gage glared around the table. “Go ahead and laugh. You’re not the one having to show up and smile for the cameras. Most of you are still anonymous.” He focused on Leslie again, the notion of finding a date for the ball through BODS no longer completely appalling. “My name has been in the media too much lately. Is it possible to use a different name in your system to find a match?”
Leslie’s brows dipped. “That would be dishonest.”
“He’s right.” Tag tapped his chin. “Gage Tate would be an immediate giveaway.”
Sean leaned toward the table. “Why not use your first name?”
“Austin?” Gage considered.
“Sure.” Tag grinned. “No one associates Austin Tate with Gage Tate, Texas’s most eligible bachelor. And it wouldn’t be dishonest since it is your name.”
Gage lifted the monogrammed pen in front of him and flipped it between his fingers, thinking. Haddie had been pushing him to ask one of the daughters of the charity matrons as a sign of good will. If he had a date already lined up for the event, he’d be off the hook. He wouldn’t be pressured into escorting a society princess to an event he already dreaded as much as going to the dentist. “Okay.” He inhaled and let it out slowly. “I’ll do it. But I want to test her out first.”
Max chuckled. “You’re not taking a car for a test drive.”
“In a way, I am.” Gage didn’t do anything without doing his homework first. He wouldn’t be where he was today if he left things to chance. Not since Alicia, anyway. He refused to be humiliated like that, ever again. “I want to know that she’s genuine and down to earth, but not so much of a redneck that she can’t perform in public.”
Emma’s eyes narrowed. “I get it. You want a kind of Cinderella test.”
Gage stared at Emma. “What?”
“You know.” Emma leaned forward. “You want someone who is comfortable dusting furniture or mowing her own lawn, but who can also pull off wearing a dress and smiling in public. You don’t want someone who will embarrass you.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Gage frowned, figuring Emma must think he was a complete jerk. “Hey, we’re talking about a ball, not the rest of my damn life. Whomever I take can’t be intimidated by the high-rollers who’ll be there. I wouldn’t want her feeling uncomfortable.”
Emma nodded. “Of course. Still you don’t want a woman who lets the pretty dress and fancy car go to her head.”
“Yeah. I’ve had my fill of the Priscilla Langleys and Marilyn Tisdales.” He mentally added Alicia Welch to that list.
Sean tilted his head. “Either one of those women knows what to wear and say in front of the big shots of Dallas.”
Coop snorted. “They ought to, they’ve been groomed since birth to marry rich.”
Gage shuddered at the thought of taking Priscilla or Marilyn to anything. “I can’t stand those women. Plastic all the way through. Do they still make women who aren’t only interested in money?”
Emma snorted. “We’re not all money-hungry.”
Gage turned to Leslie. “Seriously, do you have one of those?”