Love at Stake (Entangled Covet)

By: Victoria Davies

To my incredible sister Eliza who is a constant source of love and support. She is always willing to help critique manuscripts and debate plot twists. I could not have written this book without her.

Chapter One

“Fated Match, find your mate anytime, anywhere. How may I help you?”

Abbey twirled a pen around her fingers as she listened to the were-shifter sob into the phone.

“Yes, that does sound like a disappointment,” she agreed as the woman proceeded to describe her date in agonizing detail.

Continuing to make noncommittal noises of support, Abbey’s fingers flew over the receptionist’s keyboard. In seconds, she’d pulled up the woman’s profile and was sorting for a decent replacement for the client’s abysmal date.

“I have a were-lion available for tonight. You two have an 80 percent match rating. Not too shabby.”

The sobbing stopped.

“Yes, yes,” Abbey agreed as she pulled up the reservation page. “He’s open to weres of any variety, even were-squirrels. I can book you at Celeste’s this evening for eight o’clock. Does that suit?”

Abbey listened with half an ear to the woman’s delighted agreement.

“All right, your reservation is complete. Good luck tonight. Thank you for using Fated Match, pairing mates together since 1704.”

Abbey disconnected and pulled off her headset. This was the second disastrous date she’d had to fix in under an hour. It was shaping up to be one of those days.

She didn’t usually sit in the reception room of Fated Match. Ahead of her, wide glass doors opened onto a bustling Manhattan street. The reception room was open and airy. Several chairs were arranged along the white walls, and an array of out-of-date magazines were strewn on the coffee table in the center of the room. Too bad all the chairs were empty. When she’d first started this job, the reception room was always filled. Now they rarely got walk-ins.

Abbey tapped her hands against the white granite counter separating her from the waiting area. Their consulting rooms were down the hall to her right and she had a nice small office back there to handle her work. Right now, however, most of the dating consultants were at lunch, leaving her to man reception and handle the bad dates their clients phoned in.

“Another complaint?”

Abbey’s boss emerged from the hallway.

“I keep telling you, Vivian. We need to raise our match rating. Seventy-five percent is too low. It’s starting to give us a bad rep.”

Vivian sighed and came out into the lobby.

Abbey had been working at Fated Match for five years and she still wasn’t used to the punch Vivian packed. As a siren, her boss was one gorgeous woman. Long silver-blond hair hung past her waist. With her willowy body and beautifully wide blue eyes, she always looked as if she’d stepped from some lucky man’s wicked fantasy.

Abbey fought the urge to slump further down in her seat. It wasn’t Vivian’s fault the siren pricked at her insecurities. Abbey was no match for her boss’s elegant height. Instead she was short and curved. Curved being a nice way of saying she could stand to lose a few pounds. Or twenty.

Her curly brown hair might be nice with the proper styling but Abbey was more of a clip-it-back-and-pray kind of girl. She rather liked her smoky green eyes, but when one worked with clients who sported exotic purple or dazzling sapphire gazes, it was hard to compete. Yes, being the human member of Fated Match was not all it was cracked up to be.

“If we raise our match rating we won’t be able to cover our date requests,” Vivian said, leaning against the white counter. Even slouched, there was no mistaking the elegant lines of her body. “We haven’t had a new client in months.”

Abbey chewed her fingernail. There was no denying the problem. A few decades ago, matchmaking had been easy. After all, they had been the only show in town. But now, thanks to Internet dating, their clients had more options. Especially those just looking for a date and not an eternity.

“We could hold another mixer,” Abbey said. “You know, show the were-deer that the were-tigers aren’t as bad as they fear. So many of our clients refuse to date outside their species.”

“It’s a thought,” Vivian agreed. “But we need more. We need a high-profile client. If the community sees their leaders using our service, they will follow suit.”