“Peak Fizzy mode as in three shots of tequila and recruiting Rob to help me hide Daniel’s shoes all over the house.”
“Ah.” Jess turned her attention back to Juno, who had given up on walking Pigeon and was letting other children pet the cat instead. “You should have Banker Rob tested to see how he compares to the other dates.”
“I’m not actually sure I want to,” Fizzy said. “I had the scores for those other guys, and we had fun, but going in knowing that they probably wouldn’t work long-term made it easy to not take it seriously. I didn’t expect my dates to be life-altering, and they weren’t. Was it because the test is right, or because I didn’t expect them to be soulmates?”
“I mean, statistically you’re more likely to get a soulmate with a Silver Match than you are to ever get a Titanium Match.”
“You’re statisticsizing me.”
Jess laughed. What could she really say to Fizzy when she was, herself, grappling with the opposite concern: Did people given a score of ninety-eight just assume that person would be their happily ever after?
“And I keep thinking you’re crazy to not get to know River,” Fizzy continued, “but if I got a Diamond Match, would I feel overwhelmed with the pressure and bail, too?”
Jess laughed at their mental symmetry. “Mm-hmm.”
“Then again, I think if I got even a Gold Match, I’d be pretty stoked.” Fizzy pulled a leg beneath her, turning to face Jess. “There’s something about knowing you align according to all of these biological factors that makes it easier to imagine compromising on some of the ways I’m set in my routine.” She paused. “But still.” She exhaled, puffing out her cheeks. “I like Rob. I don’t want to know yet that he and I aren’t supposed to end up together.”
“So you do believe it?” Jess asked, gently poking Fizzy’s knee with her index finger. “All of this DNADuo stuff?”
Fizzy caught her hand and interlaced their fingers. “I think the more important question is: Do you?”
CONSUMED BY A strange disorientation, Jess climbed from her car outside the GeneticAlly building. It was after seven, and the parking lot was empty, but the stillness was somehow more unsettling. Her hands seemed to float ten feet away from her body; it felt like she was gliding more than walking. This physical dissociation wasn’t new to her. She’d felt it on and off her entire childhood, and therapy had revealed that it happened when she was avoiding thinking about what it all meant. But every time she thought about the prospect that the DNADuo really was right and that she and River might actually be good together, a wall went up inside her and the entire mental monologue just went dark.
And now that she was here, Jess had no idea whether she’d made the right decision by telling David that she would come to the office to meet with them. Their lawyer would be present. They would sign a contract … after that, Jess had no clue.
She expected to be met by the receptionist or maybe Lisa. But this time, waiting for her near the untouched couches was River.
Her breath caught in her throat. Hidden in the shadows, he looked skyscraper tall and angular. The thought of relishing touching him … it made her feel light-headed.
He pulled his hand from a pocket and lifted it in a careful wave. “Hey.” His hand hesitated, unsure, rising up to scratch the back of his neck. “I didn’t know whether you’d actually show up.”
“That makes two of us.”
What’s in it for you? she wanted to ask. Is this about glory, or money, or something else? He certainly wasn’t here for the pursuit of love.
With a little sideward tilt of his head, he led her back through the double doors, down the hall, to the elevator, where he depressed the Up button with that long index finger.
“How was your day?”
Jess bit her bottom lip, swallowing an incredulous smile. He was trying. “Um, it was fine, how was yours?”
“Do you always work this late?”
The doors opened; they stepped in and were swallowed into the tiny vessel together.
“Do you have any questions for me?” he asked.
She wasn’t fast enough this time, and the surprised laugh escaped. “Yes. Thousands. How nice of you to ask.”
“Okay,” he said, smiling down at his shoes, “I guess I deserve that.”
“The only one I think I really need to know before we go into the conference room is: Is it true you’re not currently in a relationship with anyone?”
River shook his head. “I would never do this if I were.”
“Okay, good,” she said, and quickly added when his brows slowly rose: “Me either.”
“I do have one question,” he said as they reached the second floor. The doors opened, and they stepped out into the hall, but then stopped and faced each other still out of hearing range of the conference room. “Why did you take the test in the first place? You don’t seem to be all that excited about the prospect of any match, let alone a Diamond.”
“That,” Jess said, grinning and pointing at him, “is the question of the day.” Her smile faded, hand dropped, and she realized she wasn’t going to get out of this with deflection or humor. His was a good question. She’d genuinely felt a desire to start making her own life bigger in the moment, so why was she here now, feeling resistant to the entire process?
Immediately Jess knew: the idea of finding The One—it was just too much.
“I’d had a really bad day,” she said quietly. “That day I ran into you downtown. You took my parking spot. You didn’t hold the elevator. I lost a big account, had to sit in a room full of smug married couples, went home, and just felt pathetic. I spit into the vial and sent it, but I shouldn’t have.”
She watched the reaction to this pass across his features.
“We all feel worst at night,” she said. “I should have waited until the morning.”
He nodded once. “Okay.”
And then he turned and continued down the hallway.
That was it? Seriously? He asked the Hard Question and she answered honestly and he nodded and moved on?
What was he even thinking? This man was a vault.
River waited at the threshold to the room for her, and gestured for her to step in ahead of him. She’d expected a roomful of people to witness the ceremonial contract signing between two Diamond Matches who, at best, tolerated each other. But instead, there were only two people inside: David and a man Jess didn’t know, but who looked so much like Don Cheadle that she felt an excited smile burst across her face before she realized he was just a very close doppelgänger.
David clocked her reaction, and laughed. “I know. It’s uncanny.”
“I’m Omar Gamble,” Don Cheadle said. “I’m the head legal counsel for GeneticAlly. It’s nice to meet you, Jessica.”
“Just Jess.” She reached out, shaking his hand.
What were they thinking of her right now? Desperate? Stupid? Opportunistic? Honestly, though, for that much money, did she even care what they thought?
There wasn’t much more to be said, so they all shuffled to their chairs. Omar opened a folder and pulled out a small stack of papers. “We know you haven’t brought legal counsel, but wanted to give you some time to look this over.”