“What’s that face you’re making?” Fizzy drew an imaginary circle around Jess’s expression. “I’m blanking on the word.”
“This?” Jess pointed to her own head. “Defeat?”
Fizzy nodded, mumbling aloud as she typed: “‘She glanced away from his penetrating gaze, defeat coloring her features a milky gray.’”
“Wow. Thank you.”
“I am not writing about you. Your expression was just timely.” She typed a few more words, and then picked up her latte. “As we covered in Ye Olden Days of our friendship, you do not consider yourself a heroine of one of my romance novels, therefore I will never make you anything but a side character or villain.”
Fizzy winced at what was unlikely to be a very fresh sip—it was clearly time for her to reorder—as her words hit Jess like a Three Stooges slap.
Jess sat quietly, reeling in a tunneling awareness that her life was going to pass her by before she knew it. It would break her heart if Juno ever stopped living life to its fullest. She only vaguely registered that it must be 8:24 when Americano strolled into the coffee shop, looking like a hot man with places to be and no time for any of the hoi polloi at Twiggs. Without a word, he plucked a ten from his wallet, taking the change from Daniel and dropping only the coins into the tip jar. Jess stared, overblown irritation rising hot in her throat.
He’s a shitty tipper! It threw another log on her Petty Reasons Why Americano Is Awful mental fire.
Fizzy snapped in front of her face, pulling her attention back to their table. “There. You’re doing it again.”
Jess frowned. “Doing what?”
“Ogling him. Americano.” Fizzy’s face split into a knowing grin. “You do think he’s sexy.”
“I do not. I was just spacing out.” Jess pulled back, insulted. “Gross, Felicity.”
“Sure, okay.” Fizzy angled her pointed finger to the man in question, wearing slim dark jeans and a lightweight royal-blue sweater. Dark hair curled at the nape of his neck, Jess noticed, the perfect length of barely overgrown, almost-needs-a-haircut hair. Olive skin, a mouth full enough to bite. So tall that, when viewed from a chair, his head seemed to scrape the ceiling. But his eyes—now, those were the main event: expressive and soulful, darkly lashed. “That’s gross. Whatever you say.”
Jess shrugged, rattled. “He’s not my type.”
“That man is everyone’s type.” Fizzy laughed incredulously.
“Well, you can have him.” Frowning, Jess watched him do his customary wipe of the condiment bar with a napkin. “I was just thinking how I can’t fathom the idea that he’s starting a matchmaking company. That isn’t something an asshole like that does.”
“Personally, I think Daniel has no idea what he’s talking about. Rich men who look like that are too married to their jobs during the day and their investment portfolios at night to think about anyone’s love life.”
Americano turned from the condiment bar to leave. In a flash, Jess’s curiosity bubbled over, and she impulsively caught him with a hand around his forearm as he passed. They both froze. His eyes were a rare, surprising color, lighter than she would have expected up close. Amber, she could see now, not brown. The weight of his full attention felt like a physical pressure on her chest, pushing the air out of her lungs.
“Hey.” Jess charged forward through vibrating nerves and lifted her chin. “Hang on a second. Can we ask you something?”
When she released him, he pulled his arm away slowly, glancing to Fizzy, then back to her. He nodded once.
“Rumor has it you’re a matchmaker,” Jess said.
Americano narrowed his eyes. “‘Rumor’?”
“In what context did this rumor come up?”
With an incredulous laugh, Jess gestured around them. “Ground zero of University Heights gossip. The rumor mill of Park Avenue.” She waited, but he continued to gaze down at her, perplexed. “Is it true?” she asked. “Are you a matchmaker?”
“Technically, I’m a geneticist.”
“So …” Her brows climbed her forehead. Americano was apparently very comfortable with pointed silence. “Is that a ‘no’ to matchmaking?”
He relented with an amused flick of one eyebrow. “My company has developed a service that connects people based on proprietary genetic profiling technology.”
Fizzy Oooohed. “Big words. Sounds scandalous.” She bent, scribbling in her notebook.
“‘Genetic profiling technology’?” Jess winced at him. “Gives me vague eugenics vibes, sorry.”
Fizzy was quick to redirect Americano’s attention away from Jess’s dumpster-fire mouth. “I write romance. This sounds like my kryptonite.” She held up her pen, shaking it flirtatiously. “My readers would flip for this stuff.”
“What’s your pen name?” he asked.
“I write under my real name,” she said. “Felicity Chen.”
Felicity offered a dainty hand as if for him to kiss and, after a beat of confused hesitation, Americano gripped her fingertips for a brief handshake.
“She’s translated in over a dozen languages,” Jess bragged, hoping to wipe the odd expression off his face.
It did the trick; Americano looked impressed. “Really.”
“Will there be an app?” Fizzy was relentless. “Is it like Tinder?”
“Yes.” He frowned. “But no. It’s not for hookups.”
“Can anyone do it?”
“Eventually,” he said. “It’s a—” His phone buzzed from his pocket, and he pulled it out, frown deepening. “Sorry,” he said, pocketing it again. “I need to go, but I appreciate your interest. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it soon.”
Fizzy leaned in, smiling her confident smile. “I have over a hundred thousand followers on Instagram. I’d love to share the information if it’s something my predominantly eighteen-to-fifty-five-year-old female readers might want to hear.”
Americano’s forehead smoothed, permafrown vanishing.
“We’re going public in May,” he said, “but if you’d like, you’re welcome to come to the office, hear the spiel, give a sample—”
“A sample?” Jess blurted.
She could see the small hot flash of annoyance in his eyes when they flickered back over to her. If Fizzy was flirty cop, Jess was definitely skeptical cop, and Americano seemed to be barely tolerating even Fizzy’s genuine fascination.
He looked Jess in the eye. “Spit.”
Barking out a laugh, Jess asked, “I beg your pardon?”
“The sample,” he said slowly, “is spit.”
His eyes did a casual sweep of her from face to lap and back up. Inside her chest, her heart did a strange flip.
Then he glanced down at his watch. Well.
Fizzy laughed tightly as she looked back and forth between the two of them. “I’m sure we could both manage to spit.” She grinned. “For you.”
With a wan smile, he dropped a business card on the table; it made an audible thunk. “No eugenics,” he added quietly, “I promise.”