The Soulmate Equation

Page 5

JESS WATCHED HIM leave. The bell over the door gave a single disappointed chime at his departure. “Okay,” she said, turning back to her friend. “What’s the over/under that he’s a vampire?”

Fizzy ignored her, rapping the business card against the edge of the table. “Look at this.”

Narrowing her eyes, Jess looked back out the window as Americano got into a sleek black Audi at the curb. “He was trying to compel me.”

“This card is legit.” Fizzy squinted at it, turning it in her hand. “He didn’t get this shit made at Kinko’s.”

“‘Spit,’” Jess mimicked in a deep, clipped voice. “God, he is definitely not in marketing because that man has zero charisma. Put a pin in this prediction and let’s circle back to it when I’m ninety: he’s the most arrogant person I’ll meet in this lifetime.”

“Will you stop obsessing about him?”

Jess took the business card from Fizzy. “Will you stop obsessing about this car—” She stopped, weighing its impressive heft in her hand. “Wow. It is really thick.”

“I told you so.”

Jess flipped it over to examine the logo: two interconnected circles with a double helix as their point of contact. On the front, Americano’s real name in small, raised silver letters at the bottom. “That’s not what I would have guessed. He looks like a Richard. Or maybe an Adam.”

“He looks like a Keanu.”

“Brace yourself.” She looked up at Fizzy and smirked. “Americano’s name is Dr. River Peña.”

“Oh no,” Fizzy said, exhaling. “That’s a hot name, Jess.”

Jess laughed; Felicity Chen was wonderfully predictable.

“Eh, the man makes the name, not the other way around.”

“Incorrect. No matter how hot the man, the name Gregg with two Gs will never be sexy.” Fizzy sank deeper into her chair, flushed. “How weird would it be if I named my next hero ‘River’?”


Fizzy wrote it down anyway as Jess read the company name aloud. “GeneticAlly? Genetic Ally?” She rolled the word around in her mouth before it clicked. “Oh, I get it. Said like ‘genetically’ but with the capital A for ‘ally.’ Listen to this tagline: ‘Your future is already inside you.’ Wow.” She set the card down and leaned back, grinning. “‘Inside you’? Did anyone read that out loud first?”

“We’re going,” Fizzy said, ignoring Jess’s snark and packing up her bag.

Jess stared at her, eyes wide. “Are you serious? Right now?”

“You have more than five hours before you have to get Juno. La Jolla is a half-hour drive.”

“Fizzy, he didn’t seem exactly thrilled to talk to us about it. He couldn’t wait to get out of here.”

“So what? Consider it research: I have got to see this place.”

THERE WERE ONLY four cars in the expansive parking lot, and with a chuckle, Fizzy parked her new but sensible blue Camry alongside River’s gleaming Audi.

She grinned at Jess across the leather console. “Ready to find your soulmate?”

“I am not.” But Fizzy was already out of the car.

Jess climbed out, looking up at the two-story building ahead of them. She had to admit: it was impressive. The polished wood-slat façade bore the company name, GeneticAlly, in giant brushed-aluminum letters; the second floor boasted modern, unfinished concrete and bright, wide windows. The two-ring DNA logo was printed on the broad front doors, which swept outward when Fizzy gave a gentle tug. Jess and Fizzy stepped into an upscale and deserted lobby.

“Whoa,” Fizzy whispered. “This is weird.”

Their footsteps echoed across the floor as they made their way to a giant marble-slab desk practically a football field away from the entrance. Everything screamed expensive; they were absolutely being filmed by at least five security cameras.

“Hi.” A woman looked up at them, smiling. She also looked expensive. “Can I help you?”

Fizzy, never out of her depth, leaned her forearms against the desk. “We’re here to see River Peña.”

The receptionist blinked, checking the calendar with a wild, panicked gaze. “Is he expecting you?” Jess grew painfully aware that she and Fizzy may have just strolled in and asked to see the person who literally ran the place.

“No,” Jess admitted just as Fizzy gave an entitled “He is.”

Fizz waved Jess off. “You can tell him Felicity Chen and her associate are here.”

Jess coughed out a laugh, and the wary receptionist gestured to a guest log. “Okay, well, please go ahead and sign in. And I’ll need to see your IDs. Are you here for a presentation?” She jotted down the info from their identification.

Jess frowned. “A what?”

“I mean—has he recruited you for DNADuo?” she asked.

“DNADuo. That’s the one.” Fizzy grinned down as she wrote their names in the log. “He saw two beautiful single ladies in the coffee shop and just begged us to come spit into vials.”

“Fizz.” For the thousandth time, Jess wondered whether she’d always follow Fizzy around like a broom and dustpan sweeping up chaos. Being around Fizzy made Jess feel simultaneously more alive and duller.

The receptionist returned a polite smile along with their IDs, and indicated they should take a seat. “I’ll let Dr. Peña know you’re here.”

Over on the red leather couches, Jess swore it felt like theirs were the first butts to ever sit down. There was literally no dust anywhere, no hint that another body had ever touched this furniture. “This is weird,” she whispered. “Are we sure this isn’t a front for some organ-harvesting cult?” She carefully fingered a tidy stack of science journals. “They always use the pretty ones as bait.”

“Dr. Peña.” Fizzy pulled out her notebook and coyly licked the tip of her pen. “I’m definitely naming a hero after him now.”

“If I leave with only one kidney,” Jess said, “I’m coming for one of yours.”

Fizzy tapped her pen against the paper. “I wonder if a River Peña would have a brother. Luis. Antonio …”

“And all of this costs money.” Jess ran a hand over the supple leather. “How many kidneys do you think a couch like this is worth?” She pulled out her phone and typed into the search bar, her mouth agape at the results. “According to Google, the going rate for a single kidney is $262,000. Why am I working? I could survive with only one, right?”

“Jessica Davis, you sound like you’ve never left your house before.”

“You’re the one building his fictional family tree! What are we even doing here?”

“Finding The One?” Fizzy said, and then smiled slyly at her. “Or getting some freaky intel for a book.”

“You have to admit you don’t look at Dr. River Peña and think, ‘Now, there’s a romantic soul.’”

“No,” Fizz conceded, “but I do look at him and think, ‘I bet he’s got a fantastic penis.’ Did you see the size of his hands? He could carry me by the head, like a basketball.”

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