The Matchmaker

( 1 )

Overview

Picking The Perfect Partner

The dead always have a story to tell. All he has to do is wait for the truth to be revealed to him. The living trust him with their grief--and their dirty little secrets. Only then can he set about playing matchmaker, uniting the dead with their true soul mates. . .for all eternity. . .

Exhuming a body is the last thing former FBI profiler Greer Lomax wants to do. Just the thought of it brings on the panic attacks ...

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The Matchmaker

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Overview

Picking The Perfect Partner

The dead always have a story to tell. All he has to do is wait for the truth to be revealed to him. The living trust him with their grief--and their dirty little secrets. Only then can he set about playing matchmaker, uniting the dead with their true soul mates. . .for all eternity. . .

Exhuming a body is the last thing former FBI profiler Greer Lomax wants to do. Just the thought of it brings on the panic attacks she's fought for two years. Now, as deputy sheriff, Greer Lomax is going to have to face her darkest fears. Because the body she's exhumed isn't alone. He's joined by a young woman whose name is on a missing person's list.

The one person Greer can call for help is FBI agent Ash Keller. Ash hasn't forgotten the hot blonde with the too-sexy smile and he hasn't forgiven her for leaving him behind when she quit the Bureau. Working the case sparks the attraction they've tried to deny for too long and unleashes a passion they can't control--one that could blind them to the most dangerous mistakes of the past. . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this well-constructed novel of romantic suspense from prolific bestseller Denton (Valentine Fantasy), former FBI profiler Greer Garson Lomax, who's recovering from a mishandled serial-killer case that left her estranged from her husband, has moved to sleepy Magnolia, N.C., to turn an old mansion into a B and B. When Greer becomes a deputy sheriff to pay the bills, she's assigned to investigate "the Matchmaker," an escaped con who has assumed a new identity as funeral home mogul Parker Hennessy. Hennessy is suspected of using an online dating service to lure female victims as "soulmates" to accompany dead men on their final destination-his interment parks. As the body count rises, Greer and her older sister, Vivien Lee, become targets. Crisp dialogue and likable characters propel the plot. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758210135
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 11/1/2008
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jamie Denton surrendered a long time career as a legal assistant to pursue her passion for writing when she sold her first attempt at a contemporary romance to Harlequin Books four days before Christmas in 1994. Since then, this History and Humanities major has gone on to make the bestseller lists and win several notable awards, including a nomination for Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Harlequin Temptation from Romantic Times, back to back RITA nominations as well as a National Readers' Choice Award nomination for Best Erotic Romance.

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Read an Excerpt

The Matchmaker


By JAMIE DENTON

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2006 Jamie Denton
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7582-1012-4


Chapter One

The dead always had a story to tell. Luckily for the departed, Parker Hennessy knew how to listen, and he welcomed with great pride the responsibility of his extraordinary gift.

He sat quietly in the tapestried Queen Anne armchair, with an expensive black leather portfolio-a Christmas gift from his beloved Susan-open on his lap. He took extreme care in the appearance he conveyed for the benefit of his living clients. The somber, compassionate professional epitomized. The dark patterned tie, respectfully subdued, matched his severe yet elegant navy suit. His shirt, crisp and white. His shoes, rich mahogany wingtips, polished to a high sheen. Hair, expertly groomed, with a subtle sprinkling of gray applied to his temples. Nails, neatly trimmed. Parker Hennessy-the consummate professional. Always.

Counselor. Confessor. Caring and trusted confidant. All portrayed with nothing less than absolute perfection. He made certain of that, too, and he never faltered, regardless of the role he assumed.

He waited until the bereaved widow dabbed her eyes with a tissue from one of the many boxes he kept within easy reach, then quickly dipped his gaze to reacquaint himself with her name. Madelyn. Her name was Madelyn Strom.

Sometimes the names became a jumble inhis mind, like white plastic balls bouncing frantically inside a Plexiglas container pumped with air, waiting for the chance to escape and be noticed. B-9. I-25.

So many names. So, so many. Some he'd forgotten. Others remained forever etched in his memory. A few burned there, too and, if he allowed himself, he could still breathe in the acrid smoke scented with the stench of their burning flesh.

"Given the circumstances of your husband's passing, you'll want a closed casket," Parker suggested. He kept his voice soft, his tone evenly modulated to convey the appropriate level of respect. The living demanded consolation in their time of bereavement, and he never failed to deliver.

Dead was dead in his business-at least insofar as his living clients believed. What mattered to him was that Walter Strom had died an unhappy man. Why else would a fifty-three-year-old man have been compelled to chug down an entire bottle of prescription tranquilizers with a fifth of vodka?

The widow looked at Parker and nodded, her pale hazel eyes rimmed in red and banked in misery. He tried to imagine her sorrow-and couldn't.

He tried to imagine her husband's misery-and seethed.

Madelyn Strom lowered her gaze suddenly. Not, he knew, because he revealed an inappropriate emotion. He never did. He had a rare, exquisite gift. He was too good now to make a novice's mistake.

Had guilt caused her to look away? Perhaps, he mused, surreptitiously sliding the box of tissues over the gleaming surface of the low oval table closer toward the distraught woman. Perhaps she'd been the one responsible for her husband taking his own life. A highly likely scenario, in his experience. Experience that extended Parker Hennessy's boundaries, but gained from the lives of many.

So, so many. G-56.

Madelyn drew in an unsteady breath. Parker waited for the payoff for his supreme patience, and wasn't disappointed.

"Walter was unfaithful," she said on a strained whisper. "And I never knew."

Madelyn's confession hardly surprised him. The dead always had a story to tell. All he had to do was wait for the truth to be revealed to him. His living clients trusted him. Counselor. Confessor. Caring friend. They trusted him with their grief-and their dirty little secrets.

An hour later, he finally showed the widow to the door. Her hand trembled as she shook his.

"Are you sure there's no one I can call to drive you home?" he asked her.

"No, thank you, Mr. Hennessy. I ..." she hesitated. Her grip tightened and her eyes teared up again. "I ... I'll be fine."

He doubted it, but he didn't care, either. In the time he'd spent with her, he'd learned all he needed to know about Walter Strom.

Poor, poor Walter. A gentle, soft-spoken man with a weakness for pumpkin pie, foreign films-and young, pretty brunettes with large breasts who charged him by the hour for their services.

He settled his left hand over Madelyn's in the gesture of comfort expected of him. After promising that Hennessy's Mortuary would ensure that her husband's final event would be one of dignity and respect, he waited for her to descend the steps leading from the veranda before silently closing the wide front door.

The barest hint of a smile touched his lips in anticipation of the task ahead. He left the public area of the funeral home and took the stairs down to the lower level where his small staff readied the body of Francine Meeks, an eighty-nine-year-old former high school chemistry teacher whose career highlight was marked by flunking a certain NASA big shot out of her eleventh-grade chem class during the seventies. Parker stopped to inspect the makeup artist's work. Satisfied the mourners attending the service tomorrow afternoon would be pleased, he offered Opal Jones a brief nod of approval, then quietly walked into his office and closed the door.

The public memorial of Walter Strom's short, tragic life would be dignified and respectful, as promised. None of the mourners would ever learn from him or his staff that the tears that will be shed by the Strom widow during the upcoming service, to take place in three days, will be because her husband had been infected with HIV, courtesy of a prostitute he frequented. Oh, yes, the Strom interment would be one of beauty and grace, but much less meaningful than the private celebration only he was qualified to perform -that was his duty to perform.

Walter Strom needed him. Required his guidance. His expertise. His skill in uniting him with his true mate, the perfect woman worthy enough to remain by his side for eternity.

Parker's blood hummed with excitement, but he tamped down the anticipation. There was work to be done before he allowed himself to begin the search for Walter's special lady. He must service the living first. Retrieving the body from the morgue, arranging delivery of the very expensive casket selected by the widow, undoubtedly in an attempt to assuage her guilt for driving her husband into the arms of prostitutes throughout their marriage. There were calls to the florist, the printer, and the writing of the obituary. Afterward, he would give his full attention to answering his calling, his unique gift. Only then could he provide his very special services to his rightful and deserving client.

Yes, he mused, the dead always did have a story to tell. As their keeper, he was duty bound to ensure they were given the happy ending they'd been deprived of yet deserved.

And Parker Hennessy never failed to deliver.

Greer Lomax closed the heavy volume of municipal codes and blew out a frustrated stream of breath. After wasting her lunch break pouring over the lexicon, she hadn't come up with a violation for anything more than garden-variety vandalism. Not a single act of legislation could she find that specifically declared tombstone-tipping illegal, giving her zilch by way of criminal charges to take to the district attorney.

She rubbed at her temple with the tip of her index finger, which did nothing to alleviate the slow, steady throb, caused from lack of sleep. The ruckus created by the angry mob of blue-haired widows who'd stormed the Magnolia County Sheriff's Department office this morning, loudly demanding swift and brutal justice for the disgrace to their husbands' graves, had only increased the pounding in her head.

Two aspirin, and enough strong coffee to seriously threaten the lining of her stomach, hadn't provided so much as a modicum of relief. Experience dictated she wouldn't be rid of the pain unless she crawled into bed for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Being the only officer currently on duty, however, that was one luxury that would have to wait.

She had bigger problems than a headache to worry about, like a bunch of crazy old bats threatening to stake out the local cemeteries themselves and take matters into their own arthritic hands. Greer let out another sigh and stood to return the code book to the bookcase across the room. She should've done a better job humoring the old gals instead of taking the honest, direct approach by telling them the best she could do was to issue a few vandalism citations, provided the kids responsible were even caught.

"Just another day in paradise," she muttered, then snagged her blue and white Magnolia Mavericks mug from the ancient, heavy metal desk and took off down the corridor toward the break room for more coffee. Chances were the vandalism was nothing more than another prank by some of the frat boys from Seaside College. All she had to do was lean a little heavy on the right pigeon and she just might save herself a bored-out-of-her-skull stakeout of Shady Knolls Cemetery.

She stopped suddenly and frowned. What the hell was the matter with her? She should be grateful that high stress was no longer a daily supplement on the job. Instead, here she was bemoaning a quiet night of tepid coffee and patrolling the bone yards within the county's jurisdiction. If the only challenge she faced entailed tracking down rambunctious frat brats with too much time on their hands, or keeping a bloodthirsty group of geriatric vigilante-wannabes in line, she should be thankful. After close to six years of being up to her ass in body bags, she'd better conduct a reality check and welcome an innocuous investigation of a few tipped headstones and quit whining about the lack of excitement.

You can't have it both ways, Lomax.

Damn straight. She continued down the corridor and entered the break room, where Blythe Norton, one of the dayshift dispatchers and the wife of Kyle Norton, another of Magnolia County's deputies, attempted to relax. A difficult-enough feat in the hard plastic chairs surrounding the laminated wood-grain table, but near impossible, Greer imagined, for a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy.

Greer nodded a greeting to Blythe as the other woman sipped a fragrant tea from a delicate china cup. She'd pulled another of the chairs in front of her and topped it with a plush, burgundy velvet pillow. Leaning back, she sat with her swollen feet propped on the pillow.

A grin tipped Blythe's wide mouth. "I thought for sure I was going to have to call for backup," she teased Greer as she balanced the tea cup on her well-rounded tummy.

Greer managed a small smile that felt more like a smirk. "The day I can't handle a bunch of fired-up little old ladies is the day I hand in my badge."

For good this time, she silently added.

A sharp pang of regret took her by surprise. She should've known taking another job in law enforcement was a mistake, but she'd been caught off guard and had suffered a moment of weakness.

When Sheriff Travis Willows had come begging with a job offer in his hands, she should've locked and bolted the door. He'd promised her the deputy position would be a temporary one and, like a fool, she'd fallen for the line he'd fed her. She was supposed to help out only until he could find enough warm bodies to fill the sudden vacancies caused after losing three deputies to higher-paying jobs elsewhere. If it'd been anyone else but Travis, she wouldn't have hesitated to give him a roadmap straight to Hell to see if ice water was being served there on tap. But Travis had been a longtime friend of the family. Saying no to him would've been like saying no to her dad-if Buddy Lomax had been alive.

Against her better judgment, she'd taken the job. Not a month in uniform, the political climate changed and severe budget cuts followed, hitting the department hard. Eighteen months later, she was still pulling four to six shifts per week, along with the occasional double when necessary.

Temporary position, my ass.

Blythe's tired smile widened. "After that panty-raid episode during Hester Simpkin's funeral two weeks ago, can't say I blame the old girls for being upset."

In the past few weeks Shady Knolls Cemetery had become the prime target of every high school and college prankster in the county. Two weeks ago a panty raid of the Delta Sigma Kai Sorority by liquored-up frat boys had resulted in the decoration of several of the cemetery's trees. No one had noticed the colorful scraps of satin and lace dangling from the highest branches of a weeping willow near the gravesite where Hester Simpkins was being laid to rest-until a stiff breeze had blown in from the Atlantic, sending a rainbow of panties raining down upon the mourners, most of whom were elderly.

Greer rinsed her mug, then poured herself a refill. She managed an answering chuckle as she walked to the table and sat opposite Blythe. "They won't be happy this time unless the 'evil miscreants' are hanged at the intersection of Main and Chestnut."

Evil, she silently scoffed. As if these people had any idea of the evil that really existed in the world. As if they even knew the meaning of the word.

Her stomach grumbled and she frowned. She peered into the pink bakery box in the center of the table, hoping for a chocolate-covered anything. Chocolate with anything but jimmies. They reminded her of ants.

Blythe blew on her tea before taking another sip. "Look at the bright side," she said, resting her hand protectively over her protruding tummy. "With the kids tipping headstones, the local bovine have been temporarily spared the humiliation."

Greer nodded in agreement as she plucked a Long John donut coated with maple icing from the box. "Better expect a call from the DA's office," she said before taking a bite. "I overheard Betty Riddle issuing orders to the troupes as they were leaving."

"Oh, that reminds me." Blythe set her cup on the laminated table. "I have a message for you from Travis. He's tied up in another meeting with the county's budget committee and needs you to be on-site for an exhumation at two-thirty."

Greer nearly choked on her Long John. "Me?" she blurted. "Why me?"

"Because you're the only one available. Kyle's testifying today on a DUI that went to trial, Grant's still on medical leave and-"

"Where's Orson?" Greer demanded. Tate Orson might be fresh from the Academy, but she didn't give a rat's ass who was on hand for an exhumation. Anyone but her.

Blythe shook her head. "He's off duty until the weekend."

Greer chucked the half-eaten donut in the garbage can, her appetite vanished. So much for lunch. "Call him in anyway."

"No can do. He's vacationing at his granddad's cabin up at the lake. No electricity, no phone and no reception on his cell."

"Vacation? He's been with the department less than six months," she complained. She'd been on the job she hadn't even wanted a helluva lot longer, and had yet to take so much as a sick day. Something was wrong with this picture.

Blythe let out a weary sigh. "Travis warned me you'd probably pitch a bitch."

"Yeah, well, he was right about that much," Greer snapped irritably. "I don't do autopsies. Not anymore."

Blythe's auburn eyebrows drew together in confusion. "I thought you only had to be on-site while they open the grave and provide escort for the transport of the body to the coroner's office?"

A deep chill settled in the pit of Greer's belly. She was going to be sick.

"You have to be present for more than just the opening," she explained, barely managing to suppress a shudder. "Call Travis back and tell him to find someone else."

She stood, her chair scraping loudly against the gray- and blue-speckled asphalt tiles. She had to get out of here. Air. That's what she needed. Fresh air, to hopefully rid her memory of the stench of decaying flesh.

"Greer, wait-"

The chair nearly fell over, but Greer caught it without taking her eyes off Blythe. "Better yet," she said, "I'll call him myself."

And tell him I quit.

No way in hell could she subject herself to an autopsy. If being on-site for an exhumation was the only requirement, she'd find a way to get through it-somehow. It was the thought of what came after the dig that had her throat already starting to close up in cold, stark fear.

"You know he can't leave the meeting," Blythe reminded her. "He needs to squeeze as much as he can from the budget committee."

Damn you, Willows.

If Travis managed to wrangle additional funding for the department, he could hire more deputies, which would, thankfully, number her days in uniform. Wasn't that her goal? To hang it all up-for good?

She wrapped her fingers around the back of the chair and squeezed until her knuckles ached. "Can't the dig be postponed?" she asked, not caring that she sounded desperate. She was desperate.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Matchmaker by JAMIE DENTON Copyright © 2006 by Jamie Denton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2013

    Great

    I bought this book after reading 'Remain silent' by the same author. I liked the first story but gave it 4 stars because it rushed at the end and things became predictable. Still it eas good enough so I decided to try another one. This book is even better and gets the 5 stars. It is full of intrigue with enough romance to allow you to breath for a while until the next twist in the plot. The story is creepy (the matchmaker embalms women alive and buries them with their perfect 'mates'), but the scenes are not too explicit, so they are more tolerable. The underlying romance between the two main characters, who are husband and wife reuniting after two years of separation, develops nicely in parallel and is very believable. If you like romantic intrigue, this book is a great choice.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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