The Billionaire's Matchmaker Online - Barbara Wallace

Chapter One

Gabby Wilson had perfected the art of covering up the things she wanted to forget with a few brushstrokes of burnt sienna and emerald green. In a painting or a photograph, she could frame a whole other version of who she was, and she had been doing exactly that for damned near eight years. She didn’t want the people in Chandler’s Cove to remember the impetuous, rebellious girl she used to be, the one who had made the pages of the Chandler’s Cove Gazette twice—not for scoring a last-minute goal or writing an award-winning essay but because she’d been the youngest resident to get a free ride to jail, courtesy of the sheriff’s department. One more time, the sheriff had joked, and she’d get her own plaque on the wall.

She wasn’t that Gabby anymore. Now she was an artist with an affinity for mixed digital media, blending her love of photography with her penchant for quirky expression. A respectable, tax-paying citizen who stayed out of trouble.

Well, mostly.

Still, a part of her missed the old days. Maybe just the thrill of them, the unexpectedness that each day brought.

Unexpectedness—yes, that was what it was. Maybe that explained why she was striding up to her reclusive neighbor’s massive stucco monolith on a brisk winter afternoon in Chandler’s Cove. Earlier today, she’d received a mysterious message from Mr. Bonaparte’s butler, asking her to come by.

She had just about reached the granite steps when a familiar six-foot-two figure emerged from the house. A piece of her past, here, of all places.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Gabby Wilson,” he said.

“T.J.?” she said.

T.J. Shepherd took off his sunglasses and grinned. Something went hot and dark in Gabby’s gut. “Hi, Gabby.”

She hadn’t seen T.J. in almost a decade—not since high school. They’d grown up in the same area, gone to the same schools, but it wasn’t until they’d been paired up in a chemistry lab freshman year that she got to know him. The T.J. she’d remembered had been nice, funny even, but way too into computers and technology. He could drone on and on for hours about megabytes and RAM and stuff that bored her to tears.

That T.J. had been a bookish, quiet guy who rarely loosened the leash on his life. His reticence and caution had intrigued her in those days. But the man standing before her now had done a complete one-eighty. He had a dangerous sexiness in the way he stood, the smile playing on his lips.

“What, uh…What are you doing here?” Gabby said, the syllables a little harsher than she intended. T.J. Shepherd’s appearance on the doorstep of the Bonaparte mansion was about as incongruous as a hippo in a ballet.

Not that he looked anything like a hippo or anything that would belong in a ballet. Heck, if it hadn’t been for his eyes, those ocean-colored green-blue eyes of his, she wouldn’t have believed it was really him. He didn’t look one bit like the nerdy guy she remembered from high school.

She shook her head, and found her wits again. For Pete’s sake, this was T.J. She’d known him practically from birth.

“I had an appointment with Mr. Bonaparte,” he said, interrupting her wayward thoughts. He thumbed toward the door.

“But…I thought you lived in Boston or something.”

The boy she had known and the man she saw now were two different people. The one who had left Chandler’s Cove for college had been a scrawny guy with glasses and an affinity for buttoned-up polos. In a weird way, she’d liked that buttoned-up side of him. It seemed to dare her to figure out what it would take to get T.J. to unbutton.

The man standing before her now was as far from buttoned-up as he was from the moon. Taller, broader, and more defined, as if Channing Tatum had morphed into T.J.’s body. He still had the same eyes and sharp, lean features she remembered, only now they danced with hidden secrets and a sexy tease. And when he’d smiled at her—

Well, she wasn’t here to think about that. Not at all.

“I’m sort of between residences,” T.J. said, and once again she reined in her runaway thoughts. “I’m meeting with Mr. Bonaparte about a…potential job. I’ve been here for a few days, visiting my grandma at the same time, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to call on Mr. Bonaparte. Since he travels so much he’s pretty hard to catch.”

T.J.’s explanation made sense but a part of Gabby thought there was a piece missing to