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[Dating by Design 02.0] Statistically Improbable, page 1

 part  #2 of  Dating by Design Series

 

[Dating by Design 02.0] Statistically Improbable
 

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[Dating by Design 02.0] Statistically Improbable


  Statistically Improbable

  Dating by Design: Book Two

  Jennifer Peel

  Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Peel

  All rights reserved.

  This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader or. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  To Becky,

  My mentor, sounding board, resident guru, and all things wonderful.

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Epilogue

  Sneak Peak

  About the Author

  Chapter One

  “I can’t decide whether to be the maid of honor or best man for your wedding, Kenz.” Zander played with Kenadie’s hair in our weekly connection meeting.

  I could see Kenadie’s annoyance mixed with a heavy dose of amusement. She was definitely happier since she had hung up those running shoes and let Jason catch her. They were planning a New Year’s Eve wedding two months from now. It was a short engagement —I’d never seen a groom more excited to tie the knot, but after Kenadie’s first attempt at walking down the aisle, she more than deserved the enthusiasm.

  “As pretty as you would be in a dress, I think best man suits you, or at least semi-decent man.” Kenadie swatted Zander’s hand away.

  Zander pretended to shove a knife in his heart with his pen. “Now, darlin’, that hurts. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be getting married.” Zander turned toward me and I felt that swoop in the pit of my stomach that I had been trying to ignore. “Meg, what do you think?”

  I think that you should come over here and kiss me passionately. Or at least ask me out. Make me your plus one at the wedding. All of the above. I knew, though, that it would never work, no matter how attracted I was to him. Kenadie didn’t have anything against inter-office dating, or at least there wasn’t a company policy regarding it, but her words rang in my head, Any match percentages that are thirty-five percent and below are considered statistically improbable. I had run Zander’s and my numbers and we were a big fat twenty-three percent. Not to mention he was a complete womanizer and still in love—or maybe half in love—with his best friend and Jason’s bride-to-be, Kenadie.

  Zander flashed that gorgeous smile of his at me as he waited for me to reply.

  All I wanted to do was get lost in those unusually green eyes of his, but I cleared my throat and sat up straighter. “Definitely best man material.”

  “I knew I liked you.” Zander grinned at me before turning back to Kenadie, smugly.

  Yeah, I liked him, too—a little too much. I had since I’d first started working here earlier in the year. When I was the receptionist—before I was promoted to a personal relationship manager—I would come in early to make sure I got to say good morning to him, even when I was dating Lucas. That probably should have said something to me long before Lucas broke up with me a few months ago. I tucked my dark, bobbed hair behind my ear and tried to focus on the meeting. We had forty couples to pair up. It was the most we’d had since my promotion. In just the few short months in my new position, we had gotten busier and busier. Kenadie recently hired another male relationship manager, Andy, to help take on more clients.

  I looked around at all the portraits on the conference room wall, wishing mine and Zander’s were up there and that he would move his next to mine to claim me as his own. I sighed internally. I knew it was never happening. I didn’t even know why I wanted it to. He wasn’t the kind of man you brought home to meet your dad. He probably dated more women in a week than I had boyfriends in my twenty-six years of life. And I knew my small-town Wyoming upbringing didn’t match with his big-city Atlanta lifestyle. Though I’d been living in Georgia since I was eighteen, I still felt out of place here sometimes.

  I made myself focus. It was easy since Zander had taken the stage again. He was arguing with Cara. “I’m telling you, Isabella and Derek aren’t a good match.”

  “Their profiles have over a seventy percent compatibility rate.” Cara smirked at Zander.

  Zander gave her his I-know-I’m-right smile. I had come to recognize it. And he did always seem to be right. Knowing people was his gift. Along with a hard body, strong jawline, perfectly styled chestnut hair, and those eyes. I wanted to get up close and gaze into them.

  I shook my head.

  Zander was verbalizing his comeback. “Now, darlin’, if we only relied on the system, we wouldn’t have jobs or be arguing. Isabella wants a pretty boy, and your boy Derek isn’t going to make the cut.”

  “And how do you know that? Looks are subjective,” Cara threw back at him.

  Zander leaned forward, happy to oblige. “I got to take a tour with her through her Facebook page, and all her ex-boyfriends made an appearance. She rated them each on looks, profession, and money. Believe me when I say Derek isn’t making it past her portal inbox.”

  Zander and Cara both stared each other down. Connection meetings always got a little heated. I watched Kenadie decide if she should intervene or not, or call Zander a butthead. When you have been friends since high school, I guess you could do that, even if you were at work. But she stayed silent, at least vocally. Her eyes told Zander to play nice.

  Zander caught Kenadie’s stare. He gave a playful grin to his best friend before focusing back on Cara.

  Cara shrugged her shoulders. “Fine.”

  I braved speaking up. “What about Brayden?” I pointed to the picture of the model looking guy on the connection wall. He had piercing blue eyes, chiseled features, and an ego to match. I’d taken him out on a client date a couple of nights ago, and I was treated to his life and times. I’d never met anyone so in love with himself. Not even Zander had Brayden’s ego.

  All eyes turned to me and then to the picture of Brayden on the beach adoring his biceps.

  “They have a fifty-nine percent compatibility rate,” I added in.

  Zander was the first one to make eye contact with me from two chairs down. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.” He gave me a wink. That small gesture made my heart skip a beat.

  Cara scowled at Zander, but left it alone. It was hard to argue with someone who was always right. I noticed Kenadie breathe a sigh of relief before moving us on to the next match. It was a normal connection meeting at Binary Search.

  All forty matches were made and we were dismissed to send each of our clients the information about their matches. I walked back to my office thinking about what a genius system Kenadie had c
reated. It didn’t give me the answer I wanted as far as Zander and I were concerned, but the success rate was incredible. As far as I knew, only one person had asked for their money back, and that was due to some misunderstanding when Kenadie’s fiancé, Jason, used our services to try and get close to Kenadie. It almost backfired on him. But I thought it was the most romantic thing. I wondered if there was a guy out there who would do that for me.

  I had almost made it to my office when Zander came calling after me. “Meg, hold up.”

  I smiled and turned around. “What’s up?”

  He gave me a once over.

  I was glad I was wearing my favorite jeans, heeled boots, and soft blue turtleneck sweater. I thought the sweater brought out my pale green eyes, which were not even close to as stunning as Zander’s. And I liked the way my butt looked in the jeans, not to mention I needed the heels to add height to my small five-foot-four body. I still had to look up at Zander, even in three-inch heels.

  “I’ve been thinking.” He stepped closer. Close enough I could smell the clean scent of his cologne and his minty breath. I’m sure a guy like him was ready for a romantic encounter at any time. I think he actually mentioned that in his profile.

  I inched closer to him. “And what is your conclusion?” I didn’t have a clue what he was thinking, but I thought my response sounded flirty. Maybe?

  His grin said he liked it. “Well, since Kenz is getting herself hitched and Jason is opposed to her pretending to be my girlfriend anymore, I need someone to look pretty on my arm when I go out, and . . .” He did another scan. “I think you fit the bill.”

  I arched my left eyebrow. “Is that supposed to be a compliment?” I turned from him and walked into my office. I wasn’t sure how to take him. It would be a lie if I didn’t say part of me was jumping up and down inside, but I wasn’t into being someone’s plaything.

  Zander followed me, laughing deeply. “You are definitely the right person. You sounded exactly like Kenz there.”

  I sat on the chair behind my desk and he jumped up and sat on my desk. If ever he came into my office, which wasn’t often, that’s where he sat. He had this air of confidence about him that was attractive in its own right. And his smile kind of did me in.

  “So . . . you want me to pretend to be your girlfriend?”

  He leaned on his arm to draw closer to me. “It’s a pretty good gig. Free dinner and drinks, and the pièce de résistance, my company.”

  “You are full of yourself, aren’t you?”

  “There you go sounding like Kenz again. I knew you were the right woman.”

  “I didn’t agree to this. And why do you need a pretend girlfriend anyway?”

  He sat up, business like. “I need someone to keep away those that are, let’s say . . . less than desirable.”

  I leaned back. “And who are those?”

  “You know, women that . . .”

  My eyes said to think carefully.

  He shook his head. “Are you sure you’re not related to Kenz?”

  I rolled my eyes. “What happened to Brooke?”

  He cleared his throat. “We decided it was better for everyone if we didn’t see each other anymore.”

  That’s not what I’d heard. According to Eva, one of the other personal relationship managers, Brooke gave Zander an ultimatum. She wanted a ring and a date. “I’m sorry.” I wasn’t. I may have done a little private dance when I heard about it last month.

  He shrugged it off. “C’est la vie. I’ll pick you up at six.” He hopped off my desk and headed for the door.

  “I didn’t say yes.”

  “You didn’t say no, darlin’. Email me your number and address.”

  I was so stunned, I didn’t respond to him. Instead I pulled up his profile and went over it again. It was the same as it had been the last time I looked. He was the ultimate playboy. He didn’t want to settle down, having kids was questionable, he hated country music and pets. I thought of my cat, Jasper, and my Spotify account filled with country music. He only went to church when Kenadie’s mom made him, and he preferred older women that made as much or more money than him. I was five years his junior. Why did I like him?

  I thought about all the instances I had seen him with Kenadie. He watched out for her, and in the end, cared enough about her to step aside. And he always made everyone laugh, and it wasn’t over crude things like you might think. He had intelligence and wit. He was capable and he had his own charm. I looked at his profile picture and his grin that said, “I dare you.” What did I have to lose, except my heart?

  Before I could email Zander, Kenadie appeared at my door. Love looked good on her. I always thought she was gorgeous, but she carried herself in a whole new way now. Her uptight nature had been dialed back, replaced with a zest for life. No longer was she the first one in and the last one to leave the office every day. But I guess if I had a man like Jason Hadley waiting for me, I would rush home, too.

  “What can I do for you, Kenadie?”

  She bit her lip and thought for a moment. “Zander informed me that he’s still the butthead that I love.”

  I laughed.

  She gave me a small smile. “I’m not going to tell you what to do. But I will say, remember this has nothing to do with work, so you can’t hold me liable for anything that you do on your free time. I just want you to be careful.”

  “Careful?”

  “Zander can be . . . intoxicating. He knows women, and with that, he wields a lot of power.”

  My eyes widened.

  “He’s a good guy. One of the best, even if he doesn’t know it. But I don’t want you to fall victim to his charm. You’re too sweet, and the best employee I have. Don’t tell anyone I said that.”

  There I went with the hair-tucking thing again. “Thank you. And don’t worry about me. I’m not even sure if I’ll go. Even if I do, I know for him it’s all just for fun.”

  She narrowed her eyes. “Perfect. I’m going to head out early. I have water aerobics with my momma and her friends tonight.”

  “That sounds like fun.”

  “You think so? How would you like it if a group of old biddies pinched your butt all night and tried to explain the birds and the bees while telling you exactly when and how many children you should have?”

  I laughed at her. “So, maybe not so fun.”

  “I do love them and I get ice cream out of the deal. Not that I can eat a ton. I have to fit into my wedding dress. Have a good weekend, Meg.”

  “You too. And thanks.”

  I took another look at Zander’s profile picture. Now he was double dog daring me, like my brothers Colton and Lincoln would say. They wouldn’t like Zander. He was too citified for them. But Dad sent me here to make sure I didn’t have to live the life of a rancher’s daughter. Or worse—to him—the life of a rancher’s wife. Not like I was looking to get married anytime soon. I knew Zander wasn’t a candidate. But it had been a while since I’d gone out. And really, what could it hurt to pretend to be Zander’s girlfriend for the night?

  With that thought, I had an idea. I emailed Zander.

  If I’m going to pretend to be your girlfriend, don’t you think we should get to know each other better?

  Chapter Two

  Zander agreed with me, so he was taking me to his favorite barbecue place. That worked, since I got home later than normal and didn’t have time to glam up for anything more than a casual dinner. I still wasn’t used to the traffic. Back home, I could drive for miles without seeing a soul, unless you counted cattle, bison, and antelope.

  I hurried upstairs to my tiny one-bedroom apartment that I had moved into a couple of years ago. It was the first time I had ever lived alone. When I came out to Georgia to attend school, I stayed with my mom’s sister, Aunt Beth. She was like a second mother to me, but I had known it was time for me to be on my own. She was lucky enough to have found love later in her life with Fredrick Tremont. They were the cutest couple over fifty, ever.

 
; When I flipped on the lights in the living room, I smiled to myself. It wasn’t a fancy place by any means, but it was perfect for me. Beth was kind enough to supply me with some hand-me-down furniture. A loveseat for two with a wicker coffee table. My favorite was the round wooden table, painted in pale yellow with four chairs to match. The only thing I had bought myself was the small flat-screen that hung on the wall opposite the loveseat. Normally, I would have been getting ready for a Netflix binge on Friday night, but I liked these plans much better. Even though I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing.

  Jasper, my calico munchkin cat, rubbed against my leg before I could head to the bathroom to freshen up. I bent down and scratched his head. “I don’t know why cats get a bad rap. You are as affectionate as any dog my family has ever owned.” Jasper purred at the attention. I gave him one more good scratch.

  I walked into the one and only bathroom in the apartment. I took a good look in the mirror and decided I should touch up my makeup. I plugged in my straightener as well, to undo some of the effects the humidity had on my short hair. I kept checking the time on my phone, counting down the minutes until Zander would arrive. I was dabbing on some light pink lipstick when I received a text from Zander.

  I’m here. I’ll wait for you in the car.

  That wasn’t going to do. As your possible pretend girlfriend, I insist on any fake or real boyfriends coming to my door. I wasn’t sure how he would take that. I knew right then I could be blowing my chance to ever get to know him outside the office, but my dad said any man worth his lick would come to the door.

  I got a text right back from him. Are you sure you aren’t related to Kenz? I’m coming.

  I smiled to myself. I smoothed my hair with my hand one more time and hustled to the door, waiting for what was probably a bad idea. But I thought if I got to know him better, I would really come to see the system was right—we were statistically improbable, no matter how attractive he was.

 
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