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Love Test - by Holly Manno an excerpt

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

As she entered the gallery she saw her assistant clicking away on his laptop. Until she’d arrived he was the lone inhabitant of the space. “Good morning, Lanie,” announced Jay as he jumped to his feet. “How’s the little bride-to-be today?” He walked toward the barista-caliber coffee machine, a beautiful and useful fixture at the back of the gallery. After tapping a couple of buttons on the console, the aroma of freshly brewed espresso filled the air.

“Good morning, Jay. I'm fine.” She could hardly wait to tell him about their game of Russian roulette—NOT. Lanie knew how excitable he could be.

He looked gorgeous as usual. His long, lean body moved gracefully as he added the frothed milk to her drink. Pressed Levis paired nicely with the navy and tan oxford he chose for today. Jay was six-two with sandy blonde hair that leaned red. He had the most piercing blue eyes, but the icing on the cake was his wide and beautiful mouth.

Choosing a safe topic, she asked, “Has it been slow since you opened?”

He snorted. “What do you think? It’s Saturday. Things will start picking up this afternoon.” Jay closed the distance between them and handed her a latte.

“Thank you, kind sir.” She smiled and sucked in her first swig of the frothy pick me up.

“I did get a call from Mrs. Anderson, though.” Jay let that comment hang in the air. “Mr. Anderson agreed that they must possess the Luc Tuymans piece, Lumumba.”

Lanie thought her eyes might roll out of her head. The transaction would be the most significant since she opened. “Oh my goodness, Jay!” She jumped, slopping the latte over the edge of the cup and onto the floor.

Jay smiled and went to get a cloth. “I thought you’d like hearing that news.”

“Like hearing that news? This is incredible, and I don’t mind saying, this was your baby. The way you’ve worked with Mrs. Anderson for months—you’ve been so patient each time she’s visited the piece. You sealed the deal, and a very fine celebration dinner is in order.”

Lanie hugged Jay ferociously and took the towel from his hand. She continued to smile as she mopped up the frothy milk. This transaction would send shock waves through the art world. Now was as good a time as any to address the other shock wave that was about to go out into the universe.

“Well Jay, you aren’t the only one who has a surprise today.”

He perked up at this statement. “What surprise are you talking about, Lanie?”

She stood, and walking toward the sink, spoke over her shoulder. “The funniest thing happened last night, and now James and I are in a challenge.”

Jay wasn’t sure what to think so he pressed, “And?”

Lanie smirked and wondered how she would explain. She figured she may as well get it over with. “James and I were watching TV and one of those commercials came on.”

Jay’s expression was perplexed. “Where is the surprise in that? Those commercials are incessant.”

“Surprise is probably not the right word.” Her gaze moved to the storefront, and to traffic outside.

Concern raised his voice an octave. “Lanie, what is going on?”

“There was a commercial for a new thing they’re doing. You take a profile test and based on your responses, the algorithm groups you with likely matches. Then, holds a mixer where people with the highest compatibility scores meet. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I mentioned to James that I thought it was an interesting idea.”

Jay gasped. “Wait a minute; you thought this was a good idea, you who doesn’t believe in online dating? What is it you compare it to? Oh yes, studying resumes.”

She stiffened. “Yes, I know, but this was a little different.”

Lanie grew quiet realizing her explanation would not work with Jay.

“Honey, you’ve got a case of seriously cold feet.” Touching her elbow, he guided her toward a white concrete bench at the center of the space. They sat, and he asked, “What is going on in that head of yours?”

She had expected all kinds of comments from Jay but not the concern he was displaying. “It isn’t a big deal, but I’ll admit—as I was watching the commercial, I wondered if James and I would be matched. I said as much to him. I know it’s silly, but . . .”

Jay knew she was in an unclear space, so wondered aloud, “So, how did James feel about your query?”

She looked up from her shoes. “He was a little concerned at first then he took it in stride. In fact, brace yourself,” she warned, “he said we should create profiles to prove we're a match. He was so certain we’d be paired, he couldn’t wait to confirm it.”

Jay looked panicked. “Lanie, I know you can’t back down from a dare, but are you sure you want to take this kind of risk? Your wedding is a few weeks away.”

Lanie adjusted her thoughts and face to match. “It’s just an experiment, and look at it this way—we will have quite a tale to tell afterward.”

Seeing her determined expression, he knew any further protests were pointless. Resigned, and now very interested in the game, not to mention the outcome, Jay perked up. Taking Lanie’s hand he pulled her to stand. “Okay, if you’re going to do this, I am getting front row seats.”

Now, this was the reaction she was expecting. He led her to the computer where they worked up her dating profile. Jay rubbed his hands together like a mouse before picking up a crumb of cheese. His fingers moved effortlessly across the keyboard.

“Okay— . . . set up new profile . . . select algorithm mixer option.”


Love Test is a steamy romance by Holly Manno
Love Test by Holly Manno

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