Always Ready

By: Joanne Rock


A Private Island off the Florida Coast

You wouldn’t recognize a good time if it landed in your lap and wiggled.

LACEY SUTHERLAND stared at the instant message from her twin sister—her fraternal, meaner twin, who had nothing in common with her besides a last name and a career path—and felt her blood boil.

It was long past midnight. Her latest blog on the matchmaking Web site she’d worked so hard to develop had received only a couple of hundred hits. Her career was in the crapper and had been headed there for months. Once, twice, again she thunked her forehead against her kitchen table that doubled as a work station. Her research manuals and computer printouts of reference material were piled under her chair, all over her countertops and stuffed in the nearby plate rack that made a really creative filing system. And now her ever-helpful twin who thought she knew best because she’d pushed her way out of the womb two minutes before Lacey wanted to tell her how to have a good time?

Rubbing her now sore head, she wondered if anyone had popularized GTH as an e-mail acronym. Go to…Hades fit Lacey’s response quite aptly.

I don’t need a vacation! Lacey typed back, picturing her twin on the other side of the country.

Laura lived in Seattle, a good three thousand miles away from Lacey’s small plot of dirt just east of Miami off Florida’s coast. Lacey had come by her own little island in the Atlantic thanks to a brilliant real-estate agent and a small windfall from the damages on a court case that she didn’t like to remember. She was very content to be far from her roots and the sister who thought she knew everything from which wine to pour with a cheeseburger to what men Lacey should date.

Like now. Lacey’s eyes went straight to the vacation brochure glaring at her from beside her computer. Laura had won a free airline ticket to anywhere in the U.S. and was convinced Lacey had to take it. She’d been on her soapbox about Lacey working too hard, when it was Laura’s fault that her career was in shambles in the first place. Why her twin had to follow her into the matchmaking business after Lacey had declared an interest in the field was anyone’s guess.

Some people took that “I can do anything better than you” mentality a little too far.

You haven’t been off that damn speck of dirt you call an island in months. Her sister typed back, the instant message tone chiming.

It’s bad enough you don’t get nearly enough fresh foods out there, but you’re turning into a hermit. Social skills disappear if you don’t use them, darling.

Lacey rolled her eyes at the use of the endearment and the chain of smiley-faced emoticons that followed. Too bad there wasn’t an emoticon for smugness.

Laura did strike a sore spot with the bit about Lacey’s social skills, however. Lacey had reason to be antisocial after a traumatic incident when she’d been an overweight teen. That made her cautious. Appreciative of her privacy. And pretty damn picky when it came to dating.

That was why she’d gotten into matchmaking. She liked the idea that she could prescreen candidates—both for herself and for other discriminating singles.

I was in Miami six weeks ago and stocked up. She had enough Lean Cuisine suppers to go another six days without leaving her place, but she wasn’t about to confess that to her hippie, fresh-veggie-loving sis. You’re just scared I’m going to beat you in this contest and you can’t wait to distract me from the goal.

After Lacey had majored in sociology, she’d worked in the matchmaking industry for a few years before taking a gamble and developing her own online dating Web site. She’d put a simple system in place that predicted compatibility to help serious daters find intelligent relationship prospects. Her program, Connections, had the highest rate of dating success stories for an independent matchmaker on the Web—until her sister had developed a competing site.

The Blender was an irreverent spin on dating services, focusing on fun matches instead of serious life partners, and had increasingly undermined Lacey’s online traffic for nearly six months in a row. Finally, deciding to face the competition head-on, Lacey had promised her advertisers that this month her site would generate more hits than her sister’s Web site, and more successful dates. The event would make or break Connections for good.