THIS EXCERPTS ARE FOR OLD EDITION OF THE BOOKS. STAY TUNED FOR UPDATED ONES.
I slid my mouse back and forth between 4 and 4.5 pink champagne flutes. I couldn’t decide if the book, Gladly Never After, was 4.5 flutes worthy. The ending was a bit abrupt and the hero was kind of obvious from the beginning. At the same time, it was certainly an engaging story, so much so that I took every available opportunity to turn on my Kindle to see what happened next, even while squatting on the toilet between beers at happy hour.
I saved a draft of my review and stood up. “Yes, Rob?” I walked into his large fish-bowl shaped office knowing he wasn’t going to come to me. “What’s up?”
Rob handed me two sheets of paper. “Can you scan this to Bartlett?”
Removing the papers from his hand, I said, “No problem. Should I include a message?”
He scratched his thick head of brown hair. “Nah. He’ll know what it is.”
Rob’s recent takeover of a high-profile litigation was definitely getting in the way of my blogging. I had four books scheduled for review in the next two weeks and had received several more on my Kindle from publishers and authors in the past couple of days. Then again, it was my day job as a legal secretary at a mid-sized New York City law firm that paid my $1800 rent, not my voluntary – albeit immensely more satisfying – side gig as a chick lit book reviewer/blogger.
“Also, send an email to the team about squad drinks around the corner at Banc Café at 5.”
My heart skipped a beat. “Who should I include in the email?”
Rob was now facing his computer and without bothering to turn around, he said, “The whole team, Lucy, David, Nicholas, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.”
Rob probably didn’t actually say, “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah” but that was all I heard after “Nicholas.” Ordinarily, I preferred the company of friends over the partners, associates and paralegals that made up Rob’s team, but I’d make an exception if Nicholas was going to be there. I took stock of my outfit, exhaling a sigh of relief that I was wearing a flattering low cut black top and form-fitting black skinny pants. I fingered my necklace, a platinum chain with an opal pendant that conveniently fell right in the line of my cleavage. “Sounds good. Uh, I forgot who else you mentioned after Nicholas.” Not that it matters.
Rob waved me away. “Just the team. The usuals. Add a sentence at the end about inviting anyone I forgot.”
When I got back to my desk, I emailed the team about happy hour, casually adding Nicholas’ address somewhere in the middle. It was very short notice, but a) it was free drinks and b) Rob was the boss and by virtue of him being the boss, sufficient advance notice was not required. Once I confirmed that the email went through, I practically ran to the copy room to scan Rob’s documents and quickly emailed them to Bartlett. I glanced at my Movado watch, a gift from my parents for my 28th birthday earlier that year. It was 4:42. After I grabbed my enormous leather pocketbook from the bottom drawer of my desk and told Rob I was stepping away, I headed to the bathroom and called Bridget.
She picked up after one ring. “Is everything okay?”
I ran a brush through my long light brown hair and shook my head from side to side to give it some bounce. “Why would you ask that? Because I called instead of texted?”
Bridget had been my best friend since the 7th grade. Text messaging often won out over actually talking on the phone, but it wasn’t like telephone conversations were reserved for emergency trips to the hospital or anything. I removed the pink monogrammed makeup case I’d had since junior high school from the bottom of my pocketbook. “Having drinks with the team tonight after work.”
“The team, huh? Does that include your work crush? What’s his name again?”
Bridget snorted. “I know! Nicholas Strong,” she repeated. “Rhymes with Long. I remember.”
“Ha ha. Be nice.” Mentioning the rhyming of my last name with Nicholas’ wasn’t one of my proudest moments, but it was after two flirtinis, and two flirtinis for a 101 pound girl were like five flirtinis for an average sized woman.
“Well, have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Bridget said dryly. Gun shy after an uncharacteristic one-night-stand generously left her with a case of crabs, she hadn’t done anything with anyone in over a year.
“I’m not entirely certain he sees me as anything more than that ‘chick’ who occasionally connects him to Rob’s voicemail, but he’s serious eye candy. Chances are, we’ll exchange less than four words, I’ll end up extremely frustrated and regret going in the first place.”
“There you go, Ms. Positive! Good luck.”
“Thanks. See ya.” I hung up the phone and wiped the corners of my lips before applying a shiny but translucent gloss. I dusted a little powder over my nose trying unsuccessfully to hide the constellation of freckles that appeared at the tip. I zipped the case and returned it to my bag. I wished I knew how to apply dramatic makeup but every time I made an attempt, I looked like one of those freaky pageant kids.
When I returned to my desk, I noticed that Rob’s light was off. It was only 5:05. Someone needed a beer.
I opened my saved post to finish my review.
In closing, I would highly recommend Gladly Never After to all lovers of chick lit, particularly those who prefer books with more action/dialogue and less description/backstory.
Rating: 4.5 Champagne Flutes
I set my blog to post the review at 6 the next morning and logged off of my computer. At least I’d be fashionably late.
I spotted my crew immediately upon entering the dimly lit restaurant. They had taken over the left side of the semi-circular bar. I stood up as tall as my 4’’11’ frame allowed and approached the crowd. Although my eyes looked straight ahead towards Rob, always the center of attention at these events, I used my peripheral vision to confirm that Nicholas was in attendance. He was talking to Lucy, a junior associate in the group. Lucy was actually really nice, but her straight blonde hair was always pulled back into a tight bun and her daily attire consisted of stodgy business suits. She looked like a librarian and I couldn’t imagine Nicholas being interested in her as more than a colleague. On second thought, maybe Lucy is one of those stereotypical librarian types who’s kinky in the sack. I had often wondered if Nicholas had hooked up with any of the female associates in the office while pulling an all-nighter or after one of the many firm-hosted parties. As I glanced back at Lucy in jealous paranoia, I was surprised to catch Nicholas looking directly at me. Could he tell I was thinking about him? Bridget and I always said guys had radar.
“There she is. My right hand. What are you having?” Rob asked.
I tore my eyes away from Nicholas and focused my attention on Rob. “A glass of prosecco. Thanks.” I considered asking for a cocktail menu but wanted a drink in my hand too badly to spend the time considering my choices.
Rob raised one of his thick dark eyebrows and took a sip of his lager. “Beer isn’t good enough for you?”
“Not when the firm is paying.” I giggled.
Rob handed me my glass and I casually looked around. I caught Nicholas’ eye again and prepared this time, gave him a friendly wave.
“Hey you,” he said, smiling wide as his brown eyes darted down to my chest and quickly back to my face.
His appraisal of my rack, while subtle, was unmistakable. Not that a guy checking out a girl’s chest was an indication of actual interest. It was probably merely instinct for them, but I was still thrilled. I would be the first to admit that I drew attention to my chest since, being so short, I needed to give people a reason to look down far enough to see me. I raised my glass and smiled back. “Hey,” I said before turning back towards Rob. I wanted more than anything to go over and cock block his conversation with Lucy but I didn’t have the nerve. Checking out a girl’s cleavage was not necessarily an invitation for conversation.
“Did you send that email to Bartlett?” Rob asked.
Without batting an eyelash, I responded, “Did you ask me to?”
Rob offered a bemused smile. “Touché. I thought you might be too busy working on your blog to attend to such menial tasks like getting your work done.”
“When has my blog ever gotten in the way of attending to your business, Rob?” Rob loved to give me shit about my blog, but I knew he was joking. I had only worked with him at our current firm for four months, but had been his assistant at his previous one for close to two years. He had left our old firm more than six months earlier, leaving me behind with a promise to use his influence to get me hired as well. We worked well together. Although in his mid-fifties, Rob had the energy of a teenager and was extremely high-strung. I knew how to take him down a notch without threatening his authority.
I felt a flush creep across my cheeks as I turned around to face the source of the question. I wasn’t surprised, since I blushed whenever I talked to Nicholas, even when the phone rang at work and I saw his name on my caller ID.
“You didn’t know about Kim’s blog?” Rob asked, his blue eyes reflecting amusement.
Nicholas shook his head, not removing his eyes from mine.
All I could think about was running my fingers along the dark stubble on his jawline. Never completely clean shaven, he currently looked like he hadn’t touched a razor in several days. I held his gaze willing my voice not to give away my crush, but the heat on my face suggested a crimson complexion that probably already had. “I have a blog where I write book reviews.” I figured Nicholas didn’t know about my blog since our opportunities to socialize outside of work had been few and far between in the four months we’d worked together. It was that unfamiliarity which I blamed for my chronic bashfulness in his presence. Well, that and his overwhelming sex appeal. Unable to maintain eye contact a second longer, I glanced back at Rob hoping he’d pick up the dialogue.
“It’s incredibly popular. Publishers actually beg my secretary to read and review their client’s novels on a daily basis.” Rob beamed at me like a proud uncle as if he was somehow responsible for my blog’s immense popularity.
I turned back to Nicholas and smiled shyly. “Every other day basis is probably more accurate but yes, it’s a widely read blog. I have several thousand followers and get requests from authors, publicists and agents pretty often.”
Nicholas looked at me with admiration. “Awesome. What types of books do you review?”
I hated this part of telling people from work about my blog. I never knew if the attorneys would raise their noses in the air and judge my taste in “literature.” Here goes nothing. “Chick lit,” I admitted.
Nicholas tilted his head to the side. “Like the gum?”
I giggled as if I’d never heard that one before. “Yes, it’s called chick lit, like the gum. But it’s also a book genre. Like Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Devil Wears Prada. You know?”
Nicholas looked thoughtful as he rubbed his thumb along his chin. “My ex-girlfriend had a bunch of books with pink covers. Were those chick lit?”
Forcing myself to stay focused instead of wondering what his ex-girlfriend was like, how long ago they broke up and why, I smiled and said, “Probably.” Although chick lit had certainly evolved beyond stereotypical pink covers, it wasn’t the time to go into defense-mode.
Nicholas smiled wide. “Very cool, Kim!” Glancing at his empty glass, he said, “Time for a refill. Be right back” and walked towards the bar.
I tore my eyes away from the back of Nicholas’ light blue business shirt and back to Rob. But Rob was now talking to Lucy about some guy she had deposed the previous day. Boring work talk. I downed the rest of my prosecco and walked over to the bar. After quickly getting the bartender’s attention, I ordered another glass, on Rob’s tab of course, and observed Nicholas finish sending a text. As he smiled into his phone, I felt my Hanky Panky thong practically melting off. At only about 5”7’, his stature might have kept him off of some women’s top five lists but since I was vertically challenged too, he was currently number one on mine. I couldn’t even think of who would follow him in second and third place.
A State of Jane
Holding the phone against my ear with my shoulder while I painted my toenails with OPI’s That’s Hot Pink, I said to my sister, “Wish me a happy anniversary.”
“Happy Anniversary, little sister.” Claire was only seventeen months older than me, practically my Irish twin, but she always insisted on referring to me as her “little sister.” “May I ask what anniversary you’re celebrating?”
“My first one. And hopefully my last.”
Claire replied, “Clarify.”
“My first anniversary as a single person. It’s been exactly a year since Bob and I broke up and I’m officially ready to fall in love again.” I looked toward my computer screen where my eHarmony profile was twenty-eight percent completed.
Claire snorted. “Says who?”
“I’ve done extensive research online and my score on several questionnaires clearly indicates that I’m emotionally available for a new relationship.”
A hint of doubt in her voice, Claire questioned, “Cuz it’s been exactly a year?”
“Precisely. Three hundred and sixty five days!” I was not going to let Claire’s teasing get to me. I knew by waiting a year, I’d be less likely to waste my time in a rebound relationship.
“Only you would actually think a few days give or take would make a difference,” Claire said, giggling.
“Ha ha, Claire. Laugh all you want. Laugh all the way down the aisle you’ll walk down as my matron of honor!”
Still laughing, Claire asked, “So who do you intend to have this new relationship with?”
Just Friends With Benefits
Craig had perfectly coiffed locks. Slickly combed and impeccably trimmed. I knew because every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, between 10:30 and 11:25, I sat behind him in “Introduction to Law and Criminal Justice” and stared at the back of his head. While Professor Blum gave his lecture, I fought the urge to kiss the nape of Craig’s neck, where his brown hair came to a flawless straight line.
At the end of every class, Craig would turn to me, his white teeth sparkling, and say, “Have a good one.” In that split second, I would imagine asking if he wanted to grab a cup of coffee or get to third base back in his room, but by the time I summoned the balls to choke out my standard, “Thanks, you too,” he was usually out of his chair and no longer in earshot.
I knew Craig was a brother in Phi Alpha Omega since the back of his t-shirts always bore the letters “ΦAΩ,” and when my eyes weren’t focused on Craig’s immaculate hairdo, they were focused on his muscular torso. (I especially liked watching his shoulder blades ripple when he raised his arms over his head in a stretch.) When someone slipped a flyer under the door of my dorm room advertising a Phi Alpha Omega sponsored happy hour at The Longpost Tavern, I dragged my roommate with me, figuring a few pitchers of Bud Light and a Mind Eraser shot might be just what I needed to garner the liquid courage to kick our relationship up a notch.
On the big day, I wore faded blue wide-leg jeans with daisies on the rear pockets, a white v-neck t-shirt and black platform shoes. It was a rainy night and so to avoid the frizz, my hair was smoothed back into a long ponytail. I was wearing Clinique lipstick a shade darker than the color of bubble gum and purple eye shadow to bring out the hazel in my eyes. I applied my best poker face, showed my chalked i.d. to the burly male bouncer and, with my roommate Jana in tow, walked through the crowded bar where Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” was blaring. Even through the smoky haze, I immediately spotted Craig standing by one of the tables built into the worn wall.