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october 8, 2021

This week's excerpt is from a new untitled rom-com, a sort of follow-up to Anything for Her

Chapter 1

Bradford

 

      “I don’t need an assistant, Ethan.”

      “You do. Your mom just retired.”

      “I only ever hired her to humor her.”

      “So humor me.”

      “I seem to have misplaced my sense of humor these days.”

      “You left it in the Bahamas.”

      Right. I left it at the altar. You know, the one where I got left by my erstwhile fiancée, Marissa. My pregnant erstwhile fiancée. Who is now on the lam, apparently. With Ethan’s ex-girlfriend’s husband. Who is some sort of minor British royalty. I’d say it’s complicated, but actually it’s just depressingly simple. I’m boring.

      I’m the World’s Most Boring Billionaire. 

      Well, except for getting left at the altar at my expensive Caribbean destination wedding. That is apparently the most interesting thing I’ve ever done. 

      Design a gorgeous self-driving car?

      Nope.

      Design a gorgeous talking self-driving car?

      Nope again.

      The thing people find most compelling about me is that my beautiful, pregnant fiancée ran off with some other dude.

      I’ll be honest. This sucks. And right now, one of my best friends, Ethan McNamara, is sitting in my office at Nox Automotive Technologies trying to convince me to hire his assistant. To be honest, I could use an assistant. A real assistant, which my mom was not. I hired her mostly to keep her out of my hair—by keeping her busy. But she was basically useless as an assistant. 

      (Not that I don’t love you, Mom!)

      (I do!)

      You know what else sucks? Ethan has the worst case of glowing, happy, blissfully head-over-heels-in-love that I’ve ever seen. He’s engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Amy, who will almost certainly not leave him at the altar. 

      Plus, he has great hair—thick, dark, wavy hair. I used to have hair like that, once upon a time. Now I’m going bald, so I shave my head. Marissa always said that she found bald guys to be sexy. Can’t believe I fell for that. Clearly, what she finds “sexy” is guys with money. Money with a British accent.

      I rub my hands over my shaved, unsexy head and pull myself out of the pity party quicksand.

      “Why should I humor you, Ethan? Of all people? After that stunt you pulled at the bachelor auction? I had to go on a date with—what did you call them?”

      “The G.O.D. Squad.”

      “Right, twelve teenaged … demons. Spawns of hell.” 

      “They’re well meaning spawn.”

      “They picked my brain clean. Then sucked out the marrow, for good measure.” I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that those teenaged demons have already set up a competing car company. I was expecting to spend a couple of hours advising them on college essays while eating chicken fingers, and instead they ordered Brazilian fish stew and wanted to know about LIDAR and inertial measurement units. 

      “They’ll do that.”

      I lean back and squint at the ceiling. I can barely see the constellation of ink spots from where I’ve thrown my pen hundreds of times. I’m overdue for an appointment with the opthalmologist. But I dread going to see him. He spends the whole time pumping me for stock tips and phone numbers for every restaurant maitre’d in New Athens. This is why the prescription for my contacts has been shit the past two years. 

      “And now I have a new afterschool intern starting in the fall. Apparently.”

      “Another thing for your new assistant to manage.”

      I snort-laugh. “I love my mother, but her and a teenaged demon spawn intern? Let’s just say every mildly funny thing I said as a toddler will become part of the company’s brand.”

      “I’m not proposing you lure your mother out of retirement. Lord knows, I try hard to keep my own parents retired.”

      “So who are you proposing? And if you say one of the teenaged demon spawn, I swear I will smack you so hard you wake up back in O-chem with Professor Argon.”

      “I always liked O-chem.”

      “Of course, you did.”

      “I want you to hire Erin-Joi. I’ll even pay her salary.”

      Ah, Erin-Joi. Now it all makes sense.  

      “She finally quit, eh? If that’s the case, I’ll pay her double what you paid her. Ha ha. Ethan McNamara, dumped by his assistant.” It’s not as bad as being dumped by your pregnant fiancée, of course, but it’s something at least. 

      Ethan rolls his eyes. I’m glad he can be so magnanimous about that. Good assistants are like gold in this town. Erin-Joi probably has a dozen job offers already lined up.

      “Just temporarily.”

      “What do you mean, just temporarily?”

      “Just until the wedding. I need to get her out of Amy’s hair, so Amy can plan the weddng and honeymoon in peace.”

      “Why wouldn’t you have your assistant plan the wedding and honeymoon? That’s what they’re for.”

      He looks at me like I’m an idiot. Granted, that is the general consensus these days. 

      “Please don’t tell me your mother planned your honeymoon.”

      Okay, so I won’t tell him.

      “Because that might explain a lot about what happened back there in the Bahamas.”

      “She’s pregnant, Ethan! We’re pregnant!” I stand up with such force my leather executive chair flips right over. I leave it there and stomp over to the floor to ceiling windows of my corner office. There’s a storm brewing on the horizon. I don’t mean that metaphorically. Off in the distance is a line of angry dark clouds rolling toward our fair city of New Athens. It can storm every day for the next year for all I care. 

      “I’m sorry, man. That was out of line.” Ethan claps his hand on my shoulder.

       I shrug off his hand. I don’t want his sympathy. Or anyone’s. I want my son.

      “Erin-Joi can find Marissa for you.”

      “I already have a P.I. working on it.”

      “How’s that going?”

       I shrug again. Not well, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to admit that to McNamara here. His life is charmed. Sure, he got dumped by Everly. But she was weird, so that’s actually just another example of how charmed his life is. Because then the real love of his life showed up. Or returned, as the case may be. Amy is sweet and gorgeous and fun and … I shut down that line of thought. I don’t want to think about anyone being happy. I want everyone to be as miserable as I am right now.

      “In fact, Erin-Joi probably already has leads.”

       I give him the side-eye. “Why would she do that?”

      “It’s just the way she is. You’ll see.”

       I’m not really interested in seeing. 

      “Come on, Brad. It’s a win-win for everyone. I get Erin-Joi out of my hair until the wedding and you get to find Marissa and Lord Fuckface. And anyone else you need revenge on.”

      I give him the other side-eye.

      “Not that revenge is in her job description at Chaos Labs, but I’m sure she’d be good at it.”

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