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SNEAK PEEK of my new manuscript!


A Second Chance

Written by Jen Ekblad

Property of Jenuine Enterprises LLC

Chapter 1

Kate is a planner. She doesn’t like surprises. In fact, on her seventh birthday, when her parents surprised her with a trip to Disneyland, she locked herself in her bedroom and refused to come out. In the fifth grade, when the teacher changed her seating assignment, which meant she no longer sat by her best friend, Alicia, Kate refused to move. And, even into her young adult years, Kate insisted that the nurse count down from three and administer the shot precisely after the final count of “one.” Growing up, Kate spent more time with her nanny than her parents, who divorced when she was ten—their divorce was surprisingly a relief to Kate. But as she watched her mom struggle to find her purpose in life, Kate vowed that she would never place her purpose in that of a man. Needless to say, she set the bar so high that no man could meet her standard until her senior year at college.

* * *

“Off to class already?” Alicia asked.

“What do you mean ‘already’? It’s 2:45, Alicia. Class starts at 3:10,” Kate replied. “Are you ready to go?”

Alicia took a big bite of day-old pepperoni pizza.

“That’s a ‘no’ then?” Kate gave her that look, “So, I’ll see you at what, 3:11? 3:15?”

“Ha. Ha. You’re so funny.” With a full mouth, Alicia mocked Kate, then blew her a kiss and shouted, “Bye, Kate. Love you.” Kate closed the door behind her. Alicia glanced at the clock. Then her pizza. And back to the clock before stuffing her face with another slice.

Kate and Alicia are a lot of things: friends since kindergarten, college roommates, classmates. But there is one thing they are not: alike. See, Alicia is short, blonde, thin as a rail, yet she is always eating. She is also spunky, spontaneous, and adventurous. Kate? Well, Kate is tall, brunette, average build, organized, methodical, and punctual. She goes nowhere without her planner. Her planner not only tells her what each day has in store for her, but it serves as a sort of diary. It is not too often that an event doesn’t make it into her planner. But today is one of those days. She failed to note there would be a guest speaker leading today’s class.

“Good afternoon, class. My name is Isaac Langston.”

Oh, great! Kate thought to herself. Another pompous ass I have to sit and listen to for a whole hour. At least this one is younger and good-looking. Isaac talked about himself, his degrees, and many experiences. Literary agent at Beckett Publishing. Two Master’s degrees—who gets two Master’s degrees. Harvard and Yale. Barf. Traveled the world. Met numerous bestselling authors. At this point, Kate zoned out. She started doodling in her notebook: today’s date, the guest speaker’s name, the topic, Adam. Adam? Kate, get your head out of your ass! Consumed by her thoughts, she didn’t realize Alicia sat down next to her or that Isaac asked her to introduce herself.

“Kate.” Alicia elbowed her.

“Hm? Yes! I’m sorry. What?” Kate shouted. She looked up to find the tall, handsome, and very well-groomed man staring back at her.

“Please introduce yourself, Ms.?” Isaac gestured toward Kate to complete his sentence.

“Abbott.” Alicia elbowed her again. “Sorry! Kate! My name is Kate Abbott, Mr. Langston.”

“Call me Isaac.”

            She slunk into her chair. Jesus Christ, Kate.

The next hour crept by. Alicia texted under the table. Kate replayed her disgraceful introduction to Isaac. Then, she studied him. He had this aura about him. Confidence, perhaps. His eyes were brown. No, green. His sandy brown hair was swept perfectly to the right. His face was clean-shaven. Pressed gray blazer and matching pants. Crisp white button-down shirt. Polished brown shoes. No ring on his finger. No ring? Really?

“I want to thank Dr. Woodford for having me back here—I remember being in your shoes not too long ago. Anyway, “Isaac clapped his hands together, “I look forward to seeing some of your work come across my desk someday. Have a great weekend, everyone!” He closed with a smile. Kate couldn’t pack up her stuff fast enough.

            “Kate? Do you have a minute?” Isaac asked.

            Kate stopped packing her bag.

            “Yes, Mr. Langston? I mean, Isaac?”

            “Dr. Woodford tells me that you have a real knack for identifying good prose. Is this true?”

            “I don’t know if I’d say that,” Kate continued packing her bag, “but I do like to read, I suppose. And write reviews every once in a while.”

            “Modesty. I like that.” Isaac smiled. “She sent some of those reviews to me along with a glowing recommendation. I was impressed.”

            The smell of Isaac’s cologne combined with his perfect white teeth made it hard for Kate to make eye contact. She quickly glanced up and shot him a nervous smile.

“We just had a spot open up in our editorial internship program, and I think you should apply. It’s mostly grunt work, but it is great exposure to a publishing company.”

            “I’m sorry,” Kate reached for her planner, “where do you work again?”

            Isaac placed his hand on her arm. “Beckett Publishing. Literary agent.”

            Kate looked up. Her face flushed. “Sorry. Yes, of course. That’s right. I think you mentioned that earl—”

            “I know I can be a bit of a bore.” Isaac winked. “Anyway, here’s my card. Think about it, yeah?”

            She nodded. Get out of here before you embarrass yourself more! Now! Kate grabbed the card and her bag and hurried out the door.

            Isaac watched her go and snickered to himself. He glanced down at the table and saw an overpacked booklet. “Kate! Wait! You forgot—” He analyzed it. Tabs. So many tabs. And little papers sticking out. It was used, heavily used. He turned it over. Flipped it back. “What is this thing?” He opened it to find out.

            Soon Kate too would realize what she had left behind.

Chapter 2

            Fifteen minutes passed before Kate’s world came crashing down. Breathe, Kate. Just retrace your steps. You just had it. She went back to Dr. Woodford’s classroom. Nothing there. She checked the nearby hallways and the bathroom she visited after class. Nothing. Maybe Dr. Woodford picked it up?

            Kate knocked lightly on the door. Dr. Woodford spun around in her chair.

            “Kate! To what do I owe this pleasure?”

            “Hi, Dr. Woodford. I was wondering if you, by chance, found a planner lying around after today’s class. I seemed to have misplaced mine.”

            Dr. Woodford’s smile turned to concern. “Doesn’t seem like you to misplace something, Kate.”

            “To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I did. I feel a bit lost.”

            “Well,” her face softened. “I’m sure you will find it, Kate. And, if it turns up in my classroom, I’ll let you know right away.”

            Kate smiled at Dr. Woodford and nodded.

            “Have a good weekend, Kate!”

            A storm was on the horizon, literally and figuratively. The clouds hung heavy like Kate’s head on her walk home. She had retraced her steps over and over. Thunder clapped. Her planner was gone. She didn’t even know where to start without it. The clouds opened up, and it began to pour.

            Inside their apartment, Kate found Alicia sitting in the kitchen eating chips and salsa. Kate was drenched and frowning.

            “Wow. What happened to you?” She ate another chip as if she were watching a good movie.

            “Well, I seem to have lost my planner. And had I not lost my planner and spent time retracing my steps, I would have beat the storm—as planned. Instead, I didn’t find my planner, and I got rained on. That’s what happened to me, Alicia.” Kate snarled.

            “Well, that sucks. But I told you a long time ago you should ditch that archaic paper planner. Who uses only a paper planner these days?”

“Alicia, you’re not helping.”

“You don’t have any of it backed up on your computer?”

            “Do you think I’d be freaking out like this if it was backed up?” Kate paced the kitchen. “All I have are a few wedding invites on the fridge.”

            Alicia dipped a chip and wagged it around as she spoke. “I have an idea. Why don’t we just get you another planner? We can go shopping. Grab some dinner before—”

            “Alicia, you don’t understand. My planner is more than just, well, a planner. It can’t simply be replaced. It has some of my very deepest thoughts and, not to mention, all of my story ideas. This is stuff I don’t share with just anyone.”

            Alicia stopped mid-dip when an idea hit her. “I know what this is about.”

            “What?” Kate snapped.

            “Perhaps a certain someone’s wedding reception tomorrow tonight?”

            Kate dipped a chip. “This has nothing to do with him.” She stuffed the chip in her mouth and walked away.

            “Come on, Kate. Let’s talk about this.”

            Kate went to her room and shut the door. She laid in the center of her bed and stared up at the ceiling. She was lost.

Chapter 3

Music poured into the parking lot, welcoming the guests. Short cocktail dresses and pressed suits waltzed into the reception hall. Isaac fit right in. He adjusted his collar and headed for the door.

            A crowd surrounded the bar. Another spilled across the dance floor, doing the electric slide. As enticed as Isaac was, he proceeded to the bar.

“Whiskey, please. On the rocks.”

“Coming right up!” the bartender acknowledged him.

Isaac scoured the room while he waited. He spotted a group of women near the gift table and another near the patio.

“Whisky on the rocks!” the bartender called out.

“That’s me,” Isaac raised a finger. “Thanks, man. Keep it open.” He slid his card to the bartender.

Whiskey in hand, Isaac moved toward the patio to get a closer look. He walked past the group, peering back to get a glance at the woman with long, wavy brown hair. He was spotted.

“Mr. Langston?” Kate asked with uncertainty.

            Isaac stopped and slowly turned around. “Kate? Kate Abbott?” His surprise was forced.

            “Ladies, will you excuse me, please?” Kate moved toward Isaac. “What are you doing here?”

            “I’m here for the wedding reception, of course.” Isaac covered his nervous smile with a sip of his drink.

            “Really? And who do you know?” Kate inquired.

            Isaac searched for an answer. A napkin caught his eye.

Adam & Julie — Established 9.5.09

“Adam!” He shouted, startling Kate.

            “Adam, huh? And how do you know Adam?” Kate smiled and crossed her arms.

            “Oh, Adam and I go way back.” Isaac took another nervous sip. “What are you doing here? Who do you know?”

“Both of them, actually.”

            Isaac noticed Kate’s glass was empty. “Can I get you another?”

            “Sure. Cabernet, please.” She handed him the glass.

            “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” He backed away, bumping into a server. Kate giggled.

            Isaac returned with fresh drinks and sat next to Kate.

            “Thank you,” she clinked his glass. “Cheers. So, are you going to tell me what you are really doing here?”

            Isaac dropped his head. “Is it that obvious?” He looked up at her, and she greeted him with a smile. “This is going to sound kind of crazy.”

            “Yeah? Try me.”

            “Remember our conversation yesterday?”

            “Yeah? What does that have to do with—”

            “Well, you were in such a hurry to get out of there. Why were you in such a hurry, anyway? Don’t answer that. It’s not important.” Isaac caught his breath. “Anyway, you were in such a hurry that you left your planner behind.”

            “Oh my God, Isaac! You found my planner! The last 24 hours have been pure…,” Kate’s joy turned to confusion, “how did you know I would be here?”

            “Well, I just had to know what kind of person would draw a bloody heart with a knife through it next to the information about a wedding reception.” Isaac winked.

Kate’s eyes widened. “You read my planner?”

            “It— Well, I mean I—”

            “Did you?”

            “I just wasn’t sure what it was exactly or how to contact you, so I looked inside.” Isaac hung his head once again. “I didn’t mean to invade your privacy.” He placed his hand on hers.

            She moved her hand away, “Did you read anything else?”

            “No, I swear,” Isaac’s foot tapped nervously. “What’s the big deal, Kate? It’s just a planner.”

            “God! Why does everyone keep saying that?” Kate snapped. The look on her face, Isaac hadn’t seen before. It was serious. Kate took a centering breath, “Where is it?”

            “It’s out in my truck. Kate, I—.”

            “Okay, great. Let’s go get it.” Kate swallowed her glass of wine like a shot, grabbed her purse, and headed for the door.

Isaac stood up, buttoned his blazer, and followed behind.

“Which one is it?” Kate asked as she surveyed the parking lot.

“Over here,” Isaac pointed.

“Great!” Kate hurried in that direction.

“Wait up, Kate.” Isaac pressed a button on his key fob. The headlights flashed. Horn honked.

Kate waited by the truck.

Isaac opened the passenger side door and handed her the planner.

Kate checked it over as if she were just reunited with a person who has feelings and memories.

“For what it is worth, Kate, I really am sorry I upset you. It was never my intention. I hope you will still consider the internship program. I—Beckett would be lucky to have you.”

“Have a good night, Mr. Langston.” Kate tucked the booklet into her purse and headed back inside.

Isaac got in his truck and slammed his hands into the steering wheel. “Dammit, Langston! What the hell were you thinking?” He rested his head on the steering wheel. A moment passed before the sudden laughter from people walking past his truck propelled him to start it up and head home.

            Back inside, Kate made herself at home at the bar. She dialed Alicia. The phone rang.

“What will it be this time, miss?”

“Hello?” Alicia answered.

“One sec, Alicia,” Kate covered the microphone with her hand while she ordered. “Jack and diet, please. Make it a double.”

            “Uh oh. What happened?” Alicia asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if I remember correctly, Jack and diet is your go-to when you’re upset. And a double? It must be a doozy.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Sure ya don’t.”

Kate could hear Alicia’s smirk through the phone. “I don’t want to ruin your night.”

“You’re not going to ruin my night. This party was getting a little boring anyway.”

Kate told Alicia the whole story. How Isaac showed up there just to tell her he had her planner. How he had seen the bloody heart she drew next to Julie and Adam’s wedding reception info.

“Another Jack and double, please.”

“Coming right up!”

Kate continued rambling on. About how her planner is more than just a planner. How it has her deepest thoughts and story ideas. How she even jotted down some thoughts about Isaac when he presented for their class. And what if Isaac would have read those thoughts. She would just die. Nothing Alicia hadn’t already heard.

“Sweetie. Do you think perhaps you may be overreacting? Even just—”

“I am not—”

“Let me finish. You get like this Katy Cat. You meet a guy who you’re interested in. Somehow your paths cross, and you find every reason possible to push him away. Maybe like you did with Adam?”

“Alicia, I am not having this conversation.”

“Fine. But Isaac is not Adam, Kate.”

“Alicia!”

“Sorry. Back to Isaac. So, was what he did a little weird? Sure. But perhaps he was just genuinely interested in you, Kate, and just looking for a way in. Is that so bad?”

“Yes!” Kate shouted.

“Kate.”

“Okay, okay.” She paused. “No, it’s not so bad. But definitely weird.”

“I’m guessing you didn’t even give him a chance to explain, did you?”

“But I did!”

“Without intimidating him like you tend to do to people when you get defensive?”

Kate backed down.

“Listen, Kate. I get it. You didn’t have the best role models growing up. Your parents’ marriage was shit. But when are you going to stop using that as an excuse?”

“An excuse? Alicia, I made a promise to my mom—”

“A promise to your mom? Or, a vow to yourself?”

Tears welled up in Kate’s eyes.

“I love you, Katy Cat. I just don’t want you to miss out on life because of some vow you made when you were 10.” A voice in the background beckoned for Alicia. “I better get back inside unless you want me to come get you. Do you want me to come get you?”

“No, I think I am going to stick around here for a little longer.”

“Okay, but please take an Uber home, Kate. Promise?” Alicia asked.

“I promise.”

“Anything else for you, Miss?” The bartender asked.

“Water? And my tab?” Kate replied.

“You got it.”

Kate pulled a business card from her purse and dialed another number. It rang.

“Hello?”

Kate’s mouth opened and closed a few times, but no words came out.

“Hello? Who is this?”

“It’s me, Mr. Langston.” Kate sneered.

“Kate?” Isaac asked.

“Boy, nothing gets past you, Mr. Langston.”

“Is everything okay?”

“No, Mr. Langston. As a matter of fact, everything is not okay.” Kate slurred her words.

“Kate, are you drunk?”

“And what if I am? What are you going to do about it?”

“Where are you? Are you still at the reception?”

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.”

“I’ll come get you.”
            “I don’t need you to come rescue me like some hot knight in shining armor who smells like Heaven.”

Isaac snickered. “Kate—”

“Look, I don’t know why I called. I’m just going to get an Uber.”

“Kate, just stay put. I’m on my way.”

Kate’s stomach fluttered. She slipped her phone into her purse and staggered to the bathroom. She splashed water on her face. Her mascara ran. Kate patted her face with a paper towel and looked long and hard in the mirror.

“What is wrong with you? It’s no wonder you’re alone. You’re such a loser.” She ran her hand across the mirror, smearing her reflection.

Kate stumbled out of the bathroom to the couches near the entrance where she waited for Isaac.

Isaac pulled up to the reception hall and got out of his truck. He caught a glimpse of himself reflected in the window. He slicked back his hair with one hand. There was no sign of Kate outside, so he went inside. There, he found her curled up on a couch, her purse as a pillow and shoes tossed to the floor.

Isaac tapped her lightly on the shoulder and, in a soft voice, said, “Kate?” He tapped her again and spoke a little louder. “Kate?”

“Ugh, go away,” Kate moaned.

“Let’s get you home, and then you can go to sleep, okay? Either way, you can’t stay here all night.”

“Uh, fine.” Kate grabbed her purse and shoes and attempted to stand up. She wobbled. Isaac placed his arm around her to steady her.

“I can do it myself.” Kate pushed him away.

Isaac said nothing. Instead, he opened the door and followed her to his truck. He ran ahead of her and opened the passenger door like a gentleman. Before closing it, he made sure she was safely inside.

“Please put your seatbelt on,” Isaac said.

“Yes, sir. Mr. Langston, sir.” Kate saluted him. “Oh my God, I love this song. Turn it up!”

Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” played on the radio. Kate cranked up the volume. Isaac shot her a look and turned it down. “Seatbelt first, then Justin.”

“Yes, Isaac.”

            “What is your address?” He asked. “Do you have a roommate you can call to let them know I am bringing you home?”

            “1424 Kennedy Avenue,” Kate replied, “and no, Alicia is out for the night. I promised her I would take an Uber home.”

            “Okay.” Isaac turned the radio up and smiled.

            “WOO!” Kate shouted. “I’m bringing sexy back! What? Duh dah dah dah!” She danced seductively in her seat. Kate had forgotten all about her troubles, at least for the next three minutes.

            They weren’t two steps into her apartment when Kate said, “I think I’m going to be sick!” and ran for the bathroom.

            Isaac followed. As Kate dropped to her knees and hugged the toilet bowl, Isaac held back her hair, and his jacket took a hit.

“I’m so sorry!” Kate moaned. “I’ll clean that for you!” She continued vomiting.

Minutes passed, and finally, the vomiting stopped.

            “Feel better now?” Isaac asked.

            “Much,” Kate replied. “Again, I am so sorry about your jacket, Isaac. I’ll clean it, or I’ll just get you a new—

            “Don’t worry about it, Kate. It’s okay.” Isaac handed her some tissue to wipe her mouth. “Let’s get you into bed.”

            Kate crawled into bed, still in her dress and makeup. Isaac pulled the covers up past her shoulders. He went to the kitchen and returned with a glass of water and two aspirin. “Take these. It will help you feel better in the morning.”

            “Thanks.” Kate took the pills, drank the entire glass of water, and returned under the covers. Isaac tucked her in.

            “Anything else you need?” Isaac asked.

            Kate shook her head.

            “Then I should be going. Get some sleep.”

            “Isaac,” Kate called after him. He turned around. “I’m really sorry about tonight. You didn’t deserve to be treated how I treated you. My planner is just super important to me and very personal. And I just felt—”

            “I get it, Kate. I’m sorry for overstepping and invading your privacy. What I did was wrong.” He tried to leave again.

            “Isaac?”

            “Yes, Kate?”

            “Remember the heart with the bloody knife that you saw in my planner?” Kate asked.

            “Yes?” Isaac answered.

            “You asked what kind of person would draw something like that.” Kate was starting to fade away as she said, “It is the kind of person who attends the wedding of her best friend who just happens to be marrying her ex-fiancé.”

            Isaac felt bad for Kate. He knew this kind of heartbreak.

            Kate was asleep.

            “Good night, Kate,” Isaac whispered as he turned off the light.

Chapter 4

            “Kate,” Alicia shook her. “Kate, wake up. You’re going to be late!”

            “Uh, let me sleep,” Kate muttered.

            Alicia ripped the covers from Kate. “Are you still in last night’s clothes? And what is that smell? Vomit?” Alicia pinched her nose.

            Kate grumbled and pulled the covers over her head.

            “Get up! You need to get going!” Alicia barked once more.

“It’s Sunday. What could I possibly have on a Sunday?”

            Alicia dropped Kate’s planner on her. “Well, according to your planner, which I thought you lost, you are supposed to meet your writing group at 10.”

            Kate sat straight up in bed. “And what time is it now?”

            “9:45.”

            Kate grabs the clock. “9:45? Alicia! Why didn’t you wake me up sooner?” Kate launched out of bed, nearly knocking over Alicia.

            “I literally just got up. And I was starving, so I went into the kitchen to make some breakfast. Then, I saw your planner on the counter.” Alicia took a big bite of cereal. “I looked, saw you had something going on, thought you were already gone—I know you like to be early for things.” Alicia paused long enough to shovel another spoonful of cereal into her mouth.

            Kate scrambled. She grabbed a pair of worn jeans, an oversized sweatshirt and quickly brushed her hair.

“As I was pouring my bowl of cereal, I thought it was odd you would leave your planner behind, especially after losing it, right? So, that’s when I realized you weren’t up, which frankly I’ve never witnessed before, you still asleep when I—”

“Alicia! Stop talking. I need to get ready and get out that door.”

“What’s the big deal? So you’ll be a little late.”

“It’s my writing group, Alicia. I am the leader. And it’s the first day. And my advisor is attending.” Kate started breathing heavily.

“Kate. Calm down. It will be just fine. Trust me.” Alicia winked.

“Well, that’s reassuring.” Kate wrapped her hair in a ponytail. “Okay, how do I look?”

“You look great, Kate, but that breath.” Alicia wrinkled her nose.

Kate grabbed Alicia's spoon and took a bite of her cereal. “Noted.” She went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth. Kate returned to her room in a panic.

“Stop freaking out. Now, do you have everything you need?”

“I’ve got my agenda, my first chapter to share.” Kate looked around her room. “I’m forgetting something.”

“Uh, your planner?” Alicia pointed to Kate’s bed.

“Thank you! Yes!” Kate shoved her planner into her over-the-shoulder bag. She then grabbed Alicia’s face with both hands and said, “What would I do without you?” She gave her a big kiss on the forehead and headed for the door.

Stunned by Kate’s odd behavior, Alicia packed her mouth with yet another spoonful of cereal.

Kate wore her Brooks. She knew she would have to run to campus if she was going to be on time. On the way, she tried to remember the agenda. Introductions Schedule for the year. Writing samples. Am I missing something? The clock tower struck ten as Kate opened the door to the student union. She sighed in relief. Dr. Woodford walked toward her.

“Dr. Woodford. Good morning. I’m so sorry I’m—”

“Kate. Is everything okay? You look a bit,” Dr. Woodford looked her up and down, “disheveled.”

            “Yes, everything is fine. I assure you, Dr. Woodford. I am usually early for meetings, especially those I am leading. I just—”

            “Yes, well, I think it might be best if you go home and get some rest. You look unwell, and to be honest, Ms. Abbott, you smell a bit like last night’s indiscretions.”

            Kate felt her face flush. “Dr. Woodford, I am so—”

            “I will tell the group you are simply not well and that you will join us next time.”

            “Dr. Woodford, I assure you I—”

            “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in you, Kate. Go home. Get some rest. Be ready for next week’s meeting.”

            Kate dropped her head to hide the tears welling up in her eyes. “This won’t happen again, Dr. Woodford. I promise.” Kate headed for the door.

            “And Kate,” Dr. Woodford called out.

            Kate turned back.

            “I do hope that you get whatever is going on figured out. You wouldn’t want to ruin your chances at securing the Beckett internship, would you?”

            Kate felt the sting of Dr. Woodford’s threat. She had thought about the internship since Isaac mentioned it. Isaac. Oh my God. No. I wouldn’t have. I couldn’t have. I didn’t—did I? Kate pulled out her phone. Opened her recent calls. And, there it was—a call to Isaac Langston at 11:38 p.m. The memories quickly flooded her mind. The reality was, she really messed things up with Isaac, the person who was going to help her get this internship at Beckett. She needed this internship.

            Kate opened the front door and found Alicia sitting at the kitchen counter reading the latest Cosmo and eating an unfrosted blueberry Pop-Tart.

            “Hey, lady! What are you doing back so—”

            “Not now.”

            “Is everything—”

            “I said not now, Alicia.” Kate stopped in her tracks, taken aback by her own tone of voice. She continued to her room and closed the door behind her. Alicia knew to leave well enough alone.

Kate crashed on her bed and stared at the ceiling. What the hell is wrong with me? Getting drunk when I have an important meeting the next day. Drunk dialing the guy who potentially holds my future in his hands. Showing up to a meeting wreaking of alcohol. Since meeting Isaac, Kate’s world has been turned upside down.

            Her phone buzzed.

            Good morning. How are you feeling?

            Kill me now. What do I say? “Great! Just got kicked out of my own meeting. Still want to hire me as an intern for your program,” Kate thought. She started a response. The blinking cursor mocked her. You call yourself a writer, Kate?  You can’t even come up with a simple answer to ‘How are you feeling?’ You’re pathetic. She started again.

            Not so great. Rough morning.

            She deleted the text. Come on, Kate. Think.

            Good morning! I’m great! How are you?

            Too many exclamation points. Try again. Do I acknowledge last night? Maybe I’ll wait for him to say something. She deleted the text and thought of the perfect, professional reply. Short. Polite. To the point.

            Hi, Isaac. I’m doing well, thank you.

            She stared at her phone, waiting impatiently for those three bouncing dots. Five minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen. Kate chewed her nails. What are you doing, Kate? Why are you just sitting around waiting for him to respond? Don’t you have anything better to do, like get your life together? You heard Dr. Woodford. Kate threw her phone on the bed and sat at her desk. She opened her planner and laptop and started transferring dates into her Google calendar.

            Her phone buzzed into the soft, down comforter—each vibration absorbed by the pillowy linen. Kate was entranced as she pulled her life back together. She smiled as each page of her planner was recorded in digital format. Her phone buzzed again. Three hours passed. Kate flipped the final page of her planner and sighed in relief. She checked her phone and saw she had two missed messages from Isaac. A light tap at the door pulled her attention away from her phone.

            “Kate?” Alicia asked softly.

            “Come on in!” Kate’s cheerful response was welcoming.

            “Hey, girl.” Alicia hid behind the door as she opened it. “Everything okay in here?”

            “Yea, everything is great! You can come in.” Kate waved for her to come in. “I never have to worry about misplacing my planner again, Alicia, or being late for a meeting for that matter. It’s all right here!” Kate gestured to her phone.

“Well, I am happy to hear you have finally come into today’s age, but there’s someone here to see you,” Alicia smiled.

“Who?”

“Now, stay calm,” Alicia whispered.

“Who is it, Alicia?” Kate wasn’t expecting any visitors. She followed Alicia to the kitchen, where her guest greeted her.

“Hi, Kate.”

“Isaac. What are you doing here?”

Chapter 5

            “I texted you back.” Isaac gestured to his phone. “You didn’t respond. And I was already on my way to the library, so I thought I would swing by and see if I left my jacket here last night.”

            Kate looked at her phone, “Sorry about that. I got caught up in something.”

            “Jacket? Last night?” Alicia asked.

            “Nevermind, Alicia.” Kate sneered.

“Can we talk?” Isaac asked.

            “Um, sure,” Kate replied. “Alicia, do you mind?”

            “I don’t mind at all. Talk away!” Alicia observed from the kitchen counter as if she were watching her favorite rom-com.

“Perhaps we could take a walk,” Isaac suggested.

“Yeah, sure. I just have to grab some shoes. I’ll be right back.” Kate headed to her room.

Alicia couldn’t hold her question in any longer. “So, you were here last night, huh?”

“Yes, I brought Kate home from the reception.”

“I see. And, you took your jacket off, why?”

“I heard that, Alicia!” Kate shouted from the hall. “You don’t have to answer that, Isaac.”

“What? I was just curious.” Alicia replied.

Kate escorted Isaac to the door by the back of his arm. “I’ll be back in a bit.”

Alicia winked at Kate. “Have fun, kids!”

The afternoon sun left a lingering warmth in the air. Blue skies contrasted the trees adorned in bright reds, oranges, and yellows. Leaves crunched below their feet, filling the silence between them. Five minutes passed. Neither of them spoke. A chorus of birds serenaded them along the river trail. The water babbled. Another five minutes passed.

“I—” Isaac and Kate spoke at the same time.

“Go ahead,” Isaac replied.

“No, you go first. Please.” Kate begged.

“I just feel bad about the whole planner situation. And when you didn’t reply to my text, I thought—”

“It’s okay. Really. And, I’m sorry I didn’t respond. I was actually transferring my planner over to my Google calendar.” Kate shot him a smile. “So, actually, you kind of helped me in a way.”

“Wow. Well, I am happy I could help. That planner seemed pretty important to you.”

“It is. Was. But that wasn’t really why I was so upset. And I’m sorry I took it out on you. And drunk dialed you.” Kate’s face flushed.

“Don’t be sorry. I am the one who should be apologizing.”

“For what?” Kate asked.

“Looking in your planner. Showing up like I did at that wedding reception. I mean, what was I thinking?”

“It was actually kind of sweet and a welcome distraction if I’m being honest.”

“How so?”

“Well, it’s not every day you attend your ex-fiancé’s wedding.”

“Ah, yes. I might recall you mentioning something about that.” Isaac debated whether or not to ask his question. “You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but what happened?”

“Adam, Julie, and I met freshman year. We were inseparable. Julie quickly became one of my best friends. Adam and I started dating. A year in, Adam proposed. At first, I said yes—he was different from any of the other guys I had met. I thought I was in love. But as the wedding planning went on, I knew in my gut I needed to call it off. So, I did. And a month later, he and Julie started dating.”

“Oh my God, Kate. I’m—”

“No, it’s okay. Really. When I learned of their relationship, I decided that I loved them both too much to let our friendship die.”

“I don’t know that I would have done the same,” Isaac admitted.

“Six months later. They were engaged.”

“And, so, there you were the other night, celebrating your best friend marrying your ex-fiancé.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that we are best friends anymore, but I felt like I should go. Hence the bloody heart. And how I knew that you didn’t actually know Adam,” Kate winked at him.

“Well, now I just feel like an idiot.”

“I feel like the idiot. Getting all emotional and drunk and then drunk dialing you.”

“I’m glad you called and that I was able to get you home safely.”

“Oh my God, I just remembered something.” Kate palmed her face.

“What’s that?”

“The vomit. I vomited on your jacket, didn’t I?”

“You may have.” Isaac chuckled.

“Oh no! Isaac, I am so embarrassed. Why are you even still talking to me?” Kate joked, but there was truth to what she said.

“You think that’s the first time I’ve been puked on? Think again. Besides, I think you’re kind of cool.”

“I’m cool, huh? What are we? In junior high?” Kate nudged him.

Isaac blushed. “You know what I mean. And, the way you broke things off with Adam, knowing it wasn’t right for you—that was pretty brave.”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d say it was brave, but I felt I owed it to him to not string him along.”

Isaac looked away and cleared his throat.

“Hey,” Kate touched his arm, “are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good.” Isaac forced a smile. “Hey, so have you given any thought about applying for the internship at Beckett?”

“Way to change the subject.” Kate smiled back. “Yes, I have definitely given it some thought,” Kate recalled her conversation with her advisor earlier in the day. “I even talked with Dr. Woodford about it.”

“She just thinks the world of you, Kate. When the spot opened up, I called her to see if she had any potential students to send our way. You were at the top of her list. Said we would be fools not to just hire you based on her word. I would love to, but I don’t think the hiring manager would like that decision or the board for that matter.”

“I guess I didn’t realize Dr. Woodford thought so highly of me.”

“If there is one thing I know about Dr. Woodford, it is that she recognizes talent when she sees it. Her favorites are those who not only work hard but have the ‘it’ factor. But you should know, others have applied, Kate. And your competition will be tough, but I do think you have a shot.”

Kate’s phone buzzed. It was a text from Alicia.

Hey Kate, just checking in to make sure everything is okay. Thought you’d be back by now.

            Kate checked her watch. “Oh my God.”

            “Is everything okay?”

            “Yeah. I just didn’t realize the time. We’ve been gone for over an hour.”

            Isaac smiled. He hadn’t had a conversation like this in years. At least not one with a woman he found not only interesting but attractive.

“We can head back if you’d like. It is going to be dark soon anyway,” Isaac said.

            “You’re right. And don’t you have to get to the library before it closes?”

            Isaac blushed once again.

            “You weren’t actually on your way to the library when you stopped by, were you?”

            “Bad excuse, huh?”

            Kate laughed. “You could have just said you stopped by for your jacket. Speaking of which, I am going to get that cleaned for you.”

            “Kate, you don’t have to do that.”

            “I insist. It’s the least I can do.”

            Kate and Isaac headed back to her apartment, discussing the details of the internship and Beckett. Kate realized how lucky she is to have this opportunity. This opportunity would open doors to a career as a big-time book editor, likely somewhere far, far away from here. Isaac walked her to her door like the gentleman he is. The evening ended with an awkward attempt at a hug turned into a handshake.

Kate entered the apartment and leaned back against the door, grinning from ear to ear.

“I know that look,” Alicia said.

“I don’t know what look you are talking about,” Kate swiped her finger through the whipped cream on top of Alicia’s ice cream sundae.

“Hey, that’s—”

Kate licked the whipped cream off her finger and winked at Alicia.

“Well, someone’s in a good mood.”

“I am. It’s been a pretty good day considering how it started.”

Alicia scooped a big bite of ice cream into her mouth. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Kate smiled.

“And, when were you going to tell me Isaac brought you home last night?”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal, Kate. Do you know yourself? It’s a big deal. Did anything happen?”

“I was drunk, Alicia!”

“So?”

“Alicia Marie!”

“I’m kidding. I’m kidding.”

“I did puke on his jacket, though.” Kate blushed.

“That jacket?” Alicia pointed to the navy blazer on the back of the kitchen chair. “I was wondering what smelled in here!”

“Sorry about that. I’m going to take it to the cleaners tomorrow.”

“Thanks. So, he’s not such a bad guy after all then, huh?”

“He’s all right.”

“Did you tell him about Adam?”

“Yes.”

Alicia choked on her ice cream. “The whole story?”

Kate avoided eye contact. “Well, not exactly.”

“What do you mean not exactly?”

“I just told him that I didn’t feel right marrying Adam, so I called it off and that he and Julie got together shortly after.”

Alicia knew she had to choose her next words carefully. “You don’t think he deserves to know the truth, Kate?”

“It’s not that. It’s a little much, don’t you think? I mean, we just met. And, I’m applying for an internship at the company he works for, for God’s sake.”

“You went through hell, Kate. Other people’s choices do not define who you are.”

“I know.”

“I love you, Katy Cat. I just want you to be as happy as you looked when you walked through that door tonight.”

Kate smiled at Alicia. “I love you, too. Good night.” Kate blew her kisses and headed to bed.

Chapter 6

The next day, Kate awoke with a new conviction. Still, on a high from her conversation with Isaac, she got up early to take a run on the trail near campus. Kate doesn’t have class on Mondays, so she spent the morning working on her application for the Beckett internship. She was determined to get it because she deserved it, not because she had an ‘in’ thanks to Dr. Woodford or Isaac, for that matter. Her application was up to her usual Kate standards, complete with a presentation sleeve, table of contents, and tabbed sections.

Kate was proud of what she accomplished, but she knew she needed to fix things with Dr. Woodford. Her application was just the thing to help her do that.

“Knock, knock.”

“Kate. Come in!” Dr. Woodford smiled and waved her in.

Kate’s heart raced. She sat in the chair across Dr. Woodford’s desk.

“Is everything okay, Kate?”

“Yes, of course.” Kate dabbed the bead of sweat on her forehead with her sleeve. “I’ve just never been in this position before, and I’m a bit nervous that you’re upset with me.”

“And, what position is that?”

“Screwing up like I did. Disappointing someone. That’s not who I am.”

“I know that, Kate. Why do you think I sent you home?”

“I’m just so embarrassed.”

“Look, it happens to all of us. Way back in the day when I was a senior in college, I stayed up all night preparing for my capstone presentation, popping caffeine pill after caffeine pill. I was so wired and exhausted the next day that when I got up to give my presentation, my mind went blank. I had to speak with my professor afterward. I had such bad jitters that he asked me if I had a drug problem.” Dr. Woodford chuckled.

“I just felt like I disappointed you so bad that you would be upset with me.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in you, Kate, but that doesn’t mean I am upset with you.”

“It was just so unlike me forget I had such an important meeting the next day and drink way too much, obviously.”

“Is everything okay? Any big changes lately that could have thrown you off?”

Yeah, his name is Isaac. Ever since they met, Kate has been out of sorts, but she couldn’t tell Dr. Woodford that. “Well, I like to have everything planned out, so when I lost my planner on Friday, it sort of threw me into a downward spiral. I didn’t realize how much I relied on it.” Technically, it wasn’t a lie.

“Ah, I see. And knowing you, I assume you have come up with a solution, so that doesn’t happen again?”

“Yes! I have finally stepped into today’s age and added everything to my Google calendar.”

Dr. Woodford smiled. “I am so happy to hear that, Kate. You have a bright future, and I would hate to see one slip-up take you down.”

“Thank you, Dr. Woodford. That means a lot to me. Speaking of my future, I have decided to apply for the Beckett editorial internship.”

“Oh, Kate, that is wonderful!”

“I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind reviewing my application.”

“I’d be honored.”

Kate could breathe a sigh of relief as Dr. Woodford reviewed the stack of pages. It felt like life was getting back on track.

“I think it’s great, Kate! Make sure to list me as a reference, and you should be good to go.”

“May I ask, what is your connection to Beckett?”

“Beckett was where I had my very first internship in college.” Dr. Woodford smiled at Kate. “I know what it did for me, and now that I am where I am in life, I want to help other students with great potential, like yourself, experience the same opportunity.”

“That’s really neat, Dr. Woodford! Thank you.”

“Plus, I make a substantial donation to their foundation fundraiser each year, so I tend to have a little pull here and there.” She winked at Kate. “Especially with Isaac. He was one of my very favorite students and went through the same internship program you are applying to. And now he’s the literary agent for some hot, up-and-coming authors. What did you think of him? Isn’t he great?”

He’s great, all right. Great looking. Great personality. Great listener. “Yeah, I thought he was pretty cool.” Kate glanced at her watch. “I’d better get going, Dr. Woodford, if I’m going to get this to Beckett before the end of the day. I am glad we were able to talk. Thank you for your time and for looking for my application.”

“Anytime, my dear.”

Kate gently placed her application back into its presentation sleeve and headed for Beckett.

Chapter 7

“Welcome to Beckett Publishing,” a smiling face greeted her. “How can I help you?”

“Hi, my name Kate Abbott. Is Isaac Langston in today?”

“I’m sorry. He’s not. He’s out of the office this week on business. Is there something I can help you with?”

“I would like to apply for the editorial internship, and he mentioned dropping off my application in person.”

“No problem! I can take that for you and give it to the hiring manager.” The receptionist consulted a list near the phone. “Actually, I think she is in today. Would you like to give your application to her yourself?”

“Sure! That would be great.” Kate’s nerves disagreed.

“Why don’t you just have a seat over there for a few minutes, and I’ll let her know you’re here to see her. Please help yourself to a drink and a snack, if you’d like, and make yourself comfortable.” The receptionist pointed to the waiting area.

“Thank you!” Kate replied.

The waiting area reminded Kate of the lounges at the five-star hotels they stayed at when she was a kid. Marble floors. Marble countertops. Stainless steel appliances. Any kind of beverage you could want. Fresh fruit, cheese, and crackers. High-top tables. Also, with marble tops. It felt familiar. About ten minutes passed before a tall, pregnant woman entered the waiting area.

“Kate Abbott?”

“That’s me.” Kate stood up and approached the woman.

She extended her hand, “Hi, I’m Monica Perez. Editor in chief.” The other hand rested on her pregnant belly.

“Hi! I’m Kate.”

“Nice to meet you, Kate. Please follow me this way.”

Kate followed her to a room with a glass window façade and a dozen high-end office chairs surrounding a glass-top conference table.

Monica closed the door behind them. “Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you,” Kate replied. “I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to meet with me.”

“Absolutely. I can’t place it, but I recognize your name,” Monica said. “Have you submitted work here before?”

“I haven’t, but I know Isaac Langston.”

Monica snapped her fingers and pointed at Kate. “That’s it! You’re the person that Isaac said we couldn’t pass up for the editorial internship.”

“He did?”

“Yes, and coming from Isaac, that’s saying something. He usually doesn’t recommend anyone for any position within the company. Probably because he is swamped all of the time, but still, it is a big deal. Is that your application?” Monica points to the presentation folder in Kate’s hands.

“Yes, it is.”

“Would you mind?” Monica puts out her hand.

“No, not at all!” Oh my God, she’s going to review it now?! With me sitting here?! Kate’s heart pulsated in her throat. Her leg bounced under the table in time with the seconds on the clock. The silence was torture.

“Kate, your application looks great! And this review of Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed is insightful and well-written.” Monica slid the presentation folder back to Kate and laced her fingers together, resting them on the table.

“Thank you so much, Monica. I’m flattered.”

            “How would you like to start next week?”

            Kate shifted in her seat, hitting her knee on the table. “Are you serious?”

Monica smiled. “I am serious. I’ll have my assistant come in and gather some information before you go. How does that sound?”

“That sounds amazing! Thank you so much.”

“You are most welcome. Hang tight, and Jolene will be with you shortly.”

Moments after Monica left the room, a petite woman entered with her laptop. She tossed back her long, red hair and introduced herself to Kate. She sat across from Kate, pushed up the bridge of her Ray-Bans, and gathered her contact information. Jolene continued asking her a series of questions, including her laptop preference and regular Starbucks order. Kate knew this was going to be her kind of place.

            Kate rushed home to share the news with Alicia, but she wasn’t there. Kate was going to burst if she didn’t share with someone. She looked at her phone. I do owe him a ‘thank you.’ I mean, he’s the reason I got it on the spot. Kate picked it up and texted Isaac.

            Hey, there! Stopped by Beckett today to drop off my application. Heard you were out of town.

            Kate analyzed every word of her text multiple times. As she awaited the three dots started blinking. Five minutes later, he responded.

            I’m sorry I missed you! Last-minute trip to meet with one of my clients. I am glad to hear you submitted your application. J

Kate smiled at his use of an emoji.

            Oh, and I just wanted to thank you for putting in a word with Monica. She hired me for the internship on the spot!

            Kate awaited the blinking dots. Instead, her phone rang.

            “Hey, Isaac,” Kate aimed for moderate enthusiasm.

            “She hired you on the spot? That’s awesome! Congrats, Kate. You should be so proud.”

            “I owe it all to you, really. Monica said you put in a good word for me.”

            “I may have said something in passing.” Isaac’s smile came through the phone. “So when do you start?”

            “Monday, actually.”

            “Well, that is great news, Kate. I am glad you reached out.”

            “Yeah, no problem. You were actually the first pers—”

            “Sorry, Kate. I gotta run. But I look forward to seeing you on Monday!”

            Kate played it cool. “Yeah, I gotta go, too. Thanks again, Isaac. See you Monday.”

            “Bye, Kate.”

Chapter 8

“Welcome back to Beckett, Kate,” the receptionist greeted her. “I’ll let Jolene know you are here.”

“How did you—Thank you…,” Kate mumbled. “What’s your name?”

“Jane,” she replied.

“Thank you, Jane.” Kate smiled.

Moments later, Jolene came out to the waiting area. Their first stop was to get Kate’s photo taken for her badge. Then, they toured the office and introduced her to key staff, including Isaac.

Jolene knocked on his door.

“Come on in.”

Kate’s stomach flipped at the sound of his voice. Keep it together, Kate. Be professional.

Jolene opened the door. “Good morning, Isaac! I want to introduce you to our newest editorial intern, Kate Abbott.”

Isaac smiled and got up from his chair. He extended his hand, “Welcome, Ms. Abbott!”

Kate blushed and shook his hand, “Thank you.”

Isaac sat on the front edge of his desk with his arms crossed. “I hear you were highly recommended.”

Kate’s tongue was tied.

“Ignore him, Kate.” Jolene shot him a look. “Have a good day, Isaac!”

“Bye, Ms. Abbott! Enjoy your first day.”

Out of Jolene’s earshot, Kate replied, “Thanks, Mr. Langston.” Kate winked at him.

* * *

            “All right, and this is your cubicle.”

            “Oh my God, Jolene. This is perfect.” Kate ran her finger along the top of her brand-new Mac Book. Next to it, some air plants and plenty of office supplies, Kate’s favorite. “Is this what I think it is?”

            “Your usual Starbucks order? Yes, it is.” Jolene smiled. “Now, I am going to leave you for a bit to get acquainted with your space, and I’ll be back in a bit.”

            “Thanks, Jolene!”

            Kate took a sip of her caramel macchiato and opened her laptop. She had a few emails from Monica and Jolene and one from Isaac.

            Welcome, Kate! I hope I didn’t embarrass you too much this morning. J Have a great first day, and let me know if I can do anything to help you settle in. —Isaac

Kate re-read the email. And one more time. Should I reply? She wasn’t sure. Kate shut her laptop and rearranged some of the items in her cubicle, adding some of her own pieces to the décor. She returned to her notebook and re-read Isaac’s email. Kate started a response.

Thanks, Isaac! I’ll let you know. —Kate

She pressed send and sat back, impressed by her short, professional reply.

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