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WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

a nostalgic romantic comedy

BOSTON CLASSICS #1

Recipe for a Boston Classic Cocktail: one part finance geek, one part starving actor, two shots of stubborn and a healthy squeeze of passion. Shake well and serve in a vintage glass.

When Kate Bishop walks into Boston’s famous Bull and Finch pub, all she’s looking for is one guy from her investment firm that she can trust to have her back—a tall order. With a salesman at her side, maybe stage fright won’t paralyze her completely when she presents her meticulously prepared research to clients. And maybe she can save her job.

Romance is the last thing on her to-do list, but a meet-cute with a Shakespeare-quoting bartender has her speculating on the value of diversifying her life portfolio.

Will Talbot is not a fan of the slick financiers who cram into his bar after each day’s closing bell. With their calls for Harvey Wallbangers and their Hermès ties, they’re all the same.

Except for a certain beautiful, buttoned-up brunette with fire in her eyes and a storm in her heart. They’re totally wrong for each other. He should be focusing on his upcoming audition, not coaching Kate on how to act like she’s a bona fide member of the Gordon Gekko club.

Problem is, they can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The course of true love never did run smooth, but in this 1980’s sweet-and-sexy rom-com, returns on love can’t be measured on the S&P 500.

 

PRAISE

 

This retro, hilarious ’80s workplace rom-com is nimbly delivered by author/narrator Karen White (Grey is her pseudonym) and Joe Arden…Kate’s querulous voice, crafted by White, contrasts her awkward social encounters in a male-dominated field and her feminist ideals…Shakespearean dialogue and an intense acting scene display Arden’s superb performance skills” —AudioFile Magazine Earphones Winner!

“This is my first book by Karen Grey and I’m hooked.” —Rellim Reads

“Kate and Will share a sizzling attraction and complex connection, giving me all the feels in this timeless romance.” —Jen, That’s What I’m Talking About

This is a fabulous read that’ll take you back in time, make you swoon, and serve you with a heavy dose of nostalgia. Smart escapism at its finest! Five bitchin’ stars for What I’m Looking For!” —The Rogue Reviews

“Set in the 1980s, this funny yet warmhearted character-driven tale checks all the boxes for classy contemporary romance while providing the longed-for “something different” readers seek out. It’s smart. It’s sexy. It’s sophisticated romance at its best.”—Lea Hensley, Audiogals

This story was bodacious! Totally Tubular!” Live, Laugh, Love and Books

I felt like I was in a time warp and I loved it.” Betty Loves Love

I loved listening to this ’80s romantic comedy…from the meet-cute to the epilogue.” BookFan

I enjoyed the period details and the believable struggles of Kate in the workplace (balancing fitting in with the corporate culture and cringe-worthy #metoo moments). Although I was confident of a HEA ending, that didn’t detract from the fun of this romance, complete with Shakespeare quotes and an insider’s look at Boston.”Beth Fish Reads

“Shakespearean actor Will and financial analyst Kate aren’t exactly star-crossed lovers, but, despite intense attraction, they can’t ever seem to stay together very long. Set within the Boston theater community and the (equally dramatic) world of high-stakes consulting, Grey’s wry, charming, and compulsively readable first novel demonstrates that, when it comes to romance, falling in love is only the beginning.”—Dana Sachs, author of The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

I grew up in the 80’s and so I am glad that Karen Grey decided to make a romance series based in the 80’s as it was rather nostalgic. Just look at that cover, phones with cords!! 😉”Books, Movies, Reviews, Oh My

A very character-driven book that took me back to when I was just starting out in the workforce in the mid 1980’s (one of the best decades!). Take a trip back in time when people actually left messages on answering machines (before texting was a thing) and enjoy!”Comfy Chair Books 

“With lots of 80’s references throughout the book, and the narration by the always brilliant Joe Arden, and the fabulous narration by the author herself, Karen Grey/White has made an instant new fan in me.”Audio Killed the Bookmark

“The part that I loved the most: the random Shakespeare quotes littered throughout the story. They fit so well, and with Joe Arden’s voice on the audio, oh yes they sounded so sweet. Kerri, Goodreads

Not to give too much away, but there is a point in the story where Will, through his acting, is able to work through a painful part of his past. This scene to me, demonstrates what a wonderful actor Joe Arden is. The emotions he unleashes are so powerful it really took my breath away.” —Christie, Goodreads 

Ah, the 80’s…pagers, answering machines and waiting days for a call, oh my!” —Kathryn, Goodreads

Would I listen to this book again? Yes. Would I read this book? Yes. Would I read more by this author? Yes. Would I listen to more work done by our narrators? Yes to both. I want to see where all of them will take me next.”—Lynn, Goodreads

This book was a delight. It is a well crafted romance set in the 1980s between two characters who seem to exist in separate worlds yet cant deny their attraction to each other.”—Christine, Goodreads

Karen Grey/Karen White is among a trend of narrator’s switching hats to writing and it is a success! This book is funny while also tugging at your heartstrings. Karen’s narration is great as usual, but it’s Joe Arden’s emotional performance that may surprise audiobook listeners. It’s gutwrenching and beautiful that will have listeners hitting the bookmark button.”—Brittney, Goodreads

Wonderful Story & Narration🎧 A Heart-Warming Delight!”—Bette, Goodreads

This was a really cute blast from the past. I loved to read a book placed in a world where there were no cell phones available, people used pagers, and answering machines were a regular thing.”—Alex, Goodreads

Well-written, great lovers, real life. Even took me back to the bad old days of working in the ’80s when it was OK for old men in your office to tell you your blouse would look better if you didn’t button so many buttons! Seems like a good time for a reminder that things really have changed for the better.”—Peggy, Goodreads

I loved the 80s nostalgia of this novel. I enjoyed how Will and Kate’s relationship slowly evolves and feels realistic even in modern times.”—Kathy, Goodreads

 

EXCERPT

 

CHAPTER ONE

BEEP. Wednesday, 10:02 p.m. Kate, you’re up third in tomorrow’s morning meeting. Good night.

 

KATE

My chest heaves. Every inch of my body is slick with sweat. My legs are as shaky as if I just sprinted the last hundred yards in the mile at a track meet.

Having reached the front of the conference room, I set my flip chart on the easel and place my notes on the podium while I psych myself up to face the rows of my firm’s traders and salesmen. Then I remember what Mr. Brady said to Jan when she was nervous to debate in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, picturing these guys in their underwear instead of suits as shiny as the gel slicking their hair back just recalls the images left on my desk on a daily basis my first couple of weeks on the job.

Xerox copies of what’s inside that underwear. Bet Jan Brady never had to deal with that.

Suck it up, Bishop. You didn’t eat breakfast, so there’s nothing to throw up like the first time you presented your Buy recommendations. You brought a glass of water so your mouth won’t get so dry that you literally can’t get the words out like the second time. What’s that new campaign slogan Nike’s about to roll out? “Just Do It”?

Gritting my teeth, keeping my focus on my meticulously prepared graphs instead of the sea of bored male faces, I manage to stumble through my list of stock recs. The anecdotes I planned to tell to make my conclusions more memorable? They all seem stupid now, so I skip them and woodenly read my notes.

Finally, it’s over and I get out of the way so the next junior analyst can take my place. Leaning against the side wall, I fumble for a pen so I can take notes on the rest of the meeting. The moment it’s finished, instead of lingering to answer questions I scoot back to my cubicle and my research, the part of my job I’m actually good at. But before I can even sit down, the phone on my desk buzzes.

“Roland would like to see you in his office in fifteen minutes.” The statement is followed by the dial tone. My boss’s secretary Gail rarely wastes words on greetings or goodbyes. Or names. Or hints as to my fate.

I have time to either scarf down the bagel I brought or change out of my pit-soaked blouse before this meeting, but not both. I’d rather face Roland in dry clothes, so I race to the ladies’ room before heading up to the executive floor. Breakfast can wait.

Exactly fifteen minutes later, I sidle up to Gail’s desk, hoping for a clue of what’s to come. She looks up and waves me through, her always pallid complexion revealing nothing. “He’s waiting for you.”

“Thanks.” My voice wobbles on the word.

Just do it, Bishop.

Gingerly sticking my head inside the lion’s den, I tap on the heavy oak door. “You needed to see me, sir?”

In contrast to the modern decor I’ve glimpsed in partners’ offices, this den is more Upstairs, Downstairs than LA Law. Posh surroundings aren’t what make my boss one of the most highly respected equity analysts in the world, but they do make me feel like a poor relation fortunate to share air with him.

He waves at me, patrician nose in a report. “Katherine Bishop. Come in, come in.” His royally accented voice trails off as he jots down notes. Neatly tucking everything to the side, he removes his reading glasses. “All right, then?”

I hover on the threshold. “Um, yes. I’m almost done with the quarterly for your athletic shoe manufacturers. I do need to make a call to ask about an earnings upside at Adidas.”

He sits back in his chair and narrows his eyes at me. “Why haven’t we had you out in the field yet?”

I’m not sure how to answer. Isn’t that his call to make? “Well,” I begin, since he seems to be waiting for me to speak, “I haven’t really felt ready to⁠—”

He interrupts me, gaze sharp and silver brows low. “Your presentation at the sales meeting this morning wasn’t ideal.”

“Yes, sir. I mean, I’ve been working on⁠—”

He waves away my sputtered explanations. “Kate. If you can’t pull yourself together enough to present to a friendly crowd here in our offices, how will you face a group of institutional investors who will challenge each and every argument you make?”

I stifle a harsh laugh. Friendly crowd? It wasn’t just photocopies of private parts landing on my desk during my first month on the job. The traders sent me a stripper disguised as a bike messenger, and every single sales guy asked me out. Or suggested a quickie in their office. I’d be willing to bet they don’t welcome new male analysts the same way.

Of course, I can’t complain about any of it without sounding like a whiny little girl. “Well, I guess I⁠—”

He interrupts me again, waving his hand. “Kate, please sit down. Your gorgeous gams are so distracting I can’t think.”

Pasting on a smile, I perch on one of the two spindly chairs that face his desk and carefully cross my ankles out of his line of sight.

He folds his hands on a spotless desk blotter. “What you need to do is capitalize on your strengths. If you want to succeed here, you need to be on the road, meeting with clients on both sides of the balance sheet.”

“I’m just concerned⁠—”

He begins to count off a list on his fingers as if he didn’t hear me. “Strengths? You work hard. You admit when you’ve made a mistake and move on from it. You don’t panic when the ground shifts. I was particularly impressed with your calm during last fall’s debacle.”

We both shudder. October 19, 1987. Black Monday.

I’d been at the firm for less than a week the day the stock market fell twenty-two percent. The biggest drop in a single day. Ever.

To survive, I drew on the only thing I had: my history degree. Examining patterns from our country’s past recessions made the choices clear. Stick with stocks with solid fundamentals, no matter what they were doing in the short run. While a few guys in our department might have yelled louder as they recommended buying this hot thing and selling another doomed to fail, the meticulously reviewed reports I silently slid onto Roland’s desk must’ve resonated.

“Especially for a woman,” he continues. “You showed more emotional fortitude than most of the young men here, which I must say surprised me.”

Before I can fully parse that backhanded praise, he knocks on his desk. “This is precisely why we need those skills of yours out in the field. First, you’ve got to see the businesses you follow in person. That’s the only way you’ll get the full picture. Then you take that knowledge directly to our investment clients. You’ll be an invaluable resource to the sales department—if you can learn to command a room. And that’s the weakness you’ve got to overcome.”

Fingers spread like claws on the desk, he swoops in to finish off his argument. “If you’re unable to do that, we may have to rethink your position here. If it’s not going to be you moving up, I’ll be moving on to the next young man.”

After rapidly running my own personal debt ratios, an alternative squeaks out. “Could I go with you before I go out on my own? I would feel so much more confident if I shadowed you first.”

His gaze shifts toward the large picture window with a view of the Boston Public Garden.

After a painfully long pause, he opens his Filofax, flips through it and taps a page. “I do have a trip down south in a couple of weeks to tour several textile and apparel manufacturing sites. It’s a full one, so it might work to have an extra set of eyes and ears along.” Frosty blue eyes meet mine. “We could tack a marketing meeting with some of our investment clients in Atlanta onto the end of the trip. That way, you’ll get to experience meeting with business owners and money managers.”

“That sounds perfect.” I clear my throat and aim for a deeper tone. “Thank you.”

“All right then.” His finger points at a different spot in his calendar. “You are still planning to cover the sportswear conference at the convention center next week?”

“Oh, yes. I have appointments with a few companies.”

“It’d be even better if you scout at the trade show for new contacts.”

Ugh. Meeting more people. Why can’t I just stay in my cubicle and churn out models? Because then you’ll never get out of that cubicle, dummy. “I will try—I will add that to my plan.”

“Work out the particulars on the travel with Gail on your way out.”

“Great. Thank you again.”

“Thank you, Kate,” he intones, dismissing me.

I manage to keep my cool as I make my exit and speak with Gail about the trip, but the swell of emotions burbling inside threatens to spill over, so I make a quick detour to the ladies’ again. After running in place for thirty seconds, I’m back under control. I also have an idea. If I can find a sales guy I trust to have my back and work the room, then meeting investment clients would be easier. Maybe I could even audition one at the upcoming athletic wear trade show. Pushing out of the restroom while running pros and cons on the various sales personalities, I run smack into a broad chest cloaked in fine cotton.

Masculine hands grip my upper arms to separate our bodies. “Careful there, Kate.”

Deep voice, killer dimples, and chestnut brown eyes set off by a complexion that can only have come from a tanning booth this time of year. The sales guy the secretaries call “Hot Steve.”

Shuddering out a half-laugh, I take a step back. “Sorry. Need to watch where I’m going, I guess.” Clutching my portfolio, I ease out of his hold.

“Not so fast there, girl.” He drapes an arm over my shoulders like a spider cozying up to a fly. A smooth-talking, pheromone-leaking spider. “You going to join us at happy hour tonight?”

I know there are women at the firm who’d jump at the invitation, but his whole act just irritates me. I open my mouth to answer, so you guys can just make fun of me?

Before I can get a word out, he places a finger over my lips and whispers, “Shh, Kate. Don’t say no.”

Does he even know how cheesy he is? I remove the offending finger.

With impressive agility, he captures my hand and presses it to his heart. “It’s just a couple drinks. The other analysts join us when we can unchain them from their desks. Everybody just wants to get to know you better, see if straitlaced Kate can let her hair⁠—”

Roland’s words echo inside my head, drowning out Hot Steve’s attempt at sweet talk. We may have to rethink your position here.

I retrieve my hand and awkwardly pat him on an impressively muscular upper arm. “You know what? I’ll go.” Happy hour with the boys isn’t my idea of a good time, but it might be the best way to observe the candidates in the wild, so to speak. The loss of one hour at my desk versus the loss of my job? The tradeoff is clear. “Yeah. I’ll go.”

Hot Steve’s posture stiffens. He sweeps the hallway with a hawk-like gaze. Grasping my elbow, he steers me to the water cooler. Casually bending down to fill a cup, he speaks out of the corner of his mouth. “Are you serious? Because there’s a longstanding wager that you’ll never go to happy hour. If you’re coming, I need to change my bet.” He looks over his shoulder before leaning down to whisper in my ear. “Meet us at the Bull and Finch—you know, the Cheers bar—at five thirty. Don’t tell anyone you agreed to come, and I’ll cut you in on my winnings. Now, push me away like you usually do when someone comes on to you.”

My hand floats into the air between us but before I can even touch him, he staggers back. “Whoa, Kate.” His hands rise along with the volume of his voice. “Calm down. Jeez, try to give a girl a compliment and she freaks out on you.”

I sure hope Steve never tries to switch careers and become an actor because he’d definitely fail. His performance is preposterous.

“Unbelievable, huh, Brad?”

Tall Brad nods on his way past. Hot Steve jogs to catch up to him, mouthing, “See you later,” to me.

Shaking my head at the dramatics, I head back to my cubicle where my bagel and piles of reports await.

 

By the time five thirty rolls around, the cubicles around me are silent. The boys have long since decamped to the bar. I run a hand over the stack of 10Qs I’m in the process of distilling into recommendations that need to be on Roland’s desk before I leave tonight.

If I had the balls to dazzle a roomful of institutional investors all by myself, I could just blow off the sales crew. Unfortunately, I lack them, both literally and figuratively.

Straightening my piles one last time, I give them a goodbye pat. “Don’t worry my pretties. I’ll be back soon.” I’ll just have one drink, play nice and then treat myself to takeout from the new Indian place on the way back. I’ll still be able to finish up and make it home tonight by ten. Eleven at the latest.

Walking the few short blocks to the Bull and Finch in the brisk spring air clears my head and buoys my morale. I can do this. I already have my choices narrowed down to three: Skinny Brad, Mustache Mark or Short Steve. I swear Rhodes Wahler only hires men with the names Brad, Mark or Steve. To keep them straight, I give them labels.

As I wait for the light to change, I must be positioned where they filmed the opening credits for Cheers, because my view of the bar looks exactly like it does on TV, from the big white awnings to the wrought iron gate. Maybe there’ll be a cute bartender like Woody to make me a drink.

Unfortunately, when I step inside it’s a different story. A few patrons resembling Cliff and Norm hug one end of the bar, but young people in suits fill every other nook and cranny. The Rhodes Wahler guys are predictably loud, so I find them quickly.

Turns out he wasn’t kidding about the bet. As soon as the Brad/Mark/Steves spot me, a chorus goes up—half cheers, half groans. Fortunately they’re quickly distracted by whatever game’s on, and I escape to get my token drink.

On my way to the bar, Hot Steve slips me a wad of cash. Halfway through counting it, a warm, resonant voice catches my attention. “What’ll you have?”

“Um.” A sweaty mug of beer rests on the bar to my right. That’d make me sleepy. To the left, a pink drink sparkles. I point at it. “I’ll have that, please.”

A cheer draws my attention back to the guys and I go over my checklist. I’ll have to spend a significant amount of time traveling with this partner, so I should definitely evaluate each candidate for bad breath or BO. I wish I could get a hold of their driving records and, at the very least, see if they have DUIs.

Movement behind the bar has me sliding a five across and reaching for the glass that appears in its stead. Bubbles float up through pink liquid, sparkling in the low light. At the stem’s base, long fingers and a wide palm press into the wood. I attempt to lift the glass. It does not budge. Clearly, I am not going to win this tug of war.

My gaze roves up a corded forearm to a bulging bicep to wide shoulders to a square jaw stubbled with a Don Johnson—like five o’clock shadow and clear blue eyes lit with challenge.

I nod to the money still on the bar. “Is the drink more than five bucks?”

Full lips press together. The glass keeper shakes his head slowly. “No. I’m just not convinced that this is what you really want.”

Oh, for goodness sake. I force a smile as well as a friendly tone. “Isn’t the customer always right?”

Left hand still on the wineglass, he leans on his right elbow and rests his chin on his palm. “That’s what they say. But when you ordered, it seemed like you really wanted something else.”

“Oh, I get it. You just want to hear me ask for a sex on the beach or a sloe comfortable screw. Or is this some kind of up-sell strategy?”

He straightens, hands up, palms facing me. “If that white zin spritzer”—his words drip with distaste—“is what you’re looking for, take it. If not, I’ll make you something else, no additional charge.”

I grip the edge of the bar. How did this get so complicated? “Okay, you’re right. I just saw what”—I lean in, lower my voice and tip my head in the direction of the sparkly-bloused woman to my left, whose bangs arch over her forehead in a fashion that must’ve taken an inordinate amount of time, effort and hairspray to achieve—“she was having and copied her.”

I raise a hand to stop him from whisking the spritzer away and tip my head toward the Rhodes Wahler boys. “I’m just here to do a little face time, act like one of the guys. But then I have to go back to the office and work.”

I make myself smile to soften my bitchy tone. “It doesn’t really matter if I like the drink or not because I’m only going to hold it and then use it to water that plant over there every once in a while.” Swallowing the rest of my rant, I slide the five back over the bar and raise the wine glass. “So, thank you for your concern and keep the change.”

“Hold on.” His firm command pins my feet to the floor and freezes the glass on the way to my mouth. “That wine spritzer is not what you need.”

Just like my S.O.B. ex-boyfriend and really every man I seem to encounter, he obviously thinks he knows better. “It doesn’t matter. Like I told you, I’m just going to pretend to drink it.”

“Whether you drink it or the plant does, the spritzer is not going to work. Give it back.”

“Okaaay. Don’t have a cow.” I set the glass on the bar and cross my arms. “Sheesh.”

He points at me. “Wait here. Do not leave.”

“I said okay.” It’s like I’m on a schoolyard, fighting with a little boy I have a crush on. Not that I have a crush on this guy. There is something about him that has me wondering if I should take my sex drive out for a spin for a change, but I don’t have time for crushes.

Anyway, what’s wrong with ordering a wine spritzer? Isn’t that what women drink these days? Curiosity has me craning my neck to watch what he’s creating. I swear I’m not trying to check him out, but he’s bent over getting something out of a cooler, so I admire the view. Faded Levi’s hug blue-chip glutes like they’re made for each other.

This guy isn’t a sharp-suited swaggering Hot Steve. Instead, he moves with an easy confidence. When he straightens to pour a series of liquids into a glass, his wrist flipping bottles theatrically, I note an even distribution of muscle. Not rangy like a runner, not bulky like a body builder. He’s kind of a JFK Jr. with blue eyes. He’s actually even better looking than JFK Jr., if you can believe it.

He spins to grab a lemon and a knife, shoulders bobbing in time with U2. Bono still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Just like me. Even so, I’m not sure this bartender is my type. He seems to enjoy standing out in a crowd with his paisley vest over a white button-down and a striped tie loosened at his neck.

Drink in hand, he turns my way, and my heart races around the perimeter of my ribcage. The last time I had this kind of reaction to a guy had to have been during Reagan’s first term. I dive into my handbag and pretend to search for something, hoping to hide the look of lust on my face.

“Try this.” Invitation colors the rich tones of his voice in a way that is not at all irritating.

“You really didn’t have to go to all that trouble.” I’m talking to the bottom of my purse, but he’s waiting for me to take the glass. So I do my best to get things under control before reaching for the drink. Apparently my best isn’t enough, as is too often the case. I literally lose my grip and some of the drink sloshes onto the bar.

I reach for a napkin. “Ugh, I’m such a dweeb.”

“No problem, I’ve got it.” Calmly and efficiently he grabs a rag, wipes the glass and then gently dries off my hand.

“All good?”

I nod. If only he knew how good. How to reallocate the frisky feelings stirred up by this goofily dressed guy? Maybe just focus on the drink. A thick-bottomed squat glass holds ice and some sort of pale brown liquid that admittedly looks like the kind of thing a Brad/Mark/Steve would drink. “So, what is it?”

He leans on the polished mahogany bar. “It’s my own special recipe, developed for a customer who can’t drink alcohol anymore. It’s barley tea, bitters, and simple syrup with a lemon twist. A new-fashioned old fashioned.” His smile is proud. “You can look like you’re drinking like a big boy but not get drunk.”

My hand itches to touch the light sprinkling of hair on his forearm. Instead, I raise the glass and take a tiny sip.

“What do you think?”

“This is actually pretty good.” I take another gulp, hoping it’ll cool me down. “Thanks, uh…sorry, did you say your name?”

“Will. Will Talbot at your service.”

“Well, thank you very much, Will Talbot. You have provided excellent service. But—” Remembering the reason I’m here, I quickly check out the huddle of my coworkers. Thankfully, all eyes are still on the Celtics game. “This stays between us, right?”

He bows formally. “‘Be thou assured, if words be made of breath, and breath of life, I have no life to breathe what thou hast said to me.’”

“Come again?”

“It’s from Hamlet. What I mean is, I won’t reveal your secrets.” His smile reveals a dimple, but only on one side, making it somehow more winning than Hot Steve’s symmetrical ones.

I scan my stalled frontal lobe for an appropriate response. “Oh. Well. Thanks.”

Really, I should just walk away right now, cut my losses. I would, if his big blue eyes weren’t holding mine prisoner. The blue of the sky on a perfect spring day. A blue we’ll hopefully see here in Boston someday soon. It was a long, cold, lonely winter. All I want in this moment is to get closer to those eyes, to those wickedly grinning lips, and… and⁠…

“Everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah, I was just distracted because⁠…” Panicking, my eyes skitter from brow, to lips, to eyes, to dimple, to dark curly hair, each in and of itself not so special but in defiance of economic theory, the total effect far outweighs the sum of individual parts. Something shiny catches my eye. “Uh, that… thing, on your—you know⁠…” English language, anyone? “Tie clip!”

He lifts his tie to peer at the pin. “It’s the logo for the Boys and Girls Club. I got it for volunteering with them for five years straight. I teach after-school classes at the South End Community Center with my company.”

“Ah.” Ever so articulate, I nod like a bobblehead doll bouncing on a bumpy road. Does he teach bartending to kids? Asking seems insane. “Um. Thanks for the special drink.”

“Anytime.”

I should move but I seem to have forgotten how.

“Oh, hey.” He slides a half sheet of paper across the bar toward me. “There’s a community volunteer event there this Saturday. You should come.”

Taking the flyer, I make myself break eye contact. “Cool beans.”

Cool beans? What a Joanie. Lifting my drink in salute, I head back to the Rhodes Wahler group, but I’m such a loser I can’t even manage walking. I catch my damn heel on the uneven flooring. With great effort, I keep the drink from spilling, but my lurch gives one of the Marks the excuse to swoop in.

“Whoa there, McFly! How many of those have you had?” Loud Mark hugs me roughly, his thumb brushing the side of my breast. “What a lightweight.”

I clamp my lips into a line. At least he didn’t⁠—

And then he does. He smacks me on the butt. “But you’ve totally got a bodacious ass!”

Swallowing the retort I’d love to make, I glance back to the bartender. His spine stiff, he looks like he wants to pounce on Loud Mark. I roll my eyes dramatically to let him know it’s no big deal and allow myself to be literally manhandled across the room, even though it’s a little embarrassing that the cute bartender witnessed this particular asset bust.

 

Fifteen minutes later, it becomes clear that my attempts to move discussions toward mergers or market caps will forever be marginalized by bets on the game and speculations regarding the Bull and Finch female clientele. I did find out that Skinny Brad has a nervous laugh that would drive me bonkers. Mustache Mark, on the other hand, remembers a tidbit I dropped yesterday about Puma’s new sneaker line, a mark in his favor—no pun intended. However, the final arbiter may be the fact that when I asked if anyone was interested in going with me to the Boys and Girls Club on Saturday, it was actually Hot Steve who volunteered to volunteer.

Sipping my surprisingly yummy drink, I scope out the traffic behind the bar, but my savior seems to have disappeared.

Which means I’ve lost my audience. Knowing he might have been watching, I actually fired back on teasing from the sales force dudes. For the thousandth time since I began working in finance, I wish I’d grown up with brothers. Training with cross-country boys in high school did not prepare me for the kind of razzing these guys can pay out. Somehow, having Will’s eye on me had leveraged my confidence.

He doesn’t exactly feel like a big brother, though. More like an avenger who’d swoop in to rescue me.

Enough already, Kate. You do not need a man to save you. Or for any other reason. Even if this particular man seems to be a refreshingly good guy with extremely kissable lips and eyes you could get lost in. He probably wouldn’t reject a girl just because she has ambitions and break her heart into teeny tiny pieces in the process.

Unlike some people.

Ah, there’s the rub. After what happened when my last—and if I’m being completely honest, my only—real relationship imploded, my focus needs to be on my career. Sex and marriage and a family and all that can fall into place after I’m a top fund manager. Sometime in the mid-nineties, perhaps.

But the eighties? The eighties are all about getting ahead in the rat race.

And I am determined to be at the front of the pack.

Of rats.

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