So get on your mark and get set because the release date of Made to Like Her (Maggie & Vince, #2) is set for Monday, April 20th.
But just to wet your whistle here’s a sample of what’s to come!
Made To Like Her
Maggie & Vince, #2
Six Months Ago
20 Hours Before Takeoff
Monroe and I flew into Manhattan on the red-eye this morning. Now we’re in a lunch meeting with Lolita Best, a scorned pageant winner. Two months ago, she was stripped of her crown after officials discovered she worked as a stripper when she was eighteen. Monroe and I took up the task of repairing Lolita’s reputation, and I think her case is the straw that broke my back. I can’t remember how I cleaned up her mess, but I got it done. That’s how my job has been for the longest time now. I’ve just been going through the motions. I have no love and no passion for what I do. Even now, instead of listening to my client, I’m staring out the window, watching New Yorkers trample the sidewalk.
A lot has gone wrong in my life since I left A&Rt Media Group. The worst of it hit six months ago when Vince asked me to meet him at his office in Century City. I asked if he could wait until I returned from a two-week press tour with an actress named Connie Limon. She had a movie coming out on the heels of her getting a DUI from the Highway Patrol in Malibu. Anyway, he said no, so three hours before my flight, I rushed over to see what was so urgent. I never expected Vince’s stern expression. He said that he’d tried to ignore the fact that I had fucked Robert Tango, his best friend. Vince said that he still loved me when he should hate me, but he couldn’t find what he needed inside himself to forgive me. He broke up with me, and my heart was pulverized.
Monroe snaps her fingers. “Maggie.”
I face her grimace.
“Well, I was saying that I don’t think we should end our relationship now, especially when I kicked their asses and I’m back on top,” Lolita says.
She kicked their asses? “I kicked their asses,” I snarl.
Monroe chastises me by widening her eyes.
Lolita claps her hands and rubs them together. “The point is that I’m back on top. I think we should spread the steam while it’s hot.”
Lolita has a black mark above her top lip on the right corner. I think she accidentally poked herself with the tip of a pen or a marker or something. I want to tell her, but I don’t want to be responsible for her anymore.
“I think what Maggie wants to say is that we accepted you on our acute client list, and at the moment, we don’t have an opening in our P&A list,” I say.
“What’s that?” Lolita asks.
Monroe ruffles her eyebrows when she looks at me. “P&A is perception and acceptance.”
I take a drink of my pink butterfly cocktail. It’s sweet and delicious. Normally I’m the one who directs these sorts of meetings, but I can’t think of anything to say. I try really hard to listen and be in the moment as Monroe talks to Lolita about how Monroe just sold Clara Richardson’s, Monroe’s late mother, condo on the Upper East Side. The new owners will take ownership of the famous actress’ digs on Monday morning. That’s why we flew to New York to have our wrap meeting with her instead of the other way around.
Lolita’s eyes shine in that gratifying way they do just before she’s about to give or receive gossip. “Didn’t she die in an airplane crash with her lover?”
“But Maggie’s flying to Louisiana tomorrow. Her cousin is throwing an engagement hoedown,” Monroe says.
Lolita points at me. “Wait. Isn’t Jack Lord your cousin?”
I snort at how easy it was for Monroe to divert Lolita’s attention away from the scandal surrounding her mother’s death. “Yes, but she’s referring to Jack’s brother—”
“Charles Lord,” Lolita says.
I narrow one eye. Like the average gold-digger she is, she’s done her homework. To those who aren’t familiar with her kind, Lolita Best is beauty incarnate. She has long dark hair and deep-green eyes, the skin of a baby’s bottom, and a body that most women covet. For those of the masses who haven’t developed my sort of lenses to see the shit past the shinola, Lolita Best is exquisite. But when I look at her, I see an opportunist who would fuck the bus driver to get from one block to the next for free. She uses her pussy as cash, and it’s worked for her for far too long to believe there are more effective methods to obtain success. Deep down, I’m sick of Lolita Best and the ten other clients we have who are just like her.
Monroe looks at me with concern and starts a conversation about introducing Lolita to some people who can help her career. Monroe calls these services a la carte. I’ve never heard of us offering those services, but I’m not interested enough to question her. I sigh, and again, Monroe frowns. I think I’m dead inside. If I don’t love my job and I can’t love Vince, then I don’t know who or what to love.
14 Hours Before Takeoff…
Monroe didn’t say anything during our cab ride back to her mother’s apartment. I think she doesn’t want to have the conversation that we need to have because she thinks I might confess something neither of us is ready to deal with. When we got home, she retreated to the master bedroom to pack her mother’s things, and I helped the maid pack up the kitchen. Everything in the apartment is being donated to charity.
At ten p.m., a king-sized harvest moon lords over us. An old bottle of sherry sits on the round metal table between Monroe and me.
Monroe takes a sip of wine from her glass and grimaces. “It’s so sweet.”
I take a sip. “It’s so terrible.”
Monroe holds up her glass. “But in honor of the fur goddess…”
I hold up my glass. “The silk goddess.”
“The three-thousand-sixty-second worst mother on the planet.”
“Sixty-three. Give her some credit.”
Monroe turns the sides of her mouth down to ponder. “You’re right. The three-thousand-sixty-third worst mother on the planet.”
I shake my finger. “Wait. Universe. You have to at least expand it to the universe.”
“Is there a difference?”
“Then the universe.”
On that note, we take a large guzzle of the sweet wine. We scrunch up our faces and cough to get the liquid down our throats.
“That’s terrible,” I say.
“I think it’s spoiled.” Monroe sets her glass on the table. “Anyway. How do you feel about seeing Vince tomorrow?”
I’m slightly taken aback by the sudden change of topic. “Okay, I guess.”
She eyes me suspiciously. “You guess? Do you miss him?”
“Yeah—I mean no. He broke up with me so…”
She casually pulls the quilt over her bare legs. It’s getting chilly. “That’s because you fucked him over, Mags.”
I grunt, insulted. “Monroe, really?” Who is she to judge me?
“What if Vince had fucked me while you two were on a break? Would you forgive him? Or me?”
“No and no.”
“See? I know he started it, but you sure as hell finished it. But…” She gazes at the moon as she muses.
“But Vincent Adams is in love with you.”
I snort. “He has a funny way of showing it.”
Monroe chuckles. “I’m positive at some point tomorrow, he’ll be showing you his long pink pole and you’ll be the horn.”
She nudges my arm. “And you love it!”
Someone howls at the moon I’m thoughtfully gazing at. Nothing’s changed about the moon. Not the patterns, the variations of light, or its shape. The sight isn’t enough to make the heavy feeling inside me go away.
“I haven’t cried over our breakup,” I whisper. “Which is odd because I love—loved Vince.”
“Then you do still love him?” she asks.
I shrug. I really don’t feel ready to answer that question. My thoughts take a turn. I picture Vince and his model girlfriend, Cindy O’Lay, walking in a space with no background or foreground—possibly in a universe that doesn’t exist. Cindy O’Lay is known for her cinnamon-colored hair, flawless tanned skin, and ice-blue eyes. I’ve successfully avoided seeing them in tabloid photos together. I don’t think I’m jealous, because the thought of Vince being happy, with or without me, makes me happy.
I flex my eyebrows excitedly. “Why don’t you just come with me?”
Monroe lets out a harsh laugh. “No fucking way. I can’t believe you asked me that. Forgive me if I don’t want to celebrate Charlie and his chick’s engagement.”
“I thought you were over him.”
“I am. I tell you what, when Vince asks that malnourished model to marry him, why don’t you go to their engagement party?”
“That’s a false equivalency.”
“I beg to differ, Magnolia.”
I gasp emphatically. “Magnolia? You’re really going there?”
“You’ve just pissed me off, so yes, you’re Magnolia.”
I chuckle. “Okay. I get your point. I can’t believe Charlie invited Vince after I asked him not to. What an asshole.”
Monroe tops off my glass of wine. “Just have another of this horrible-tasting shit and forget tomorrow’s coming, because tonight is all about that thing up there, baby.” She points at the moon. “Ain’t she pretty?”
I lift my glass. “Very.”
We toast to the here and now and guzzle our wine. I let the sweet, syrupy liquid deaden my thoughts and any latent feelings of love that I might have for Vincent Adams.
6 Hours Before Takeoff…
What’s that buzzing noise?
I open one eye. A heavy brown duvet covers me. My cell phone and an empty wine bottle sit on the tiny round table between the empty lounge chair and me. My cell phone is doing the buzzing, and I turn it off. It’s seven thirty in the morning. Monroe must’ve set my alarm before she headed out for an early run. In a lot of ways, she’s the most disciplined person I know. After her run, she’ll go to the gym to lift weights for an hour with her trainer, take a shower, then take a cab to Mesa in Chelsea to have brunch with our friend Hannah.
I stretch and yawn and get a whiff of fumes, greasy food, and rat piss. The invigorating scent makes me hungry. I call J Bistro, the café on the corner, and Clarissa, the hostess, says she can have a table for one available for me in twenty minutes. I thank her. Walking into a restaurant and grabbing a quick sit-down breakfast is never easy on the weekends in this city. Monroe and I eat at J Bistro so often that we’re like family, which is why they give us special treatment.
Now that that’s settled, I dash inside, strip out of my pajamas, and hop into the shower. Anxiety won’t leave me. I can’t forget that I’m going to see Vince today. What will I do when we see each other? What will I say? I have this random thought of Vince sitting at the table, shirtless, while reading Digital Dial magazine and munching on toast that’s slathered with butter and strawberry jam. I’m sitting across the table from him, reading a client’s profile. I feel him watching me, so I look up. We lock eyes. Love inflates my heart until it feels as if it just might burst.
“What’s new?” I ask him,
Vince commences to describe in detail a new app that will help media outlets track exponentially more viewers and therefore change the entire method of how ratings are calculated. He speaks with such enthusiasm and intelligence that all I want to do is jump his bones. There were so many moments like that that I now miss. He was always such a sexy nerd.
“Damn it,” I mutter as I rub the loofah across my thigh. I just realized that I can’t cry because I haven’t accepted that Vince and I are truly broken up. I need a hefty dose of reality. Perhaps seeing him in love with Cindy O’Lay tonight will give me that.
I get out of the shower, dry off, and moisturize. I put on a little mascara and lip gloss, and I throw on a pair of skinny jeans and a blue cashmere sweater that matches my ankle boots. I pack my bag, lock the apartment, and hightail it to J Bistro. The line extends all the way to the end of the block, and I thank my lucky stars that I don’t have to stand in it. I walk to the front of the line and wave at Clarissa. She waves me inside and escorts me to a small table near the window, which happens to be the quietest part of the café.
“It’s always busy on Saturdays,” I say as I take my seat.
Clarissa rolls her eyes. “It’s crazy. Can’t these people fucking stay home and cook some fucking eggs and toast and have some fucking orange juice?”
“You know I would if I didn’t have a fucking flight to catch in…” I check my watch. “Two and a half hours.”
Clarissa scowls at the line on the other side of the window. “Maggie, you can eat here twenty-four, seven as far as I’m concerned. It’s the rest of those fucking people I’m talking about. Someone posts a fucking review on Dining Dot, and here the fuck they come. Fucking sheep.”
“You’re referring to the paying customers, I presume?”
“Yes. Those fucking people.”
I laugh because she’s not joking, that’s how she really feels. Before the review, they were less popular. If Dale, the manager, and the rest of the crew here had a choice, they would turn away half of the customers.
“Eggs and bacon in a basket, topped with savory white cream sauce?” she asks.
“That’s it,” I say as I take off my jacket.
“Coming right up.”
I watch her slog off with her shoulders slumped. I’m sort of surprised the customer service here hasn’t deterred diners. I guess the food is too good. That’s one thing they refuse to do—sacrifice taste in order to evade popularity.
After a moment, the thought hits me again. “Shit,” I mutter. I’m going to see Vince today!
I feel like bailing on tonight’s party. I could tell Charlie and Angelina that I caught a stomach virus. But do I want to miss their engagement celebration because my ex-boyfriend will be there? Plus, the bashes in Iberia are always extraordinary. I live for them. I could just avoid Vince. There should be enough people and space to do that.
I make a final decision as Paul, the waiter, sets my plate on the table, and my appetite returns with a vengeance. I thank Paul and dig in. With one bite, I take a moment to thank the food gods for this delicious meal. It’s official. Their customer base will never decrease as long as they keep making food that tastes this tasty. I go in for the second delectable bite.
Vince studied his image in the bathroom mirror. He had failed to get enough sleep last night, which was why he felt as if a freight train had crushed his skull. Six months ago, he’d made a pact with himself to forget that Maggie Conroy ever existed. He hadn’t made the decision out of spite. He toiled over it, envisioning his life without Maggie. Boy did he misconstrue how much he would miss everything about her.
Vince splashed water over his face as he thought about how successful Maggie and Monroe had made Mo&Ma PR. He’d had his doubts in the beginning. He’d pegged Monroe for being the same unstable bloodsucker that Robert was. But her reputation for image fixing was equal to, if not better than, Maggie’s. Maggie and Monroe had become known as the dynamic duo. When Vince last saw Maggie, she was stressing out over the list of people requesting their services. The list was long, and they only represented ten clients per service list. Once word got out that there was an opening, people did whatever it took to fill that slot. So Maggie had left A&Rt Media Group and become more successful than she ever could imagine. Vince hoped she’d finally gotten what she’d been working so hard to obtain.
Vince had tried many times to forget the fact that Maggie had fucked Robert. He truly wanted to forgive her. He’d spent so many nights in the last six months wanting to spoon her naked body and listen to her sleep as his dick hardened and softened against her ass. At one point, he almost succeeded in forgiving her by telling himself that they had been on a break and he’d started the cheating by getting involved with Emily. Of course Maggie had already argued that point. Vince thought he could accept most of the blame.
Then Robert had walked into his office and asked for the financial status report. He’d studied Robert’s face and couldn’t escape the memory of seeing Robert munching on Maggie’s clit. He hadn’t caught them in the act of fucking, but he knew they had done it before he’d walked in on them. He could smell the scent of sex in the air.
That night, he’d bawled like a baby as Maggie slept. The marijuana she’d smoked put her in a deep sleep. In the morning, he left, feeling as though he couldn’t break up with her because he loved her too much. He figured the way Robert kept chiseling at Maggie, he was bound to strike gold. Vince accepted that he had made Maggie vulnerable to Robert’s relentless pursuit. However, Vince couldn’t shake the belief that Maggie had wanted to fuck Robert from the start. If she hadn’t taken the opportunity then, then she would’ve taken the opportunity later. Vince was sure of it.
Vince blinked a couple of times. He didn’t want to think about Maggie and Robert at the moment. No, he had one goal in mind. He wanted to get Maggie to represent his client, and he would do whatever it took to get her to say yes. Vince wiped his face with a fresh towel. He was lodging in the guest room in the basement of Angelina’s house in New Iberia, Louisiana.
He had arrived a day before the party to hang out with Charlie and their buddy Thatcher, and they’d spent most of the night at Belly’s in New Orleans. Charlie played the trumpet with the band for most of the evening. Jacques Blanchard, Charlie’s future father-in-law and a famous musician, had been giving Charlie some pointers, and he’d wanted to try them out on a live audience. Vince had to admit that Charlie played the trumpet like a pro. Vince had danced with a few pretty girls and drank bourbon with Thatcher until Angelina and Cindy arrived. He studied Cindy as she sashayed behind Angelina through the admiring crowd.
Vince had been dating the beautiful model for two months. He had been fucking Cindy, kissing her, and even sharing pretty good conversations from time to time, but he felt as if he were watching from an observation room as some part of himself carried on a relationship with her. He observed that she flipped her hair whenever she reached the end of whatever point she was making. The action seemed to be her way of swaying whoever she was talking to to see things her way. Cindy wasn’t big on drinking either. She would sip on one glass of wine all night long.
At one point last night, she’d gotten into a discussion with Thatcher about running with the bulls in Pamplona. Thatcher had been partaking in the event every year since he was seventeen. Cindy had gone twice to watch from a balcony along the route but had never run through the galleys with the bulls. Thatcher invited her to run with him next year and promised to keep her safe.
For a second, Vince thought Cindy and Thatcher had shared a moment. Vince was surprised by the way he felt about it. He could’ve let her go. The idea of not having to initiate a breakup with Cindy gave him relief. But she had broken eye contact with Thatcher and smiled at Vince. The look on her face asked him to say something to confirm that they were in a full-blown relationship and she and Thatcher had crossed a line. Instead, Vince raised his hand and motioned the bartender over. He ordered another round of bourbon, and that was that.
Vince looked away from the mirror and at Cindy as she hugged him from behind.
“Hey, you,” she said.
Vince kissed her cheek. “Hey, you.”
Cindy pressed her forehead against his nose. He sniffed her skin, hoping that her scent would stimulate him as it had when they first met. But her scent did nothing for him. Maggie Conroy was coming to town, which made him feel both excitement and anxiety.
Cindy squeezed his cock and sighed with disappointment. “Too much bourbon last night?”
Vince snickered. Of course she would put the blame on him. She was a fashion model, for goodness’ sake. Most men fantasized about fucking her. She surely thought he couldn’t possibly be turned off by her.
“Well, he can’t stand on command,” Vince said.
Cindy chuckled. She stepped beside him and jockeyed for space at the sink. “We had a late night.” She grabbed her toothbrush. “Or should I say an early morning?” She raised her eyebrows flirtatiously.
“Depends on how you look at it,” Vince said.
Cindy laid toothpaste on her toothbrush and started scrubbing her teeth. Only once or twice had Maggie brushed her teeth in front of him. Maggie liked her own bathroom space. She used to say that it was imperative if she was going to stay attracted to him. It was just another one of her odd quirks.
Maggie seemed to have a million quirks. She didn’t want to hear him fart or burp. He had always been on guard with Maggie, trying to be whatever she needed him to be so she wouldn’t dump him. Vince’s sisters had told him that he had changed since dating Maggie, that he had become more anxious and less carefree. Perhaps Maggie did change him for the worse, but he couldn’t ignore the fact that he couldn’t wait to see her in the flesh.
Cindy rinsed the toothpaste out of her mouth, and Vince guided her in front of him. He needed to convince himself that Maggie didn’t possess a place in his heart.
He stared into Cindy’s ice-blue eyes. He’d found them more mesmerizing when they started dating two months ago. “Hey.”
Cindy beamed, digging his affectionate tone. “Hey back at you.”
They kissed until his instrument rose to the occasion and his mind followed. Vince could finally give Cindy what she earlier sought.