Cover Design: Hang Le
living. Real estate agents love me, and my work stands on its own merits.
decades. I didn’t even know there was a more… lascivious definition of the
intervention. My last unemployment check was in the bank. I was desperate. Rent
was due. The ad said cash paid at the end of the day.
in making a certain kind of movie. Turns out a “fluffer” doesn’t arrange
decorative pillows on a couch.
helping other people to be hard.
movie set. Will Lotham – my high school crush. The owner of the house where
we’re filming. Illegally. In a vacation rental.
staging gig turned into a nightmare involving pictures of me with a naked star,
Will rescuing me from an arrest, and a humiliating lesson in my own naivete.
what’s easier than I ever imagined?
blonde woman talk up Will like she wants to take him home and turn him into her
evening protein shake. She’s wearing lululemon tights and Jimmy Choos, an
unusual combination that seems to indicate she’s ready for anything.
A man in a tight, black Lycra shirt, grey fitted slacks, and the most beautiful
Italian leather shoes I have ever seen glides like melting cheese on a raclette
into the center of the ballroom.
hello! My name is Philippe, and I am your instructor tonight. Welcome! Two more
minutes for refreshments, and then we DANCE!” The word DANCE comes out of his
mouth in capital letters.
heads straight toward me, eyes meeting mine, his dark, wavy hair slicked off
his face with curls escaping at the nape of the neck, a perfectly manscaped
moustache adding to his rakish look.
are?” he asks, the words a demand to reveal my soul.
Mallory, it is nice to meet you.”
Uh, Mallory, or Just Mallory?” he asks, mouth pursing with amusement.
tell whether I like him or hate him.
up and down, his expression changes to approval when he sees my shoes. “You
have come prepared.”
chooses that exact moment to walk over, a lemonade in each hand, and offer me
one. I smile a thank you as Philippe watches us like he’s judging a couple on
So You Think You Can Dance.
here together?” he asks.
call out, as if it’s the word DANCE. “I’m waiting for my date.”
date, actually. I don’t know what he looks like, but…”
name David, by any chance?” Philippe asks, mouth twisted with disgust.
he hisses. “Again!”
a confused look with me, then takes a sip of his lemonade, choosing to stay out
of this. One hand goes to his hip as he politely looks away, drinking like it’s
me?” I ask Philippe.
meet him–this David–on an online dating service?”
takes my hand as if I’m a mourning widow at her beloved husband’s wake. “Then I
am sorry to inform you, Mallory, that David is not coming.”
David is a salesman.”
not! He’s a conversion consultant.”
mouth tightens as if he knows something.
Philippe says sadly, “David works for the corporation that owns Bailargo. He is
one of their best salesmen.” Anger flashes in his eyes. “Because he toys with
women’s emotions and sets them up for this.”
at me, he says, “This. You. The poor, lonely single woman looking for love on
says, clapping twice again. “Are any women here for a date with David? First
I mutter, my hands flying to cover my burning hot, deeply embarrassed face.
“What does this mean?”
developed a new technique. He goes to dating apps and pretends to be original,
asking women to have a first date at a dance lesson. He is charming and funny
sound comes out of my mouth.
familiar?” Will asks, reaching up to run a hand through his hair, looking
really sympathetic on my behalf.
me feel even stupider.
the women come here, there is no David, but some of them stay for class,”
telling me your corporate headquarters is hiring a guy who goes on dating sites
and convinces single women to come to a dance class with him, then ghosts on
them? On the chance that a certain percentage of us will sign up for dance
lessons and convert to paying customers?” My voice goes higher and higher,
until I start sounding like Mariah Carey the second everyone finishes
Thanksgiving dinner and it’s time for her songs to start on the radio again.
horrible!” I cry.
ingenious,” Will says. My glare makes him add quickly, “And completely
unethical, of course. Some men are disgusting pigs.” His brow drops, eyes
troubled with vicarious empathy, but they move in patterns that tell me he’s
processing this information and finds David’s business acumen to be worthy of
will excuse me, I need to find some tissues for those two women who are, like
you, expecting a date with the charming David. Since he started doing this four
months ago, sales have increased eleven percent, but my operating supplies have
gone up 286 percent with all the tissues!” Philippe glides across the floor and
approaches the two women, who are whispering and comparing phone screens.
makes us triplets.
writes romantic comedy with an edge. From billionaires to BBWs to new adult
rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she
writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for
a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a
men’s room toilet (and he isn’t a billionaire). She lives in New England with
her husband and three sons in a household where the toilet seat is never, ever,