A Case of the Mondays

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Part 1: Aria

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“Seriously, what is up with these canapés?” Aria Romaine—Ari to her friends and you can keep the salad jokes to yourself—wrinkled her nose in disgust. 

The cute guy with messy brown hair and a neatly-trimmed beard standing next to her raised an eyebrow. “I beg your pardon?”

She wasn’t really trying to strike up a conversation with the cute guy, but hey why not run with it. “These canapés. They taste like ass. You would think with all of the money that the Templeton-Grenvilles have, they could afford to hire a decent caterer.” Aria flicked the offending appetizer away and pointed to the rest of the spread. “They don’t even have the decency to have a decent quiche!”

“How indecent.” His smooth baritone voice held a hint of wry laughter.

“I know, right?” she said, warming to the topic. “Seriously, they could do so much better. Why, I hear that the Golden Dragon actually does catering. Dim sum for the new year. Now that would’ve been a good call. But no, they had to go with”—she held up a triangle square wrapped in phyllo dough—“this godforsaken abomination of spanakopita. Spanakopita should not be made with kale. It just shouldn’t.”

 

A chuckle. “I hear kale is in.”

 

“Well it can go right back out. Do I look like a woman who eats kale?”

 

His startling blue eyes slid up and down her form. She knew what he saw: a killer blonde and an even more killer little black dress. She’d heard ‘you should be a model’ enough times that she was sick of it. So she won the genetic lottery, that didn’t mean she had to make her looks a career. People needed to keep their noses out of her life. It was annoying. Worse, her looks opened up a whole other boatload of problems. Like the guys who expected her to go out with them because they desired her. She’d turned away more drinks and dates than she cared to think about. Not to mention that everyone assumed she lived on salads and water. She didn’t. Mostly because no one had ever made a salad that tasted as good as her mother’s lasagna. 

 

“I wouldn’t presume to know what you eat.”

 

That response was a surprise. Most guys stammered and backed off the moment she brought up any food other than pizza. But Harry Potter Hair didn’t. “Well it sure as heck isn’t kale.”

 

“I will keep that in mind. So, what do you eat, Miss…”

 

And that was a clear invitation to exchange names if there ever was one. “Aria Romaine.”

 

“Romaine... like the lettuce?”

 

She rolled her eyes. “As if I haven’t heard that before.”

 

He had the decency to flush, the tips of his ears turning slightly pink. “Sorry.”

 

She waved it off. 

 

“So you never answered my question. What do you eat?”

 

The dude was persistent; she gave him that. Polite and persistent. An unusual combination in her experience. “Not this. Otherwise I eat whatever’s cheap and easy. It’s not like I get paid enough to eat at the Four Seasons every night.” Or any night.

 

“Fair enough. What do you do for Templeton? Assuming you work here and aren’t here as a guest.”

 

“Not a guest. I’m a research librarian and all-around recluse.”

 

The assessing look was back. “I would not have pegged you as a librarian.”

 

“Very few people do. But I ask you, where do you think the whole trope of sexy librarian came from? Hello!” She motioned to her body. “Sexy librarian.” It was a trap. If he agreed, he was a dog. If he didn’t, he was an ass. She had yet to meet a straight man who didn’t fall for that one.

 

This time, his eyes didn’t leave her face, although they did crinkle at the corners like he’d spent a lot of time out in the sun or was older than his appearance indicated. “If I recall the cliché correctly, you’re supposed to be wearing glasses and have your hair in a bun.”

 

“I’m undercover.” Her glasses were safely at home next to her bed, and she rarely wore her hair in a bun, mostly because it took a whole field of bobby pins to hold the fine wavy strands in place. 

 

He laughed, a full-bodied laugh that was unrestrained and utterly endearing. “You’re an interesting woman, Ms. Romaine.”