Authors: Gwen Jones
Romance Is Dead, Sister
the last thing I needed in my life next to a punch in the gut, yet that morning I got both.
“Hey Jules!” Denny called from the newsroom. “Take a look at this!”
I grabbed my compact and fixed my lipstick, catching my red-rimmed eyes in the mirror. How could I look at anything when all I could see was scarlet? But I wouldn’t cry, I
across my lips, the skyline of Philadelphia reflecting back into my hand. See, Evil had just walked out of this conference room on seven-hundred-dollar Fratelli Rossettis, the sales slip from Boyds still cooling in my wallet.
“Sorry, Julie, but it’s just a bad time for me,” Richard had purred just moments before, his glossy hair swooping dramatically, his baby blues bleeding Sincerity 2.0, his bespoke suit wafting Clive Christian No. 1. His fingers brushed my neck as he leaned in for the chastest of cheek pecks. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Really, it doesn’t.”
I groped the table for balance. “You’re telling me this now? With two weeks until our wedding?”
Richard’s mouth crooked with such a perfect mix of pity and condescension I almost felt sorry for
. “Julie, sometimes it takes nearly falling into the brink before you know what’s best for you.”
“Now I’m a
“No!” His eyes widened. “Of course not. You’re wonderful and beautiful and talented—the top reporter at the station!” He palmed his chest. “But
just a struggling agent. You don’t need me dragging you down. And I will, if this deal doesn’t pan out.”
I slanted him a glance; self-flagellation fit him as well as polyester. “Seriously, Richard? Then why keep telling me your agency has the biggest talent out of Hollywood? That these gamers you just signed are the hottest around?”
“Julie. Sweetheart.” He clasped my shoulders, his eyes hooded. “Being on top only means you hit the bottom harder.”
Wait a minute
. I slinked away. “Why is being on top great for me but terrible for you?”
“You just don’t get it, do you?” He shook his head, leaving for the window.
I looked to my hand, his diamond winking at me with absurd perkiness. Two years we’d been together, sharing the same Rittenhouse Square penthouse, the same bank account. We were each other’s insurance beneficiaries, our lives so imperceptibly tangled it’d take a blowtorch to break them apart.
“Just what is it I’m supposed to get, Richard? That you don’t want to make that final commitment? That you don’t love me anymore? Or maybe you never did? Maybe we were just mutually handy, equally able to pick up each other’s dry cleaning?” My eyes burned. “But you never thought of me that way, did you? I mean, who could be that shallow? You . . .” I looked up. “Richard?”
His shoulders were twitching. I went to the window, spinning him around. “Jesus! Are you
He stared at me, aghast. “I have over 5,000 followers, you know!”
“With number one standing right here!”
He had the cheek to finish the tweet before he slipped his phone in his pocket, crossing his arms as he dropped his gaze to look at me. “This is why you’re still traipsing around town chasing midgets instead of murderers. You’re so blinded by minutiae you have no grasp of what’s fundamentally important.”
“But didn’t you just say what a wonderful reporter I am?”
He slipped his hand to my shoulder. “In your own little world, you are, but the truth is . . .” He inclined his head. “I’m just too intense for you.”
There comes a point where the absurdity of the situation overrides any anger. I shrugged him off. “Let me get this straight. You make your living off of man-children blowing imaginary body parts off of imaginary bodies. You can’t start your day unless you purge, hang by your ankles, and rub some $150-an-ounce buttermilk concoction into your Botox-inflicted face. Most of the time you can’t walk five feet without feeding that electronic extension of your over-inflated ego. My goodness, Richard. I guess you must be right. Because if all that doesn’t scream alpha dog, I don’t know what.”
His eyes narrowed. “Now you’re just being petty.”
I wanted to slap him. “And you’re dumping me!”
“Shh.” Richard pulled me aside, tucking in a bit of hair that slipped from my combs. “Julie, what’s the rush to get married anyway? You’re thirty-five, I’m thirty-seven, we have plenty of time. And plenty of time to continue this conversation later. I’m leaving to meet with the MacKenzies in just a little while.”
The gamers? “You were just out in Seattle!”
“I know, but there’s still some rough patches to work out.”
“So send Jarrod.”
. This is the biggest deal I’ve ever repped, and I’m not sending an amateur to blow it.” He checked his Breguet. “Damn—I gotta go. The MacKenzies are Mariners freaks so we’re meeting at the stadium. As it is I’m running late, and the show—” He shook his head tightly. “I mean the
starts at seven-thirty.
My eyes widened. And so did my understanding. “You mean the
He blinked. “No, I’m going to a baseball game.”
“No, you’re going to her.” Funny he should’ve mentioned baseball. Because I sure could’ve used a Louisville Slugger right then. His ring would have to suffice. “You
. You’re still seeing that diva.” I threw it at him. “Why don’t you give this to her?”
“Don’t be nuts,” he said, snatching it, mid-air. “Annika Eden’s just a client.”
“Who’s always coincidently around whenever you’re going to the coast.” Apparently this was my comeuppance for stealing him away from the opera singer two years earlier. Fact was, that tarty Carmen nearly shoved him at me, and now she wanted him back? At that moment I was feeling very
—though, lacking a dagger, I used whatever I had. “I want your crap out of the apartment before I get home,” I said. “I never want to see a highlighted hair of yours again.”
He laughed. “You want me out of my own place?”
“It’s mine as much as yours. Your father said it was our wedding present.”
“But there doesn’t look like there’s going to be a wedding now, is there?”
He finally got me to gasp. Ten minutes ago I was two weeks away from hooking up with him for life, and now I seemed lost on some distant planet. I stared at him, hardly believing what I was about to say. “Then you’re really breaking up with me?”
He came closer, eyes leaking market-tested sincerity. “Julie, truly, don’t do this. By tomorrow you’ll see it’s better this way. Now, Curtis showed me a row in Society Hill last week that’d be perfect for you. Five minute walk from the station.”
“Last week? You already had me dumped
?” My God, the city gossips were going to have a field day. “How many people already know?”
“Stop it. Why are you making this so hard?”
“Then why don’t you make it real easy?” I shoved past him. “Drop dead.”
He grabbed my arm. “Am I going to have to call my lawyers?”
I shrugged him off. “Are you threatening me?”
“Will it be necessary?”
I snapped my compact closed—then threw it across the room.
I thought, burying my face in my hands. How did I not see that that soprano succubus still commanded a performance out of him? I took out my BlackBerry and Googled
, and sure enough, there was Annika Eden as Adina in
, opening over the weekend.
I was such an idiot.
“Jules? You okay?”
I turned to Denny, my cameraman, standing in the doorway. “This ought to please you immensely. The wedding’s off.” My God, it hurt even to say it.
He closed the door and pulled me into his sinewy embrace. “The bastard. All those preparations. And that dress! You want I should pound him?”
I buried my face into his neck, his halo of blond curls muffling my rather colorful cursing. Every girl should have a gay man like Denny in their life. Who else would malign the waste of an $8,500 gown as well as offer to do damage to the offender? “No, thanks, sweetie. I do appreciate the thought, though.”
“Hm.” He gave me a squeeze then held me out, his runner’s musculature such a contrast to Richard’s yoga-and-colonic-toned sleekness. “So, are you done with him this time? Tell me the truth.”
I swiped at my eyes—w
hy couldn’t I cry?—
checking my face in the compact Denny had so thoughtfully retrieved. “I’m done with men
.” I kneaded my temple, feeling a headache coming on. “Oh, Denny, why is it every man I hook up with is a lying, self-indulgent infant? Where have all the real men gone?”
“Allowing for your interpretation?” He shrugged. “Unless it’s the kind that burps and farts and mixes stripes and plaids, I don’t know either.”
“They’re a lost race.”
Christ, my head hurt
. “I need some coffee.”
“What you really need is a diversion. Come and see what Terri’s got for us.”
WPHA Channel 8 News was the highest-rated local news show in the Delaware Valley, which included my hometown of Philadelphia and its suburbs, the state of Delaware, and all of Southern New Jersey, which roughly meant anything south and east of Trenton. Most of the reporters had a beat, a geographical locale they covered, but not me. My specialty was the offbeat stories featured either at the end of the newscast, or tucked between the 5:30 and 6:00
slots, the quirky stuff that kept my finger on the pulse of the local nut base. There wasn’t a free drink or a meal I couldn’t get in this town, though it could be a real pain in the arse just to take a run down Kelly Drive.
Julie Knott’s Random Access
made sure my email inbox was a veritable cornucopia of all that was one electron short of a refrigerator magnet.
“Julie! Denny! Over here!” Terri, the fifty-ish assignments editor and everyone’s favorite mom-figure, waved to us from the other side of the newsroom. We snaked through the desks to find her hunched over a bright yellow, slightly smudged flyer.
“Take a gander at this,” she said, smoothing it. “I had to take a detour on the way to work this morning. Saw this on a utility pole.”
“Don’t you live in the Pine Barrens?” Denny said, referring to the scrubby woods that covered a big chunk of South Jersey. “Out in the sticks?”
“Right on the edge,” she said. “But this detour took me into it. Look.”
ANDY DEVINE SEEKS A WIFE
LANDED, FINANCIALLY-SECURE 40 YR OLD MALE
LOOKING FOR HEALTHY, ATHLETIC FEMALE
FOR MARRIAGE AND FAMILY.
MUST SUBMIT TO FULL DISCLOSURE AND BE
TO WORK HARD.
GENEROUS MONETARY COMPENSATION
IF TERMS OF CONTRACT ARE NOT MET.