Why yes, there is!
I think this is the part where I’m supposed to write a hook. Let’s pretend I did.
The story starts like this: it’s raining, the music is trashy, and the party blows. It’s one of those parties that you can only ever have in New York City because New York City is the only place you’ll find a room full of this many assholes. My coworkers insisted that this was the place to be on a Friday night, and all things considered, this is definitely one of those places that you can come to network—but it’s not fun, which, all things considered, is what a fucking party should really be. The drinks here taste like ass juice that have been only mildly improved upon by the olives or curled ribbons of orange peel that garnish them, and if that already wasn’t enough of a crime, the food is served buffet-style, which means that if you spent an hour on the rooftop terrace browsing the internet on your phone until it began to sprinkle like I had, then you missed the dinner gong (yes, there was a fucking gong) and now the food is a cold, congealed mess. I’m starving, I’m miserable, and I’m probably too old to be whining this much. Instead of whining, I probably could have just gone home, but braving the rain without an umbrella in a pair of four hundred dollar suede shoes is not a crime I’m willing to commit. I decide to drink more orange peel-garnished glasses of ass juice and wait for the storm to pass.
I wish I could tell you that I looked across the room and caught the eye of a handsome stranger who would later propose to me exactly one year later at another nauseating party just like this one but—okay, yeah, that’s kind of exactly what happened. Trent Walker looked across a room full of assholes and somehow found me, the biggest asshole of all, and smiled. He was a complete stranger, so I assumed that he was either confusing me for someone else or that he was just a really friendly guy. Considering this was supposed to be a room full of assholes, I just assumed that I resembled another frosty bitch in four hundred dollar suede shoes. I found out that my assumption was completely wrong when a minute later, Trent Walker crossed the room and greeted me with a one-liner that still makes me cringe when I think about it.
“If I had a dollar for every time I saw a woman as beautiful as you, I’d have one dollar.”
Trent Walker, ladies and gentlemen.
“You are so funny,” I said. “I can’t stop laughing.”
Here’s the truth: he wasn’t funny and I wasn’t laughing. I’d delivered that statement with no enthusiasm whatsoever. Still, it turned out that he actually was a pretty friendly guy because all my bitchy remark did was make his handsome face crack into a smile.
“If you like jokes, I could go all night,” he said. I observed him, judging him the way everyone judges good-looking guys that act goofy to pick up girls. It was an act that’s already gotten old. I could probably open up my Instagram and find the same breed of man ten times over in my DMs. In order to balance out manic pixie dream girls, there are now men like these—insufferably handsome guys who act super down-to-earth because even humans are a part of the animal kingdom, which means that just like in the wild, sex is the driving force of, well, everything.
“I’d rather you didn’t.” I might’ve used a gentle tone, or I might not have. I don’t really remember. I do recall that it only seemed to encourage him.
“What kind of guys do you like? I can adapt.”
“I’m married,” I said bluntly.
He gave me a look.
“What? I am,” I said defensively.
He intensified the look.
“Okay, fine. I’m not married,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m interested either.”
“Why didn’t you just say that?” he asked, looking amused.
“That you’re not interested.”
“You couldn’t pick up on that from my tone?” I downed the last of my drink, wincing from the aftertaste of the bitter orange peel.
“Right. I’m gonna go now. It was nice to meet you, uh…”
“Trent. Trent Walker.” He paused, then lifted his drink (a martini, no less) and added, “Shaken, not stirred.”
“Let me guess. Three measures of Gordon's; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet?”
Most guys like to think they’re James Bond, but not many actually know a damn thing about it. Everyone knew the famous “shaken, not stirred” line, but very few even knew that the name of the drink was the Vesper martini, much less its ingredients. I thought he’d make a confused face, recover quickly with another smile, and then switch to another angle. But then, how would we get to the part a year later where he proposed to me?
“Considering that Kina Lillet was discontinued, no, but there’s some dry vermouth in here somewhere,” he said.
The fact that he even knew what I was talking about was so impressive to me that I held out my hand.
He took my hand and shook it. “Trent Walker.”
“You already told me.”
“You didn’t care when I said it the first time, so I figured it was worth repeating.”
That actually made me laugh. He wasn’t wrong.
“So, what brings you to a place like this?” He gestured to the room full of assholes.
“I literally don’t even know,” I admitted truthfully. “My coworkers told me to come, so I came.”
His eyes flashed and I immediately realized what I’d said.
“Ew, wait. I didn’t mean—“
“Relax. I’m not here to judge.”
I crossed my arms. “What are you here for then?”
“I literally don’t even know,” he parroted. “My coworkers told me to come, so I ca—“
I turned around and walked away, knowing he’d follow. Through the crowd, up a spiral staircase, away from all the people, right to a window with a view of a nearby park. He stood quietly beside me as I looked out at the wet, lush random splat of green in the middle of a busy, smoggy city.
“I hate the cold, but I always wanted to live in New York City,” I said, not even sure why I was telling him this.
“I didn’t. New York City always seemed cold to me too,” he replied, and for the first time that night, I heard what he sounded like when he wasn’t trying to be funny. I glanced at him, pausing for maybe a second too long on his face. He’s good-looking even at first-glance, but if you studied him just a little longer, you’d see that his features were all a little mismatched. His nose was a little crooked, and his cheeks were too sharp, and his eyes were a shade of brown that should’ve been boring, but it all just kind of worked for him. I didn’t realize it, but I was staring.
“Nothing,” I said, looking away. “Why do you live here if you don’t like it?”
“I never said I didn’t like it here. I just don’t like the cold.”
Thunder rumbled in the sky. It was still raining.
“You must hate this weather,” I mused.
He nodded. “Very much.”
The rain pattered on the window, and I tried concentrating on each racing raindrop, using all of my brainpower to think about anything but Trent Walker and his face. It made no sense. He hadn’t done anything extraordinary, and I didn’t know anything about him, but for a reason that I still can’t explain, I liked that he was there, standing next to me even though I didn’t deserve it after the way I’d treated him.
“What about cold people?” I asked him. “Do you hate them too?”
He turned his head, his eyes staring right back into mine. Brown eyes aren’t supposed to be this mysterious, this warm, this… fascinating.
“I don’t hate anybody,” he answered simply. Somehow, it was the perfect answer. I was looking at him and he was looking at me and the rain was falling and the music was trashy and the party blowed... but I still kissed him. It was abrupt, but he didn’t pull away. He tasted like alcohol and bad decisions, but I was okay with that because for the first time since moving to this city, I’d found someone who made me feel a little less lonely than before.
We probably had nothing in common. Our personalities clashed. We didn’t have the same sense of humor—I mean, he drank Vesper martinis just for the joke.
But he was a warm body, and I was a warm body, and we did very much dislike the cold.
Hope you enjoyed the first chapter! The main character is Wes Spenrath's younger sister, Janie. You'll see some characters from Head Above Water, but not very often. This story is set in NYC, which is very, very far from California, where the rest of the characters all reside. If you enjoyed this first chapter, consider making a pledge on www.patreon.com/norafares