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Nikole Paterson? He clicked on the screen so fast that he accidentally clicked on the email below it first, and had to skim through a message about vaccinations before he realized what was happening and went back.

“I don’t know if you saw, but the whole proposal has kind of gone viral.” He had, in fact, noticed that the whole proposal had gone viral. She must have heard from everyone she knew, and then some. He had no idea how she’d found his email address, but he was glad she had.

To: [email protected]

From: [email protected]

Hey! Good to hear from you. I figured you’d want to yell at me about the drinks, but I also figured you and your friends already had too much bourbon to figure out a bill. And yeah, I saw you on SportsCenter. Have you gotten emails and texts from literally everyone you know?

Carlos

He got an email back right before he was about to leave the office.

To: [email protected]

From: [email protected]

To answer your question, every single other email in my inbox has the subject line “Was that you?” or “OMG that was you!” and I can’t bear to look at any of them. So yes, I’ve gotten texts and emails (and Facebook messages, and tweets, and LinkedIn messages, for the love of God) from literally everyone I know. I have ignored all of them so far and have been hiding in my apartment almost all day, with a brief excursion to pick up cupcakes from Courtney’s shop, but I’m going a little stir-crazy.

Nik

Was that a hint? She didn’t seem like a hinting kind of person, but maybe?

To: [email protected]

From: [email protected]

If you’re in the mood for a friendly face tonight, let me know. About to leave work, want to grab dinner? Text me, I’m at 310-555-4827. I promise I won’t say “OMG that was you!”

Carlos

He double-checked his phone all the way to the parking garage, but nothing. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a hint. Damn it. It had been a long time since he’d met someone who could laugh at herself the way Nik could, even in the middle of a crisis.

Also, he’d really liked the way she’d looked in that snug baseball T-shirt and those jeans, he wasn’t going to lie.

He’d seen way too many accidents in his stint working in the ER to check his phone while he was driving, but he had to fight himself more than once from reaching for it on the way home. But when he pulled up to his apartment and grabbed it out of his pocket, there was nothing other than five group texts about his basketball league.

Just as he walked in the door, his phone chimed.

Going to take you up on that offer for dinner, but this time it’s my treat. What time and where? Not a bar, though, I’m still recovering from Saturday.

He was so busy grinning down at his phone that he almost tripped over the Amazon box in his entryway. Worth it.

7:30? Thai? There’s a fun place on Sunset, do you know it? Night+Market?

She did know it. He changed into jeans and his favorite T-shirt, killed some time by replying to all of the basketball messages with trash talk, and walked back out the door.

He put his name on the list and hung out by the door and pretended to be absorbed in his phone. She walked in the door at 7:33, not that he was checking. She stood at the door and peered around the restaurant, a guarded look on her face, her sunglasses again tucked into her dark curly hair.

“Hey!” He waved at her. Her face relaxed into a grin when she saw him. She was wearing jeans and a black shirt that looked better on her than any plain black shirt had a right to look.

“Hey yourself. Thank you for rescuing me yet again. If you hadn’t suggested dinner, I would have had a half-dozen cupcakes for dinner, hated myself for it, and then had another half dozen for dessert.”

He laughed.

“Thai food is definitely a much better idea. Where’d all the cupcakes come from?”

She leaned against the wall next to him.

“I forced myself out of the house today and walked to Courtney’s shop. I hung around until closing and she gave me the leftovers.”

“That’s convenient to have a friend with a cupcake store.” Now that he was looking at her closely, he could see a spot of white frosting standing out against her warm brown cheek and fought his impulse to wipe it off.

“You’re telling me. She usually gives any leftovers to the employees at the other shops nearby, as a sort of goodwill/‘we’re all in this together’ kind of thing, but I guess today she thought my need was more important. I certainly wasn’t going to argue with her.”

They made small talk as they waited for their table, too surrounded by other people to talk about anything important. After longer a wait than he’d hoped, the host finally called his name.

As Carlos walked behind Nik on the way to a table, he admired her shape in her snug jeans. He was pretty sure this woman hated all men at the moment, but he could look, couldn’t he?

They both ordered beer before they opened their menus.

“You’re going to have to keep me from ordering everything on the menu, I’m starving,” he said.

Nik glanced over the menu and grinned.

“Luckily, I heard from you at just the right time before I dove into the box of cupcakes. And I’m glad you wanted to go to this place. I haven’t been here in far too long; Fisher didn’t like spicy food, so . . .”

He looked up at her with his eyebrows raised.

“Fisher didn’t like spicy food, and you went out with him for more than one date? How did that happen?”

She sighed.

“Excellent question, really.”

The waitress brought their beers, and she took a sip.

“Never again, though,” she said. “I’m swearing off actors. You think you’re just casually dating, and then bam, they spring a public proposal on you.”

Carlos shook his head.

“Is he a real actor or a wannabe one?”

She laughed.

“You always have to ask that question in L.A., right? A real one, but a terrible one. And that’s not even my rage talking; I thought that even while we were dating.”

Oof. This woman did not mince her words.

“How did you even meet him?” He shook his head. “You don’t have to answer that. You’re probably sick of even thinking about this. We can talk about work, or our last vacations, or baseball, or whatever.”

She widened her eyes in horror.

“Good God, not baseball, anything but baseball.” They both laughed. “As for not talking about this, honestly, I wish I could stop thinking about this. I’ve probably thought about Fisher more in the past two days than I did in the entire five months that we were dating, that’s the wild part. But wait, you probably don’t want to hear more about my disastrous love life; you heard plenty on Saturday.”

Actually, he’d left right when they’d gotten to the good stuff. And honestly, he was dying to know the details.

“If it helps you to talk about it, I’m happy to listen,” he said. Did that sound magnanimous enough? “I talk to teenagers all day; hearing a story about an adult disastrous love life will be refreshing after their stories, I promise.”

She pushed her hair out of her face and smiled.

“Okay, but you’re going to have to tell me at least one good work story afterward, so I don’t feel like such an idiot. You see teenagers; you must have some great ones.” She glanced down at the menu. “Wait, let’s order first. You already said you were starving.”

The waitress stopped at their table, and they ordered far too much food for two people.

“What did you ask?” she said when the waitress walked away. “Oh right, how I met Fisher.” She sighed. “Last year, I did a profile of Anna Gardiner for Vogue. She only really got big, like, last summer. Right before she got the role that led to the Oscar nomination and Vogue cover and everything else, she was in a terrible and short-lived TV show. Fisher was her co-star.”

He held up his hand to stop her.

“I’m sorry, but you got to meet Anna Gardiner? Most famous people are no big deal, a dime a dozen in L.A., blah blah, but Anna Gardiner? What was she like? Don’t tell me she was terrible; I loved that movie.”

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