Olivia Monroe sat down at the hotel bar and grinned at the bartender, who grinned back. Thank God for a friendly face after such a long day.
She’d almost gone straight to her room to put on one of those cozy hotel robes and order room service to eat on her bed, but what she wanted more than anything tonight was a huge pile of french fries and an ice- cold martini, and she knew from experience that room service was the least optimal way to get both of those things. Fries always arrived soggy and martinis never arrived chilled enough. Better to get the best version of both and a conversation with Krystal the bartender that had nothing to do with intellectual property or law.
“Hendrick’s martini, two olives?” Krystal asked her, already filling the cocktail shaker with ice. Olivia had been staying in this hotel for a week now, ever since she’d packed all of her worldly belongings and flown out to L.A. to start this new chapter in her life.
“Yes please.” Olivia slipped off her blazer. “And a Caesar salad and a large order of fries.”
“You got it. How was work today? You look like you’ve earned this martini.”
Olivia laughed and twisted her mass of dark curly hair up into a knot on top of her head.
“Well, I left the hotel at eight this morning, and I’m just getting back now at . . .” She checked her watch. “Nine at night, so yes, I’ve earned that martini. But I’ve had worse twelve- hour days.”
Much worse, actually. After years of considering it, she’d moved from New York to L.A., and she and her friend Ellie had formed their own law firm: Monroe & Spencer. Olivia had spent the last month anxious she’d made the wrong decision, about both the move and starting a new firm. She was still terrified about that—so much so that she’d woken up at four a.m. the night before and worried for an hour. But, God, she’d loved every minute of her workday today. She’d been on an adrenaline high from the moment she walked into the office that morning— hell, from the moment her plane had landed last week. She was thrilled to be back in California, it was great to have Ellie as her partner, and it felt incredible to be her own boss, finally, after all these years.
When her martini arrived, she raised it to Krystal in thanks, and silently toasted herself. She took a sip and smiled. Perfect.
She inhaled her salad and half of her fries as soon as they arrived, and realized she couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten. Oh right, Ellie had handed her some sort of green smoothie at eleven a.m. when they left for a meeting together, and Olivia had laughed at her. Ellie had been in L.A. ever since law school graduation, so she did things like drink green smoothies and go to seven a.m. yoga classes before she got into the office. The smoothie was terrible; no wonder Olivia had eaten those fries so fast. As it was, the gin plus all of that adrenaline from their meetings and calls today had left her feeling very euphoric. Maybe she should eat something else.
She waved Krystal over and asked for the dessert menu. Chocolate cake, that’s what she needed right now. A big slice of chocolate layer cake. Ooh, or apple pie, warm, with a big scoop of ice cream on the side. That would also hit the spot.
Krystal hesitated before she handed her the dessert menu.
“There’s a new pastry chef here, and . . . well, at least the cookies are good.”
Olivia scanned the list and shook her head.
“What is all of this?” she asked Krystal. “I understand that pastry chefs need to feel like they’re expressing their emotions in their pastry or whatever, but why are all of these desserts so incomprehensible and confusing? Basil ice cream? I don’t want herbs in my dessert!” Krystal laughed at that, which only inspired Olivia to keep going. “Deconstructed banana cream pie? What even is that, a banana just rolling back and forth on a plate, with some whipped cream on the side? A cookie plate? I don’t want a cookie plate! What happened to a nice layer cake?Chocolate, or carrot, or for the love of God, yellow cake with chocolate frosting? Everyone loves yellow cake with chocolate frosting! Or a delicious pie— an actual one, not any deconstructed nonsense. Apple pie, or chocolate mousse pie, or my favorite, strawberry rhubarb— the whole world would come here for dessert if you had those things!”
“I could not agree with you more.”
Olivia glanced over at the guy a few seats down who had chimed in on her rant. White dude, far too attractive, baseball cap, jeans, blue T- shirt, expression on his face like he thought he was hot shit. She rolled her eyes and turned back to Krystal, who was still laughing.
“See? Even this guy agrees with me. Everyone loves a good cake— a real one, not any of this fancy, elaborate, delicate stuff that doesn’t even deserve the name ‘cake.’ What does L.A. have against a good cake?”
“You really are passionate about dessert, aren’t you?” Krystal set the dude’s beer down in front of him. “The cookies are good, though, I swear.”
Olivia pursed her lips.
“Are they really, though?” she asked Krystal. “Really? Are they real cookies, or those thin, crispy, fragile cookies that are more crumb than actual cookie? Or, God, are they biscotti? I bet they’re biscotti, aren’t they?”
“I hate biscotti so much,” the dude said, with a shake of his head. “The first time I ever tried one, I almost cracked a tooth. Then someone told me you were supposed to dip it in coffee first—whoever came up with a cookie you had to dip in liquid before eating it?”
Olivia pointed at him and nodded.
“Yes, exactly! Why would I want a soggy cookie? Please, say they aren’t biscotti, Krystal.”
Krystal shook her head at them.
“I promise, they aren’t biscotti. I’ll bring you some, you’ll see.”
Krystal disappeared, and the baseball cap dude smiled at Olivia.
“What are the chances these cookies are actually good?” he asked.
Olivia couldn’t help herself from smiling back at him.
“Oh, slim to none,” she said.
Normally, Olivia wouldn’t give this guy the time of day. He was too good looking, with big dark eyes, strong jaw, and wide smile. His hair was probably in perfect, tousled waves underneath that baseball cap, too. She knew guys like this all too well— they’d been told their whole lives they were smart and charming, and they got away with everything. She’d gone to school with this guy, she’d worked with him, she’d worked for him. But tonight she was in a good mood and full of gin and french fries.
And she didn’t work for guys like this, or anyone else, anymore. Her smile grew wider.
“Hi, I’m Olivia.” She reached out her hand to him.