Monday, January 14, 2019
The Fallback by Mariah Dietz
Breaking up is hard to do.
It's even harder when you're not expecting it.
Brooke Jensen is a planner. Not only in her personal life but also professionally as one of the most sought after event planners in Chicago.
But, when the ideal life she built for herself, complete with handsome, long-term boyfriend and perfect apartment crumbles, she realizes there are some things you just can’t plan for.
While trying to start anew from her best friend's guest room and discovering the best doughnuts in the city, an idea sparks to life when she meets Levi. He's intriguing, funny, and shockingly good-looking, and what had been a few stray thoughts becomes a new passion for Brooke, a blog detailing learning how to be single. The project introduces Brooke to new people and experiences, and keeps returning her back to Levi.
But, Brooke learns kismet may have been wrong when she learns Levi is the last person she should be interested in.
Falling for the wrong guy once has Brooke hesitant to start a new relationship, but Levi is quickly proving that The Fallback might be even better.
Yeah, but I think you got the wrong impression. See, I’m not…”
“Confusing? Frustrating? Enigmatic? You are. All of them. You’re also funny, and smart, and creative, and while I get the impression this scares you”—he waves a hand between us—“this thing between us, I’m going to shoulder this for both of us until you realize it’s worth it.”
The idea of he and I becoming a we is terrifying. It’s also inexplicably exciting.
“Is this because you see me as a challenge? Because I’m not falling at your feet?”
Levi shakes his head. “There’s something different about you. I recognized it the second I saw you.”
He shakes his head again. “I have no idea.”
My attempt at laughing is as ludicrous as his claim. “That’s ridiculous. You didn’t know me—you don’t know me. Claiming there’s something different about me is absurd. I’m boring. I prefer pajamas to dresses, barefoot to shoes, and I am realizing that I really suck at almost all girly things. My idea of fun is finding the best doughnut shops in town, though you and Jerry sort of ruined that for me recently. And I’ve realized I’m about to turn thirty and I don’t think I know who in the hell I even am.”
“You’re almost thirty?”
“How old did you think I was?”
He laughs. “I didn’t think you were twenty.”
“Why are you staring at me like that?”
“Like you’re looking for wrinkles on my face.”
Levi closes his eyes, his laughter growing. “Did you know that when you get upset, your nose crinkles and you bite the inside of your cheek?”
“I’m not upset. I’m flustered.”
For some reason, this only makes him smile wider. “And when someone pays you a compliment, you deflect it and look away, which concerns me. Because I’m starting to believe you’re not actually hearing what people are saying to you.”
“Are you hearing what I’m saying to you?”
“I know Felicity, her kids, and husband are family to you and that when you feel threatened, your brilliance shines and you become really funny.”
“I’m not funny,” I say. “I’m mildly sarcastic, but most people don’t actually catch on, so I generally just sound like a moron.”
“Will you shut up and accept my compliment?” He looks at me again, daring me to oppose. It’s harder than it should be to keep his gaze and not refute his words—and even harder to consider them being true.
“Prepare yourself. Prepare your walls of defense and your excuses because I’m ready. I’m ready for all of it. I’m going to be here to break down every brick you build and shatter every lie you try to believe. And tonight, after I clean up this fuckface’s mess, I’m going to sleep with you, and you’re going to forget caring about what my mother might think, or do, or say and realize me being your client means jack shit.”
I stare at him, searching for words of protest, but I can’t find a single one because more than I want to object … I want to believe him.
He grins. “By the way, I’m going to be busy for the next two weeks.”
“Apparently, I’ve got to work on my doughnut skills. That old fucker.”
I giggle so hard tears form in my eyes, and when I look across at Levi, he’s looking back at me like I’ve just hung the moon.