A rom-com-obsessed romantic waiting for her perfect leading man learns that life doesn’t always go according to a script in Kerry Winfrey’s debut novel, and I have a sneak peek for you.
Several hours later, long after Don has gone into work, Tommy hands me a big stack of papers and asks me to go put them in a binder in his trailer. Truthfully, I kind of love stuff like this—moments when all I have to do is competently use a hole-punch and feel great at my job. It’s while I’m contemplating how capable I am that my foot catches on something, and then I’m falling, the papers in my arms flying skyward.
“Shit!” I say as my knees hit the ground, all delusions of competence gone. “Shit shit shit shit shit shit.”
“Are you okay?” asks a deep voice.
All of Tommy’s pages are now scattered on the pavement. I keep muttering to myself, grabbing a sheet that fell into a puddle of brown Ohio winter slush. “Shit shit shit shit,” I keep muttering, but this time much more quietly.
The deep voice laughs, and I finally look up. “Oh,” I say, startled, as I look into the eyes of a surprisingly attractive man. I mean, it’s not surprising that he’s attractive, since I don’t know him at all, but dropping a bunch of things and then being assisted by a handsome stranger is . . .
Well, it’s something that happens in a rom-com.
The man keeps picking up papers, assembling them into a neat stack.
“Thanks for the help,” I say, grabbing another one. “And, uh. Sorry for the shit tirade.”
He laughs, a deep throaty thing, and meets my eyes. His are blue and clear and, all of a sudden, I’m watching this interaction take place on a screen, while sitting in a plush movie theater seat and digging my hands into a large popcorn with extra butter and salt.
And then I do what I always do when I’m flustered. I keep talking.
“I’m not usually this clumsy. Really. But I was taking these papers to Tommy’s trailer and I tripped over this wire and . . . seriously. What is this wire doing here? It’s a hazard. There are, dare I say it, too many wires, in the world generally but specifically right here, in front of me. Who put this here, right in the path of everyone walking?”
The handsome blue-eyed stranger raises his hand. “That would be me.”
“That would be you?” I say, my voice trailing off so that the last word is barely audible.
“Yep.” He nods, then gestures around us. “I’m a gaffer. Responsible for many things, wires among them.”
“Cool,” I say. “Okay, well, I’m gonna go shut myself in Tommy’s trailer and never return. Bye.”
Before I can turn and flee, the handsome blue-eyed stranger with slightly curly hair reaches out to grab my arm. “Hey,” he says, that throaty laugh appearing again. “It’s okay. Really. I’m Carter Reid, by the way.”
I push my hair behind my ear, then hold out my hand. “Annie Cassidy. Tommy’s assistant.”
He nods. “Yeah, I’ve . . . seen you around.”
There’s something about the way he says those few words, like he’s been not only seeing me but liking what he’s seeing, that makes my whole body flash hot and cold. It’s nice to be seen by someone who likes what they’re seeing, unlike some people who make it all too clear that they see you but want to simply make fun of what they’re seeing and call you derogatory nicknames based on your job duties.
But there’s a very attractive man in front of me, so I don’t need to think about Drew Danforth right now.
Carter looks older than me—not by a lot, but maybe he’s in his mid-thirties. There’s just something about him that looks like he’s been around the metaphorical block, like he’s seen some stuff and lived to tell the tale. That makes him sound grizzled, which he emphatically is not, but I guess what I’m saying is that you know how some celebrities age really well? Like, how George Clooney looked so much better by the time he married Amal than he did when he was doing sitcom work in the ‘80s? It’s kind of like that. This guy looks like he’ll age well, like a wine or a cheese or a Clooney.
“Okay. Well,” I say once I realize that I’ve been staring at his face for far too long. “Gotta get to Tommy’s trailer.”
“See you around, Annie,” Carter says with a wave. I watch him walk away for just a second, long enough to really notice that he’s wearing a thick and durable work jacket that looks, just a little, like something that Bill Pullman would wear in While You Were Sleeping.