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Authors: Rachel Hollis

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor & Satire, #Humorous, #Literary, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction, #General Humor, #Literary Fiction, #Humor, #Romance

Smart Girl

BOOK: Smart Girl
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Also by Rachel Hollis

Party Girl

Sweet Girl

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Text copyright © 2016 by Rachel Hollis

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle

www.apub.com

 

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Lake Union Publishing are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

 

ISBN-13: 9781503953260

ISBN-10: 1503953262

 

Cover design by Cortnee Brown

Cover layout by Paul Barrett

For my big sister Christina Wilber, who gave me
Twilight
and demanded I read it immediately. The rest is history.

Chapter
ONE

A happy little sigh escapes me as I grab my iced caramel macchiato off the table in front of me.

“Do you believe in love at first sight?”

Max glances up from across the cluttered surface of her desk, a scowl already in place. Her look quickly morphs into confusion instead. Falling in love has softened a lot of her edges, but being agro is a conditioned response, and she has to work hard not to bark or growl like she used to. My mom has a rescue dog that’s exactly the same way.

“Who, me?”

I look around the bakery’s small office for dramatic effect. She owns the place, and I’m here to help her design an upcoming event. We’re clearly the only people in the room.

“Yes, you.”

She shakes her head slowly.

“No.” She runs a hand through her choppy pixie cut. “I genuinely hated Taylor when I first met him.”

The memory of their first meeting makes me smile. She was combative and beautiful; he was antagonizing and gorgeous. They were like a sexy, combustive yin-yang symbol, and even if she didn’t realize it at the time, there was always something special between them. The first angry diatribe she hurled his way was laced with it.

“And now you’re in love with him.” My voice comes out a bit wistful.

“Yes.” She nods slowly. “And now we’re in love.” She looks bemused, as if every time she remembers this fact is a new and lovely surprise.

I grab my oversize shoulder bag off the ground and dig around in it for some Swedish Fish. I toss one into my mouth before I pull out the other snack bag I brought for her.

“You need some protein?” I shake the baggie. “I have almonds. You like the dry roasted, not the raw, right?”

She smiles at the bag and snatches it from my hand with a thank-you. A year—even six months—ago, she would have been annoyed with me for offering. But six months ago she was still trying to hide how sick she can get if her blood sugar gets too low. Six months ago she was still battling anyone who tried to be her friend, let alone tried to care for her in any way. She’s doing so much better at not having to be so flipping self-reliant all the time. A handful of nuts go into her mouth as she considers me.

“Are you still coming to dinner this weekend?”

I nod and pop another Fish.

“It’s Sunday Supper. Of course I’m coming to dinner.”

Sunday Supper is something that Max’s mom came up with a couple of months ago. Now that mother and daughter are getting along better, and Landon, Max’s roommate, is in full happily-ever-after love with Brody, Max’s big brother, it’s a chance for Viv to see “her kids” once a week. My best friend Landon and I were jumped into the “her kids” gang awhile ago, and I look forward to these dinners all week because (a) Max’s folks, Charlie and Viv, have a stellar personal chef, and (b) if Max’s other brother, Liam, isn’t out of town on business, he’ll be there too.

“Miko, are you asking about love at first sight rhetorically,” Max queries, “or is there some specific reason you want to know?”

I didn’t realize she is still studying me. There’s a question in her dark-brown eyes that I can’t answer. The small heater pumping warmth into her tiny office is necessary since neither of us dressed appropriately for the chilly LA day, but it suddenly feels stifling. Max is wearing jeans and a tank top of all things—but that’s mostly because she spends a lot of her day baking around hot ovens. I’ve got on an oversize T-shirt that keeps sliding down off my shoulder and tight-fitting sweatpants pushed up to just below my knee—but that’s mostly because I’m a bum on weekends. It’s cool, though; with my wild hairstyle and stylized sloppy clothes, I assume people think I’m headed to a hip-hop dance class instead of home to bury my head in a book. I reach back for my hair to busy my hands.

Months ago, when my hair finally grew out past my shoulders, I was so excited that I had the black ends tipped in cobalt blue to celebrate. But today the length and the style I worked it into feel smothering. I wind my locks round and make a bun to get my hair off my neck, using the delay to come up with a response. Max isn’t an idiot, and that question has been in her eyes more and more lately. Sometimes I think I should rip off the Band-Aid and just blurt out the words, but I can never seem to find them. And even if I could, there’s no way Max would handle the news of my crush well. She
barely
handles the fact that Landon is dating her older brother Brody. She definitely won’t like the idea that I’m trying to do something similar with the only single male sibling she has left.

I mean, I get it—Max has only two brothers, and it’d be kind of weird if both her best friends ended up with them. But then it’s not our fault their whole family is gorgeous now is it? It’s like their entire clan came from one of the good districts where tributes are tall and muscular and look like Greek gods. The rest of us mortals are just struggling to stay alive in the Hunger Games and are nowhere near as pretty.

“No.” I use one of the hair bands that is always on my wrist to tie up my topknot. “I was just curious.”

She studies me a moment longer before looking back down at the spreadsheet on her computer. She’s got to be so proud of what she finds there. Not that she’s rolling like Gatsby, but she has turned a profit every single month since she opened the bakery she’d dreamed about having since she was a little girl. It’ll take her years to repay the loans she needed to create this business in the first place, but at least she’s proving herself, which is all Max ever really wanted.

Even with her success she doesn’t take all of the credit. Since one of her new life skills is the ability to ask for and accept help, she incorporated us into the mix as well. She’d readily admit that part of the reason she’s done so well is that Landon and I have encouraged our event clients to book some of their smaller private parties here. We’ve produced at least one event a month since she opened, which brings a sizable addition to her bottom line. Those events and subsequent profits have also given me something to talk about with Liam, who’s a part owner of his sister’s bakery. Which works out well for me, since looking for excuses to talk to Liam has pretty much become my part-time job.

The sound of my knuckles popping one after another fills the silence—it’s a terrible habit I only partake in when I’m nervous. I watch her continue to look over her work, totally oblivious to the fact that my stomach just took a nosedive.

Man, she’s seriously going to kill me when she finds out what I’m planning.

“Your hair looks so pretty—I love when you style it like that!” Landon calls to me across Max, who’s in the passenger seat, through the rolled-down window. She’s wearing a dress the color of raspberry sherbet and a hairdo usually found only on Barbie dolls—and she’s totally pulling it off.

Max, who can’t seem to help giving me crap, piles on.

“Yeah, it almost looks like you brushed it today.”

I open the door of the beat-up SUV, toss my oversize vintage bag on the backseat, and then slide in after it. Max is totally rocking a sort of sexy tomboy thing with her ripped boyfriend jeans and a tight-fitting angora sweater right now, but only because Sunday Suppers are a dressier affair. Typically she can’t even be bothered to wear matching socks.

“Brushed it
and
used a curling iron.” I put an elbow on each of their seats and lean in conspiratorially. “It’s like I’m a real live adult. Can you even believe it?”

Landon giggles and turns the volume back up on Pandora’s Dolly Parton station (Dolly is her second-favorite human, right behind Brody), and I slide back to buckle up.

Their surprise is valid, since my mane is usually a wild, unruly mess. It takes forever to force it into a style, and since it’s been like that my whole life, I usually just don’t fight it. Having a Japanese father means that my hair, like a proper samurai, battles any power that attempts to conform it. Having a mother who can trace her wavy-haired Irish ancestors back multiple generations is the only thing that gives my curling iron a fighting chance.

Max glances at me over her shoulder.

“And where exactly does one find a shirt in that particular shade of neon?”

I run my fingers lovingly down the arm of my vibrant-green blouse. This top is fabulous; I don’t care if she tries to insinuate otherwise.

“I’ll have you know that this came from Nordstrom.”

Max throws me a patronizing grin.

“Nordstrom Rack is
not
Nordstrom.”

I make a show of admiring my manicure, a shimmery purple color called Waka Waka—apparently the Muppets have really great taste in lacquer—before responding.

“Careful, pet, your Beverly Hills is showing.”

“I haven’t lived in Beverly Hills in years, and you know it,” she bites back.

“You can take the girl out of the—”

Landon doesn’t let me finish.

“Children,
behave
.”

I stick my tongue out at Max.

When she pretends to scratch the back of her head with her middle finger, I fight a smile.

Gods, I love my friends.

I’ve always been really close to Tosh, which is more than most siblings can say. And I’ve always had friends—friends I could call to grab coffee, see a movie, or hit up a convention with. But I never had
best
friends until I met the girls in the front seat. Now I can’t imagine what I’d do without them. If it weren’t for Landon, I’d still be designing events for Selah Smith instead of running my own company. If it weren’t for Max, I wouldn’t have a constant sparring partner and unlimited access to baked goods. And Liam—if I hadn’t met Max, I wouldn’t have met Liam.

Because here’s the thing: I fell in love with Liam Ashton on December 31 last year. Two weeks ago, after spending yet another Halloween without someone to create a thematic couple’s costume with, I decided it was time to make him love me back. Admittedly, eleven months is kind of an eternity when you’re in love, but I never was one to rush the ending, so that doesn’t deter me. If anything, it’ll make a fabulous story that we’ll tell our grandkids.
Oh, Papa and I met at a bar on New Year’s Eve. He was on a date with someone else, and I was on a date with a bottle of tequila!
We’ll obviously be super cool grandparents who tell stories about bars and tequila. Gods, we’ll make the cutest old people ever!

But first, I’ve got to get him to ask me out on a date. A date where we’ll go to dinner or dancing or to the bookstore, or maybe it’ll be something simple: a jog in the park (I’ll have to learn to jog) or cooking together (I’ll have to learn to cook). No matter what it is, though, I know it’ll be romantic.

It will be romantic, because I am romantic. A hopeless romantic actually, and I’ve been waiting my entire life—all twenty-six years of it—to find my lobster, my French angelfish, my prairie vole. In case you aren’t familiar, those are all animals that mate for life. And Liam? He’s my one great love. I knew it from the very first time we spoke. And yes, I sort of thought my one great love would be more like me, but in retrospect that is pretty silly. I mean, hello,
opposites attract
is one of my favorite tropes!

And we couldn’t be more opposite. In fact, in all the books I’ve devoured (and there must be thousands at this point), I’ve never once read about the blond Viking god falling for the zany Asian friend. Can you imagine that book cover? I can, and do. All. The. Time.

I smooth the edge of my Aztec-print pencil skirt and wonder what he’ll think of this outfit. My clothes may be loud (all my favorite colors usually are), and true, most of them are from flea markets or secondhand vintage shops (it’s not like I can afford anything else), but I don’t wear anything that isn’t inspired by current trends. I’ve been designing parties and rooms and graphics since long before I went to college for the degree. I’m constantly aware of which colors are trending, what fashion is on the way out, and how to pair mismatched prints together in an outfit so that it ends up looking perfectly cohesive. Max might make fun of me for shopping at outlet stores, but you’d never know my designer labels were marked-down clearance or miracle finds at the Goodwill unless I told you.

Because I’m a designer, I always see clothing as a way to style myself the same way I might style a room. Because I’m a book nerd, I tend to imagine design in terms of the words I want to convey instead of just colors or themes. When you design, it’s aesthetically pleasing to group things in threes, so I always choose three words that I want to invoke with a given look. Today my outfit says
stylish
,
fun
,
noticeable
. Whenever I know I’m going to see Liam, the last word is always the same. I’ve tried outfits that say conservative or flirty, passionate or wild, but the last word is always, always
noticeable
. Because in the last year, his notice is the thing I’ve wanted most.

BOOK: Smart Girl
8.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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