Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Excerpt: The Pursuit of Happiness by Melissa Rae Madison

Dean was sitting in one of the leather armchairs in the reception area, leafing through The Legal Intelligencer, which proudly proclaims itself the oldest law journal in the nation. I don't know about that, but it certainly is among the most boring. He was wearing a gray, paint splattered t-shirt, white painters pants, and beat up boots. He looked fantastic, but he was  jarringly out of place in the posh reception area. He stood up when I walked towards him and dropped the Intelligencer on the chair.

"Look at you!" he said. "All grown up. You look completely different than you do at Pat's."

"Gotta wear the monkey suit for work," I said. "So where are you taking me for lunch?" I knew the Swann Lounge at the Four Seasons was probably a bit much for a spur of the moment lunch date, but I was picturing some cozy little bistro, a dark table tucked in the back, a bottle of wine…

If Dean plays his cards right I am not coming back to this office today. Maybe I should go log off the computer right now....

"Do you like middle eastern food?" he asked. "The King of Falafel is close, and I love that place."

I was thrown for a moment. The King of Falafel happens to be one of my favorite lunch spots on the rare days I go out for lunch, but, for crying out loud, I go there with Stan. I was trying to come up with a reasonable alternative when my entire world came crashing to a halt. Ok, there I go with the hyperbole again, but I heard the ding of the elevator and over Dean's shoulder, I saw Ed head towards the reception area. You can see why this caused me some concern. My worlds were colliding and this was not good. Not good at all. I froze. Dean took this as a dislike of middle eastern food.

"Or, if not, there's also..." Dean was saying to me, but was interrupted by Ed's gruff baritone.

"Tay," he harrumphed, in the way that means he's about to give me a really horrible assignment. "Have you found that Clark correspondence yet?"

Dean turned slightly to his left to look at Ed, surprised at the rude interruption.

"No, but I’m all over it," I said. "I haven't let up for one minute."

"Except for this minute," Ed pointed out with incredible astuteness.

Can't slip anything past Ed, can I?

"Lunch?" I said. "I mean, I was just going to grab some lunch."

Ed wrinkled his forehead.

"Don't you usually eat at your desk?"

"Well, no, usually I don't have time to eat," I said.

Dean was following the conversation back and forth like a tennis match. His already wide eyes widened just a little more and I could tell he had made the connection between the evil boss that figured in so many of my Friday night rants and the man standing too close to me and smelling of salami. The corners of his mouth turned up almost imperceptibly. I could almost hear him thinking, "oh, this is going to be good."

"Fine, you do whatever you like, but I need to see that document by two," Ed said.

It was 12:35. This gave me eighty-five minutes to have a date with the disheveled and adorable painter standing in front of me, and complete my search of an apparently endless stream of documents for something that probably didn't exist. I blushed hot with anger and embarrassment, which wasn't a good sign. Usually when I reach this state of distress, I either say something incredibly snotty to Ed, and have to apologize later, or I burst into tears. And have to apologize later.

Friday at Pat's, I told myself firmly. Imagine how much fun it will be to tell everyone the Ed Moment of the Week with Dean there to help! We'll tell it like a real couple, finishing each other's sentences, nudging each other as we remember how horrible Ed smelled...it's going to be great, Tay, just keep it cool and get out of here without losing it.

I was getting it together, I swear I was. In ten more seconds I would have collected myself, told Ed that I would do my best but I didn't expect to be able to finish the search until later in the afternoon, taken Dean by the arm, and strolled off to King of Falafel. I swear that's what was going to happen, until Ed looked at Dean as though he was something a dog had just barfed up on the plush lobby carpet.

"Is there someone helping you?" he said. "There's a back entrance for building maintenance. It's not appropriate for you to be in the lobby."

Dean looked at me, obviously waiting for me to introduce him to Ed and say, "Ed, this is Dean Geary, a friend of mine. Dean, Ed Winchley, my boss." I've gone over the scene maybe a thousand times since then, and in my head, that's exactly what I say. What I should have said. What I didn't say.

Instead, I looked Dean right in the eye and said, "if you'd like, I can have someone show you the service entrance."

I knew the minute the words were out of my mouth, even before they were out of my mouth, that I had done a terrible, hateful thing. Dean's eyes went from sweet, to shocked, to cold in an instant.

About Melissa

Melissa Rae Madison, a partially reformed lawyer, is formerly from Pennsylvania but now lives in sunny Southern California, where she regularly laments the scarcity of really good cannoli. When she's not writing or lawyering, she enjoys reality tv marathons, sugary cereal, and being bossed around by her pushy Siamese cat.

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About The Pursuit of Happiness
Tay Bellagio, a former tomboy from rural Pennsylvania, has finally achieved the life of her dreams, or so she thinks. She’s a successful lawyer for a top law firm in Philadelphia, making more money that she ever imagined. She has a group of dear friends and a loving extended family, and the attractive bartender at the local Irish pub has just asked her on a date. She has everything she wants, except happiness. 

Why is Tay so miserable? Maybe it’s her boss, a power-hungry partner at her firm who thrives on humiliating his subordinates. Maybe it’s her friends, who are getting fed up with her diva attitude, or her family, who thinks she’s pulling away from them. Maybe it's the bartender, who thinks she’s shallow. Or maybe it’s because the life of her dreams is becoming a nightmare. 

When family obligations and an ethical dilemma at work crumble Tay’s carefully constructed world, she has to take another look at her dreams and ambitions and decide what she wants out of life. And to her surprise, it may not be what she’d planned.

**Click here to purchase your copy of The Pursuit of Happiness!**