Lavash at First Sight

Lavash at First Sight

by Taleen Voskuni
Lavash at First Sight

Lavash at First Sight

by Taleen Voskuni

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Overview

Sparks fly between two women pitted against each other in this delectable new romantic comedy by Taleen Voskuni, author of Sorry, Bro.

Twenty-seven-year-old Nazeli “Ellie” Gregorian enjoys the prestige of her tech marketing job but is sick of the condescending Patagonia-clad tech bros, her micromanaging boss, and her ex-boyfriend, who she’s forced to work with every day. When Ellie’s lovingly overbearing parents ask her to attend PakCon—a food packaging conference in Chicago—to help promote their company and vie to win an ad slot in the Superbowl (no big deal), she’s eager for a brief change and a delicious distraction.

At the conference, she meets witty, devil-may-care Vanya Simonian. Ellie can’t believe how easy it is to talk to Vanya and how much they have in common—both Armenian! From the Bay Area! Whose families are into food! Their meet-cute is cut short, however, when Ellie’s parents recognize Vanya as the daughter of the owners of their greatest rival, whose mission (according to Ellie’s mother) is to whitewash and package Armenian food for the American health-food crowd.
 
Sworn as enemies, Ellie and Vanya must compete against each other under their suspicious parents' scrutiny, all while their feelings for each other heat to sizzling temps.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593547328
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/07/2024
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 133,182
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Taleen Voskuni is an award-winning writer who grew up in the Bay Area Armenian diaspora. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in English and currently lives in San Francisco, working in tech. Other than a newfound obsession with writing rom-coms, she spends her free time cultivating her kids, her garden, and her dark chocolate addiction. Her first novel, Sorry, Bro, received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, was named an Amazon editor's pick, and was favorably reviewed in The New York Times. Sorry, Bro is also winner of the 2023 Golden Poppy award for best romance. Lavash at First Sight is her second published novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I open the conference room door, balancing my laptop (Air, for efficiency) and water bottle (navy blue, for subliminal "I'm not a girlie girl" vibes), and am happily surprised to find my boyfriend, Kyle, sitting in a swivel chair, concentrating on his screen.

"Early for my meeting? I'm honored," I say, sliding next to him. My good luck charm, I think, right before the biggest presentation of my career.

God, he's hot. I never thought I'd be with a guy like this, the tennis player look: tall with thin, toned limbs and thick, almost-wavy, almost-blond hair. He looks perilously handsome in his blue oxford button-down. I idolized men like this back in high school and none of them would ever look at me. Me, the perfectly average in every way, swarthy Armenian girl. But guess what, thick eyebrows and big butts are in now, and I bagged my dream guy; he's mine.

I rest my hand on his knee, and he instantly sloughs it off. Ugh, his stupid rules, I forgot. But we're in the room without any windows facing the office, with an opaque door. Seemed safe to me.

"Not at work, Ellie," he chides.

Our dating is a secret even though we're in lateral positions, so it's technically allowed-we don't even report to the same boss! Kyle goes to such great lengths to hide our relationship at work and outside work that sometimes I worry he's lost interest in me. Since he's not from the Bay Area and moved out here for this job, most of his buddies are his coworkers, so when he's out with them, I'm not allowed. But then he'll text me Friday late evening and come over, and he'll grab my waist and lift me up to kiss me like we're the only two people in the world.

The thought of it stirs me, and I whisper into his ear, "Right, I'll have to wait until after work to give you the present I've been working on."

He pushes his swivel chair away and, damn it, looks like I've gone too far. I'll have to be in damage control mode. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I say before he speaks.

Then he does. "I'm not sure we should keep doing this."

He's serious. The way he looks at me isn't with any of his Friday night desire, it's the way he looks at one of our coworkers when he's rejected their idea for being "too out of scope."

The blue of his eyes that had me thinking of him as my secret ocean-eyed boyfriend, now feels empty and vast. The sharpness of his features, which I'd always imagined gently pricking me in the most enticing ways, morphs into ice picks.

"I can be more subtle, I promise. I lost myself there, that wasn't me."

I need this, I need him. It's only been a few months, but he's the one for me. I could see us working our way up the ranks, a power couple now at Abilify and then beyond. Two Fortune 500 CEOs, married. Think of the Bloomberg profiles. Hell, he's so hot we might even make Vanity Fair.

His voice is almost even, except for a hint of disgust in it. "I've been wanting to tell you. This isn't working. I feel like I'm living two lives, I hate it."

He hates it. He hates being with me. He hates me. The logic is simple, sound, and I'm not talking myself out of it. He's doing it, he's breaking up with me now, in the goddamn Wallaby conference room (all of the rooms are named after Australian creatures because of the origins of Jack, Abilify's cofounder), four minutes before the chairs fill up with our company's most important directors and VPs.

I need this account. I'd practiced my slides over twenty times and got feedback from all my direct reports. It was supposed to be perfect. Now I can't even remember the title.

Instead, images from the weekend fill my head, of curling up beside him under his tartan duvet, the hour far too late, abandoned glasses of scotch on the nightstand.

"We were getting so close. I thought we were going to start"-I'm almost too embarrassed to say it- "dating. For real, and be your actual girlfriend. You told me all those things about your brother-"

"Stop. It's done. I'm sorry I had to do it here, but I've been holding it in for days."

The shock of him wanting to break up with me for days is interrupted by the Tremendous Trio-the three women I manage-pushing open the conference door. The first of them, Nina, stops short when she spots Kyle and me. "We can . . . come back?"

They know. Kyle and I are supposed to be a secret, but it's what he wanted, not what I wanted, so I couldn't help but tell my crew anyway. Not like it came as a surprise; Abby was all over it with her intuition and had been dropping hints for weeks. I felt slightly uncomfortable sharing about my love life with my direct reports, but I tried to keep it as vague and professional as possible. No comments about a certain penchant for reverse cowgirl, for instance.

I wave her off. "Meeting's starting in a few, come in." I am doing my best impression of a normal, happy person. I rush over to their side of the conference table. Kyle loses himself in his computer.

"You all feeling ready with your sections?" I ask them.

"Entirely. I committed it to memory and have written out and answered in my head all possible questions that may be fielded." That's Jasmine, the quant star of the group.

"Are . . . you ready?" Abby asks me, voice uneasy.

Never show weakness as the leader. I need to turn these feelings to anger and then channel it into dominating this presentation and landing Operation Wolf for my team. Screw Kyle and his sneaking around with me. He thinks he's better than me? He's a nobody from some Nowheresville town. Which, admittedly, is pretty cool that he made the journey all the way out here on his own. No! He's the worst.

"Totally," I tell her as bile rises in my throat.

It's then that the CEO, Reid Erikson, pushes in. He is one of the only people in the company who scare the shit out of me, with his bald head and missile eyes, his targeted commands, and his whole lack-of-smiling thing. The man always wears a Patagonia vest, without fail, daily, except on the one or two hundred-degree days where he removes it, revealing a Patagonia-branded T-shirt underneath.

I didn't know he would be attending this meeting. He was not on the invite list, but Operation Wolf is a big deal. The cold of the conference room settles over me, like he brought the Nordic winds in with him.

He's trailed by the cofounder and president, Jack, who plants himself in a corner and says in his Australian accent, "Y'all mind if I do some squats in here?" No one minds, and Jack begins bending his ass toward the window, up and down.

Then rush in the VPs and directors, including my boss, Jamie, the marketing VP. Jamie's . . . okay. I don't feel like she's necessarily rooting for my success, but her insistence on perfection, especially with presentation slides, has pushed my abilities to the next level. She's an odd one. Always has her nails perfectly manicured and sports curated minimalist jewelry but also is really buff, loves hiking and skiing, and never eats. Well, not true-she seems to subsist on Oreo snack packs stashed in her purse. I nod to her briefly-Jamie likes brief-and she acknowledges me with a blink.

The whole reason we're here is that we're in the process of wooing Abilify's potentially biggest client, Zarek's, the world's largest international coffee chain, whose logo is a wolf, to join our performance management platform.

That's right, we do performance review software. Keeping track of how good or crappy your employees are. Not exactly the most inspiring product of all time, but it's a solid group of people, and we're growing fast. They call us a unicorn in Silicon Valley, meaning we're already worth a billion dollars. The founders (including the terrifying Reid) took a chance on me when I was no one, and now look where I am: senior product marketing manager. Just one tiny hop step away from director, which is practically in smelling distance. All I need to do is land Operation Wolf.

I peer at Kyle, who has not looked up, and is angry-typing, which at this company is a show of deep focus, and revered by all. Don't bother someone who is angry-typing.

I step to the front of the room, and flawlessly transfer my slides to the conference room's screen. Which is saying something, because every room transfers differently, and all of them are multi-stepped and often buggy, but I made it my mission when we got the new tech installed to never be that person who can't figure out how to get her slides up on the screen, and have to ask for . . . ugh . . . help.

But when I scan the room, the morning light breaking through the fog, even Reid's presence doesn't bother me as much as seeing Kyle, who still hasn't looked up from his damn computer. Last week we changed up our routine, and instead of hiding at one of our houses, we went out to Emerald Eyes, a club full of young twentysomethings, which I took as a sign that things were going well. When I realized on the way out that I lost my phone, he ran back in and made a huge point of searching the dance floor, finding the manager, and yelling at unhelpful employees. That was it, I thought, he obviously cares about me. Now I'm wondering if he's just a power-tripping sadist.

I keep vacillating between hatred toward him and self-pity toward myself. I want to jump onto the table and point at Kyle and yell, "We were together, I was falling in love with him, and he broke my heart five fucking minutes ago," and then kneel down and burst into tears. Those imaginary tears feel very tempting, and a little too real, like they could actually happen.

Jamie clears her throat, breaking my reverie. I read the title slide in my head: Operation Wolf: Taming the Beast / Customized Portal for Prospective Client. But I cannot speak. Something is happening to my eyes; they're getting hot, wet. My throat swells, and I know if I say one word, it's all going to come spilling out, fountains of tears and choked cries.

But everyone would think it's because I'm nervous about this presentation, which is not the case. So I let out a couple of closed-mouth coughs bordering on chokes, put up a finger, and crease my eyes into seriousness, as if there's an involuntary physical battle being waged inside me (which there is), and then, to a bevy of stunned and concerned faces, I step out of the conference room, run up two flights of stairs until I get away from the Abilify offices, fly into the bathroom, and let everything out. Then I pray I haven't ruined it all.


I really don’t deserve my team. In my stead, Nina stepped up and began presenting my slides as well as hers, and she, Abby, and Jasmine switched off until I walked back in four minutes later as if nothing had happened. As I’ve learned from watching leaders, I simply said, “Excuse me. Thanks for taking over, team,” and then jumped in where they left off. I resolved not to look anywhere near Kyle, and that tactic seemed to work.

Jamie had seen the presentation but still took notes in her immaculate handwriting in her millennial-pink notebook (even though she's a Gen Xer). She swears by writing everything down by hand and has gotten me in the habit of it, too. She made a couple of new points she'd never brought up before, so I had to gracefully concede to them, but it didn't bother me too much.

Reid asked a couple of questions that weren't difficult to answer-if you understand a CEO's mindset, which I made a point to do-and I gave concise, confident replies to them. He nodded shortly and settled back in his seat. Normally he'd put his feet up on the table, but there are too many people in the conference room for that.

And on the final slide and some brief discussion, the magic words come from Jamie. "It sounds like we're all in agreement here. Ellie, your team can proceed with this portal vision. Please stay in close sync with tech and sales as you build it out. We'll need it done in two weeks."

I should feel elated, getting this validation and green light to move forward, but I don't. I feel dry, unwanted, like Jamie ripped a page out of her notebook, crumpled it up, and tossed it.

"Thank you," I say, a lot more coolly than I would have if my heart hadn't been recently trampled over. I wonder if that makes me more of a boss, not showing excitement. Then I wonder if that's really who I want to be, and immediately shove that thought away. Of course it is.

Chapter Two

At my desk, after a congratulatory huddle with the Tremendous Trio, I tell them we're all going out to a celebratory lunch at Zorba's, on me. They deserve so much more, too, but I will be sure, as always, to make it clear in their performance reviews. I check my phone. A missed call from my mom plus a text.

How are you Nazeli jan? Give me call to say hi

My family refuses to call me by Ellie, my nickname, and sticks to my real name, Nazeli. It sounds beautiful in Armenian but awful translated into English, like a portmanteau of nauseating and mausoleum-y. So professionally, I go by Ellie. Mom called minutes after Kyle dumped me (a lump rises in my throat thinking those words). The woman has a sixth sense, though she never knew Kyle and I were dating. I knew she'd lament yet another white boyfriend, so I was keeping him hidden unless things started to progress. Which, of course . . . I guess my instinct was right.

I hole up in the phone booth Abilify has purchased-not like a red British phone booth, but a sleek modern one, sort of like a sexy coffin with a window, plunked down in the corner of the office. There's a decent view of all the desks, including Kyle's, though he's not here yet-he's probably in some other meeting, probably completely over me.

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