THE BOYFRIEND SWAP282
THE BOYFRIEND SWAP282
If you love Christmas movies, as in you check the Hallmark Channel guide starting in July, then hang on to your stockings, because here comes the merriest of indulgences in print. It’s “The Proposal” meets “The Holiday”.
First meet Robyn Lane. She’s always dated struggling creative types, including her current squeeze (Perry, an actor). For this year’s Chrismukkah celebration, her parents would love her to bring someone stable, reliable, steadily employed. You know, with health insurance and a 401(k).
Now let’s meet Sidney Bellows. Her parents already plan her professional life (she’s an attorney at her father’s law firm). If she brings her current boyfriend (Will, an attorney) to the family Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have their wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.
Leave it to a mutual friend (and copious amounts of wine) to find a playful solution: Swap those boyfriends, fool the parents, and enjoy the holidays. It’s perfect! Robyn can show off a successful attorney boyfriend, and Sidney’s high-society family won’t ring those wedding bells when they meet a flaky actor beau.
The fun isn’t in the theory, it’s in the practice.
Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years. Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe.
Fool the parents? Enjoy the holidays? Swapping boyfriends never sounded so good or went so bad. Take time to read this one. It’s like Christmas in July.
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THE BOYFRIEND SWAP by Meredith Schorr | A Henery Press book
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|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.59(d)|
Read an Excerpt
If asked to choose between a world without music and one without my mother, the choice would be a no-brainer — I'd give up music. I might feel dead inside, without a song to sing or a beat to dance to, but at least my mom would be there to comfort me. The decision was easy, but sometimes, like now, when she put on her matchmaking cap, I was tempted to change my answer.
"He just moved here from Boise to work in the Treasury Service team at JP Morgan," she said, referring to the guy she'd befriended while standing in line at the DMV for two hours. "He said you reminded him of a blue-eyed Selena Gomez."
I allowed a small smile at the comparison, but promptly clamped my mouth shut. "I'm flattered, but why did you show him my picture?" I already knew the answer. My mom was always trying to fix me up with eligible men, especially those employed by companies like JP Morgan, where employees were forced to dress business casual and infrequently required to use their imaginations.
"I thought you'd make a great couple. Someone like him — attractive, successful, nice, funny — won't be single for long."
I banged my head against my desk in frustration. "I'm already taken. Have you forgotten?" I asked in a hushed voice before glancing at my boyfriend, Perry. He was lying on his back on my bed with his t-shirt riding up to showcase his six-pack abs. I turned down the volume on my phone so he wouldn't hear.
"Ah yes, Perry. His teeth-whitening commercial aired while your dad and I were watching the Legends of Freestyle documentary last night. Too bad he can't cultivate an entire career around his talent for flicking his tongue across his upper teeth."
I chose to ignore the portion of my mother's statement aimed at my boyfriend. "You watched Legends of Freestyle again? Aren't you sick of it by now?" My parents were high school sweethearts who performed together and even released a Freestyle album in the early 1980s. They never hit the bigtime, possibly because there wasn't a smidgen of Latino in them, unless you counted my maternal grandparents, Sephardic Jews from Argentina. But they shared the stage at many New York City venues with some of the best, including Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, until they gave it up to raise me and my younger brother, Jordon.
"How many times have you seen High School Musical?"
"Does Perry get a lifetime supply of teeth whitener now? One less expense could come in handy until he catches his big break," she said, her voice dripping in sarcasm. Perry, my boyfriend of almost a year, was a struggling actor/musician — struggling being the operative word.
"Speaking of Perry, I'm preparing my grocery list for the holidays. Is he coming for Chrismukkah?"
I gulped down the unease of bringing Perry home with me for the holidays. His last callback fell through, which meant he probably wouldn't have anything promising to tell my folks when they asked about his acting career — which they would. They would then outwardly encourage him to keep on keeping on, while using the famous Lane mental telepathy to invade my brain space and urge me to choose a more "stable" boyfriend. As former musicians themselves, my parents would never discourage a performer from shooting for the stars, but they didn't want a performer dating their daughter.
Perry sat up. "Don't forget to tell your mom I want to demonstrate the vocal exercises my voice coach taught me." Perry didn't have the money to fly to his parents in Portland for Christmas and, oblivious to my folks' discouragement of our relationship, was looking forward to an intimate family celebration.
I smiled fondly in his direction. It wouldn't even matter if he could hear my mom's side of the conversation. He wasn't lacking in self-confidence, and any disapproval by others, including my parents, tended to go unnoticed by him. Unfortunately, what attracted me to Perry — his focus on the here and now rather than the long term and his ability to make light of almost every situation — was what repelled my folks. They worried he wasn't husband material. It was their job as my parents, but at only twenty-six, I wasn't thinking about marriage yet anyway. Perry made me happy day to day, and that was good enough for me.
"Is he still gluten-free?" my mom asked.
I sighed into the phone. I could picture my mom holding her breath and crossing her fingers, hoping I'd say she didn't need to stock the house with gluten-free products because I'd broken up with Perry and was now dating someone new, like an attorney in a prominent law firm. Before I could tell her there was no cure for celiac disease, I heard a knock on the door followed by my roommate, Anne Marie, peeking her blonde head in my door.
"Almost ready?" Anne Marie and I had played together in a recreational kickball league a couple years earlier and quickly discovered we were both about to lose our current roommate to a serious boyfriend. Neither of us made enough money to live alone in pricey New York City so we decided to move in together. Our complex was advertised as a "luxury" apartment, but it catered mostly to twenty-somethings like us, who were happy to share very little square footage with a roommate to live in a doorman building with a pool on the roof.
"I've gotta run. We're hosting a wine party tonight. I'll call you over the weekend, okay? Tell Dad I love him. And you too." I hung up the phone and let out a deep breath. Then I walked over to the bed and pulled Perry up by his hands. "Time to go."
"I seriously can't stay?" Perry asked, pushing out his full lower lip.
I shook my head and gave him a sad smile. "Sorry. Girls only." Perry's large eyes were blue like the deepest part of the ocean, and his longish blond hair managed to look masculine even when pulled into a man bun. With biceps that toiled to break free from his well-fitted t-shirts, I was sure if the girls saw him, they'd wish I'd made an exception to the "no boys allowed" rule.
Giving himself a once-over, Perry said, "Suit yourself, but I think a room full of your girlfriends would be more exciting if I tagged along. It would be like an episode of The Bachelor."
I placed my hands on my hips. "Are you in the market for a bachelorette?"
"An episode after the final rose which, of course, I gave to you."
"Good save," I said with a laugh.
Perry took my hand and kissed my pointer finger. Running his thumb along the chipped sea-green nail polish, he said, "Maybe you guys can give each other manicures too."
"It would be a waste of time and nail polish and you know it." I pushed him out of my room and toward the front door of my apartment. "Will you be home later?"
"Eventually, yes." He leaned down and kissed my forehead. "Have fun at ladies' night. If it breaks out into a pillow fight, record it on your phone."
"Don't be a douche," I said before closing the door behind me. Then I smiled at Anne Marie, who was returning the vacuum cleaner to the hall closet. "What can I do to help?"
I logged off my computer, slipped into my Burberry trench coat, and turned off the light. It was almost eight o'clock — past the acceptable time to leave work on a Friday night, even for a lawyer — but I'd never take off for the weekend without responding to all my client's emails. The advent of the smart phone meant I could communicate remotely from anywhere with cellular service or wi-fi, but once I left the office on a Friday night, I liked to unplug at least until the morning. My assistant, Anne Marie, had invited me to a wine party she was throwing with her roommate, and I wanted to get there before all the bottles were empty.
When I opened my office door, I came face to face with my father. My hopes of making a quick escape dashed like a reindeer through the snow on Christmas Eve.
"Sidney, I'm glad I caught you." His eyes, the same jade color as mine, twinkled. If I didn't know him so well, I'd think he was going to share a humorous anecdote or even invite me out to dinner to celebrate another successful week at the law firm where he was one of the name partners and I was a third-year associate. But I knew better — he wanted to talk shop.
"You're leaving?" He gestured to my coat and pointed toward my dark office.
"I'm guessing the answer is 'no' if you have anything to say about it," I mumbled. The man was my boss, but he was also my dad, which made maintaining professionalism at the conclusion of a long work week more challenging.
He waved me away. "I was going to ask you about a case, but we can do it tomorrow." It didn't matter that the next day was Saturday — lawyers didn't do weekends. "Is it a date? Your mother will ask me."
"No comment." I was seeing someone, but since my father was privy to all my professional activities, keeping my personal ones from him and my mom helped maintain a sense of independence (and my sanity). I was twenty-eight years old and some aspects of my life, specifically ones pertaining to love and sex, screamed for privacy.
He scratched at his hair — salt and pepper and impressively thick for a man in his late fifties. "Fine. Keep your secrets, but she's planning the Christmas party and will ask who you're bringing." He paused. "Preferably someone in a leadership position in the field of power and construction. The industry is booming, and the firm can use an in to a new client."
I rolled my eyes. "I'll see what I can do, Dad." I stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind me for emphasis. "I'm late for a party, and you should head out soon too before Mom loses it." She was accustomed to my father's late hours, but her patience ran thinner on Friday nights and weekends.
My dad glanced left and right as if finally noticing the lights were off in nearly every room on the floor. With a wave goodbye, he headed in the direction of his office, which was blessedly on the other side of the hallway from the elevator bank.
I grimaced as my stomach growled in hunger. Anne Marie had said there would be food at the party, but I was positive the pickings would be slim to none two hours into a gig attended by all women. I'd purchase some goodies on the way to both satisfy my appetite and apologize for showing up late.
When the doors of the elevator opened, I stepped out into the lobby and almost collided with Michael Goldberg, a senior associate at the firm with a distaste for country music, solid-color neckties, and me. As far as many of the junior partners and senior associates, including Michael, were concerned, the reason I received a summer associate gig followed by an invitation to be a first-year attorney at Bellows and Burke LLP was because my last name was Bellows and had nothing to do with the fact that I was editor of Colombia Law Review and graduated at the top of my class. Three years later and I still had to work twice as hard for half the credit.
"Leaving so early, Sidney?" He raised the bag from Main Noodle House in his hand, no doubt wanting me to know he was working through dinner.
I tried to bite back the desire to say something snotty or defend myself. Nothing I said would make a difference anyway, but I couldn't let Michael have the final word. "I need to make an appearance at a wine tasting. Sitting behind a desk for twelve hours a day is not the way to bring in new business. Sometimes you need to get out there and network." Planting on a smile, I said, "I already made myself late sending out last-minute emails to clients, so I must go. Enjoy your Chinese food." I hoofed it toward the exit without awaiting his response. He probably didn't buy my story, but I'd find a way to beat him at his own game — maybe impress one of his clients into requesting me as his direct contact. My billing rate was lower and my work product was the level of a fifth-year — more bang for the buck. In the meantime, my skin burned with annoyance, my belly cried for food, and my liver begged for wine.
When I got outside, I spotted an available cab headed in my direction. I also saw a trio of tourists waving their arms frantically to get its attention. With one gesture of my hand, it stopped at my feet. I climbed inside, pretending not to hear the girls shouting at me. Being a native New Yorker had its advantages.
Two hours into the party, and enough red wine varietals from the southern hemisphere in my system to feel a buzz, I raised the volume on my iPod and moved my hips to Rhianna's "Where Have You Been." I pulled Anne Marie away from the plate of cubed cheese to dance with me as a clear loud voice called out, "Sorry I'm so late." I twirled around to see a pair of long slender legs in tight blue skinny jeans, a designer trench coat, and high heels. Her face was hidden by the layers of boxes she was holding.
Afraid they would topple over, I ran over to her. I stood on my toes to remove the top box and smiled up into a pair of forest-green eyes. "Let me help."
"I've got it," she said, walking over to the bridge table we'd set up for food. She placed the other two boxes on the nearest surface and turned to face us. "Sorry I'm late. I think it's a rule in the law firm bible that associates must always be late for Friday night festivities. Anyway, I brought mini cupcakes and pizza so I hope you'll forgive me." She smiled. "I'm Sidney. Friend of Anne Marie's. Well, technically her boss, but not for tonight."
I should have known. Anne Marie said her boss was larger than life, and I could tell already the leggy redhead before me was a force. After putting down the cupcakes I was holding, I returned her grin. "Robyn. The roommate."
Sidney scrutinized me. "You're very pretty. I bet you get called 'cute' a lot though. Am I right?"
Amused, I said, "Yes, actually." I was only five foot three and many people equated lack of height with cuteness. Some of my younger students called me Truly Me, after the American Girl doll with the long wavy brown hair and blue eyes.
Nodding knowingly, Sidney said, "I thought so." Before I could thank her and return the compliment, she peered over my shoulder. "Is Anne Marie here?"
"She's here some —"
"Sidney!" Anne Marie raced over to us and wrapped one solid arm around Sidney's waist and the other one around mine in a group hug.
I giggled to myself, thinking the three of us, a blonde, brunette, and redhead, probably looked like the modern-day Andrew Sisters. I kept it to myself since I doubted either of them had heard of the American close harmony singing group from the mid-twentieth century.
"Someone's had plenty of wine, eh?" Sidney locked eyes with me before we both turned to Anne Marie, whose fair skin was flushed to a deep shade of pink.
I shrugged. "I knew somehow the wine 'tasting' would turn into a wine 'drinking.'"
Separating from Anne Marie, Sidney grabbed a cupcake and an empty glass. "I wouldn't want it any other way. Now, excuse me while I taste some wine." She used air quotes around the word "taste" and winked at us before heading over to where the expert was standing a few feet away.
"Isn't she a pip?" Anne Marie asked.
I watched as Sidney instantly drew the attention of the expert away from the crowd and toward herself. "She sure is," I said with a chuckle. Anne Marie had mentioned Sidney was a driven and focused attorney, and I was surprised she'd accepted our invitation. Fortunately, it appeared she knew how to play hard too. Assuming she didn't ask Anne Marie to send an email or make copies, I was confident my roommate would enjoy her own party even with her boss in attendance. As Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" played on my "Best of 2011" playlist — I was in the mood for "classic" tunes that night — I bumped my hip against Anne Marie's. "I love this song. Let's boogey."
I read the text from my boyfriend, Will, and frowned. He was having drinks with a friend from work. The wine expert and all the other guests had left, but I didn't feel like going home yet if it meant being alone in my apartment. Maybe Anne Marie and her roommate would want to go out for another drink. After scanning the living room area with no luck, I spotted them in the small eat-in kitchen. As Anne Marie bent down to put leftover food in the refrigerator, her sturdy freckled legs stuck out from the red athletic shorts she'd already changed into. And slim Robyn, in striking hot pink pants and a black and white polka dot top, was simultaneously rinsing dishes and dancing in front of the sink. She had moves.
I walked over to them. "Can I help you guys?"
Robyn turned around and smiled. Still bopping to the music, she removed the rubber yellow gloves from her hands and placed them on the dish rack before sitting down at the round hardwood table. Waving me away, she said, "I'm finished and, besides, you're our guest."
Joining Robyn at the table, Anne Marie said, "Want to help us empty another bottle of wine?"
"It would be my pleasure," I said before plopping myself on one of the high-backed kitchen chairs and accepting a generously poured glass of Malbec.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Boyfriend Swap"
Copyright © 2017 Meredith Schorr.
Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
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