While We Were Dating384
While We Were Dating384
Jasmine Guillory was one of the first to the rom-com market and continues to build on her world of young professionals looking for love — and laughs. It is our not-so-secret hope that she writes us one of her spectacular meet-cutes every year! Believe the hype and fall head over heels with While We Were Dating.
One of TIME Magazine's 100 Must-Reads of 2021!
Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.
Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star, Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…
Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?
But their light-hearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.
When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Ben Stephens was running late to work, clutching a cup of coffee, and about to get on the bus when his boss called.
Shit. He'd meant to get to work early this morning because of that pitch they had later for a huge client, but he'd woken up in the bed of last night's date and had to race back home, shower, change, and then get to work. He was honestly proud of himself for only running fifteen minutes late, and now this.
"I hope I caught you before you left home," Lisa said.
He looked from side to side. Was he being watched? Was this a trick question?
"Um, no, I'm on Muni, on the way to the office," he said. Which was true! He was one step onto Muni by the time he said it.
"Okay, well, go back home and get your car," she said. "I know we were supposed to drive down to that pitch together today, but I'm stuck at LAX, along with everyone else who was supposed to be there today; if it was any other client we'd postpone, but if we do it for this, they'll just give the ad campaign to someone else."
Ben was already off the bus and on the way back to his apartment.
"So do you want me to do it alone?" He felt a burst of adrenaline at the thought of it. He was great at client pitches, and he never got to lead them at this ad agency. But this was a much more top-down agency than the ones he'd been at before, and while he'd gotten to work on some fantastic campaigns, he had a lot less autonomy.
"We may not have a choice," Lisa said. "We're scheduled to be on another flight that leaves in an hour, so if traffic is with us, we may not be there too late, but you'll almost certainly have to at least start it on your own. Can you handle it? I just emailed Vanessa and told her to meet you there; she'll bring everything you need. You already have the PowerPoint."
He didn't just have the PowerPoint, he'd written almost the entire thing, but they both knew that.
"Sure, I can handle it, no problem. I know the vision for this ad campaign inside out." Which was absolutely true. He'd done the bulk of the work for it, but he'd always known he wouldn't play much of a role at the pitch today. He knew he would be there partly so they could look to him to fill in the blanks they didn't know, and mostly to show the "diversity" of their ad agency.
He could hear the relief in his boss's voice.
"I knew I could count on you, Ben. Even if promptness isn't your strong point, your ability to win over clients is. And I know how hard you worked on this. See you soon, I hope. Text me if you need anything, okay?"
He let himself back into his building and pretended he hadn't heard that crack about his promptness. Especially since it was true.
He changed into his lucky shoes, grabbed his car keys, and headed to his car. This ad campaign was top secret-it was to launch a splashy new phone, and they'd all had to sign the most draconian nondisclosure agreement he'd ever seen in order to even get to work on it. The client had already secured the talent-an actress who they were paying untold amounts of money to do this. His agency had done a bunch of work for them, but then, so had lots of other ad agencies-three of them were pitching today. Which was why he was now on 101 South alone, wishing that he could read through the PowerPoint as he drove.
He wasn't nervous about the actual presentationhis boss was right, he was great at that part. It was the pressure of having this huge pitch on his shoulders that made him want to study.
He called his brother as soon as he hit traffic.
"I need a pep talk," he said when Theo answered the phone.
"You do?" Theo asked. "This is Ben, right? My little brother? The one who always has a supreme amount of confidence in everything he does?"
Ben managed to shift into a slightly-faster-moving lane.
"Yes, yes, your brother, your only sibling. Now that we've gotten that over with-I have a . . . big work thing that I just realized I can't tell you the details of, but trust me, it's big. And I want to get it right."
He'd caught himself just in time before he told Theo everything. He took a very careful gulp of coffee. He definitely couldn't spill today.
"Okay," Theo said. "Do you know your shit? Really, do you know it, inside and out?"
He thought about how hard he'd worked on this.
"Yeah. I really know it."
"Then you're going to be fantastic, no matter what this is," Theo said. "You're going to kill it. You know that."
He did know that, actually. But it helped to hear Theo say it.
"I sure as hell am."
An hour later, he pulled into the elaborate tech company campus and gave his name to the security guard. He grabbed his bag, crossed his fingers that Vanessa would be there soon, and walked to the big glass doors.
After passing through a maze of security, someone eventually showed him into a conference room, where-thank God-Vanessa was waiting.
"Oh good, you're here," she said. "I have the PowerPoint all set up on the laptop here, if you want to flip through it before I turn the projector on."
Bless her, yes, he did.
They were the first presentation of the day, which the bigwigs at his company had lobbied for, because they all thought it was the best position. They were probably all kicking themselves now that they were stuck in L.A.
He skimmed the presentation and took the opportunity to make a few of the edits he'd been outvoted on. If he was going to do this, he was going to do it his way. Someone brought him and Vanessa coffee, but unfortunately, no one brought them snacks. Tech companies had such good snacks, but they were always stingy about sharing them, damn it. And he hadn't had breakfast. Oh well, this much coffee on an empty stomach would either make him keel over or give him all the energy he needed. He was excited to see which one it was.
Finally, a group of four people walked into the room without ceremony.
"Is this everyone from Legendary?" the guy in front asked.
Ben walked across the room to greet him.
"Just the two of us for now-I'm Ben Stephens, and this is Vanessa Hernandez. The rest of the team got stuck at LAX and they're on their way, but we know your time is valuable, so we don't need to wait for them."
Everyone sat down, and Vanessa cued up the presentation. And then the door opened again, and a woman stepped inside.
"Hi, all-sorry I'm late. It took longer to get through security than I accounted for. I guess the front desk didn't get the message that I'd be here today."
Everyone at the table stood up automatically. It was impossible not to, when you looked at her. She was astonishing.
Ben thought he knew what beautiful women were like, but he'd never seen anything like her before. He couldn't stop looking at her. She was luminous, like there was a spotlight on her somehow. She had golden brown skin, big brown eyes, and lips that . . . okay, he had to stop staring.
"Hi," she said. "I'm Anna Gardiner."
Everyone in the room had known that before she'd said it, of course. Anna Gardiner. The famous actress. Here for his pitch. His last-minute pitch. Thank God he hadn't known she would be here on his drive down; he would have needed a much longer pep talk.
"Ms. Gardiner!" Okay, from the tone of his voice, the guy representing the client hadn't known she was coming, either. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize . . . Of course, you had a standing offer to come today, but we . . ."
Ben walked around the table. Someone had to save this guy from himself.
"Ms. Gardiner, I'm Ben Stephens, from Legendary advertising agency. Thanks so much for coming today."
"Nice to meet you, Ben," she said. "Please call me Anna." Her voice was low, but warm. He wanted to listen to her talk for hours.
She smiled at him. Oh my God. He'd thought she was beautiful before, but with that smile aimed straight at him, "beautiful" seemed far too pedestrian a word for her.
He smiled back at her. Then he forced himself to remember why he was there today. Work, the pitch, he was their only hope, right. He couldn't let this surprise appearance of the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen blow him off course.
"Anna, then. I'm so glad you're here."
He went back to his spot at the head of the table and watched the client representatives surround Anna. He nudged Vanessa-she looked at him with eyes full of terror, but he shook his head.
"Go meet her!" he said under his breath. She still looked terrified, but she walked around the table and greeted Anna.
Once the introductions were over, Anna sat down at the foot of the table and looked at him expectantly. He nodded at Vanessa, who now had a huge smile on her face.
"If everyone is ready, we'll get started," he said.
Now that Anna Gardiner was here, he wasn't sure whom he was supposed to impress. The talent rarely attended meetings like this; he assumed they often had veto power over ad campaigns, but they were never in on the ground floor, making decisions; that was always the client.
But honestly, who the fuck cared about any of that right now? Because he sure as hell knew that the only person who mattered in this room right now was Anna.
He smiled at everyone in the room.
"Good morning, everyone. We at Legendary were thrilled to be invited to present our vision for this major ad campaign for your new phone. As you'll see, it's ambitious, but we're known for our ambition." Clients always lapped up that line; he could already see the dudes in the room puffing up their chests. "But it's also tailored just for you and your needs. Let's begin."
Anna sat back to watch. She'd come today for two reasons-to make it clear to this enormous corporation that she took the line in her contract about having veto power over the ad campaign seriously, and because this ad campaign was going to be very high-profile, she sure as hell wanted to make sure she trusted the people in charge. While her manager might claim she needed complete control over everything, that wasn't true. She just wanted to make sure that the people who were in control were worthy of it.
And she especially needed that right now. It wasn't, exactly, that this was a comeback-despite everything that had gone on last year, she'd still been working steadily for the past six months. But there was a lot riding on this, and she needed to know it would be damn good.
Her entrance also hadn't been as last-minute as she'd implied-yes, her manager had only called this morning to say she was coming, but that was intentional. She wanted to know what all of these agencies would put together if they didn't know she'd be there. It had killed her to be late-unlike most people in L.A., who notoriously ran behind schedule, she usually had to force herself to be two minutes early instead of ten minutes early-but in this situation, it gave her an advantage.
Her presence hadn't seemed to faze this charmer from the ad agency, though. Sure, he'd given her a very flattering look when she'd walked into the room, but he'd collected himself pretty quickly after that, and she liked everything he was saying during this presentation. A series of commercials and photo shoots for a new phone wasn't rocket science; she didn't think most of these campaigns would be all that different from one another, but the people running the shoots always made the difference-she'd seen that over and over.
It surprised her that it was just him and the young assistant with him. Not to stereotype ad agencies-especially the kind she assumed these big Silicon Valley companies used, but she hadn't expected a Black man to be the lead on one of these presentations. She'd actually expected to be the only Black person in the room for all of this. And she hadn't missed how he'd sent the assistant over to meet her, or how proud of her he'd looked when she'd walked back over to him. Treating assistants well was always a good sign.
"We wanted to make this phone seem like something that fits into the customer's lifestyle, not that they'll have to change their lifestyle around to fit it. And we want to show all of the great new bells and whistles of this phone, but in a relatable way. For instance, we want to show Ms. Gardiner-Anna," he corrected himself, with a nod and smile at her, "doing things like running around town, someone knocking the phone out of her hand on the sidewalk, or at the beach-and the phone will still work fine afterward. But also . . ."
She appreciated that he wanted someone to knock it out of her hand, and not for her to keep dropping it everywhere.
"And we want to exploit Anna's natural comedic talent-we've all seen how funny she can be, and this is a way to get people to not just remember the commercial, but remember the phone, too."
That might just be flattery, but it worked-she did have natural comedic talent, damn it! And she hadn't gotten to show it in a while. She started to ask a follow-up question, but the conference room door swung open.
"Our apologies, everyone." Two white men and one white woman all walked in and joined the Black guy-Ben, that was his name-at the head of the table. "You all know how it is, trying to fly into SFO first thing in the morning, so much fog. We can do quick introductions and then-" The one white guy who was clearly in charge had been looking around the room as he talked, and he'd looked past her at least three times, until he'd finally realized who she was.
She always loved that moment.
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