The Trouble With Love

By: Lauren Layne

Chapter 1


Emma had considered calling in sick.

The flu. Cramps. Measles. Dysentery. Mental health day. Whatever.

At the very least, she probably should have waited until after the morning rush hour. Or perhaps snuck in the back door of her office building along with the water cooler delivery guy.

But Emma Sinclair was not a fan of letting life’s little hiccups inconvenience her.

Although…

She supposed one could argue there was nothing so little about the fact that her apartment had gone from completely normal to entirely flooded in less time than it took her to curl her eyelashes.

And as for the fact that said water catastrophe had resulted in her entire building losing power…well, that was pretty much just a straight-up apocalypse.

Still. There were worse things than coming into work with your hair soaking wet and your makeup nonexistent, dressed in a hot-pink bridesmaid dress from your cousin’s wedding that was the only dry item in your closet thanks to its protective plastic covering.

Emma had barely bothered to look in the mirror before she’d dashed out of her apartment chased by a string of F-bombs from her frazzled landlord. But then, she didn’t need to look in the mirror to know that her look was one part too glamorous for the office, one part street rat.

Besides, who needed a mirror when you had friends like Julie Greene?

Emma was digging through her bag for the badge that would let her pass through security at the Ravenna office building where she worked, when Julie strolled up behind her, Starbucks cup in hand, smile firmly in place as always.

“Hi, Em…aaahh,” Julie said, breaking off in horror as she took in Emma’s appearance.

Emma gave Julie a droll look. “You like?”

“I don’t even understand what’s happening here,” Julie said, her voice mystified. She held out her Starbucks cup. “Here. Take my caramel macchiato. You need it more.”

Emma started to give a dismissive nah, that’s okay, but on second thought, accepted the offering. Her friend was right. She did need it more. The Incident had happened mid coffee-brew, which meant Emma was running on a caffeine deficit.

She took a sip as Julie continued to stare at Emma’s outfit in dismay.

“Explain?” Julie said.

Emma sighed. “The apartment above me had some sort of water disaster. My entire apartment looks like the set of Titanic, minus the nubile Leo.”

Julie eyed Emma’s wet hair. “So, is your hair wet from, like, dirty pipe water?”

“No,” Emma said, taking a last sip of Julie’s coffee and handing the cup back as she located her badge. “Fortunately, I’d showered before the pipe burst and I managed to dodge the worst of the spray. Unfortunately, drying my hair wasn’t an option.”

“Right. That whole electrocution thing,” Julie said as they swiped their badges and headed to the elevators.

“Um, yeah, I couldn’t have gotten electrocuted even if I wanted to,” Emma said, punching the Up button. “The power went out.”

Julie’s brown eyes bugged out. “Seriously? Flooded and you have no power? Is everything ruined?”

“Of course not. I still have this lovely dress,” Emma said, pulling the hem of her dress out to the side, curtsy style. She pretended not to notice the way the two girls who had been gossiping happily as they crossed the elevator lobby immediately quieted when they spotted her.

The dress would have been a distraction all by itself. The drippy wet bun was also atypical for a swanky office building in which sophisticated and polished was the unofficial dress code for women.

But a lack of makeup made everything worse. Much worse.

Not that Emma was really a glam type of girl, but she had a distinct disadvantage of having very fair eyelashes, despite her medium brown hair. And her eyes’ shape made it worse. They were both large and tilted upward in a semi-distinctive manner. Bambi eyes, her mother had always called them.

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