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Chapter 1

As I pulled open the door, my smart watch vibrated reminding me it was time for the first of my two appointments. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the low light of the restaurant. It had an old-fashioned lounge feel with the leatherette booths and white tablecloths and was the kind of place where people had martinis with lunch. No martini for me. I was working.

Two guys were hanging around the host stand, eying everyone who came in. One was a hipster dressed in a T-shirt and a suit that looked like it came from the boys' department. He glanced at me with an open smile. The other one wore a slightly crooked bow tie and was wringing his hands. One guess who was there for me.

My name is Veronica Blackstone and I'm a writer for hire, my pen ever ready- though these days I suppose I should really say keyboard ever ready. The guy I was meeting had contacted me about writing some love letters for him. Not really for him, more like as him.

That's what I do. I write what anyone needs written. I've done love letters (a challenge, but my favorite, even though ironically my own love life is at zero), biographies, resumes, copy for business brochures, wedding vows, and tributes I call "celebrations of life," which are mostly for funerals. I'll write just about anything- from a letter quitting someone's gym membership to ending an office lease- as long as it's legal. No ransom notes or letters threatening bodily harm. If this was an email or text, I'd probably add an LOL after the last comment to show I wasn't serious. It wasn't as if anybody had ever approached me to write either of those things anyway.

What qualifies me? you ask. I wrote the national bestseller The Girl with the Golden Throat about a singer who could hit a high note that shattered glass. Was it an accident or intentional when her voice shattered a glass ceiling and crushed the music critic beneath it? It was up to Detective Derek Streeter to find out. The trouble was, when it came to writing a sequel, I froze. The ten chapters I'd completed had been sitting on a shelf for months. I guess you could say I had no problem writing for others, just for myself.

I have to say it made for an interesting life, though. It put me in the middle of people's lives and privy to lots of secrets. Sometimes more than I wanted to know.

"Evan?" I said, addressing both men, though I was sure which one would nod. It was a very nervous nod at that, and when he reached out to shake my hand, he missed and got my wrist instead.

"Then you're Veronica, right," he said as he glanced around furtively. "I'm glad you're here. She'll be here any minute."

The she was Sally Rogers, his intended. There was no way I could write love letters as him or to her without having some idea who both people were. He'd given me some of the 4-1-1 on the phone, but it was not the same as seeing them in person. Evan got the host's attention and said we were ready for our table.

"Let's get our stories straight," he said as he slid into the booth.

"You"re going to tell her that I'm your neighbor who you ran into and that you invited me to join you. Then you're going to act like you got a phone call and excuse yourself, giving me the time to get to know her."

"Exactly," he said glancing toward the front. I fought the urge to lean over and straighten the bow tie as I went over what I knew about him. His name was Evan Wilkerson and he was he head IT guy for the Bellingham Hotel. It was a luxury hotel located down the street on Michigan Avenue. They served high tea in the lobby and still required proper attire, and I don't just mean no tank tops or flip-flops. All I knew about his intended was her name and that he thought she was some kind of wonderful.

Evan had said that he found out about my services by word of mouth, which these days really meant social media. I had a website and a Facebook page, though I had to be discreet- no samples of my work or testimonials from satisfied customers since a lot of my work was really ghosting as someone else.

"Since we have a few minutes, why don't you fill me in on a little more. You were a little vague on the phone about where your relationship is. How long have you been dating?"

"Uh, we're not exactly dating. That's what I need you for," he stammered. "I tend to get nervous and I don't know what to say." For the moment he seemed uncertain what to do with himself. As he fumbled around with his napkin, he managed to knock over a glass of water, across the white table cloth. Thankfully, it soaked up the liquid before it drenched me.

"You do know her though?" I said and he nodded.

"Yes, of course. She works at the hotel too. She's an assistant manager in charge of making arrangements for special events."

Evan's head suddenly shot up and he tensed. I followed his gaze and saw that a woman had just walked up to the host stand. Evan stood up almost taking the tableclolth with him and waved at her, and all I could think was boy, do I have my work cut out for me.

I know you're not supposed to judge people by out appearances, but when I saw the beaming smile and the bright yellow suit, it was like sunshine had just walked in. Even her name, Sally, sounded sunny. I glanced back at Evan with slicked-down brown hair and the tense expression. She was so out of his league.

Just before she reached the table, he whispered, "I probably should mention that I want to marry her."

If she hadn't been in earshot, I would have said what I was thinking. Was he serious? I wrote love letters, but I wasn't a magician.

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