Near the fiction section of my shop, I set up a long banquet table topping it with my mother’s lace table cloth. The theme here is all romance. I arrange some hors d’oeuvres along with an assorted cheese platter and fancy toast points as well as a pastry tray that I got from the corner bakery. There’s sparkling water, ice, cups, cocktail napkins—everything is just right. Now I have to be just right, or, at least I can smell right. In Together, We the heroine, Beth, wears the classic Chanel No. 5 perfume that drives the hero, Harlan, wild with desire. I bought some yesterday with the hopes that Barton will recognize the scent and I’ll drive him wild. Even though the bookstore is starting to fill with guests and Scooter is swamped at the check-out desk, I sneak back into my office and close the door. Hidden in a file drawer, I pull out the department store bag that’s pristinely decorated with a tuft of pink tissue paper. Carefully, I undo the Chanel No. 5 packaging, pop off the top, and take in the scent dabbing some behind my ears, on my wrists, and dragging a handsome amount down my décolleté. Ahhh, The scent of love.
“Yo, yo, yo, Emma. I think he’s here!” Scooter shouts to me from outside the office door. I take a deep breath, smooth out my skirt, and give myself a calming pep talk, you got this Emma. I emerge from my office with my head held high, strut over to the vestibule, and peer out the glass front door. There’s a long, black, limo idling along the curb. I’m paralyzed. The driver of the limo gets out and opens the back door. I swallow hard. A tall, thin guy wearing a plaid, short sleeve shirt with an ill-matching tie takes one step out of the car and trips on the sidewalk. His glasses fly off his face and his briefcase opens sending papers flying through the air. The limo driver helps him up and retrieves his stuff while he brushes himself off. My shoulders sink, that is definitely not Barton.
I walk out the front door to meet the klutz. “Are you alright? That was a nasty fall you had there. I’m Emma.” I extend my hand.
He takes his hand and instead of shaking, he swoops it through his overgrown hair to get it out of his eye line and nods his head, “Emma! I’m Jarrod. Wow, nice to finally put a face to the person who’s been hounding me for so long.” Now, we shake and his hand feels clammy. I try not to be too obvious while I wipe my palm down the side of my skirt.
I point to the limo, “Is…uh…Barton in there?” My voice gets shaky.
“Yes but, I have to go in first to make sure everything is Barton ready. It’s standard procedure.” This is the third-time Jarrod swooshed his hand into his hair. I feel like sending Scooter out for some hair spray.
“Come on in!” I lead the way into my shop. “Welcome to the Book Bin.” I say as the little bell on the door handle tinkles upon our entrance. Scooter is standing by anxiously awaiting his chance to meet his first celebrity. “This is Scooter, he works here. Scooter, this is Jarrod, Barton’s personal assistant.”
“Where is the Bard man?” Scooter says with a surfer dude type of inflection.
“Mr. Wallace will be here in a moment. I have to check on things to make sure….” Jarrod’s abrupt halt makes me think he’s seen a ghost. “Is that cheese?” He points to my hors d’oeuvre table.
“Yes, I put out a few snacks for…” I’m cut off by a panicked Jarrod.
“No, no, you have to get rid of this. Barton absolutely, positively, shuns dairy. It makes him puffy. You have to get rid of it.”
“Why can’t he just bypass the cheese platter?”
“It can’t be visible. He’ll be tempted and then he’ll blame me for putting dairy in his mouth. This,” he points at the cheese tray, “this has to go!” Jarrod is a nervous wreck.
I signal to Scooter who, without saying anything snarky, takes the cheese platter off the table and into my office. Jarrod breaths a small sigh of relief that is arrested by his next observation. “What’s this?” He picks up the Crystal Geyser sparkling water that I bought for the event.
“You told me Barton prefers sparkling water so that’s what I bought.”
“No, I said he likes Perrier. It has to be Perrier.”
“But, isn’t that sparkling water too?”