So Not My Thing - Melanie Jacobson Page 0,2

commercial real estate in the city. And that meant every agent there, smiling, oohing and aahing over his second-rate celebrity self and Brenda’s presentation.

As soon as his name had come up, I’d stayed out of the office discussions, but we had an open floor plan, and I couldn’t help hearing the details even though I didn’t care about them. Apparently, now that Hollywood had lost interest in him, Miles was returning home to open a jazz club where he could perform every night and people had to listen to him because he owned the place.

What a tool. He hadn’t changed in twelve years.

And since I had to look like a supportive team player, I’d sit quietly at the conference table as far from Miles Crowe as possible and get through this morning with my dignity intact.

That would be the biggest victory of all since it was my dignity he’d stolen all those years ago.

“I’m going to get the chicken biscuits from Jerome, then head out,” I said. “Thank you for the coffee, Miss Mary.”

“Any time.”

It was our usual routine. I knew she’d have coffee waiting for me whenever I came down for the day, and if I took too long coming down, she sent one of the servers up to leave some in front of my door. When I’d moved into the apartment over the café after graduation, I’d tried to convince her she didn’t need to do anything special for me just because my parents owned the building.

She’d fixed me with a stare that shut me right up. “I’ve been making coffee for the upstairs tenants no matter who they were since I’ve been running my place. You ain’t special. Or else y’all all special. One of the two.”

But that didn’t mean I would take it for granted. My mom would be appalled if I ever neglected a thank you.

Jerome helped me load the flat of biscuits into the trunk of my Mercedes, which sounded fancier than it was. It was the cheapest model available, and I’d bought it used when someone had returned it after a three-year lease. Even then, I’d had to take out a loan. I didn’t even want a luxury car, but you had to project success to commercial real estate clients. A Mercedes—even a boring one—could do that for you.

Our office was Downtown—the Central Business District—a fifteen-minute drive from my apartment. I spent it listening to the Gladiator soundtrack because it always sanded down the spikes of my anxiety. I needed to walk into the meeting appearing as calm, cool, and collected as possible.

It was the exact opposite of the way Miles Crowe had last seen me, but I’d changed enough in twelve years that he shouldn’t recognize me. I didn’t want him to see even a trace of the gawky teenage girl he’d humiliated publicly on national television.

That girl—Gabi Jones—had been a frizzy-haired, scrawny, zitty, brace-faced, glasses-wearing, tear-stained high school freshman.

Graduating from puberty, Lasik, hair serums, gym-time, and careful study of fashion trends had turned me into Elle Jones, a sophisticated 26-year-old with a confident smile and a slight air of mystery.

I hoped, anyway.

It was the image I’d cultivated since college.

I pulled into Crescent City Property Investments, retrieved Miss Mary’s biscuits, and rode the elevator up to our offices on the fifth floor. It was the premier boutique agency for New Orleans commercial real estate, the biggest of the little guys.

Because I brought my family’s historic Bywater building with me as a client, I could have gotten on with one of the major national brokerages, but I hadn’t wanted that. I’d wanted to be somewhere with roots in the community, and that meant Crescent.

The reception desk sat empty, but Brenda was already in her office, the only private office on our floor. She had a very literal open-door policy, and this morning was no different as she typed furiously at her keyboard.

“Hey,” I said, popping my head in.

“You’re early.”

“Wanted to make sure I got the chicken biscuit sandwiches here in time. Need any help setting up?”

“I think it’s okay, but let’s go look.”

I followed her to the conference room. Through the windows, I could see she’d already placed a linen folder embossed with the company logo at every seat. Each folder contained slick brochures, net sheets, and disclosures for the locations she’d be highlighting in her presentation.

I set down the biscuits on the table designated for refreshments. High-end paper goods sat in neat stacks and waited only for the coffee and other small