When We Met - Marni Mann Page 0,1

I knew the wait times would be hours long.

“After a beer, we’ll grab food, deal?”

“Deal,” I replied, and I reached for the door, holding it open for him.

He paused in the entryway. “Fuck me, this place is packed.”

“This was your idea,” I reminded him and went toward the bar, finding the end of the chaos, a line that was more than twenty deep.

“You’ve got this?” When I nodded, he added, “I’m going to look for seats.”

“Good luck with that,” I said and took out my phone.

Over seventy-five work e-mails had come in since I’d last checked. I read a few, not having the necessary resources at my disposal to give the right answers, so I exited out and pulled up Instagram. The first photo I came to was of Smith driving a boat across the Arabian Sea, wearing a hat from our alma mater, the sun setting in a rich sky behind him.

“Not even a stool to be found,” Joe said as he rejoined me, still in the same place in line.

I tilted the phone to show him my screen. “Are you surprised?”

“At how busy it is in here or that our boy chartered a boat that you’d give your left nut to be on right now?”

I shook my head as I put my cell away. “I knew I should have booked a flight when my client canceled this morning.”

“Nonsense.” He grabbed my shoulder. “We’re going to turn this day into one of the best you’ve had in a while.”

“How? We can’t even get a fucking beer.”

“Follow me.” He took us back out the front and down several more blocks before bringing us inside one of our most frequented restaurants.

“All right,” I admitted, “it’s already getting better.”

“I thought you’d say that.” He slipped the hostess a hundred-dollar bill, and we were suddenly away from the commotion near the bar and seated at a quiet, private table in the back.

The waitress approached, asking if we wanted our usual drinks.

Once we confirmed, Joe’s phone started to ring. He showed me Smith’s name on the screen before he answered, “Hey, buddy. Things going good?”

While Joe spoke to him, I checked my e-mails again, the number now closer to one fifty. I shot off a text to my assistant, asking her to respond to the more important issues and to update my schedule with the meetings my clients were requesting.

Just as I glanced up, Joe was hanging up with Smith.

“Is he having the best time?” I asked.

“Do you really want to know?”

Before I could reply, the waitress was setting down our beers. “Can I get you your usual lunch order, Mr. Hunt?” she asked me, smiling.


Joe echoed my response, and his phone began to ring.

“Smith again?”

“No,” he said. “It’s my wife.”

“Aren’t you going to pick up?”

He clicked a button to silence the phone and put it in his pocket. “She’ll want me to come home and give her a break from the kids. I’m not looking to have that argument today.”

I took a drink of the beer. “She’s going to leave your ass.”

“You’re probably right, but, Jesus …” He drained half of his IPA. “I put in twenty-two hours at the office this weekend, and this is how I choose to spend my day off. Don’t I deserve a minute without someone needing something from me?”

“I’m the last person who should be giving you marriage advice.” I ran my thumb over the frosty glass, the smoothness like the skin on a woman’s navel. “Before I broke things off with Lisa last week, she said I needed to unplug more and suggested I buy a farmhouse in Western Mass and raise fucking goats and shit.” I held up my beer, letting the waitress know we needed another round. “They all want a slower version of me, one who doesn’t spend fourteen hours a day at the office.” I leaned back in the chair, crossing my arms over my chest. “We both know I’m married to work and wired for speed.”

That was the problem with the women I dated—every one of them had tried to switch my priorities—and that was why none of my relationships had lasted more than six months. They were all warned, going in, that work would always win, but like all the previous ones, Lisa had thought she could change me.

“The only thing you know how to do slow is ribs,” Joe joked.

I groaned as I thought about the racks I’d cooked for the boys last month. “We’re due for another cookout,