Disengaged

book-disengaged-bethorsoff
Allie Zenet has nabbed a sparkly diamond ring and the handsome studio exec fiancé that goes with it. Unfortunately that package also includes a domineering future mother-in-law and serious wedding jitters.

The thirty-two-year-old Los Angeles entertainment accountant would rather elope, but fiancé Brad seems incapable of saying “no” to mommy’s wedding demands. Allie wonders if anyone knows—or cares—that she is the one who’s getting married.

Her closest friends are too engrossed in their own messy love lives to offer any guidance, and Allie’s mother’s views on marriage would make a strident feminist blush. The only one who seems interested in what Allie thinks is a good-looking acquaintance by the name of Jax Montgomery. But Jax’s attentions have Allie questioning just what it is she truly wants.

This hilarious and heartfelt romp is all about getting to “I do” by saying “I won’t.”

 

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Chapter One

I smoothed one more pass of Satin Rebel gloss onto my lips, wiped the smudge of burgundy color off my front tooth, then returned my car’s rearview mirror to its usual position. Deep breath, Allie, deep breath. It’s only a party.

I always came down with a case of nerves before these things. Work parties, especially my boyfriend’s work parties, made me jumpy. I think it was because I hated having to walk up to people I didn’t know, introduce myself, then make intelligent small talk. Brad, my boyfriend of two years, considered these events the ultimate networking opportunity. I considered them the ultimate test of my willpower: How long can I listen to television-business-obsessed people blather on about ratings and demographics and market share before I wanted to shoot myself in the head? My record was one and a half hours, but I was hoping to up that to two.

As soon as I walked through the heavy metal door of Soundstage 16, I realized Brad had been right to insist I wear a cocktail dress. Normally these on-the-set parties were low key. But after twenty-six years and eighteen failed nominations, Kristine Cummings, daytime television’s reigning diva, had finally won her Emmy. I’d assumed the network would just push back the sets of its longest-running soap opera and scatter a few tables and chairs around the room. In fact, the usual shooting space for Sands of Time was unrecognizable.

The concrete floor had been covered in dark industrial carpet, the bare walls draped with sheer curtains and silk scrims, and the room filled with bistro tables layered in linen and topped with pink roses. The far end of the soundstage was sectioned off with heavy black drapes, which hid the makeshift kitchen supplying the food for the buffet tables spreading the length of one wall, and on the opposite end, a fabulous twelve-piece band was belting out Motown tunes to an empty dance floor.

I wandered the packed, dimly lit space in search of Brad. I passed two actors who looked vaguely familiar and an older woman who’d played the matriarch of one of the prominent Sands of Time families since I was in junior high school, but the guest of honor was absent, and I couldn’t find Brad. I pulled my cellphone out of my silk evening bag, thereby freeing up half its space, but before I could auto-dial Brad’s number, he called me.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“At the party,” I said. “Where are you?”

“Holding a table for us in the corner.”

I scanned the room. “Which corner?”

“If you’re standing at the entrance, walk past the dance floor and make a right.”

I followed Brad’s instructions to a grouping of black chairs and couches with reserved signs on their matching coffee tables. Except for Brad sitting on a leather sofa in his well-cut suit and striped tie, this section of the room was empty.

“Are you sure we’re allowed to sit here?” I asked, sliding in next to him.

“It’s fine,” he said, but glanced around nervously. “I cleared it with security. Kristin’s not even here yet.”

“Is everything okay?” His knee was bobbing uncontrollably. Plus, this was the first time I’d ever found Brad sitting alone at a party.

“Of course. You want some champagne?”

“Sure.” And before I could ask if he wanted me to go with him to the bar or save the seats, he reached under the coffee table and pulled out a bottle of chilled Veuve Clicquot and two fluted glasses.

“Where’d you get that?” I asked, both because he’d had it waiting, and because it was good champagne instead of the low-end alcohol they normally served at these open-bar events.

“I have my methods.” He expertly stripped off the foil and popped the cork, then poured us each a glass and said, “To us,” as he clinked his flute against mine.

I’d barely taken a sip when he pulled the champagne out of my hand and set it on the table with his own. And the next thing I knew, he was kneeling on the floor in front of me. His lips were moving, and I was sure words were coming out, but I couldn’t hear them. All I could hear was my own voice in my head.

What is he doing? Why is he kneeling? Is he proposing? Oh my God, I think he’s proposing. Is that a ring? He’s putting a ring on my finger!

“Allie,” I finally heard, and looked down into Brad’s questioning eyes. “Aren’t you going to answer me?”

“Yes!” Although for all I knew, I could’ve just agreed to fellate him and the bartender in the middle of the dance floor.

Brad pushed himself onto the couch and sank back into the cushions. “Thank God that’s over with.” Then he swigged the rest of his champagne and poured himself another glass.

I barely had time to register that I was now wearing a diamond engagement ring—princess cut with baguettes on a platinum band—when I heard the sound of clapping behind me.

“Bravo,” a man said as he emerged from the darkness. “You two were terrific.”