Chapter 1

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My lower left desk drawer holds a secret.

Looking at the rest of my office you’d never guess. The pristine mahogany surface of the desk is unspoiled by dust or clutter. Every office tool has a place and every file is appropriately color coded. Rows of sales data binders are neatly aligned and in chronological order. The flat-panel monitor is oriented at the perfect ergonomic angle to minimize eye strain and glare.

But that drawer—securely locked if I’m out of the office for even a second—is the exception to my immaculately professional appearance.

That drawer is loaded with candy.

A sweet-tooth soup of peppermints, lemon drops, butterscotches, caramels, lollipops, and atomic fireballs. A treasure trove of red vines, gummy bears, licorice whips, fruit slices, red hots, and tropical dots stacked in disorderly piles.

My name is Lydia Vanderwalk, and I’m a candy-holic.

I’ve known this for a long time and freely confess my dependency. I know I couldn’t stop, even if I wanted to. 

I would never, ever want to.

I live for the sugar rush of a one-pound bag of M&Ms. Sour apple tape got me through my college all-nighters. Every great idea I ever had was Lifesavers-induced.

When I was four years old, my mom dressed me as Jo from Facts of Life and took me trick-or-treating. Everyone thought I was Michael J. Fox. I was traumatized. When we got home I dumped my booty onto the carpet and started consuming. Amongst the Smarties and fun-size Snickers I found comfort for my costume identity crisis. Candy soothed my pain. And has ever since.

Next Halloween I was a gumdrop. Not one nearsighted neighbor mistook me for a pink mountain.

Candy is my coping mechanism, and it’s less destructive than other addictions I could have. As far as vices go, it’s a harmless one.

In my industry, though, it’s the eighth mortal sin. People in fashion—correction, women in fashion don’t eat anything, let alone candy by the bucketful. That’s why my secret could never get out.

Thankfully, I am skilled at maintaining the appearance of normalcy.

So when Janice, junior VP of Marketing for Ferrero Couture and my direct superior (otherwise mentally known as Jawbreaker—hard on the outside hard on the inside) barged into my office without so much as a knock on the closed door, I slipped open the drawer, pulled out a Werther’s, and popped it in my mouth.

She was dressed, as usual, like an aging Vegas cigarette girl. Shoulder-padded silver blazer with a deep-v neckline, tight black pants, and eye makeup that made Cleopatra look like a bare-faced virgin. She thinks she’s the Donatella Versace of Ferrero Couture. She’s an executive, for Good&Plenty’s sake—a design diva she is not.

In my grey, summer wool pantsuit and lilac cashmere shell I felt deliciously like Belgian chocolate next to a bag of carob chips.

“Have you seen the new GQ?” she asked.

Uh-uh,” I hummed around the toffee. The buttery sweetness melted into my tongue and improved my overall sense of well-being.

She plunked the magazine on my desk and smirked. I flicked my eyes to the cover and back to her, trying to maintain an air of nonchalance and disguise my annoyance at her intrusion. My gaze flew immediately back to the slick image on the glossy cover. Gavin!

Now Jawbreaker’s smirk made sense.

Here came conversation #3,524—not that I’m counting—about the Lamentable Loss of Gavin the Great.

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