Chapter One

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She figured it would be on page S-4. Flush left. Above the fold.

That's where it had always been. Her fingers could find it by habit. A type of muscle memory that only avid readers could develop.

"Jordaaaaaaaaan!" a male voice sang over the sea of grey cubicles. "Think fast!"

Without her eyes ever leaving the page, she lifted her hand to catch a small blue stress ball mid-air. It fell into the palm of her hand just inches before it smacked her in the ridge of her glasses frames; and she could tell who the culprit was before her brunette top-knot had a chance to peek above the felt-lined cubicle.

Samuel freakin' Martinez.

"Martinez! Didn't your mama ever teach you not to throw balls inside the house?"

"Nice catch, work-wifey," he yelled, decidedly ignoring her. His pure white sneakers scuffed along the corporate carpet as he shuffled toward her cube. "I always thought we'd make a good team."

"Hard pass," she gave him a dark stare through her glasses frames, but broke character and laughed as she wound up her arm and threw the ball back. It thwacked him in the inner thigh before falling to the floor.

"Easy, Jo! You can't break The Little Martinez!"

"Call me crazy, but any guy who names his part 'little' can't have too much to break..."

He swallowed back the older brother-type retort Jordan was sure he was capable of and smiled. He was giving her the same look she was starting to resent in everyone these days. It was the look of surprise when people realized her wits were still locked and loaded. That in spite of everything, she was still capable of making jokes.

But, for some odd reason, no one ever wanted to dish it out to a girl with a dead dad.

Martinez's dark brown eyes traced her up an down as he stood by her cube and spoke with middle school cheerleader-levels of enthusiasm, "Well, you look great!"

"Honest answer?" Jordan slit her eyes.

"You look..." he scanned her sunken face. She had taken the time for a bright red lip, but the city's humidity had made her hair spring up at its roots like tumbleweed, and her under-eyes were so dark it looked like someone had traced under them with an etch-a-sketch. "Hell-ish."

"Hellish? Damn, Martinez. I'm at least in heels."

"Hell-adjacent, then," he said, catching a glimpse of her black Target pumps. "Like you're hungover from a party you weren't invited to. Or like you just realized you'd have to survive a family reunion sans alcohol."

"How poetic."

"But, for real, lady. How're you doing?"

"I'm good," she said. "Good." Her voice felt like it was being carried by the wind. But she meant it, for the most part.

"Good," he said. "Then bring it in." He outstretched his arms and waved his hands toward his short-sleeved button up. Jordan sighed as she fell into his corned beef arms.

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