By: L.M. Pruitt

Satisfied the only thing I was leaving behind was a vague memory of a good time, I walked outside, closing the door gently behind me. I glanced at my watch and smiled. I wasn’t even going to miss checkout.

Even with the hangover, today was looking to be a good day.

“YEAH, NO, BILL.” I tucked the phone between my shoulder and my cheek, squinting at the in-dash map. “The tacos were okay but they weren’t wonderful. I’d give them no more than three out of five and that’s probably influenced by the tequila.”

“Sorry, boss.” His voice, already as rough and gritty as ground glass, sounded especially rough today. “Yelp reviews gave the impression they were the best tacos this side of the Rio Grande.”

“You made two mistakes, Bill.” If the navigation was right, there was a truck stop at the next exit. I certainly hoped so, since my stomach and the car’s gas tank were running on empty and my bladder was more than a little full. “First, you trusted Yelp. Second, you trusted Yelp about a Mexican place in Alabama.”

“People in Alabama like tacos, too.” He groaned but there was something to the sound which made me think he was nursing a hangover far worse than my own. “People everywhere like tacos.”

“Yes, which is why it’s important we tell them where to find the best ones.” I sighed in relief when I passed a billboard for the promised truck stop, doing a butt wiggle in my seat at the signage promising a Denny’s. The headache had died down to a dull throb and a greasy bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich would take care of even that.

Just because I made my living discovering and spotlighting independent and unique restaurants didn’t mean I was above eating in chain restaurants.

“I’ll write the piece up on wherever I was last night when I get to the hotel later today.” Yet more information which was buried in my inbox somewhere. Even with my assistant running point and taking care of the busywork, I still had two hundred plus emails cross my metaphorical desk every day. I needed a second assistant, one who would handle nothing but my email and paperwork, but I didn’t have the time to head back to Savannah and conduct interviews.

And nobody worked for me unless I hired them personally.

“Rough night?” Bill’s question brought me back to the conversation and I cursed under my breath as I tapped the brakes. A few more seconds and I would have missed the exit. “Tequila?”

“Where there’s tacos, there’s tequila—which actually was worth the trip but barely.” I took my eyes off the road long enough to switch the call to the car’s system, dropping my phone in the center console in a bed of receipts. “I know I have the information somewhere but text me the address for where I’m headed next.”

“You have the conference in Atlanta. It starts in two days and runs through Sunday but you’re booked at the Westin today through Monday.” There was the faint shuffling of papers and when he spoke again there was no mistaking the sly note which had crept in his voice. “Rumor has it Riley is supposed to be there.”

“Considering the fact it’s an industry conference, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t there.”

“So you’re okay with spending the next five days in the same hotel with your ex-boyfriend?”

“First, you know how much I hate when you refer to him as my ex-boyfriend.” Mostly because it would mean Riley Durant and I had exchanged something other than bodily fluids over the course of our six month affair. Boyfriend conjured up images of pet names and flowers, not phone sex and fuckboys. “Second, why would there be a problem?”

“Come on, boss. Everybody knows the two of you didn’t exactly part on the best of terms.”

I suppose that was one way to describe the situation. I was willing to admit it probably wasn’t very often a man nearly seven feet tall who looked as if he could have doubled as an extra on Sons of Anarchy broke down in tears at one of the most popular restaurants in Manhattan before upending a table and throwing a nearly full glass of Malbec in the face of his dining partner. I was also willing to admit it probably wasn’t very often said dining partner simply asked to be moved to a different table before the main course arrived.

It took me almost nine months to get a reservation at Per Se. There was no way I was going to let a little thing like an on/off fuckbuddy’s bruised feelings ruin the experience.

“Riley’s a big boy. I’m sure he’ll be fine.” I eased off the interstate, cruising down the ramp and taking the turn toward the truck stop. “Besides, we don’t really run in the same circles. I doubt we’ll do anything other than pass each other in the hall.”