Annie smiled. After talking to her via numerous texts and phone calls, she was looking forward to finally meeting the girl who had her best friend totally smitten. Or she 'had' been looking forward to it. Annie's smile wavered, but she mustered up some semi-genuine enthusiasm. "Sounds fun! About time you took a vacation."
Enthusiasm Darcy promptly saw through. "I wish I would've known you were flying into town, Annie. I'd have—"
"What, you'd have canceled your plans?" She scoffed. "Oh, please. It's fine." Totally fine. She'd figure it out. Find a hotel and explore Seattle on her own until Darcy returned. By this point, she was a pro at exploring cities solo.
"We got in last night, an extended weekend because of Memorial Day." Darcy paused. "But we can come back early if you—"
"Nope." Annie shook her head even though Darcy couldn't see. "Absolutely not."
"Hush." She laughed. "I'll be fine. I'm a big girl; I can handle a few days in a city by myself."
"How long are you in town for?"
Annie picked at the cardboard sleeve of her cup. "A little over two weeks. I fly back to Philly early in the morning on the thirteenth. So really, a few missing days is nothing in the grand scheme of things."
"Two weeks? That's a long vacation."
"Some of us actually use our paid time off," she teased.
"Are you sure you don't want us to come back early?" Darcy asked, ignoring Annie's jibe entirely. "Because we can. Elle's nodding. Just say the word and we'll hit the road tomorrow morning, bright and early."
Yes. Annie shut her eyes. "No way. I'll be super pissed if you do that. I mean it. I'll passive-aggressively replace your toilet paper the wrong way the entire time I'm here if you do that. And I'll leave, like, an inch of juice in your carton and not tell you about it. I know you hate when I do that."
"'Darcy,'" she said, mimicking Darcy's tone. "Go. Have fun with Elle in Vancouver. I'll see you on . . ."
"Monday evening," Annie agreed. "I've got to go. I bet my luggage hit the carousel by now."
"No, no, wait! Where are you staying?"
She'd been hoping to crash at Darcy's, but that was a bust. "I'll find somewhere. No worries."
Darcy made a soft sound of discontent. "No. Yes, worries. That's ridiculous. Just stay at my place. You have my address, right?"
"I do. But I don't have a key."
Darcy paused. "Don't worry. Just take a cab or an Uber over and I'll take care of the rest."
* * *
"Knock, knock!" The door to Brendon Lowell's office glided open silently. Katie, One True Pairing's head of public relations and communications, poked her head inside. "Got a minute?"
Brendon scrambled to exit out of "The Ten Most Romantic Proposals of All Time" on YouTube, sniffed hard, and waved Katie inside. "For you? Always."
"Are you all right? You're looking kind of"—she pointed at his face—"teary?"
Outside his window, a giant alder tree was dumping a load of pollen, dusting the sidewalk yellow. "Allergies. Pollen count's through the roof," he fibbed.
She wrinkled her nose. "You were watching mushy videos again, weren't you?"
For a split second he considered lying, then thought better of it. "Guilty."