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A Clean Slate

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Prologue

August 2017

 

Sam Crawley applied to four part-time jobs when she decided that she needed extra spending money and an excuse to get away from her mother’s nagging after-school. Sorelle and Co quickly became her number one choice when she saw the new bakery-café-hybrid. It looked like it had stepped off of an influencer blog and onto the streets of Charleston, everything was new and shiny, and so aesthetically pleasing. She had known right then that Sorelle would become the “it” spot in town.

 

Both the owners were young women who had decided to make the move to her city from New York. She immediately loved Taera and Jiah, they were everything she wanted to be. The type of women that took risks, that were intelligent and independent, but also kind and approachable. As her best friend put it, they were literal goals. She hadn’t hesitated to accept the job offer when they offered her a position and she had not regretted it to this day.

 

Working at Sorelle was the highlight of her very boring life, why? If there was one thing that Sam loved it was her romance novels and movies. She had all the dialogues to The Notebook memorized, every romantic sentence from Safe Haven made her squeal -  Nicholas Sparks’ books were like her Bible. And she was guilty of watching every sappy romantic movie that that ever came out, including the cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies - they were so bad that they were good.

 

She hadn’t realized that working at Sorelle would make her feel like a side character in a romantic novel when she first accepted the job, but it was a welcome surprise. It was like everything she loved slowly came to life, she was excited to come in to work every and see how the story was unfolding, and she was often surprised by all the things that happened.

 

Her bosses, both of whom were absolutely gorgeous, seemed to oscillate between being friendly with and fighting with the owners of the gym across the street – who also looked like they had stepped off of a magazine cover, they were even related, brothers. She couldn’t make these things up even if she tried.

 

Sam knew her taste differed from all her friends, who were happy to date Republican frat boys, she had never been attracted to them even though they seemed to be the only choice around here. Maybe it was her love of reading and the fact that her parents moved to Charleston from Los Angeles that made slightly older, well-educated, successful and open-minded men her type.

 

The Choi Brothers definitely fit the bill and were the only eye and brain candy in her life at the moment. Every time they walked into Sorelle she couldn’t help but stare at them, they were just so handsome. Her cousin, who wanted to be a plastic surgeon, would freak out if she saw them, their face proportions were otherworldly. And it wasn’t just the looks, she couldn’t help but listen to them speak. They were so articulate, they sounded like they actually read, they could get a sentence out without using like and uh a million times like the boys she knew  – and their voices were so deep.

 

From the moment she found out their names, she obsessively searched Google for them, she watched the videos on their website where they talked about their journey and she was smitten. Her best friend knew all about them too, the two of them always gushed about how they were the perfect package. As her best friend would put it, they were also literal goals. The perfect romantic heroes for her gorgeous bosses – who were the quintessential, but more realistic, female leads of whatever story was unravelling around her. She was already thinking about their weddings. It was premature, she knew this, but that’s just how her brain worked.

 

Even as she walked to work on the bright summer morning, she was wondering if they would opt for a summer wedding and if she would be invited. It’s how all the romantic movies ended, a long shot of a wedding venue, the couple – or in this case couples – standing at the end of the aisle surrounded by side characters.

 

She sighed and came to a stop outside Sorelle when she saw Taera, aka Boss # 1, putting up a poster on window-wall that faced the business across the street. One look at the poster told Sam that it wasn’t meant to just advertise Sorelle, but also to annoy their neighbour – the second Choi Brother who seemed to have a thing for Taera. Sam was sure one of these days she would find the two of them making out on the counter of the shop.

 

The poster told her that the work day would be very entertaining. She smiled as she walked in and greeted everyone, keeping her eyes and ears open to hear the conversations going on around her. She didn’t think that her bosses realized how much they shared about their lives, sometimes the conversations made no sense because she was missing important context but other times she knew exactly what they were talking about.

 

At the moment, Jiah was hanging out with Demi, Taera’s sister, behind the counter. Taera was piping cupcakes, she had started as soon as she returned from putting up the poster. Sam decided to top up all the coffee and tea supplies for a busy day while trying to listen in on the conversation between Demi and Jiah – she only caught snippets. Apparently this was an attempt to annoy William Choi, as she had suspected. She could literally write a book about this and put Nicholas Sparks’ name on it and no one would ever question it.

 

Sam was cleaning the counter when Taera squealed, she looked up to see a car turn onto the road, she knew it was William’s as did Taera but she apparently knew a lot more. “Watch, he’s going to park his car and then correct it until it’s perfectly in the middle of the lines. Then he’ll get out, in his workout clothes, today it’ll probably be the heather gray tank top with black sweatpants and black Nikes. He’ll get out of the car, close the door gently, walk towards his trunk and take his gym bag out. He’ll swing it onto his shoulder, lock the car and then walk up to the door and check that it is locked.”

 

Sam’s eyes grew wide as William stepped out of the car in the exact same clothes Taera had said he would be wearing and went through all the motions exactly as she had listed them, surprising everyone else. Oh, she had it bad for him, this was way beyond a crush. Her explanation made it even worse.

 

“Now he’ll look towards Sorelle, notice the poster, sigh, run his hands through his hair and then stand there for a minute looking like he is thinking hard before he storms across the street.” Taera said, not looking up even once while piping the cupcakes, as if she was sure of her words.

 

Sam let out a surprised chuckle as it happened exactly like she said it would, before she could even say anything the front door was being thrown open, rather dramatically.

 

“We’re closed, we open at 9am!” Taera yelled as she arranged the cupcakes in the display.

 

“You should lock the door then.” William snapped as he walked towards the counter, his velvety deep voice sounding angry – god, he was so sexy. If Sam had been years older and there wasn’t something going on between him and her boss, she would have so tried to get his attention. But his attention was always on Taera, not that she was surprised, even she would have a crush on Taera.

 

“Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed again?” Taera quipped.

 

“What the hell is that?” William seethed pointing to the poster Taera had just put up.

 

“Hmmm, William Choi, MBA from Harvard, and yet you don’t know a poster when you see one.” Taera said her voice taunting, she was so good at pushing his buttons.

 

“I know what it is, but why is it there?” He hissed.

 

“An advertisement for my shop would be on my window, duh.” Taera said, arching her eyebrow at him. He rolled his eyes at her before leaning on the counter, putting both hands flat down and leaning forward. Sam didn't know about Taera, but her heart was definitely racing, the man definitely had nice arms, and if he was looking at her the way he was looking at Taera she would have spontaneously combusted.

 

“Why are you so childish? Rubbing icing all over my car and then putting up that childish poster.”

 

“I outgrew that stage years ago, it seems like you haven’t since you haven’t mastered the concept of ownership. My parking spot. My store.”

 

“You haven’t either. Your rubbed icing all over my car.”

 

“Like I said, you need a little bit of sweetness in your life, maybe you’d stop stealing people’s parking spots then.”

 

“Like I said, your name isn’t on it.” His voice was now quieter and deeper, they both leaned in even closer, their noses almost touching. Sam was sure they were rather close to just snapping and kissing, the sexual tension between them was obvious to everyone.

 

They were now whispering to each other, their voices too low to hear even as she tried to arch towards them. She would have moved closer but she didn’t want to break them out of whatever trance the two of them were in, whispering to each other, their eyes going down to each other’s lips. And then they were silent and just staring at each other. Sam’s eyes went up to Jiah who seemed to be holding back a squeal, her eyes wide. Demi looked thoughtful, like she was analyzing the situation in her head.

 

“Are they fighting again?” Daniel’s voice said from the door of Sorelle causing both William and Taera to shoot up in shock, Taera’s head hitting William’s chin in the process causing him to let out a groan in pain.

 

Jiah looked towards Daniel with a glare, causing a look of surprise to flash across his face. Sam sighed. Daniel Choi, as hot as he was, had the worst timing ever. Sam sighed and got back to work as the scene fizzled out and Jiah just glared at her boyfriend. Yes, boyfriend, Jiah, aka Boss # 2, was apparently dating the older Choi Brother – Sam had no idea how that happened. It was all just sprung on her and seemed rather suspicious. The jury was still out and investigating that particular development.

 

Sam found a chance to investigate a bit a couple of minutes later, she was in the back, ransacking the shelves and checking inventory when Jiah and Daniel walked into the back of the shop. They were too engrossed in each other to even notice her. Sadly, she could only make out a little bit of what they were saying, she wished she could hear more!

 

“I thought your mom would be here.” Daniel was saying.

 

“She is staying home today, thankfully. She’s driving me mad.”

 

And then they were talking too quietly for her to hear much, she heard something about meetings and a party. Sam almost dropped the things in her hand when she peeked into the kitchen and saw the two of them. Jiah was sitting on the counter, Daniel standing between her legs, her hands on his shoulders. The two of them were whispering to each other and Jiah squealed when Daniel tried to kiss her, she pushed his face away while rolling her eyes, then she giggled while adjusting the collar of his dress shirt. Sam almost melted when Daniel tucked a strand of hair behind Jiah’s ear. It was so romantic!

 

She quietly ran out of the back room and back to the front of the shop again – she didn’t want to get caught spying. But like she had suspected, the work day was already super interesting – she couldn’t wait to tell her best friend about the new developments!

 

 


Character Sketches and Summary: