Today's Reading

I close my eyes and, with no other distractions, reward myself with the pure joy that comes from listening to Zane read Their Finest Hour.

"What are you doing standing out there in the rain?" Mirabelle asked. She pushed open the screen door. Jack stood on the porch, his hair slick on his face.
"If you want to stand in the rain, you've got to be outside. It's not raining indoors," Jack said with a laugh.
Mirabelle gave a half smile, then turned away. A moment later, she turned back. "Well? Are you coming in or not?"
Jack reached forward to grab the door and followed her inside.

His voice is like poured chocolate, the kind you buy at a fancy shop, not Walgreens. In the funny passages, his voice belly-laughs. And in the sad parts, his voice hugs me. In the intimate parts, it's like he's right there beside me, whispering in my ear. I know he's just a voice, but whenever I hear his voice I feel this connection to him. Like I already know him.

Listening to him read gives me all the feels. The way I first felt with David. When I couldn't wait to see him, and couldn't stop thinking about him when I wasn't with him. That's how I feel hearing Zane's voice. So much so that even when I'm on a date with one of the guys I've matched with on the XO app, I can't wait to get home to Zane. And it's not just his voice—it's everything that voice holds, everything it represents. It feels like more than just a coincidence that he's narrating the very book that brought my parents together.

I close my eyes.

Later that evening, by the snap and crackle of the dwindling fire, Jack wrapped his arms around Mirabelle as they lay on the couch. He smoothed her hair out of the way and nuzzled her neck. "Are you awake?" he said, but now, it's Zane whispering in my ear, to me, not Jack. I sigh and relax. My free hand touches my face, then slides down my neck, tracing the edge of my body to the top of my shorts. His breath is hot on my face, his whispers making my whole body tingle. My fingers slip under the elastic band of my shorts, dancing over my skin, warming it with every touch. My free hand reaches for the other pillow and I hug it into my body. My back arches. I moan softly, then cry out. Then sink into the mattress.

Eventually, I press Pause on my phone, then pull off my headphones, and toss both onto the rug beside my bed. The notched switch of the lamp is just barely in reach and I twist it once, then roll onto my side, sighing with contentment.

I'm not delusional. I know Zane isn't my boyfriend—but when I'm lost in my own world with him, everything feels right. I wish I could find a real person who gave me the same feeling, but frankly, I don't think I ever will.


Dory bursts through the bookshop doors on Thursday evening, a whoosh of color, chatter and infectious energy, just like she's been doing since we were kids. "Gigi, you wouldn't believe what just happened," she puffs, her arms laden with tote bags, a bunch of rose-gold helium-filled balloons tied to one of them. "Oh wait, forget I said anything. Just pretend I'm not here!"

"You're early," I say, looking up at the clock on the wall behind the cash. It's quarter to six and the romance book club doesn't meet until 7:15, once the shop has closed. And judging by the balloons, my best friend has other things planned.

"Don't ask questions," she says and the curls touching her eyebrows float upwards then settle back on her dark skin again. "Just pretend you didn't see me. The side door was locked even though I specifically unlocked it earlier today so that I could sneak in that way." She scuttles past me toward the back of the store, under the glass atrium that juts into the sky, high enough to house the Millennium Falcon model that Lars built when he was a kid and a pair of sombreros my parents brought us back from a vacation in the Mayan Riviera. I've already set up chairs, with a copy of next month's book pick—Rosh HashAnna, a modern rom-com retelling of Anna Karenina set in an Orthodox Jewish community in New Jersey—on each of the five chairs. When the group first formed, we met once a month to discuss a romance novel. Now, we still discuss a book once a month, but we meet every week to chat about everything else.

"I was wondering why that door was unlocked!"

"Mystery solved, Finlay Donovan," she calls. "You're really Killing It." She disappears behind the bookshelf of LGBTQ2S+ romances.

"I told you I just wanted my birthday to be low-key," I say. "That's why we're still having book club."

"No comment!" she hollers from the back of the store. If she's got a plan, it's bound to be a late night, so I check the fridge to make sure there's plenty of chilled wine, then pull out the wine glasses from the low teak cabinet, as well as the box of chocolate chip cookies I picked up at bakery down the street earlier today.

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