G L A S S  H A L F  F U L L

You win some, you lose some.

Back at home with half a college degree after the fiasco of the century sent her packing, it’s safe to say that Renee Nyobé is losing some. She’s a hot mess, and not the cute kind.  No, if hot messes had categories, hers would be ‘littering the stairs of the metro station with your sweaty underwear because you were too busy rushing to the job interview you’re already late for to zip up your yoga bag.’

A job—any job—is just what she needs to get her life back on track, and it might as well be at Montreal’s most famous dive bar, Taverne Toulouse.

Dylan Trottard is winning some. As Taverne Toulouse’s new manager, he’s got one rule for himself: don’t screw up. Following that rule gets a lot harder when the woman he’s spent the past three years trying to forget starts working behind the bar.

They were never supposed to want each other, and they sure as hell aren’t supposed to want each other now. She’s the girl that got away before he even had her, and he’s the guy she didn’t think would ever give her a second glance.

Now they can’t keep their eyes off one another, and the stakes are even higher than before. There’s a lot to lose, but as the pull between them gets harder and harder to ignore, Renee and Dylan start asking how much winning is worth.

E X C E R P T

Smiley woman is now saying words I should be paying attention to. Her voice sounds like it’s coming from underwater, dulled by the thumping of blood in my ears. I barely catch her name and her explanation that she’s the bar’s owner before she’s offering me her hand. I zombie-walk toward it, offering my own name in return, but all I hear is his.

Dylan Trottard.

I almost called it out, nearly yelped it like it was a swear word and someone had just stepped on my foot. I don’t think I ever fully understood the term ‘shocking’ until I saw him sitting there.

That’s what it feels like: a shock, like someone zapped my brain with electricity and left me short-circuiting. Live wires are sparking inside me, all frayed ends and billowing smoke where just seconds ago a steady connection used to flow.

“This is Dylan, one of our most trusted cooks and now our recently promoted kitchen manager. Dylan tells me you two already know each other. You used to do poetry slams together?”

I let go of Monroe’s hand—some miraculously functioning part of my brain managed to catch the woman’s name—where I’ve been reaching across the desk to shake it and nod.

“We did, yeah,” I rasp, my mouth dry. “A few years ago.”

This is the part where I’m supposed to turn and shake his hand too. This is the part where I start acting like a normal human who’s here to get herself a job.

I am Renee, hear me roar.

I borrow my best friend’s signature phrase of encouragement as I fix my gaze on Dylan, steeling myself for however awkward or weird or painful this is going to be, but it turns out it’s none of those things.

My eyes meet his. He blinks. I blink.

Then the impact of how much I’ve missed him hits me so hard it’s like he’s crushed me into one of those giant Dylan bear hugs without even moving at all. The tension loosens, the air in the room no longer feeling too thick to pull into my lungs, and my head starts rushing with the dozens of questions I want to ask, everything I want to know and share.

How are you? How are Stella and Owen? How are the slams going? Who made nationals this year? Are you still performing?

I let myself take in the sight of him. He looks the same: same bulky frame, same doorframe-width shoulders we were always teasing him about, same tufty chestnut hair and coffee-with-cream coloured eyes that always made me shiver when they locked on mine.

Same cavalier smile. With Dylan, you could always count on a smile.

W I T H   A   S I D E   O F   S M A R T

R O M A N C E   S E R V E D   S T E A M Y

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