Delancey Stewart

Dear Love Vixen:

I’ve been a little … down on my luck. (Like flat broke, homeless, and depressed). So my uncle has been letting me crash at his place and deliver coffee for his diner. It was temporary. Till I got on my feet. 

Anyway, I delivered coffee to this uber-hot executive type on Madison, and well … mistakes were made. He thought I was his intern! And he put me to work. And I’ve always kinda wanted to work in advertising so I didn’t correct him. 

I’ve been interning there now for two weeks, and the thing is, I think there’s something developing between me and the hot boss. And I love this job (it’d be better if I was getting paid, of course). But when he finds out I’m not who he thinks I am, and that I never bothered to correct him, it’ll all be over! 

What should I do? 
Mistaken Identity on Madison

Dear Madison,

What the whaaat? First it has to be said, “You go girl!” There I said it, now let’s break it down. You’ve been working for two weeks and are still fake employed, so that says you’re doing well at your fake job. I suppose you could just stop showing up but you don’t sound like the kind of woman to ghost.

Having the hots for your boss, now that’s a real pickle. Sweetie, you know what you have to do. Tell the truth and it will set you free. You just might want to check with the coffee shop as plan B should your truth set you back on the sidewalk. 

Good luck, hon!
The ♥ Vixen

**Disclaimer: The Love Vixen concept, letters, posts, and advice are works of fiction. The LV is not a licensed doctor or trained professional, or even a real person. The guidance she gives should probably not be followed because everything is made up by the authors.


Meet the Author!

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I’m USA Today Bestselling author Delancey Stewart. My contemporary romances run the gamut of settings and setups, but they always deliver humor, heart and heat. It’s a guarantee.
I grew up in California and have had more jobs than anyone on earth (personal trainer, pharmaceutical rep, copywriter, tech writer, marketing director, wine seller, elementary school teacher… I’m not kidding.

Mistaken for Love

Chapter One

Gin

“Ginny, can you grab this for me please?” Uncle Flynn spun around, each hand holding a steaming cup of coffee as he angled his head at the carriers folded in a stack.

Customers waited in a line in front of the register as he and Aunt Amelia flew from place to place in the tight space behind it.

I unfolded a carrier and set it on the narrow counter behind the meal prep station, taking the cups he held and carefully setting them into the cardboard squares. I fit lids on the cups as Uncle Flynn pushed in two more and gave me a weak smile.

“You’re doing good, kid,” he told me. “I’ll give you a break here in a sec, but I’ve got an order for you to run up to Madison first. Those bagels ready to go, Amelia?”

“You and your sweet talk,” Aunt Amelia slid over, carrying two paper bags full of bagels and pressed a kiss to my uncle’s cheek before returning to the register and greeting the next customer. Something about the action—seeing them so in love, the way my parents had been—made my heart squeeze painfully in my chest and I swallowed hard.

I picked up the coffee and bagels, and my uncle stapled the ticket to one bag. “This address right here. Twenty-first floor, okay?”

My lucky number. “I’ve got it,” I told him.

“Take your time coming back, Ginny. We’ve got this, okay?”

“I’ll be right back,” I told him, heading out from behind the counter to make the delivery. I didn’t mind working in my aunt and uncle’s bodega—not really. It wasn’t like I had a lot of other options.

I made my way the three blocks up to 26th and Madison, the chaotic whirr of the city all around me still setting my teeth on edge. My parents had brought me into the city plenty of times as a kid, and I’d come in a few times with my friends in high school and college, but living here—where the motion and sound were practically never-ending—it didn’t feel like home.

It was all still new, though. And I wasn’t one of those girls who’d dreamt of a life in a big city. I’d been happy in Greenwich, surrounded by green and beach, knowing everything the city offered was a quick train ride away, but that I didn’t have to be immersed in it all the time.

But that life was over.

And whatever dreams I’d had, whatever I’d thought I might become, that was over too. For now, at least.

I pushed through the revolving doors into the lobby of the soaring black glass building, suddenly self-conscious about my worn black jeans and slumpy white polo. It had actually been my dad’s shirt, and it was huge on me, but if I concentrated really hard, sometimes I still thought I could smell his cologne.

“Can I help you?” A huge, long counter filled the lobby, separating the public area from the elevators.

“Delivery for the twenty-first floor,” I said. “For Bryce Willows?”

The man gave me a friendly smile and waved me by, and I stepped into an empty car, punching the button and swallowing hard as my stomach lurched while the car shot up.

The gleaming, mirrored elevator made me a little wistful. I hadn’t thought I’d work in a building like this, but I had dreamt of a nice office someday, an executive job. I’d never really pictured myself flipping burgers and making deliveries for a New York City bodega well into my twenties. Of course, I’d never imagined any of what my life had become.

No sane person imagined things like that.

The doors slid open to reveal a steel and glass office lobby furnished with long white leather settees and little round end tables. It felt like stepping into the pages of a home magazine. The sign over the receptionist’s head read, “Maximal” in red capital letters, but gave no other indication of what kind of business this place was.

“Delivery for Bryce Willows,” I said, preparing to leave the bag and coffee with the receptionist.

“Take them straight back to the conference room,” she said, waving at a door as she picked up the ringing phone.

I sighed and pressed through the door with my shoulder, finding myself at the apex of three adjoining hallways. She’d said straight back, so I followed the hall in front of me, passing several harried people who barely glanced at me as they raced from place to place. There was a conference room at the back, but it was completely empty, which made me uncertain whether this was the right place to leave things. I didn’t want my uncle to get an angry phone call when people found their coffee an hour later, abandoned and cold. I set the food on the table and went out to find someone to tell that it was there.

A right turn out of the conference room led me into an area where several people sat at computers, clearly engrossed in whatever they were doing, and another hallway lined with glass doors stretched in front of me.

“Hi,” I said to a woman about my age, who seemed about to stand up and bustle off somewhere.

Her head snapped to where I stood, and after a quick glance up and down my body, she sighed and said, “Finally. You’re a little late, you know. Don’t make a habit of it, okay?”

Her smile was friendly enough, so I just smiled back and nodded. “I put the—“

She was already dashing off in front of me, heading for one of the office doors. “Come on, then!”

I glanced around, a little off balance. Maybe she wanted me to let someone else know where the food was. I followed her down the hall and through one of the office doors. A dark-haired man was bent over a desk, peering at something spread out on it, like a blueprint of some kind.

“She’s here,” the girl announced, and the man stood up, a deep frown on his handsome face.

“Good. We’re really glad you’re here.” The man’s dark eyes were some mystical shade of gray I didn’t think I’d ever seen before, and they were momentarily distracting, set as they were in his square-jawed, rugged face. A dimple showed on either side of full lips as he smiled at me.

These people were really jazzed about cheap coffee and bagels. “Okay, well, good,” I said, still trying to force real words to form in light of the man’s laser-sharp attention on me. “So I’ll just—“

“Ready to dive right in,” he said. “Good. Just follow me.”

I don’t know if it was the royal blue tie that screamed “I’m in charge” or if it was his take-no-prisoners tone, but I found my feet heading off after his Italian loafers as he hustled out of the office and back down the hall.

The girl who’d walked me in followed too and kept shooting me encouraging smiles and nods. “It’s not always like this,” she said. “Normally we would take more time for introductions and stuff, but we’ve got this huge account that we’re about to land, and it’s totally all hands on deck right now.”

“Sure,” I said, barely able to keep up as the hot guy in the suit turned a corner ahead of us. I was beginning to think there was some kind of misunderstanding at work here, but I was also kind of curious where in the world the guy was headed.

He stopped in a room with a couple desks next to a window that looked down on Madison Square Park. I inhaled sharply, the view of the crystal blue sky outside hanging over the city skyline taking my breath from me. “You’ll work in here,” he told me, indicating one of the desks. “And the first thing we need is just for you to go through the PDFs I’ve dropped on your desktop and read them for consistency. I want your first reaction to each one too, to the imagery, the color scheme. Just as a layman, you know.”

“As a layman,” I parroted, feeling my brows wrinkle. “So you just want me to give you my reactions to these documents? Because I’m, like, just a regular person?” I wondered how many other delivery people got pulled into this kind of casual focus group at Maximal. “Um. Okay.” 

He nodded and the girl wrung her hands. “Also just make sure if we capitalize a product name on one, we’re doing it on all of them,” she said. “I mean, of course the finals will be proofed properly, but it would be helpful, if you don’t mind.”

“I guess I can do that.” I was intrigued. And my uncle had said to take as long as I wanted getting back. Maybe for a couple minutes I could help these people out and pretend to actually work here. I’d sit at this computer in front of the stunning skyline and imagine myself as something totally different than what I’d ended up becoming.

The man waved at the chair behind the desk, and I felt compelled to take it, my mind spinning as he reached across me to use the mouse to pull up the first document.

What looked like an email popped open on the huge screen in front of me, a wash of fuchsia and orange battling for my attention as I read the headline, “Your back end begs for Benedict.”

“Who’s Benedict?” I asked, utterly confused.

“Mark that one as a no,” the girl said.

The man shook his head. “So no one has briefed you? At all?” He crossed his arms and sank down to sit on the corner of the desk next to the one where he’d planted me. His attention slid to the other woman, who cringed slightly under his appraisal. “I thought you sent out pre-work. All the intro stuff?”

“I did,” she said quickly, her spine straightening a bit. “I emailed it.” She shot me a less friendly look. “You got it, right? You probably just didn’t have time to look at it.” She gave Bryce a little smile and an eye roll, as if to illustrate that whatever he was unhappy about was clearly on me, not her.

“I mean, no . . .” I began. “I just came up here to—“

“I’m sorry. I know you just got here,” the guy said, scrubbing a hand over his jaw, his eyes crinkling in the corners. “Allison, you can get back to it. I’ll brief . . .  Uh, sorry. Your name?”

My name was Virginia, but my family had always called me Ginny. For some reason though, with this man sitting here and clearly thinking I was someone other than the girl who’d had her whole life ripped out from under her eleven months earlier, I told him my name was “Gin.”

“Like ‘gin and tonic’?” He asked, a smile pulling those gorgeous lips wide.

I nodded, distracted by the sheer magnitude of his good looks.

“Okay. Well, I’m Bryce. We’ll be working closely together while you’re here.”

“Okay,” I said, kicking myself inwardly for not saying something that would more clearly explain that I was only going to be here a few more minutes. Just until I told him where to find the bagels and coffee I’d delivered and gotten the hell out of here.

“We’re toying with ideas to pitch Benedict,” he went on, clearly oblivious to my confusion. “They have a back-end solution that can perform big data analysis for huge applications, and we’re on the shortlist to take on their entire customer acquisition strategy from analysis to development and roll out.”

“I thought maybe it was a toilet paper pitch, with that whole ‘back end’ thing,” I said honestly.

Bryce scrubbed his jaw again. “No, that won’t work. Take a look at the others.”

“Okay,” I said, curious now. I popped open another document. This one said Backend processing that wins the internet. “Better,” I said.

“Yeah? Good. Okay,” Bryce said, rising. “Can you make notes here”—he leaned across me again to open a spreadsheet, a scent of soap and something spicy dancing by as he did—“and just check in with me at the end of the day?”

“Oh, no, I can’t—“

“Hey, Gin? I know you can. I’ve seen your credentials, remember?” And then he turned and left me there, obviously believing I was someone I definitely was not.

But as I flipped through the documents on the screen, out of curiosity more than anything else, I realized that I very much wanted to be someone else. Even if it was just for a few more minutes.

I slipped my cell out of my pocket and called Uncle Flynn’s shop. “Would it be a problem if I took the rest of the day off?” I asked.

“Not at all, sweetheart. You do something fun, Ginny. You deserve it.” My uncle and aunt were always a little bit too kind to me, as if they believed I’d been through so much that even a harsh word might topple me right off the edge of sanity.

It might not have been far from the truth.

I got to work recording my notes, not having much idea who I was supposed to be or why I was doing it, but when an hour had passed and I realized I hadn’t thought of my parents even once, I knew it was a good thing. Even if it was just for today.