Early Access: The Taste Of A Smile Part 14 ‘Hoodie’ Excerpt


Hello, fellow romantics

Been looking forward to sharing this excerpt with you!

Hope it makes you smile.



The conference center was only a short walk away from the hotel. Mary and Lex made their way over through the busy streets of downtown Washington. They were each sipping a takeaway coffee in silence.

Lex stole a glance at Mary now and then. She was trying to get used to how different Mary looked this morning. Her eyebrows had shot up when she had seen Mary step out of the elevator earlier.

Under her coat, the shop manager was wearing black slacks and a blue dress shirt. Her sneakers had been replaced by dark brown leather boots with a minimal heel. She had even put on some subtle make-up, Lex had noticed.

Mary looked professional and commanding. It was the look Lex had expected to see on a Leroy shop manager. She wasn’t sure if she was happy to see it on Mary, though.

Lex herself was wearing a grey blouse and dress pants with thin stripes. Her low-heel shoes were stylish but chosen for comfort. With Mary now sporting a dark business attire as well, Lex almost felt like she was back at her old job.

And she didn’t like it. It seemed she had started to appreciate a bit more color in her life. She would be reluctant to admit it out loud, but she enjoyed being in Mary’s company. The real Mary that is.

Lex took another sip from her coffee and glanced to her left again. Mary’s hair was firmly held in place by some sort of hairspray. Her cheeks looked pale. Everything was the exact opposite of what it had been earlier this morning.

Lex had been surprised to see Mary at the hotel gym. She had spotted her walking on a treadmill near the exit. Her hoodie had been at least one size too big. Her bright red sneakers had looked very out of place.

Lex had smiled and waved, a bit self-conscious because of her own appearance. Sweat was rolling down her back and her t-shirt would be more revealing than usual. But Mary’s eyes had been fixed on the built-in-screen of the treadmill and she hadn’t seen her.

After a moment, Lex had hesitantly walked toward the exit. When she was about to go say hi, Mary had frowned at the screen and increased her pace. It had made Lex feel like she would be interrupting.

So she had left the gym quietly and gone back to her room. She hadn’t been able to get the image of a disheveled Mary out of her mind since. There was something so disarming about Mary in that hoodie.

Lex wished she was still wearing it right now. She hoped Mary would run a hand through her hair and make it all messy again. She was even tempted to do it herself. Lex frowned at that thought.

“Is that it?” Mary asked, putting an end to Lex’s musings.

She looked up and saw the large, glass front of the conference center. “Yeah, we’re here.”

Mary frowned as she took in the building, but she didn’t say anything. Lex knew the Retail Experience Expo was a big deal to Mary. And yet there was no sign of enthusiasm on her face.

Lex couldn’t help but feel that it was her fault. If Mary were here with someone else, she would probably be having the time of her life. Lex could picture it easily: Mary chatting away with Karen or even Hannah.

“Maybe I should give her some space,” Lex thought as they walked up to the entrance. “Or try to seem a bit more excited.”

The sun bounced off the gigantic glass panes that formed the front of the conference center. It was to see where they had to go in. They quickly picked a random door and stepped inside.

“I think Suzy told us to register at the VIP desk,” Mary said as she started tapping her phone. She seemed to be warming up a little.

Lex looked around until she spotted a screen that said ‘VIP’ with an arrow pointing at a counter with a hostess under it.

“Right there,” she chirped and pointed enthusiastically. “Let’s go get our badges!”

“Okay,” Mary replied, doing her typical eyebrow quirk.

“What?” Lex asked, tilting her head.

Mary lifted her shoulders. “I don’t know. I thought you hated coming here.”

Lex shuffled her feet. “Okay. I guess I did at first, but …”

When Lex didn’t finish her sentence but tucked her hands in her pockets instead, Mary asked: “But?”

Lex inhaled deeply, summoning up the courage to give an honest answer. “I know this event is important to you and I want you to enjoy the experience.”

Mary’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. That wasn’t the response Lex had expected. She ran a nervous hand through her hair and babbled, “If you want, we can do separate tracks or something. That way, you can… ” She shrugged. “Do your thing?”

A second past before Mary burst out into a giggle. “Do my thing?”

Lex’s shoulders dropped and she looked away at nothing in particular. “I mean….”

“There’s only one keynote track today,” Mary interrupted her, grinning.

Lex kicked at something non-existent on the floor. “Oh, okay.”

“Guess we’re stuck together,” Mary said in a teasing tone.

She bumped her shoulder into Lex’s on her way to the VIP desk.

Lex touched her upper arm. She felt a smile tug at her lips as she hurried after Mary, much like she had yesterday afternoon at the hotel. Maybe today would be a better day, though.


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