Wright with Benefits by K.A. Linde

Part I

A No Good, Very Bad Day



A brisk wind whipped around my bare legs, swirling the skirt of my black dress and flipping it upward, Marilyn Monroe–style. I shrieked, batting at the material in a desperate attempt to bring it back down to an acceptable length. The wind didn’t seem to hear my string of curses because it just bit into me harder, making me regret forgoing tights.

“Oh my God,” I snapped as I clutched the material in my hands.

The wind whistled in response. A cackle if I’d ever heard one.

I glared up at the stupid Lubbock wind. It wasn’t enough that the temperatures were in the low thirties already at five thirty on this Friday afternoon right before my last semester of medical school started; the wind had to rub it in.

“Annie, why are you standing out here?” Cézanne asked. She wore a black jumpsuit that highlighted her dark brown skin with her box braids pulled up into a high ponytail. She somehow looked professional and like an imperious, avenging angel. “It’s below freezing.”

I prayed to the Lord for patience and grinned at my closest friend in my cohort. “The wind attacked me.”

She eyed me skeptically. We’d known each other pre–med school, and she still sometimes looked at me like I’d sprung a second head.

I waved her off. “Whatever. I’m not having a good day.”

Which was an understatement. My house had flooded! Like, straight flooded. My room was a wreck. I’d lost half of my closet, including all of my shoes. Like, every pair, except the impossibly high snakeskin heels that I’d scrounged out of a pile of donations I hadn’t gotten rid of yet. My room was essentially awash until maintenance showed up. I’d be living on the couch for the foreseeable future.

If that hadn’t been bad enough, I’d been nearly run off the road on the way here. Some dipshit had driven straight through a red light, and I’d had to swerve to avoid getting T-boned.

Today was officially over.

I stepped inside the rustic building the medical school had rented for the event, and Cézanne closed the door.

“Well, if you’ve been having a bad day, I hate to ask, but where’s the wine?” Cézanne asked warily.

“What wine?”

“The…wine. You know, the case of commemorative wine for Professor Rodgers and the rest for the retirement party. The entire school is coming, and…there’s no wine.”

“What the hell? Who was in charge of that?”

Cézanne looked at me blankly.

“No,” I told her.

“It has your name next to it.”

I shook my head. “I swear I wasn’t in charge of the wine.”

She passed the list to me, and I saw where my name was scrawled unintelligibly. I groaned.

“Are you sure it was even called in? I didn’t do it.”

“I’m not sure who called it in, but I have the original order request.”

“Let me see it.”

I plucked it out of her hand and stared down at it. Phew! It was three thousand dollars’ worth of wine. The commemorative case alone was a grand. Well, no wonder Cézanne was wondering where the hell all the wine was.

Unfortunately, it didn’t say who had put the order in. But I knew for a fact that it wasn’t me.

I took a deep breath and then released it. “How can I help?”

Cézanne grinned. “Can you please call the Wine Boutique and find out what happened?”

“Yeah, I can do that.”

“Thank you. Thank you. I knew I could count on you to get shit done.”

I sighed. What else could possibly make this day worse? Might as well try to get the wine, so we could all get fucked up today. Professor Rodgers was only retiring once.

Cézanne checked off a slot on her to-do list that rested on an actual clipboard. I loved Cézanne to death, but sometimes, her organizational skills were so extra. There was a reason she was top of our class and in charge of all of our events.

I stepped away from Cézanne to make my phone call. The Wine Boutique’s number was on the top of the order, and I dialed it with another sigh. This was what I got for being dependable. The line rang and rang and rang. It felt like an eternity before the voicemail clicked over.

“Thank you for calling the Wine Boutique. Sorry we missed your call…”