Monday, September 17, 2018

Sneak Peek of The Love Clause by Liwen Y. Ho

Guess what's happening in 8 days? Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 will be releasing! I, along with the 8 other others of this set, have been anxiously waiting for this day. I hope you're excited, too!

To get us all in the Christmas mood, I'm sharing the first chapter of my story from the set, The Love Clause. This is a lighthearted office romance featuring matchmaking parents, a fake relationship, and lots of laughs!

I hope you enjoy this excerpt ...

“Philip, do you have a minute?”
Philip Wong grumbled under his breath, his eyes fixed on the stack of papers piled high on his desk. He was under a deadline to prepare a deposition and had no time for interruptions. Whoever was calling out to him sounded too cheery for a Monday and didn’t even have the decency to address him by his surname. Philip jerked his head up, ready to reprimand whichever Legal Intern was standing at his office door. However, it was Jack Wen, the head of his law firm, who greeted him wearing khakis and a tropical print shirt. “Mr. Wen, you’re back?”
His normally uptight boss flashed him a carefree smile and plopped down in a chair across from him. “I am! Isn’t it a beautiful day?”
“I didn’t expect you in the office so soon.” Philip rose halfway in his chair and extended his hand. The casual high-five he received in return caused his jaw to drop. He quickly schooled his expression and sat down. In all the years he’d been at Wen, Chen, and Lan, he’d never seen his boss in such casual clothing, much less with a smile on his face. What in the world had happened? “How are you feeling, sir?”
The afternoon sunlight streaming in through the side window shone on Mr. Wen’s head, highlighting its shiny dome. The middle-aged man’s brown eyes twinkled as brightly. “I’m great! The birds are singing, the sun’s shining, I’m walking and breathing—life couldn’t be better. Don’t you agree, Phil?” He leaned across the desk and asked, “You don’t mind if I call you Phil, do you? I thought it was time we got more familiar with each other. You’ve been part of this law firm for seven years now—we’re practically family.”
Philip furrowed his brows. “Actually, it’ll be nine years next week, the day after Christmas.” He tried to keep his tone light, despite the frustration building in his chest. He hadn’t worked his tail off all these years for fun. He’d had his heart set on making partner by the time he was thirty. Three years later, his promotion still hadn’t come. Perhaps his boss’s memory was to blame. Regardless, this was not the time to get on Mr. Wen’s bad side, not on his first day back from medical leave. “But of course, you may call me Phil.”
“And you may call me Jack.” Mr. Wen grinned. “I want to change things up in this office. Let’s forget the formalities. From now on, we’re going to make this a positive and happy place to work. Agreed?”
Philip narrowed his eyes and gave his boss a thorough once-over. Weeks ago, he would have had no qualms agreeing to anything Mr. Wen—uh, Jack—said, especially when it involved their work as divorce attorneys. Today, however, he didn’t know how to reply. He simply nodded and let his boss continue talking.
“That’s why I’ve decided it’s time we started spending more effort on living than on working.”
“Excuse me?” Philip couldn’t comprehend what Jack meant. What else was there to life besides work? “What exactly do you have in mind?”
Leaning back, Jack laced his hands together and placed them behind his head. “A work-life balance, with an emphasis on the latter. We’ll start by getting some healthy snacks in the break room. Hire a massage therapist to come on-site. Perhaps, even require everyone to take a lunch break every day—away from their desk,” he threw in with an accusatory smirk.
Words failed Philip, a rare occurrence for someone trained in negotiation. He swallowed hard and sat in stunned silence. Could it be the paramedics had shocked more than Jack’s heart? Maybe his brain, too?
“I had plenty of time this past month to think about my priorities in life. It’s only natural when you come face to face with your own mortality.” Jack’s eyes glazed over briefly before he narrowed them at Philip. “Do you know the one thing I regretted the most after I woke up in the hospital?”
Philip cocked his head, awaiting Jack’s answer. When it didn’t come, he threw out his own. “Missing your court hearings?”
For a moment, Philip caught a glimpse of his boss’s trademark glare that his colleagues had dubbed “The Death Trap”. This was the ruthless attorney Philip remembered well. The intensity faded, however, as Jack shut his eyes. When he opened them again, there was compassion—even pity—in his face.
Sighing, Jack ran his hands down his face. “No, son. I didn’t care about the piles of paperwork on my desk or the clients I was supposed to meet. All I wished for was to see my children. I’ll be honest with you. I would trade all the money I’ve made and all the time I poured into this firm if I could have my family back in my life again. Including my ex-wife,” he added with a soft snicker.
Jack’s mournful words lingered in the air, causing an unsettled feeling in Philip’s stomach. He glanced down at his hands and clenched them. He wanted to scoff and tell his boss that having his family by his side wouldn’t solve a single thing. Maybe their presence would bring some initial comfort, but sooner or later, his so-called loved ones would only cause pain and disappointment. Philip understood this all too well. His own parents had divorced when he was four, and his sister had become a single mom when her marriage hit the seven-year itch. He himself had been through a bad break-up that had left him standing at the altar alone. As far as Philip was concerned, it was better to be single and lonely than married and miserable.
He gave Jack a curt nod. Despite how he felt about his boss’s newfound revelation, he wouldn’t disagree with him. The proper thing to do was offer some sympathy for Jack after his recent health scare. Moreover, in their Chinese culture, elders were to be shown respect at all times. “I’m sorry to hear that. It’s not an easy situation to be in, I imagine.”
Jack’s face brightened. “That’s exactly my point, Phil. You’re still young, as are many of the folks in our firm. You haven’t experienced this worst-case scenario yet, and hopefully you never will. But I want you to imagine what it’s like being in my shoes and start reevaluating your priorities. Don’t end up like me thirty years from now, sad and lonely, because you valued your job more than relationships.”
Philip couldn’t help it; this time he did scoff out loud. Did Jack forget what line of work they were in? He’d seen too many broken marriages to believe in love. A spouse was not a quick fix for loneliness. The only living, breathing beings he’d ever open his heart up to were animals. He’d rather get a cat than waste his time and money on a woman. At least pets were trustworthy and faithful. “You don’t have to worry about me. I like my independence and I thrive on staying busy. I was made to work.”
On that note, Philip decided to be bold and voice his thoughts. With Jack opening up to him like this, it was as good a time as any to talk about his career advancement. “Speaking of work, I’d like to discuss my future with you. I don’t mean to boast, but we all know I’m the top attorney around here. I’m methodical in my research, I think fast under pressure, and I have no problems putting in seventy hours a week. I’m more than willing to do my all to partner—” he emphasized the word with a sly smile “—with you to make our firm the best one in San Francisco. I hope you’ll take my offer into consideration, Jack.”
His boss’s expression sobered. “I appreciate all you’ve sacrificed for this firm, Phil, really I do. You’re the best attorney I’ve got, and it’s about time I rewarded you for your hard work. But I will not have your health and happiness on my conscience. Before I can make you a partner, I need you to show me you have a life outside of this office.”
It took everything in Philip to not roll his eyes. This was getting ridiculous. Who did his boss think he was? One heart attack and he’d taken on the role of life coach? “With all due respect, Jack, what happens outside of work has no bearing on my ability to perform my job. If you’re concerned about my health, I’ll gladly show you the results from my most recent bloodwork. I’m as healthy as a—” he thought quickly “—a dragon.” Surely, Jack would appreciate this comparison to the Asian symbol of power, strength, and good luck.
Jack offered him a droll smile. “Of course you are. But soon enough, you’ll be hitting your midlife crisis, getting ulcers, and losing your hair.” He gestured to his own bald head. “When that happens, you’ll need—and want—someone by your side. A woman who will love you and take care of you, someone you will treasure more than your job. Trust me on this, Phil.”
Philip grimaced. Trust—that was precisely his problem. He trusted no one but himself.
A beeping noise sounded from Jack’s pocket. He pulled his phone out and swiped at the screen. “It’s time for my yoga class,” he announced as he bounced up from his chair. “Think about what I said, Phil. Better yet, start making some plans. I expect to see you with a date at our Christmas party.”
Philip’s body stiffened. “That’s in five days!”
“With your work ethic, I bet you could find someone to ask by this afternoon.” Jack strode to the doorway and paused. “Look around. We’ve got a couple of great women right here in the office.”
“You can’t be serious, sir,” Philip spluttered. “Doesn’t that violate some kind of company policy?”
Jack shrugged. “I make the rules around here, so no.” He rapped on the doorframe and grinned. “Good chatting with you, Phil. Let’s do this again!”
Philip watched the palm trees on his boss’s shirt blur as Jack walked out of the room. He blinked quickly, not quite believing what had just transpired. He, hotshot divorce attorney Philip Wong, had just lost his first case. Even worse, he needed to find a woman to date.

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  1. Love your excerpt, Liwen. Can wait for our release of Sweet Christmas Kisses 5!

    1. Thanks, Josie! Yes, it's exciting that we're getting closer!

  2. Your story is so good. It made me laugh out loud. I can't wait to read the rest and see what happens.

    1. Oh wow, that's a huge compliment coming from you, Cindy! You're the queen of rom-com in my eyes. Thank you!

  3. Wow! What a great excerpt! I laughed and cringed reading it. Poor Phil! What a shake-up to his orderly days.

    1. Haha, you've got that right, Kathy! But don't worry, it's all going to work out for him. :)

  4. Your story is so good. It made me laugh out loud. I can't wait to read the rest and see what happens.

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