2. Polka Dots and Fake GRRM

As Nick walked down the block, he removed the slightly oversized blazer and scrunched his nose at how much it still smelled like Schmidt's cologne. The book-signing event had been painfully long, exhausting and pretty much boring. For the most part at least, mused Nick, as he remembered the pretty, spectacled woman in the red polka dots dress. He chuckled to himself at the memory and headed in the direction of his new "home", luckily just around the block from the bookstore.

The last few months had been a whirlwind and all he wanted to do was relax. But ever since the book had been published, he had had no time to breathe and the only plus point to this was that he was making money. Not as much as him and his publisher had expected, but still, it was something.

Probably the only good thing that came out of Caroline leaving, he thought darkly.

As he entered the apartment building and waited for the elevator, he found himself thinking of Caroline again, and was quite pleased with how it didn't hurt anymore. He could call her a 'bitch' in his mind without flinching. He felt nothing for her now.

The only downside of that was that he didn't know what to write about next. He'd gotten around to completing Pepperwood only after Caroline had left him, and now that he was actually getting over her, he was at a loss for words. Very literally. His publisher was already pressing him to write a sequel, and he had no idea where to draw inspiration from. He hadn't even thought his book would be published, let alone having to write a sequel to it.

Ready to collapse onto his bed, he opened the door to the loft and was not surprised to see Schmidt waiting for him restlessly on the couch.

"So, how did it go? Did a lot of people show up? Are you like, a celebrity now? I wanted to come, I really did, but we signed a new contract and-"

"Eh, you didn't miss much," Nick sighed and handed the blazer over to Schmidt. "It went okay. And no, I'm not a celebrity, Schmidt. The book's not exactly a bestseller. Only teenagers read it. Young adult," he said grimacing, then as an afterthought added, "For the most part at least."

"Nicholas, stop being such a buzzkill," said Schmidt rolling his eyes. "You got a zombie book published, man. That's been your dream since before law college. That's a big deal."

"Well, you're not wrong," admitted Nick. "It's just that I thought the book would sell a lot more. I got overconfident and quit law school, and now I'm wishing I hadn't."

"Oh, please, law school sucked the life out of you," said Schmidt, shaking his head. "As did Caroline," he said in one breath. "You're better off without both of them."

"But the money-"

"Money, schmoney," scoffed Schmidt. "I'm sure there's plenty knocking at your door. So many schools want you to interact with their students, and-"

"Two," interrupted Nick.

"Well, fine, two. But Nick, that's how it starts! Speak at one place, the teachers talk and before you know it, there'll be more schools reaching out to you!"

"I don't want to make a living by talking to students!" said Nick, frowning.

Schmidt rolled his eyes. "Nicholas, just start with two. And the latest one that reached out to you? Callidge? Collidge?"

"I don't remember…" said Nick, shaking his head.

"Well, that school has a lot of students. So, talking to-"

"Why'd you look it up?" asked Nick curiously.

"Well, Nicholas, I'm the marketing expert here so I had to do some research and see which options were the best for you to take up. Obviously. If you decide to of course. But if you do manage to talk to them, they'll talk about you and the book. And well, through word-of-mouth, you might just sell more copies. And word-of-mouth is a stra-"

"I know what it means Schmidt," grimaced Nick.

"Oh, good. See? There's plenty of options, man. I mean, if nothing pans out, you could ask Winston to get you a spot on the Latvian basketball team."

Nick shook his head amusedly and Schmidt laughed. "Anyway, set all the worrying aside, mah bro…"

"Ugh, Schmidt what did I tell you about that!"

"... because tonight, we celebrate," finished Schmidt, ignoring Nick's comment.

Nick frowned. "What are you-"

"The new contract I was telling you about? It's a huge deal. It's with a modelling agency and they're throwing a party to celebrate…. I'm not sure, what exactly, because I stopped listening after I heard the models would be there too and-" said Schmidt, smiling dreamily.

"Typical," smirked Nick.

"-And you, Mr. Writer, should come with me," continued Schmidt, ignoring him. "It'll be great. A room full of models, ours for the taking…"

"Schmidt, I'm not really in the mood," sighed Nick.

"It's an open bar," said Schmidt triumphantly; his trump card.

"Fine," said Nick grudgingly. "Why don't you ever lead with that?"

"Because Nicholas, I forget that you're an abnormal man who prefers booze over hot women," said Schmidt, jumping off the couch and heading to his room. "We leave at eight."

Nick sat at the bar of whatever huge place they were at. His mind was still wandering towards the issue of money; he felt guilty free-riding Schmidt, and though he knew Schmidt genuinely didn't mind, it just wasn't fair.

Schmidt was right about the schools too. His social media (Facechat? Instachat?) profile, which his editor had insisted on creating for "promotional purposes", had received quite a lot of requests to sign books at some small bookstore and to address young students - largely middle schoolers and high school freshmen. He didn't really mind the former, but it had turned out to be so much more boring than he'd thought. But he didn't particularly want to talk to kids either - Were middle schoolers considered kids? Or were they preteens? He wasn't too sure. Then again, it was a matter of money; how hard could it really be?

Thinking so much about these things gave him a headache, and to distract himself, he turned to genuinely try and absorb his surroundings. Frankly, he could see nothing he liked. The loud music was creating weird reverberations in his head and giving him a headache. The crazy neon lights were hurting his eyes and he decided that the torture had definitely not been worth the open bar.

He half-heartedly scanned the crowd, wondering if anyone would catch his eye, but they all seemed to look the same to him. He chuckled when his gaze fell on Schmidt who was flirting undeterred with a model who was clearly disinterested. Shaking his head, he downed a glass of whiskey and decided that he should probably just head home. He turned around and was just wondering where the sudden scent of vanilla was coming from, when he bumped into a woman, knocking the contents of the glass she was holding onto her dress.

"Ah, dang it!" she exclaimed, looking down at the steadily spreading stain on her dark grey dress, leaving pink stains on the silver work.

"Oh, shit, I'm so sorry," he apologized quickly and turned towards the bar to grab some tissues of the counter.

She looked up at him at the same time as he turned back to her with the tissues, and before he could stop himself, he exclaimed, "Polka Dots!"

"Fake GRRM!" she said, blinking in surprise before gaping at him, hand half-way stretched towards the tissues he was holding out for her.

"What?" asked Nick, face scrunching into confusion at her nickname for her him. At least his made sense - she was wearing polka dots when he'd seen her. "Why am I "Fake GRRM"!?" he asked indignantly.

She snatched the tissues from him and narrowed her eyes. "Well, are you the real GRRM?"

"Obviously not!" he said, still confused.

"Well, then I don't see why you wouldn't be the Fake GRRM!" she shrugged and proceeded to dab at the stains on her dress with seeming nonchalance.

She could hear how stupid her logic sounded. She really did. But that seemed a lot better than telling him that she'd thought he'd look like a middle-aged, balding kind of man but had turned out to be the rugged, hot kind. And that's what she referred to him as in her head though she knew his real name. Besides, why was he here anyway?

"That makes no sense," he said pointedly.

"Oh boy, don't I know it," she muttered, still trying to clean the dress and rubbing at it vigorously.

"Um, if that's wine, what you're doing is a bad idea," he told her.

"It's rosé," she mumbled. "And this is one of my favourite dresses."

"Well, if you want to save your dress, you might want to find a bucket of warm water..." said Nick, wishing he had just ordered another glass of whiskey.

"Where could I possibly find that here?" she said, gesturing in a general direction.

"...and some detergent and salt," he finished, while she gaped at him defiantly.

"I suppose you know where I could find those?"

Nick shrugged at her. "I wish I could help."

"Eh, it's fine. I'm used to mishaps like this," she said, looking remorsefully at the stain. "I work with kids," she explained.

"Like Bryan?" he asked, cocking his head smugly.

She frowned. "Who's Bryan?"

"The guy who set his cake on fire," said Nick, starting to laugh.

Her eyes widened and she turned red. "Well, he-he's a child. It was no big deal."

"Come on, we both know there was no Bryan," he teases. "Just admit you like my book!"

"My students like the book," she said, telling herself that his smug tone was what was ticking her off. She honestly wasn't embarrassed that she liked a young adult's book; the only reason she'd lied to Cece was because she couldn't be bothered to handle the relentless teasing she was sure to throw her way.

Besides, why lie to the goddamn author himself? If there was one thing she'd always wanted, it was to discuss a book with the author. But here she was, standing in an annoyingly loud party, telling an author that she wasn't a fan of his book.

What is wrong with me.

He said something in response to her lie but was drowned out by the volume. She strains her neck slightly, with a questioning look on her face, mouthing the words 'I can't hear you'.

"Lying isn't one of your strongest suits!" he repeated loudly, leaning closer to her, his cheek just grazing hers.

She turned to look at him angrily, but he was standing so close to her. Their noses were almost touching, and she swallowed thickly as he stared back at her. She couldn't help but notice that his eyes were a very peculiar, but rich shade of brown with speckles of dull gold near the irises. A small voice in the back of her head laughed mockingly at her, calling her a 'hopeless romantic' and she took a step back, clearing her throat.

"You're so annoying," she muttered lamely and stomped off as he stared after her, mentally making a note that the smell of vanilla was fading away. As he tried to make his way through the crowd towards the exit, he couldn't help but smile to himself a little.

A/N: Ugh, sorry, I know it's going slowly. I need it too.

There's a hint as to where they'll meet next. Any guesses? ;) ;)

And don't forget to leave reviewssss! :*