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The Ex Vows

Author Jessica Joyce On Tour
Read by Kyla Garcia
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A Library Reads Pick

Estranged exes must stick close together to save their best friend’s wedding after a string of disasters in this swoony and steamy second-chance romance from the USA Today bestselling author of You, with a View.


Georgia Woodward lives by her lists, none more so than the one about her ex, Eli Mora. It’s full of the ironclad dos and don’ts they’ve been following since she returned to the Bay Area after their cataclysmic breakup five years ago. 

With the wedding of their mutual best friend, Adam, looming, and them about to step into their roles as best woman and man, Georgia’s never needed it more. She refuses to threaten their tight-knit friend group with her messy—and still very present—feelings. The rules on that list will keep her cool, calm, and compartmentalized. 

What’s not on her list? Eli arriving from New York with a new rule-breaking attitude or the all-inclusive venue burning to the ground, leaving the bride and groom in dire straits. Nor does she anticipate Adam asking her and Eli to help him make a miracle happen. Together.

As Georgia and Eli rush up to Napa Valley to pull off the perfect wedding, their old chemistry comes back in technicolor. Somewhere between cake tastings gone wrong, disastrous DJ auditions, and Eli’s heated attention, Georgia starts recognizing the man she fell in love with before. And if she lets herself break her rules, she might find what they’re building isn’t the something old that ruined them—it’s a chance at something new.
Chapter One

Thirteen years later

This wedding is cursed

"Not again," I mutter.

To the untrained eye, this text probably looks like a joke, or the beginning of one of those chain emails our elders get duped into forwarding to twenty of their nearest and dearest, lest they inherit multigenerational bad luck.

In actuality, it's been Adam's mantra for the past eight months.

Adam is the brother I never had and I'm truly honored to be along for the ride on his wedding journey. But had sixth-grade Georgia anticipated I'd be fielding forty-seven daily texts from my more-unhinged-by-the-minute best friend, I would've thought twice about complimenting his Hannah Montana shirt the day we met.

My Spidey senses tingle with this text, though. It hasn't been delivered in aggressive caps lock, nor is it accompanied by a chaotic menagerie of GIFs (my kingdom for a Michael Scott alternative). Whatever has happened now might actually be an emergency.

Then again, the wedding is ten days away. At this point, anything that isn't objectively awesome is a disaster.

I pluck my phone off my desk, typing, What's the damage?

A bubble immediately pops up, disappears, reappears, then stops again.

"Great sign."

It's nearly four p.m. on Wednesday, the day before my week-long PTO for the wedding starts, and I still have half a page of unchecked boxes on my to-do list, plus a detailed While I'm Away email to draft for my boss. I can't leave Adam hanging in his moment of need, though. What kind of best woman would I be?

No better than the largely absent best man? comes the uncharitable punchline. I slam the door on that thought. It's not like I've minded executing most of the best-people activities; it's been a godsend for multiple reasons. It's just so typical of him to-

I catch my own eye in the computer's reflection, delivering a silent message with the downward slash of my dark eyebrows: Shut. Up. I'd rather think about curses than anything tangentially related to the subject of Eli Mora.

Not that I believe in curses at all.

Except . . . deep down, I do worry that Adam's been hounded by bad vibes since he proposed to his fiancée, Grace Song, on New Year's Eve. Their plans have involved a comedy of errors that have escalated from bummer to oh shit: the wrong wedding dress ordered by the bridal salon, names misspelled on their printed wedding invitations twice, and-the one that nearly got me to believe-their wedding planner quit three months ago because his Bernedoodle had amassed such a following on social media that he was making triple his salary as her manager.

For Adam, whose natural temperament hovers somewhere near live wire, it's been a constant test of his sanity. Even Grace, who's brutally chill, the perfect emotional foil for Adam, has been fraying.

But then, she would've been fine eloping. Every new disaster probably only further solidifies the urge to book it to Vegas.

Adam's texts tumble over one another:

Georgia

Our fucking DJ

BROKE THEIR HIP

LINE DANCING AT A BACHELORETTE PARTY

IN NASHVILLE

I need to know what I've done in my 28 years on this dying earth that is causing this to happen

I start to type, but he beats me to it.

That was rhetorical, Woodward, DON'T

Clearly Adam's shifting out of his panic fugue, so I shift into fix-it mode. It's the reason he came to me out of everyone-he knows I'll step up without hesitation.

Deep breath. Nothing's burned to the ground, right? I text back. This is problematic but not fatal. We'll come up with a new list.

The bubbles of doom pop up again and I wait. Again.

I wish I could say my eagerness to jump into this shitstorm is fully altruistic, but since I got back from a six-month work stint in Seattle three months ago, I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen Adam, all wedding-related. This has been the only way to reliably stay in his orbit.

For now, anyway.

Here's the thing: I'm a list girl. I learned the magic of them long ago-the way they can streamline tasks and expectations. Needs and emotions. How they can take a messy, chaotic thing and make it manageable. They've been my coping strategy since I was a kid. They quiet my mind and untangle my emotions so that I stay cool, calm, and compartmentalized. So I'm not a messy, chaotic thing.

Needless to say, it aggrieves me that I can't list my way out of my recent realization: my closest friends have fully shifted into phases I'm not in-falling in love, cohabitating, building social circles with other happy couples that make me the extra wheel, a feeling I avoid as resolutely as Trader Joe's on a Sunday. My time in Seattle only made it more obvious, and I hate that there's no checklist that'll pivot me off this path.

It's not that I expected an epic welcome home party, but I did expect to come back to my favorite people still living in the same city as me. Instead, I returned to an entirely different landscape: Adam and Grace moved to Glenlake from their apartment in the Inner Richmond six blocks away. Jamie Rothenberg, my other best friend and roommate for the last five years, went and fell in love while I was gone, too, and moved into her girlfriend's Oakland bungalow right before I got back.

Really, though, it's fine.

Okay, sure, loneliness is gnawing at me, a feeling that's been familiar since I was old enough to know what it was (kindergarten, when my dad couldn't make it to my holiday concert and I sang my solo to our neighbor, who showed up in his place). Yes, I can feel it curling up next to me at night in an apartment that used to echo with Jamie's honking laughter instead of the reruns of New Girl I put on a timer so I can sleep. Absolutely, watching two of my best friends find the kind of love I once thought I had is fairly soul-destroying. As is being knee-deep in my best friend's wedding festivities, knowing that in ten days I have to stand beside-

My phone buzzes. I jump, shaking off that unwanted, side-swiping thought, and turn my attention to Adam's text: Can you help with a DJ list that isn't shitty?

That deserves a voice message. "Can I help with a list? Seriously?"

Like all the other times Adam's called me in for support, it's a serotonin hit that chases the lonely feeling away.

And once the wedding is over, what happens then? a quiet voice asks. Like all my messiest thoughts, I wrestle it into submission.

Adam's follow-up text comes as a Teams notification dings politely on my computer. My head swivels on instinct, ponytail sweeping across my cheek.

Nia Osman: can I borrow you for 5?

Adam and my boss needing me play tug-of-war on my people-pleasing tendencies, but only one of them is paying me.

Nia needs to chat, I text. Take a deep breath, listen to your Calm app. I'll come back to you on the broken DJ ASAP.

My phone chimes twice, but I ignore it, mentally apologizing to Adam as I start the short trek down the bright white hall to Nia's office.

"Georgia!" a voice calls when I'm nearly at her door.

I turn to see Shay, a recent engineer steal from our biggest rival, walking up.

"Hey!" I say, clocking her wide smile. A gold star materializes on my mental chart; somewhere, an HR angel gets its wings. "How's it going?"

"Amazing. I love my team and my boss and-" She laughs self-consciously, tucking a blond curl behind her ear. "Actually, it'd probably be easier if I listed the things I don't like." Her green eyes widen. "Which is nothing!"

I smile, feeling the familiar endorphin rush of a role well filled. I adore my job. I've been here nearly five years and knew as soon as I interviewed with Nia that it was the perfect fit; now I get to do the same for the people I bring in.

"These are the updates I live for." Gesturing to Nia's office, I say, "I have to go, but let's grab lunch when you've settled in, okay?"

"Sounds perfect," Shay calls as she strides away.

Nia is seated at her sleek white desk when I enter, chin propped in her hand. Behind her, the floor-to-ceiling windows frame a view of Chinatown and North Beach, and beyond it, the Golden Gate Bridge stretching across the sun-blanketed bay.

"Another satisfied customer?" she asks as I sink into the acrylic chair facing her, a black eyebrow rising over her thick red frames.

I buff my nails on my shoulder. "The Georgia Woodward streak continues."

She smiles, but it fades as she removes her glasses. "Listen . . ."

My stomach drops. Am I in trouble? While I can't say the same for my personal life, I've transitioned seamlessly back into my role here. I'm good at my job. I rarely make mistakes, and when I do, I own them. They're never repeated; I make sure of it, because I have a Mistakes Never to Make Again list I reference often.

My mind flashes to the item at the top: those fifteen months I spent in New York right out of college, the apartment lease with two scrawled signatures, shaky from excitement. A pair of warm brown eyes meeting mine, locking into place, full of happiness and love-

Nope. No, no, no.

I focus on Nia, who isn't wearing her mistake face. It's not a good face, but I don't think this is about me.

"Oh god, are you leaving?" I blurt out. She's not only my boss but my mentor, the kind of kickass human resources leader I hope to be someday.

"No, I'm not leaving. And you've done nothing wrong, before you ask. I want you to . . ." Nia pauses, spreading her arms wide. The thick gold bracelets on each of her wrists jingle musically as she continues. "Take in what I'm about to tell you."

I wipe my sweating palms on my pants. "Okay."

"You know that our Seattle office has been massively growing, considering you're responsible for filling at least half those seats."

I nod, anxiety creeping up my throat.

"Arjun"-our CEO-"wants to shift the workforce focus to the Seattle office and eventually make San Francisco a satellite location. There are state-to-state financial implications I won't bore you with, but the company is in the process of making strategic role transfers." Nia leans back, her mouth twisting. "You led the build of the Seattle team perfectly, and you were a rockstar while I was out on maternity leave before that."

"Okay," I repeat, drawing out the word.

"The recruiting director in the Seattle office quit a couple weeks ago," she says, looking straight at me, her dark eyes penetrating. "They want to fill the role internally and dissolve the senior manager position here."

It's as if she's dropped one thousand puzzle pieces into my hands with five seconds to solve it. "Senior mana- that's my position."

"Turns out you're so good at your job they're taking you away from me, Georgia. You're getting a promotion, your own team to lead." Nia pauses. "But that promotion is in Seattle."

All the blood drains from my body.

Seattle is not San Francisco. Seattle is in Washington, eight hundred miles away. I'm fated mates with the Bay Area-I was born here, grew up here. My apartment is here, my friends and my dad, too, though I rarely see him thanks to his thirty-years-and-running devotion to his job as a public defender. I like being here when he needs me, though; it's been just the two of us since the day my mom decided parenting was too much for her. He relies on me in his way.

The point is, all my connection points are here. My life is here, one that took a significant hit during my six months in Seattle. What if I made the move permanently? Would I ever see Adam and Jamie, or would I lose them to time and distance and domestic bliss, the way so many adult friendships fade away?

"What if I don't take it?"

Nia's eyes soften with apology. "There won't be a position here. I wouldn't be able to keep you."

I'm close enough to Nia that I can be real, at least with my swirling work-related worries. "You seriously think I can lead a team on my own?"

She gives me a look. "Georgia, you already have."

She knows I mean forever, not temporarily, but I let that sink in anyway, remembering the anxiety I felt when I took over while Nia was on maternity leave, the way it melted when Arjun said he'd heard I was doing a great job a few weeks later. Being handed the opportunity to lead recruitment in Seattle and the sense of accomplishment I felt when I left a thriving team there. The restlessness I've felt since I came back. I spent the majority of the last eighteen months stretching myself to the limit and loving it. These past few months have been like hitting cruise control at fifty-five after an extended jag at one hundred.

Nia must see it on my face. She leans forward for the hard sell, elbows resting on her desk. "I've worked with you for almost five years. You're the best employee I've ever had, and that's not an exaggeration."

"You're allergic to exaggeration."

"Exactly," she says, her burgundy-painted mouth pulling up. "This move is the culmination of your hard work. You deserve this, Georgia. It's just a matter of whether you want it."

The panic and misery ebb, replaced by an addicting feeling: pleasure. My response to praise is Pavlovian; when I get it, I want more. Nia is feeding it to me on a silver platter.

They want me to move back for good. But they're doing it because I'm fucking awesome at my job. Because I killed it. Because they need me.

I swallow against the anxiety and pride knotted in my throat. "That means a lot coming from you."

Her smile is warm, but then she straightens, turning no-nonsense. "I know you're going out for your best friend's wedding and I'm sorry for dropping this on you the day you leave, but they need to know by the beginning of September if you plan to take it, so I had to tell you now."

"That's in three weeks," I wheeze.

She nods. "Think about it while you're out. Weigh the pros and cons with one of your lists, then enjoy the wedding. When you get back, you can tell me what you want to do."
“Jessica Joyce is THE voice to watch in romance. Her sophomore novel is tender, emotional, and deeply romantic. I consumed this book with my heart in my throat. The banter, the setting, the achingly messy but wonderfully true characters—I could feel Jessica’s heartbeat on every page. It is absolutely one of my top reads of the year, if not my lifetime. Georgia and Eli happily occupy a corner of my heart.” —B.K. Borison, author of Lovelight Farms
 
“Depth, emotional angst balanced with perfectly sharp humor, and writing that will make your chest ache, The Ex Vows is a sweeping romance that I could not put down.”—Tarah DeWitt, author of The Co-op
 
The Ex Vows is a tangible reminder of the power of love and second chances. I laughed, I swooned, I cried—and I was grateful for every second of it. Jessica Joyce is a force to be reckoned with.”—Lana Ferguson, author of The Fake Mate

"Touching, full of complicated emotions, and expertly written, romance fans will thoroughly enjoy this latest from Joyce."—Library Journal (starred review)
© Author
Jessica Joyce lives happily-ever-ongoing with her husband and son in the Bay Area. When she’s not writing character-driven, realistic and relatable tales of millennials who are just Doing Their Best while falling in love, you can find her listening to one of her dozens of chaotically curated Spotify playlists, trying out a new skincare face mask, crying over cute animal TikToks, or watching the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice. View titles by Jessica Joyce

About

A Library Reads Pick

Estranged exes must stick close together to save their best friend’s wedding after a string of disasters in this swoony and steamy second-chance romance from the USA Today bestselling author of You, with a View.


Georgia Woodward lives by her lists, none more so than the one about her ex, Eli Mora. It’s full of the ironclad dos and don’ts they’ve been following since she returned to the Bay Area after their cataclysmic breakup five years ago. 

With the wedding of their mutual best friend, Adam, looming, and them about to step into their roles as best woman and man, Georgia’s never needed it more. She refuses to threaten their tight-knit friend group with her messy—and still very present—feelings. The rules on that list will keep her cool, calm, and compartmentalized. 

What’s not on her list? Eli arriving from New York with a new rule-breaking attitude or the all-inclusive venue burning to the ground, leaving the bride and groom in dire straits. Nor does she anticipate Adam asking her and Eli to help him make a miracle happen. Together.

As Georgia and Eli rush up to Napa Valley to pull off the perfect wedding, their old chemistry comes back in technicolor. Somewhere between cake tastings gone wrong, disastrous DJ auditions, and Eli’s heated attention, Georgia starts recognizing the man she fell in love with before. And if she lets herself break her rules, she might find what they’re building isn’t the something old that ruined them—it’s a chance at something new.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Thirteen years later

This wedding is cursed

"Not again," I mutter.

To the untrained eye, this text probably looks like a joke, or the beginning of one of those chain emails our elders get duped into forwarding to twenty of their nearest and dearest, lest they inherit multigenerational bad luck.

In actuality, it's been Adam's mantra for the past eight months.

Adam is the brother I never had and I'm truly honored to be along for the ride on his wedding journey. But had sixth-grade Georgia anticipated I'd be fielding forty-seven daily texts from my more-unhinged-by-the-minute best friend, I would've thought twice about complimenting his Hannah Montana shirt the day we met.

My Spidey senses tingle with this text, though. It hasn't been delivered in aggressive caps lock, nor is it accompanied by a chaotic menagerie of GIFs (my kingdom for a Michael Scott alternative). Whatever has happened now might actually be an emergency.

Then again, the wedding is ten days away. At this point, anything that isn't objectively awesome is a disaster.

I pluck my phone off my desk, typing, What's the damage?

A bubble immediately pops up, disappears, reappears, then stops again.

"Great sign."

It's nearly four p.m. on Wednesday, the day before my week-long PTO for the wedding starts, and I still have half a page of unchecked boxes on my to-do list, plus a detailed While I'm Away email to draft for my boss. I can't leave Adam hanging in his moment of need, though. What kind of best woman would I be?

No better than the largely absent best man? comes the uncharitable punchline. I slam the door on that thought. It's not like I've minded executing most of the best-people activities; it's been a godsend for multiple reasons. It's just so typical of him to-

I catch my own eye in the computer's reflection, delivering a silent message with the downward slash of my dark eyebrows: Shut. Up. I'd rather think about curses than anything tangentially related to the subject of Eli Mora.

Not that I believe in curses at all.

Except . . . deep down, I do worry that Adam's been hounded by bad vibes since he proposed to his fiancée, Grace Song, on New Year's Eve. Their plans have involved a comedy of errors that have escalated from bummer to oh shit: the wrong wedding dress ordered by the bridal salon, names misspelled on their printed wedding invitations twice, and-the one that nearly got me to believe-their wedding planner quit three months ago because his Bernedoodle had amassed such a following on social media that he was making triple his salary as her manager.

For Adam, whose natural temperament hovers somewhere near live wire, it's been a constant test of his sanity. Even Grace, who's brutally chill, the perfect emotional foil for Adam, has been fraying.

But then, she would've been fine eloping. Every new disaster probably only further solidifies the urge to book it to Vegas.

Adam's texts tumble over one another:

Georgia

Our fucking DJ

BROKE THEIR HIP

LINE DANCING AT A BACHELORETTE PARTY

IN NASHVILLE

I need to know what I've done in my 28 years on this dying earth that is causing this to happen

I start to type, but he beats me to it.

That was rhetorical, Woodward, DON'T

Clearly Adam's shifting out of his panic fugue, so I shift into fix-it mode. It's the reason he came to me out of everyone-he knows I'll step up without hesitation.

Deep breath. Nothing's burned to the ground, right? I text back. This is problematic but not fatal. We'll come up with a new list.

The bubbles of doom pop up again and I wait. Again.

I wish I could say my eagerness to jump into this shitstorm is fully altruistic, but since I got back from a six-month work stint in Seattle three months ago, I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen Adam, all wedding-related. This has been the only way to reliably stay in his orbit.

For now, anyway.

Here's the thing: I'm a list girl. I learned the magic of them long ago-the way they can streamline tasks and expectations. Needs and emotions. How they can take a messy, chaotic thing and make it manageable. They've been my coping strategy since I was a kid. They quiet my mind and untangle my emotions so that I stay cool, calm, and compartmentalized. So I'm not a messy, chaotic thing.

Needless to say, it aggrieves me that I can't list my way out of my recent realization: my closest friends have fully shifted into phases I'm not in-falling in love, cohabitating, building social circles with other happy couples that make me the extra wheel, a feeling I avoid as resolutely as Trader Joe's on a Sunday. My time in Seattle only made it more obvious, and I hate that there's no checklist that'll pivot me off this path.

It's not that I expected an epic welcome home party, but I did expect to come back to my favorite people still living in the same city as me. Instead, I returned to an entirely different landscape: Adam and Grace moved to Glenlake from their apartment in the Inner Richmond six blocks away. Jamie Rothenberg, my other best friend and roommate for the last five years, went and fell in love while I was gone, too, and moved into her girlfriend's Oakland bungalow right before I got back.

Really, though, it's fine.

Okay, sure, loneliness is gnawing at me, a feeling that's been familiar since I was old enough to know what it was (kindergarten, when my dad couldn't make it to my holiday concert and I sang my solo to our neighbor, who showed up in his place). Yes, I can feel it curling up next to me at night in an apartment that used to echo with Jamie's honking laughter instead of the reruns of New Girl I put on a timer so I can sleep. Absolutely, watching two of my best friends find the kind of love I once thought I had is fairly soul-destroying. As is being knee-deep in my best friend's wedding festivities, knowing that in ten days I have to stand beside-

My phone buzzes. I jump, shaking off that unwanted, side-swiping thought, and turn my attention to Adam's text: Can you help with a DJ list that isn't shitty?

That deserves a voice message. "Can I help with a list? Seriously?"

Like all the other times Adam's called me in for support, it's a serotonin hit that chases the lonely feeling away.

And once the wedding is over, what happens then? a quiet voice asks. Like all my messiest thoughts, I wrestle it into submission.

Adam's follow-up text comes as a Teams notification dings politely on my computer. My head swivels on instinct, ponytail sweeping across my cheek.

Nia Osman: can I borrow you for 5?

Adam and my boss needing me play tug-of-war on my people-pleasing tendencies, but only one of them is paying me.

Nia needs to chat, I text. Take a deep breath, listen to your Calm app. I'll come back to you on the broken DJ ASAP.

My phone chimes twice, but I ignore it, mentally apologizing to Adam as I start the short trek down the bright white hall to Nia's office.

"Georgia!" a voice calls when I'm nearly at her door.

I turn to see Shay, a recent engineer steal from our biggest rival, walking up.

"Hey!" I say, clocking her wide smile. A gold star materializes on my mental chart; somewhere, an HR angel gets its wings. "How's it going?"

"Amazing. I love my team and my boss and-" She laughs self-consciously, tucking a blond curl behind her ear. "Actually, it'd probably be easier if I listed the things I don't like." Her green eyes widen. "Which is nothing!"

I smile, feeling the familiar endorphin rush of a role well filled. I adore my job. I've been here nearly five years and knew as soon as I interviewed with Nia that it was the perfect fit; now I get to do the same for the people I bring in.

"These are the updates I live for." Gesturing to Nia's office, I say, "I have to go, but let's grab lunch when you've settled in, okay?"

"Sounds perfect," Shay calls as she strides away.

Nia is seated at her sleek white desk when I enter, chin propped in her hand. Behind her, the floor-to-ceiling windows frame a view of Chinatown and North Beach, and beyond it, the Golden Gate Bridge stretching across the sun-blanketed bay.

"Another satisfied customer?" she asks as I sink into the acrylic chair facing her, a black eyebrow rising over her thick red frames.

I buff my nails on my shoulder. "The Georgia Woodward streak continues."

She smiles, but it fades as she removes her glasses. "Listen . . ."

My stomach drops. Am I in trouble? While I can't say the same for my personal life, I've transitioned seamlessly back into my role here. I'm good at my job. I rarely make mistakes, and when I do, I own them. They're never repeated; I make sure of it, because I have a Mistakes Never to Make Again list I reference often.

My mind flashes to the item at the top: those fifteen months I spent in New York right out of college, the apartment lease with two scrawled signatures, shaky from excitement. A pair of warm brown eyes meeting mine, locking into place, full of happiness and love-

Nope. No, no, no.

I focus on Nia, who isn't wearing her mistake face. It's not a good face, but I don't think this is about me.

"Oh god, are you leaving?" I blurt out. She's not only my boss but my mentor, the kind of kickass human resources leader I hope to be someday.

"No, I'm not leaving. And you've done nothing wrong, before you ask. I want you to . . ." Nia pauses, spreading her arms wide. The thick gold bracelets on each of her wrists jingle musically as she continues. "Take in what I'm about to tell you."

I wipe my sweating palms on my pants. "Okay."

"You know that our Seattle office has been massively growing, considering you're responsible for filling at least half those seats."

I nod, anxiety creeping up my throat.

"Arjun"-our CEO-"wants to shift the workforce focus to the Seattle office and eventually make San Francisco a satellite location. There are state-to-state financial implications I won't bore you with, but the company is in the process of making strategic role transfers." Nia leans back, her mouth twisting. "You led the build of the Seattle team perfectly, and you were a rockstar while I was out on maternity leave before that."

"Okay," I repeat, drawing out the word.

"The recruiting director in the Seattle office quit a couple weeks ago," she says, looking straight at me, her dark eyes penetrating. "They want to fill the role internally and dissolve the senior manager position here."

It's as if she's dropped one thousand puzzle pieces into my hands with five seconds to solve it. "Senior mana- that's my position."

"Turns out you're so good at your job they're taking you away from me, Georgia. You're getting a promotion, your own team to lead." Nia pauses. "But that promotion is in Seattle."

All the blood drains from my body.

Seattle is not San Francisco. Seattle is in Washington, eight hundred miles away. I'm fated mates with the Bay Area-I was born here, grew up here. My apartment is here, my friends and my dad, too, though I rarely see him thanks to his thirty-years-and-running devotion to his job as a public defender. I like being here when he needs me, though; it's been just the two of us since the day my mom decided parenting was too much for her. He relies on me in his way.

The point is, all my connection points are here. My life is here, one that took a significant hit during my six months in Seattle. What if I made the move permanently? Would I ever see Adam and Jamie, or would I lose them to time and distance and domestic bliss, the way so many adult friendships fade away?

"What if I don't take it?"

Nia's eyes soften with apology. "There won't be a position here. I wouldn't be able to keep you."

I'm close enough to Nia that I can be real, at least with my swirling work-related worries. "You seriously think I can lead a team on my own?"

She gives me a look. "Georgia, you already have."

She knows I mean forever, not temporarily, but I let that sink in anyway, remembering the anxiety I felt when I took over while Nia was on maternity leave, the way it melted when Arjun said he'd heard I was doing a great job a few weeks later. Being handed the opportunity to lead recruitment in Seattle and the sense of accomplishment I felt when I left a thriving team there. The restlessness I've felt since I came back. I spent the majority of the last eighteen months stretching myself to the limit and loving it. These past few months have been like hitting cruise control at fifty-five after an extended jag at one hundred.

Nia must see it on my face. She leans forward for the hard sell, elbows resting on her desk. "I've worked with you for almost five years. You're the best employee I've ever had, and that's not an exaggeration."

"You're allergic to exaggeration."

"Exactly," she says, her burgundy-painted mouth pulling up. "This move is the culmination of your hard work. You deserve this, Georgia. It's just a matter of whether you want it."

The panic and misery ebb, replaced by an addicting feeling: pleasure. My response to praise is Pavlovian; when I get it, I want more. Nia is feeding it to me on a silver platter.

They want me to move back for good. But they're doing it because I'm fucking awesome at my job. Because I killed it. Because they need me.

I swallow against the anxiety and pride knotted in my throat. "That means a lot coming from you."

Her smile is warm, but then she straightens, turning no-nonsense. "I know you're going out for your best friend's wedding and I'm sorry for dropping this on you the day you leave, but they need to know by the beginning of September if you plan to take it, so I had to tell you now."

"That's in three weeks," I wheeze.

She nods. "Think about it while you're out. Weigh the pros and cons with one of your lists, then enjoy the wedding. When you get back, you can tell me what you want to do."

Reviews

“Jessica Joyce is THE voice to watch in romance. Her sophomore novel is tender, emotional, and deeply romantic. I consumed this book with my heart in my throat. The banter, the setting, the achingly messy but wonderfully true characters—I could feel Jessica’s heartbeat on every page. It is absolutely one of my top reads of the year, if not my lifetime. Georgia and Eli happily occupy a corner of my heart.” —B.K. Borison, author of Lovelight Farms
 
“Depth, emotional angst balanced with perfectly sharp humor, and writing that will make your chest ache, The Ex Vows is a sweeping romance that I could not put down.”—Tarah DeWitt, author of The Co-op
 
The Ex Vows is a tangible reminder of the power of love and second chances. I laughed, I swooned, I cried—and I was grateful for every second of it. Jessica Joyce is a force to be reckoned with.”—Lana Ferguson, author of The Fake Mate

"Touching, full of complicated emotions, and expertly written, romance fans will thoroughly enjoy this latest from Joyce."—Library Journal (starred review)

Author

© Author
Jessica Joyce lives happily-ever-ongoing with her husband and son in the Bay Area. When she’s not writing character-driven, realistic and relatable tales of millennials who are just Doing Their Best while falling in love, you can find her listening to one of her dozens of chaotically curated Spotify playlists, trying out a new skincare face mask, crying over cute animal TikToks, or watching the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice. View titles by Jessica Joyce