Home > By the Book (Meant to Be #2)

By the Book (Meant to Be #2)
Author: Jasmine Guillory


To all the Black girls who loved books and wanted to be princesses.

This one’s for you.



Isabelle Marlowe smiled at the world as she walked down the bustling, crowded Manhattan street. She couldn’t help it. She knew she should be chill and cool and act like she wasn’t excited about her first day of work, but she just couldn’t do it. She was so thrilled she could hardly stand it. Wouldn’t anyone be? It was a bright, sunny February day in New York City, spring was on its way, and in about thirty minutes, she would officially become an editorial assistant at one of the biggest publishing houses in the world, Tale as Old as Time Publishing. She couldn’t wait.

She was early for her first day—she hadn’t wanted to risk delays, because she’d had to take the train all the way from her parents’ house in New Jersey—so she stopped at the coffee cart across the street from the office to get another cup of coffee to pass the time. Miraculously, there was almost no line.

“Good morning!” she said to the coffee cart guy. “I’m Isabelle. Well, my friends call me Izzy, but probably at work I should just have them call me Isabelle, it sounds more professional, don’t you think? Anyway—”

“Coffee?” he barked.

“Oh! Yes, coffee, definitely. Milk, just a touch, but no sugar, please. Thank you!”

He handed her the coffee with a grunt, and she beamed at him. He didn’t smile back at her, but she barely noticed.

She took a sip of her coffee. He’d added too much milk, but people usually did, that was okay! She glanced around—maybe she should wander around the neighborhood a bit as she drank her coffee, to investigate what was there and kill a little time. When she’d come in for her interview, she’d been too nervous to really notice anything.

Look, a bakery! And it looked like a great one, with a line out the door and lots of baguettes and pastries in the window. She would probably get a lot of late-afternoon snacks there. Oh, and a drugstore on that corner—that would be very useful.

Oooh. A bookstore! It was still closed at this hour of the morning, but she looked at the books in the window, most of which she’d read. She’d just quit her part-time job at her local bookstore, which had given her access to—and a helpful discount on—all the latest titles. She tried to peek in through the darkened windows to see what was on the front tables. She saw a few of her favorite authors; she’d recognize their book covers anywhere. And there was It’s My Favorite Part! It had come out after she’d left the bookstore job, and she was dying to read it. She was trying to budget, so she hadn’t bought it yet, and she was like sixtieth on the waiting list for it at her library. At this rate, it would take months to get it. She might have to crack and buy it anyway.

She pulled her phone out of her pocket to check the time and saw that her parents had both texted.

From her dad:

Good luck on your first day, Isabelle!


From her mom:

Yes, good luck honey!


She smiled at her phone.

Thank you!!! I’m so excited!


She was still living at home with her parents, but just for now. Her salary was on the low side—though she was thrilled to have one at all!—and it seemed to make the most sense to live with them in New Jersey and commute. But she got along great with her parents, so she didn’t mind that at all. Plus, she was sure it wouldn’t be for long.

At ten minutes to nine, she decided it was time to head toward the office. She looked at her reflection in the window, smoothed down her favorite blue dress, and adjusted that one bobby pin in her hair. She made her way to the Tale as Old as Time building, snapped a selfie in front to send to her parents, and walked inside.

“Hi,” she said to the security guard, unable to suppress the big smile on her face. “I’m Isabelle Marlowe, it’s my first day here?”

He smiled back at her.

“Hi, Isabelle. Welcome. Let me take a look at your ID and I’ll send you upstairs.”

After a glance at her ID and a quick phone call, the security guard—his name was Frank, she saw on his name tag—waved her toward the elevators.

“Good luck on your first day,” he said.

“Thank you!” She took a deep breath and walked into the first elevator.

A woman with dark hair and glasses was waiting when Isabelle got off.

“Isabelle? Hi, I’m Rachel. Nice to meet you in person finally after so many emails. Marta won’t be in for a while today, so I’m going to show you around.”

Marta Wallace was one of the top editors here at TAOAT, and Izzy’s new boss. Izzy was sort of glad Marta wouldn’t be at the office right at the beginning—she’d been very intimidating in the interview, and Izzy had been sure she wouldn’t get the job. She’d been shocked when she’d gotten the call from HR a few weeks later, and it had taken her many emails before she’d been convinced this whole thing wasn’t a trick.

She’d really thought she’d get a job at a different publishing house. When she’d still been an intern, she’d gone to a mentorship event and met Josephine Henry, an editor over at Maurice, and a Black woman like Izzy. Izzy had gotten up the courage to email Josephine later to ask her for advice. Josephine had done far more than that—she’d taken Izzy out first for coffee, and then lunch, and given her a lot of advice on how to get a job in publishing. When a job as an editorial assistant was posted at Maurice, Izzy had applied immediately. She’d been crushed when she hadn’t gotten it. But then the offer had come from Marta here at TAOAT shortly afterward, and she’d been overjoyed.

She looked around as they walked down the halls, and her eyes widened. There were books everywhere here. Being surrounded by books like this had been her dream since she was a little girl. She couldn’t believe she’d gotten here.

Rachel gestured to a cubicle. “This one is for you,” she said to Izzy. “Marta’s office is right there.” She pointed at the dark office down the hall from Izzy’s desk.

Just then, a white guy with lots of dark hair, glasses, and what even Izzy could tell was a very well-cut blazer walked by.

“Oh, hi, are you Marta’s new assistant?” he asked her.

She nodded and smiled at him. “Yes, hi! I’m Isabelle Marlowe, nice to meet you.”

He looked over his glasses at her and smiled. “I’m Gavin Ridley. I sit right over there,” he said, pointing to a desk not far away. “I was Marta’s assistant up until recently; I’m an assistant editor now.”

“Oh wow, congratulations!” Izzy said.

“Thank you,” he said. “And really, feel free to ask me for any advice about working here. Happy to help.” He waved at Izzy as he walked toward his desk.

Izzy smiled to herself. People were so nice here.

Rachel patted a stack of papers on Izzy’s desk. “There’s some paperwork here, along with a temporary badge and a few fun gifts for your first day—why don’t you go through this and then you can come find me and we can get your picture taken for your ID badge and all that good stuff.”

Izzy nodded as she sat down at her desk. “Sounds great. Thank you!”

She took her favorite pen out of her purse and diligently filled out all the paperwork sitting on her desk. Once that was done, it was time for the fun stuff. She picked up the bulky Tale as Old as Time tote bag and beamed at it. A new tote bag! She could just see herself taking this bag with her to the park on the weekends, her notebooks and pens and laptop inside, and working on that novel she’d started writing last month.

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