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Exclusive Excerpt: The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson

by Donna Soluri

Today, I’m excited to be welcoming Sariah Wilson to the blog. Sariah is the author of The Seat Filler and if you scroll down, you’ll get to read an #exclusive excerpt! The Seat Filler is out today and its story goes a little something like this…

The meet-cute award goes to dog groomer Juliet Nolan. It’s one of Hollywood’s biggest nights when she volunteers as a seat filler and winds up next to movie heartthrob Noah freaking Douglas. Tongue tied and toes curling in her pink Converse, she pretends that she doesn’t have a clue who he is. It’s the only way to keep from swooning.

She’s pretty and unpretentious, loves his dog, and is not a worshipping fan. No way Noah’s giving up on her, even if his affectionate pursuit comes with a bump: Juliet has a pathological fear of kissing and the disappointments that follow. What odds does romance have without that momentous, stupendous, once-in-a-lifetime first smooch? Patient, empathetic, and carrying personal burdens of his own, Noah suggests a remedy: they rehearse.

The lessons begin. The guards come down. But there’s another hitch they weren’t betting on. As for that cue-the-orchestra-and-roll-credits happy ending? It might take more than practice to make it perfect.

As soon as I read that synopsis, I knew I needed to do two things: 1) read that book tout de suite and 2) learn more about Sariah Wilson. With The Seat Filler out now, and our exclusive excerpt to share, that’s one thing already checked off. Keep reading for a quick, getting-to-know-you style interview with Sariah Wilson that will check off all of our boxes!

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Total night owl! I really hate mornings. Those people who can accomplish more before seven a.m. than I do all day? This is true. Even if I get up early I am sluggish and can’t get much accomplished.

What’s your favorite scent memory?

Oranges make me think of Christmas. My mom was really poor growing up, but they always had an orange in their Christmas stocking. So she made sure that we always had an orange in our stockings, as well.

Do you have a secret talent?

I’m pretty good at elaborate cross-stitching. The more complicated, the better.

Which song do you have on heavy rotation right now?

This changes on a daily basis, especially when I’m writing. Recently I’ve been loving Lullaby Appetite by Alexa Wilkinson and Kissing a Fool by George Michael.

If you could be anyone, alive, dead, or imaginary, for a day, who and why?

Elizabeth Bennet, because I adore her and it would be fun to step into her shoes. Especially given all the Darcy-ness that exists in her fictional life.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Never give up.

What’s one change you had to make during the pandemic that you plan to keep when things get better?

I’m an introvert and a homebody who already worked at home, and to be honest, the pandemic hasn’t changed much in my life. But I am pretty excited about major studios allowing you the chance to watch new movies at home instead of having to go theaters. I hope that change remains the same after things get better.

All-time favorite movie or TV show?

There’s absolutely no way I could pick this. I am a huge fan of TV shows and movies and have so many that I love. I’m not sure I could do top five. We’d have to do it by category for me to even begin to make the attempt.

What is your favorite must have self-care item or ritual?

My favorite self-care ritual is lounging in a hot (like, molten lava hot) bubble bath and reading a book.

Has your idea of success changed over the years, either professionally or personally?

Absolutely. Five years ago, I would have thought the me of today had “made” it. But I’m always reaching, always wanting to do better. There are so many milestones I want to hit, so many things I still want to accomplish!

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM THE SEAT FILLER

The car arrived and dropped me off at the first stage of security, where they went through my clutch. When they opened it, I realized that I’d forgotten to pack any snacks. This was very disheartening, since I knew I had hours and hours of waiting around in front of me.

I made it through the labyrinth of security guards and three other checkpoints before finally making my way into the Dolby Theatre. A guard directed me down a long hallway that he told me led backstage. There were even more guards standing along the wall who would stop me to verify that I was supposed to be there and kept pointing me down the same hallway.

The level of security was ridiculous—it was like a military operation. Like the president of the United States was going to appear.

Shelby was waiting for me backstage. She waved when she saw me, her whole face lighting up. She patted the empty folding chair next to her. Harmony had set up a quick meeting with her seat fillers to run over the rules for that evening. She passed around two clipboards together and told us there were two separate forms to sign. The first were the liability/publicity release forms that let them put us on camera. The second was a serious-looking nondisclosure agreement that said I wouldn’t talk about being a seat filler at this particular show. Well, given that my mom would only be vaguely interested and my best friend was sitting beside me, I figured it was fine to sign, as I had no one else to tell. Especially since Allan signed his without hesitation. The meeting of hers dragged on for what felt like an eternity since so many people were actually reading the releases, so I ended up watching the monitors behind her instead.

They showed the red carpet, and I saw various entertainment reporters and television hosts arriving and joining their crews. Some of them seemed famous enough that they were taking pictures with the fans who were sitting in raised bleachers along the red carpet. The whole area buzzed with excitement and anticipation.

Then the celebrities started to arrive, and you could tell every time one of them got out of their SUV or limo, as a muffled roar went up from the fans. We could hear it all the way backstage.

Although I wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone else, I was watching for Noah. Celebrities came in two by two, but no Noah. A jealous twinge went through me at the idea that he was going to bring a date. I wondered if it would be the same woman as last time. The one he claimed he wasn’t dating.

As I pondered those possibilities, where time had been lagging, now it seemed to speed up. Allan went off to join his mother and go over seating charts, and I listened to the nominees and members of the Academy entering the theater and finding their seats.

At some point Allan called Shelby over and left me to Noah-watch alone. Most of the other men in his category had already arrived, and I told myself I was ridiculous for sitting here and doing this. Somebody started putting the folding chairs away, clearing a pathway. The sound level in the auditorium got louder and louder as more people arrived.

Was Noah waiting until the last minute to make some kind of grand entrance? That thought made me question why I felt so . . . I don’t know, desperate to see him again. I was the one who’d said I wasn’t interested. So why did I care? Wouldn’t it be better for me to just spend the evening backstage and then go home to finish off my crystallized ice cream?

It was like I didn’t even know myself anymore.

The orchestra was warming up when Allan found me. “I’ve got an assignment for you.”

“Already?” Last time the first seat fillers hadn’t been sent out until about twenty minutes into the ceremony, and only then to fill in the seats of the people who had won awards.

“My mom was told someone who was scheduled to come didn’t make it, and to be honest, you’ll probably have to sit in that seat the whole night.” He took me by the elbow and walked me over to the curtain that separated us from everyone else.

“You’re going to be orchestra center, in row A, seat nineteen. Got it?” he asked, and it was only then that I realized Allan looked awfully pleased with himself. It was a weird look on him. Usually he was either stressed about work or making googly eyes at Shelby.

Row A was the first row, right next to the stage. Wow. At least I wouldn’t have to climb over anyone. I wondered if someone had been stuck in traffic. Why else would they be late to their front-row seats?

It wasn’t just seat nineteen that needed to be filled. Seat twenty was empty, too. It reminded me so strongly of the last awards show and Noah that I had to take a deep breath. I wondered if Allan’s little smirk had been because he was going to send Shelby to keep me company until the seats’ owners arrived.

A very pregnant and very pretty blonde was seated in the chair to my right. She looked vaguely familiar, although I couldn’t place her. She caught my eye as I walked to my maroon-covered seat and she said, “Hello.”

“Hi.” She was wearing what looked like a very expensive pair of silver-sequined high heels, and I wondered how she managed not to fall over, given how big her belly was. “I like your shoes.”

“Oh, thank you. But look at yours! I love them.”

I displayed my pink Converse proudly. “Thanks. So do I.” I felt vindicated. Noah Douglas was full of crap.

“Much more practical than mine.” She rested her hands on top of her stomach. “I feel like I’m pregnant every time I’m at one of these things.”

“Congratulations. Do you know what you’re having?”

She smiled at me. “A little girl. Just one this time, thankfully. Your name doesn’t happen to start with an O, does it?”

That was kind of a weird question. “No. I’m Juliet.”

She offered me her right hand, and I shook it. “I’m Zoe. Juliet? As in Romeo and?”

“Yep, Shakespeare.”

“Huh. A Shakespeare name. That was something I hadn’t considered but would make sense, given my husband’s line of work.”

I wanted to ask who her husband was, but it seemed nosy. “The only O Shakespeare name I can think of is Othello. And that doesn’t seem like a good name for a little girl. Wait! What about Ophelia? She goes a tad crazy, but she does have a pretty name.”

She let out a laugh. “I like it! You probably think I’m so strange. It’s a family tradition to give our kids names starting with O.”

Then Chase Covington walked over and kissed Zoe before taking the seat on her right side. “Chase, this is my new friend, Juliet. She suggested the name Ophelia. What do you think?”

“I like it better than Opal.” He reached over to shake my hand, and I was nearly blinded by his megawatt smile. “Nice to meet you.”

Wow, was he handsome. “Yeah. You too.”

“And you’re here with Douglas?” he asked. His tone sounded a little disapproving.

It took me a second to register what he was saying, and I turned to my left to see Noah sitting down in the chair next to me. “No. I’m just a seat filler.”

“Are you sure about that?” Zoe asked me, and she sounded like she was about to break into laughter.

“Pretty sure,” I told her, my voice suddenly sounding strange to my own ears.

“Hi,” Noah said and asked, “is this seat taken?”

At first I could only look at him. He was in a black tux, and formal wear suited him very well. How did this make him even more attractive? He was so hot I was surprised that everything around him didn’t spontaneously combust.

Once I shook off my feelings of overwhelming lust, I asked, “Are you serious?”

“What?” he asked.

“I’m sitting next to you?”

“And you think that’s my fault?”

Somehow it was. I just hadn’t worked it out yet. And if I was being honest with myself, I knew this was going to happen. Deep down, I’d known. And I’d wanted it. Even if I was protesting.

“You don’t have a date?” I asked.

“She wasn’t able to make it.”

And there it was. Evidence of scheming. Because who would miss out on being Noah Douglas’s date for the Oscars? “What happened? Did she have to go back to Egypt?”

He looked thoroughly confused. “You sound hungry. Here.” Then he reached into his jacket and pulled out a Snickers bar, handing it to me. “I heard you got recruited last-minute, so I just figured . . .”

My heartbeat skittered all over the place. I took the candy bar carefully and just held it in my lap, staring at it. It was the most romantic thing anyone had ever done for me. To be fair, no one had ever done anything romantic for me, so it was a low bar, but still.

“Thank you.” I felt like all the air had been knocked out of me, and it took me a second to add, “This was very thoughtful.”

“You’re easy to think of.”

Excerpted from The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson with permission from the publisher, Montlake. Copyright © 2021 by Sariah Wilson.

ABOUT SARIAH WILSON

[◉”]: Jordan Bree Photography

Sariah Wilson is the author of THE SEAT FILLER (April 27, 2021; Montlake) and ROOMMAID (October 1, 2020; Montlake). A passionate believer in happily-ever-afters, Sariah and her own soulmate live in Utah with their four children and the two family cats. Her belief in true love has inspired many other standalone novels and several bestselling romance series, including End of the Line (THE FRIEND ZONE, JUST A BOYFRIEND); Lovestruck (#STARSTRUCK, #MOONSTRUCK, #AWESTRUCK); Ugly Stepsisters (THE UGLY STEPSISTER STRIKES BACK; PROMPOSAL), and Royals of Monterra (ROYAL DATE, ROYAL CHASE, ROYAL GAMES, ROYAL DESIGN).

You can connect with Sariah online at sariahwilson.com.

About Donna

Donna should be an empty nester, but she’s not, thanks COVID-19. She’s a voracious reader of all books; she can’t pick just one sub-genre. A staunch supporter of seasoned romance and a lover of cupcakes, you’ll often find her with a cup of tea and a mountainous TBR pile close at hand. Follow her @DonnaSoluri on B+M Bites.

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