Authors: Reon Laudat
She sighed. Scanning brief profiles
required weeding out candidates based on stereotypes.
Is Cecil always a bore? Is Bentley always a snob with an ascot and
pocket watch? Are all Damians spawns of Satan? Is it possible to date a Bert
and never ever consider the Muppets?
Occupational profiling was far from foolproof, but Kendra had to
start some place. She’d also found paying close attention to listed hobbies and
She renewed her vow to avoid the too-chiseled,
geeky-hipster type. Kendra had her list down to six possibilities, whose
profiles she’d found on the Cupid4You.com. She had already heard from two.
She would meet each guy for drinks when
she returned to New York.
happened with Dominic in Maui would stay in Maui.
Kendra considered mentioning to Dominic that Brody
was thinking of leaving Impact.
Why do such a stupendously foolish thing? At that point it she wasn’t ethically
bound to inform Dominic of anything regarding Brody Goodwin. He wasn’t
client. Yet. And besides, it was
Dominic who’d been so arrogant about authors’ comings and goings. He’d
presented himself as quite the smooth operator with clients. It was just
business. Good, confident agents should never ever take writers’ departures as
personal affronts, he’d said.
There was no denying the little jolt of excitement
coursing inside her at the thought of working with Brody Goodwin. This could be
huge for her agency.
Back in his room, Dominic
managed to read and reply to several agency-related emails. He also went over
notes for his
Publishing and the New
panel discussion scheduled for the next day, though his
thoughts kept circling back to Kendra.
Who knew a zip line and her fear of heights would lead to their
first kiss? A kiss he’d wanted to plant on her lips from the moment he’d
spotted her working that short black dress in Dallas. But it had been more than
worth the wait. He’d savored the feel and taste of her. Everything about them
as a couple felt right. He knew it and now she knew it. As he whistled on his
way to the shower, someone knocked at the door. A heavyset middle-aged woman stood
on the other side of the peephole.
Dominic opened the door. “May I help
“Hello, Mr. Tobias.” She looked up at him from
behind glasses magnifying her peepers to the size of matzo balls. “You don’t
know me, but I know you.”
His mild impatience gave way to curiosity. “And
“Elnora Ostertag. I apologize for bothering you,”
she said, though it was obvious she was not sorry in the least. “I had a devil
of a time getting up here. Whew! Who knew this was a key-card-entry floor!”
“Looks as if you managed.”
I have been resourceful tracking you down. However, I tried to get an
“Okay,” Dominic said after realizing she was a
writer with a book to pitch. “I’m doing a panel discussion tomorrow that
includes a Q &A with the audience.” He kept his tone polite.
“I will be happy to answer all of your
questions then. Look forward to seeing you there. Good day, ma’am.”
He moved to close the door.
The woman gave it a forceful shove to keep it
open. “Wait! Just another minute of your time. I promise this won’t take long.”
Dominic didn’t have it in him to slam the door in
the woman’s face. “What was your name again?”
“Mrs. Elnora Ostertag, but you can call me
Elnora,” she said. “This visit is for my daughter. She wrote this brilliant manuscript—”
“And I, or one of the other agents at Impact, will
take a look at a query letter. The guidelines for submissions are on our
website. Good day, Mrs. Ostertag.”
Mrs. Ostertag pushed at the door again. “But I
have the full manuscript right here!”
Dominic gnawed at the inside of his cheek when he
noticed the briefcase in her hand. “Mrs. Ostertag, if you don’t mind—”
“I had to resort to one of those rip-off,
high-interest payday loans so we could take this trip to meet to you here.
We wasted all that money in Dallas, only
to watch those cackling, clucking romance people pushing their trash, getting
all the appointments! I was appalled!”
“It was a
novelists’ conference. Members of the organization take precedence over
non-members. I believe that information was included in the registration
“But I don’t see why you couldn’t make time for at
pitch appointment for
literature, a manuscript with
great scholarly value, if you will, from a
writer instead of wasting all the appointments on a bunch of oversexed
“Mrs. Ostertag,” Dominic said wearily.
“Vociferously disparaging other writers and their work will get you nowhere
know. I know. And I apologize! Oh, me and my big mouth.
I realize you have clients who write,
books,” she said, as if
classifying them as such made her want to hawk a loogie.
In Dominic’s experience, many of the genre’s
biggest detractors had either never read any type of romance novel or still
believed Fabio was the cover boy
“It’s my frustration, you see,” Mrs Oterstag
continued. “We never had a chance to see you in Dallas, but I still believe
you’re the only agent for
“Oh? And why is that? I mean, seeing as how you’ve
expressed such passionate disdain for a genre that’s a significant portion of
Impact’s list. What makes you think I’m,” he cleared his throat, “worthy?”
“You recognize and represent serious literature,
too. Penelope’s Wirthington’s debut,
Splendid Transgressions of Alton Whitesborough
for example. An American Book Medallion finalist
a Rowen-Reece Prize fiction finalist. It’s among my favorite
novels of all time. After reading it I wanted to put
in your capable hands.”
“Oh, and I scour the publishing trades, too. I
happen to know you’re in the most lucrative deal-makers club.”
Dominic smirked. All that highfalutin talk about
rarely quelled the
allure of cold hard cash.
“Who says finance and excellence have to be
mutually exclusive? Mama has bills to pay,” she said as if reading Dominic’s
mind. “And this book is too exceptional to languish in a slush pile or at some
agency’s e-file cloud service. If you could just take a peek, I’m sure you’ll
“Mrs. Ostertag, please, I’d hate to phone
security, but I’m about two seconds away from—”
“Oh, all right.” The woman relented, her round
face awash in disappointment. “I know this is crazy, but you see, my daughter
has worked so hard on this and—”
“I understand, but it’s always better, not to
mention efficient, when authors follow submission guidelines. Even if I’m doing
a pitch session, I prefer a query, synopsis, and sample chapters submitted
electronically as follow-ups. Full manuscripts, also submitted electronically,
“And we have visited your site, but—”
“I look forward to seeing you and your daughter at
the workshop tomorrow,” Dominic said. “Good day, ma’am.” When she took a
reluctant step back, he closed the door.
Dominic shook his head, walking back to the bathroom
for that shower. He’d encountered his share of overzealous writers over the
years. He’d experienced unexpected pitches in elevators, restaurants, the
dentist’s chair, and even at a urinal.
He’d heard of
overly involved parents in performance entertainment, sports, and academics.
Now he had his own story about his first encounter with a literary
A short time later, he donned a pair of
comfortable dark linen slacks and a loose, long-sleeved green linen shirt for
his dinner date with Kendra. After his lunch with her back home, he’d made
reservations for two at one of the island’s best luaus. At the time, she hadn’t
agreed to join him for dinner, but he’d planned ahead anyway.
keep hope alive.
When he opened the door, he nearly stumbled over a
cardboard box with his name on it. He scooped it up and shook it. Judging by
the size and weight, he suspected it was the doorstopper of a manuscript that
the persistent Mrs. Ostertag had tried to pass to him earlier. The handwritten
note attached read:
Just read the first few pages. You won’t
He’d dispose of it later, he thought, tossing it
on the luggage rack. He stepped into the hall and looked both ways. As he made
his way toward the elevator, he expected Elnora Ostertag to tackle him at any
At dusk, Dominic met
Kendra in the hotel lobby. It was a wonder his tongue didn’t roll out of his
mouth like a blowout noisemaker:
was stacked with a slip of a waist flowing into curvy hips and a round
in those shorts. His
gaze skimmed from her toned, shapely legs to the edge of the clingy,
gravity-defying strapless top.
adjusted the gauzy white wrap draped over one arm and smiled, her lips painted
with a nude gloss. Her hair was gathered in a high, silky ponytail, which made
her pretty eyes look even larger. That streak, now blue. A white hibiscus bloom
nestled next to one ear.
Sure he looked stupid and saucer-eyed, he cleared
his throat. “You, um, look incredible.”
He briefly averted his gaze to get his bearings
He took her soft hands in his and then released them. He wanted
to pull her inside his arms for a more intimate greeting, but couldn’t chance
making her uncomfortable with effusive PDA in a lobby filled with other industry
“Thank you. And you don’t look so bad yourself.
Cool shirt. Lime. Bright lime, I might add.”
And I assure you it doesn’t glow in the dark.”
“Oh, darn it!”
Kendra laughed as they headed to the
Jeep he had rented for his stay.
“Hey,” said Dominic, tapping the metallic
quarter-sized tattoo of a sun at the top of her right shoulder blade.
“I know. I’ve yet to see a real one that flashes.”
“I have those, too. Real ones, I mean.”
“A small sun, half moon, and stars in more
discreet places,” she replied with a playful glimmer in her eyes. “You know
what they say about location, location, location.”
hope to take a tour someday soon.”
stepped out into the balmy night air. He helped her settle inside the Jeep.
“Top on or off?” His gaze lingered on her thighs
as she tugged at her sliding shorts and made herself comfortable on the seat.
“On for now.”
Dominic went around to his side and climbed in.
Soon they arrived at the historic harbor town of Lahaina, the location for the
luau. Dark water glittered nearby.
They sat on mats, feasted on dishes of
Pipikalua beef, and then enjoyed a show featuring hula and fire dancers.
Dominic couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt
as content as when he admired Kendra, her face glowing a deeper caramel from
her time in the sun. Her long ponytail swayed in the salt-scented breeze.
As Kendra enjoyed the ukulele music, he fantasized
about releasing that clip holding her hair so he could run his fingers through
it and watch it splay around her satiny shoulders. His attention moved to her
legs and then up to the curves of perfect, lush breasts cradled in a top
designed to wreak havoc on a man’s reserve. And where were those celestial tattoos
on her heavenly body? The mystery made him want to gnaw his knuckles, but he
managed to keep his composure, even as his pants grew snug in the crotch.
looked away from the dancers and musicians to catch Dominic staring at her.
teased him with a flirty smile.
“Think it can get any better than this?” Dominic
“We can give it a try.” Kendra’s voice dropped to
a seductive tone as she leaned toward him, providing a nice view of her
cleavage. He wanted to bury his head there and not come up for air. More blood
rushed below his belt, making him feel as if he were about to explode.
He reached for a glass of ice water and gulped it.
“Up for a little walk on the beach later?” he
asked after he put down the glass. Was she thinking what he was thinking? Was
she giving him
Kendra replied with another playful grin.
wasn’t a flat-out no.
Dominic wasn’t sure what to make of this more seductive and compliant Kendra
Was it just about the kiss they’d
shared on that zip? Curiosity left him vulnerable to a nagging inner voice;
something had definitely shifted her attitude. Something besides the aloha
spirit and their mutual physical attraction. Was her smile sexy? Or smug?
He wasn’t the paranoid type, but he
couldn’t contain his suspicion as he studied her. Earlier that day when he’d
stepped on the tour bus and found Kendra and Brody with their heads together,
professional and personal jealousy had rocked him. But he couldn’t determine
which would bother him more. Losing Kendra to Brody, a rival for her
affections, or losing Brody to Kendra, a rival for clients?
had offered a story about how he’d happened to end up seated next to Kendra.
What sort of chump did Brody take him for?
He had to hand it to him though. Brody had been inscrutable.
Not so much. Jumpy was the best way to
describe her demeanor.
“What?” Kendra asked.
look beautiful this evening,” Dominic replied, shaking off the disturbing
thoughts. What the hell was wrong with him? He was finally out on an island
date with the woman of his dreams, and he was going to ruin it with nonsense.
“It’s impossible to take my eyes off you.”
Kendra grinned, dipping her chin to look up at him
through her lashes. “Thank you.”
Dominic loved when she looked at him like that. They finished their meal in
companionable silence and enjoyed the show.
Later that evening, they took a leisurely stroll
through a crowded street lined with galleries, clubs, and historic buildings.
Storefronts featured items echoing Lahaina’s mid-nineteenth century whaling
They walked south to the
famed, more-than-a-century-old banyan tree before heading back to the Jeep.
After helping Kendra inside, Dominic climbed
behind the wheel, removed a folded sheet of paper from his wallet, and reached
for a small flashlight.
“So, where are we headed exactly?” Kendra asked.
Dominic unfolded and scanned the paper and then
tapped information into the Jeep’s global positioning device. “I was hoping we
could explore a particular stretch of beach. I’m told it’s one of the most
beautiful spots on the island, that finding it is worth the effort. These
directions came from a reliable source.” He reached toward the glove
compartment for a crisp paper map. “I don’t have a problem asking for
directions, but I don’t blindly follow directions from people or devices. I
also don’t trust that so-called infallible compass many men believe is
hardwired in the Y chromosome. I need to see the big picture and have a general
idea where I’m headed.”
the paper map for another few minutes, checked the written directions, and GPS
map again before tossing the flashlight aside. “Nor do I believe using my
blinkers to signal a lane change is a sign of weakness,” he added as he
activated a blinker and navigated the vehicle away from town toward the
highway. He glanced at Kendra. “Are you game?”
“The beach it is, captain.”
Kendra saluted him. “Besides, I can’t
resist after observing the way you approach directions.”
“So all this time I’ve been trying to charm by telling
you how beautiful and intriguing you are, to impress by sending yarn, and even
exalting the wonders of moon shoes in that
catalog when all it took was revealing I refuse to be one of those
knuckleheads who won’t ask for directions or check a map? The sort who lets GPS
or macho male pride lead him off a damn cliff?”
“Exactly. Maps are sexy!”
“My kind of girl. Just how nerdy are we? But you
forgot to mention that kiss on the zip.”
was wonderful, too.”
“With more to come?”
Dominic reached out to take her hand
again and kissed it, releasing it only to work the manual gearshift.
Kendra smiled in what looked a lot like agreement.