Authors: Reon Laudat
“That means no.”
“But, but, it’s great! It’s a shame not to put it
out there for others to enjoy! Hey, I have an idea. If you’re shy let me shop
You can use a pen name. We’ll
create an intriguing persona. You’re an eccentric who lives off the grid
“Sharing it with you is plenty for me. My writing
will be our special thing, okay?”
“That’s sweet but, Dominic,” Kendra said, “I don’t
thing—between you and me.” Dominic placed the pages back on the sofa and
drew her close again, slipping his hands underneath her T-shirt to caress her
bare skin. He slipped his tongue inside her mouth, making her weak with desire.
Kendra broke the kiss. “So you haven’t let
else read this?”
“Just you.” He moved in to resume the kiss.
I’m honored,” Kendra whispered against his lips. “But if you decide to put it
out there, I’m offering my editing service.”
“Editing?” He pulled back, giving her the
“Minor tweaking, sweetie.”
“Thank you for trusting me with your work.”
“What do you say we get back to the bedroom so you
can thank me some more.”
“The bedroom?” she asked with a saucy smile. “Let
me get started right here, thanking the hell out of you.” Her hands languidly
skimmed his trim muscle-rippled torso. She wet her lips and dropped to her
knees, dragging his briefs to his ankles.
removed her T-shirt and tossed it aside. His fingers tangled in her hair as she
stroked him and reached for a stray square of Lick-Me Lime from the night
before. She quickly opened the package and rolled the condom on him.
teased him with her tongue, swirling it around his tip and shaft as she
caressed his butt and balls. Soon, she eased his length inside her mouth to
pleasure him in a smooth, steady back-and-forth motion.
Dominic’s head lolled back. “Ahhh, yes,” he said
in throaty praise of her skill and enthusiasm. With his hands on her head,
setting the rhythm, her movements gradually quickened until he climaxed.
He joined her on the floor to kiss and hold her in
“You’re welcome,” he said, rolling Kendra on her
back, parting her legs, and placing them on his shoulders. He kissed her torso,
moving downward past her pierced belly button until he reached his destination.
He gave her a lazy smile and a flick of his tongue where she was most
sensitive. “One good turn…”
Monday morning at the
Porter Agency, Brittany had spent the last five minutes of her coffee break
scrolling through the Post-a-Pic app on her phone. “She did such a gorgeous job
with the winged-liner-smoky-eye-matte-red-lip combo. Wow!” She moved to type
something then paused, tipping her head to one side. “But I need to wait a
while, maybe a whole month, before I comment on or twinkle-dinkle another one
of her photos, no matter how great it is. It’s a shame. I am no longer so
liberal with my public praise.”
“Let me guess. You’re looking at Makeup by
Marvelous Marla,” Kendra said as she took a seat behind her own desk.”
“Did she out you again?”
Brittany, who followed the British professional
makeup artist’s blog and various social media accounts, lived in fear of
getting put on blast yet again with one of those “mock-humble” “THANKS FOR THE
LOVE” shout-outs from Marvelous Marla. Brittany believed when a Post-a-Pic user
compiled a listing of a followers’ multiple fawning comments and twinkle-dinkle
endorsements in one screen shot and then posted them for all the world to see,
it “totally made that follower look like a stalker.”
“Is it really about honoring the follower, or is
it about flexing? As in, ‘Hey, look, all you pathetic fuckers, I have fans!
Ardent fans! Ha!’”
“Or maybe it really
Marla’s way of showing sincere gratitude for your support. Ever
thought of that?” Kendra said.
“So direct message
, then, follow
or comment on
account with a
thanks for a change. And while you’re at it, send this plebeian some of those
‘smashing’ Givenchy makeup samples you’ve been hoarding, Marvelous Marla.”
no, I’ve ruined you,” Kendra said ruefully. “You’re almost as jaded as I am,
“I’m still a fan of hers, just an undercover one.”
With fawning followers on her mind, Kendra surfed
to read the latest
post and view photos of the property Vanessa and Ashton had purchased in the
Bahamas. She hadn’t heard anything from her since the day they’d discussed that
girls’ getaway weekend that would never happen.
However, Vanessa had already planned to host a
meet-and-greet for her most dedicated followers. They would gather at some tony
restaurant in Aspen, Colorado during her and Ashton’s upcoming visit
Kendra scanned the comments
section. Several excited posters wrote that they were “most definitely” attending.
One woman vowed to make the nearly four-hour drive from her home in Colorado
Springs “come hell or high water.”
was exactly what the titled proclaimed. Unlike bloggers such as Marvelous
Marla, Vanessa did not share loads of tips, advice, reviews, or anything else
that a visitor might actually find useful. Nor was the writing particularly
engaging. So what in the heck did Vanessa offer that made her worthy of holding
surfed off the site and reached for Brody’s signed agent/client agreement on
her desk to ruminate over something positive. Brody and Kendra had met for a
two-hour lunch the day before to discuss representation. They’d asked and
answered each other’s tough questions. Before the meeting ended, they’d toasted
an agreement to work together.
Brody had one manuscript left in his current
publisher’s contract. After he delivered it,
Kendra would handle the round of
negotiations for his next three-book series for which they’d brainstormed
concepts. There was some doubt whether Brody would remain with his present
publisher with a new editor assigned to work with him or seek a new house.
Dominic had negotiated an author-friendly Right of First Refusal clause. No
surprises there. But with Brody’s deadline extension, a sales move on the new
series was probably unlikely for at least another year.
Brittany walked over to Kendra’s desk. “I’m going
to run out to grab some lunch. You want something?”
“I’m not hungry. Oh, wait.
Have you had a chance to go through the
requested submissions?” Kendra scanned Brody’s agreement document for the
agency’s digital files.
“I went through part of last week’s that arrived
electronically. And I’ve gone through the stack that arrived by mail. Looking
for something in particular?”
“Yes, have you seen anything from Corinne Ostertag?
The manuscript is titled
“I recall the name and the title.”
swiveled her chair to face the desktop computer at the right of her L-shaped
desk and went to the e-submissions folder and digital drop-box.
She looked at the date on the file with
a sigh. “This is the original version. We didn’t get a revised version from
Corinne?” she asked, now on tenterhooks.
“That’s the only one I’ve seen.”
“I asked for revisions in Maui, she agreed to
them, but I haven’t heard anything from her since. It was a large file. The
manuscript is nearly one hundred and fifty thousand words. I’m not sure how
long the revised version will be, but I expect substantial cuts.”
“If you asked for sweeping architectural changes
that could take time. Are you worried?”
“Hmmm. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be, but she didn’t
respond to my request for a progress report,” Kendra said, thinking it strange
that she hadn’t received an email or anything from the elder Ostertag, either,
who’d made a point of dipping in everything else related to the manuscript.
Surely Corinne had told her mother about their meeting and showed her the
editorial letter. Something about their extended silence created a pit in
“We have no idea how slowly or quickly she writes.
That’s the thing about new clients. We see their version of the finished
product when they first submit, but we have no idea if it took seven days,
seven months, or seven years to write. Did Corinne happen to say how long it
“I believe it was her mother who offered that
information. It took some years.”
“Well, there you have it, but I’ll do a quick
check again before I leave.” Brittany sat at her desk and typed on her
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Kendra arranged stacks of paper submissions.
Though many agencies only accepted digital queries and submissions, Porter
still accepted those sent by snail mail. She reached for a query letter though
it was in a silver-engraved envelope resembling a New Year’s Eve party
invitation. Not a good sign. After removing what felt like expensive cardstock,
a shower of small glitter stars and rhinestones scattered on her desk.
Would some writers ever learn?
came to submissions it was all about content not fancy packaging or bribes.
Although those gourmet chocolates tucked inside another submission looked
scrumptious, she’d never consume food sent through the mail by a stranger.
Kendra put the bedazzled submission and
She reached for the next envelope that screamed
FIFTH INVOICE ENCLOSED from an industry insider magazine demanding a
seventy-five dollar remittance for twelve additional issues that had cost five
dollars the year before.
standing with us is at risk,
it warned in stern red letters. What were they
going to do? Send a goon named Big Al to break her kneecaps? Asphyxiation by
avalanche of scolding junk mail was more likely. Though she smelled a
bait-and-switch in their tactics, it had been her responsibility to read the
fine print about automatic renewal on that bargain introductory offer. She
swiveled her chair toward the computer and paid the bill online, not because of
the comically toothless threats, but because her word was her bond. And maybe
the token effort would have a positive karmic effect: Corinne would keep her
Kendra couldn’t stop second-guessing her decision
not to try signing the writer while they were in Maui. What had she been
thinking, leaving someone as gifted as Corinne free to roam among so many
hungry and highly qualified colleagues? If it were anatomically possible Kendra
would kick her own keister.
considered playing the songs of nature relaxation music on her phone, but
Brittany forever ruined its calming effect by noting that the mountain streams
on it sounded more like “some dude taking a long whiz.”
Now Kendra couldn’t get that image out
of her head so she checked the queue with the queries sent by email instead.
Brittany had cut them down to about four hundred. Kendra quickly read fifteen,
all fell in the definite thanks-but-no-thanks category. And then in a
nerves-infused tidying tear, she organized and shelved a box of bound galleys
and foreign editions that had arrived that morning. She fidgeted over her email
again. Maybe she should fire off that twenty-fifth note to Claudia over at
Lassiter & Crane. For months now, that heifer had been squatting on a
historical fiction submission she claimed she couldn’t live without.
So why, oh why, hadn’t she responded to
Kendra’s numerous attempts to connect? From her own experience, she knew
editors were crazy busy and some simply checked out during the holiday season,
but it only took one flipping minute to provide a definitive yes or no. And if
it was a yes,
make a darn offer already,
Kendra paused to beat back her annoyance before she did something
Now was not the time to torch a bridge at
a publishing house. She went right back to organizing those galleys.
“Kendra.” Brittany’s voice dropped with an ominous
note as her gaze locked on her monitor. “The title of the manuscript you were
looking for is
“By Corinne Ostertag.”
“Yes. Whew!” Kendra’s tightened muscles uncoiled.
“So the revised version finally came in?”
. The lead listing.”
Kendra blinked in dazed disbelief. “What?”
“Take a look.”
Kendra’s mouth went dry as she tapped over to her
email account and the popular industry newsletter:
Ostertag’s FOUR SIMPLE WISHES to Tucker Rosedale at Lassiter & Crane. A
sweeping yet intimate coming-of-age story that begins during the Sierra Leone
Civil War and spans to one boy’s new life in the U.S., in a major two-book deal
for publication next year, brokered by Dominic Tobias, Impact.
Kendra’s skin blazed. She slumped back in her
chair, suppressing the urge to release a primal scream.
So this was the reason Kendra hadn’t heard back
She’d not only signed
with an agent, but also a publishing house.
But how could that be? And a deal of this
magnitude had been announced? Already?”
She reached for one of Lizzy Hopewell’s swag pencils to doodle hard
lines on an old
in which she’d given a two-page Q & A interview. She had to keep her hands
busy or she’d break something.
Agents generally sent closed deals to that
industry newsletter. In Kendra’s experience, as a former acquisitions editor
and as an agent, from initial submission to an eager editor to acquisitions
committee to negotiated and signed contractual agreement typically took
anywhere from two to six months, with two months more like the super swift
exception in a business where moves were notoriously glacial. But this involved
Dominic Tobias, who probably had all the right players on speed dial, so the
usual rules did not apply. Her pencil sliced through the magazine cover like a
Did Dominic know about Kendra’s interest in this
manuscript? If so, at what point did he know? How had he gotten his hands on
How in the world had Kendra
totally misread Corinne and their connection? Why hadn’t Corinne phoned,
emailed, or texted to tell Kendra when she decided to go with different
representation? Or had Kendra been a backup plan while Dominic had been her
first choice all along?
barreled at her while her brain raced to put together what had gone wrong.
“Are you okay?” Brittany asked.
“Yes.” Kendra resisted the urge to snap the pencil
“This crazy business,” she said with a mirthless
titter. “Those are the breaks.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t make it any less
disappointing. I can tell you think this manuscript is something extra
“It is,” Kendra said, unable to sustain the
indifferent façade when the pencil lead broke.
“Look on the bright side. We have Brody Goodwin.
And I had a chance to peek at the proposal for a new three-book fantasy series
from Blake. The first book is nearly done. I’ve read it. And he’s plotted
detailed story arcs for the rest. It’s fantastic, Kendra! I’m sure this is
going to be
breakout for him.
Wait until you read it. I have a feeling. You know I don’t say this often.”
appreciated Brittany’s futile attempts at mood rallying, but those niggling
questions were relentless. Kendra would fire off a congratulatory email to
Corinne. No, a call would be better. She reached for the phone and dialed.
Voicemail. Before she ended the
land line call her cell phone rang. Dominic.
hesitated, unsure of what she could or should say to him, but she answered
before it went to voicemail.