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Authors: Reon Laudat

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BOOK: Just Her Type
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Her flush intensified. Had they raised the
thermostat in the place?
 
“Thank
you,” she replied, rotated her plate left, and said grace in her head.

“And I’d like to get to know you better.” He
reached for her hand and his thumb caressed her skin, sending delightful sparks
all over her body. “Now, how’s that for direct?”

Kendra liked, no
loved
, the way he looked, too, but chose not to tell him so. Still,
their gazes held for several moments. She could get lost in those eyes. Only
after realizing she did not want to let go of his hand, did she fake a cough to
have an excuse to ease it away.

“Besides books and knitting, what else does Kendra
Porter enjoy?”
 
The way he lowered
his voice made her think of that game that required adding “in bed” to the
words tucked inside fortune cookies.

 
Kendra
chugged her iced tea and studied him before speaking again. “What do you hope
to get out of this?”

 
“Oh,
another date, perhaps?”

 
“And
that’s all
this
is about?”

“Yeah, what else could it possibly be? Why so
suspicious all of a sudden?”

“Right.”
 
Kendra scoffed. “You and I dating?”

“Yes. Why not?”
 
Dominic paused. “Oh, I think I get it
now.” He sat up straighter. “Time to address the proverbial elephant in the
room. Shall we?”

 
Kendra
sat up straighter, too.
 
“Yes, let’s
do that.”

 
Dominic placed his elbows on the table to
steeple his fingers. “I’m venturing a guess here, but you’re probably still,
well, how should I say this? A little miffed, maybe? After you offered
representation to a few writers, they chose to accept my offer instead. Brody
Goodwin, for example. I saw his latest book,
Onyx & Snake Eyes
, in your tote on the plane.

Kendra had also read
Amethyst & Snake Eyes,
Brody’s first novel in the popular
series
,
when it was an unpublished
manuscript.
 
Debut novels of that stellar quality
did not cross her desk often so she’d phoned Brody late on a Sunday evening
after savoring the last page and extended a breathless offer to represent him.
He’d requested more time to make his decision. His letter had indicated that a
handful of other agents were also considering the manuscript. However, she’d
prayed her reputation and obvious enthusiasm would win him over, and he’d
accept her offer on the spot.
 
Wishful thinking when the usual courteous protocol entailed contacting other
agents who had also requested the partial or the full manuscript to let them
know he had an offer of representation.
 
Kendra was all about following the tacit rules and keeping civility at
the top of her list. She played fair with other agents and expected it in
return, though a few colleagues didn’t reciprocate.

Kendra did not blame Brody for thoroughly weighing
all options. After two agonizing weeks, he had phoned to say he’d narrowed his
choices down to Kendra and Dominic.
 
After separate rounds of Q & A’s, hers by phone, Brody had concluded
Dominic and Impact were “the better fit.”
 

Dominic headed a flashier agency with a director
of editorial development, a team of agents (senior and junior), and a slew of
clients. Impact also had its own contract lawyer as well as sub-agents who
specialized in foreign/translation rights, TV/film deals, and licensed
merchandise tie-ins. Porter Literary Agency was a much leaner, or rather,
“boutique-style” business. However, she consulted with several excellent outside
contacts.
 
Anything Dominic could
do, she could do, but with a more personal touch and less bloat.

Both had excellent reputations among authors, so
it all came down to preference. Much like the choice between KFC’s Original
Recipe and Extra Crispy, Kendra had often reasoned in an attempt not to take
rejection personally.

She’d experienced mixed emotions watching
Amethyst & Snake Eyes
and subsequent
books in Brody’s popular noir series burn up several best-seller lists for
years. Her hunch about his debut’s appeal and viability in the marketplace had
been spot-on, but missing the chance to represent it had been one of her
biggest career disappointments.

“You win some, you lose some,” Kendra replied with
as much indifference as she could muster and lifted her fork to eat her
salad.
 
“Try again.”

“Well, how about this? One of Porter’s former
agents just joined Impact.”

Anna
?
Christopher? Kimberly?
News to Kendra.
All three had moved on to different lines of work or so they’d told her.
 
The turncoat had obviously lied, but she
hid her shock.

“And some of your former clients moved on to
Impact, too,” he continued.

“Some? Puh-lease.
Two
. And they were a married writing duo.
 
You make it sound as if there was a mass
exodus or something.”
 
She could
feel her poker face slipping.

“I’m just noting they left so we can clear the air
and move forward.”

“They didn’t leave
me
,” she said as a cocktail of anger, self-doubt, and defensiveness
churned inside, making her queasy. “Their agent left Porter Literary Agency,
left the business. So the couple decided to start fresh with a new agency.”

“I understand how disappointing that can be,”
Dominic continued in a patronizing tone. “But clients switch agencies all the
time. And it’s not always because the former agent made a misstep. I’m sure you
and the others at Porter Literary Agency did,” he paused and cleared his
throat, “
do
a fine job for all
clients.”

Was that a
note of insincerity?
 
Kendra
fumed.

 
“Sometimes an author needs a change to
shake things up,” Dominic pontificated.
 
“The average veteran author changes agents about three or four times
during the span of a career. You must know this. It’s the natural order of
things. Even agents at Impact have lost clients to other agencies and—”


Other
Impact agents, not Dominic Tobias?” she said through clenched teeth.

“I didn’t say that.” Dominic chuckled cavalierly
and started eating his salad. “The clients I’ve lost quit the business.”

Kendra narrowed her eyes. “You mean they didn’t
move on to
other
agents?”

Dominic skirted that question. “You act as if I’m
the only agent who has taken in authors from other agencies. You know it’s done
all the time. You’ve done it, too.”

“Yes, I have, but
I’m
not about lurking in the gray areas.”

“Gray areas?”
 
He leaned forward, his voice less ebullient. “Care to elaborate?”

 
“There’s a big difference between
accepting clients from other agents who happen to approach me
first
and aggressively courting other
people’s most successful clients,” she bit out. “And believe it or not, I have
been known to contact the former agent to inform him or her that I am now the
new representative. I make contact after the author informs him or her. But I
still reach out to let that agent know I did not actively pursue said client.
 
It’s not required of course, but it
would be nice if I received the same professional courtesy sometimes.”

“And you’re so sure I went after them? And was all
cutthroat about it?” He made a hammy, moustache-twirling gesture. “That it was
not the other way around?”

“I didn’t name names,” she hedged, stabbing a
clump of kale with her fork, “just speaking in generalities.”

“Poaching generalities?”

“Yes.”

 
“Good,
because I’m certainly not going to apologize for being great at what I do,
giving clients one hundred percent and exploring all avenues. I take full
advantage of all opportunities. I increase earning potential. I
slay
for them. Sure it’s about
representing good books, but most importantly books
most
readers want. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s
what translates into cold hard cash, which is king. If a house wants a hot
property, praise is cheap. How loud is the ka-ching? Show me the love with
extra zeroes behind the dollar sign.”

“Oh, brother,” Kendra said with an eye roll.

“That’s good business, especially in these crazy
times. Getting a client the most cash possible upfront increases the chances
that a book won’t fall through the cracks. That everything is done to increase
its chances of becoming a commercial success. And if the book bombs, hey, the
client still has kiss-my-ass money in the coffers.” When he popped a cherry
tomato inside his mouth she envisioned him choking on it. “For me, it’s not
about acquiring things or flaunting bling, though that can be nice, not going
to lie. But I do like to win. And the moolah is one measure, one essential
measure.”

“And bloviating doesn’t become you.”

“Honestly, I assumed clients’ former agents only
wanted to hear from me if it was about business, more money-making business for
them.” With his napkin, he wiped the corners of his mouth. “But in the future,
maybe it wouldn’t hurt to consider making some of those ‘courtesy’ phone calls
you mentioned.”

“Such simple niceties create good karma.”

“I’ll call it playing the
Kendra-Kumbaya-Good-Karma card.” He grinned. “Now, enough shop talk.
Truce?”
 
Dominic rested his fork to
extend one hand.

“Truce.”
 
Kendra shook it, thinking she needed to keep the conversation light.
But wait!
Sustaining the tension could
be a good thing. According to Lizzy, cute couples
did
not
compete. Cute
couples
did
not
fight, at least not that often. And when they did, it was
usually over trivial matters such who hogged the TV remote or the bed covers.

 
Kendra
considered this point. Maybe Dominic wasn’t like Graham, Colin, and Randall
after all. But it was too soon to tell. Best to play it safe and stick to the
plan. After this meal, no more commingling with the competition.

Carol returned to check on them. “Can I get you
two anything else?”

 
“Thank
you. I’m fine,” Kendra said.

“Me, too,” Dominic said.

Carol departed.

“Now that we’ve gotten that business out of the
way, we’re good?”

Kendra nodded. Despite his going all braggy on
her, she still liked him. A lot.

“We’re burying the hatchet,” Dominic speared
another cherry tomato, “not replacing it with a pick ax, just so we’re clear.”

“Yes.”
 
Kendra noticed he had plenty of shredded cheese on his plate as he
polished off that tomato. It was silly not to order something more when she was
ravenous now that her anger-induced queasiness had subsided. And she wanted a
flipping beer! But she refused to backpedal now. Nor would she abandon her
health-conscious ruse when they ordered dessert, if one could call fruit
chunks, not swimming in heavy syrup or coated with sugar sprinkles, dessert.
 
Again, he ordered the same to tease her.

 
By
that time they had moved on to light conversation about current national and
local affairs, all tension, besides the sexual sort, had subsided.
 
When she wasn’t staring at his sexy lips
and wondering how they tasted, she was admiring his large hands, and imagining
all the areas on her body where she’d like him to place them.

 
As
they stood outside the restaurant an hour later, Kendra shivered against the
wind and slipped on the beautiful gloves knitted by Aunt Jackie.
 
The last few September days had been
unseasonably cold.

“I had a good time.” After pulling on his cap and
gloves, Dominic moved closer to her.

“Me, too.”

“When can I see you again? Soon I hope.”

Kendra adjusted the strap of her shoulder bag and
glanced at her watch. She had a meeting to get to so she flagged a taxi.
Despite what Brittany had suggested, she was absolutely sure this lunch was
where her socializing with Dominic needed to end.
 
“I don’t know.” Kendra watched a taxi
stop a few feet away. “It’s a busy time for me. But thanks again for the
knitting supplies and the nice lunch.”
 
With Dominic on her heel, she walked to the taxi’s rear door. When he
opened it, she stepped inside. “Sorry, I’ve got to get back to my office. I’m
going to be late for a Skype conference with a client in Boise.”

Dominic leaned in before closing the door. “I know
you’re attending the Hawaii Authors Conference in Maui in two weeks. Your name
is in the promotional material.”

Kendra gave directions to the taxi driver. She
wished she had time to make a pit stop for more food, but that was out of the
question now and her stomach grumbled in revolt. What were the chances there
were treats left on the yarn shop’s refreshments tray?

 
“I
hope to spend time with you in Maui,” Dominic said.

“I have a full schedule. No promises, okay?”

“I double dog dare you to try all work and no play
in paradise.”

“Bye, Dominic.” She smiled. “Again, thanks for
lunch. I enjoyed it!”

He closed the door and stepped away from the taxi
as it inched forward, nosing its way into heavy traffic.
 
A half block up the street, she looked
through the rear window. Dominic stood on the sidewalk where she’d left him.

A while back she’d noted Dominic’s name among the
dozens of industry professionals attending the conference. Unlike the recent
Romantic Wordsmith Conference with a couple of thousand attendees, this smaller
one drew an audience in the high hundreds. However, it would still be possible
to avoid him for a few days. After all, they weren’t doing panels or workshops
together.

BOOK: Just Her Type
3.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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