Authors: Reon Laudat
Her inconvenient attraction to the man would not
ruin a trip she’d been looking forward to for a year. Though she’d meet with
present and potential clients, Maui was not just about work. She fully expected
to take in as much of the island delights as possible during her seven-day
Dominic purchased two
sausage subs at the deli across the street from Impact. He should’ve ordered
what he wanted during lunch, instead of that unsatisfying plate of spa food. At
first he’d wanted to impress an obviously health-conscious Kendra, but then he
couldn’t resist teasing her, torpedoing those efforts to ensure they didn’t
order the same thing. He was going for a laugh. Unfortunately, that decision
had not yielded the desired result. Loser move. Again. And he could only hope
he hadn’t completely blown his second chance with his boasting and
As he stepped on the elevator at the Impact
building, he couldn’t stop second-guessing everything he’d done. Had he been
too touchy-feely when he’d reached for her hand during lunch? He’d wanted to
express his romantic intentions as soon as possible to abort any inadvertent
friend-zone detours. But at the same time he didn’t want to make her
uncomfortable by overstepping boundaries.
hadn’t committed to a Maui date with him, but he wasn’t about to give up.
By the time Kendra had a chance to fall
under the island’s spell, she’d agree to join him for dinner and maybe even a
moonlit stroll along a beach.
knew where things could go from there? He smiled at the mental image of
Kendra’s gorgeous curves in a tiny bikini with just a scrap of translucent
sarong riding low and loose on her hips as a sultry breeze tousled her hair.
As Dominic headed for his office, Quentin noticed
the deli bag and coffee. “I hope you’re not starving. Brody’s here.”
“But I talked to him on the phone this morning.”
“I know, but he obviously didn’t get satisfaction.
Wants to speak face-to-face.”
“Send him in when he’s done,” Dominic replied with a sigh.
Brody owned a cabin that was a two-hour drive from
the city in his muddy F-10 pickup. This wasn’t the first time he had shown up
at the agency unannounced. Before leaving for lunch with Kendra, Dominic had
spent the better part of the morning discussing the comments he’d emailed to
Brody after reading the latest draft of his work in progress, titled
Rubies & Snake Eyes
The authors Dominic represented had submitted
novels in publishable or near-publishable shape. Those with near-publishable
manuscripts often worked with his director of editorial development. However,
it was fine with Dominic if they refused editorial guidance from the agency and
chose instead to work exclusively with acquisitions editors after the
Sometimes Dominic shifted to a more hands-on role
for clients, such as Brody who had requested Dominic’s personal editorial
feedback. With these clients he would go through multiple rounds of
revisions—within reason—until they’d polished the work to the best
of their combined abilities. While Dominic understood a writer’s need to roll
with his or her muse, he also understood a publisher’s bottom-line motivation.
Readers clamored for the next installment of a red hot series and did not want
to wait two, three, or— heaven forbid—four years for it. Since
Brody’s last completed manuscript, his writing pace had slowed considerably,
much to his publisher’s dismay.
Brody trooped inside Dominic’s office, the beat-up
hiking boots he favored no matter the weather, thudding against the carpet.
Clad in the usual down vest that resembled a life jacket, long-sleeved flannel
shirt, and cargo pants, he dropped his tall, brawny frame into the guest chair
and plunked his weathered backpack on the floor.
Brody lived for danger, action, and adventure. Dominic
suspected he had a touch of ADHD. But how had he managed to hyper focus and sit
still long enough to compose several manuscripts of a hundred thousand-plus
Brody tugged at his plaid shirt, adjusted the
vest, and then removed the ever-present reusable water bottle and took a swig.
“Brody, my man, how are you?”
Adjusting his glasses, Dominic settled
in the executive chair and tilted it backward as the fennel from his sausage
sub teased his senses. “Would you like coffee? I can have Quentin get a cup for
“No, I’m good.”
Dominic took a drink of his coffee. “Did you
forget something when we spoke this morning?”
“You didn’t phone my editor, did you?” Brody
didn’t bother to remove his mirrored wraparound sunglasses.
“I told you I tried to phone her first thing this
morning.” He grabbed the stress ball off his desktop. “She was in a meeting,
according to her assistant.”
“Well, we spoke.”
Dominic sat up straight and squeezed the ball.
“You mean you phoned her about the deadline?”
“Yup. I did. During the drive here.”
“I thought we’d agreed I would speak to her
Dominic cringed at the
thought of that exchange. Brody’s candor could be off-putting to those who
didn’t understand him—
Brody’s new editor. Gwyneth Putnam, a highly respected, but tweedy, old-school
type who preferred deferential authors, had replaced Brody’s easygoing former
editor, with whom he’d enjoyed a harmonious relationship.
“I told Gwyneth I wouldn’t make deadline.”
“You and I already discussed that. We also agreed
would talk to her about a three-month
“I know, but I was fooling myself thinking I could
get it done in three.”
“But what you have now is great. After you’ve done
the suggested light revisions, it should be good to go.”
“I need more time.”
“How much more time?”
“Come again?” he said, dropping the stress ball.
“As in nine months added to the three we’ve
“So we’re talking another
” Dominic bit back,
you out of your freakin’ mind?
“Yup, another year, at
least. There’s no way I can do this book-a-year crap-ass schedule
they’re pressuring me to keep if I’m to maintain quality.”
“But when we renewed the contract with your
publisher you agreed—”
“I know, but at the time I was overly optimistic.”
Brody opened his backpack and removed two energy bars. He offered one to
Dominic, who declined.
Brody ripped the wrapper and took a greedy bite.
“Man, I’m not some machine cranking out widgets,” he said around the granola
wad in his mouth.
“But you’ve already done fourteen drafts.”
“And I fully intend to do more.
They say Ernest Hemingway rewrote the
Farewell to Arms
page. Some say there are actually more variations, from just a line or two to
“So? One page, several pages, several chapters.
Bottom line, I need
to back me up
and tell Gwyneth there’s no way. I refuse to turn in less than my best. My
readers deserve that.”
“Don’t your readers deserve the next installment
of this series in a timely fashion? What about that mini cyber revolt that
brewed a few months ago? When you’re doing one primary story arc over multiple
books, you don’t leave your readers hanging with major cliffhangers for too
long. And then you unfortunately let everyone know what you’ve been up to.”
Brody’s Adam’s apple dipped as he swallowed. He
took a gulp from the water bottle. “But you told me blogging, vlogging, and
social networking would be a good idea. A chance to connect with my fans on a
more personal level and give them a regular dose of Brody Goodwin between
“Yes, I did encourage it, but that was before I
knew you’d expose so much.”
“What was I supposed to do? Post cute cat
pictures? That’s not Brody Goodwin.”
“That Post-a-Pic photo of you whacking Peter
Cottontail, no bueno, man.”
“Hey now,” Brody demurred, “I always use the most
humane methods. That was a clean kill.”
“Yup. And I made the rounds to my traps this
morning,” he said.
Dominic leaned forward, discreetly inspecting
Brody’s flannel shirt and nails. No tufts of fur or dried blood.
“Hmmm. Hmmm. Fresh rabbit is good eating.” Brody
grinned, relishing the memory. “And a secret ingredient took it over the top.”
That dash of
Dominic took a sip of his coffee.
Brody made no secret of his taste for
labor-intensive cuisine, which some might refer to as “vittles”: wild
mushrooms, berries, and flowers foraged from the woods near his cabin. His
protein, the rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, and opossum he trapped.
Dominic’s stomach churned at the memory of the
grinning boiled coon head—canines and molars intact—on a platter
that Brody had served at his dinner party last spring. That evening Dominic had
played vegan, sticking with the dandelion-and-fiddlehead-fern sauté with
a side of pine nut relish.
“It’s all good. A bad kill affects the flavor of
the meat, you know.” He polished off what was left of the energy bar in one
bite. “And besides, the varmint photos always get lots of twinkle-dinkles.”
The Post-a-Pic equivalent of Facebook “likes” and Twitter stars. Just five
years ago, if someone had told Dominic he’d have a conversation with a grown
man boasting about his “twinkle-dinkles,” he would’ve assumed they were a few
cans shy of a six-pack.
“I thought we’d agreed adding real-life activities
would make it more readable and not a boring promotional tool. I don’t want to
pummel readers over the head with buy-my-books-buy my-books-buy-my-books!”
“I get it, but if I recall correctly, some of your
readers were pissed off when they heard a rumor that your next book would be
delayed because you couldn’t make deadline, and there you were, posting about
three- or four-week-long cave diving excursions in the Caribbean, and then yet
another two-week-game-hunting safari in Africa, complete with photos and
Brody gave Dominic the side-eye. “Man, are you
trying to crack the whip on me?”
“Just playing devil’s advocate here.”
“I needed all those trips to help with my
A load of
Dominic pressed his lips together, silently regarding Brody.
Brody averted his eyes and shifted on his seat.
“Okay, okay, so they weren’t exactly research on anything in particular, right
now, I mean. But the experience and knowledge I’ve gained might come in handy
one day. I get around to using
And I do know I’d been so blocked and stressed before those trips I couldn’t
write my own name, but after I returned home I could write again. I felt
refreshed, fired up even. That last trip is the reason I could give you the
latest draft. See, you’re not a writer. You can’t possibly understand the
Dominic found it heartening listening to a hulking
dude such as Brody emote about his “creative process.”
His assumption that Dominic could not
possibly relate rankled. After all, he was a writer, too. A mediocre,
just-for-the-fun-of-it undercover writer. He
understand the creative process. He’d completed seven novels,
but had no desire to see them published.
“I’ve been around enough creative types to know
the process is not exactly the same for any two writers,” Dominic replied.
“Then you should know some novelists do their best
writing when they’re not actually writing or sitting down with a keyboard, pen,
and notebook. And there’s a whole ’nother layer with the muse.”
Dominic resisted using one of the stockpiled
quotes regarding the muse’s erratic comings and goings. The ones that
proclaimed those comings and goings were
bunkum to disguise a lack of discipline rushed to mind.
Instead, he reminded Brody that yet
another extension—especially a year-long one—would not go over well
with his publisher. He also mentioned the contract breach and the expense of
altering marketing and promotion plans.
“I refuse to be rushed or pressured into doing
less than my best,” Brody insisted.
“More than a dozen drafts is hardly rushing.”
Dominic propped his elbows on his desk
and massaged his temples where the beginnings of a headache pulsed. “This isn’t
going to look good. I’ve seen the latest draft. I think you’re way too hard on
yourself. This is going to be your best work yet. How about going for the
compromise? Let’s go for six months?”
“It can’t be done, I tell you. Now, I need
to call Gwyneth and back
your job. Backing
You work for
, not my publisher.”
implied in his expression.
Dominic removed his glasses and cleaned them with
a small swatch of micro-fiber from the top desk drawer. He needed to keep his
hands busy so he wouldn’t reach out and wring Brody’s thick neck. Instead, he
mentally counted to ten. Outbursts were for the weak. But he often wondered why
authors hired agents for their advice, only to ignore it. He swallowed a retort
and put his glasses back on. “Of course I work for you.”
“Then it would be great if you could call her
while I’m here. I need to hustle back home so I can start preparing for Maui.”
“You’re still going to that conference?”
“Hell, yeah! I need more time to write, but that
doesn’t mean I need to stay holed up in my cabin in the woods. Have laptop will
travel.” Brody chuckled. “You seem a little tense. A little more sunshine and
Vitamin D will do us both some good, my man. Hey, maybe we can go parasailing
together in Maui.
It’ll loosen you