For those of you wanting a teaser on this holiday, I present the first chapter of Cursed. Unedited, don’t-look-down version, to boot. Merry Christmas!
The quiet whir of the printer had always been her a victory cry. The lord of the manor had his lady, the villain had been defeated, and all was right in her fictitious little world. She was just leaning back to enjoy her traditional celebratory Snickers bar when the phone rang.
“Evelyn Grayson, where is that book?”
Eve smiled. She hadn’t even had a chance to say “hello”. “Hi, Irene. And how are you today?”
“Cut the small talk, sweetie. You promised me a manuscript by ten this morning, and it’s one o’clock. I could hold you in breach of contract.”
“You could not. The book’s not due for another two weeks. You’re just hung up on Lord Baird and want to get your jollies reading the new ending.”
“Be glad I get my jollies. And your readers, too. Those jollies are your bread and butter. Evie, what was that bang? Did you hit your head on that damned sloped ceiling again?”
“I only did that once.” But Eve’s attention was drawn to the window, where the glass still shook from impact. “Probably just a bird,” she said. “Poor thing must have flown into the window.”
A deep sigh came through the receiver. “Stupid pigeons. Anyway, worry about your window later and get me that manuscript.”
“I’m printing it now I’ll call a messenger service and send it over. You’ll have it in an hour.” Eve made her way across the room. The crash seemed bigger than a bird could make, and the red stain that dripped down the glass seemed too large. “You know, it’s your own fault for not taking it electronically like the rest of the civilized world.”
“There’s nothing like holding it in my hands. Reading in the bathtub with the steam crinkling the pages along with my -”
“Uh, verging on too much information there, editor o’mine.”
“Give me a break, I’ve read you sex scenes. Anyway, reading off a computer screen makes my head ache.”
“Then print it yoursel – oh my God.”
Eve looked down the five stories from her window, her mouth agape and her ears barely registering the voice screaming at her though the earpiece.
“What? What is it? Eve? What’s going on?”
Eve struggled to bring her attention back to the phone, but it seemed the only way to retain her freshly-devoured Snickers bar. “It wasn’t a bird.”
“What wasn’t a bird? You mean the window? What was it, then? A kid’s toy or something?”
Eve shook her head, not even thinking that Irene couldn’t see the gesture over the line. “Oh no, it was the window washer. He fell. The little trolley thingy – it’s down there with him. They fell.”
“Oh, God,” Irene breathed. “Are you sure?”
Eve swallowed hard, her head light and her stomach heavy. “I can see him from my window. On the sidewalk. He’s… down there. His legs are sticking out from under-” She lost the battle, and threw up in her garbage can.
“Eve, are you okay?”
“Would you be?” She gasped for breath. “Irene, I’ve gotta go. I’ll send a messenger in an hour.” Eve hung up before she heard Irene’s reply, and braved a look out her window once again. The police were there, and the ambulance had just arrived. No one seemed to be in much of a hurry.
Eve closed the door behind the bike messenger and went back to plotting book number two in her Scotland series. After all, a working writer can’t sit back on her laurels for too long. Two hours later, the phone rang again. “It’s not here,” Irene said, again not letting Eve get a word of greeting out of her mouth. “Didn’t you send it yet?”
“Two hours ago. That tears it. That’s the last time I use that service. They were late last time, too.”
Irene snorted over the line. “I’m calling them. This is ridiculous.”
The line clicked closed, and Eve grinned at the phone. In all the years she’d worked with Irene Goebel, she’d never developed phone manners. Didn’t matter. The woman was one of the best editors out there, and that was worth every curt mannerism she could throw at her authors. Well, it was to Eve, anyway.
Eve threw herself back into her plotting, and just when she thought she had her first twist figured out, there was a knock on her door.
She threw the deadbolt and stepped back, sensing the oncoming storm. “Well I’ll be damned!” Irene bolted into the room, a flurry of faux fur and blonde, cotton candy hair. “You are never going to believe what happened!”
“Hello to you, too. Want some coffee? I was just going to put on a pot.”
“He’s in the hospital.”
Eve took a beat to try to catch up with the conversation. It didn’t work. “What?”
“He’s in the hospital.”
Irene dumped her coat on the couch, and plopped onto the ottoman-slash-coffee table. “The messenger. He’s in the hospital. Got hit by a cab.”
Eve gasped. “Oh my God, are you serious?”
“As a heart attack. You manuscript is floating all over thirty-second street. And thirty-fourth, and thirty-fifth…”
“Oh for crap!” Was it wrong, she wondered, that her first thought was of her lack of copyright protection and not the condition of the poor bike messenger? He was a close second. “Is he going to be okay?”
“Who cares? Where’s my manuscript?”
The editor rolled her eyes, but took it down a notch. “I think he’s fine, but I didn’t actually ask. They said he got sideswiped by a cab. He’s not dead, so we’re good, right?”
“Remind me to send him some flowers.”
Irene crossed her arms and crossed her legs, adding an impatient foot wiggle. “So? Are you going to print it?”
Eve narrowed her eyes and plopped on the couch right on top of the faux fur. “You’re kidding, right? I ran through my last print cartridge running it this afternoon.”
“Pft!” Irene tossed her hands up in the air. “So get another one. Come on, this book is overdue.”
Eve sighed and let her head fall back against the back of the couch. “Irene, you know I adore you, and you’re the best editor ever, but it’s nearly ten at night and I am not going to run out and get a new print cartridge to run that thing.”
“But it’s overdue!”
“We’ve been through this once already today, and no it’s not. Anyway, do you know how long it takes to print an entire novel?” Eve looked at Irene, who, predictable, looked clueless. “Since you make me do it every time, I’m guessing no. Trust me, we’d be here all night.”
Irene wrinkled her nose. “That can’t be true. Sandy runs manuscripts at the office all the time, and it can’t take more than an hour.”
“Sandy has a laser. I have an ancient ink jet that takes days, not to mention gallons of ink. So tomorrow is going to have to do. Unless, of course, you’d like to read it off the computer.”
This time, Irene’s sigh was so deep Eve wondered if her chest would ever settle again. “I told you, I need the whole sensory experience. I need the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink, the sound of the pages as they ruffle against one another…”
“Then it’s going to have to wait until tomorrow. Afternoon, actually. I have to go get the aforementioned smelly ink.”
“See? This is just one of the reasons I keep telling you you need a boyfriend. If you had some guy hanging around here, he could go get it for you.”
Eve’s head was starting to ache. “You’ve been irritating enough today. We’re not even going there.”
Irene was silent a long moment, as if waiting for Eve to acquiesce. Eve just stared back. She wasn’t going to budge.
“Oh, all right!” Irene heaved herself off the ottoman and grabbed her coat out from under Eve, who rolled slightly to allow her to grab it. “But I’m not waiting until tomorrow afternoon to get it. Email it to Sandy first thing in the morning so she can print it.”
“Watch out, Irene, you’ll get the reputation of being reasonable.”
“Smart ass,” she said, heading for the door. But she grinned over her shoulder. “Just send it, will you?”
Eve stood up to attention and saluted. “Yes, ma’am. I’m on it right now.”
“Authors!” She pulled the door shut and Eve could hear her heals clicking down the hall. Eve headed for her computer, ready to be done with Lord Baird and his damned book.