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On deadline for their latest book and out of ideas, Raine suggests (demands) that Blair find a guy and “do some research.” It just so happens that Blair has a guy that’s ready and willing. Declan Bennet has all the qualifications: He’s British, looks fabulous in a suit and gets bonus points for being a single dad. But what started out as a research project quickly turns into something much more. Someone else is writing this love story and Blair has completely lost control. But will Declan still feel the same way when he finds out the truth about Blair and her secret motives?
“What’s another word for ‘pussy’?” Raine said, squinting at me over her laptop. I looked up from mine and thought for a moment.
“What’s the context?”
Her not-quite-blue-not-quite-grey eyes went back to her screen.
“He’s licking it.”
“Yeah, but I’ve already used that word, like, a million times.” I sighed and saved the chapter I was currently working on.
“Send it to me.”
Her fingers clacked on her keyboard and then my email dinged. I ignored the massive amounts of unread mail in my inbox, including several fan letters (which I felt horrible about ignoring) and opened the document.
My eyes did a quick scan as Raine stared at her computer, a frown on her face. I deleted a few of her uses of the word and tweaked the phrasing.
“Okay, sending back.”
It seemed odd, seeing as how our laptops were practically touching on our shared desk. I reached for my coffee cup, tried to take a sip and found it empty.
“Damn. I’m out. Want a refill?” Raine handed me her cup without taking her eyes off the screen. It was nearly one in the morning, but we had a deadline next week, and we hadn’t missed one yet and had no intention to start.
I tried to remember the last time I’d made a pot of coffee, and couldn’t, so I tossed whatever was in the coffeepot and starting making a fresh pot.
“You know, we really should get one of those Keurigs. You know it would be a tax write-off. And it’s not like we can’t afford it.”
Raine just made a non-committal sound.
I was always the one who had to make the first move. When the two of us had met as TAs in the English department at college, I’d been the one who’d had the crazy idea of writing a romance together under a pen name and trying to get it published.
The two of us had spent the hours we were supposed to be doing keg stands and getting STDs typing away. It took us two years to write our first book, and most of it was spent trying to figure out how to combine our brains into one story. And then, by some miracle, we’d actually gotten an agent to take us seriously, and then a publisher and here we were, three years after getting our first book deal, with five books under our collective belt, three of them bestsellers under the name Scarlet Rose (Scarlet for my middle name, Rose for Raine’s mother).
“Ugh, I can’t look at this anymore, or I’m going to set it on fire,” Raine said, rubbing her eyes and getting to her feet and stretching her back.
“I know the feeling,” I said, hoping that by staring at the coffeemaker, it would somehow brew faster.
“We are never going to make this deadline.”
I turned and gave her a look.
“You always say that and we always meet them. Look, let’s take a half hour break to recharge and then we can marathon until four. Okay?” That would only give me a few hours of sleep, but I’d functioned on much less.
That was the price you paid for being a secret writer.
Raine came over and put her chin on my shoulder.
“Why did we sign this contract again?” I sighed for what felt like the millionth time that day.
“Because the money was good and we can’t say no to Marilyn.”
“I’m still terrified of her.”
“You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t,” I said as the coffee finally started to pour into the pot. Marilyn, our editor, was one of the scariest women I’d ever met. Initially, she seemed sweet and nice. But she was deadly with a red pen and she had an uncanny ability to read people. Her hair was always curled, her shoes were always spiked heels and her lipstick was always cherry red. She was beautiful in the way that a sharpened blade was beautiful.
I poured coffee into both our cups, adding lots of sugar to mine, and lots of powdered creamer to Raine’s.
“I’m calling out tomorrow. There’s just no way I can put up with morons after all this.”
“I wish I could. Sabrina’s on vacation, so I’m shit out of luck.” I worked in the Children’s department of our small local library and Raine was a bank teller. Totally glamorous jobs they were not.
Raine kissed one of the tattoos on my shoulder and picked up her coffee cup. My arms were both covered in ink and I had several others on my chest, back, legs and feet. My mother was convinced I got them to spite her, but really none of them had anything to do with her.
“Blaiiirrrrrr,” she whined, shuffling back to the desk. “I don’t wanna write any more.”
“Too bad, kiddo. We have a deadline.” They say you never really know the measure of a person until you live with them, but I think you never really know it until you try to write a book with them.
“Drink your coffee, babe. It will make you feel better.” She did as I asked, and sat on the couch. I turned on the television and went through our saved shows. We had the latest episode of New Girl on there, which would be perfect for a half hour of wasting time before we had to go back to work.
I snuggled next to Raine and before I knew it, my eyes were closing.
“Blair!” A voice pierced my eardrums and then something smacked my arm. My eyes flew open to realize that the living room was filling with the weak light of predawn.
“We both fell asleep,” Raine said, yawning and stretching. I’d fallen asleep tucked into her side.
“Shit, what time is it?”
“Shit, shit, shit.” I stumbled to my feet and grabbed my coffee cup, intending to throw it in the microwave.
“Words. We have to make words,” I said, but Raine’s eyes had closed again.
“No words. Sleep.”
I had two options. I could go back to sleep for a little while, or I could force myself to stay awake.
Normally I would do the second, but I was so beyond tired that I knew if I didn’t get at least a little more sleep, I was going to pass out on the copier at the library. Again.
“Bed. Going to bed.” Raine didn’t answer.
I stumbled toward my bed and fell face first on it, and was out until my alarm rang again at seven thirty.
“And they lived happily ever after,” I said for what felt like the ten thousandth time in my life. I closed the book and looked out at the faces that stared at me with rapt attention. I had a good turnout for the toddler story hour, and everyone had been on their best behavior. I stifled a yawn behind the book and got up from my rocking chair.
“Thank you everyone for coming. We’ll see you next week.” Then we sang “The Goodbye Song” and each kid gave me a hug. More often than not, at least one little bugger would wipe their nose on my shoulder. I must have an immune system of steel because I rarely got sick.
As the tots were collected by their frazzled parents and taken off for naps or snacks, I went to re-shelve the books I’d used.
The children’s room at the Sullivan Library was decorated to look like the pages of Where The Wild Things Are, complete with the monsters and Max in his costume. There was even a little jungle nook with plastic vines hanging down. I loved it here and I couldn’t believe I’d managed to get this job right out of college.
I’d worried that my appearance would hinder my chances, and undo the good of getting my Master’s in Library Science and my summer internship with the Library of Congress.
But Madeline, the head librarian, had taken one look at my resumé, then me, smiled, and said I was hired. I’d been working here ever since.
They had no idea about what I did at night with Raine. I gave no explanation for the fact that I often appeared weary, and constantly covered up my dark circles with makeup.
The most ironic part was that the library carried my books. Mine and Raine’s. Sometimes the other librarians would ask me if I’d read them and I always said no.
I did various chores around the room, picking up some of the toys, re-shelving books that had been scattered around by little fingers, and checking them to make sure none had snot on them. Anti-bacterial wipes were my friend.
Focused on my tasks, I almost didn’t hear the tiny voice, humming in a corner. I peered between two of the shelves and found a little boy wearing an outfit nice enough for family pictures. His hair was so blond it was almost white, and gelled back from his face to show his bright blue eyes. A quick glance around showed that he was sans parent.
“Hey there,” I said, using my soft library voice. I’d honed it over the past few years of working with kids.
“Shhh,” he said, putting a finger to his lips. He looked about three or four, I’d guess. I got closer and I saw that he even had little dress shoes on. Poor kid.
“Okay, I can be quiet,” I said, sitting down next to him, folding my dress under me. “I’m Blair, what’s your name?”
“I, Drake,” he said in a whisper that wasn’t a whisper. This kid was adorable.
“Hi, Drake. It’s so nice to meet you. Are you here all by yourself?” We’d had more than one child go missing, hidden in between the stacks. I kept expecting his frazzled mother to come around the corner and sigh in relief before yelling at him not to run off.
“Yup. I big boy.”
“You are a big boy. You’ve even got your big boy clothes on. Did you pick those out yourself?” He was about to answer when I heard footsteps and a woman, looking frantic, emerged around the corner.
“Drake!” she said, nearly falling over in relief. I wondered if this woman was his mother, because where he was fair as could be, she had silky black hair, dark eyes and gorgeous tan skin. Drake didn’t look pleased to be found.
“Thank you for finding him,” the woman said as I stood up to let her collect him.
“No, I don’t wanna!” Drake said.
“But we’re going to meet your daddy. Don’t you want to see Daddy?” At the mention of seeing his father, Drake’s eyes lit up and he grinned.
“That’s right, we’re going to see him.” She leaned down and picked him up. She was tiny, but had the body of a woman who had probably run a marathon or two. She was also dressed just as well as Drake, with a black skirt, white ruffled top and gorgeous heels. I looked down at my cute-but-sensible red ballet flats and sighed. I never got to wear sexy shoes like that at work.
“Bye, Drake. Come and see me again and I’ll help you choose a book,” I said, waving at him as the woman carried him to the door.
“Bye-bye, Blair!” he called in his sweet little voice.
Chelsea M. Cameron is a YA/NA New York Times/USA Today Best Selling author from Maine. Lover of things random and ridiculous, Jane Austen/Charlotte and Emily Bronte Fangirl, red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader and world’s worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, singing in the car and tweeting (this one time, she was tweeted by Neil Gaiman). She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.
Her New Adult Contemporary Romance titles include My Favorite Mistake, which has been bought by Harlequin along with a sequel, Deeper We Fall and Faster We Burn (April 20, 2013)
Her Young Adult books include Nocturnal, Nightmare and Neither, the first three books in The Noctalis Chronicles. The fourth and final book, Neverend will be out in 2013. Whisper, the first in The Whisper Trilogy is also available, with the second book in the series, Silence and the final book, LIsten coming out in 2014.