Authors: Elodie Chase
Three Hot Wishes
By Elodie Chase
For all the men I thought I loved,
And to the one I truly do.
Author’s Note – Stick around after Three Hot Wishes, because I’ve included a BONUS NOVEL for you at the end!
I sat behind the curtain, waiting anxiously for my introduction to be over. Honestly, there couldn't be a more awkward moment for me to have to live through, even if I'd written the script to my own life myself.
Nellie Hartman, the busybody old woman who'd talked me into the book launch in the first place, hadn't seemed to know how
the damn thing would be. Or rather, if she had, she hadn't told me...
It wasn't just some little book store event like I was used to. No, this place was practically a convention, and from the sounds of it there were hundreds of people out there in the auditorium hanging on her every word, waiting with bated breath for me to come out and read from my newest release, no doubt eager to see what twists and turns I'd crafted for them to live through this time around.
I clutched my copy of 'Love Eternal' in sweaty hands. It had been rushed from the publishers just for this signing. I hadn't even had a chance to flip through it, other than to bookmark a section I wanted to read from.
Except... Except I
want to read from it. Not anymore. At least not right now.
Well, probably not ever, if I had my way.
Because the whole damn thing was an out and out lie, from front cover to back.
I looked down at the illustration they'd plastered across the front, where a brooding-eyed hunk held a buxom blond to his muscled, manly chest. The couple were standing on a cliff staring off wistfully into the distance. The artist had assured me the 'viewer', as he'd called my reader, would be transfixed by the possibility that the hero and heroine may very well take the plunging leap to their bloody end on the rocks below rather than face whatever terrors I'd concocted for them to have to persevere through.
Yeah, right. I knew what I was. If you want to write romance, you need to give the ladies that gave you their hard-earned money what they wanted, and what they wanted most of all was an ending that promised it would be nothing other than happily ever after.
Sure, you could
whatever you wanted, but if you wanted it to
, there was really only one right way to do it...
Below the fantastically attractive couple on their fantastically forbidding cliff with the fantastically sweeping views was written, in big, flowing script the name Isabella Harmony.
Even that was a lie. My birth certificate said Elisabeth George, but nothing sells books slower than a bad name like that, at least according to the publishing house I'd signed a six book deal with a couple of years ago.
Six books... It had seemed like a dream to me then, the kind of thing every author crosses their fingers for. I'd been plucked out of obscurity, my talent recognized, my ambitions and my goals for once in my life lining up perfectly with my ability in a perfect little moment that would change my world forever.
Or so I'd told myself at the time. The truth was turning out to be something much harder to swallow, and I still had one more book to write before I was out from underneath the contract I'd signed.
"Almost ready, Beth?" David asked. He was my agent, which made him a good enough guy in my book. Sure, he got ten percent of the advances and the bonuses and the rest of the checks that showed up in my mailbox, but he worked hard for what he earned.
Without him, I'd probably still be selling my swill for peanuts.
Still, he wasn't a writer. To his credit he never claimed to be, but I've found that unless someone has sat staring at an empty monitor for days on end, trying to make words appear when all you wanted to do was scream and eat a tub of ice cream and then gouge the keyboard with the spoon until everything went away and left you alone, then you didn't
know the deal.
Because everyone writes. That's the problem. That's why when everyone who knows me as Elisabeth George asks what I do for a living and I reply with, "I'm an author," they all give me that look, the one that says
so are they
They tell me they wrote a novel in college, or that they dabble in poetry on the side, or that their son, almost nineteen, has been writing reams and reams of 'really good stuff' ever since he was eleven, just sitting in his room churning it out.
I force a smile and feel my guts twist.
You see, they teach us to 'write' in school. Only they don't, of course. They teach us how to move our hand and form letters, but rare is the teacher who has any inkling of story structure, of the intricacies of plot or a heroine's conflict before her final rise to glory.
No, they teach you to make words in school. Only life, and practice, can teach you to write.
I wish I could paint. Or that I was an architect. I bet no one ever came up to them at a party and told them that their kid is designing viable skyscrapers and could they 'take a look'. I bet nobody ever dragged Picasso aside to show him their finger paintings and get his professional opinion on them...
Or maybe they did. People can be pretty dumb, to be honest.
It was David again. He was at my side, looking more than a little worried. I realized that I hadn't answered his earlier question, letting myself instead get sidetracked by a raging tangent that I
was only trying to help me cope, but was resulting in me drifting farther and farther from the writing life I'd thought I desired.
"I'm good, David. Sorry, I was a million miles away there for a second."
He watched me carefully, his brown eyes full of concern. I knew the guy had a soft spot for me and, unfortunately for him, I wasn't above using that fact to my advantage now and then. He wasn't my type, but what was I really hurting by keeping hope alive? "I know how much you hate these things," he said, waving a hand at the gathered throng on the other side of the curtain. "But they sell books."
I nodded. "That's why we're here, after all," I said, probably more to myself than to him. "Have to keep the people happy, even if all they want is for me to shovel the same drivel down their throats day in and day out..."
Nellie was wrapping up now. I heard the crowd rise as one, felt the wave of applause wash over the stage as my moment arrived.
I reached up and latched on to David's shoulder to get him to lean over so I could whisper into his ear, surprised for a moment at the muscle I felt beneath the suit he was wearing. Was this guy hiding a tight, toned body under there?
"Elisabeth George may think these things are nothing more than soul-sucking wastes of her life," I said, making my voice go low and sultry so it slid into his brain beneath the applause, "but Isabelle Harmony gets off on it."
I strode past him on to the stage, my hips swinging, my lips locked in a sassy smirk that matched exactly the author photo on the back of
. I was fully in character now, and I knew exactly what the readers wanted.
Besides, I had a whole lifetime to regret the decisions that had brought me here. I only had fifteen minutes to do the reading...
"I looked to him, saw the last of the morning's light sparkle in his eyes, as luminous as I knew the world would be if I could only have him, and pressed his hand to my breast, letting him feel the needful pounding of my heart beneath the hot flesh. 'Take me, Roland," I begged. 'Have me and never let me go'."
I stopped, letting the moment sink in. I'd done a good job, and I'd picked a good place to start and stop. Charlotte was about to give in to Roland, even though she'd lose everything if they were caught, she a highborn daughter of an English Duke and he a lowly constable, on loan from Buffalo Bill's traveling show, stranded in Wales until the summer.
Their love was palpable. Hell, even
felt it, and I'd written the damn thing. I
what happened next, but that didn't stop me from wanting to hear it.
Which is why I stopped there.
I looked up, grinning slyly at the audience and casting a knowing gaze around. Women were actually clutching their hands to their chests, desperate for more!
"And," I said, "if you want to read the rest, you can find
online at Amazon dot com as well as at all fine book sellers. Hell, maybe some of the bad ones will even stock it," I said with a chuckle that cut through the groan I'd known would follow the tease I'd just put them through.
The crowd ate it up, though. They knew the deal, just like I did. The reason I was able to sell as many books as I did was that I was intimately aware that of the needs and desire of the audience I was writing for. They
the journey, the tease, the little sweet, sometimes spicy little moments when the heroine looked across at the hero and thought, for the first time,
you know, right or wrong, I need this to happen.
So when I closed my copy of
and said "I'll be signing books, brats, breasts and bottoms over there at that table, folks. Come on over and have a chat!" they response was absolutely thunderous. I did what David had always told me to do, making a quick exit before the clapping and cheering could even begin to die down, and ran up to him, eyes no doubt aglow with the adrenaline of being adored on stage like that.
"You," he said, wrapping his arms around me, "were wonderful."
"I know, honey," I answered, still playing up Isabelle.
He let go of me fast though, either because I was still in persona or because there were plenty of people around that could have started talking. I didn't mind. There was no way that David and I would ever be a thing, but that didn't mean there was anything wrong with a little harmless flirting, now and then...
Still, business to attend to, and everything...
"They've set you up already," he said, guiding me backstage. "The signing table looks awesome, and if you move even half of the paperbacks they've trucked in, you'll be on the New York Times bestseller list by morning."
"Wouldn't be the first time," I said with a wink. "How's my makeup holding up?"
David shook his head with a grin, blushing. "You're gorgeous."
"Good. And who do I need to sleep with in order to get someone to bring me a drink, around here?"
He pointed over at the impressive catering cart they'd rolled in while I was on stage. Croissants, fresh fruit, orange juice and apple cider; even some bacon and scrambled eggs. A breakfast fit for a king.
But no booze...
"You know what I mean," I scolded, trying my best to keep my voice light despite that I knew he was being purposefully dense.
"Don't 'Beth' me, damn it," I said. "I just danced a merry fucking jig up there and I want my fucking vodka."
did it, at least. David looked crestfallen, but at least he turned around and left, no doubt to try and convince someone to pour me some liquor despite the fact that it was still well before ten in the morning.
I didn't care. It was his job to keep my happy, and the only way I had a chance in hell of achieving anything even coming
to happiness was if I got a little tipsy before I had to do the hardcore schmoozing I knew would take up the rest of my day.
Besides, in a water bottle, vodka was as innocent as it was clear, so what was the big deal?
I turned to look at myself in the mirror, touching up my lipstick and then dabbing at the mascara despite what David had said. He was a man, after all. What did he know about these sorts of things? I was about to go out there and sell my newest creation to a couple of hundred woman, and
were a much harsher audience than my adoring agent could ever pretend to be.
David finally came back, wordlessly handing me a water bottle with the logo of the hotel where we were having the book launch on the outside of it. I took a sip and smiled as the booze burned on the way down.
"Thank you," I said, all honey and roses know that I had gotten my way. "I promise I won't overdo it. I just needed a little help to get through this, you know?"
"That's what I'm here for," he said.
I gave him a sideways glance, doing my best to put him in his place without having to take him down a notch. When I could see that the cut I'd put into my gaze hadn't been enough, I shook my head and said, "No, you're here to make sure I don't agree to let some hack make a Lifetime movie out of one of my books. You're here to see to it that the hotel handles the launch the way they're contractually obligated to do so. You're here so that afterwards, when the big wigs at Wellspring Publishing House LLC ask how their rising star author went, you can say she
drunk and she
hate every moment of the stupid hoops she has to jump through to earn a living in this racket and that she
contemplating telling them to take their sixth book, turn it sideways and plant it up their backsides. Got it?"
He didn't answer.
I took another, longer sip of the vodka and tried not to let David get to me. I hated talking to anyone like that, him most of all. I didn't have a lot of friends in this business, and shitty little tirades like that were one of many reasons why.
He knew what he was getting into
, I told myself, even if it wasn't true.
I knew I should apologize. I was sorry, after all. I didn't want to treat him like that, but the dread I was feeling at what the rest of the day held for me was making me lash out.
"Let's go sell some books, huh?" I said instead.
He nodded, though I could tell there was something he wanted to say. I flashed him a grin and let him open the door for me, striding out with a purpose before he could embarrass either one of us with some awkward, heartfelt confession of love.
was the last thing I needed. I already had to peddle love to this crowd, which was hard enough considering I didn't for an instant believe there was such a thing. My agent harping on about it sure wouldn't help my mood...