Chaos Is Come Again by Fiona Quinn & John Dolan
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Off balance, Avery Goodyear pushed her weight into her high heels and locked her knees. Her lips curled into a tight line as she willed herself not to sprint out the office door. Focus, she rebuked herself.
Her boss, Jerry Meyers, crossed his arms over his chest, stretched out his legs, and thumped his feet onto the corner of his desk. Always a bad sign. Things never went well after he struck this pose. “Travis Bishop has flown the coop,” he said.
“What does that mean?” Avery asked, not sure if she should move farther into the room to sit in the guest chair, or not. Jerry had positioned the chair precisely so the morning sun would catch his unlucky visitor in the left eye, blinding them. He was following a strategy from a book called How to Get the Upper Hand and Win. One of their competitors had read the manuscript first and beaten Jerry to signing up the author. Now the book was a New York Times bestseller, and all Jerry had to show for his efforts was rearranged furniture and absurd alpha-male poses.
“He’s hiding in London. The Notting Hill area to be exact.” Jerry said. “Apparently, there were one too many crosses nailed to his door, and the twenty-four-hour news-a-thons aren’t letting him get his beauty sleep.”
“You encouraged him to go?” Avery slid her hands into her pockets, but that didn’t feel right. She pulled them back out. She stood there, awkward and uncertain. Bishop wasn’t in her queue, thank God. She had nothing to do with him. Wanted nothing to do with him. Why was Jerry bringing him up?
“Not to London. He’s too inaccessible there. I can’t swoop in for a surprise visit. I was thinking more of a New England farmhouse down a long and private path where he could write in anonymity and get this damned sequel done already.”
“Why push him?” Avery asked, holding the sliver-thin hope that Jerry would tear up the Bishop contract and move on to something more. . . wholesome. Okay, wholesome was too big a stretch. Wholesome didn’t sell. Scandal sold. In today’s saturated book market, everyone was elbowing for a place. Avery closed her eyes and tried for a deep breath, but her lungs stuck at the halfway point, leaving her breathless. She lifted her gaze and caught Jerry smirking at her.
“Money. That’s why.” Jerry uncrossed his ankles and came upright, resting his elbows on the arms of his chair, steepling his fingers. Power pose number four. “Controversy makes PMT piles of money, which equals job security. And right now, in this industry, job security is everything.” He cocked his head to the side. “Don’t you agree? I mean, what would you do, Avery, if you lost this job? Huh?” His raised brows folded his skin into four straight lines across his forehead. “Where would your editorial skills take you? Do you know how many book agents are out there trolling the Twittersphere, looking for desperate wannabe writers who need editing at two dollars a page? Could you make your life work out on that kind of pay check?”
Avery swallowed past the lump in her throat. Jerry was positioning the sword of Damocles over her head. She’d have to say yes to whatever came next.
“Has Bishop given you an update on his progress?” Avery hoped to delay the inevitable. A rivulet of perspiration formed on her back, tickling down her spine. She reached back to pull her silk blouse away from her humid skin.
“Nope. I’m giving him to you as a gift. The updates are now on you.”
Avery stilled, reprocessing his words, hoping she’d misunderstood.
“Wheedle something out of him.” Jerry picked up his pen and jabbed it towards her, punctuating his instructions. “An outline, a first chapter, anything you can get. I want something on my desk by the end of this week.”
Pen jabbing. Power move number nine. Disdain bubbled in Avery’s stomach. He’s turning himself into a caricature.
The phone buzzed against Avery’s thigh. She pulled it from her pocket and tapped it off without checking the readout. “Me? But…” Avery moved behind the chair, using it as a shield against all the ramifications of this conversation. “Please, I’m really opposed to this whole project. Maybe the intern would like to get this on her resume?” Avery threw out the Hail Mary with little hope of success; Jerry looked too smug right now to be generous.
“You. Bishop insists you’re the only person he’ll talk to.”
“But I’ve never met him.”
“Hank Harrison recommended you. End of story.”
Jerry’s PA came over the speaker announcing his wife was on line one. Jerry reached for the receiver and pointed at the guest seat. Avery dragged the chair away from the window and sat down to wait. She checked the number that had called. Lola. Shoot. Her best friend wouldn’t call her at work unless her mom was acting up again.
One crisis at a time. Being thrown into the Travis Bishop three-ring circus certainly felt like a crisis. Avery had received dozens of nasty letters from strangers, telling her that she’d damned her soul to hell by her involvement with Bishop’s last book, Nosferatu, the Lost Gospel. And she hadn’t been involved at all. What would happen now that she was going to be his principal handler? She needed to stay as anonymous as possible. She’d need to get a new phone number right away, an unlisted one.
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