Blaze Chapter Read
All I can think is that I should have stopped for dinner.
The bubbles in my champagne are making my head swim and a whole swarm of
butterflies is doing crazy loops in the pit of my stomach.
But maybe it's not the champagne. Maybe it's the man across
this table from me, the man who's making me swoon with every word he says.
If he can do this with
just his words, I wonder what he can do with his… the thought trails off in
another crazy storm of bubbles and butterflies, and I have to stifle a giggle.
A desperate heat is blooming through my body. I take another hurried gulp of
champagne and turn my face away before a scarlet blush can rise up out of the
neck of my one good dress and into my cheeks.
Gabriel Call arches one eyebrow.
“Did I say something funny?” he asks, and the way he stares
into my eyes demands an answer.
“No, no,” I say quickly. Too quickly. I have to try to
suppress a sudden desperation to start gabbling. I don’t want him to think I’m
as dizzy and as star struck as a schoolgirl around him. Or I should say, I
don’t want him to know.
“I was just thinking of something else,” I say, trying to
rescue myself, and I wince as the words leave my mouth. Yeah, nice going Kate, I think bitterly. Guys LOVE hearing that.
Gabriel’s full lips turndown at the edges. His mouth is
hard, like his jaw, like his eyes.
“If I thought that something else was another man, I’d
almost be offended,” he says. His slate-gray eyes deliberately drop to my
mouth, then slowly scan back up to meet mine.
“I’d have to take it out on you,” he says softly, and I
swear to God, I gulp like a cartoon character. My hand’s shaking underneath the
table and I have to fight to keep my voice steady.
“Jesus,” I say, and breathe out. Despite my best efforts,
it's a shaky breath. “You’re the real deal, huh?”
He doesn’t say a thing to that. He just smiles his secret,
smirking smile, and drains his Scotch in one smooth draw.
All around us the hubbub of the bar swells and softens and
swells again. The noise is carried on a river of free booze and networking.
Anyone who’s anyone in California publishing is here for the annual industry
awards night. And the serious-suited head honchos from New York, of course, the
uptight Chicago snobs, and the DC crowd who are always a little jealous of
And of course their editors, their agents, their lawyers,
all swapping stories of how they signed some new talent who’s gonna be huge when their first novel gets
released six months from now. And then there are the big-time authors brought
out to impress everyone and show them just how good the good life can be:
writers don’t get invited to something like this unless their last royalty
check had at least six zeroes on it.
And then there’s a whole army of sub-editors, copy-editors,
proof-readers, junior agents, assistants and filing clerks, the lowest of the
And then there are people like me. Secretaries who have to
run and fetch and who – if they’re lucky – are allowed to spend their lunch
hour reading the slush pile. Searching for something that might be passable enough to get a quick read by a bored junior
editor with a spare five minutes.
And then there’s Gabriel Call, the undisputed heavyweight
champ of romance writing in America today.
He reaches across the table and takes hold of my hand. His
grip is soft, but there’s so much strength behind it. A spark shoots from where
he touches my wrist and my breath catches in my chest. He leans in, and for a
moment I turn my face to his, forgetting where I am, forgetting everyone else
in this room, all of them pretending not to care that he’s talking to me.
Kate Emily McDonald, an absolute nobody in borrowed jewelry
and shoes that cost me a month’s worth of pay.
But he doesn’t try to kiss me and a tiny whisper of
disappointment escapes my lips.
“Would you like another drink?” he asks, his breath warm
against my neck, and I’m almost purring. It’s all I can do not to fall off my
“Sure,” I say, and it comes out with a hint of squeak at the
end. I can’t see his face, but I can feel him smiling.
“Another champagne for the lady,” he says, and draws away. I
almost relax just a little when suddenly his mouth is at my ear again, and he
whispers, “I’m going to fuck you tonight, Kate, and I’m counting the minutes
until I do.”
Then just like that, he’s gone, leaving me gasping for air,
squeezing my thighs together and trying to keep my face still. I grab my phone
out of my bag and stare at it, sure that everyone in here is staring at
me. Knowing that I’m an inch away from
orgasming right here in my chair.
I steal a glance up to watch him walk to the bar; somewhere
over six foot, with black hair combed into a neat cut just above the back of
his neck, broad muscle padding out the shoulders of his expensive suit. Some of
the guys here are going for a sense of hipster cool in cardigans and skinny
jeans. But Gabriel Call is in a midnight blue three-piece suit and tie with
creases like razors and cufflinks that look like solid gold.
Like he can feel me watching he turns and looks over his
shoulder, right at me, and I quickly look back down at my phone, my cheeks
probably are solid gold, I think.
And that tie pin. If anyone can afford
it, he can.
And now he’s buying me
a drink. And he says he’s going to fuck me. And I’m definitely going to let
Before I’ve even got time to wonder where we’re going after
this, or even how much he’s going to tip the bartender, my best friend Natasha
is at the table. Her eyes are as wide as bowling balls.
“Holy shit!” she
says in a kind of scream-whisper, her voice clearly audible even through the
noise and the cool music playing in the background, leaning in at me. Her hands
are opening and closing. “K, do you know who the fuck that is?”
“Let me guess, John Grisham?” I hiss back. “Of course I know
who it is! It’s Gabriel freaking Call! The guy who writes John Blaze! I’ve got
every single one of his books on my Kindle!”
And paperback copies
still packed away in a suitcase underneath my bed, I could add, but I
Natasha lets out a long, deep breath.
“And the way he was looking at you,” she says, and her tone
is almost worshipful, “I bet there is gonna be a girl named Kate in the next
John Blaze book.”
Natasha leans in.
“Jesus, do you know how much he’s worth?”
I quickly crunch the numbers in my head. I may be a complete
basket case when it comes to talking to a handsome man, but at least I’ve always
been OK at math.
His last book, Autumn
Blaze, his sixth in the John Blaze line, retailed for about $24.99
hardback. I happen to know – everyone in
the industry knows –the sales were huge; the first printing alone was eight
So assuming he gets
15% royalties, on just that printing he got fifteen percent of eight million
times twenty five bucks – I quickly open up my calculator, because I’m good
with numbers, but no one’s that good
– holy SHIT, thirty million fucking
“What do I say?” I ask Natasha desperately. “Something about
stocks or something? Or freaking polo? Nat, I don’t know what to say to a
There’s a tiny little bit of champagne left in my glass and
I gulp it down quickly, praying it’ll quiet my nerves before he gets back. But
it’s wishful thinking. I see him moving through the crowd back towards me, like
a panther, easily cutting his way through the tightly-packed throng of people,
and I feel a not-unpleasant tightness catching me.
“Oh God,” says Natasha, breathlessly. “He’s coming back over
here, isn’t he?”
Trying to keep my movements minute, trying to act like he
hasn’t been the only thing we’ve been talking about, I nod, not making eye
contact with Natasha.
Then he’s back, easily slipping one arm around my waist as
he puts a fresh glass of champagne in front of me. We could be lovers, or
boyfriend and girlfriend, the way he’s so familiar with my body.
“And who’s this?” he asks, nodding at Natasha. A hot flash
of jealousy screams through me, even though I know I’m being ridiculous.
“This is my friend Natasha,” I say, and mercifully, I manage
not to stammer. “We both work at Snow Publishing.”
“You have some good authors there,” he says, easing a strand
of hair back over my ear. His hand gently runs down the back of my neck and I
shiver, despite the heat of the room.
“Do you like working there, Natasha?” he asks, turning to
face her, and Natasha goes deep red.
“Uh, yeah, it’s great,” she finally stammers, and all my
envy turns to sympathy. It’s impossible to have a conversation with Gabriel
Call when you’ve gotten off a couple dozen (more than a couple, at least in my
case, anyway) times to his writing.
Because no one knows sex like Gabriel Call. When his first
book came out, at the peak of the sensation, Oprah introduced him to her Book
Club as ‘the man who taught women to love again.”
Yeah, right, I
think. He’s the guy who taught women how
to screw again. Every time a new John Blaze book comes out, there’s an epidemic
of boyfriends and husbands with backs shredded from fingernail gouges.
“That’s important,” he says, not taking his eyes off Nat. “I
love what I do.”
Nat blushes even deeper, if that’s possible.
“Anyway,” he says, suddenly, decisively. “I hope you have a
great evening, Natasha. Charge whatever you like to my tab at the bar as my way
of apologizing for being so rude. I’m leaving, and I’m sorry, but I’m taking
Kate away from you.”