Writer’s Block Ch. 02

Amateur

I dropped the letter like it burned me and sat in stunned silence, my brain whirling furiously. I picked it up and reread it twice. There was no signature, no return address, nothing to indicate who’d written it, but I knew and I wanted to kick him in his smug shins.

I reread it again, hating every black stroke of ink which snaked confidently across the page. And then I wanted to kick myself for not realizing it sooner;he knew Linda.

I crammed the note into my purse and took off up the street at a quick jog, running up four flights of stairs to Linda’s office. She looked surprised to see me back so soon.

“Who have you spoken to about me lately?” I asked with a gasp.

She stared blankly at me for a moment. “A few people; it’s my job to talk about you, Imogen. Is something wrong?”

I waved the note in front of her, but wouldn’t let her read it. “Do you know someone with dark, shaggy hair who doesn’t like to shave?”

“My eighteen year-old son?” Linda looked as confused as she sounded.

I shook my head. “No, someone older, someone in publishing maybe. Did you talk to anyone like that about me this week?”

“Well…” Linda paused, thinking. Every cell in my body strained, desperate for her to think faster. “Simeon Forster over at Logan, Richardson, and Monk has dark hair and the last time I saw him he had a goatee. I spoke to him the other day and I might have mentioned you.”

“Did he ask about me first? Is he cute?” I must have sounded like a crazy woman, but I was determined to find out.

Linda hummed and hawed. “Yeah, he might have asked if I was editing you. In fact,” her face lit up, “he did ask if I knew who was publishing a writer named Imogen Wallis. He sounded surprised to hear it was me.”

“Is he cute?”

Linda looked askance. “What is this about, Imogen?”

“Is he cute?”

“Yeah, he’s freakin’ gorgeous. A little young for me maybe, but I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers if that’s what you’re asking.” Linda was starting to look worried.

“Where’s Logan, Richardson, and Monk?” I asked.

“Fourth and Finch,” Linda said slowly. “You’re not leaving me for the competition are you? Cause they don’t do erotica.”

“No, it’s not business,” I reassured her. “Thanks. I’ll have the final chapters for you by the end of the month. And I owe you one.” I tore from her office as quickly as I’d entered. There was sure to be a confused voice mail from her on my machine when I got back to my apartment, but I’d deal with that later.

It was only a few blocks to the corner of Fourth Street and Finch Avenue and I walked them unseeingly. My mind was reeling. I was half excited and half so pissed off I couldn’t see straight. I had no idea what I would say or do when I was face-to-face with Mr. Simeon Forster, but I was sure I’d think of something.

Logan, Richardson, and Monk is the largest publishing firm in the city and part of a much larger international publishing house, but I’d never bothered myself with them before; mostly because they didn’t print smut, Pulitzer Prize winners are more their style. Their office building was a gleaming monolith of glass and steel, and as I stood outside on the sidewalk with my stomach a swirling mass of knots, I realized it was only a few blocks from the café where all this had started.

I took several deep breaths, patted uselessly at my messy curls, and slipped nervously into the lobby. The security guard didn’t look at me twice but the receptionist smiled coldly as I greeted her.

“I’d like to see Simeon Forster, please,” I asked as calmly and politely as I could.

The perfectly dressed and coiffed blonde looked me over blatantly. “Do you have an appointment?”

I smiled as sweetly as possible considering the roiling state of my insides. “No, but we’re old friends. I’m surprising him and taking him out to lunch.”

She arched an eyebrow. “You’re not a writer with a manuscript are you?”

“No,” I lied smoothly, “we’re justfriends.” I laced the word with as much innuendo as I could muster.

The haughty expression cracked slightly but I couldn’t tell if she was amused or disgusted. “Fine. I’ll just call up and tell him you’re here.”

“Oh no,” I interrupted quickly, watching with trepidation as her perfectly manicured fingers hovered over the phone. “I’d really like to surprise him, if that’s okay.”

There were chattering voices and the click of high heels behind me, a line was forming and the receptionist pasted on her bored expression once more. “Fine,” she waved at me dismissively. “Fifth floor.”

“Thanks,” I smiled widely and my cheeks hurt with the effort, but she’d already turned to the next lady in line and I made my way to the elevators unnoticed.

I half expected to have to run another gauntlet of secretaries or receptionists when I hit the fifth floor, but apparently Blondie and the lax security guard were my only obstacles, because when the elevator slid open on the no one even looked at me twice, kazan escort which is how I found myself wandering aimlessly among the cubicles, undeniably lost.

Finally, after ten minutes of going in endless circles looking for non-existent nameplates I stopped a harassed-looking young man holding a stack of manuscripts who breathlessly directed me down a short hallway. He nodded silently at the dark mahogany door which stood closed before us, but before I could open my mouth to thank him he’d scuttled back the way we’d come.

I knocked on the door before I got too nervous and entered when the deep voice within bade me to, only to realize my mistake instantly. The man behind the desk wasn’t my shaggy-haired nemesis; he was much older, tall and dark with a distinguished dusting of grey hair, an expensive suit, and a suave smile.

“Oh!” I cried, trying to back out of the door as quickly as possible. “I’m sorry; I’ve got the wrong office.”

The handsome older man behind the desk stood and shot me a cocky grin. “Nonsense, that isn’t possible. I’m quite sure I put in an order for a pretty redhead. Come in.”

I laughed. “I’m sorry to have bothered you, I was just looking for Simeon Forster and someone pointed me in this direction.”

The dark-haired man spread his arms welcomingly, his smile mega-watt bright. “Well you found him, so please come in.”

I stood frozen in the doorway. “You…you’reSimeon Forster?”

He nodded, eyeing me up and down. “And I’m going to guess and say you’re a writer.”

“H-how’d you know?” I sputtered unthinkingly.

Mr. Forster chuckled lowly. “I see a lot of writers in the course of a day, Miss…?”

“Wallis. Imogen Wallis,” I supplied automatically.

“Miss Wallis; although I must say the lost, innocent little girl trick is a new one for me.”

“I beg your pardon?” I asked feeling very lost indeed.

His smile dimmed considerably. “Why don’t you just pull your manuscript out from under that little sundress of yours and tell me all about the next Great Canadian Novel you’ve written, and I’ll pretend to listen; and then when you’ve gone your merry way I’ll pass said manuscript on to one of my junior editors sohecan pretend to read it and you’ll never hear from us again. That’s how this works, Miss Wallis, although I do applaud your approach.”

“Excuse me?” I was confused.

“I don’t know how you got up here, or how you found out my name, but we generally don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. If you really want me to consider publishing you, send us a proper cover letter and plot synopsis along with some sample chapters, and have your agent give us a call.” Simeon Forster had lost the handsome, charming expression and instead just looked weary and bored.

“I- I have a publisher already,” I said. “I’m not here about my book.”

Mr. Forster looked uncertain. “You’re not? Then whatareyou here about?”

“I- I’m not entirely sure,” I confessed, blushing. “There was a letter, and Linda said you’d asked about me…”

“Linda? Who the hell is Linda?” He sat down again behind the desk with a scowl; it didn’t take a genius to notice he’d become considerably less welcoming as time passed.

“Linda Swartz; she’s my editor,” I said with a growing sense of panic. Maybe Linda had been wrong.

“Swartz? Over at Prurient Press?” Understanding dawned on his handsome face. “Oh, you’re one ofthosewriters…”

“Yes, Mr. Forster,” I replied hotly, “I’m one ofthosewriters. Now I’m very sorry if I’ve taken up your precious time, but there’s been a mistake and now I’m leaving.”

“Wait please,” he said smoothly, turning on his considerable charm once more. “Won’t you sit down? If you want to talk about your book, I’d be more than happy to hear the details.”

I saw red. “Yeah,nowyou want details!”

The response to my indignation was deep chuckle which I heard in stereo. Behind his desk Mr. Forster was laughing at me and from the doorway behind me…

I turned about only to find myself face-to-face with the dark-haired stranger I’d been itching to find. He’s shaved since I had seen him last, but his shaggy hair still fell in his chocolate brown eyes and he still wore the confident smile I remembered. He was wearing a pair of beautifully tailored dress pants and a crisp shirt and tie; it was completely different from the grubby chinos and t-shirt of our previous encounter, yet he looked no more out-of-place for it and no less handsome.

“Careful, Old Man,” he said teasingly, glancing over my shoulder in to the room beyond. “She’s got quite the temper. Don’t let her size fool you, she’ll chew you up and spit you out before you even know what’s hit you.”

“Voice of experience?” Mr. Forster asked, not even trying to hide the amusement in his tone. “I should have known she was one of yours.”

I whirled back, incensed. “I beg your pardon?One of his?”

My cocky stranger brushed deliberately past me and into the room. I tried to ignore keçiören escort the brief jolt of heat as his arm touched my own. He settled into a chair across the desk from the older man and smiled brightly. Seeing the two closely together shocked me; same jawline, same amazing brown eyes, same wavy brown hair.

“He’s yourfather?” I asked incredulously; I couldn’t believe I didn’t see the resemblance earlier.

The younger of the two chuckled. “Simeon Forster, Junior, at your service,” he said mockingly, with a small, seated bow.

I could feel my temper peak, but when I opened my mouth nothing came out. I’d never been so mad in my life.

“Careful Sim,” Forster Sr. said warningly but not without a gleam of amusement in his handsome eyes. “She looks like she’d like to castrate you on the spot.”

Sim chuckled again, the noise an echo of his father’s.

“You… you…asshole,” I spit out, too furious to find another more appropriate word. I wasn’t sure the English language had one. I also wasn’t sure which Simeon Forster I was addressing; at the moment, it didn’t really matter

“Is this about the letter, Imogen? Because I was just trying to help you with your punctuation…andyour fellatio.” Sim smiled slyly; from behind the desk Forster Sr. looked shocked and amused.

I took the letter from my purse, crumpled it up, and threw it at him. It bounced harmlessly of Sim’s broad chest. “I’ll tell you what you can do with your fucking fellatio!”

“Have you two…?” Forster Sr. asked with a laugh, raising both eyebrows skyward.

Sim shook his dark head. “Not yet.” His smile was slow and sexy.

I ignored the rush of sensation flooding my stomach and scowled as menacingly as humanly possible. “Not yet?” I shouted, wishing I had something else to throw at him, something much heavier. “Not ever!” I spun about and stormed from the office, all too aware of my over-heated face and the curious glances I was getting as I wound my way back through the maze of cubicles towards the elevators.

“Wait, Imogen!” Simeon Jr. was not far behind me and his much longer stride caught him up before the elevator could open. “Please wait!”

“This again?” I asked acerbically as I waited for the elevator. If I knew where the stairs were I would have taken those, anything to get as far away from both Simeon Forsters as possible.

“Yeah, we always end up back here, huh? Me running after you.” Sim replied flippantly; I glowered at him.

“How’d you find me?” I enquired.

Sim shrugged. “Made a few phone calls; wasn’t that hard, really. There aren’t many publishers in this city who handle erotica. Actually, Linda was only the second person I called.”

“Why?”

He sighed heavily, running a tanned hand through his dark, tousled hair. “I don’t know, I felt bad about the way I left things the last time, I suppose.”

“You felt bad?” I snapped, happy to hear the elevator come to a stop; the doors slid open and I stepped inside. “Geez, that note was a funny way of apologizing.”

Sim got on the elevator too and before I could protest the doors closed and we lurched into motion.

“Okay,” he admitted, actually looking sheepish. “It was a mean thing to do, but I was pissed off at you too. I couldn’t get you out of my head and I wanted to make sure you didn’t just forget me. I wanted to see you again.”

I stood in silence, afraid to look at him, afraid of what my rapidly beating heart meant.

“Look Imogen, I’m sorry. How many more times are you going to make me apologize?”

I shook my head, relieved when the elevators doors opened to reveal the lobby. “None, I’m done with you.”

I stalked off, not needing to look over my shoulder to know he was right behind me.

“Why?” Sim’s voice was unnaturally loud in the echoing expanse of the lobby; heads turned.

“Why, what?” I sighed, suddenly very tired of the little game we were playing. I badly wanted a cup of tea and some peace and quiet.

“Why’d you come here today, Imogen?”

I stopped walking and could feel Sim’s heat as he came to stand closely behind me. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of turning and facing him. I didn’t want him to see just how much he affected me.Why had I come?

“Imogen?” Sim’s voice was low-pitched and for a moment I could almost pretend he sounded genuinely concerned.

“I- I don’t know,” I admitted finally. “I haven’t been able to write since that afternoon and I thought…” I trailed off uselessly; I don’t know what I thought.

“You needed to see me again, too,” Sim whispered with a note of satisfaction.

“No,” I spat out quickly, knowing it was a lie the moment I’d said it.

“Yes,” Sim whispered lowly, sending a shiver up my spine that had nothing to do with the heavily air-conditioned lobby. “You did. You had to.”

I stood motionless and silent for a minute, trying to catch my breath and think of something witty and cutting to say. Blondie behind the receptionist ankara escort desk was staring blatantly at us and even the drowsy security guard was watching us surreptitiously. I fought my nervousness down; I couldn’t let Sim see how much he’d rattled me.

“Are we done?” I asked bitingly, turning around to face him. I put my chin up another notch and resisted the urge to stand on my tiptoes to feel taller.

A flash of hurt crossed Sim’s handsome face before he scowled darkly. “Yeah, I guess we are.” And for the second time in less than two weeks I watched Simeon Forster walk away from me.

Blondie at the receptionist desk whistled long and low and if she hadn’t been six inches taller than me I might have gone over and smacked her one; as it was I didn’t like the way she watched Sim hungrily as he stalked off. The security guard, obviously roused slightly from his stupor by the show, eyed me warily as I stomped outside in a huff of righteous indignation.

Simeon Forster freakin’ Jr. could kiss my ass,I thought as I made my way automatically to the safety of my nearby café. My hands shook as I ordered my usual Earl Grey. It was Becks’ day off, which made me even madder; I needed to vent. And to make matters worse I had left my laptop at home not thinking I’d need it, so I didn’t even have an outlet for all my energy, but my fingers itched and digging about in purse I unearthed a pen. Within moments I was scribbling furiously on a pile of napkins.

I wasn’t writing anything with a real purpose, just blowing off steam like a pissed-off teenager, but just the act of putting pen to paper (such as it was) made me feel better, so that by the time I had covered a dozen napkins, front and back, I could feel my racing heart slow.

A shadow fell across the table, and looking up I recognised the silent, harassed-looking employee from Logan, Richardson and Monk standing hesitantly over me.

M-miss Wallis?”

“Yes?” I snapped rudely.

“T-this is for you,” he handed me an envelope.

I took it from his pale fingers and eyed it warily.

“It’s from Simeon Forster,” he said in a monotone.

“Which one?” I grumbled, turning the envelope over and over. Nothing was written on the outside and when I looked up the young man was gone.

I shook my head, taking a bracing sip of tea. The envelope was different from the one I’d gotten that morning; it was larger, smoother, the paper better quality. Forster Sr., I was willing to bet. I slit the envelope open with a fingernail. Inside was a creamy sheet of watermarked stationary and a business card which read:

Simeon L. Forster Sr., B.A.H, M.A. Chief Commissioning Editor Canadian Office Logan, Richardson, intrigued, I opened the letter to discover his bold, flowing handwriting arched across the page; it was not unlike his son’s.

Miss Wallis,

Meeting you this afternoon was a pleasure. If you are ever interested in publishing anything more mainstream than your current project please do not hesitate to give me a call. The phone number can also be used if you wish for me to buy you dinner, which I think we would both very much enjoy.

Although I would be more than pleased to consider you for submission in any mainstream genre, I cannot lie and say that I do not look forward to reading what you have written for Prurient Press as I suspect your talents in that area are considerable; Linda Swartz is lucky to have found you.

I hope that you did not take offence to my behaviour this afternoon. Never let it be said that I do not enjoy a beautiful woman with a temper. I apologize as well for the behaviour of my son; he lacks much of his father’s worldly experience and does not necessarily recognize a good thing when she throws something at him. It will be many years before I forget the way you took him down a peg. It made my afternoon.

All the best in your writing and your life, Miss Wallis.

Sincerely,

Simeon Forster (Sr.)

I shook my head and started to laugh. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to understand the Forster men, but at least Sim came by it honestly. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit the father intrigued me a little, although not as much as the son.

The resemblance was there, but Sim’s features were a little sharper, the line of his mouth a little more grim, his smile much more crooked, but no less sexy. Forster Sr. was more polished, more sophisticated. I wondered with a smirk if there were any more Forster men hidden around that I should be worried about.

I went home, changed into something more comfortable, and curled up on a lounge chair on my balcony with my laptop and a glass of Shiraz. I had to finish Lena and Aidan’s story, not just because I’d promised Linda the few remaining chapters by the end of the month, but because there was a new story idea bouncing around in my head which excited me a great deal but which I couldn’t start until Lena and Aidan had their happy ending.

——-

When I waltzed into the café three days later I felt like a different woman. The sun was shining warmly, my hair was actually behaving itself for once, and I’d just dropped the last of my chapters off at Linda’s office; true, I still had a long editorial process ahead of me, but at least the bulk of the work was done.

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