I glared at the blank screen in front of me. The white document blaring at me, screaming at me to put down one word…just one.
I had nothing.
For months I had gone over it in my head, a new story, a new whirlwind romance, some semblance of darkness that wanted to bleed onto the screen, but for the first time in my ten years as an author, the muses had left me. I couldn’t bring myself to write not one word.
I looked at the clock reading nine in the evening. There was something I needed to do tonight, I just couldn’t remember what it was. My thoughts wandered back to the screen. There was only one sentence that glared back at me. It seemed to mock me as the minutes ticked by.
Find a story within.
No kidding. To top it off my publisher was waiting on the first book in a new goddamn series. How was I supposed to put down one hundred and twenty thousand words, when I couldn’t even get one? I had tried everything to get my mind in the place I needed it to be, from watching dark television shows earlier this week to reading books on captivity and BDSM, but nothing enlightened me. I had drawn a fucking blank and I felt like I was drowning in nothingness.
The ideas were on the tip of my tongue, but it was like a fog that wouldn’t lift. If I could only sift through that damn fog and find one word, one sentence that would trigger me. At the moment, that just seemed impossible.
My phone was ringing somewhere in that distant fog and I managed to snap out of it long enough to answer it.
“Hey, Sam what’s up?”
“Why are you not here?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Fuck, Mike! Again?”
My mind went on overdrive and I vaguely recalled that I had something to do tonight. “Was I supposed to be somewhere?”
“I’m getting you a PA.”
“I don’t need a PA, I can handle shit myself.”
“Apparently not. This event was important, I expected my authors to be here. All my authors! Especially bestselling ones.”
Fuck! The mention of the twentieth anniversary of Decadent Publishing leaped into my mind. “Fuck, Sam! I’m so sorry. Gimme an hour, I’ll be there in an hour.”
“Don’t bother.” The disappointment was clear in his voice.
“I’m sorry, man. I really am.”
“At least tell me it was because you couldn’t stop typing. That you have some new crazy idea that you needed to put down on paper.”
Silence ensued as I tried to figure out a way to tell him that I hadn’t written not one word down. Well, except for that goddamn sentence.
“Yeah, about that…”
“You’ve got to be kidding me! Come on, Mike!”
“I don’t work well under pressure, Sam. You know this.”
“I’ve given you three months. Three! You should have gotten something to me already!” I sat listening to his angry puffs of air. I figured if I stayed quiet he’d calm down. After a moment, he continued.
“I’m getting you a Publishing Editor,” his tone was low, and it was clear I wasn’t getting out of this one.
“I already have one.”
“Reece is a Book Editor and she has not been performing to standards lately. I need someone there with you to help you along.”
“I don’t need a babysitter.”
“No. But if you don’t have something to me by the end of the month you’ll need a new Publishing Company.”
I smirked. “Empty threats don’t suit you, Samuel King.”
“Who said they were empty? Your contract with Decadent ends at the end of this month. We hold the power to renew that contract.”
I sat up in my chair. “You wouldn’t?”
“Yeah, I would. Business is business, Mr. Knight.”
The silence was heavy between us and then his frustrated sigh broke through. “I’m just going to send some help. It’ll be good for you.”
“I don’t need help.”
“The fuck you don’t. I bet you’ve been staring at your damn screen for the last hour.”
Three hours, but I wasn’t admitting that to anyone.
“I need a break, Sam. I’m stressed. I won’t be able to finish any type of manuscript under your pressure.”
“The contract you signed stated eight books this year. The year’s almost up and you’ve got three books left.”
I frowned and looked down at my keyboard; my fingers hovered over the keys. “I’m going to put you in as my new villain.”
“Good. Make me a fucking crime boss. I’d fucken love that.”
“Goddammit, Sam. I don’t need help, man.”
“You’ve missed two deadlines already, what do you expect? I need you to give me something, Mike. Anything.”
I sighed, rubbing at my temples, frustrated that I wasn’t able to get any work done. Being hindered like this felt like a handicap. I wanted to throw my laptop against the wall and forget everything.
Samuel King had been a friend since I first started in the author business. I knew he was trying to help me, but he could be intense sometimes. Having thirty bestsellers and being on the top ten of the New York Times most read authors list was saying something. I was burnt out, tired and I needed something new, something different in my life.
“I just need a break, man.”
“You can have a nice long break after you provide me with a story. Fuck, an outline!”
“I don’t know. You know I like flying solo. I’m better off on my own.”
“Says the man who hasn’t been able to write a single word down in over three months.”
I gazed out my office window, the Chicago Skyline shone in the distance. It was raining in Chicago, nothing new. Unlike half the population who lived here, I actually enjoyed the rain. It brought me peace, feeling that my spirit was being cleansed with every drop. I closed my eyes listening to the soft rhythmic pattern of raindrops against the window.
“I need to go.”
“She’ll be there on Tuesday.”
“I already told you, I don’t need any help, Sam!”
“Don’t fight me on this. You’re going to get some help. I already chose the girl. She’s quiet, she’s professional and she doesn’t stir up drama. Every author she’s worked with adores her. She’ll be perfect for you. I’ll make sure she knows to stay out of your way as much as possible. This girl is the best we’ve got. Just bounce some ideas off her. If it doesn’t work then fine, I’ll give you your break. But if she’s able to give you a spark of something new, she stays.”
“Bullshit. That girl is going to be right in my face the entire time, isn’t she?”
I could see him smirking at the other end of the line. “Just trust me on this man. She’ll be good for you.”
Frustrated, I hung up the phone on him. Help? Please. And from one of those prissy little girls, no less, who think they knew everything there is to know about an author just because they read a few books. What the fuck would she know about writing a book?
There was a reason I worked alone. I had my own space, I worked at my own pace. I didn’t have to constantly be interrupted when I was in the middle of a thought. I had gotten this office a few years back when my marriage was finally coming to an end.
My ex-wife was a piece of work, always finding ways to disrupt me, never any respect from her, I realized too late that she was a selfish woman. The more I asked her to be patient, to work with me, the worst she got. It was like being in a stingray tank where everything seemed tranquil until she passed by leaving a sharp shock that left you breathless. I was fighting for air and if I wasn’t careful, she’d take me down with her.
But I needed to work, so I bought the penthouse suite and created an office which ensued an array of fights and ruthless jealousy over how I was actually sleeping with someone else. Even after I invited her there after I took time out to make sure I got home on time, that I interrupted my day to call and see if she was alright. Nothing mattered to her. She said I was, trying too hard.
They say jealousy is a disease and I saw how it destroyed her…us. Slowly eating away at the love we once shared. It was a turbulent time for both of us and it ruined what was once a beautiful marriage. Ten years. Ten years of our precious time went to waste within months. When I decided to put in for the divorce she’d begged me to stay, but she’d already ruined what we had. She’d already destroyed the love I had for her. I was tired of fighting and I was ready to move on.
After a tedious year of figuring out how much alimony I needed to give away, I finally gave her the house and kept my office in the heart of Chicago. I lived out of this office, but at least it was nice to have a place of my own. Quiet and peaceful.
But now Samuel King wanted to ruin my peace by bringing in another woman into my life. A stranger that was about to barge into my thoughts, my privacy. I frowned as I pictured the frumpy woman he was about to send me. Knowing Sam, he’d choose the least likely woman for me so that I’d keep my dick in my pants and my mind on the books.
If he wanted to force me to do this, then you can rest assured there was absolutely no way I was going to make this easy for him or for this stranger.