I open my eyes slowly to see daylight shining in our room. I roll over and pick up my phone off the nightstand. It’s almost seven.
“Shit, I’m running late!” I say, jumping out of bed naked. Brian, my fiancé, is still sleeping with his head under the pillow.
The apartment we live in is old. It has those old wooden floors that squeak when you walk on them.
I tiptoe to the bathroom, trying not to wake him up. The floor still makes noise, ruining my attempt to stay quiet.
I make it into the bathroom and turn on the shower. As I wait for the right temperature, I put my hair up in a bun to keep it from getting wet. Then stick my hand in the water.
“Perfect,” I say as I step in and put my head under the water.
For some reason, that just relaxes me more, feeling the hot water hit my head. Then I realize I’ve put my hair up so as not to get wet.
“Oh well,” I say as I pull the hair tie out and throw it over the curtain.
After a few minutes of standing under the water, I squirt a good amount of shampoo in my hand and work it in.
I feel a breeze as the shower curtain opens, and Brian walks in. I have my eyes shut, trying not to get any soap in them. Then I feel a pair of hands grab my boobs and squeeze them.
“Good morning,” I say with a smile, trying to keep my eyes closed.
“Good morning,” he says as he gets close to me.
I can feel his cock getting hard in my ass crack.
“Don’t get me started. I have an appointment with my publisher at nine, and I don’t want to be late.”
“How long do you plan on being out today?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I was planning on having lunch with Zoey and Lynn after my meeting. Why?”
“Just wondering,” he says, still holding my boobs and rubbing the soap in. “Oh baby, how about a quickie?”
“We fucked last night!” I say, using my butt to push him back a little.
“You’re such a mood killer,” he says, getting out of the shower.
“If I think what’s going to happen today is good, I’ll let you do whatever you want to me tonight,” I say, waiting to hear his response.
All I hear is the bathroom door close. “Psst. Whatever.”
I get done with the shower, then dry off. I slip on my lucky silk panties and matching bra. Then put on my favorite faded jeans, the ones with holes in the knees.
I find a nice blouse that matches my blue eyes. Blow-dry my blonde hair that sits just past my shoulders.
I don’t need a lot of makeup. A little foundation on my cheeks and some eyeliner, and I’m good to go.
Next step is a rummage in the closet, looking for my favorite flats, and I slip them on; then I find my briefcase that has my manuscript in it.
My keys are in a dish on the table next to the door. I pick them up as a hair tie falls to the floor. I pick it up, then look in the mirror.
“What the hell,” I say as I put my hair up in a ponytail. I take one last look in the mirror. “You’re one good-looking New York Times Best Seller.” I wink at myself, then walk out the front door.
Brian’s car is already gone.
After about thirty minutes of driving, I finally pull into the parking garage and drive up to level 4. I look for a sign that says Fesser Publishing Visitor Parking. I find an open spot and pull in.
I turn off the car and pull down the sun visor to look at myself in the mirror one more time. I grab my briefcase and head to the lobby with ten minutes to spare.
Walking up the concrete path, I see two big glass doors that say Fesser Publishing. I swing one open and walk in.
I see a receptionist sitting behind the desk with a nameplate that says Alexandra. She looks up at me.
“Good morning. How may I help you?”
“I’m Chelsea Payton. I have an appointment with Amanda Fesser.”
She looks down, then clicks a mouse.
“Yes, you do. Go ahead and take a seat. I’ll let her know you’re here,” she says as she picks up the phone.
“Thank you,” I say as I look around and see the posters of all the books they’ve published.
I walk up to the wall of posters and see something that catches my eye. It’s Brenda Stains who, in my opinion, writes the best horror novels out there. Her books make you feel like you are in the story itself.
She writes with so much passion it’s breathtaking to read. The last book she wrote, I couldn’t put down; it was that good. She has at least a couple dozen books on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
“Someday, I want to be on this wall,” I say softly.
“Mrs. Fesser is ready to see you,” the receptionist says.
“Thank you,” I say and follow her to her office.
She opens the door and gestures for me to go in. Amanda is standing up behind her desk.
“Chelsea Payton,” she says as she claps her hands. “It’s good to finally meet you in person. I was getting tired of the phone tag.” Amanda points to the chair in front of her desk.
“Yeah, me too,” I say as I take a seat and lay my briefcase up against the chair.
“Your picture does you no justice. You’re much prettier in person.”
“Thank you,” I say, shocked she would say that. I’ve never met Amanda Fesser until today nor given her any profile picture.
“I want to get you new shots for when we publish your next book.”
“Publish? Wait, what?” I say with raised eyebrows.
“Your first book Finding the One is gold,” she says as she flips through the pages of the book. “I think you would make a great fit for our family, and I would like to make you a full-time author.”
I just sit there with my mouth open, staring at her.
“That would be amazing.”
“I hear you might have another book for me?” she asks.
I sit there still in shock from what I heard.
“Um, I’m sorry.”
“Do you have another book for me?” she asks again.
“Yes, yes, I do,” I stutter, trying to regain my composure while reaching for my briefcase. I hand her my new manuscript over her desk.
“The Babysitter?” she says as she thumbs through the pages. “Can you tell me a little about it?”
“Sure. It’s about a couple who hire a babysitter to help watch their twin boys. But here’s the catch.
“The wife is the one who hits on the babysitter instead of the husband. When the husband finds out, it turns into a three-way of sex, love, and heartbreak.”
“Nice. How long did it take to write?” Amanda asks.
“Would it be possible…” She stops and thinks for a second. “Could you write the next book in four months?”
I look at her for a brief second, thinking about how I would be able to pull this off. Brian and I are getting married in three months with a new house getting finished. I’m going to be all over the place.
Four months is not long. I would definitely need my own office. Brian likes to watch sports on TV. I could try to write while he’s at work.
“Sure,” I say out loud, not knowing if it can be done.
Amanda pulls on a desk drawer and pulls out two checks.
“This is for this book right here.” She points to the new manuscript on her desk.
“This is an advance on your next book. I’m going to write out a contract to reflect that you are now a full-time writer for Fesser Publishing.”
I reach across her desk and take both checks. My eyes nearly come out of my head when I see how much they are for.
The first check is twenty thousand for the book. The second is a ten thousand advance for the next book. Now my dreams are coming true, I say in my head, smiling from ear to ear.
“All right now. That was part one. You ready for part two?”
“There’s another part?” I ask, and she nods as she opens another drawer.
What the hell does she mean “another part”? I mean, I just scored big-time with this contract. What else could she be doing?
She pulls out an eight-by-eleven manila envelope and hands it to me over her desk. I take it from her.
“What is this?”
“Open it,” she says as she sits back in her chair and interlaces her fingers.
I just look at her with raised eyebrows. I squeeze the metal tabs together, then pull the string and unwrap the envelope. I dump the contents on my lap, and all I see are court papers with my name on them.
“What are these?” I ask.
“Do you know Dorothy Strange?”
“Yeah, she’s my great-aunt from my mother’s side. Why?”
“What do you know about her?”
“Not much really. My mother said she was crazy for buying a house in the middle of nowhere and never getting married.”
“Did you know Dorothy was an author?” she asks.
“No,” I say, shaking my head.
“She had at least two dozen bestsellers, and I was lucky enough to sign her. You should know her. You’ve read some of her books.”
“I think I would remember reading Dorothy Strange,” I say back.
“You have. She goes under a pen name.”
“Shut the fuck up! I’m sorry,” I say with my hand over my mouth.
“It’s okay,” Amanda says.
“You’re telling me Brenda Stains is my great-aunt and that she secretly wrote horror novels? Why am I only now hearing about this?”
“Because I swore to her nobody would know who she was until she passed.”
“She died?” I say with a sad face.
“Yeah, I couldn’t say anything until her will was finalized.”
“Why was she using a pen name?” I ask.
“That pile of papers on your lap is her last will and testament. You are the only person in your family to get anything that was hers.” She stops to take a drink of her water.
“She used a pen name because her family abandoned her, even her brother—your grandfather. They wanted nothing to do with her when she bought the house.
“When she started writing under a pen name, she didn’t want them to come after her when she became successful.
“Each book she wrote got better and better. At that point, the money she made was hers. She earned it, nobody else, and she didn’t want them to have it.”
“I don’t understand why my family wanted nothing to do with her! I never got to meet her.”
“Well, she knew you,” Amanda says, pointing at me.
“I don’t know, but she did.”
“Okay, then what’s with all the paperwork?”
“That there is her house, all in your name. You are now the proud owner of a 1902 Victorian-style home.
“It has been remodeled from roof to basement, top to bottom, head to toe. It has all new appliances with all new electrics with everything up to date with all new technology.”
She stops and watches me leaf through all the papers.
“She gave me her house?”
“How does she even know about me?”
“Funny thing is, she came to me and told me to look into you. Somehow she knew you were writing. So I called you right when you finished your first book.”
“I thought I got lucky that you called me.”
“I don’t normally do that. It takes years for someone to get discovered from their first book. So when I read yours, I knew I had something good, and here you are,” Amanda says as she leans back in her chair.
“I still can’t believe somebody I don’t know gave me a house. I don’t even know where it is, let alone if I want to keep it.”
“The house is twenty minutes east of here. Don’t say no yet. Go look at it, then make that decision,” she says as she takes a drink from her water.
“Before I forget, she also paid the taxes on the property for the next thirty years. You don’t have to worry about anything.”
“I don’t know. Brian and I are building a new house that will be finished in a couple of months. Then we’ll get married.”
“Just go look at it,” Amanda says as she stands and closes her day planner. “I’m happy for you, I really am.
“I’m sorry your family never said anything good about her. She was a good woman in my eyes and one hell of a writer. I can see you following in her footsteps.”
I shovel all the papers back into the envelope and stand up. I stuff it all in my briefcase. Amanda has her hand out. I reach over across her desk and shake it.
“Thank you,” I say, still not able to process the whole thing.
“You’re welcome. Now, go look at the property.”
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