Chapter 1: Downfalls To Writing
The bright lights of the large bookstore brought tears to my eyes. It was a dull throb in the back of my head. It added together with the ache in my cheeks of smiling too much, and my wrist kinked because of moving it too much. How much longer was this going to take?
“Just another ten books,” Karoline whispered near my ear as she bent down next to my chair.
It’s like she read my mind. I almost jumped. Almost. “Thank fuck,” I muttered under my breath. I can’t have my readers hearing how irritated I am because of this.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk with them and see the light in their eyes as they finally get to meet the face behind the pages, but sometimes it gets a bit too much. No, scratch that. It gets to be a lot. One downfall of writing steamy romance, I suppose. Though it’s not quite on the level as some authors, my books tend to be a bit more heated and R-rated than most.
Even so, I still end up always getting the creeps. They come out of the woodwork like termites, in hordes. They buzz like cockroaches, and I have to swat them away at every turn.
“Thank you, Ms. Blake. Your books have seriously gotten me through some terrible shit.”
Oh, yeah, I was still in the middle of a book signing. As I blinked, I looked up at the next person in line. She’s rather young, compared to my other readers, but her eyes are bright and they sparkle with the admiration of someone meeting their idol. A bit offputting, seeing as what I write for a living. I’m not embarrassed by any means, okay sometimes I can be, but I didn’t know my stories had reached such a young generation.
“Please, just call me Gen.” I continue my aching smile as I open the book handed to me and turn it to the inside cover page. “Who should I make it out to?”
“Oh, uh, Sara, please. No ‘h’.” She rocked back and forth on her heels, a nervous smile twitching along her lips.
I want to laugh, but I remain professional. I’m supposed to be an expert in all things seduction and sex. I can’t break my cover now. I gently spell out her name before writing my unique yet generic as all h*ll personalized message. After that’s done, I scrawl out my signature, ‘G. Blake’ and close the book once I know the message won’t smear. I slip into the first few pages, a business card, a special bookmark, and a couple of stickers before I place the book in a printed small tote bag. A final touch of an art print of the main characters, and I then finally hand the bag to the reader. Nice and quick. Only nine more to go.
“Thank you!” Sara said as she squealed all the way out the door of the bookstore.
When Karoline isn’t looking, I allow a soft smile. Okay, so sometimes this can be rewarding.
After another six books were signed and pleasantries passed between my readers and me, I sit back and take a sip of my water. I wish it was a glass of wine right about now. The idea of relaxing in my recliner and watching some soapy romance movie with a glass of wine sounds like heaven right about now.
Even though Karoline would like to tell me that I should be working on my next novel. It might be due in a little over a month, but I’m only about a quarter of the way through it. Inspiration is seriously lacking right about now.
“I have a delivery for Miss Genevieve Blake.” A man that held a large bouquet of roses moved through the bookstore, his glasses drooping lower on his long nose.
“Uh,” I look up at Karoline, unsure of what was going on. I don’t think anyone has ever sent me flowers before. Wait, that’s not right. I’ve been getting a bunch delivered to the main office. Karoline has stopped telling me when they arrive, since they come so often, and they’ve been consistently from the same person. Or so we think.
Obviously, the sigh that escaped Karoline’s lips was meant for the owner of the flowers and not the poor messenger, but his brow dipped low, and he simply placed them down on the table next to my books.
“Uh, I just need a signature.” He pushed his glasses up, before pulling the brim of his hat down. He handed Karoline the clipboard and pen and shifted his hat some more so that his dark hair that stuck out in all directions was neatly held back behind his ears once more.
“Here.” Karoline slammed the pen back down on the clipboard as she handed it back, and I quickly went back to talking with the next person in line.
Glad to see I’m not the only one getting irritated today. Soon, she’ll let me be free of this chair, and I can run home. Well, not run. My body isn’t built for that.
Finally! I wave to the last reader as they walk out of the bookstore, and the employees come up to congratulate me. I’m too worried about the giant ass vase that’s blocking half my view. It’s been twenty minutes since the delivery man came, and I haven’t paid it any mind. I pick out the card and read it.
My heart twisted, a pinch in the back of my neck as I realize who sent it. Who has been sending them.
The card read, ’For my beautiful Genevieve, You still have yet to notice me but do not fret, I’ll always be watching. Your soulmate, V′
I can’t even swallow. Is he insane? The notes I’ve gotten from this anonymous person before were creepy, on the verge of a stalker, but I think I was too naive, pushing it off. He, or whoever, is always watching? What the h*ll is up with that?
“Gen don’t worry about it. We’ll have them thrown out like always. It’s just another obsessed fan. You know you have several of those.” Karoline tried to smile, but I could see the uneasiness in her eyes. They shimmered with concern.
“Do you need someone to bring you home? I can call–”
“No worries. Everyone’s left, and I already have my car here. I’ll be going then.”
Karoline grabbed my arm until I paused. “Gen, are you sure you don’t want to hire someone?”
She can’t even look me in the eyes as she said it.
“I don’t need someone protecting me. The last thing I need is a bunch of men surrounding me and making it seem like I’m a slut.”
That might have come off as a bit harsh, but it was the truth. I like my space. I like being alone, and not judged. In a house where I don’t have to worry about anyone looking at the parts of me I still hide.
Karoline flinched and released her hold on me. “Sorry, you know I just want you safe. They’re a great company and can protect you. You can even ask for just one person too.”
“Then wouldn’t that be even more awkward? I’d have to keep a conversation going with a man I don’t even know while locked in a house alone, with a man.”
“I suppose.” She sighed, finally giving up.
“I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”
“Yeah.” She nodded and I said goodbye to the bookstore employees before heading out into the blazing heat of the Los Angeles summer night. The streetlamps were few and far in-between, meaning that I fell into darkness several times scuttling along to my car a block away. LA parking was expensive, but it beat paying for a rideshare constantly. Especially since I was only going to be here for a few weeks.
Then back to North Dakota it was.
How did that fan know I was in Los Angeles? We announced my book signing literally hours before we arrived at the bookstore. There had been an opening in my schedule, and Karoline had called me four hours ago to be at that bookstore. Still, fifty people showed up, some even bought several books.
Yet, that fan was able to figure out where I was and had time to send an order of flowers to me? On a busy Saturday when most businesses were closed?
There was a metal clank off in my peripheral, almost like someone had kicked a garbage can. My entire body shivered with the fear that vibrated through me. My heart was going a million miles a second as I tried to pick up my pace. I was a bit thicker in the thighs, curvy some may say, so I couldn’t move very fast, but I could at least try.
I heard another noise, and being the stupid one, I looked back. There was quick movement as something, or someone, leaped back into the shadows of an alley.
Okay, so not going there. I need to get in my car. Now.
I was now running, my flats clipping and clapping against the sidewalk as I grew nearer and nearer to my rental. I grabbed my keys from my small clutch and tried to shut out the nearing footsteps that now seemed to be right behind me.
Fear pushed me forward, adrenaline pumping through every vein. I all but slid to a stop at my door, clicking the unlock button and diving into the front seat. As I stared up into the darkness, I slammed my hand down on the side of the door.
Where the fuck–oh, there we go. The lock button. I lock myself inside my hybrid car and take a second to allow my eyes to adjust to the change of scenery and let my heart calm down. My throat is raw, every labored breath scratching against the sides. F*ck. Did I just overreact? Being in LA is making me freak out.
I hit the start button to the car, and the headlights pop on, and for a split second, I see someone dash out of the light, sprinting back down the street. A shriek is caught in my throat, another scream pounding in my head. Fuck, fuck, fuck...
I scramble inside my clutch and try to grab the business card that Karoline had given me yesterday during our meeting. Aha, there it is. ‘Danforth Protection’ is the title of the company that I can barely make out in the dim lighting of my car.
With fumbling fingers, I type the number into my phone. It’s Saturday, so I have no clue what I’m doing trying to call them, but fuck, I need to talk to someone. Anyone.
Because now I know for certain...I have a stalker.