One spicy erotic romance novel. Two weeks to figure out who wrote it. Three weeks to save my job.
When I discover an anonymous manuscript sizzling with an erotic story so hot its pages are smoldering, I realize I may have found the ticket to saving my floundering career.
But what’s really got me excited is the search for the mysterious author who penned these smutty scenes.
I imagine a chiseled, enigmatic writer, just waiting for me to reveal his mad skills to romance fans everywhere.
Who do I end up finding?
The literary world’s brooding heartthrob. Not to mention jerk.
And his partners in crime.
All freaking book snobs who couldn’t be bothered with a little romance publisher like me.
But I either publish this thing… or lose my job.
With each tense exchange, we draw closer to the possibility that the sexy words before us will jump off the page… and right into our bedrooms.
“What the hell is this?”
I’m tempted to stand up, stretching to my full five-foot-nine-inch height just so I can look down at my douchey and vertically-challenged boss Cameron. But I know better. There’s nothing a short man with Napoleon syndrome hates more than a women graced with the height he feels he was cheated out of, particularly when he’s pulling rank on her.
I nod at the paper he’s holding in his hand like it’s a piece of dirty toilet tissue, and try not to snicker at the disgust on his face. “Cam, that’s the blurb you asked me for. You know, for the new book Love Among the Lemons.”
He’d strangle me if it wasn’t bad for his career in publishing. As well as against the law. He takes a slow, deep breath, a warning to let me know I’m about to get my ass kicked. Not literally, but still. “I know what this is supposed to be, Amalia. But how it got to be the biggest turd out of all the turds I’ve seen in my career has me a little… confused.”
Confused, my ass.
I want to ask him if he understands the expression putting lipstick on a pig. Polishing a turd. Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Or my personal favorite, spraying perfume on a skunk.
Yeah, I pretty much made that one up.
But I don’t. What would be the point, except to rile him up further?
I shrug. “Not sure what to tell you, Cam. The book is a piece of crap. Therefore, it follows, the book description will be a piece crap, too.”
He turns red. Did I go too far?
He continues, his hands clenched in fists by his sides. Regardless, I take a step back in case he really loses his shit and takes a swing at me. “I know it’s a bad book, Amalia. We all know it’s a bad book. It’s your job to make it a not-so-bad book. You think you can do that. I know you’re new here—”
“Actually, Cam, I just passed my six-month anniversary—”
“That is still new,” he shrills.
Okay. Fine. I’m not gonna argue, even though it’s the longest job I’ve had, at least post-college. My years working as a cashier at Victoria’s Secret don’t count as publishing industry experience.
This might be the longest-lasting job I’ve had since college, but it’s not the first. Yup, I was at another publishing house, but that lasted only three weeks. I was fired for punching someone who grabbed my ass.
That one didn’t have a romance division anyway, so fuck them.
But as my over-achieving mother likes to say, New York publishing is a small world. I’d better be careful about keeping this job, she’s warned me. I can only get fired so many times before the word is out that I’m trouble.
That’s just want she said—trouble.
So I decide to back down. Cameron looks like he’s about to have a coronary anyway, and I don’t want to be responsible for killing the man. Although, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
“How about I give this another pass, Cam? Maybe I can sex it up a bit?”
His shoulders drop back down to their natural position. I’m pretty sure I’ve won this round. Or, at least, haven’t lost my job yet. “Yes, Amalia, that’s exactly what I want you to do. And take ‘cheesiness’ out of the last sentence. Are you kidding me? You want to tell romance readers the book they’re considering is ‘cheesy?’ I thought you were the pro in this genre. That you’ve been reading romance day and night since you learned to read.”
Okay, I might have oversold that a bit.
“I am a romance lover, Cam. It’s true. I read them all the time.”
That part is accurate, and probably why I have no boyfriend. Romance novels have ruined my love life by raising my expectations. And the sex… well, I know I’ll never have sex like they do in those books.
Which is why I read them, I suppose.
Oh crap, I have to remember to get new batteries for my vibe on the way home tonight.
Cameron’s fingers unclench and the red drains from his face, leaving him looking only slightly evil. “I just want to remind you, Amalia, of what we discussed in Monday’s meeting. We’re all skating on thin ice here. The publishing house hasn’t had a hit in a while, and the romance division in particular is really hurting. Should layoffs ensue, it’s last in, first out.”
Last in, first out. That means since I’m the newest hire, I’ll be the first to get canned. Lovely.
I lean closer to him. “Cam, does that mean I should be looking for a new job right now?”
I don’t mean to tip him off, but if he’s being honest, I will be too.
His eyes widen. “No! Don’t do anything yet. All I’m saying is that we need to work doubly hard until the company gets out of this slump. You know, it’s not helping us that the romance genre is losing steam. Readers are leaving for other sort of books like mystery and crime.”
Ugh. If I’ve heard him says this once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. “Cam, that’s total BS. Romance readership is soaring like it always has. Our problem is just that we haven’t acquired any good titles.”
His lips pucker like an angry butthole. Guess I hit a nerve. The man is so vain he can’t possibly accept that he’s the reason our romance division is suffering. He’s got to convince himself it’s the readers.
But I have proof to the contrary. And I won’t back down on this. If there’s one thing I know, it’s romance.
He surprises me by raising his hands like in surrender. “Fine. Fine, Amalia. I’m not going to argue this with you again. What else are you working on? Do you have leads on any new books?”
I was afraid he might ask this. But I raise my chin with all the confidence I can muster.
“Um, well. I do have a couple,” I stall.
Please don’t ask. Please.
But when his face brightens, I realize I’m shit out of luck. “Tell me. Tell me the good news.”
I look down at my desk, circling a coffee stain on the chipped laminate with my pinkie finger, and pretend to be thinking. “Well, let me see,” I say.
I rifle through some papers on my desk and dig my notebook out of a pile. Without letting him see, I page through it as though it’s full of very important notes. “Oh yes. Here we are,” I say, looking at my doodle of myself hanging from a noose, exactly how I felt in our last team meeting.
“Okay, first one is, Spin Class Sweetie. And… we also have The Charmer of the Cheese Counter.”
The crazy expression he’d worn only five minutes before makes its way back to his face and once again, I take a step back out of self-preservation.
He taps a finger on the wall of my cubicle. “I see. Amalia, I thought we were getting rid of the turds. I thought we were going to raise the bar. Acquire some good romance novels. You know, the kind people read? The kind that make money?”
“I’m still looking Cam. Don’t worry. I have all kinds of irons in the fire.”
Big lie. Huge lie.
He looks me up and down like he’s some sort of goddamn lie detector. “Okay then. Back to work.”
He turns on his heel and hustles for the elevator to get to his mani-pedi appointment on time, which he thinks no one knows about, but in reality, everyone does.
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