This is an unedited sneak peek at chapter one of my upcoming book, Love Slave for Two: Resilience. It’s book 5 in the Love Slave for Two series, technically the sixth book including the prequel. Book 6, Love Slave for Two: Retribution, releases on 12/11/17.
It’s also unedited, so please forgive typos!
It’s releasing 11/27/17 from Siren-BookStrand. You can go to my author page there, log into your account, and click that you want to receive updates. Then you’ll get an e-mail from them when it goes up for pre-order!
…Meanwhile, Augustine lurked near the front of the house most of the evening, concealed in the shadows provided by the thick cover of ancient, looming oak trees and overgrown azalea bushes the structure nested within.
No one to see him. Nobody passed his hiding spot.
The perfect predator, prey just within his grasp.
Some things never changed. As he waited, he wondered if Samson would even recognize him, if shock and terror would alight upon his features before Augustine snuffed him out for good.
He was done pretending that man could continue to exist upon this plane with decent beings.
Within his pocket, the knife’s comforting weight made its presence known, calling to him, the blade sharpened and ready for use, for righteous pruning of humanity’s dead weight from the branch of life.
Tyler looked up from the lectern as the Friday night audience at the New York City Book Fair burst into applause. The entire auditorium had filled to capacity over four hours before his scheduled reading, standing room only, with an overflow room watching on a large screen TV in the ballroom next door.
Also filled to standing room only.
With microphone in hand, the event’s moderator, Bill Charlesly, walked over to where Tyler had stood reading an excerpt from his latest book, Carnal Thoughts. The book was being officially released tonight as soon as this event ended. He wouldn’t have to stay that long, however, because this event, the reading and Q&A, was the actual book launch. His publisher had piggy-backed the release onto the book fair event, knowing the press buzz from industry bloggers would prove invaluably insane. Adding to the frenzy was the fact that Netflix was producing a mini-series based on some of the earlier Augustine books, and they were hoping this newest release renewed interest in the older titles.
The applause continued unabated as Tyler bashfully smiled and nodded his head in a slight bow.
Bill finally managed to get a foothold over the noise. “Thank you so much, Tyler. Sounds like another hit to me. Wasn’t he great, everyone?”
Another cacophonous wave of applause and cheers swelled and filled the hall as they walked over to two chairs that had been set up in the middle of the stage for the next portion of the event. Tyler picked up the microphone which had been left on his chair. As Tyler sat, he flipped the switch to turn on the mic while Bill seated himself in the other chair and picked up his notecards.
To either side of the stage were cameras recording the event, and two more hand-held camera crews to record the audience members asking questions. This was going to be released online tomorrow for free, as well as aired later on cable TV.
There were three microphone stands, one in each of the three aisles and manned by event staff who could cut the mic if need be, and people were already queuing at them to ask questions. The house lights were brought up so Tyler and Bill could see the speakers.
Tyler willingly tolerated these events despite how emotionally draining he found them to be, and even though there were always a few oddball questions lobbed his way, including about his personal life.
He’d grown used to those in the nearly sixteen years since that day.
Which of the top three will be asked first, I wonder?
Bill started the Q&A with his own questions. “Tyler, Carnal Thoughts is your tenth book in this series. Do you ever get tired of writing about a serial killer?”
Tyler’s gaze scanned the audience, the eager fans awaiting his answer, and he slyly smiled. “Augustine’s a rather…interesting chap, isn’t he?”
That garnered laughter, exactly the reaction he’d hoped for.
Tyler continued. “I follow my characters, Bill. When Augustine tugs at my mind, I willingly accompany him on his sojourns. Since it’s fiction, I don’t mind the treks I take with him.”
Left unsaid, Especially not when I look at my bank account.
The Augustine series was his cash cow. No way in bloody hell would he stop writing it, even if he ever came to despise it. Although, fortunately, there was no sign of that happening.
“It must be disturbing to research serial killers and their methods and mindsets. How do you approach your research?”
Tyler fought the urge to run his fingers over his goatee and mustache as he gave a dramatic pause instead of immediately reciting the answer he usually prattled.
A version of it, anyway. “It’s a dark topic, to be sure. But never forget that every anti-hero or villain is still the hero of their own story. The trick isn’t to focus on the gore, but to use the acts as a framework to build the characters and conflict.”
“Does it bother you to have written a serial killer people actually root for to win in each book?”
Now Tyler did smile and stroke his goatee, which drew more subtle laughter as he looked out at the audience, two large screens on either side of the stage showing his reaction close up. “I think it means that, as a writer, I’ve done my job quite disturbingly well.”
He wouldn’t deny the crowd’s reactions fed his ego. He’d be a liar to say it didn’t. Writing was a lonely profession, and feedback like this was one of the few reasons he attended live events.
“Augustine isn’t the only series you write, of course. You’ve made no secret that crossing genres as a writer is an integral part of what you need to do for your personal creative process. And in past books outside of the Augustine series, you’ve blended in elements of classic literature, seamlessly melded Shakespeare and even Chaucer into your works. Is there a method to your madness…”
They talked for a few minutes. He’d been interviewed many times in the past by Bill at other book events, as well as for his NPR podcast, and knew how this worked. They waited to see if anyone left the queues and returned to their seats based on their chat.
And, by mutual agreement, Bill never asked Tyler one of the “top three” questions. It made for better crowd reactions when one of the audience posed those questions.
They always posed them.
Finally, they threw to the first crowd question. A younger woman, perhaps in her late twenties, was the lucky one. “Hi, Mr. Paulson. I’ve been reading your work for years, and you’re my favorite author.”
“Thank you very much. I’m flattered.”
“I even did a high school book report on Damning Thoughts my senior year.”
He hoped his smile looked right. That’s one way to make me feel old. “Did that earn you a decent grade, or a trip to your school’s psychologist?” he teased.
She grinned as the audience laughed. “An A. They already knew I was weird.”
He laughed, a genuine laugh. “Excellent. And your question?”
“Where do you get your ideas? And thank you.” She gave up the microphone.
One down. And four people left the queues.
“Everywhere. The news, life, my own addled brain.” He smiled and let the laughter die down again. “The problem isn’t getting ideas. The problem is finding enough time to write them all.” Close enough to the truth.
Bill called on the far right mic. A middle-aged man asked the next question. “Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?”
Number two. As if they knew to ask them immediately.
A few more people stepped out of the queues.
“Write. You’re not aspiring if you’re writing. You’re a writer. You might aspire to earn money as a writer, aspire to be a professional writer, but writers write. Also, read. You cannot be a successful writer if you do not read. Especially within the genre you wish to write, but also outside it. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard people say they don’t want to read within their genre to prevent accidentally copying someone else, but how can you know what’s working and what isn’t if you do not read the genre?”
Let’s see if we can go for the hat-trick…
Bill filled in with a few of his pre-written questions, some of which Tyler knew in advance and some he didn’t, which was fine.
Then he took the third audience question. This time, an older woman, casually dressed in jeans and an Augustine T-shirt one of his fan clubs had created, with a mosaic of his book covers on it. “You’ve written pretty complex relationship dynamics into some of your books. Does your personal life help you with that?”
Close enough to ding question number three. But having spotted a few teenagers in the audience—and even younger children, meaning reckless parents at best—he was smart enough to keep his answer family-friendly and vague.
“As a writer, I have to be an observer of human nature. And as my family well knows, they are not immune to those observations, although I don’t directly add them to my works in particular. I always protect the guilty.” He smiled, adding a little stroke of his goatee to amplify the laughter once again rippling through the audience. “My family are the first to tell people that, no, Dad isn’t a serial killer, or that I think they should fall victim to one. Or any of the other beasties, human and not, that I’ve written in the past.”
Although he knew serial killers wasn’t exactly the direction the woman had intended for him to take that answer, he wasn’t going to discuss his spouses or his sex life with perfect strangers.
Bill added another question, then threw back to the audience.
The young woman looked maybe college-aged, dressed as a painfully stereotypical Goth, complete with ripped fishnets and enough piercings to make TSA checks interesting for all parties. “What was it like to kill that guy?”
A low, disquieted murmur hummed through the crowd in ominous undertones, indicating audience displeasure that she’d asked that.
Ah, yes. Bonus question four. Usually not asked so tactlessly, or bluntly standalone, especially on an open mic. Most incalculably curious inquirers piggybacked it onto another question to lessen the sting, or privately posed it to him with a tipped head and hushed tone at a cocktail party or other more intimate soiree.
Tyler let a moment of uncomfortable silence settle over the auditorium, as he always did when this was asked in public. Far more effective than outright calling the person an arsehole. “It was unfortunate and horrifically necessary, and saved the lives of my family.”
Bill immediately jumped in with another question, a light one planned and held in reserve for this very instance.
Tyler somehow made it through the rest of the evening. Once the final bows ended and Tyler knew the cameras were off, he maintained his composure and kept his smile anchored in place while he headed toward the wings.
Everyone had cell phones now. He never let his pleasant author persona slip in public. Not a millimeter. Even when the audience was eagerly racing out of the auditorium to queue again to pick up their pre-ordered copies of the book.
Crystal Higgins awaited him off-stage and he bloody well wished she wasn’t. In her hand she held her smartphone, the screen glowing and over which her fingers rapidly flew.
“Mr. Paulson, that was wonderful!” she gushed. “Twitter and Instagram have been going nuts with the hashtag, and it’s being RTd quite a bit. Several people have posted Facebook live and Instagram videos of your talk.”
“Excellent.” He didn’t stop walking, accepting a fresh and unopened cold bottle of water from a book fair volunteer before continuing toward the stage entrance, making Crystal hurry to keep up as she followed on his heels. Six months ago, she’d started working for Elliot Paterno, Tyler’s long-time publicist. She had been assigned to Tyler for this book release and promotion trip as her first large solo project, from arranging and booking the dates and travel, to accompanying him to the local events.
“Frankly, between you and me, sir, I loved the plot twist at the end with the guy getting himself killed by the bailiff during the trial so Augustine couldn’t get to him. Augustine’s reaction was so funny! ‘Now what’ll I do with all that duct tape?’ Priceless!”
She’d confessed to him soon after meeting him that she was an avid fan of his books. “Thank you.” He supposed that was better than someone who’d never read the things. She’d better understand the demographics than a non-reader, or someone who wasn’t familiar with his body of work.
Elliot had asked Tyler if he’d mind letting her deal with him alone for this trip, since Tyler wasn’t an “asshole,” as Elliot had phrased it, and Elliot wanted to see how she’d handle one of his A-list author clients. Not long out of college after having interned for Elliot the past two summers, and her youthful energy both impressed Tyler as well as exhausted him.
Except… Tyler wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about her yet personally. That in and of itself was odd. Usually he was a pretty decent judge of people right off the bat, even if he didn’t tell them what he thought of them. The start of this latest publicity tour had been the first time he’d ever met Crystal in person, although he’d exchanged countless e-mails with her, as well as talked on the phone.
She certainly was eager, and supposedly knowledgeable about social media and trends and how to maximize that exposure to net him a new audience of readers, some of whom hadn’t even been born when Augustine first appeared in Tyler’s strange brain. And she was an expert in his own books and career, a true fan of his work.
Tyler had, unfortunately, learned that he couldn’t let people in, let them close, no matter who they were or how good at their job. Be courteous and friendly? Absolutely. Always.
But to give her personal access to the level that Elliot had enjoyed with Tyler over the years?
Not a bloody chance.
He was done letting people who needed only occasional contact with his life have a close relationship with him. Not in this era of social media and screenshots, when every person was looking for a chance to springboard to fame via TMZ and other sites.
He was also beginning to wish he’d let Nevvie handle all of the arrangements for this trip, like she’d offered to. Except when this first came up, Nevvie had been busy with a series of appointments for Chloe, their niece, ahead of the school year starting. Evaluations Chloe needed to get her the best placement and teachers and to get an IEP in place since she had developmental delays. Since Karen and Bill both worked full-time, Nevvie helped Dad pick up the slack in terms of any appointments Chloe had. Chloe had also just started with a new occupational therapist when this trip came up, so Tyler had opted to take care of the logistics with Crystal.
That was a mistake.
His car and driver awaited him at the back entrance as arranged. Tyler headed for it, relieved when the door shut behind him, and irritated when Crystal climbed in on the other side.
She must have caught the look on his face. “Oh, you don’t mind if we ride back to your hotel together, do you? So we can go over tonight’s numbers?”
Tyler hoped she didn’t hear his disappointed sigh. He didn’t want to blow her off, but he really wasn’t in the mood to converse with anyone. “I suppose.”
If Nevvie or Thomas weren’t with him, he preferred to be alone after one of these events, to decompress. Just because he was good at working a crowd didn’t mean he enjoyed it.
Especially not after that day.
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