How far will you go to keep a secret?
James Buxton is summoned to his publicist office. He’s not brave enough to tell her he’s suffering from writer’s block. She tells him to write a romance novel. At first he refuses, explaining he writes crime. She walks over, gives him a seductive kiss then says go write me a romance novel. When he arrives at a bed and breakfast hotel he meets an attractive woman, Mia Garnett. Did fate bring them together or something else? James meets an elderly woman, Eloise, who wants to dictate a romance novel to him. She tells him to take all the credit for the book. The story is about a woman living in the 1940’s and her struggles to survive when her husband goes to war. Lilly and her friend Suzie commit a horrific act. They vow to take the unspeakable deed to their graves. When Mia reads Eloise’s story will the discovery put a rift between her and James forever?
"JAMES, I loved your last crime novel it's been a huge success."
"Thank you; Fire Games took quite a while to write."
James Buxton sat opposite his publicist, Amanda Daltry, a woman twenty years his senior. By interviewing other authors, he discovered she was in her early forties. Somehow, she always managed to get what she wanted. In the four years since they met, she talked straight to the point. She saw things in black and white. A writer either liked or loathed her.
James sat on the fence.
He respected Amanda for the business woman she portrayed, and he hated her at the same time. The only place they ever talked happened to be in her office after he'd finished a book. Since their first meeting, he'd seen her out at night only twice. The first time happened by accident when his close friends insisted he go with them to a Melbourne nightclub. He saw Amanda sitting at a table amongst five ladies. She held a wine glass firmly in her hand. The second time they crossed paths he was sitting in his BMW convertible, watching her kissing some bloke in a car at a supermarket car park. He felt surprised she opened the door to the Mercedes sports and walked off into the night, seeing how the drizzle changed to rain. What surprised him even more; Amanda didn't look back at the car. He thought she'd retrace her steps the moment the driver started the engine. Then he thought she'd wait for the car to draw level with her. Neither guess happened to be correct. The car completed a slow U-turn before being driven down the road. In seconds the engine noise and the tail lights had vanished.
For several minutes, James sat in the driver's seat of his car thinking about the scene. A crime novel began to unravel in his mind. It was something he'd always been able to do quite easily. He finally made up his mind Amanda must have been ending an affair, though speculation always got him into trouble.
Sitting further back in the office chair, her mini-skirt riding high, Amanda eyeballed James through brown eyes. He saw her flick a few strands of long blonde hair from her face before frowning.
James stood and walked across the thick cream coloured carpet to the window. He watched the cars buzzing past in the Melbourne CBD. He loved the city for the rush. When he needed to, he'd sit at his favorite caf? observing people going about their daily affairs searching their faces for inspiration and plotting new novels. He didn't have the heart to tell Amanda he'd slipped into the vortex of the dreaded writer's block.
James turned from the window to focus on Amanda. "From the first day, we met, you represented someone who never gets nervous about anything. Today you seem on edge over something?"
"You have an insight many authors don't possess. Your ability to sense how people are feeling has seen through me."
"What are you nervous about?"
"Those who pay my wages have ordered me to find an author to write a romance novel. I told them every one of our writers is busy. They prompted quite firmly I must discover someone. You're the next in line."
"I don't write romance. I write crime. I've got lots of great ideas on how to expand the Kendal chronicles. Fire Games is just the beginning. In a few short years, there's going to be a shelf full of crime novels. They'll be great."
"James, you're probably not aware of the fact we receive at least two hundred emails a day from your fans."
"So, what does that tell you?" he interrupted.
"I know where this conversation is heading," hinted Amanda.
"It's plain and simple; readers love my crime novels."
James, start writing a romance novel. I've booked you into a bed and breakfast hotel in Mt Martha for the next four weeks."
"I've already explained the fact I can't write romance."
"Of course, you can. You're a handsome bloke. Kiss a woman then write a fantasy about her. Better still; go and meet her at a local dance. Chat the woman up for a few hours and go to a cheap hotel somewhere. You know what to do from there."
"What do you have in mind?"
"Do I have to spell it out?"
"I'm not the kind of bloke who jumps into bed with any woman."
"James, go write me a romance novel."
"What if I refuse?"
Amanda Daltry stood. Instead of pushing her mini skirt down she left the material sitting high on her thighs. She strolled majestically across the room to the window. Pushing her chest into James' arm she lifted her hands, placing them on either side of his head. He felt her long fingers and red polished nails buried in his dark hair. He stood an even six foot. Amanda leveled her gaze on his eyes. She leaned closer; her long blonde hair brushed his cheek. She swept her lips across the surface of his. On the return trip, she kissed him. For a long time, they stood at the window in the sunshine locked in the seductive French kiss.
Using the tips of her fingers, Amanda tapped James playfully on the side of his cheek. She turned and slowly walked across the room, sitting cross-legged again at her desk. The provocative grin she threw James faded, replaced by the professional business woman in her.
"James, there's a love story in all of us. Go, write me a romance novel. I expect to see an almost finished product on my desk no later than the fifth of April."
"You'll have it on time," he grumbled.
James didn't look back, marching across the office floor. He yanked the door open, glaring at the startled expression of the receptionist. Just for a moment, he wondered if she suspected anything on what transpired between him and Amanda. He also deliberated if she could tell his eyes were ablaze; full of excitement. He'd never been kissed so passionately before. He allowed his mind to drift back to the supermarket car park. Amanda Daltry is indeed a mysterious woman. She certainly didn't come across as someone who might be afraid to kiss a man; any man. James couldn't remember the last time he'd been turned on by a woman. He reasoned they only wanted his money, so he avoided women by diving deep into his work.
The young attractive receptionist smiled up at James. She made a move to stand so she could greet him at eye level. He returned a sociable grin before marching across the tiled room and down the stairs to the main entrance.
Outside in the fresh air, the sun felt hot. Summer appeared to be extended for at least a month; so the weatherman reported. James threw his tie and brown suede jacket onto the back seat of his BMW convertible before slipping behind the steering wheel. He turned the ignition key then eased the sports car into the flow of traffic.
James was still trying to outline a plot over the kiss Amanda unexpectedly gave him when his two storey mansion overlooking the bay came into view. The quaint room he worked in boasted a floor to ceiling double glazed window which faced the west. He loved to watch the sunset each evening. No matter where he was in a novel just before the sun touched the sea he'd stop to raise a glass of wine, sit back and enjoy the view.
James spent most of his time in the room. The fake gas fire looked realistic. It should be. He paid a fortune for the unit. It did a great job keeping him warm in the winter. An air conditioner on the wall kept him cool in the summer. The small galley and bar fridge stocked full of drinks, and quick meals situated near the window helped to sustain his hunger. Five laptops ready to be used sat on his long narrow desk. He certainly didn't need to travel twenty minutes down the road to the bed and breakfast hotel for inspiration. Before the writer's block overtook him James rarely left the room. Lately, he didn't watch the sunset in the place. He wandered the shopping malls and ate out most nights hoping to stumble upon inspiration. Ideas which used to flow easily seemed to have left him high and dry.
"Maybe a change of office space is actually what I need?" mumbled James.
Swinging his car into the driveway, he clicked the remote. The garage door slid up. He depressed the second button on the same remote. In seconds, he heard a bell, indicating the lift had arrived. Opening the small door, he stepped into the lift car.
The small four-foot square plate lifted him silently to his bedroom. James marched across the room, changed into lighter, less formal clothes, packed two suitcases and rode the lift back down to his car.
Inside ten minutes he started driving towards Mt Martha.
The bed and breakfast hotel, situated on the esplanade overlooking Port Phillip Bay was an easy hour's drive from the Melbourne CBD.
In the distance, James could see the skyscrapers. They seemed to tower out of the water. A slight haze covered the sky obscuring the mountains on the other side of the bay.
James parked his car left of the main doors to the hotel. The manicured gardens full of flowering shrubs and tall, thin Japanese maple trees looked a welcoming sight.
The moment James stepped down from the car he could smell the thick sea air. The breeze ruffled his light blue shirt and long white shorts. He swiped two suitcases from off the back seat before locking the car.
Staring at the hotel, James squared his shoulders. The old-style building looked cold. Quite the opposite of what he was familiar with. Still, he did agree to Amanda's request. Maybe she liked his attitude. If he said, he'd do something she must have figured out he'd
'Maybe it's why she walked away from the car ignoring the rain that night. The driver didn't live up to her expectations,' James thought, walking towards the front door. "A good start to a crime novel," he whispered.
The only noise James heard came from an old pale green two door sedan. It rolled into the drive and was parked next to his vehicle. He watched the car until it came to a complete stop before entering the hotel, luggage in tow. James walked up to the main desk then waited patiently for the mid twenty-year-old woman to look up.
The moment James placed his suitcases on the red short pile carpet the woman stood to full height. The standard smile and cordial welcome quickly followed.
"Good morning Sir, may I help you?"
"Apparently, I've been booked into a room for a month. I'm James Buxton."
The girl checked the ledger on the computer. "Yes, you've been placed in room one on the first floor overlooking the pool for thirty-one days. An anonymous caller paid for the room."
"Why room 101? Is there something unique about that particular room?"
Have you read Mark Stewart's Fire Games yet?