“I expect chocolates and wine—”
Spencer Heans raised an eyebrow at the demanding tone, despite knowing his agent, Ella, couldn’t see him through the phone. It was just as well that she couldn’t, she’d definitely judge the just-rolled-out-of-bed look he was sporting at three p.m. What? Joggers were comfy and it wasn’t like his characters cared what he wore while writing them.
“—Not any of that cheap crap either. I want the good stuff you bought last Christmas, from that posh shop on Market Street.”
“I assume you’ve sweet-talked one of the big five into a five-figure, three-book deal, then?” Spencer asked drily. He gazed longingly at the empty mug on the coffee table. Caffeine was mandatory when dealing with excited Ella’s lack of conversational skills but he’d run out several hours ago, somewhere between chapter four and chapter seven when the words were finally flowing the way he wanted them to.
“Better than that.”
Spencer snorted in disbelief. He couldn’t wait to hear this one. “What the fuck could be better than a three-book deal?”
“You are joint main guest at ParaRom Con—” She paused, expectantly.
A moment passed while Spencer waited for her to continue. “That’s nice?” She hadn’t really phoned to tell him that, had she? ParaRom Con was usually a good crowd, one of the only dedicated paranormal romance conventions in the UK, but it was hardly posh chocolate worthy.
“—With Marcus Black.”
“Fuck.” Spencer fell backwards onto the couch with a thump. “Are you serious?”
“I’m always serious about chocolate.”
“Ella!” he shouted down the phone. She’d better not be screwing with him. He didn’t think he could take that.
“Yes, I’m serious. Go and wipe away the drool, kid. You have exactly one week to work out how to form a sentence around the man.”
Fuck. His pulse raced, the excitement sending adrenaline through his veins. Spencer was an award-winning author. He could manage coherent sentences in front of some guy, right? Even if that guy was Marcus Black, creator of Spencer’s favourite book series ever. Even if he was hot as sin. Aw, who was he kidding? He couldn’t do this.
“Finished your freak-out yet?”
Not by a long shot. “Sure.”
Ella chuckled and he could picture the mixture of amusement and condescension that was undoubtedly on her face. “He’s doing a live q and a session on his website in ten. Enjoy, and don’t forget my chocolates!”
“I love you, El.” Spencer hung up before she could take the piss out of him any further, hands automatically reaching for the laptop that resided on the table.
The machine came to life with a gentle whir as the fan started up. Marcus’s site was bookmarked, of course, because Spencer was a giant dork. He loaded the page, tapping his fingers impatiently as he waited for the video. The grey loading swirl circled twice before the man himself appeared on the screen.
Ella’s jibe about drool wasn’t far off the mark. Marcus was stunning with brown eyes that seemed to show his every emotion, and he had an infectious smile.
“Hello, you lovely lot!”
Had Spencer forgotten to mention Marcus’s accent? The way he rolled his vowels and the slight lilt at the end of a phrase. Spencer could never pin it down as being from one particular place, which made sense, as according to Marcus’s Wiki page he’d moved around a lot as a child. Even through the awful laptop speakers, he had a voice that Spencer would happily listen to all day.
Spencer chuckled at himself. He sounded like a teenage girl with a crush on a pop star. He really was going to have to pray to all the deities out there if he wanted to make it through ParaRom Con without making an (even bigger) idiot out of himself.
“First up, we have a question from Rachel.” Marcus’s eyes crinkled as he focused on reading the text. “I love your books and I love Spencer Heans’s Elkewoods series.”
Oh. Spencer’s heart pounded, thudding in his ears, he hadn’t expected to hear his own name mentioned. His imagination went into overdrive as he tried to guess where the question might go and what Marcus might say. If Marcus said something nice, he’d probably faint. Spencer forced out a breath, calming himself. Fainting was definitely not allowed to happen. Ella would never let him live that down.
“I’ve read some fantastic fanfiction crossovers, and I saw an interview with Heans where he said he’s a huge fan of yours. So, is there any chance of you two writing something together?” Marcus grinned and gave a little chuckle at the end. He paused to think about his response. Spencer loved how much consideration Marcus put into his chats with fans.
“First of all, I think it’s just amazing that people write fanfiction about my work. The idea that someone loved it enough to write their own stories is unbelievably cool. And I’ve heard of Heans, he’s sure…enthusiastic.”
Oh gods. The q and a continued, Marcus’s melodic voice reading out questions, but Spencer stopped listening.
There was only one thing Marcus could have been referencing. One god-awful thing that refused to go away. The internet was for-fucking-ever after all, and that interview was going to haunt him beyond his death.
Seven years ago, a rather young and “enthusiastic” Spencer had done an interview with a regional news programme when his first book had won a major award. He’d wittered on about his inspirations and literary hero. It was as awful as it sounded. He had been far too bright-eyed and new to the world at the time and had landed somewhere way past endearing and well into cringey obsessive fan territory.
Clearly Marcus had seen that interview.
If there was ever a time Spencer wished the ground would swallow him, that was it. And he had to attend the same convention as Marcus. Oh fuck. It was a week away. Seven days was enough time to get a fake passport and move to a lonely island somewhere where he could live out his days anonymously, right?