Stephen Spence is just another assignment for Erin Andersen, a D.C. book editor who specializes in motivating authors. Spence has missed one too many deadlines, but Erin doesn’t think its writer’s block. She thinks the media darling is self-absorbed and lazy, spending too much time partying with bimbos on his boat.
Erin travels to his Outer Bank’s home for a writing-intensive workshop, but Spence has other plans. He’s sailing to the Florida Keys for some undeserved R&R. Determined to keep him on task, Erin has no choice but to work as crew aboard his luxury catamaran. Her mission to keep him on track is next to impossible because this sexy guy is easily distracted.
Fun in the sun is fine, but Erin has a job to do and it isn’t getting done at the beach. She whisks Spence away to her family farm in Eaton, Pennsylvania, where she can control the situation. Or can she? To her dismay, Erin learns distraction is contagious and the foolish compromises she makes are costly.
The first novel in the “Women of Eaton” romance series, “Distracted” introduces readers to Eaton, a fictional, idyllic town tucked away in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Other books in the series are “East of Eaton” and “West Wind.” The second series, “Secrets of Eaton” consists of thrillers “Consequence,” “Incandescent” and “Dead Line.” The third series is the spooky “Mysteries of Eaton” and consists of “Charnel House,” “Well of the Dead” and “Forgotten.”
Erin fidgeted in the pin-striped chair. The “two-minute” wait promised by the receptionist stretched into ten.
She glanced again at the magazines spread on the side table. The titles were unfamiliar. Some scholarly, some technical, none very interesting. She pushed them aside until she found a new copy of “Them” magazine, a slick tabloid that specialized in reporting the latest scandals and love interests of the stars.
The cover featured its typical fare of movie stars and beautiful people. In one photograph, a man and woman ducked their heads to avoid the paparazzi. He wore sunglasses, an unbuttoned island-print shirt, a pair of baggy, khaki shorts and sandals. Hmmm, nice abs, she thought.
The woman looked familiar. An actress, maybe? She was wearing a pink bikini top and a black sarong knotted at her slim, tanned hip. They were holding hands and walking down a pier in a tropical locale. Erin glanced out the large window at Washington’s overcast skyline and shivered. Smog and low clouds nearly obscured the Capitol dome.
She flipped through the magazine; the first ten pages or so were filled with advertisements. Then she came to the cover feature: The island couple. There were several photographs of the hunk with various beautiful women. In one, he was standing at the wheel of speed boat, shirtless, sunglasses on again, his sun-streaked wavy hair whipping in the wind. In another, he was strumming a guitar at a beach bonfire.
“Like what you see?”
Erin dropped the magazine and stood up.
“Patricia. How are you?”
“Fine. Sit down, Erin.”
Patricia McDowell slid behind her massive desk. An imperious veteran of the publishing trenches for more than thirty years, Patricia’s company churned out quality non-fiction that often made university professors’ reading lists but always made the New York Times bestselling list. Her diamond-hard veneer and keen business sense aside, she was the patron saint of artists, musicians, and historians who needed help writing books.
Patricia had tapped Erin after the young woman interned at McDowell Publishing while earning a master’s degree. As an editorial assistant, Erin helped senior staff move manuscripts through the system, from the authors to the production department.
She became efficient, but it was her combination of charm and persistence that Patricia valued most. She discovered that Erin could succeed, often through guile and wile, when experienced editors failed.
Her easy-going personality put many shy and introverted scholars at ease as she helped them complete their books on time.
Patricia couldn’t care less if the girl recognized a split infinitive or a dangling participle. She had plenty of grammarians on staff. She wanted results and Erin delivered.
“Nice-looking man, isn’t he?” Patricia nodded towards the tabloid Erin had tossed on the stack.
“George Clooney? He’s still yummy.”
“No. The man on the cover.”
“I didn’t really notice,” Erin said. She picked up the magazine, thumbing through the pages until she found the photo spread.
“He’s okay, I guess. Who wouldn’t be with that kind of money? How much do you think that speedboat cost?”
“I’m not sure, but the sailboat cost at least $500,000. I know. I bought it for him.”
“What? You’re kidding me! You know this guy?”
“That, my dear, is your next assignment. The boat was an advance on his forthcoming book.”
She smiled at Erin’s disbelief.
“Yes; it’s that important. That’s why I need you. He’s already missed three deadlines. I’m afraid he’s a bit lackadaisical. His first chapter was due last month.” Patricia leaned back into her leather chair and arched a silver eyebrow. “I cannot tolerate that.”
“Is he local?” Erin flipped through the magazine to the feature article and this time looked closer at the photographs.
“No. I hope you don’t mind, you’ll have to travel for this one. He lives in North Carolina, just a few hours away,” Patricia added, noting Erin’s frown.
Erin chewed her lip. She preferred to work with D.C. writers, primarily retired professors. She kept an apartment in Dupont Circle, near the fashionable northwest but not as expensive. Still, living in the capital was expensive and she could not afford to turn down a job.
“Can you leave right away?”
Erin fumbled through her jacket pocket and pulled out her mobile phone. Flipping through its digital calendar, she scanned the months of April and May. Nothing she couldn’t reschedule.
“Yes. Do you have a bio on this guy? What does he do?”
Patricia paused. “I’m sorry, no bio unless you count the ‘Sexiest Man in America’ feature in ‘Them.’ He’s an artist and for some reason he’s popular in L.A. You won’t believe what they’re paying for his paintings. Anyway, your job is to make sure he finishes this book. Hell, I need you to make sure he begins it. I envision a book that can be used in a university setting by art students, and still entertain the layperson. It’s important we publish his book right away while he’s on top. He’s an exciting talent, and a richly illustrated, very personal book about Stephen Spence would be extremely marketable.”
“What’s his name? Stephen Spence?” Erin echoed distractedly.
“Have you heard of him?”
“I’m not sure. I’ll have to some research. I guess these kinds of magazines would be the best place to begin,” Erin said, dropping the tabloid on the table. “The paparazzi apparently like to follow him. Who are the women?”
“Who knows? You seldom see him with the same one twice. He doesn’t appear to be lonely, does he?”
Erin heaved a sigh. “Men like him seldom are.”
Copyright© Madeline Sloane. All rights reserved.