Book Publishing News
Click here for ordering information.
away her phone, Jane noticed groups of women passing the bar, obviously on their
way to some event.
going?” Elaine asked.
ceremony. That Tina person Bertha was talking about is getting a Lifetime
Achievement Award from RAT. Come on, we’ll sit together.”
think of anything she would enjoy less than attending the award ceremony for
Tina, but at that moment she couldn’t think of a gracious way to bow out.
made their way to a large function room at the far end of the lobby. The room
was already nearly full of women, all buzzing excitedly. Jane and Elaine took
seats near the back.
At the front of
the room, Kara Falcone, RAT’s charismatic president, stood behind a podium,
gazing out at the audience. Kara, a tall, big-boned blonde with prominent teeth,
tapped gently on the microphone and burst into a horsy smile. “Good afternoon,
ladies and gentlemen.” The audience grew quiet. “I’m sure you’re all as
excited as I am about this event. We’re here to present a Romance Authors
Together Lifetime Achievement Award to a very special person…someone I’d
like to tell you about now.”
her throat. “Tina Vale, our honoree today, was a top literary agent before
deciding to become an editor—a decision for which we as romance readers are
broke into spirited applause.
Jane turned to
Elaine. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“In her new role as editor, Tina Vale immediately began to make her mark on
the world of women’s fiction. She made a point of making sure there were
always plenty of romances and women’s mainstream novels on her publication
lists. In doing so, she discovered some of the legends of romance. It’s a long
list, but I want to read it to you now, so that you can get the full impact of
the achievements of this remarkable woman.”
A wave of
nausea rose in Jane’s throat. She couldn’t take any more. She turned to
Elaine. “I’m really sorry,” she whispered, “but I’ve got to go.”
concerned. “Are you all right?”
I’m fine. Gotta call home, make sure my son is all right.” And she jumped up
and scooted out the door.
Outside in the
lobby, it was mercifully tranquil, since everyone at the convention was in that
room listening to the long list of Tina Vale’s discoveries. Breathing in the
lovely cool air, Jane caught the aroma of food cooking—steak, it smelled like.
She realized she was hungry. The convention dinner banquet would immediately
follow Tina’s award ceremony, which with any luck would be over soon. Jane
made a mental note not to sit with Bertha.
She delved into
a new area of the lobby’s jungle, following a brick path around a cage
containing two cockatiels. She came out into a
small tree-sheltered circle of brick on which sat a comfortable-looking loveseat
and a coffee table.
she breathed, and settled into the loveseat. Looking about her, she was pleased
to discover that she was completely hidden from the lobby itself.
purse, she took out her compact, checked her makeup, and put on some more
lipstick. She gazed over at the cockatiels,
sitting silently on their perch. From the room in which the award ceremony was
taking place came Kara Falcone’s voice, as if very far away. “…and I can
think of no one more deserving of the Romance Authors Together Lifetime
Achievement Award. Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to present to you a titan
of the romance world, and a fine human being…”
didn’t know her.
which seemed to go on forever before finally dying down. Jane waited for the
sound of Tina’s voice thanking everyone. Instead, there was an odd silence.
Then came a murmur of many puzzled voices. Jane frowned. What had happened?
She heard heels
clicking on the tile of the lobby just behind her and turning on the loveseat,
parted two palm fronds to peer out. Two convention coordinators had emerged from
the award room, concerned expressions on their faces.
“Where do you think she is?” one asked the other, who shrugged.
“Do you think
Lifetime Achievement Award? No way. Something must be wrong.”
A third woman
appeared. “Is she here?” The other two shook their heads. “I’ll go up to
her suite to see if there’s a problem.” She hurried off to the elevators.
back into the loveseat. Wasn’t that just like Tina to blow off her award. It
wasn’t at all surprising, really, considering what she had just done to Nat
Barre…and Jory Mankewitz…and Salomé Sutton. That list went on and on, too.
Behind her she
heard more clacking of heels on tile, as the murmur of voices in the award room
grew louder. She turned again and peeked out. The coordinator who had gone up to
Tina’s suite had reappeared and was speaking to the other two women. “I
knocked on her door. No answer.”
“Of course I
knocked loud. She’s not in there, or if she is, she’s sound asleep.”
she’s sick or something?”
The third woman
looked at her, clearly considering this possibility seriously. “You know, she
could be. Like I said, no one would ever just forget she was getting this award.
I know what to do.” She marched over to the reception desk, where Andrew
Cowan, the hotel manager, busied himself behind two clerks. The woman got his
attention and spoke to him. He listened, an intense expression on his face, then
came out from behind the counter and followed her to the elevators. They both
went up together.
Jane sat back
down and rolled her eyes. She giggled. Wait until the RATs found out Tina simply
hadn’t bothered to come down and claim her award! She was probably doing her
nails, or balancing her checkbook.
ten minutes passed before Jane heard the elevator doors swoosh open. She turned
and resumed her spying. The woman walked slowly out of the elevator, a sickly
expression on her face, which had gone very pale. Immediately behind her was
Andrew Cowan, who was chewing on two fingernails at the same time.
ambulance!” the woman suddenly shrieked at him.
police,” Cowan said, and ran for the front desk.
The police? Had Tina been hurt?
was probably still in the hotel. Jane called him on her cell phone and he
you?” she asked.
Conference Room D. They’re still fighting. I may have to have one of them
arrested,” he joked.
hotel manager is calling the police.”
about Tina Vale.” She made her way out of the sheltered circle, back along the
brick path, and into the lobby proper. At the far end,
waiting. It felt like an eternity. Finally she could stand it no longer and