Hello, my lovely readers! I hope you’ve been doing well the last few days. Thanks so much for hanging in there while my attention from finishing up Flying High. It’s been a rough and stressful week so far and it’s not over yet, but my family member that was going through a health crisis is doing better and things in general are starting to settle down.
But to tide you over until Flying High officially comes out next Friday, how about an exclusive excerpt?
I rolled my shoulders to ease the tension in my body as I left the 5th floor food court with my to-go box of sushi and headed back to the elevator. Unfortunately, I was still so preoccupied by thoughts of Caleb and sex that I’d already stepped inside, pressed the button for the 31st floor, and watched the doors close before I noticed the one person who could ruin my day standing in the corner.
“Kiera! What a lovely surprise,” Preston Peterson said with his trademarked obnoxious, nasally chuckle and the same smarmy look that seemed to be permanently plastered on his face. It was almost a shame he was such an unrepentant asshole, considering he was far from unattractive, though his brown hair that nearly touched his shoulders was a little long for my taste, and his neck somehow seemed too thick for his head. At one time—had I been more emotionally available, and he hadn’t hounded me for a date with such suffocating, over-entitled aggression—I might’ve actually been more receptive to his advances.
“Oh, you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” I muttered. I turned to glare at him, shoulders squared and chin lifted in challenge. “Are you stalking me again? Seriously? The fact that I haven’t taken your calls in almost three years wasn’t enough of a hint? And you’d think someone who’s parents are lawyers would know that stalking’s a fucking crime.”
He cocked an eyebrow in response, scoffing. “What, so even sharing an elevator with a woman is stalking now? Don’t flatter yourself; I have a meeting in the building. Not that I wasn’t hoping to run into you, considering how hard to reach you are. I would ask you to lunch to discuss things, but I take it you’re working through lunch today.” He glanced down at the sushi container in my hand, his eyes lingering on my chest a moment too long as they traveled back up to meet mine.
Now it was my turn to scoff. “Wow, must be something really important for you to have been bombarding me with calls every couple days for the past few months.” I turned away from Preston in disgust as the car stopped on the 13th floor. I considered getting off there and catching another elevator, but I was too slow to decide, quickly finding myself backed into the corner with him by a janitor pushing a large cart of cleaning supplies and three other new occupants. Groaning, I inched as far away from him as I could. “Whatever you have to say to me, you have eighteen more floors to do it, so make it quick,” I hissed.
Preston let out an exaggerated sigh. “I don’t know why you can’t just let go of the past, Kiera,” he whispered. “You don’t have to be so frigid all the time. Look, I know I put my foot in my mouth sometimes, but I’m a really nice guy once you get to know me. Could’ve been really good for you if you’d given me a chance; could’ve helped your career out, too. I can still help your career, you know.”
And he thinks I’m the one living in the past? “Oh, you mean through your mommy and daddy’s fabulous connections who are the only reason you even still have a career? Thanks, but my career’s doing just fine.” I kept my eyes fixed on the number display above the door; the damn elevator couldn’t move fast enough.
“Yes, I’ve noticed you’ve done pretty well for yourself. Getting in bed with BlueSky Air? Ballsy move for little Schafer Newman and Kiera Anders, nice work. Did Stella put you up to it? Or, are you learning how to ‘get ahead’ on your own?” Preston asked as the car shuddered to a halt on the 22nd floor, leaning in close enough to make my skin crawl as he whispered.
A lightning bolt of alarm shot up my spine. Shit, shit, shit! Preston had been the whole reason I’d tumbled headfirst into Caleb’s bed again in the first place, and yet somehow I’d never stopped to consider if he’d even recognized or cared about who’d I’d been making out with in a bid to avoid him that night. Hell, I’d barely thought of him at all since the Three A’s, except to be annoyed by his persistent calls. I felt like the biggest dumbass in the world. Was this it for me and Caleb already? Did I have to worry about damage control if word got back to the higher-ups at the office?
Calm down, I told myself as I watched the janitor maneuver his cart out of the elevator. He probably just meant “getting in bed with” metaphorically, as in you’re doing business with BlueSky. Besides, Preston’s persona non grata at Schafer Newman; who’d believe anything he said, anyway? But his remark about Stella “putting me up to” something still threw me for a loop. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
I shook my head and let my mouth drop open in what I hoped was a convincing display of incredulity at his sheer audacity and condescension. “Excuse me? Look, if you’re trying to intimidate me or gloat over how we can’t possibly win this account, you can save your breath because I already know your agency’s not in the running. And if you mean that Stella got us a meeting with them, then yes, she ‘put us up to it.’ Shame you couldn’t do the same even with all your supposed connections.” I shrugged, playing it cool despite my pounding heart. The elevator stopped again, letting out the other three passengers on the twenty-fifth floor. Come on, dammit, hurry up! But as much as I was dying to bail out right there, I still had to find out just how much he suspected.
Preston smirked at me with a sideways glance once we were alone again. “Come on. That night after the Three A’s? You and their notoriously womanizing chief operating officer?” He snickered. “I’ve heard the guy can’t seem to resist a beautiful woman, but if you think it’s really going to be as easy as that…” he trailed off suggestively.
My heart plummeted like a rock, my face heating with a volatile combination of fury and humiliation. Dammit. Still, there was no way I would give him the satisfaction of having something to hold over my head.
“Wow, Preston, you really are as unbelievable as ever.” I said bitingly, making an elaborate show of spreading my arms wide and shrugging. “I have no idea what you think you saw, but it really says a lot more about you than about me that you still think I’m some talentless hack trying to cheat my way through life with sexual favors.” The tiniest bit of guilt nudged at the back of my mind as I realized that might technically qualify as gaslighting, but I was too fed up with Preston to let it get to me.
His one eyebrow quirked up again. “Please, you don’t need to play dumb and get all self-righteous with me, we’re both smarter than that. I get it, we all do what we have to to get ahead, and you could do a lot worse than Caleb Martin. I’m sure he’s a hard man for a girl like you to resist. But if you think you can just fool around with both him and Kellan Wakeham like it’s nothing—”
“Excuse me?” I blurted out again before I could help it, genuinely blindsided by this latest remark.
“Come on, Kiera, the way you and Wakeham were eyeing each other up after the awards? Then you went and met him in the bar?” Preston leered at me pointedly, but just as he started to speak again, the elevator finally stopped on my floor.
Thank Christ! I rushed forward, then halted and turned around on the threshold of the open door with a sigh. “You wanna know what really happened that night, Preston?” I said. “I happened to run into both Kellan Wakeham and Caleb Martin in the lounge with I ran there to get away from you. I flirted with a guy I met that night who I guess from a distance might’ve looked like he was dressed similarly to one of them, and I kissed him later as a way to avoid you. Then we ended up hooking up that night, and it was fucking. Incredible. So, if that’s all you wanted to discuss, then I guess it’s been nice catching up with you.”
I stalked out of the elevator and toward the frosted glass doors of the Shafer Newman offices, my heels clicking in an angry staccato on the tiles. But I didn’t make it far before Preston rushed up behind me.
“Hey! Chill out, will you?” He grabbed my arm just above the elbow, fingers digging in sharply enough to stun me into dropping my lunch.
That was it. Without stopping to think, I whirled around, wrapped the fingers of my opposite hand around his pinkie, and wrenched it back.
“Ow, fuck! Crazy bitch…” he muttered, rubbing his twisted finger. “I’m only trying to help, alright? All I wanted to say was that if you’re gonna fuck around with clients, then you should know just who it is you’re jumping into bed with. If you’re gonna play those kinds of games, you better understand the rules, especially when it comes to your new pals Martin and Wakeham.” There was a hint of contempt in his voice, but he wasn’t smirking anymore.
I scoffed again, but something about his words made the back of my neck prickle. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’d watch my back if I were you. Don’t get yourself in over your head. The Wakehams are clients of my parents’ law firm, you know. I’m not at liberty to discuss specifics, but believe me when I say they’re dangerous people to mess with. It might just seem like all fun and games for now, but… well, let’s just say things have been known to happen to those who pissed off the wrong Wakeham, or tried to worm their way too deeply into their personal affairs.”
I just stared at him for a moment, trying to read between the lines of what he was saying and gauge exactly how serious he was behind his sneering tone. The words “dangerous” and “personal affairs” echoed ominously in my head, calling to mind those very first inklings of mistrust I’d had about the Wakehams way back when Caleb had first learned about his father’s family, as well as a more recent memory of Caleb warning me away from his cousin. But this was the first time anyone else had corroborated those suspicions, and it had come seemingly out of nowhere.
Was Preston bluffing, trying to goad me into letting slip critical information about my relationship with Caleb, or about the BlueSky pitch? Or was there some concrete threat that the rich bastards posed that he knew about, but was refusing to tell me? It was a fact that Preston couldn’t be trusted, and my limited experience with him had taught me that he wasn’t the type to offer “friendly advice” without expecting something in return—though whether he was hoping for a sexual or professional favor from me I had no idea. Either way, I’d had it with his vague and half-taunting bullshit, and if the Wakehams were as dangerous as he claimed, then Caleb could tell me all about it himself.
I hid my apprehension with a snort. “Gee, thanks for the heads up, Preston. Real thoughtful of you,” I said, each word dripping with acid. “I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m seducing a potential client, or whatever the hell it is you think I’m up to. You better run along to your meeting, now. Wouldn’t want anyone to catch you lurking around here; I bet Stella would just relish the chance to rip you a new one.”
I had the momentary pleasure of seeing him blanch before I turned and marched toward the office, picking up my sushi container from the floor. Thank God it hadn’t burst open when I’d dropped it; at least my lunch hour wasn’t completely ruined.
My hand was already around the door handle when Preston called out to me again, his voice the meanest I’d ever heard it. “Keeping acting like a frigid, stuck-up bitch all you want; you’re no better than anyone else in this business. You’re just another easily bought whore.”
But I was already halfway through the door, and as much as I wanted to rip him a new asshole myself, I had work to get back to.
Aaaand that’s all you’re getting for now, folks! Hey, I never claimed to not be a dirty tease…
Just a quick update before you go: I know this blog has been nothing by boring book news thus far, but I’m hoping to change that in the near future. A couple years ago I used to run the book review/sometimes movie review/writing/random whatever blog All Write-y Then. It was something I started as a senior in college back when I still had hopes and dreams and free time, and before I got serious about maybe having an actual career-ish-type-thing as an author. And while I’ve more or less come to the conclusion that I’ve retired as a book blogger and my writing style and tastes have changed a lot over the years and I’ve largely moved on from my ranty, grouchy All Write-y Then persona, there are times when I really wish I could pick up where I left off with it.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’d like to try to find a happy, Jenny Trout-inspired medium where this blog can be more than just a bare-bones author website. I wanna just ramble a bit and have some fun, ya know? Share my snarky opinions on stuff that you didn’t think you signed up for, maybe spork a book or recap a TV show like I tried to do on my old blog before failing a few posts in because I ran out of the time and mental energy because blogging was starting to feel like a dead-end job. I thought I’d lost my mojo because it just getting to be more stressful than fun, but then it turned out that my mojo had been reborn in my Siena Noble author persona. So, while I probably won’t have some wacky new post here every week, expect to have something a little different to look forward to in the near future.
By which I mean, I recorded myself watching 365 Days on Netflix weeks ago and I really, really need to share my thoughts on that trash fire of a movie even if I’m a month behind, because it’s been building up inside me and it just needs an outlet but I also knew I had a book to publish first, OK?