“WE’LL be landing in Bangkok in approximately thirty minutes.”
The voice over the loudspeaker broke into Trent Copeland’s consciousness and he pushed it away, thinking it was simply part of his dream. He attempted to return to the comfort of his slumber.
“Sir, your immigration card.” Someone shook his shoulder and pushed an official-looking form at him, and he realized he wasn’t dreaming at all. It was real. And about to get even more real.
He blinked and sat up, bringing his reclining seat to a sitting position. He heard, as well as felt, a shift, as the jet literally changed gears and began its descent.
For a moment he stared at the paper, trying to trace the steps that had brought him here. Had it been only two weeks earlier that he’d been jolted out of the security of his routine by an unexpected and unwelcome phone call from his literary agent?
What had he been thinking, letting Beth and Cassandra plan this trip for him?
He better get plenty of inspiration for his next novel, or plenty of sex—or both—or someone was going to be in big trouble when he got back. If he got back. He took a deep breath and pressed his face to the tiny window, wondering what lay in store for him once he landed.
- 1 -
Two weeks earlier
Los Angeles, California
THIS wasn’t really happening. It had never happened to him before. Okay, once. But never twice—in a row. His friends told him it was natural and sooner or later it happened to everyone. Now it was happening to Trent.
“Rejected? What’re you talking about, rejected?”
“Trent, honey, I’m sorry. The publisher isn’t interested this time around.” Cassandra’s slightly British-accented voice came through the phone clear as crystal, but still Trent didn’t think he’d heard her correctly.
“Why not? I’m one of their top-selling authors!” If there were a New York Times best-seller list for gay erotic romance, every one of his books would have been on it. “Aren’t I?” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew he sounded like a child.
Trent got up from the couch, tipping his Siamese cat Godiva off his lap and causing her to loudly meow her displeasure as she landed on all fours. Trent paced around the living room, cordless phone pressed tightly to his ear. He wished he had a phone with a cord so he could twist it around his editor’s neck. No, Cass’s neck. What the hell kind of agent was she, if she couldn’t sell either of his last two books?
“Yes, Trent, you are one of the top sellers, but your editor told me she’d read this one already. Twice.”
“What the fuck? I just finished it! How could she have read it twice? Is she a psychic as well as an editor?” He stopped in the middle of the living room and Godiva, who had been tagging along at his heels, crashed into him with a less-than-ladylike snarl. She hopped back onto the vacant couch, out of his way.
“Well, honey, it is an awful lot like the last one you wrote, you know?” Cassandra’s voice rose ever so slightly at the end of the sentence, as if he actually were a child she wanted to appease. It didn’t work.
“Grrr,” was all he could manage in reply. He started pacing again, trying to burn off anger and nervous energy while he crafted a suitable response. “What kind of agent are you, anyway? You’re supposed to get them to want it.”
“Trent, honey, I’m a pretty good agent, but I’m not a miracle worker. You always have the option of coming up with a new pen name and I can shop this to someone else.”
“No!” Trent practically shouted. He remembered how hard it had been choosing a pen name in the first place. He and his two best friends since college days, Beth and Mick, had sat around in his crummy old apartment tossing around ideas; he’d had to endure asinine suggestions such as I.M. Hung from Mick. Finally, with Cassandra’s input, he’d settled on J.T. Dallas, though he came from a little town in Oklahoma and hated when people thought he was Texan. But Cassandra said Texas sounded sexy to readers and Dallas brought back images of the rich and ruthless, which always helped sell romance. She’d been right, as usual, and it had proved a good decision. Since then, she’d been much more than an agent. She’d not only helped shape his heretofore successful career, but had become one of his closest and most-trusted friends.
He realized Cassandra had been talking while he’d been strolling down memory lane and he struggled to catch up to what she was saying.
“… but I think you just need a little change of pace, a vacation or something. Get a new perspective,” Cassandra went on. “Shake things up a bit and spark your creativity….”
“I don’t know how they can say this is like the last one!” He wasn’t giving up. “This one is about a cowboy and a NASA scientist, while the last one was about a university professor and a… cowboy….” His voice trailed off at the end. “Okay, maybe there are some similarities. Slight similarities.” He couldn’t even convince himself. No wonder the editor had thrown it back.
“You’ve finished two books already this year. Take some well-earned time off and spend some of those fat royalty checks you’re piling up.”
“I don’t need a vacation.”
“Yes, you do. You can’t just sit around all day watching Turner Classic Movies and Lifetime.”
Trent grabbed the TV remote and quickly hit the mute button. Damn, she knew him entirely too well.
“Give me a call in a couple of days and we’ll go for lunch with Beth and you can tell me where you decide to go for your vacation, okay? Gotta run, sweetie. Love you!”
Cassandra disconnected and Trent tossed the phone onto the couch, narrowly missing Godiva, who meowed imperiously before racing for safety behind the television.
“Sorry, baby.” Trent plopped himself down on the couch and pouted while he figured out what to do next.
Maybe Cass was right and a vacation wasn’t such a bad idea. He had gotten into a rut. He glanced down at the carpet and wouldn’t have been surprised to find he’d worn a trail into the floor following the same path over and over and over. He should visit the travel agent around the corner and pick up some brochures. Better yet, he’d call Beth and she could help him choose a destination.
He’d get right on that, after he finished watching Now, Voyager, one of his favorite films. He adored the classic scene where Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes at once, before handing one to Bette Davis. It made him want to take up smoking, the way the Thin Man films left him craving dry martinis. Trent clicked on the volume, grabbed a box of tissues, and settled back onto the couch.