Entirely - 📖 read an excerpt
Entirely, Transformation Series Book 3, is now available in ebook and paperback. Read an excerpt:
Entirely, Transformation Series Book 3, is now available in ebook and paperback formats. 🎉🥳 Here's a list of retailers.
Reviewers: You can get a review copy of Entirely through BookSirens and NetGalley. You can also still get a Silently (Book #1) ARC on both platforms if you haven't read it yet. The Transformation Series books should be read in order.
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Conversations at the nearby tables hummed, echoing Quinn’s nervous inner buzz. Every so often a cork popped from a pricey wine bottle sheathed in white linen, interrupting the din. Each time a server passed by, plates balanced on forearm, a collage of aromas sharpened into focus and quickly faded away—garlic, a hint of vanilla, coffee, caramelizing sugar.
A waiter approached the table she shared with Leigh and took Leigh’s order first. Thank goodness. Quinn used the opportunity to sip her sweating glass of ice water, hoping to numb the tight scratch in her throat. Leigh was observant. If she weren’t focused on instructing the poor guy on how little butter the chef should use, she would no doubt notice the tremble in Quinn’s hand.
Good that Leigh was picky about butter.
By the time it was Quinn’s turn to order, she had the glass safely back on the starched white tablecloth.
Montessa was one of Leigh’s go-to power-agent spots. Quinn knew she had business to discuss as soon as she read Leigh’s text this morning suggesting the location.
But that wasn’t why her hands were jittering so damn much.
As the waiter left to put in their orders, Leigh aligned her already-straight silverware and smoothed the unwrinkled cloth just below it with manicured fingertips. “So I got good news Friday afternoon that I wanted to share. Mia not only has that new book coming out—she also was selected for a Hollinger Fellowship.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful.” Mia was one of the authors Leigh represented. An incredibly talented writer, but Quinn still felt a twinge of emotion that had nothing to do with that fact, a feeling a lot like envy.
“It is wonderful. We’re thrilled. And since I’ve been back and forth with the foundation recently, it would be natural to talk to the selection committee about you, to ask how we can get you back there. Even if you don’t want to pick up the old novel again”—apparently the silverware had fallen out of perfect alignment and required further minute adjustment—“you could, you know, experiment and start a new one.”
Only now did Leigh glance up at Quinn for a response.
“They make such a big deal about it being a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I can’t imagine they would make an exception.” Truth was, Quinn couldn’t imagine going back, the memories haunting.
The whirling red and blue lights reflected in her cabin’s bureau mirror.
The sound of the knock at her door. The words, There’s been an accident.
The discovery that Harris had been on his way to surprise her after she had hung up on him, irritation and impatience clear in her voice.
Memories she might have begun to learn how to live with but that she never would be freed from.
“If you’re open to it, I’ll broach the subject. I suspect, for you, they might consider it given what happened. The . . . unprecedented circumstances.”
If the unprecedented circumstances hadn’t been her own worst, wide-awake, living nightmare, she might once have liked it as a book title.
Leigh could be right. Hollinger might make an exception and let her come back. But there was no way Quinn would go back. Someday, perhaps, but not now.
Besides, although she had started to write again, it was not her old novel, and it was not Hollinger material.
She pictured the notebook she had bought in Paris and the pages that fanned apart when she opened the cover from having so many words pressed into the front and back of each leaf. At Hollinger, there would be workshops with the other fellows and readings for the public. Her cheeks heated just thinking about it.
Definitely not Hollinger material.
“I can’t,” she replied, realization dawning that Leigh wouldn’t be gunning for Hollinger if there wasn’t still a book that needed to be delivered. Quinn assumed that had been resolved weeks ago. “What did Nely say about the contract when you spoke?”
Leigh reached across the table and placed her hand tentatively on the back of Quinn’s. Shows of emotion did not come easily to her; she was really trying to offer support. “What they most want is another book from you, not to fight over the agreement.”
“What’s to fight about? I said I’d return the advance.”
“They could, in theory, claim that’s not all you owe, and the amount could be substantial.” Leigh waved her hand. “It’s premature to have this conversation—let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Keep Hollinger in mind, and if you have a change of heart, I’m confident I can get you in.”
The waiter came back with bread from some special flour and a small plate of olive oil. He ground sea salt and pepper over the shiny golden-green pool, dusting it with black and white flecks.
The interruption was a good time to change subjects. “Your text about dinner surprised me—we’re in good shape for Saturday, but still—how’s the mother of the bride holding up five days out?” Quinn cut two wedges from the crusty, flour-dusted boule and slid them off the wood board onto the bread plates.
“Very well, thanks to all the work you’ve done. I’m trying to keep normalcy going for as long as possible. My sister flies in Thursday afternoon, but otherwise I’m going about my usual business, trying to stay busy and not hover. It’s their thing.”
Quinn nodded sympathetically. She saw both sides—Leigh wanting to be close to her daughter in the days leading up to her wedding, and Becca and Charles needing room to breathe.
“I talked to Jonathan this morning,” Leigh added. “He sounded so upbeat, despite the job thing. Speaking of, I have no idea what he was thinking.” Of course not. Leigh would never understand why he walked away from the network, why he would give up a role like that—the very same question he had struggled with himself. “But I’m delighted you two have become an item.”
“We’re taking it slowly, but yeah, he’s pretty great.”
A genuine grin lit Leigh’s entire face. There might be distance between the two women, and for more reasons than Leigh realized, but in moments like this Quinn missed their old friendship.
“By the way, you remember Mia’s launch party is Thursday, right? You and Jonathan are still planning to come?”
“Yes, of course. I’ll remind him.” But that twinge of emotion alighted once more at the mention of another author’s achievement. It was unwarranted—on top of her talent, Mia was a kind person, and Leigh worked hard to strategize for and promote her authors. Quinn was happy about their success.
Really, she was.
After all, she was the one who had just turned down Leigh’s offer to get her back to Hollinger. She was the one who had asked Leigh to get her out of her publishing contract. Both could be hers if she still wanted them.
But she didn’t.
She set the last bite of bread on her plate, her mouth suddenly too dry. Maybe she should wait until after the wedding to ask—she had only sent those pages to Leigh yesterday. Leigh was all about inbox zero, but still. There was no way she would have had time to read them yet.
But if Quinn didn’t take this unexpected opportunity, she would talk herself out of it. That’s why she had sent them off hastily, so she didn’t lose her nerve.
“So, have you gotten any promising submissions lately?” she asked.
“The slush pile will bury me alive one day, but every so often something reminds me why I have to read that heap of doo-doo.”
Leigh did not say “shit,” or any other swear word. “Oh? What’s standing out?” Quinn’s pulse sped up uncomfortably.
“I read this interesting sample chapter this morning . . .”
Quinn had sent a sample chapter, not only the traditional initial query letter. “by a debut author . . .”
Quinn had written in her pseudonymous email that she was a debut author. In the erotica genre, that’s what she was.
“who wrote some intriguing, promising pages. She has a nice style, and the bones so far are good—”
Quinn let out the breath she had been holding, slow and even, so her immense relief wouldn’t be so obvious.
“Let me just say, it’s in stark, stark contrast to another submission that just came in, which I dragged into the trash folder. I wanted to shower after I read it.”
The nervous hum surged, loud. “Oh?”
Maybe she should not have typed up those notebook pages and sent them from a fake address, at least not to Leigh. She did not represent or, as far as Quinn knew, read erotica, no matter how well written it might be.
At least Quinn thought her pages had been well written. It was nearly impossible to be a good judge of one’s own work. That’s exactly why she had wanted to share it; she had been hoping—unrealistically, apparently—for a constructive critique from someone whose professional opinion she respected.
And whose opinion she cared about more than she wanted to acknowledge.
“It was one of those BDSM things.” Hard stop, a period not a comma. As if that explanation summed up the problem.
“What was the story about?” It might not be hers; Leigh might be referring to another writer’s work.
“Some . . . fancy dungeon in a . . . Parisian château.” Leigh paused between some of the words, with a sarcastic inflection that conveyed obvious disdain.
Quinn’s pulse galloped at hearing it was in fact her story. Despite the pounding beat, she tried to keep her voice steady, as well as her hands, which she tucked under her thighs against the seat of the chair. “What didn’t you like about it?”
Great, she had a list.
“—just what the world needs, more thinly disguised smut. And”—she raised her hands and shook them—“I wanted to scream, ‘No, I don’t want to join you as you peer into that mansion’s steamy, sweaty dungeon window.’ I’m not a voyeur, thank you very much.”
Peer in the window?
“Are you going to share that feedback?”
“My feedback would come down to two words: Delete. Key. And I probably shouldn’t send that.”
“True,” was all Quinn said, concentrating on keeping her expression neutral so it wouldn’t give her away.
The waiter brought their meals, and she nodded and mm-hmed as Leigh spoke, occasionally asking a question to keep her talking. Quinn had nothing to add. She would not admit sending the pages, and her embarrassment, her shame, her anger at Leigh’s response made small talk impossible. The only reason she was still sitting here was that she had no immediate, plausible excuse to leave in the middle of dinner.
But as soon as their server returned to take their plates, her own hardly touched, she reached for her handbag and fished for her phone, pretending to glance at the time.
“I should get going,” she said to Leigh. “The train schedule is funny tonight. There must be work on the tracks.”
“Are you alright? You look . . . troubled. And I monopolized the conversation. Is everything alright?”
Quinn forced a smile. “It’s been a long day.” Actually, until dinner, it had been a fine day.
“Let’s do this again once the wedding is over. It’s good for both of us. In the meantime, see you Thursday?”
Quinn caught one of those weird, involuntary laughs before it escaped her mouth. Being around Leigh did not feel good for her, not now.
They hugged goodbye outside the restaurant and headed in opposite directions, a fitting metaphor.
Leigh’s comments about the pages Quinn had sent—the start of a short, fictional story inspired by her visit to Madame Manon’s estate with Octavia—cut deeply. She was an experienced writer; she knew there was always a risk Leigh, and others, wouldn’t like what she created. There had been plenty of times in the past when Leigh wasn’t crazy about work Quinn shared with her.
This stung far worse because it meant far more. It meant starting to write again after Harris. Writing about experiences, questions, desires that revealed themselves to Quinn in ways Leigh did not, and likely would never, understand. It meant taking tottering steps into a lifestyle and community that had helped Quinn get through the darkest, most painful and hopeless time of her life. It meant redefining who she was—as a writer, as a member of Octavia’s, and in relation to another man. It meant figuring out how those roles fit together—if they fit together—and facing a future much different from the past. Different from the future she had envisioned.
And clearly different from what Leigh envisioned.
She should not let Leigh’s reaction upset her. She should continue walking straight to Grand Central Terminal and get on that train heading north along the Hudson River. She should go home to her quiet farmhouse, sit herself down at the big old wooden desk in her office, and she should write what wanted to be put on the page.
But that now-familiar need, the need Leigh had so offhandedly disparaged, crested like a tidal wave inside her. She stepped out of the throng of pedestrians and leaned against the wrought iron curlicues of a fence around some chichi apartment building’s raised garden bed. The flowers in the cement box signaled the end of the summer, the blossoms wilted, the leaves brown and dry.
She fetched the phone from her bag. Although they had not planned to see each other this evening, she texted Jonathan. She needed him tonight to break the crackling tension and settle her, body and mind.
“…the deep interplay between the two main characters adds a special intimacy to the novel.”
-2022 Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize
"...an exciting romance with many surprises and exquisite intimacy.... an excellent read for romance fans and anyone new to the genre"
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ -Literary Titan
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