As BookExpo America looms, C.F. Popelarsky graciously has allowed us to run an excerpt from the author's novella-in-progress called Fifty Shades of BEA. As Popelarsky writes, "It's pretty hot."
The roads are clear as I set off from Vermont. Fortunately, Kate has lent me her sporty Mercedes CLK. I'm not sure Wanda, my old VW Beetle, would make the journey in time. Oh, the Merc is a fun drive, and the miles slip away as I hit the pedal to the metal. My destination is Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. It's a huge building, all curved glass and steel, an architect's utilitarian fantasy, with James Patterson banners hanging above the glass front doors. It's a quarter to two when I arrive, greatly relieved that I'm not late as I walk into the enormous--and frankly intimidating--glass lobby occupied by C-Span's Motor Home. The line of booksellers at Starbucks is even more intimidating.
As I enter the trade show floor, I'm beginning to wish I'd borrowed one of Kate's formal blazers rather than worn my navy-blue jacket. I have made an effort and worn my one and only skirt, my sensible brown knee-length orthopedic boots, and a blue sweater with an oversized matching fanny pack. For me, this is smart. I tuck one of the escaped tendrils of my hair behind my ear and adjust my Ingram lanyard around my neck.
I arrive at the Ransom Press booth for my first appointment. I know nothing about the marketing director that I'm about to meet with. He could be 90 or he could be 30. The uncertainty is galling, and my nerves resurface, making me fidget. I've never been comfortable with one-on-one BEA appointments, preferring that our store's book club coordinator, events director, and sidelines manager accompanies me. To be honest, I prefer my own company, reading a Jonathan Evison novel, curled up in a chair at home. Not sitting twitching nervously in a colossal glass-and-stone edifice and discussing backlist specials and co-op.
I roll my eyes at myself. Get a grip, Steele. Judging from the booth, which is too slick and modern, I guess Grey is in his 40s: fit, tanned, and fair-haired to match the rest of the personnel.
He approaches: "Miss Steele." He extends a long-fingered hand to me once I'm upright. "I'm Christian Grey. Are you all right? Would you like to sit?"
So young--and attractive, very attractive. He's tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper-colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly. It takes a moment for me to find my voice.
As our fingers touch, I feel an odd exhilarating shiver run through me. I withdraw my hand hastily, embarrassed. Must be static. I blink rapidly, my eyelids matching my heart rate.
"I see," he says simply. I think I see the ghost of a smile in his expression, but I'm not sure.
"Would you like to sit and perhaps discuss floor displays or prepacks?" He waves me toward an L-shaped white leather couch with a coffee table piled with Fall 2012 catalogues. Displayed together, they are breathtaking.
He hands me a galley. "I think you'll enjoy getting between the covers of this novel. It's gem-like, luminous, poignant, and wise."
"It's lovely." I murmur, distracted both by him and his galleys. He cocks his head to one side and regards me intently.
"I couldn't agree more, Miss Steele," he replies, his voice soft, and for some inexplicable reason I find myself blushing.
Next, I pull my iPad from oversized fannypack and am all fingers and thumbs, dropping it twice on the coffee table in front of me. Mr. Grey says nothing, waiting patiently--I hope--as I become increasingly embarrassed and flustered. When I pluck up the courage to look at him, he's watching me, one hand relaxed in his lap and the other cupping his chin and trailing his long index finger across his lips. I think he's trying to suppress a smile.
"Will you be attending the PGW party on Wednesday evening?" he asks coyly.
"Yes," I coo.