When Eve Carrington is chosen to participate in an exclusive writers workshop, she knows it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For one month, she will live, write, and share her work with nine other aspiring authors. The top three will get a chance to be published. But when the building they're staying in isn't ready and Eve sees the old mansion they'll be moved into, she starts having second thoughts. Not only is the mansion isolated but the deadlines are tight, the pressure intense, and the competition incredibly fierce. Her biggest rival, Angela, is writing a murder mystery based on the workshop and its participants. It's a brilliant idea. Until life begins to imitate art--and death begins to knock out the competition . . .
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By JOANNE FLUKE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Joanne Fluke
All rights reserved.
"Oh, great! Just what I needed!" Eve spoke the words under her breath, but she needn't have bothered. Everyone was paying attention to Angela, and they wouldn't have heard her if she'd set off a cannon. At least Ryan wasn't holding Angela's hand any longer. He'd stepped slightly to the side, but he was still staring at her like she was the last woman left alive and he was the last man.
So what should she do? Eve wasn't used to being ignored when she entered a room, especially by the guy who was supposed to be her boyfriend. She decided to let it pass, this time, and she walked over to take Ryan's arm. "Hi, Ryan. And you must be Angela Adams."
"Yes, I am." Angela turned to smile at her. "And you're ..."
"Eve Carrington," Ryan introduced them.
"Of course. You're Ryan's girlfriend." Angela looked perfectly innocent. "Ryan was just telling me about you."
Before Eve could ask what exactly it was that Ryan had told Angela, an older man in khakis and a dress shirt entered the library. He waved to several students and then walked over to the big library table to take a seat.
"Come on, Eve." Ryan grabbed Eve's hand and led her toward the table. "That's Professor Hellman, and it looks like he's ready to start our first meeting."
When they were all seated, Professor Hellman cleared his throat. "All right. Let's begin. I know some of you, but let's go around the table. Give us your name and tell us what you've chosen to do for your project. Let's start with you, Beth."
Beth looked exactly as Cheryl and Tracie had described her. She was wearing jeans and a tank top, and her long brown hair was pulled back and secured with a leather clasp.
"My name is Beth Masters." Beth smiled at all of them. "And since I write poetry, I'd like to work on a book of poems on a single theme."
Professor Hellman smiled. "Very good, Beth. Next?"
"Jeremy Lowe. I'm going to do something humorous."
Eve squeezed Ryan's hand under the table and leaned close to whisper to him. "That figures. He's the practical joker from the frat house next door."
"I'm Dean Isacs." Dean's voice was soft and Eve could tell he was shy. "I'm a musician, and I'm working on a rock musical."
Professor Hellman nodded. "There's a piano in the living room. You're welcome to use it, Dean."
"Thanks. I brought my keyboard, too. It's got earphones so I won't disturb anybody."
Tracie was next and she smiled at everyone. "I'm Tracie Simmons, and I'd like to write a romance. I just love romances!"
Everyone laughed, including Eve. Tracie had hundreds of romances in her room at the sorority house, and she was always reading a new one. She lived in a dream world where the guys were all handsome and rich. The ordinary guys on the college campus just didn't measure up, and Tracie seldom dated.
"Cheryl Frazier." Cheryl stood up. "I'm doing a cookbook. They're my grandmother's recipes, but I'm going to write little sketches about the family on every other page."
"Good." Professor Hellman made a note in his book.
"Marc Costello." Marc stood up. "I'm working on a sports novel. And it has nothing to do with the fact that my father's a sports reporter for Channel Seven."
Everyone laughed, and then it was Scott Logan's turn. He looked very serious as he faced the group. "I'm Scott Logan and I'm working on an in-depth story about the old brick mansions on the edge of campus. This place is a good example. It's supposed to be haunted by the wife of the man who built it. According to several sources, he killed her and buried her somewhere in the walls."
"Wonderful!" Professor Hellman beamed at Scott. "As far as you're concerned, this workshop couldn't be held in a better place."
Angela was next, and she looked very confident as she stood up. "I'm Angela Adams. I'm a new freshman, and I come from a family of writers."
"Is your father Aaron Adams?" Professor Hellman looked impressed when Angela nodded. "I've read your father's work. He's a brilliant man."
Angela smiled at the professor. "I'll tell him you said so. He'll be very pleased. Writers like my father exist on delayed gratification."
"What does that mean?" Eve couldn't help blurting out her question. It seemed to her that Angela was really trying to get in good with Professor Hellman.
"It's simple, Eve." Angela gave her a perfectly innocent smile. "My father writes historical fiction. They call it faction because he sets his books in historically accurate periods. His characters are fictional, but he has to do a lot of research to make sure the facts are right. It takes him three or four years to write a book, and it's another year before it's published. He lives in a void for five years before he gets any feedback from his readers."
Eve nodded. What else could she do? Professor Hellman was smiling at Angela, and it was clear she'd made points.
"You said you came from a family of writers." Professor Hellman looked interested. "Is your mother a writer, too?"
"My mother is Heather Adams."
"Of course! She's a political reporter." Professor Hellman glanced around the group. "I'm sure some of you have seen her show. It's called Face the Press."
Scott and Ryan nodded, and Eve noticed that Ryan looked very excited. And then Professor Hellman asked Angela another question.
"What are you planning to write, Angela?"
Angela laughed. "My family will probably disown me for this, but I'd like to try my hand at a murder mystery. I've always loved to read them."
"That's fine." Professor Hellman smiled. "How about you, Ryan?"
Ryan stood up. "I'm Ryan Young, and I'm interested in writing historical fiction, just like Angela's father. I've read all of his books, and I hope that'll help."
"Good." Professor Hellman then turned to Eve.
Eve was nervous as she stood up. She'd planned to write a series of articles on fashion and makeup, but Ryan wouldn't be impressed with that. She had to do something different, something that no one else had mentioned.
"I'm Eve Carrington." Eve thought fast. "And I'm going to write ... a horror novel about vampires."
Angela raised an eyebrow. "That sounds very interesting, Eve. Are you trying to be another Anne Rice?"
"Not at all." Eve shook her head, even though she'd never read any of Anne Rice's books. "I'm just trying to be Eve Carrington."
Professor Hellman laughed. "That's fine, Eve. Ten different students, ten different projects. This should be a very interesting workshop. I'll come in every Thursday at four and collect your pages. I'll read them that night, and I'll get back to you on Friday afternoon with my critique."
"I have a question, Professor." Angela raised her hand. "Would it be all right if we read each other's work?"
"I was thinking about Ryan's project in particular." Angela smiled. "I might be able to help him. I proof all my father's manuscripts before they're published, and he says I'm his best critic."
Ryan looked absolutely delighted, and Eve started to frown. Ryan was her boyfriend, and she didn't want him to spend long hours working with Angela.
"Excuse me, Professor Hellman?" Eve managed to look perfectly innocent. "It's really nice of Angela to offer to help, but ... isn't this supposed to be an individual workshop?"
"That's right, Eve. But all of you might benefit from peer criticism. It's perfectly all right for you to compare notes and read each other's material before I collect it."
"Great!" Angela clapped her hands. "Why don't we have a group meeting every night? We can all take turns reading what we've written, and then we can discuss it."
Professor Hellman looked pleased as he put his papers in his briefcase and stood up. "That's an excellent idea, Angela. And it could be very helpful. I'll let you get started on your work now, and I'll be back on Thursday to collect what you've written.
After Professor Hellman left, everyone gathered around Angela again. Even Cheryl and Tracie wanted to ask her questions about her famous parents and the life they led. Eve felt like an outsider, even though Ryan was standing right next to her. None of his attention was focused on her. He was much too interested in listening to Angela.
"It must be terribly romantic, living with a mother who's a television star." Tracie's voice was breathless with admiration. "And your father ... everyone thinks he's just wonderful!"
Angela shrugged. "It has its drawbacks. When I was growing up, my mother left for the studio before I even got up in the morning. Heather had to be in makeup at five a.m."
"Heather?" Beth exclaimed. "You call your mother by her first name?"
Angela laughed. "Why not? Everybody else does. And Heather doesn't want anyone to know she's old enough to have a daughter in college."
Ryan frowned slightly. "How about your father? He's always worked at home, hasn't he?"
"Yes. He converted the entire third floor into an office. It's huge."
Tracie looked envious. "It must be nice, having a dad who works at home. You must have spent a lot of time with him when you were growing up."
"Not really. When he was first getting started, he went on a lot of book-signing tours. And Heather was usually somewhere on assignment. Most of the time, I just had my nanny and the housekeeper for company."
"How about when you were in high school?" Ryan was clearly enthralled by Angela's sad story.
"Sometimes they were home, sometimes they weren't." Angela shrugged her shoulders. "It really didn't matter. I was away, too."
"Away where?" Tracie was clearly intrigued.
"In Switzerland. They sent me to a private school, and it was so gruesome, I ran away twice."
"What do you mean ... gruesome?" Scott perked up his ears, on the trail of a good story. "What happened, Angela?"
"Promise you won't tell?"
"Our lips are sealed." Jeremy grinned at her. "We promise, Angela."
"All right. I'll tell you about it. Madame Jollette's Academy was in the Alps. It was very isolated, and Madame knew we were virtual prisoners. She used to lock us in at night. And then the howling would start."
"Howling?" Scott's mouth dropped open. "From what?"
Angela's voice lowered to a whisper, and everyone leaned closer to hear. "From her brother. He was totally insane. Madame chained him up in the attic during the day. She only let him out at night, when we were locked up in our rooms. He wandered the halls, howling and screaming, looking for missing pages."
"From what?" Scott's eyes were wide as he asked the question. "Tell us, Angela!"
"From my murder mystery! The one I'm going to write while I'm here."
Ryan was the first one to catch on, and he laughed so hard, he doubled over. "That was great, Angela! You got us!"
"I know I did." Angela grinned and then everyone started to laugh. Everyone except Eve. Eve just sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Actually, part of that was true." Angela smiled at everyone. "I did go to Madame Jollette's Academy. It was in the Alps, but it was a regular boarding school. I was just demonstrating a point about writing."
Ryan was all ears.
"Start with something you know and take off from there. It's called the 'Willing Suspension of Disbelief.'"
"I get it!" Ryan looked very excited. "If you write about what you know, it has the ring of truth. And then, when you start branching out, your readers will go right along with you."
Angela gave Ryan a thumbs-up signal. "Exactly! That's why I'm setting my murder mystery right here."
"Here?" Cheryl was fascinated. "You mean right here, in the Sutler Mansion?"
"That's right. If Scott's sources are right and it's really haunted, it should make a good setting. And I think I'll use all of you as characters ... unless you don't want me to."
"You can use me." Tracie looked very excited. "I'd love to be a character in your book, Angela."
"Me, too." Ryan grinned. And then everyone else chimed in, telling Angela how great it would be if she used them as characters in her book.
Eve was silent. She had a very bad feeling about being a character in Angela's book. It was almost like tempting fate, especially since Angela was writing a murder mystery.
"How about you, Eve?" Angela asked. "Do you mind?"
Eve winced. She didn't want to say that she had a bad feeling about this whole thing. They'd be sure to tease her about being superstitious. So she just shrugged "Okay. I guess it's all right with me, too."
"Great!" Angela started to smile again. "Since there's ten of us, I think I'll pattern my book after And Then There Were None. You've all read it, haven't you?"
Eve shivered. She'd read And Then There Were None when she was in high school, and it had frightened her. She didn't want to be a character in a novel where everyone got killed one by one.
"I haven't read it, but I've seen the movie," Ryan spoke up. "It's one of my favorites."
"I've never seen it," Scott said. "Maybe we should rent it and watch it together."
"That's a great idea!" Angela beamed at Scott. "We could watch it tonight, after we read our pages."
"I'll get started making some snacks," Cheryl said. "I want to try out a couple of recipes for my cookbook. My grandmother used to make wonderful caramel corn, and she had a great recipe for peanut butter fudge."
"Cut it out, Cheryl. You're making me hungry." Marc groaned. "Is anyone else hungry?"
Everyone nodded, and Angela spoke up. "Does everybody like takeout Chinese?"
"My favorite!" Tracie sighed. "I just love egg rolls! And the fortune cookies are so much fun. The last time I went out for Chinese, my fortune said I was going to be lucky in love."
Angela laughed. "I'm sure you will be, Tracie. I'll treat you all to an early dinner."
"I'll come with you," Ryan volunteered. "You'll need help carrying all those cartons."
Angela turned to smile at Ryan. "Thanks. The rest of you can start in on your projects, and Ryan and I'll be back just as soon as we can."
Eve frowned as Ryan and Angela went out the door. She'd been planning to discuss her project with Ryan, but Angela had stolen him away. Of course, that wasn't completely accurate. Ryan had volunteered to go. To make matters even worse, he'd left without even bothering to say good-bye to her.CHAPTER 2
There was no way she could write, not when she was this upset. Eve frowned at her computer screen, and then she glanced at the clock on her desk. She had another hour to finish her required pages, but she'd only gotten as far as the title. After typing and deleting at least seven, she'd finally settled for The Vampire's Vacation.
Angela and Ryan had been gone for over an hour. When they'd come back, they'd been laughing and talking as if they were old friends. Eve had fumed as everyone else had raved about the take-out Chinese. It had been good, Eve had to admit that, but the whole group had acted as if Angela had spent hours and hours over a hot stove, cooking it herself.
When the last fortune cookie had been opened, everyone had gone back up to their rooms to work on their projects. Eve had gone to her room, and here she was, an hour later, still struggling with the opening sentence of her book. Why hadn't she told Professor Hellman she was writing about fashion? It would have been a lot easier. At least she knew something about fashion.
Eve took a deep breath and started to type. She'd fill up her pages even if they weren't very good. It was like homework. You had to do it. And maybe she'd feel more inspired tomorrow.
There was a frown on Eve's face as she described the setting and introduced her main character. A beachfront hotel, very exclusive, resort of the rich and famous. A beautiful woman, Rochelle Dubois, who'd gone on vacation to search for romance and excitement. It should have been fine, but it wasn't. Rochelle wasn't very interesting at all, and Eve couldn't figure out how to make her more appealing.
Describing Rochelle's clothes filled up most of the pages, and listing what she'd ordered for dinner took another whole page. Painting a verbal portrait of her hotel room took another three pages, and Eve smiled as she stopped in the middle of a paragraph. She was finished. She'd done the required number of pages, and she wasn't going to write another word. Rochelle Dubois could just hang there, half in and half out of her bubble bath, until tomorrow!
Eve gave a sigh of relief and pressed the button that would print her work. She was done, and it wasn't a moment too soon! Now all she had to do was collect her pages from the fourth-floor printer and she'd be finished with her assignment for the first day.
Excerpted from Wicked by JOANNE FLUKE. Copyright © 2016 Joanne Fluke. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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