Emma spent the next few weeks taking Jackie out for long walks, cooking gourmet meals, buying even more DVDs, and generally relaxing. Joan had finally told her that NYU wanted her in on an annual guest lecture series, and she had accepted immediately. Whether or not she was going to go back to NYU full-time next year remained to be seen, but Emma was starting to have other ideas. She loved lecturing, but there was so much more that could be done with European history.
She'd jotted down a couple of ideas for subsequent romance novels, but she was also gravitating towards writing some journal articles about European history. She had been published before. Her Master's thesis, as well as two other articles she had written for college, had been submitted to well-known Arts history journals by her mentors, and subsequently picked up.
She was young, she reasoned. Her whole life was ahead of her. She could take her time, she thought as she headed to bed early. Joan was coming by the next morning to pick her up personally for the first book signing.
Emma was doing a series of three book signings starting on the first day of her book's release. Joan had wanted five, Emma had wanted only one, and in the end, they had haggled and come to a compromise.
Now, standing inside a back office at Borders, Emma scowled as she spied Joan walking towards her, dressed as usual in a black pantsuit.
"Are you ready?" Joan asked as she got within hearing range.
"Yeah, yeah," Emma grumbled.
"Where's Michael, your assistant?" Joan barked, looking around. Emma hid a smile. Michael was a sweet kid, interning at the publishing house in his first year of college, a rather impressive feat, but he was scared shitless of Joan.
Emma had sent him off for coffee and chocolate cake, two things she absolutely loved, telling him to return at 9:30; Joan would have left by then. He had smiled gratefully and scurried off.
"I sent him off on an errand. He should be back soon," Emma said lightly.
Joan nodded. "Good, good. Alright, I'm leaving. I'll be back in two hours, that's when you're wrapping up. The press kit we sent out to Borders and the other bookstores was amazing, you've got a line up front." Joan grinned.
Emma fought a grimace.
"You look good, by the way," Joan said gruffly. "Glad to know you've learnt how to dress up," she added.
"Hey, just because I live in jeans and tees does not mean I don't know how to dress up if the occasion calls for it." Emma laughed. She'd decided on a simple black wrap dress, pairing it with knee-high boots and pretty, dangling earrings. Her thick, curly hair had been left down because she had been in a hurry that morning.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm off, see you later." Joan left, walking away briskly. Emma slouched in her seat. She really hated book signings. She glanced at her bare wrist, before nodding in realization. Oh yeah, she had deliberately left her watch on her dresser that morning, knowing that she would have been glancing at her wrist every five seconds if she had worn the watch.
Michael popped his head inside the office then. "Is the dragon lady here?" he whispered.
Emma grinned, suitably cheered. "She just left."
"I come bearing gifts."
Michael brandished a Grande cup of Starbucks coffee, and an accompanying box that surely had a slice of chocolate mud cake in it.
"Ooh, yummy," Emma said, reaching for the cake, when a Borders official came in.
"Ms. Connelly, we're ready for you now. If you'll come with us."
Emma sighed. "Keep the cake, I'll have it later," she told Michael, taking just the cup of coffee from him.
"Well, let's go then. Let's get this over with," she breathed, plastering a small smile on her face as she followed the Borders official, Michael dutifully following behind her.
There were some cheers when she walked onto the little podium, and Emma cracked a tight smile. As usual, there was a table set up, with chairs, and next to the podium was a large easel with a picture of her book and her face, proudly declaring that it was a book signing.
Emma barely glanced at the easel, instead looking out into the line that had formed. She took her seat and took a large gulp of coffee, and then turned to Michael.
"Your job today is to keep me in a cheery mood. That's all I ask of you," she ordered, her mouth quirking slightly.
"Yes, ma'am. Cheery mood, coming right up," Michael grinned She smiled, and then, it started. The first fan dashed up to her excitedly, making Emma feel very glad there was a table between them.
"Ms. Connelly! You have no idea how much I adored your first book! And I can't wait to read this one!"
"Thank you," Emma said, smiling as she took the book, opening it and quickly signing her name with a flourish before returning the book back to the middle-aged lady.
"Hope you enjoy this one," she said.
Time flew by, and faces began to bleed into each other. Very quickly, Emma settled into a routine, sign the book, look up to smile and return the book, sign the next book, look up to smile and return the book. She would have been bored to tears if it hadn't been for Michael, who kept commenting on this-and-that through the side of his mouth, causing her to laugh now and again with his funny quips on the people who came up to her.
"Emma, she looked like she wanted to crawl inside you and become you," Michael said, shuddering, after Emma had smiled at a particular rabid fan.
"Gross, Michael," Emma said quietly as she signed the next book, before looking up to smile at the young lady.
"There you go."
Two hours later, Joan rescued her, running her back to her home.
"Same time, same place, tomorrow. Don't even think of running," she ordered, before driving off.
It was slightly easier the next day. Michael was waiting with coffee and cake, and this time, Emma managed to finish the rich dessert before the bookstore official came to collect her.
It always surprised her how people really got into the books. It pleased her greatly, actually, to know that there were people, lots of people, who actually loved her books, even though she was simply a romance author. When she voiced this softly to Michael, his eyes widened.
"Don't you know that the romance genre is actually the most successful genre? Sure, you have your James Pattersons and Dan Browns, but seriously, your work is every bit as successful, and good too."
"I read your latest one last night." Michael coughed. Emma glanced at Michael out of the corner of her eye, noticing that he appeared rather uncomfortable.
"Well?" she prodded, wanting to know what he thought of it.
"It's very, uh, passionate," he muttered.
Her lips quirked as she bit back a smile, and then another rabid fan appeared.
"Oh my god, your book is like, so, like, awesome! I read it last night, and like, wow!"
Emma signed the book before looking up at the girl. She looked to be in high-school, and Emma smiled.
"Thank you, I'm glad you liked it." She watched the girl dash off to join her giggling group of friends, and they promptly started squealing. Laughing, Emma turned back to the desk, there was another book sitting there. Opening it, she began to scrawl her signature on it.
"I've been waiting in line to see you for the past half hour."
The voice was a low, deep timbre and Emma automatically smiled, looking up, only to squeak in horror and draw back immediately, feeling flushed.
"My sister is a big fan of you, by the way," Colin commented. His mouth was quirked in amusement, and he looked incredibly gorgeous in a black button-down, the sleeves folded to his elbows, and dark wash jeans. His hair was neater than she remembered though, and memories of the both of them together fluttered to the surface.
"Oh. Oh," she stuttered. She nervously played with her pen, waiting for him to leave, or do something, like kiss her. Oh yeah. Kiss her.
"So there I was, walking past my favorite bookstore, when I saw the display windows publicizing this huge author's latest book. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the photos and saw the same beautiful woman who had run out on me, on a fine morning such as this, one month ago."
Michael gasped next to her, and Emma would have as well, but she could only think about how he had called her beautiful. He thought she was beautiful? She smiled softly, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear bashfully.
"I, uh, I -"
"Hey mister, you're taking too much time!"
Emma bit her lip, looking over Colin to see a large, blonde woman waving her book at her. Colin turned around as well, but Michael stood up, striding over to her.
"I'm sorry guys, but Ms. Connelly is taking a five-minute break," he called out at the top of his voice. He quickly turned around, ignoring the murmurs in the crowd, and strode back to Emma, grasping her arm and hauling her up from her chair.
"Michael, what are you doing?" Emma cried.
"You, follow me," he ordered Colin, as he tugged Emma towards the back office. He shoved her gently inside.
"I'll be back in five minutes, okay?" he said sweetly, grinning at her as she swore at him, but before she could inflict any physical damage, Colin entered the office.
"Thanks," he told Michael, and Michael simply grinned before shutting the door behind him.
Blast it! Now it was just her and Colin, and although she knew she should be feeling nervous and upset at this unexpected turn of events, all she felt was heat pooling in her belly. She was almost breathless, in fact, as she looked up at Colin. She had backed away to perch herself on the edge of the desk, but he had come to stand just before her, and she could feel the heat radiating off him.
"I read the book," he said, showing her the book. "Well, not all of it. I read some of it while standing in line," he amended, smiling.
"Oh," she breathed, smoothing her black skirt over her thighs.
"There was this scene in there, you know, the first time Jessica meets Peter, that sounded oddly familiar, though," he commented lightly, his azure eyes twinkling playfully.
"Oh." Could she not say anything else?! Seriously, woman!
Emma straightened, gathering her wits. "Well, I suppose I was rather, well, inspired," she said.
Colin grinned. "How did you manage to write a bestselling romance, well, two now, I suppose, whilst being a virgin?" he asked then, and Emma sucked in a breath.
"That is a secret. Okay?"
"That. Is a secret," she repeated, poking him in his chest. "I will not have you going out there and humiliating me – mmph!"
Colin had just kissed her lightly on her lips. He drew back, his smile firmly in place, and she stared at him in surprise. He inched closer, placing his arms on either side of her on the desk, effectively trapping her. Her eyes grew wide, her lips parted, and she felt her entire body heat up. Suddenly the sheer cream blouse she'd worn seemed too tight.
Colin turned his cerulean gaze onto her parted lips, and she shut her mouth immediately, causing him to shift his gaze back to her eyes.
"Can I take you out for lunch after you're done with the book-signing?" he asked, his voice husky.
"Wh – what?" Emma stuttered, surprise flooding her features. Colin's mouth turned up in amusement, but a moment later, he frowned.
"Why did you leave?" he asked, almost petulantly.
"I thought you wouldn't care," Emma murmured, "and later, that you'd have forgotten about me," she added, biting her lip, feeling discomfited.
"Well then, you ought to know that I tried looking for you at the Irish bar several times, and tried Googling you by typing Emma and European history into the search field, only I didn't know your last name and there are several hundred Emmas related to European history."
Emma laughed despite herself. "It's Connelly," she told him.
"I know now. There are ten posters out there with your name and face on them."
They were inches apart from each other now. Emma was pressed up against him, and his arms were tight around her waist.
"You haven't answered my first question."
"My answer will be yes to any question you ask."
With that, she closed the gap between them, pressing her lips to his in a sweet kiss that quickly turned passionate. When they broke apart, breathing heavily, Colin raised an eyebrow at her.
"If that's the case, I'm just going to try my luck here. After I take you out for lunch later, can I take you out for dinner tonight, and again the next night, and the night after that?"
Emma gaped at him. "Are you serious?"
"I wouldn't be asking if I wasn't."
"Then, well, you know my answer."
They clashed again in a flurry of lips and tongue, breaking apart only when Michael burst in on them.
"Oops, sorry," he said, smiling widely, not looking sorry at all.
"I'd better go," Emma said, pulling herself away from Colin with difficulty.
She paused at the doorway, turning back to him.
"Will you... Will you wait?"
"Of course I will."
Her smile was huge, her green eyes sparkling, and she rushed back to Colin to kiss him soundly on the lips. He laughed, bringing his arms up around her.
"Emma!" Michael called, impatient.
"Oh, yes, okay, yes, coming," she stuttered, smiling at Colin before turning around and dashing out.
Maybe book signings weren't too bad after all.
- FIN -
A/N: Much love and thanks to my lovely betas: Cylinsier, ms silverquill, E.D. Fiorentino and conspiracy slayer.
Reviews are love. This author needs quite a bit of that. Thank you.