“You can’t kill her.”
“She’s already dead, Ben. You’re too late” Annie smiled, savoring the words again. “She’s dead. Dead, dead, dead.”
“Annie, I’m telling you, you can’t kill her. Not that way…”
“You’re not listening Ben. It’s done.” Annie said. “At least it was quick, which is more than I can say about how Des died.”
Ben groaned and buried his face in his hands.
Annie Sparks rose from her chair and circled around the huge oak desk, leaning over to whisper “Don’t you want to know how he died Ben? You were always the first to know…”
Ben Ridder swatted at her ineffectually and she moved away laughing. Ben shuddered and glared at her.
“Annie, about that contract…”
“What about it!” She whirled around to face him “I fullfilled my part of the bargain and now I’m free! Free for the first time since I don’t know when.” She ran a hand through her dark red hair and grimaced. “God, I was sick of those two.”
“Annie you can’t kill them and it’s my job to see that you don’t.”
“Are you threatening me?” asked Annie softly.
“No I’m not.” said Ben “And don’t look at me like that.” He rose from his chair. “Have a drink?” he asked, heading towards a discreet bar located in the corner of his office.
“You’re not supposed to be drinking…your blood pressure…”
“Hah! Blood pressure. Don’t make me laugh.” said Ben, busy at the bar. “If anything is going to kill me it will be you.”
“Don’t say that Ben. It’s not funny.” said Annie. Ben took a large swallow of scotch and eyed her sourly. Annie glared at him.
“Honestly, I don’t know what the fuss is about. Desiree is dead. Who’s really going to care?”
Ben snorted and turned back to the cabinet. “You’ve got to be kidding. You have something in the neighborhood of a million readers. They’ve been waiting for over 2 years for the conclusion of the Black Opal trilogy. They’re bound to notice she’s dead.”
“Sure, but not until the last chapter…”
“It’s not funny Annie! You can’t kill off a heroine by having a bag of cement dropped onto her head…it’s…it’s…”
“Not romantic?” said Annie sweetly. She swooped forward, neatly removed the glass from Ben’s hand and poured it into a large philodendron.
” To say the least. I don’t even want to know what you’ve done to Desmond.” said Ben. He walked back to the desk and picked up a sheaf of papers.
“He was shot.’said Annie. “In the stomach. By a pimp.He dies in a filthy jail cursing her name to hell…”
Ben held the manuscript out to her. ‘You’ll have to rewrite it Annie.”
She turned on her heel and, ignoring his outstretched hand, stalked over to the enormous window overlooking the San Francisco Bay.
“You can’t make me.” she said “My contract specifies one more book…this is it.”
Ben stared at her rigid back and heaved a sigh. “Annie…”
“Don’t think even for a minute that you are going to talk me into it.” Annie yelled. “I know what my contract says and I am NOT writing another Desiree and Destiny book. This is it. It’s finished.”
“It’s not the book contract, you know that. It’s the movie rights. You sold the rights to the characters. You really can’t kill them. That was in the contract.” Annie stiffened and turned away from him. “You agreed to that 3 years ago Annie.”
” I did, did I?”
“You did.” Ben said softly. He sat heavily and ran his hand through his hair. “Darn it Annie, I know you had a hard time with this one. I…”
Annie spun around, her shoulders squared. “Who told you that?! Was is Eliza?”
“No! You should know your sister better than that.” said Ben “It’s common knowledge, Annie. It’s been 2 years since American Destiny came out. You’ve missed 2 deadlines!” Annie glared at him. “Look, I know you were…stumped on this one.”
“Stumped? Is that some kind of euphemism for writers block? Stumped?” demanded Annie. “Writers block is a myth. I just don’t want to write about them anymore.”
“Annie I’m on your side. I’ve seen this happen before.”
“I’m warning you, Ben. Don’t go there…” Annie told him. “I can still write. In fact, I’m working on something right this minute. If I wasn’t here I’d be at home working.” She went over the the chair and snatched her trench coat off the back of it
“Annie, lets not part this way…lets talk this over. I’m not just your editor. I’m your friend.”
“Then act like one and I’ll act like a writer. I’m going home!” Annie marched to the door and flung it open.
“Annie, we’ll figure out an ending. There doesn’t have to be another in the trilogy but this one has to end differently. My god your fans will want to kill you if this gets out. The movie is already in auditions. I don’t think you can kill Destiny. I’m certain that’s in your contract. Have you talked to Barney about it? He would know.”
Annie clutched her coat and felt tears well in her eyes. “I can’t…you were right…I just can’t.. finish it.” She shut the office door quietly and leaned her head against it. ‘What am I going to do?” she whispered.