SHORTS FROM THE SHELF – “Mysteries of the Phoenix” (Part 2)
SHORTS FROM THE SHELF features short serialized fiction by author Shannon Muir, administrator of SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF, that may be later released as part of e-book or print collections. The story line featured currently is part one of “Mysteries of the Phoenix,” which will run Saturdays and Sundays over the next three weekends as part of a SUMMER SPECIAL run. This is Part Two.
Gilly definitely had a strong response for Phoenix, one that proved tough to argue against from a business perspective.
“While your father writing for female readers may have been a point of curiosity as you were growing up, it’s out of favor now. Being the daughter of Stern Rayner does not give you leverage any more. As for my own reputation, she pointed out it took us several years to fix the damage caused by your former Romance editor Lindsay Overmeier’s ill-guided decision to take advantage of your triplet pregnancy and get you to cross over to erotica with the help of her associate Wyatt Grey. Their further decision to try and make you and Internet video.star for it gave us even more to do damage control about. We took those books out of print and paid you to rewrite them all without the smut and re-marketed them with huge ad campaigns at no small expense to us. But instead of being grateful, you were careless. Now, as the publishing house finally just managed to get people to forget, you turn up pregnant with the children of your agent.”
“He’s not my agent anymore.”
Corbin Remington hadn’t been her agent since she’d gotten pregnant with her three daughters; the agency cut ties with Phoenix once they realized what path the publishing house intended to take her on. It was then she’d also learned Corbin cared about her and had romance on his mind until she’d ended up sizably pregnant after fooling around with multiple men. She’d gone on to be rescued from being used and abused by Lindsay and Wyatt by Bai, one of Wyatt’s sons, who’d gone on to join the Army since he couldn’t afford to pay for his schooling. Bai married her and became father to her girls, who by fate or luck or chance turned out to be his girls as well.
However, when the word came her husband Bai died overseas, Corbin rushed right to her side. In the heat of sorrow came passion, and with it their coming sons. Unfortunately, Corbin – who’d been engaged to be married at the time – didn’t find out about the children until after his marriage. Corbin’s new wife didn’t approve of the situation at all.
“I’m sure you still see the issue. Corbin Remington is now a married man, even if he wasn’t when the two of you had your passionate fling. Scandal seems to follow you everywhere, as if you are cursed with it.”
“Scandal and romance are often intertwined like dangerous lovers,” Phoenix replied. “It’s part of why I want to try making a transition out of romance and try romantic suspense. People might make the transition with me and you the main publisher could continue to benefit from my work. I have a romantic suspense manuscript I’ve done completely on my own, ready for review.”
“Have your agent send it to my desk.”
This wasn’t the answer Phoenix expected.
“But I’m already in house.”
“You’re submitting for the first time to a different imprint. I am willing to see your work due to your past history with the company. However, you need representation. You’ve already said Corbin Remington is not your agent. Who is willing to take a chance on you now?”
Phoenix realized in the tone of Gilly’s voice she really didn’t intend to see the manuscript. Phoenix already betrayed she had no agent. This setup would be a strong argument to have rejected Phoenix for unbiased reasons.
Phoenix needed to consider how to respond.
Just then, her phone buzzed and she checked to see who it was.
A wave of panic races through. Susanne, Mom’s oldest and dearest friend, now had power of attorney over her mother Dawn’s affairs after her father’s unexpected passing. Susanne knew Phoenix had a meeting.
Something must be very wrong for Susanne to disturb her at a time like this.
“I’m sorry. I have to take this call,” Phoenix told Gilly.
“A competing publishing house interested in your manuscripts?” * replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
“No, family matters. I’ll be in touch.”
Phoenix slowly got up and stepped in to the hall as she started talking to Susanne. Without even acknowledging the receptionist, she walked past and in to the front courtyard.
“Susanne? Is my Mother all right?”
“She’s fine, but there’s a young woman here claiming she’s Dawn’s daughter. Features look like she’s maybe Greek, and I don’t know the language but I think she’s swearing in it too. Feisty one.”
“I know my mother spent time in Greece, taking care of her for a year until she died, while Dad raised us alone with Arianne’s help. Grandma had a young husband, Marios, who originally met Mom when they were young college students.”
“You don’t think?” Susanne asked.
Phoenix stroked her own belly, knowing right well she’d followed in her mother’s footsteps, rather by accident or design.
“We can’t rule it out. Mom’s mind is gone and Dad’s dead, so there’s only one person we know who might be aware of the truth, since you as my mother’s best friend don’t know.”
“You’re going to see Arianne? I didn’t think you two spoke anymore, not after learning she’d kept yet another secret from you.”
The secret referred to was the identity of twin children born to her late father from an affair he had while her mother lived in Greece. The fact they’d had two other children as her mother’s mind slipped into early Alzheimer’s she’d not been a fan of either.
“What choice do I have? She’s the only one besides you who has any idea what happened back then.”
Phoenix drove to Arianne’s house. As often as she’d driven to see her younger half-siblings, Phoenix knew the fastest routes. She just hoped to catch Arianne at home; this discussion would we too complicated for e-mail or phone.
As she pulled up, Phoenix saw a car in the driveway she did not recognize, along with Arianne’s. Getting out, she made her way over to the unknown car and examined it closer. It appeared to be a rental.
Having someone who didn’t know her complicated family background proved far from convenient, but Phoenix knew she couldn’t let this wait. She headed for the door and rang the bell.
No answer at first. She knew Arianne likely didn’t just abandon her vehicle, so she rang again.
Finally, the door flung open.
“I don’t want any more surprises for one day!” grumbled Arianne. Then she looked up, and frowned.
“Phoenix. Now is not a good time.”
“Phoenix?” she heard an older male voice say, with a prominent Greek accent.”As in the author Cassandra Rayner?”
“I had it legally changed. I’m Phoenix Cassandra-Dawn Rayner now. And you don’t seem like the type to be in my demographic as a fan. Show yourself.”
The older Greek gentleman stepped forward. He appeared to be her mother Dawn’s age.
“I am Marios. I came looking for my daughter, Moira. She and her friends came here together on a summer trip, but returned at summer’s end without her. They said she was intent on finding her mother and intentionally missed the flight.”
“I doubt either of us can help find her, as I’ve been trying to tell you over and over,” Arianne told Marios as she tried to shove him out the door.
Phoenix held up a hand to stop them both.
“I can tell you where Moira is. First, you owe me some explanations. You were married to my grandmother. How did you and my mother come to have Moira, and why were we never told about her?”