Fiction Break: Eroticon, Part 1 of 3
The banner over the hotel’s convention hall entrance read, “ErotiCon 2004.” A chubby, winged cupid in pink silhouette chased a pair of figures on either side of the text, his arrow drawn. The figures were holding pens. At least, Kimberly thought they were pens. It was possible the Erotic Writer’s Convention had gotten a lot more graphic in just twelve months.
She laughed softly at her own joke and made her way through the milling crowd before the convention center doors. The event wasn’t scheduled to open for another hour, but there were plenty of early birds hunting autographs and jockeying for position in line.
One young man stopped her and asked her to sign the book he carried. He was cute, maybe twenty. She smiled and took the hardbound copy of Passion Pirates from him, gritting her teeth a little. She’d always hated that title, but the publisher had insisted. She’d always hated the book jacket photo of her, too.
“You’re a lot hotter than your picture,” he smiled, showing perfect teeth.
“Did you like it?” she nodded towards the book, trying hard not to frown.
“It’s for my girlfriend,” he smiled again, blushing. “She likes your stuff. I’m not into romance.” He walked off.
“Pity,” she muttered to herself. “You might learn something.”
At the doors she showed her pass to the security guard in his blue blazer. The man perked up a bit as he looked her up and down. Raven-black hair swept both sides of her face, touching her shoulders, while the tasteful business suite she wore with a low-cut cream-colored blouse tapered to a skirt that was shorter and tighter than it needed to be. She thought she caught him eying the curves of her legs before his eyes went back to the picture on her card and then to her face.
“Go ahead, miss,” he smiled.
Points for that, she thought. She hated to be called “ma’am.” She was thirty-one years old and single, which made her, in the words of her last boyfriend, “young, hot, and successful.” Now if only she could meet someone who was straight, employed, and not completely neurotic, she wouldn’t feel like she was a complete fraud the next time she turned in a manuscript for Heart’s Desire Press. Bestselling erotica from an author who hadn’t so much as dated in months – now that was irony.
The convention center floor was a maze of tables and booths. She caught sight of the big, pink HDP logo from several rows back and threaded her way past the elevated runway jutting out from the stage at the back of the hall. According to the itinerary, Fashion Fantasies of Toronto was sponsoring a lingerie show for each of the three days of the convention. Kimberly’s mild interest in the show evaporated when she remembered she had no one for whom to wear the latest in lace teddies.
“Stop! Wait!” she heard a frantic voice behind her. She turned and almost ran into the breathless man who had called. He was tall and slim, with sandy blonde hair, wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt with the sleeves pushed up and a worn, snug-fitting pair of Levis. The khaki vest draped on his shoulders bulged with film canisters and other gear. An expensive camera was hanging around his neck.
“Sorry,” he breathed, holding up a hand, “but have you ever considered modeling? You’re absolutely gorgeous. I…” His eyes went to the pass on her jacket and his face fell. “Oh,” he said, sounding almost sad. “You’re Kimberly Ransom.”
“Most people are a little happier to meet me,” she smiled.
“Oh! No, I didn’t mean it that way,” he sputtered.
“It’s okay,” she laughed, taking pity on him. “I know you didn’t.”
“It’s just that I thought maybe you were one of the Fashion Fantasy people. Famous authors aren’t likely to pose for me. It’s a shame,” he added wistfully, “because you’d be perfect.”
She laughed again. He was cute and he seemed almost hungry to take her photo. “Perfect for what, exactly?”
He handed her a business card from the small stack in one pocket of his vest. Raised lettering on the card proclaimed him “Ron Urich: Erotic Photographer.” She raised an eyebrow at him.
“It’s very tasteful,” he said, as if apologizing. That got them both laughing.
“Nice to meet you, Ron,” she shook his hand. His fingers were long and well-groomed. “This is me.” She indicated the nearby pink booth, which was already set up with a display of her latest release, Between the Silky Sheets. She could live with that title, she supposed.
The tantalizing smell of chocolate hung in the air. A couple of tables down across the aisle, the Chocolate Cherub took up two booths worth of space. Kimberly had heard of the place; it was a Toronto confectionary well known for its ribald chocolates. She wasn’t sure on what occasions one gave chocolates in the shape of… well, whatever. Bachelorette parties, perhaps.
Just then a shrill shout carried from the Cherub booth. “Bob’s Sexy Fruity Chocolates?” You’ve got to be kidding, Bob.” Curious, Kimberly walked over, passing several convention presenters carrying bundles of fliers or boxes of various products to their tables. Ron followed. An attractive blonde in a red suit much like Kimberly’s, though her skirt was even shorter and her high heels even higher, was giggling furiously as she held up a bright red box of chocolates. The flustered fellow behind the table was apparently Bob himself.
“Bob, you’re a dear,” the blonde laughed, “but that’s a stupid name. It sounds like something you’d win at a carnival.”
“Being one of my regulars, Ellen,” Bob intoned, “does not give you the right to make fun of me.” Kimberly approached to see what the fuss was all about. The blonde – Ellen – looked her up and down the way the doorman had, her cherry-red lips curving up into a smile.
“Hello there,” she said. “You’re Kimberly Ransom.”
“I am,” Kimberly said, extending her hand.
“Ellen Davis,” Ellen replied, stroking Kimberly’s hand. Her nails matched her suit and her lipstick.
“The sex therapist?” Ron asked from behind Kimberly. Ellen turned to him and shook his hand, too.
“You’ve heard of me?” she asked Ron, still holding his hand.
“I have your book, Liberating Your Love Life,” he said. He looked deep into her eyes as he said it. Kimberly watched, fascinated. Ellen held Ron’s gaze and still had not let go of his hand.