Saturday, 2 February 2013

Writer's Guest Room: Red by Madeline Apple

Hey readers!

Our friends over at Courtesan Press have just released their first 50 Shades of Fairy Tales, and we'd like to welcome the author, Madeline Apple, to our Writer's Guest Room. Sit back and enjoy an excerpt from Red.

Authors, would you like to be a guest in the Writer's Guest Room? Send us an email at: We look forward to hosting you soon! Writer's Guest Room will be an informal feature on the blog which will run at random times, but authors may request specific dates as well.

50 Shades of Fairy Tales: Red
Madeline Apple

About: Sadie “Red” Redner is awakened in the middle of the night by word of her grandmother’s illness. She’s hesitant to accept a ride from her hard-nosed boss, Frank Lupo, but faced with no alternatives, she finds herself sharing a jeep with a real wolf who works hard and plays harder.

Excerpt: Frank Lupo was the type of guy you fell in love with at first sight—and then quickly learned the error of your ways. I know because I was one of the stupid ones who did, the first day on the job, no less.

Frank was my boss and half owner of Lupo & Mayer, Accountants. He was tall and powerfully built, with the lean, broad physique of a guy who had probably done track in high school and football in college. He wore his perfectly black hair slicked back Mafioso-style and his goatee trimmed and tight. His eyes were icy blue and his teeth the porcelain white of a man with good genetics as opposed to a good dentist. He looked like the devil, if the devil was an accountant. He wore no wedding ring, though he did have a football ring from Rutgers University. Real movie-star material, I thought dreamily that first day I found myself working in one of the biggest accounting firms in New York City. 

The competition for the job had been fierce, and I had only gotten in due to good timing. The last girl had been caught embezzling money and I had just put my resume in, thinking nothing would come of it. At twenty-four, I didn’t think I would actually get it. But suddenly there I was at Lupo & Mayer, crunching numbers. Naturally, that first week I was careful, checking and double checking my work. The last thing I needed was an error on the books. The following Monday, Frank called me into his executive suite office and told me to sit down.

I honestly thought he meant to compliment me, stupid me, but as he sat down and I concentrated on not gaping at him like some lovestruck teenager, he said, “You work too slow, Sadie.”

“I’m…sorry?” Maybe I hadn’t heard him right.

He scooped some papers out of the file folder that I had delivered to him before the weekend. “I appreciate you graduated top of your class, and you obviously have a knack for numbers, but, Redner, you finished two accounts last week. If I had shown these to my partner, he would have canned you before the weekend.” His voice was steady and boomed around his plush, white luxury office. He put off a kind of fission as he slapped the folder down in front of me like some kind of a displeased professor put off by a project of mine.

I felt my face burn with shame and anger—shame that I had let him down, anger at being called Redner, like he was my coach back in high school. His lips pursed together, hiding his big, strong teeth, and his eyes narrowed to laser points. I thought of some big predator stalking a deer deep in the wood and the thought made me hyperaware of my body, the way my hose rubbed between my legs. My fingers pressed nervously into my sweating palms.

He lifted his chin in a gesture I could only call arrogant. “If you want to run with the big dogs someday, Redner, you’re going to need to step it up.”

I wanted to tell him I’d done my best, and I’d made no mistakes. It took me three tries to get the words out. “All right.”

As always, I never got mad fast enough, and I always let everything bother me afterward. I knew what I would do next. I would thank him and then step out of his office, dutifully reprimanded but smiling at all my coworkers as if nothing had happened. Then I would go home and overeat and cry into my pillow as all the loose parts of my self-confidence fell apart. I was the same way in high school and college. I was the same way in all my relationships. That was me, Sadie Redner, human doormat.

At least I had the good grace to not cry when I got back to my desk. But later that day, as I was leaving, Frank called me back into his office. I was shaking and I nearly collapsed to the floor as he let me back in. Had he found an error in my hastily performed work? Or maybe I still wasn’t fast enough, even though I had knocked out a whole account in a day.

“Thanks for staying after, Sadie,” he said as he walked around his desk and picked up the file folder I had just delivered. He flipped it open and I felt my heart as it started banging around my chest. He glanced down at my figures, then up at my face. “Good work. And see, you can work fast and not make any errors.”

I nearly sobbed with relief. He noted my expression and said, “Look...Red…I have to be hard on you. My partner’s a nervous man, and we’ve never taken on someone as young as you are. I don’t want to see you out on the street. It’s nothing personal.”

I swallowed and nodded. He stared at me with an intensity that left me feeling pinned down and a little vulnerable, but at the same time, hopeful. I hated him for being so confident, but at the same time, I envied him. So when he asked to walk me down to the lobby, I scrambled for my coat and satchel like a desperate idiot.

I’d only had two boyfriends, one in high school and one in college that I’d actually slept with. Neither of my relationships had ended well, and after my boyfriend in college left me for my best friend, I had vowed not to fall for a pretty face again.

On the way down in the elevator, Frank asked me how I was liking New York.

“How do you know I don’t come from New York?” I asked.

“You have a Pennsylvania Dutch accent,” Frank noted, and I felt my face flush for the second time that day. “Are you Amish?” he asked. He sounded genuinely interested. “Or were you?”

Oh god. I hated talking about this. It made me feel like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. “No,” I immediately told him. “My grandmother and I just grew up in Lancaster, is all. There’s a large Pennsylvania Dutch settlement there.” I didn’t mention that Gramma was an ex-Amish and that she had largely raised me alone.

I tried not to talk too much the rest of the way down.

When we stepped out into the lobby, I immediately saw a beautiful, sleek woman in a smart suit and swing coat from Saks Fifth Avenue heading our way. She was carrying a Prada clutch purse. I was still about five years away from owning anything Prada. She immediately linked her arm through Frank’s and leaned down to whisper something in his ear, something that made Frank grin in his wolfish way. The two hurried toward a limo waiting for them in the curb outside the building, both their coats flying.

It was the emotional equivalent of having a cold pail of water dumped over my head. Then I wondered what I had been expecting. Frank was so much older than I was, sophisticated. I was a country girl at heart. We had nothing in common.

I hurried out into the street, trying not to gape and look like a tourist. I had only been living in New York a few months and its vastness and speed still took my breath away.

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