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The invitation was to a resort he’d never been to in a town he’d likewise never visited.  Though it was in his home state Kyle Sutter had heard of the place, called “The Mountain Resort”.

But they were offering him the sum of $500,000 to come up for a weekend, next weekend, and give a few talks about his books and his writing process.  Though he was well-off and it was short notice, he wasn’t about to turn his nose up to such a large sum for so little work.

He pulled out his phone and dialed up his agent, Wyatt Dixon.  “Hey Kyle, what’s the word?” Wyatt answered after two rings.

“What is with this invitation you sent me?  Why would a literary conference be paying so much for two days work?”

“I guess they’re big fans of yours, champ,” Wyatt said.  “I already RSVP’d for you and said you’d be there.  I knew you wouldn’t pass on an offer like that.”

“Your cut of fifty k probably didn’t hurt you wanting to close on the deal, either.  But that’s fine – you’re right, I wouldn’t have passed on it anyhow. “

“Well that’s good to hear, you need me to take care of the travel arrangements?  The place is on the other side of the state, if you hadn’t checked.”

“I’ll book a flight,” Kyle said.  “It just seems too good to be true.  And you know what they say about that.”

“Well, they agreed to pay up front a couple of days before the conference, so we’ll know before you have to leave.  I think they just really wanted to get you for the conference.”

“I guess.  I have to do some editing, I’ll talk to you later Wyatt.”

“Have a good one champ.  Call me up if you have anything else at all.”

“Will do.”  He hung up the phone.

By Wednesday the group had the check to Wyatt, and his bank account was $450,000 fatter.  “It just seems too easy,” he said as he took the check from Wyatt.

“No rule that says it’s gotta be hard,” Wyatt said, and then had to go to take a call from one of the other writers he represented.

When Kyle got home he got online and bought the cheapest tickets to Seattle he could, having held off on getting them until he had the cash for the convention in his hands.  The deal had just seemed too good to be true, but apparently it wasn’t.  He’d rent a car and drive from Seattle to the resort, a distance of around fifty miles.

That night he sat down to do his usual writing, but couldn’t concentrate enough to get more than a few paragraphs down.  Even with the cash sitting in his bank account, and all the correspondence Wyatt had done with whoever was running the convention, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off about the whole setup.

Though it was a bit later than he usually ever called him, Kyle fished his phone out of his pocket and dialed up Wyatt.

“Hey buddy, what’s up?  You ready for the trip tomorrow?” Wyatt answered.

“Yeah, I mean I have my ticket ready and my bags packed up.  Something just doesn’t feel right about the whole thing still.  I have a weird feeling about this.”

“This again?  Let’s not spit luck in the face.  And besides, contracts have been signed.  They could sue us if we back out now.”

Something came to Kyle.  “Well why are they paying me this much for an appearance that they’ve had like what, less than a week to schedule?  They contacted us a week before this convention starts.  How would they even have time to advertise it?”

“Maybe Stephen King pulled out or something, how should I know?  Look buddy, this is going to be great, just relax.  You cruise in and out of there, have a bit of a weekend vacation, and you earn half of what you do in a year.  It’s going to be fine.”

“I guess,” Kyle said.  “If this turns out to be a cannibal cult or something it’s on you, though.”  He hung up the phone.

He had a hard time going to sleep that night.  He kept thinking about the convention, how it didn’t seem to makes sense.  He supposed that Dean Koontz or someone could have dropped out and he was taking their place, but a week before the event?  It seemed very unprofessional, and he couldn’t see any writer who could command half a mil for a weekend appearance doing something like that, his second thoughts about the trip notwithstanding.

Not to mention that he wasn’t nearly at a level to command that kind of speaking fee.  If whoever had hired him had done ten minutes of online research, they would have found Wyatt’s number and found out from him that they could have had Kyle for 10 percent of the price, if that.

He worried for an hour or two, and drifted off to sleep without knowing it.  When his alarm woke him up five hours later it was as if only a few minutes had passed.

He called a taxi to take him down to the airport.  It arrived quickly, and he hauled his luggage out of the house and down and got in.

Trying to remember all of the things that were odd with the trip on the ride to Spokane International Airport, he found he was too tired from the little sleep he’d gotten to give it hard thought.  He ended up taking a short nap for most of the drive.

They arrived at the airport and the cab driver helped him unload his luggage from the trunk.  He paid the driver and walked into the airport.

It was a short wait in line to check in.  The airport had few people in it, this early in the morning Spokane’s lone international airport was never very busy.

“Greetings sir, is it just you today?” the check in attendant, a pretty middle-aged woman, said when he got to the front of the line.

“Yep.  And just the carry-on bag.”  Kyle pointed to the small rolling suitcase he had, which was just small enough to fit into the test-sized carry-on bins at the rear of the line that people could put their bags in to see if they fit the dimensions required to not have to be checked.

“Looks good sir,” she said, eyeing the bag.  “Just set it on the scale in front of you, and I’ll slap some stickers on it, and you’ll be off.”

He grabbed breakfast, a ham, egg and cheese croissant, and coffee from one of the airport’s restaurants, and then went and sat down in a chair by his terminal.

Sipping his coffee, he downed his sandwich as he waited.  When he’d finished the sandwich and the drink he threw the garbage away, but when he came back to reclaim his seat he found that an older, obese man had taken it, and had already near fallen asleep in the thirty seconds it had taken Kyle to walk to the garbage can and back.

Retrieving his suitcase from underneath the seat next to the man, he looked around the increasingly busy airport for a place to sit.  He spotted a free chair next to a stunningly beautiful blonde.  She was wearing jeans and a fur-trimmed leather coat.  She was blonde, with a smattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose that Kyle found particularly alluring.

He sat down in the chair and placed his bag under the seat.  He pulled the novel he had his bag, opened it up, and started reading.

“Jacobson, eh?  I really love his stuff,” a voice said.  He lowered the novel to see that it was the pretty blonde in the next seat.

“Yes, I’ve read all of his stuff.  This books is shaping up to be his best yet, so far,” Kyle replied.

“I’ve already read it, but I’ll try to not give you any spoilers.  Are you on the same flight?” she said, nodding her head to the reader board that read “Seattle”.

“Yep, that’s why I’m here,” he said.  He could feel his face stating to flush.  He never knew how to talk to beautiful women.

She squinted at him.  “Wait a minute,” she said.  “Are you Kyle Sutter?”

His face flushed further.  So she knew his books.  “That I am.”

She grinned.  “Wow, that’s awesome!  Fancy running into you here.”

“Yep, I’m flying up to Seattle so that I can head to a writing convention that’s in the area and give a couple of speeches.”

“Of course, I’d heard you were coming,” she said.  “I should have thought of it.  I’m going up for the Cold Resort writing convention too.” She trembled with excitement and gave a little half-dance of excitement.  “This is so cool that we’re on the same flight!”

The plane was delayed for half an hour, and by the time they were getting up to board the plane he and the woman, Stephanie, were like old friends.  There was something about her that made him feel like he’d known her his whole life.  She was just one of those people.

“You know, I’m actually a bit of a fan of yours.  I’ve read at least four of your books I can think of,” she said guiltily as they got in line to board.

“You don’t say.”  He’d figured that out as soon as she recognized him.  He wasn’t nearly famous enough in his writing yet to be recognized by someone who wasn’t already intimately familiar with the picture of him on the back of his novels.

“Yes, I really loved The Cold Hilltop.  Joaquin was one of the most terrifying characters I’ve ever read, right up there with Frankenstein.  Such a heartless psychopath.”

“Thanks.  It’s always hard to know how to take compliments over writing a character that is a complete monster,” he said, and gave a short laugh.  He wondered if she was single, but couldn’t think of a subtle way to ask.

They boarded the plane and walked back towards their seats together, Kyle regretting that he’d have to part ways with Stephanie and resolving to find her the second they got off the plane.

Only he didn’t have to worry about it.  It turned out they were sitting right next to each other, on one side of aisle K.  “Looks like this is fated to be,” Stephanie said, taking her seat next to the window and giving him a broad, eager grin.

He was ecstatic.  He was going to have a beautiful redhead next to him the whole flight.  A man couldn’t ask for more.  Not one of his persuasion, anyhow.

“So, you excited for the convention?” Stephanie said as they waited for the plane to start.

“A bit.  It was kind of short notice for me, so I don’t really know what to expect,” Kyle said.

“Aw, really?  You weren’t planning on coming or something?”

“I didn’t even know about the convention.   I just found out about it two days ago, otherwise I’m sure I’m sure I would have already been planning on going,” he said, lying in hopes to get closer to her.

“Well it is kind of an exclusive group.  Or it was – it’s really blown up the last few years,” she said.

He opened his mouth to say something, but had to take a moment to admire her face.  Stephanie was, more or less, his ideal woman.  Thick, straight, shoulder-length blonde hair, green eyes, a perpetual look on her face like she was up to something, a spot of faint freckles on the bridge of her nose, and lips that seemed to be always smiling.  She was absolutely stunning.

“It sounds great, I’m really happy I decided to come,” he said.  “It sounds like it’s going to be a great weekend.”

The plane started moving, positioning itself to take off.  “So you’re going to have a whole day before the convention at the resort, any idea what you’re going to do?” Stephanie said.

“Take in the sights, I suppose,” Kyle said.  “I’m not very good at skiing, but I suppose I might give it another try.”

“Maybe-“ Stephanie started, but suddenly quit talking, frowning and wrinkling her forehead.

“What?”

“I don’t know, I was thinking that maybe we could hang out?  I’m a pretty decent skier, maybe I could give you some tips?”

He smiled.  “That sounds like it would be wonderful.”

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