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Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan PDF

Author: Julia Whelan

Publisher: Avon


Publish Date: August 2, 2022

ISBN-10: 0063243156

Pages: 432

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

THINGS WERE HEATING UP WITH NO POSSIBILITY OF COOLING DOWN. Not this time. She could see it in his eyes. His pupils were throbbing. The gentleman of the last three weeks was gone. He was now anything but gentle. He was all man.

Their eyes were locked and loaded. He raised his hand and flattened it against her white silk blouse. Her heartbeat grabbed at it. He kissed her, hotly, wetly, then took hold of her straddled hips and lifted her off him. She gave a startled cry as he flipped her–

“Something to drink?”

–onto her back on his expensive crepe de Chine couch.


“We shouldn’t be doing this,” he growled. “You’re my intern. And Grandfather insists I marry Caroline.”

“Something to drink?”

The long-suffering tone broke through and Sewanee Chester, startled window seat occupant, whipped off her noise-canceling headphones as if they were on fire. “What? Sorry! What?”

“Something to drink?”

“Uh. Just water. Please.”


“Uh, just–please.”

She dropped her tray and the flight attendant passed her the water. Before Sewanee could thank her, the woman on the aisle turned to her daughter in the middle seat and asked, in the squeaky, love-dripping voice used interchangeably for pets and children, “Anything to driiiiink?”


“What kiiiiind of juice?”

Sewanee slipped her headphones back on and realized she hadn’t stopped the audiobook. The blouse was off now. She sighed, paused it, connected to the in-flight Wi-Fi, and texted Mark:

Good morning. I hate you.

She hit send and sipped her water.

Twenty seconds later, he replied:

I gave you one of the well-reviewed ones!


His pupils are throbbing, Mark. His PUPILS.

While Mark typed (bubbles, bubbles, bubbles . . . he was pushing seventy, she cut him some slack), Sewanee drank.


Don’t be a snob. Not all of us have English prof fathers honey.


this has nothing to do with snobbery. OR my father. This has to do with ANATOMY.

Mark ignored this:

Really appreciate you filling in.


Anything for you. How’s the foot?


Still broken. How’s you?


I want to change the name of the panel.


What’s wrong with Faking it: Narrating Love and Sex in Romance Novels?


I was thinking . . . Narrating Romance Novels: How to Give Good Aural.

She finished the water, tipping her head all the way back. The ice cubes mounted their escape, ramming her teeth so forcefully water shot down her neck and onto her shirt.

“You spilled!”

Sewanee smiled tightly at the child while setting her cup down in the circular playpen at the corner of the tray. Had that little lip ever prevented cups from overturning during turbulence? She wanted the numbers on that.


I know how you feel about Romance but you’ll get threw this. Just please take it seriously.



Over the PA, a male flight attendant announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I know we just finished service, but in a few minutes, we’ll be starting our descent into Las Vegas. At this time, we’ll need you to put away all electronic devices–”

Sewanee looked down at her phone. Mark had finished typing.


The fans are insane. You should see the facebook groups. You don’t no.


*know. We talked about this. I get it.


ducking autocorrect! This is BiblioCon! 50K attendees and the Romance pavilion is at least a third of them.

“Ma’am, I need you to put up your tray.”

Sewanee did.

“I also need you to put your seat up.”

“It won’t go up.” Sewanee kept typing into her phone.

The flight attendant reached across the mother and child to yank Sewanee’s seat forward. The little girl turned to help her for a moment, then threw her sticky hands up in defeat. “It won’t go up!”

“Thank you,” Sewanee muttered.

“Welcome,” she replied.


Mark, I said I get it. Big! Yuge! You get a book and you get a book and you get a book!


And don’t forget to enjoy yourself, Oprah. Vegas, Baby! LOL.

Sewanee pulled up her e-mail and rechecked the overwhelming number of BiblioCon events. She narrowed it down to Romance programming and shuffled through author talks, signings, cocktail hours, and a silent auction for charity. She laughed out loud at one highlighted item: dinner with a male cover model. She then perused the plethora of panels on offer: Crossed Swords: Writing M/M Romance When You Don’t Have a Sword of Your Own; How to Write Period Clothing and How to Take It Off; and, of course, her own panel on audiobook production that Mark–her mentor, boss, and landlord–would have been moderating himself if he hadn’t run over his foot with his own car two days ago. That red Karmann Ghia, Sal, was the closest thing Mark had had to a long-term relationship since he’d fled San Francisco in it fifteen years ago. After his partner, Julio, died.

She’d been happy to help him out with BiblioCon, but there were two problems. Maybe three. While she was essentially Mark’s Girl Friday, helping him run the recording studio he operated out of his home in the Hollywood Hills in exchange for living in its hillside guesthouse, she wasn’t an audiobook producer like Mark; she was a narrator. The second problem was she was a narrator who didn’t narrate Romance. She’d done it in the beginning when she was cutting her teeth, recorded it under a pseudonym as many narrators did, but once her career took off, she’d retired her alias, quit Romance, and never looked back. Lastly, she wasn’t even a fan of the genre.

She didn’t belong in the Romance pavilion.

She double-checked the info Mark had forwarded her. She had nothing until tomorrow. The panel in the morning, then booth duty on the general convention floor for the rest of the day, answering authors’ questions about audiobook production. A quick flight back on Sunday afternoon. An easy forty-eight hours of her life. Plus, she got to be in Vegas at the same time as her best friend, who had also been roped into attending the conference. But for very different reasons.

“Are you a pirate?”

Sewanee startled, turned to the little girl, and found her staring.

The mother startled, too. “Hannah!”

“She looks like a pirate.”

The mother took her child into a hug, conveniently muzzling her. “You’ll have to forgive her. She’s four.”

“I’m almost gonna be five!” Hannah sounded like she was arguing into a pillow.

“It’s okay.” Sewanee gave her an indulgent smile. “No, I’m not a pirate.”

Hannah wriggled out of her mother’s chokehold and turned fully to Sewanee. “But you have a patch on your eye.”

“Hannah.” Sharper this time. By Los Angeles parenting standards, it might have been considered stern. She pivoted toward her daughter, scooting to the edge of her seat, loosening her seat belt, getting directly in front of her child and on her level, as she’d probably been coached to do. A teaching moment was upon them. “We don’t ask strangers personal questions, sweetness. You’re so, so, so smart, and I cherish your curiosity, but we respect people’s privacy, mmkay?” The high-pitched pet voice was back.

Hannah turned toward Sewanee again. “But why do you have it?”

Her mother turned her back around. “Now, see, Banana Bread, that’s a personal question, isn’t it?”

“Don’t call me Banana Bread, I told you. I hate it.”

“I’m sorry.”

Hannah wriggled back to Sewanee. “Are you hurt?”

One more Hail Mary, “Hannah!” But Sewanee was used to this line of questioning. She supposed it was refreshing that, at the moment, it wasn’t coming from a drunk guy in a bar.

“Nope. Not anymore.”

“But, but, if you’re not hurt, why is it got–”

That said, Sewanee’s patience extended only so far. “I’d love to keep talking to you,” she said, tapping the Bluetooth headphones around her neck, “but I need to finish my work.” She glanced at the mother for parental assistance.

“Oh, of course! Four is just such a curious age–”


Sewanee shook her head. “It’s totally fine. I’m just on deadline and if I don’t finish listening to this, I could end up looking for a new job.”

Blame the improv background, the acting training, a childhood living in stories, but Sewanee could lie. Easily. To herself as much as anyone else. She lifted the headphones off her neck and secured them over her ears. She pressed play on her phone. No sound. She turned up the volume. Still nothing. She turned it all the way up.

In her peripheral vision, she saw the mother clasp her hands over Hannah’s ears, pull her into her narrow chest, and bug her eyes at Sewanee.


God, no.

She ripped the headphones off in time to hear, at full volume:

“He thrust her legs apart, splaying her open, exposing her secret place to his throbbing eyes. Already pulsing, glistening, her generous–”

Sewanee stabbed so fiercely at the pause button the phone shot to the floor. She scrambled for it, the audiobook continuing:

“‘Say it,’ he growled. ‘I want to hear you say it.’ He gave her one quick, teasing lick. She moaned. ‘Say you want my–’”

The phone had fallen under Hannah’s dangling, light-up Disney-princess sneakers. Sewanee grabbed it, jerked upright, and–in three stabs–stopped the audiobook . . . just after the word “cock.”

She stared down at the phone, ignoring the glare drilling into her temple. She took, what she hoped, was a casual-seeming breath. Then, as if nothing had happened (denial was another skill she’d honed), she turned fully away from mother and child and looked out the window.

Once she’d focused, actually took in the view their descent offered, she concluded Las Vegas had a rather flaccid look during the day. All that nighttime neon was like Vegas Viagra.

She shifted in her seat. Who takes a kid to Las Vegas, anyway? she thought righteously, if irrationally. Great parenting. She knew mothers like that. Hell, she had a mother like that. Soft, over-loving. She’d been raised the way Hannah was being raised. West side of L.A. (you could tell by the mother’s ropey yoga arms, her rootless dye job, her thoroughly moisturized skin), schools with feelings, parents who wanted the best for their child while ensuring their child was the best. Who said you could be anything, do anything, dreams do come true, you’re special, you’re anointed. Just be nice to everyone, respect everyone, tell the truth, work hard, and everything will fall into place. You will live happily ever after.

Well, good luck with that, Hannah.

Because this is how it actually goes.

A stunningly average woman the wrong side of thirty on her way to Vegas, wearing an eye patch, sitting in a broken seat, listening to porn.

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