Hello Mr. Carter?” Shari asked, tentatively holding her hand out in greeting.
“Yes that’s me.” Jarod said, taking her hand and shaking it. Her skin was noticeably soft. When he let go of her he surreptitiously rubbed his chin with the same hand and detected a hint of honeysuckle coming from it.
“You must be Ms. Dunham,” he said. She nodded her head and smiled briefly. “I didn’t think of it until this moment, but I guess I should mention it so we have full disclosure before the interview: Jake Carter is actually my pen name.”
“So you’re saying that you don’t tell the people who buy your books what your real name is?” Shari said, after a moment’s pause.
Removing her sunglasses, she revealed almond-shaped golden brown eyes and incredibly long, dark lashes for someone with no eye makeup on. In fact now that he had an opportunity to examine her face more closely Jarod realized that with the exception of a hint of lip gloss on her very full, perfectly shaped mauve lips she didn’t wear any makeup at all.
“I’d have put it differently but I suppose that does cut to the heart of it, yes.”
“May I know your real name?” She asked. “I mean for the article.”
“I’m happy to tell you the name I was born with. But I’d prefer it if you kept my real name as well as the professional life I have using that name, off the record to your readers. Can you accept those terms?”
“On one condition,” she said without hesitation, “I’ll need you to tell me honestly why you use a pen name at all.”
Jarod looked at her for a moment, wondering if she was always this direct and unwavering in her dealings. “That seems fair enough.”
“Great, then I’d love to get started if you don’t mind. I’ve got a few errands to run before the welcome reception tonight.”
“I made a reservation at the restaurant in the hotel,” he said, raising his arm to indicate the way she should go. ”I was told by people I trust that the food is good and I’m pretty hungry. How ‘bout you?”
“I could eat something,” she admitted. “I came here straight from the airport. There was a delay with my flight so I barely got a chance to drop my suitcase in the room before we were scheduled to meet.”
“I wish I had known. I could have moved things around for you. Are you staying here?”
Shari stopped and looked around at the somewhat opulent lobby and said, “Oh no Mr. Carter, this is a little beyond the expense budget of a freelance journalist.”
“Is it?” Jarod hoped he hadn’t insulted her. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it but he couldn’t help feeling that she was measuring him with a very short ruler. “I’m sorry; I don’t know much about this hotel or any in the area really.”
“Where are you staying while the convention is in town then?” She asked inquisitively.
“Actually I live here. And my name is Jarod, by the way, Jarod Prentiss. Please call me Jarod.”
“Hmmm . . . I’d rather call you Jake if that’s okay? It’ll be easier for me to keep my promise — you know — to keep that side of you off the record, if I continue using your pen name. And you can call me by my real name, Shari.”
“Of course, Shari it is.” Jarod said, feeling simultaneously admonished and strangely disappointed that he wouldn’t hear what it sounded like to have her call him by his real name. What it would look like to see that mouth form the word and say Jarod.