I strip naked and swim. I love the feel of the water over my skin, the sound it makes as it rushes past my ears.
Fuck, I even love the way it smells.
After the last lap, I climb out and brace my hands on my knees, panting and dripping water all over the concrete floor. I reach for a towel, dry off, and pull my clothes back on. I stop in the kitchen to grab an energy drink on my way to my office.
Two hours later, there’s a knock on my door, pulling me out of the story. I save the document and walk to the front door, surprised to see Jillian standing there, white plastic bags dangling from her hands and a big grin on her pretty face.
“I’ve come with provisions, per Ty’s orders.”
“What did you bring?” I step back and let her breeze past me, shut the door, and follow her to the kitchen.
“He said you’re writing tonight, and you forget to eat, so he made me bring you some homemade soup from Mrs. King, sandwiches from Mrs. Blakely’s deli, and chocolate-chip cookies that I baked, but don’t get too impressed because they’re the ones you buy in the store and just bake in the oven.”
“Thank you.” I’m amazed at the spread before me. I’m mortified to feel tears gathering in my eyes as I remember how frustrated I was at Ty earlier and how I ran as soon as things got rough. “I wasn’t very nice to him earlier.”
“He’ll be okay.” Jill waves and unpacks her bags. “I know you’re busy, so I’ll get out of your hair. Just eat the soup while it’s hot. The rest will keep until later.”
She kisses my cheek and bustles back toward the door. I hear the door shut behind her.
I take the soup and the plastic spoon that Nancy King remembered to include back to my office and reach for my phone.
Thank you, I text to Ty.
I eat the soup quickly, not wanting to lose the momentum of the story and eyeing the clock. I have nine hours to finish.
I flick on the desk lamp, pull my feet up under me in my chair, and dive back into the story. I’m vaguely aware of my phone pinging with incoming texts, but I ignore it and focus on the task at hand.
When I’m in this mode, there is no interrupting me.
I work without moving for the next two hours, until I type the words The End. Then, without a pause, I scroll up the document to the very beginning and read it straight through, looking for typos and awkward words, tweaking here and there until I’m completely happy with it.
There will be edits and revisions after my editor reads it, but for now I’m content knowing that it’s as perfect as I can make it.
I open my e-mail and compose a note to her, attach the book, and send it off, then check the time.
It’s five in the morning here in Montana, so I managed to sneak it in two hours early.
I mentally give myself a high five and stand, stretching my arms high above my head and then down to my toes, trying to loosen my muscles.
I should have installed a hot tub long ago, for moments just like this.
I check my phone and see that I’ve missed texts from Cara and Jill. Nothing from Ty.
Cara: I don’t have class until 9 tomorrow. Meet Jill and me at Sips for coffee at 7:30?
And the next one is from Jill an hour later: Meet us for coffee at 7:30 or I’ll come find you!
I chuckle and quickly type a reply, hoping I don’t wake them.
Me: See you there!
I pad into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of celebratory wine, raise the glass in salute, and take a long sip.
I wish Ty were here.
If Ty were here, he’d celebrate with me, most likely while we’re both naked and he’s inside me, rather than with just a glass of wine that tastes like it’s on its way to being stale.
I think about calling him, but then quickly dismiss the idea. He’s probably still asleep, and we have some talking to do before we are okay again.
Taking my glass with me, I turn the kitchen light out, and as I walk toward the stairs, there’s a loud banging on my front door.
I grin to myself. Ty must have decided he couldn’t wait any longer to see me and come over before work.
Without looking out the peephole, I unarm the alarm and swing the door open wide. “I was hoping I’d see you—”
I come up short when I see that it’s an angry, snarling Jack standing on the porch.
“I fucking hate you,” he growls, and backhands me square across the cheek, sending me flying back into the foyer and the glass in my hand crashing to the floor. “Did you think I’d never find out?”
His words are slurred and I can smell the whiskey coming off him in waves as I try to scurry backward on my hands, unable to pull myself to my feet. I’m still seeing stars, for fuck sake.
He kicks me in the ribs twice, then pulls me to my feet by the hair and punches me in the nose before he pulls my face up to his. “Answer me, cunt.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I can’t breathe. I think my nose is broken. I can barely see the three Jacks standing right before me.
He bares his teeth in a snarl and pulls me, his hand still buried and gripped onto my hair, behind him to my office. He holds me up and points to the book covers on the wall.
“Peyton Adams, Lauren? Really? You made your fucking pen name the one we planned to name our daughter and your mom’s maiden name?”
I flinch and clench my mouth shut. How do I get out of this alive?
“I’m going to kill you, you selfish motherfucking bitch,” he breathes into my face, making me gag on his horrible, foul breath. “But first, I’m going to make you fucking suffer.”
“Being married to you was suffering, Jack.” My voice is raspy and my vision is tunneling quickly, but I pull myself together as much as possible. If I pass out now, I’ll never get out of here.
He balls his fist and punches me on the jaw, snapping my head back. I can taste the coppery essence of blood as I pull my head back around to glare at him, blinking furiously.
“You owe me a whole fucking slew of money.” He spits on me, then pushes me back against my desk. I brace myself with my hands, panting, tears rolling down my face from the shot to my nose, and watching him as he turns away and tears one of my covers off the wall, shattering it on the ground. “I can’t believe you like to write books about fucking,” he sneers, and laughs over at me before he pulls the next cover off the wall. “You were a fucking joke in bed.”
“Pot, kettle,” I mutter viciously, and feel around the desk for my letter opener. It’s the only weapon I have here in the office.