Not Quite Over You
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Her friends all stared at her. Natalie recovered first. “Just to recap, you and Drew had a baby together and while you gave up the baby for adoption, you stayed close with your daughter and the adoptive mother. All these years later, you’re still close, so close that you’re going to be in the wedding, which is being held here, in town, where you and Drew both live, with the adoptive mother and your daughter with Drew and he doesn’t know a thing. Oh, and you just went into business with him. Do I have that right?”
Things sounded even worse when put like that, Silver thought, not sure if she should laugh or learn to ride a motorcycle and take off on a long road trip.
“That’s pretty much it,” Silver told her. “Except for the part where I’m keeping Autumn for a week or so while her mom goes off on her honeymoon.”
Bethany leaned forward. “Your daughter with Drew, the one he doesn’t know about, is going to be here? In Happily Inc? For a week? With you?”
“Chances are he’s going to notice,” Wynn told her. “I’m just saying.”
“Yes, that’s what I thought, too.”
“So you’re going to have to tell him.”
Something Silver really didn’t want to think about. “That seems to be the most sensible plan.”
Natalie winced. “Um, good luck with that.”
Renee picked up her drink. “Amazing. And here I thought life in a small town would be boring.”
* * *
DESPITE LIVING UP in the mountains, Jasper Dembenski didn’t mind New York City. For him the noise quickly faded into the background, and the constant rush of people, cars and buses made it easy to blend in. The street layout made sense to him and he enjoyed walking blocks at a time, rather than taking a cab. And if getting crammed into an elevator with too many people ever got to him, he retreated to the comical irony of his life. He’d been an average kid who had grown up in a town in Montana no one had ever heard of, yet here he was, staying at the Peninsula Hotel and being wined and dined by his publisher. Who would have thought?
He went into the building, signed in with the security guard, then made his way to the bank of elevators. His editor, Sara, a petite, dark-haired woman in her late thirties, met him when he stepped out onto the twenty-second floor.
“You made it,” she said with a smile. “How was your flight?”
From Happily Inc he could drive to Los Angeles, Phoenix or Las Vegas, and then take a plane pretty much anywhere he wanted. For his trip to New York, he’d chosen to go through Los Angeles. His publisher always booked him first class and put him up at a fancy hotel. There was little to complain about.
“Hank’s already here,” Sara told him. “In the conference room.”
The first time he’d visited his publisher’s offices, he hadn’t known what to expect. He discovered that they were offices, kind of like every other business. Junior employees worked in cubicles and those higher on the food chain had nice private offices with windows. Instead of artwork, there were posters of book covers everywhere, and a gallery of author head shots. Pretty much every bit of wall space had bookshelves overflowing with books, but otherwise, there was little to distinguish this space from, say, an insurance broker.
Paper manuscripts had gone the way of the dinosaur—authors submitted digitally and were edited the same way. Copy edits were done with track changes, as were final page proofs. Cover art, from concept to finished product, was emailed. Jasper had started his writing career with a pad and pencil but had quickly learned if he was going to get serious, he had to work on a computer. Now he couldn’t imagine creating any other way.
“We’re all excited about the book you’re working on,” Sara said, leading him toward one of the conference rooms.
He chuckled. “Is that your not-so-subtle way of asking if I’m going to deliver the book on time?”
Sara smiled. “No, but now that you mention it...” She motioned him into a small conference room. “How is the book going?”
“I’m on track. I should be done in plenty of time.”
“That’s exactly what I want to hear.”
He walked in and shook hands with his agent. Hank was a small, thin man pushing fifty. His unassuming appearance belied his killer instinct. They’d met at the first writer’s conference Jasper had attended. He’d entered a contest where the finalists had their pages read by a New York agent. Hank was way too powerful to judge contests or bother with conferences, but when a junior agent at his firm had been too sick to attend, Hank had volunteered to go in her place. Jasper had won the contest, Hank had read the pages and signed him within a week.
“You made it,” Hank said as they sat down. “Everything good on your flight and with the hotel?”
“Couldn’t be better.”
When Jasper had sold his first book, he’d still been fairly messed up from his time in the army. PTSD, brought on by years of fighting overseas, had a way of doing that to a person. He’d agreed to go on a book tour before realizing what that meant. The itinerary—flying all over the country to speak at bookstores and then sign books—had terrified him. Crowds were tough and airports had been impossible. They’d compromised by spreading out the events and having him drive himself from city to city.
Over the years, he’d gotten better. Flying would never be fun, but he could do it. The same with speaking to a large group. The signings were easy because he liked meeting his readers. But while he’d relaxed into the process, Sara and Hank always monitored him, as if concerned he was going to have an episode at any second. He supposed he was enough of a jerk to kind of enjoy their tension.
One of the assistants brought in coffee. Sara waited until he’d left before speaking.
“You’d mentioned this was the second to the last book in the series,” she began. “Next year you’ll write the last book, then start something new.”
Jasper nodded. “I’ve been playing around with an idea for a military series.”
Hank and Sara glanced at each other. “We’re excited about the idea,” Hank told him. “Are you ready to write it?”
Jasper didn’t think he would ever be ready, but he was starting to think it was time. He’d already created the main character—an amalgamation of three guys he’d known back in Afghanistan. Three good men who had been killed. He wanted to tell their stories without violating their privacy. Creating one character that took the best of each of them solved the problem.
“I’ve got a good handle on what I want to do,” Jasper said. “I’m thinking of an open-ended series. Military crimes, some with a civilian connection.”
Sara’s eyes brightened. “We would love that. You’re the best at what you do. Just to be clear, next year you’ll write the last book in your current series, and then you’ll start the new series after that.”
Hank leaned forward. “Vidar needs a love interest.”
Jasper resisted rolling his eyes. “So you’ve told me.”
“Hank’s right,” Sara added. “It’s time. You have female readers who adore you, but come on. You need a fully realized woman in one of your books. One who is more than a one-night stand or a victim. It will help you grow as a writer. Vidar falling in love will make readers bond with him more and bring the series to a satisfying conclusion.”