When you blow up your manuscript

A couple weeks ago, the Print Run Podcast read/commented on the first page of The Waiting Game. Something Laura said stuck with me. There was a moment on the page where Alex did the equivalent of pulling your hair back and taking out your earrings before a fight. And Laura said she wanted to see more of that girl.

And I thought…me too. I want more of that Alex.

And I made a major change to the story, in the sixth chapter. A change that will change the rest of the novel in dozens of small ways. Without a doubt, it’s making the story better. It’s hard, because I had a complete second draft and now I have…parts of a third draft, I suppose. But it’s fun.

It’s also distracting, because I’m supposed to be working on the second draft of Haven Strong. And I’m working on that too. They’re two very different stories, and it’s nice to bounce between them, the lightness of TWG keeping me standing when Haven is so hard that it drags me down.

And all because of one line in my story that someone else picked out as interesting.


I finished the first draft of Part Two! Hooray! Now to finish Part Four (it’s probably about halfway there, or at least it’s about 35K words, which tends to be around half a first draft for me these days).

I joined up an online critique group to get some feedback on Part One as I get ready to start the second draft. I’ve gotten some helpful notes, so it’s going alright. One thing I probably need to do for the second draft is cut a lot of words (it’s just under 100K right now, which…is too much), and the ladies in my group have, without knowing it, shown me some great spots to cut to make the story better.

So progress continues!

The Waiting Game, Part 2

Part Two of The Waiting Game is coming together slowly but surely. The third book is done, because I thought it was the second book. As I started working on what is now Part 4, I realized that I missed this part of the story. I was to be in it, experience it, not just know it happened. So Part 2 is on going.

And here’s the first chapter! It contains some spoilers for Part 1, obviously, so do with that what you will.


Chapter One


“I’m still not sure about this.”

Alex shrugged. “If this is some sort of ruse, it’s far more elaborate than it needs to be.”

“Are you ready to spend the day with Kyle?”

“I can’t imagine I’m really going to be spending that much time with him. I’ll be at work, after all.”

“I thought the whole point of us coming to work for him was for him to spend time with you.”

She sighed. “I thought the point was to do me a favor.”

“I don’t understand why you had to drag me into this. The idea of working for my mortal enemy is unpleasant, at best. And that’s assuming he didn’t trick me into quitting my job so that he could fire me and leave me jobless.”

“Kyle isn’t a criminal mastermind or something, David.”

“Remains to be seen.”

Together, we approached the security desk in the lobby of the building where we now worked. Again, I wished I’d done more to ensure that I’d be able to go back to my old job if this was all a hoax. In what world did someone who’d hated me for nearly a decade offer me triple my salary to do half the work I’d been doing? I mean, obviously he only offered that because he’d do anything to get Alex to come work for him, clearly the first step in his plan to reconcile with her. What happened when she said no? What happened when he realized that there was nothing he could do to fix their past? Was he going to fire me then?

I shouldn’t have agreed to this.

“Ms. Marsalis!” the security guard said warmly, and she and I were both shocked that someone here recognized her. “Welcome back.”

“Thanks,” she replied with a tight smile. “It’s nice to be back. It’s been a long time.”

It had to have been two years at least since she’d been inside her ex-fiancé’s company, although I was surprised she’d been here enough for people to recognize her even if it hadn’t been that long.

“And your guest?”

“Oh,” I said. “David Yearly. I work here now.” I hope.

He consulted a clipboard in front of him. “Yep, I see that here. Welcome to LinkCorp.”

“Thrilled to be here,” I replied, obviously sarcastic.

Alex shot me a look before turning back to the guard. “I assume it’s okay for us to head up?”

“Absolutely. Have a great day.”

We stepped into the elevator, and Alex sighed, so deep and loud that I jumped.

“Last chance to back out,” she said.

“Why are we doing this?” I asked, not for the first time.

Ever since Kyle had offered us these jobs, she and I had gone back and forth, even after signing contracts two weeks earlier. There was no arguing with the fact that this was an amazing opportunity. Kyle’s company was, after all, one of the biggest and best in the country. But given their history, what he’d done to her, and given how he’d treated me since we’d met, all because he couldn’t believe that I could be friends with his girlfriend without trying to sleep with her, I didn’t put much faith in how this was going to go. I didn’t see myself being able to work amicably with Kyle, and I didn’t see a scenario where he and Alex could work together either.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Alex replied, our rote answer. “And because I believe that Kyle is trying to do something nice for two people he’s hurt a lot.”

“I want it noted that Kyle has never hurt me with his behavior.”

“Fine, noted,” she replied.

The elevator doors slid open on the twelfth floor, where Kyle stood waiting to greet us.

“You guys actually came!” he said, seemingly genuinely surprised.

“Well, we signed those contracts,” I replied.

“That you did.” He grinned, definitely at Alex. “It’s nice to see you guys again.”

I wanted to say something back to him, probably something about how he was only glad to see Alex, and couldn’t care less about seeing me. I’d promised her I’d be nice, playing along with the farce that was me and Kyle being friends. He’d never been nice to me, not since we’d met during my freshman year of college, when I’d become friends with Alex, and he’d been every bit the stereotypical jealous boyfriend. I’d never laid a hand on her, didn’t want to, not even now that we’d been roommates for two years.

Of course, they weren’t dating now, not since she’d caught him in bed with a waitress. Hell, she’d had another engagement fall apart since then. The last two years had not been kind to Alex, and coming to work for Kyle didn’t seem like much of an improvement.

“Why don’t I walk you guys to HR?” Kyle said. “You can do your paperwork, and when you’re done there, I’ll walk you to your departments and introduce you to people.”

We followed him down the hallway, exchanging a quick, anxious glance. He certainly seemed like he was looking forward to working with at least one of us.

“How are you doing?” Kyle asked, his eyes on Alex.

“I’m fine. Like I said, I was in a bad place the other day,” she replied. “I’m honestly doing very well.”

“I’m so glad to hear it. You definitely had me worried. Yearly.”

I cringed. “What?”

“You’re going to have to stop wincing when I say your name.”

“You’re going to have to start calling me David.”

“I…will work on it.”

“I bet you will.”

“How are you?”

“I am great,” I replied.

He looked to Alex, and she laughed. “David’s fine.”

“How’s Deane?”

“Deane is well,” I answered grudgingly.

It was, of course, the greatest joke the universe had ever played on me, that my girlfriend was Kyle’s closest friend. My kneejerk reaction was to claim ownership, that I’d known her first, but the timeline was sketchy at best, and I didn’t want to be the same kind of guy Kyle had always been. He asked me about her to needle me, because of course he already knew how she was. They lived next door to each other. He saw her more than I did.

“I haven’t seen you around the house lately,” Kyle continued, and I clenched my jaw.

“Are you watching for me?” I asked.

“No, of course not.”

“The dark room that you hide in at home to code and ignore people? Does that have a window that looks out at Deane’s house?”

“It does not.” Kyle laughed. “It’s going to be fun to work with you.”

“Oh, yeah, fun all day long.”

Alex snickered, and I glared at her. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It makes me so happy to see you guys talking to each other.”

“We’ve always talked to each other.”

“It’s been a long time, that’s all.”

It certainly had. They’d gone a year and a half without seeing each other after his fling with the waitress that broke off their engagement. Of course, he and I had seen each other a handful of times, because I spent a decent amount of time at the house next to his. The year and half away from each other had been so good for her. She’d gone back to school, and met a guy who…also turned out to be an asshole, so that might not have been that good. But that relationship had been good until it wasn’t, and she’d been so happy. And she was better now than she’d been immediately follow either breakup, though she’d been at a particularly low point when Kyle had tricked her into agreeing to this. How he always managed to turn up in her life when she was at her worst boggled the mind.

Kyle opened a glass door and ushered us into a sea of cubicles.

“Cathy, I’ve got the new hires for you.”

The woman who emerged from the office against the back wall was middle aged, and I wondered if she hated working for someone so much younger than her. Some of these people had been working for Kyle since he was a teenager, and that must have been a mindfuck.

“I’ll retrieve you guys in a bit,” Kyle said. “And honestly, it was really nice to see you both.”

Off -Camera

One of my favorite things to do when I’m a bit stuck in a piece is to write a scene that takes place off-camera, usually because my narrator isn’t there. Back when I first started writing (when I was thirteen!), I had rotating narrators in most of my pieces. It let me tell every part of the story every time. Now that I’m settling into writing one narrator per piece (first person narration, for what it’s worth), I find that I miss some of the stories that don’t get told.

Here’s a little bit of a scene from one of the Waiting Game books. David and Deane, just spending some time together. Which won’t show up in the book, because it isn’t the one he narrates.


“I’m sorry.”

Deane paused. “I know you are, David. It’s alright.”

“It’s not. I was being cruel. I was lashing out at you so that I’m not the only one hurting.”

“I know.”

“I’ve missed you so much.”

“I’ve missed you too.”

“I wish you’d come back.”

“So you can talk to me like that more often?”

“So we can be together like we’re supposed to be.”

“We can’t do that.”

“I know.” We stared at each other, and it was all I could do not to wrap her in my arms. “Where are you staying?”


“What room, I mean.”

“Oh. The blue one up on the third floor.”

“Are you okay being up there by yourself? The rest of us are on the second floor.”

“There’s no room for me on the second floor. I’ll be fine.”

“Stay with me.”

She paused. “I…don’t know.”

“I know what this is, Deane. I know what happens in a few days when it’s time for you to go home. Stay with me.”

“I wish things were different, David.”

“Maybe someday.” She turned toward the stairs. “Is that a no?” I asked.

“I need my things.”

“I already brought them down.”

She turned back to me. “Optimistic, are we?”

“Hopelessly so, yes.”

Now I did pull her against me, and she fit in the way she had so many times before. I soaked up the feel of her, the smell, all the things I wouldn’t be able to have in a few more days.

“I love you,” Deane said softly.

“I love you too. Every day, no matter what I say to you,” I replied.

“I wish I could be better for you.”

“Ditto. And you continue to be perfect for me.”

“Whenever I have a string of good days, I start thinking that I can come back. And once I start believing that, the good days stop.”

I rubbed her arms, wishing I could do more to comfort her. “I’m sorry. And I’m sorry I’m so awful to you.”

“You aren’t awful. You’re doing exactly what we both need you to do.”

“I don’t think it’s helping.”

“No, not really.” She pulled back and took my hand. “Show me your room.”


The Waiting Game, Part 1

I’ve decided to post the first chapter of each of the four Waiting Game books this month, one per week. So here’s Chapter One of Book One.

Chapter One

I heaved a sigh as I dropped my bags on the living room floor. It had been a long day of cross-country travel. After I got fed up with visiting my mom and stepdad in San Francisco, I’d finagled an earlier flight, ready to get away from the familial infighting. I was glad to be back in Washington, D.C., ready to get back to my normal life. It had been the kind of family time that left someone glad to return to work.

My fiancé too, I was glad to return to him. It wasn’t often that Kyle Spencer and I spent more than a day apart, let alone nearly a week. And I had just enough time to shower and change before he’d be home from work.

I kicked my shoes off in the hall. As I pushed open the bedroom door, I pulled my sweatshirt over my head. My head popped free with a jerk, I was left staring at my bed, the bed I shared with the man I was going to marry.

And the bare back of a slim woman with cascading brown curls as she bounced up and down. She let out a moan as she moved, and I wrenched my shirt back over my head, preparing for the battle I knew was coming.

I could hear Kyle now, the familiar noises that he’d made so many times with me. I still couldn’t see him, trapped, as he was, under the bouncing brunette. I was shaking, stunned, and I couldn’t even think of what to do with myself. I stood, listening to them, watching the girl writhe on top of my fiancé. My mouth hung open, and tears streamed down my cheeks.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned to go back to the living room, either to wait them out or to figure out somewhere else to go.

I shook my head, and turned back to the bed.

“Excuse me.”

They both gasped, and the brunette gathered the blankets around her as she slid from on top of my fiancé. Kyle jerked upright, his green eyes wide at the sight of me, his blonde hair disheveled, his face and chest flushed.

“Alex. You’re home early.”

His voice was calm, even. As if he hadn’t just ruined my life.

“I am,” I replied, trying to also keep my voice calm. I didn’t want to come off like the crazy girlfriend.

“I can explain.”

“I don’t think you can.”

“I should go,” the brunette said.

“No, you’re welcome to stay,” I replied. “I’m going to go.”

“Can we talk?” Kyle asked.

“Are you serious?”


“No, you asshole, we can’t talk. I need to leave, before I murder you and your whore.”

“Right. Okay. Another time.”

“You think I’m joking.”

“Not exactly, no. I’m hoping I can calm you down before anyone gets hurt.”

I’m hurt, Kyle.” I held his gaze, then shook my head slowly. “I’m going.”

I was gathering up my bags in the hall when I realized I was still wearing the massive lie of a diamond ring that he’d given me. Well, that wasn’t coming with me.

I went into the bedroom, where Kyle and his girl were hastily dressing, not looking at or talking to each other.

“This is yours,” I said, heaving the ring at him. It hit his bare chest, and he winced, whether from pain or the gesture itself I didn’t care. Kyle and I locked eyes as the sound of the ring bouncing on the hardwood floor filled the room. Such a small sound that meant so much. Once the ring stopped moving, the silence became too much, and I turned on my heel.

All right. I’m out of here.


“He was in bed with some bimbo,” I sobbed as my best friend handed me a box of tissues.

“Are you sure she was a bimbo?”


“I’m trying to cheer you up,” he replied. “Go on.”

“I’m not sure there’s any more to the story.”

“What about the part where you murder them both, and then come to me for help hiding the bodies?”

“That didn’t happen.”

“Why not?”

“We were supposed to get married,” I wailed, tears streaming down my face. “How could he do this to me?”

“Did you ask him?”

“How was I supposed to talk to him? He was in bed with–”

“Some bimbo, right.”

“Can I stay here?”


I’d immediately done what anyone would do in a crisis: run to my best friend’s house to cry on his shoulder. After much crying, I’d realized that I was in a tricky situation. I couldn’t go home again. Kyle and I had been living together for over a year. I couldn’t go back to that house now, not after seeing him with, you know, some bimbo. I needed a place to stay. And getting my ducks in a row to make that happen was going to take some time.

“Just while I figure out where to go,” I said, pleading with my already red and teary eyes. “I can’t go back to Kyle. I don’t have anywhere else to go. Please, David.”

“Like for a few weeks, or like forever?”



“Ugh, fine, for a few weeks. I’ll start looking for a new place tomorrow, I swear it.”

“Weird how I don’t think that’s true.”

“So you want me to go back to living with Kyle?”

“Jesus, no. But you can’t live here forever.”

“Afraid I’ll cramp your style?”

“What little style I have, yes.”

I put my head in my hands and began crying anew. How could this have happened? What had I done wrong that Kyle had done this to me?

“Of course you can stay here,” David said. “As long as you need, but do not take advantage of me on that.”

“What am I supposed to do now?”

“I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out.”

“Promise me that you’re not dying to say you told me so.”

David laughed. “A little bit, yeah. You know I’ve never liked Kyle.”

Kyle and I started dating in high school, so we’d already been together for three years by the time I met David Yearly when we were in college. David and I hit it off immediately – but only as friends! Because I was already in a relationship, it had never occurred to me to think of him as anything else. Kyle had never seen it that way, though, and the two of them had bickered back and forth for years now.

They were such opposites, David and Kyle. Kyle was blonde and excessively tall, and smarter than average. David was…kind of nerdy. He had dark hair and glasses, and couldn’t seem to talk to girls without embarrassing himself. It was endearing, but it didn’t exactly set my loins on fire. And for some reason, I could never convince Kyle of that.

Kyle always seemed to find a way to throw backhanded comments David’s way, and it hadn’t exactly made him likeable. But I’d always made excuses for Kyle. Of course he didn’t like that I spent a lot of time with another guy! It made sense, even if nothing was ever going to happen with David. Now I was seeing that perhaps Kyle wasn’t the person I thought he was. I should have turned on him years ago.

Of course, it wasn’t the same. Being territorial wasn’t cheating on the person you were supposed to marry.

“I never liked him,” David repeated. “But I also never thought he’d do something like this. I’m as shocked as you are.”

“That’s impossible. You didn’t have to see them.”

“Why didn’t you tell him that you were coming home early?”

“Because surprises are supposed to be fun, David. And might I add, way to blame the victim.”

“I think we’d all like to spare you having to see that. I’m sure it only makes this whole thing worse.”

It certainly did. If I closed my eyes, I saw them together. I could hear their moans ringing in my ears still. Oh, God, I was going to be sick.

I bolted down the hall, stumbling for the bathroom, willing myself not to puke on my best friend’s floor. He was going above and beyond right now, and I owed him that much.

David followed me at a slower pace, and as I knelt beside the toilet, he knelt beside me, gathering my hair back in classic best friend mode. Tears streamed down my face as I puked, and I felt like I couldn’t control anything that was happening with my body. I’d lost control of my life, and now I’d lost control of my body.

This was shaping up to be a great day.

#tbt – The Waiting Game

I’ve been writing the characters from The Waiting Game since 1996, when I first dreamed them up. Fourteen-year-old me wasn’t very good at it, of course, so the story has remained much the same, but every so often I age up the characters and retool the details. So for this #tbt, I’ve got a scene I wrote for the college-aged versions of the characters, when Alex and Kyle first discussed her relationship with Noel, and what that meant for their future.

Kyle dropped his voice. “Alex. Could I talk to you alone for a minute?”

            “Absolutely.” I turned to David. “I’ll be right back.”

“Don’t leave me,” he said, but I was already walking away, following Kyle to his office.

“You seem well,” Kyle said, sitting on the edge of his desk.

“I am well, Kyle.”

“That’s good to hear.”


He paused, a slight frown creasing his brow. “I don’t know how to ask this.”

“Then you probably shouldn’t.”

“You’re still seeing that guy?”

“Well, the last time we talked, I wasn’t seeing him, so. Uh, yes, I’m seeing Noel now.”

“How’s that going?”

“Really well, thanks. I like him a lot, and he makes me happy. I’m trying to ignore things like that he’s graduating in May, but we’re working on figuring that out.”

“You seem much better than the last time I saw you.”

“I am.”

“I wasn’t expecting that.”

“It was bound to happen, Kyle.”

“I know.”

“Are you okay?”

“Probably. You’re not my girlfriend. You’re allowed to date whoever you want. You’re allowed to be happy.”

“I am.”

“I’m not saying that I was hoping you’d be sad forever. I’m glad to see you happy.”

“That’s good to know.”

“I had hoped that I’d—”

“We should head back to the party.”

“Saving me from myself?”

“Someone has to.”

“Thanks. How’s David?”

“He is really good as well. You should ask him. I always like seeing you two getting along.”

“I’m sorry we never have.”

“I know.”

“He and Noel get along okay?”

“They get along great, yeah.”

“Neither one is jealous of the other?”

“Well. David and I had a year when neither of us was seeing someone, and we didn’t go out then. I don’t think anyone’s worried that we’re going to go out now that we’re both in relationships.”

“David has a girlfriend?”

“I told you he was really good.”

“Good for him.”

“Everyone’s doing well, which is kind of shocking, I know.”

“Well. Not everyone.”

I cocked my head. “What’s up?”


“You had to know that this might happen, Kyle.”

“I’d always let myself believe that things would be okay with us again.”

“Things are okay with us. You mean that you expected to get back together.”

“Something like that, yes.”

“It’s a nice thought. Right now I’m seeing someone else.”

“I’ve heard.”

“You’d like Noel.”

“That’s wishful thinking.”

I shrugged. “Okay, evidence has shown that you don’t tend to like the other men in my life. I guess I should say that Noel would like you.”

“Well, what’s not to like about me?”

“It’s weird for me, talking to you like this, and for the first time that I can remember, I don’t feel like I used to.”

“That must be nice.”

“It was. Then I had to talk to you.”

“Well, at least you feel bad that you don’t love me anymore.”

“It’s for the best, Kyle.”

“I know.”

“Seriously, let’s go to this party. Tell me how work things are going. Ask David about his life.”

“I might just go home.”

“Don’t do that.” I took his hand, pulling him to his feet. “We’ve been friends before. We’re only doing that again.”

“It’s weird.”

“It will be for a little while, yeah.”

“Your boyfriend isn’t here, is he?”

“No, he went home for the holidays.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

“David’s still here.”

“It’s like you don’t want me to be happy.”

“I want nothing more than for you to be happy, Kyle.”

“Well. Don’t talk to me about your boyfriend anymore.”

“He still exists.”

“Oh, believe me, I know.”

“You did this, Kyle.”

“I know I did, thanks.”

“As long as we’re clear.”


“Are you angry at me?”


“Then what is this, Kyle?”

“I didn’t do what I did because I loved you any less.”

“We aren’t having this conversation. You and I are done, Kyle.”

I turned my back on him and returned to the party. I’d been doing so well, and he had to ruin everything, as usual. I was okay with getting along with him. I was okay with interacting with him. I was not okay with having a discussion about the time he cheated on me. We weren’t going to have that conversation now, and probably not ever. I wasn’t going to allow myself to hear his excuses.

I wasn’t going to forgive him. Just because I wasn’t in love with him anymore didn’t mean that I was ready to forgive what he’d done.

On Comparison

A friend of mine from my old writer’s group has her second book coming out next week, and she’s been posting small bits from the novel. And it’s amazing, and I am so, so excited for her.

But it’s also hard to read those bits and not get a little…jealous? She’s a great writer. And I find myself comparing my writing to hers, and it’s not as good. I tell myself that part of it is that we write very different books (she’s a romance writer, and she’s very good at it, and I am not good at romance). Part of it is that this is a book that is being published next week. It’s polished and clean, and has had extra sets of eyes on it.

And then I come across a handful of lines that I’ve written, and I fall in love with them, and I realize that it doesn’t matter. It’s possible that I will never be (traditionally) published. It’s possible that I’m not as good a writer as she is.

But that doesn’t matter. Because I did this:

“Why not? Why would I let you suffer needlessly?”

“I would think you’d be a big fan of letting me suffer.”

Him,” I replied. “I love watching him suffer.”

“That’s beautiful, Kyle.”

“Fuck you, he deserves to suffer.”

“Well, I assure you, he’s suffering greatly.”

“Good. I hope it was worth what you guys did to me.” She set her jaw, a now-familiar move. “You were about to say that it was.”

“I’m doing my best not to provoke you, so no, I wasn’t.”


And I love that. I love the way they’re fighting, the way Alex and Kyle know exactly how to push each other’s buttons, and how even though they’re saying angry, awful things to each other, they love each other so much, and in the greater framework of this scene, it’s there, the love, in between the hate. And I know that eventually I’m going to finish writing their stories, and I’m going to miss them.

The Waiting Game

I’ve been hard at work on my November NaNoWriMo piece, trying to finish a novel that didn’t want to be finished. Finally, at just over 90K words, I wrapped it up this week. So I figured it would be a good time to toss an excerpt up.

The party continued around me, and I couldn’t shake the certainty that this was a terrible idea, and I wasn’t entirely sure why I’d let Laina talk me into it. I didn’t need to be at a party right now. I needed to be in bed with some ice cream and a bottle of wine. At least I had my vodka tonic to keep me company, and soothe my lingering depression.

“What are you doing in here all alone?”

The voice came from behind me, and I turned, startled. It was the guest of honor. I stared into his shockingly pale blue eyes, not sure how to answer him.

“I’m not much for parties,” I answered finally.

He looked around the room pointedly. “Then why are you at one?”

“Laina thought it would be good for me to get out of the house.”

“And it’s not?”

“It’s not.”


I gestured to the empty spot next to me on the couch. Noel sat, and I turned to face him, putting my back against the arm of the couch, and tucking my legs underneath me.

“I’m going through a bad breakup,” I said.

“How bad?”

“I came home early from vacation and caught my fiancé in bed with some brunette.”

“That sucks.”

“It did, yeah. I had to move out, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to speak to him again. It’s been a rough couple of weeks.”

“I’m sorry.”

I waved the apology away. “Never mind about that. I hear you just moved. What brought you to D.C.?”

He laughed. “You won’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

Noel leaned closer to me, dropping his voice conspiratorially. “I caught my fiancée in bed with someone else.”

I laughed, assuming he was joking. He smirked in response, settling back into the couch, and I realized that perhaps he was serious.

“You’re not kidding,” I said.

“I’m not.”

“Oh, my God, I’m so sorry that I laughed.”

“I told you that you wouldn’t believe me.”

I felt my face heat up. “I’m so embarrassed.”

“Seriously, you don’t have to be. I mean, it’s not funny that Nancy cheated on me, but it’s hilarious that you and I are both at this party right now because we went through the same horrible thing.”

“I’m not sure that’s funny either.”

“It’s a little bit funny. Amusing at least.”

“Okay, I’ll give you that.”

“It’ll be a great story to tell our grandkids.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh, will it?”

“Sure. ‘How did you meet, Grandpa?’” Noel said, pitching his voice a little higher. “‘Well, kids,’” he continued, dropping the pitch of his voice now, “‘Nancy had cheated on me again.’”

“Ouch,” I interjected.

He nodded, and continued in his old man voice. “‘And we were all surprised to find out that–’” He paused. “What’s his name?”

“Who? Oh, Kyle.”

“‘–to find out that Kyle was a complete asshole.’”

I burst into laughter. Yeah, a totally appropriate story for the hypothetical grandkids.

“Aren’t you glad you came out to the party?” Noel asked.

“I kind of am, yeah.”

Kind of? I’m going to have to work a bit harder then, I guess.”

“Yeah, you should get on that.”

“You’re cute, you know that?”

My face went hot again. “Oh, please. I didn’t even shower for this party.”

“I don’t think you know appropriate party etiquette.”

“I agree.”

“It’s okay, we don’t have to go to another party ever again.”

“I like the way you keep saying ‘we.’”

“I’m not completely scaring you off?”


It was sexy the way he was taking charge, the way he was making assumptions, even jokingly, about our future. And we’d only known each other for fifteen minutes. I began to contemplate perhaps going home with him once this party was over. One night stands were practically invented for getting over breakups, right?

“How do you know Laina?” Noel asked, snapping me out of my reverie.

“Oh! Uh, we went to college together.”

“You’re the one that lured her away from home.”

“Well, I encouraged her to stay here after school, yeah. ‘Cause I’m from here, and I was going to stay, and I had already talked our friend David into it, so I figured I’d try to get Laina to stay too. How do you know that?”

“You think Laina and I met a few days ago when I moved in, and she wanted to throw me a party?”

“Yes?” I cringed. “It’s not that unusual for Laina to do something like that.”

“Okay, I have to give you that. But no, Laina and I grew up together. She talked me into moving out here. After, you know, her sister cheated on me.”

“Again,” I added, remembering his story from earlier. “Holy shit, tell me you’re not serious. You were not dating her sister.”

“I was. It was ill-advised.”

“Yeah, even I know that, and I haven’t even met her sister. Laina’s told me so many stories about her sister doing guys wrong.”

“It’s generally been just the one guy,” Noel replied, jerking his thumb toward his chest.

My jaw dropped in horror and amazement. “Oh, my God. You’re kidding.”

“Right now you’re adding up all the stories about Nancy cheating on the guy she was seeing, and then you’re wondering to yourself why exactly I would have proposed to her.”

I paused. “I might be.”

“Judge away.”

“What were you thinking?”

Noel chuckled deep in his throat, and it was all I could do not to leap on top of him. Holy shit, that was a gorgeous sound, half growl, half laugh.

“I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking,” he said. “Possibly that marriage would settle her down a little.”

“I don’t think it would have,” I replied, unable to keep myself from leaning closer to him.

“Oh, no, it would have been a terrible mistake. We’d have divorced within a year. Things have worked out for the best.”

“Tell me you at least got the ring back.”

“As if I’d want a reminder? No, she kept it. And it wasn’t a very nice ring.”

“I’m starting to think that you don’t really like her.”

“I do, and I don’t. Sometimes I can’t quite remember why I fell in love with her.”

“Are you aware of what marriage means?”

He laughed. “I am. Mistakes were made. And I realize that I don’t know your name.”


“Noel. But you knew that, because Laina would have told you.”

“She did.”

He cut his eyes toward Laina, and I couldn’t help but follow his gaze. She turned away from us as soon as our eyes lit on her. Oh, of course.

“This is a set up,” Noel said.

“Shit. Of course it is.”

“You sound distressed,” he said, a note of hurt in his voice. “And here I thought we were enjoying each other.”

Turning back to Noel, I opened my mouth to reply, then closed it again. How to put this without possibly hurting his feelings?

“This is fun,” I said after a moment.

“Talking to me?”

“Yes. It’s fun. I’m enjoying myself far more than I thought possible.”


“Bad breakup,” I said, and Noel nodded.

“Okay, I see your point there. But we’re going to have to go on a date sometime, if only to appease Laina.”

“Do you really care about appeasing her?”

“I care a lot about seeing you again.”

“God, you know just what to say, don’t you?”

“I do.”

“It’s not a good idea for me right now. To get involved with someone.”

“Who said we had to get involved?”


“You should come see my place.”

No,” I said with a laugh. “Bad idea.”

“It’s right down the hall.”

“I know it is.”

“We could sneak out now and no one would notice.”

“Laina would.”

“Another time then.”

“In, like, a year, Noel.”

He sighed. “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m taking a year off from dating so that I can, you know, figure out who I am and what I want outside of a relationship. So that hopefully I don’t end up walking in on my next fiancé screwing some bimbo.”

“You don’t have to worry about that. I don’t screw bimbos.”

“You continue to be presumptuous.”

“And you continue to love it.”

“I do.”

“Seriously, right down the hall. You don’t even have to call me again.”

I laughed. “It’s a tempting offer. But I’d want to call you again. And I can’t do this right now, Noel.”

“Can we go back to flirting with each other?”

“Anytime you want.”

“But you’ll think about this date thing?”

“Of course I’ll think about it. We’re not going on a date though.”

“For a year.”


“If those are the terms, I’ll agree to them.”

“You’ll agree to sit around for a year and wait for me to be ready to go out with you?”


“You’ll turn down every other offer you get between now and then.”


“You’ll take a vow of celibacy for a year, on the off chance that a year from now you and I still want to go out.”


“We met less than an hour ago. You’re insane.”

“You’re beautiful. And funny. And I’ve really enjoyed myself tonight. I can wait a year.”

“You hope.”

Noel shrugged. “Worst case scenario, in a year, I’ve found someone I like even more than I like you. It still works out for me.”

“Fair enough.”

“You’re kind of screwed in that scenario.”

“I am.”

“But it’s your one year waiting period.”

“That’s assuming that in a year, I feel like being in a relationship again. And that I still know how to find you.”

“I won’t let you lose me.”

“That’s convenient.”

“You think I’m kidding.”

“I think you’re crazy.”

“But you like it.”

“I do.”

“So you also moved recently?”

“Uh, sort of. I mean, my stuff is no longer in the home I shared with my fiancé. But I’m temporarily crashing in a friend’s guest room.”

“Please tell me that friend is Laina.”

I laughed. “She doesn’t have a guest room.”

“I have a guest room.”

“Lucky for your guests.”

“I’m not going to stop trying to talk you into my apartment.”

“I’m not going to stop refusing.”

“That’s okay, this is still fun.”

“Yes it is.”

“I really want to kiss you right now.”

I could barely breathe with the anticipation of it. Oh, God, yes, please kiss me. And yet I pulled back.

“I can’t.”

He nodded, resigned. “All right. Another time.”


“I’m going to hold you to that.”

“Please do.”

“I can think of a few other things I’d like to hold you to.”

I leaned toward him, dropping my voice. “Tell me all about it.”

Noel laughed, that sexy throaty chuckle from before, and he leaned closer. “Are we talking dirty to each other?”

“It’s the best I can do right now.”

“This party is about to get much more interesting.”

“Yes, it is.”

He leaned closer to me, his face right next to mine, his breath hot against my ear. He began to murmur into my ear, telling me what might happen if we were alone in the room. The things he was describing finally managed to put a new imagine in my head, shoving out the scene of Kyle and his girl. This was much better. And it was going to make it incredibly difficult to send Noel back to his place alone at the end of the night.

Playing favorites

A couple years ago during NaNoWriMo, I wrote what is probably my favorite scene ever. My main character has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her current husband, who is the first person narrator here, and her ex-husband have a pleasant little chat about it.


        I couldn’t think of a way to start this conversation that wouldn’t piss him off, so I figured I’d just jump in.

“I’m sorry.”

Kyle snorted. “Seriously, fuck you.”


“You think you can apologize for what you did? Are you kidding me?”

“Of course I don’t think that. I was told to apologize, first of all.”

“Fuck Alex too at this point.”

“By all means, go ahead and say that to her. Just once, treat her the way you’re treating me.”

“You can’t tell me how to handle any of this, Noel. You ruined my life. I’m going to be angry, and you’re not going to talk your way out of that. Neither is she.”

“I’m not trying to talk you out of being angry at me. I’m hoping that I can talk you into being civil for the next couple of months. After that, you can hate me all you want. It’s not like we’re ever going to see each other again.”

“You’re right about that.”

“It hasn’t been easy for us either, you know.”

“I’m sure it’s been really rough.”

“It was months before she and I interacted as if we were a couple. Before we went on dates. Before we could even talk about what happened with you and her.”

“Oh my God. Seriously, I don’t care. I don’t care if your life has been a living hell for the past seven years. I don’t care if she’s fucking twenty other guys behind your back. I don’t care if it’s been hard for you. All I know is that it’s been impossible for me. I lost my wife, Noel. I lost my best friend. My children lost their mother. Do you have any idea what that must have been like for us? And you want me to feel bad because you and Alex didn’t sleep together until the divorce was final? Are you kidding?”

“We aren’t proud of what we did.”

“You shouldn’t be.”

“Alex has been hurting a lot since she left. In case you think it made her happy or something.”

“It made her happy eventually.”

“Well, not exactly. I mean, she certainly isn’t happy now.”

“She doesn’t deserve to be, Noel. Neither do you. You guys are truly horrible people. I don’t know what you did to her, because she wasn’t like that when I knew her. The woman I knew for thirty years vanished when you showed up. And you’re welcome to this one, because she sucks.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“Of course I do.”

“Then why are you so angry with me? With her? If you really hated her that much, it wouldn’t matter that she left.”

“I don’t want your Alex back. I want my Alex back. She’s gone, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.”

“If it makes you feel better, I won’t have my Alex much longer.”


“You’re angrier than she thinks.”

“Probably, yeah.”

“Why don’t you say any of this to her?”

“She has fucking cancer, Noel.”

“Seriously? I hadn’t heard.”

His body twitched, and I realized that he was possibly about to spring across the room and strangle me for that one. Alright, now I knew where the line was.

“I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry.”

Kyle shook his head. “You’re not sorry. Alex isn’t sorry. If you were sorry, she could come home with me and forget all of this, the way she did with us.”

“Are you going to hate us forever?”

“Probably. I mean, I’m going to hate Alex until she dies. Because I’m not a couple months away from forgiving her. And I don’t really see a way for me to forgive you. So, yeah, I’m probably going to hate you forever.”

“Neither of us likes what we did.”

“Fine. I don’t like it either.”

“There was a long stretch of time when we regretted it.”

“Sadly, it wasn’t the four days she spent thinking about leaving me.”

Nor was it the thirty seconds I spent thinking about asking her to leave him. Then and now I told myself that I wasn’t asking her to leave him, I was asking her to let me go. I couldn’t watch her be married to him. I thought she’d send me away. She should have, really.

“Are you done?” Kyle asked. “I’d really like to get back to pretending that you don’t exist.”

“I told her I’d tell you that I’m sorry, I did that. So, yeah, I guess I’m done here.”

I don’t know exactly what it is about this conversation that I enjoy so much, other than that Kyle is very much out of character. He’s a staid, boring, old money type, and seeing him let down his carefully constructed façade is fun. Even the most straight-laced person would lose their mind if their spouse left them, so while it’s a bit unusual for him, it’s spot on for how a normal person would normally react.

In any case, a lot of fun to write.