“So it’s like a promotion?”

“Exactly. Here’s the reasoning I wrote for you: …another former-SEAL who most people in the military swore really didn’t exist, had grown tired of the policies and procedures and wanted a lighter yoke around his neck.”

Jake shrugged. “That’s not bad. What else is involved?”

“Lots of covert action. SEAL stuff, but nobody can say, the Navy doesn’t do it that way. It’s the best of both worlds,” I tell him. “You’re still military, but you’re covert. Like Delta Force and SEAL Team Six.”

“SEAL Team Six doesn’t exist,” he says. “You’ve been reading Rogue Warrior again, haven’t you?”

I ignore him and press on, since he’s already got the ‘deny we exist’ thing down pat.. “What do you think?”

He just stares at me, his eyes grayer than ever. His hair’s longer than the last time I saw him, and he’s still wearing camouflage BDUs, but desert print, not jungle, and I can probably guess where he’s been. The sand and dust that’s settled everywhere in my den pretty much nails it.

Finally, he heaves a huge sigh as though he’s been mortally wounded and puts his head back against the couch pillow with his eyes closed. “Fine. Whatever. I’ll think about it.”

He’s not ready to commit either way and to make things worse, he’s eaten all my Easter candy. Except for the M&M’s. I hid those too well.

“It’s not only my decision,” I tell him. “The publishing world’s a tricky place.”

His eyes fly open. “Want me to go have a talk with anyone in particular in the publishing world?”

“No.” I can see the headlines now: Author Blacklisted from Publishing World Forever. And I’d be banned and I can almost guarantee that Jake would get laid, and if I’m going to suffer for my art, so is he.

Because this is all his fault.

“If you hadn’t come to me as a SEAL, none of this would have happened,” I tell him. He’s been inside my head for so long, his backstory is almost canon to me. Hard to change it, and he’s stubborn enough already without getting into a skirmish over what he does for a living.

“It’s my career,” he says.

“Mine too.”

He snorts. “You haven’t even made up your own mind yet. I could still end up a SEAL and none of this gets my book done any faster, does it?”

I hate it when he’s right. And he’s always right. “Look, it just doesn’t make sense to write your book first…”

“I’ve heard all the arguments before, so save it. But I’m telling you, if you decide to switch gears, I’d better get some good air time in this Grey Dawn Echo group-thing.”

“You will.” He’s coming around, slowly but surely.

“And I want to blow shit up, lots of gunfire, lots of action,” he continues, with that glint in his eye and I know what’s coming…

“Don’t say it, Jake.”

“In this continuing storyline saga, I want to get laid at least once per book. And if I don’t, I’m not playing.” Arms crossed, and he’s got me locked in like a target. It’s a close-quarters battle and I’m going to lose the stand-off.

I open my mouth to tell him no in my firm, teacher voice when he reaches into the couch cushions and pulls out the bag of M&M’s I’d hidden so carefully. And he smiles, that slow, easy grin, and I just know that I’m the one who’s screwed.

Steph T.