“What do you mean, he’s gone?” I stare in disbelief at CJ. She’s got her arms crossed, her waitress tray tucked under her arm and she is not happy.

“He. Took. Off.”

“Impossible,” I scoff. My characters do not pick up and leave just like that. They have far too much fun torturing me. “Your hero was just here last night. I wrote him into the HEA and he liked it. He was talking about love, opening up and all that stuff.”

“Someone talked him out of it. Said it would be much more fun to take off and see the open road for a while. Something about, why get tied down to the old ball and chain when you can have your pick of any woman out there? So if he”s not playing, neither am I.” She stalks off, most likely in search of a new author who will treat her right.

So. Not. Good. And it sounds suspiciously familiar. I turn my head slowly to the right, because I am counting backward from ten and trying some Zen-like breathing. None of it’s going to work because Jake’s sitting there smiling, SMILING, like he’s just pulled one over on me. Which he has, but it’s still obnoxious that he knows it.

“What did you do?”

He shrugs. “I do a lot of things. You’ll have to be more specific.”

Today, he’s got scuba gear scattered around him, and he hasn’t bothered to put away any of his other stuff. The den is now decorated in half traditional, half camouflage, and Jake keeps blaming the envelope for the mess.

“Did you tell the hero of my novella to take off?”I ask.

“Why would I do something like that?”

“Maybe because, with him out of the way, you think I’ll focus on Nick’s story again. That would make you happy because you’ve somehow given yourself a starring role in that book. And a love interest.”

“Bingo. Give the lady a prize,” he says, and then he goes back to checking the 02 tank and ignoring me. Completely, utterly infuriating.

“That’s not going to happen until I finish this story. So I suggest you go find my hero and bring him back home.”

“I can’t do that right now. I’m busy.”  He points to the gear all around him as though I missed the very important work he’s doing.

“Busy doing what?”

His grey eyes train on mine. “I can’t tell you that. I’m not a SEAL anymore, remember? I’m part of a secret, completely covert group where every mission is more classified than the next. Even from you.” He sits back for a minute, obviously pleased with himself. “CJ’s really cute, you know.”

“You stay away from CJ. She’s not yours.”

“With that other guy out of the way, the road’s wide open.”

I sit back against the couch and sigh. There’s sand all over the place from where Jake shook out his BDU’s earlier directly onto the couch cushions, and I wonder for a long minute if he was raised by wolves. It’s the only explanation, and ties directly into the Alpha male thing too. “What do you want from me?”

“I’m not so into this secret group. I want to go back to the SEALs.”

“But the secret group is really working. I’ve blended it perfectly into the new book.”

“The new book you’re not working on now, right?” he asks with a smirk, eyebrows raised and hand on something that looks suspiciously like a grenade.

“I told you not to play with that stuff in the house.”

“Relax. I’m an expert at this stuff, remember?” He shoves the grenade into his pocket as his beeper goes off. Suddenly he’s mumbling things like OPSKED and LZ into the microphone he’s hooked around his ear, and he’s cursing too, like a sailor which is completely appropriate, so I can’t tell him to stop. I’ve learned a lot of new, choice words that way, and he knows it. “Gotta run.”

I don’t bother to ask where. “Can you tell CJ’s hero to come home before you head off to save the world?”

He heaves a sigh, like he’s the most wounded man in the world and I’ve asked for a favor of monumental proportions. “I’ll try. You think you could clean this place up while I’m gone? And write me into a sex scene or something? Cause when I get back, I’m going to need one.”

“You always need one,” I mumble, the whirring of helo blades sounding suspiciously close to the house when he opens the back door to make his exit.

“Now you’re starting to get the picture.”

Steph T.