He’s commanded the couch in the den – the bigger one, of course. The one that, as of last night, had all my writing crap strewn on it in the order I needed it to be.

It’s now shoved together and piled on the floor, his boots dropped on top of everything. And my computer’s open and the coffee that I set to brew for myself this morning is, of course, already brewed and gone and he’s stretched contentedly, wearing jungle BDUs.

But still, he’s asleep, which is something that Jake rarely does. I take a moment to stare at him, to try and imprint his description in my mind, because handsome doesn’t quite cover it. Rugged, maybe? I moved closer and see that his right arm is in a cast, and he reaches out and grabs my wrist with his left hand.

“Dammit, you scared me,” I tell him, remembering it’s never smart to sneak up on a Navy SEAL. Especially Jake.

“I scared you? You were the one doing the sneaking , so how’s that possible?” he asked. “Did you make more coffee? Because you’re all out.”

“Wonder how that happened? And what happened to you? You’re hurt.”

“I’m all right,” he insists, mumbles something about, the last thing he needs is a woman worrying about him.

I jot that tidbit down to use at a later date and make some more coffee. When I heard a scraping, sawing noise, I look over and find him trying to saw off the cast with some kind of scary looking knife. It’s obviously not going as well as he’d planned, because he’s cursing a blue streak under his breath.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to be doing that,” I tell him, and he looks up at me with his best, no shit, Sherlock, look.

“I take mine with milk,” he says, and now it’s my turn to mumble. Still, I bring the coffee to him, because I’m feeling sorry for him. Because of the cast. I’m feeling sorrier for myself because again, the sand and the dirt and somehow I have a feeling I’m expected to do his laundry.

“You’ve been quiet,” I tell him.

“I’ve been, ah, away,” he says.

“Is that where that happened?” I point to his arm and he nods. “Look I’ve really been trying to write your story, but I’m not happy with what I come up with. Maybe if you gave me some information.”

He just stares at me, his gray eyes giving away nothing.

“I don’t mean you have to tell me the classified stuff – although really, who would I tell?”

He points to the laptop. Good point. Have to remember to give him enough credit.

He leans forward and takes a slug of coffee. “I can tell you a few things,” he says. “If you think you can handle it.”

“Handle it? Of course I can handle it,” I tell him.

“You were screaming this morning when you had to kill a spider the size of a pinhead.”

“You”re a real pain in the ass.”

“Yeah, that was established a long time ago by just about the entire free world. And the rest of it too.” He grins, and then his face grows serious. He looks over my shoulder, like he’s seeing something clearly. “I was captured.”


“Look, this is stuff you can’t say a word about.”

“I won’t,” I tell him, hoping I can remember everything he tells me.

He starts telling me a horrible story, and I’m leaning forward in my chair to catch every nuance, every single detail he gives. And there are a lot of them – separating the team, mental and physical torture, and finally, escape.

“But how did you do that?” I ask.

“Well, once they separated us, the enemy had us convinced that one of our guys was a traitor. He convinced us otherwise when he snuck me the magazine of the gun they’d given him so I could make a homemade bomb out of salt water and the wire Chris picked up off the ground when no one was looking. We shorted out the whole communications center and soddered open the bars of the cell…”

“Wait a minute,” I tell him. “That didn’t happen to you. That was Tuesday night’s episode of The Unit. Right down to the way you’re telling me the plot, the way the guy told the interrogator the plot of the Dirty Dozen.”

He pauses for a second, and then laughs. So hard he sloshes coffee all over my papers. “Come on, I had you going there for a minute. Besides, you told Cece you never watch it, because of the Allstate guy.”

“You did not have me going. And why are you reading my emails?” I ask. “And hey, can you really make a bomb using water and your own sweat?”

“I never stopped reading your emails,” he informs me, ignores my last question about the bomb. “And you’re suddenly all up into Delta guys now,” he says, shakes his head like I’m more than deluded and he’s going to talk me into my senses.

“You’ve been looking at my files again too?”

“Uh yeah. Checking to see if you got started on my stuff, the way you promised. And I see all this Delta Force crap in there. Christ, next thing you know you’re going to be writing Marines again.”

I narrow my eyes at him. “You know, according to Meg Cabot, you’re not even real.”

He stands to his full six feet three inches and stretches. Then he saunters toward the kitchen for more coffee. “Been a while since I’ve been down to the Keys,” he calls over his shoulder. “Might have to take a little trip sooner than later. Maybe I’ll take Ezra with me.”

“Um, I don’t think so  – Alison needs him.”

“Yeah, I have needs too. Lots of needs. You’d better find someone to get on that,” he says, stalks downstairs to the basement, tugging at the cast and muttering about needing peace and quiet for a change.

I know he’s down there looking for the hacksaw.

Steph T.