“It's not bad, Maggie,” he said, thumbing through the last half of my manuscript. “I wish you hadn't been so snarky with the dialogue.”
“Dan, it's Chick Lit.”
“Which is fast becoming obsolete,” he said. “Readers don't like the open-endedness of Chick Lit. They want happy endings.”
“Sometimes I think I don't understand the publishing industry. It's a muddle.”
“It's a shark infested kiddie pool, Maggie. Where every editor expects robotic perfection from her authors. Drop and give me ten ... books.”
I leaned back in my chair and surveyed him. “Is this what happens when you return from Reservist Training? You start talking in Armyisms? Can I expect something along the line of "your mother wears Army boots?”
“Possibly,” he said, smiling. “I reserve the right to be obnoxious. I've been molded by Uncle Sam.”
“How was it, really?” I stood and took his cup, wished I could convince him to relax more. He sat with military precision on the edge of the couch, his legs a ninety degree angle, his spine perfectly straight. I would have been happier if he'd slouched.
“The manuscript? Or the two weeks in Hell?”
“Either,” I said. “Both. Whichever you want to talk about.” I poured him some more coffee, pasting on a bright smile. I'd missed him so much, but now was not the time for tales of unrequited affection.
“Well, I missed the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd,” he admitted. “It's hard to go from being the darling of Fifth Avenue to a lowly 2nd Lieutenant.”
I sat and waited.
“You missed the promenading poodles and women in black.”
“There's nothing like Manhattan in Autumn,” he said, sipping from his coffee.
I studied my feet and realized I should have put on shoes before I answered the door. However much I adored Dan, he didn’t need to be subjected to the sight of my feet, bunion and all. Some women had beautiful feet; I wasn't one of them.
“About the manuscript,” he began, and I felt myself stiffen. “I don't like the title,” he said. “Will of the Wisp. It sounds Americana, and it’s not.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Why did you give it to me, Mags?”
For some odd reason, I couldn’t look away. I should have perhaps, especially when I felt myself warm.
“Because of the story? A woman falls madly in love with a man and never has the courage to tell him?”
I stood, and he did, too. Instead of handing me back the manuscript, he let it drop to the coffee table. And then Dan did something that shocked me, or thrilled me, or perhaps simply entranced me. He reached out and pulled me to him. This man I'd known for five years, and secretly adored, pulled me into his arms.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and buried my face against his shoulder, whispering words I'd wanted to say for years. “Welcome home, Dan. Welcome home, darling.”