That's how long the book is.
When I get really frustrated about the time this whole process is taking, I remind myself that this thing is 556 pages. A bit of consolation.
I'm getting ready to start my final computer read-through, so that then I can order a proof and do a physical read-through. If I say "almost there" one more time, I might scream. But. We're almost there.
*Throws teaser at you and slinks away*
It had become a regular thing, this staring up at the ceiling business. Ghost lay in his underwear with the covers pushed down around his shins, hands folded over his belly, counting the individual bumps of his popcorn ceiling. Aidan had gone down quickly and easily tonight, still recovering from strep and tired from playing with his skateboard – Ghost thought maybe he shouldn’t have let him do that. Should have made him go inside and rest. Drink fluids. Something. Hopefully he wouldn’t have relapsed in the morning.
The sound of the phone ringing out in the kitchen startled him. He jackknifed upright, catching the time on the bedside clock: just after one. Middle-of-the-night calls were never a good thing.
He walked down the hall with dread pooling heavy in his belly, all the hair standing up on his arms by the time he pulled the receiver off the hook.
“Hi,” a female voice whispered. “It’s me. Maggie.”
“Mags,” he said, automatically, surprised.
She took a quick breath on the other end of the line.
“What?” Worry washed over him. Was she hurt? Did she need him? He could feel his chest inflating, some instinctual, alpha male instinct.
“Nothing. I just…like when you call me that.”
He exhaled, instinct taking a dark, pleased turn. “You alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I wanted to say thank you for the car. It’s amazing.”
He leaned back against the counter and stared down at his bare toes against the linoleum. The fluorescent tube above the sink droned into the quiet. “You already said thank you.”
It was hard to tell, what with her whispering, but he thought he could hear a smile in her voice. “It needed saying again.”
Warmth blossomed in his chest and unfurled slowly. A sensation he only experienced around Aidan these days. “It handles alright?”
She breathed a quiet laugh. “It’s powerful.”
“That’s an SS for you.”
It was quiet a beat, but it didn’t feel awkward.
Ghost said, “Did you have to wait ‘til your folks fell asleep before you called?”
“Uh-huh. Mom was…let’s just go with pissed-off.”
“You showed her the bill?”
“I thought she might rip it up. But I reminded her how much babysitting money I had saved up, that I could pay for gas and insurance. Dad managed to talk her down a little bit – he said it was a ‘beaut’ by the way.”
“And he told her it would be good for me to have my own wheels.”
“So they’re gonna let you keep it?”
He swore he heard her rolling her eyes. “I have to take it and let our regular mechanic ‘make sure it’s safe.’ And I have to keep it spotless, and I’m not allowed to have more than one passenger at a time. But yeah, I can keep it.”
He wanted to say something about the “regular mechanic.” But bit his tongue – Mags couldn’t help what had been decreed. “Do they know it came from me?” he asked.
She blew out a breath across the receiver. “Yeah. I couldn’t lie about that.”
When she didn’t offer more, he said, “What’s your punishment?”
She hesitated. “I’m grounded. I can only go to school and my extracurriculars. And I have to help with my mom’s charity luncheon.”
“Your mom’s wasted on civilian life. She shoulda been a drill sergeant.”
Maggie snorted. “Believe me, I know.” She sighed. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”
His turn to snort. “I wasn’t sleeping.”
She made a concerned noise.
“Nah, it’s fine, I just…” He shrugged, though she couldn’t see him.
“It’s not my place,” she started, slowly. “And you don’t have to listen to me. But. Ghost, it doesn’t have to be like this. It could be better.”
“That’s what you don’t understand about the club, sweetheart.” His voice grew rough. “Once you’re in, you’re in for life. And the president makes the rules.”
“Even if other members have better ideas?”
“No one questions him.”
“Maybe somebody should.” He didn’t respond, so she said, “I’m sorry, I won’t keep you. Night, Ghost.”
The line went dead.
He hung up the phone slowly. No one had ever pushed Duane to go a different direction, not really.
But maybe somebody should.