A Heaven Hill Christmas

By: Laramie Briscoe

Nine Novellas of the Heaven Hill Series

Chapter One

Layne O’Connor parked his bike in the back of his wife’s downtown office. It was dark, but the snow falling against the brick building and the accumulation that had already gathered on the pavement, lightened up the night considerably. Wanting to make sure he wasn’t too far off-base on what he was about to accuse her of, he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. Twenty-two hundred hours. This was getting fucking ridiculous – especially since it was the fifth night this week. Using the keypad lock Travis had installed, he entered his code and waited for the dead-bolt to disengage. He ducked inside, out of the cold, and gave himself a moment to acclimate to the dim light of the stairwell. The soft glow was still brighter than the muted gray of the winter night. Shaking the snowflakes off his shoulders, he took the steps two at a time, hoping he wasn’t making too much noise. His boots sounded loud to him as his steps echoed in the empty corridor.

Reaching the top, he congratulated himself for not being out of breath, put in another code, and opened the door to Jessica’s office slowly. He didn’t want to barge in and scare her. When she got deeply into a story, it was very easy for her to forget everything else going on around her.

“You’re in trouble,” his tone a warning as he entered through the doorway.

Jessica’s head snapped up from where she bent over her laptop. The office looked like a studio apartment, having everything there she’d need to be comfortable. Tonight she sat Indian style on the bed, MacBook in her lap. “Jesus, Layne,” she put her hand up to her chest, breathing deeply. “What time is it?” she squinted, just now realizing how dark it was, how late the night had gotten.

“Twenty-two hundred hours.”

“You know I hate military time,” she frowned at him as he walked into the room and kicked the door shut behind him.

“It’s ten o’clock. Time for you to wrap up the writing for the night,” he approached her slowly, turning on lights as he went.

“But I’m at a really good part,” she argued, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth and gesturing at the screen of the laptop. “My two main characters are about to get it on after thirteen chapters of slow sexual build up.”

Turning on the light closest to her, he stood over her, his eyes meeting hers. “Unless it’s us about to get it on, I don’t think I really wanna talk about it.”

She huffed, pushing her hair out of her face, and shoving her glasses further up on her nose. Two motions that he found undeniably sexy, but underneath it all, he could see the dark circles under her eyes and the fatigue she tried desperately to hide. He hated when she pushed herself this hard, but he also knew once she got on a roll, it was hard for her to stop. She was scared of losing the words, the flow, and that her mindset would somehow change, not letting her stay in the scene.

“I need to finish this chapter to stay on deadline, Layne,” her voice rough with frustration as she tried to make him understand.

“Gorgeous, I know, but have you looked outside in the past few hours?” he pointed to the window that looked out high above the coffee shop on the square.

“No. The last thing I remember is going to get a hot chocolate around noon,” she admitted.

Layne grabbed the laptop. “Have you saved?” He’d learned the hard way that closing her laptop before she saved could send her into a meltdown of epic proportions if something went wrong and she lost all her work.

She nodded, watching him closely, her eyes following him around the room.

He walked over to her desk, closing the laptop as he set it on the flat surface. He let himself look out over the snow-covered square, trying to calm his irritation. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself, gorgeous,” he tried to make his voice light as he walked over to the bed and had a seat.

“I have a real deadline now, Layne. It’s not like when I was publishing on my own.”

Layne tried to be understanding, tried to really listen to what she was telling him, but all he could see was that his wife was absolutely exhausted. All he could focus on was the fact he’d gone to bed without her for the past two weeks, while she came to bed as the sun was coming up. “Not good enough.”

“You’re pissin’ me off, Layne.”

He grinned at her, letting her see the fire in his gaze. “You’re pissin’ me off too and you know what happens when I get pissed off. Did you change that Pinterest password yet?”

Her lips twitched as she tried to keep a stern face. “You wouldn’t do that again.”