This story, from Deep Desires Press features characters from my novel The Taming School from Sizzler Editions. It does happen after the novel so, if you like it, please check my novel The Taming School to discover how Kat and Peter got together. Please, enjoy.
“What do you want from me, Peter?” Kat Valdez spat back at her boyfriend—now fiancé—as she pushed up from the table to pace the dining room.
She did not have time for this fight. She’d known that it’d been brewing, that they’d both bitten their tongues about it for too long now. But, with just a week until her novel came out and a million things to do before then, she did not need this right now.
“This is my dream,” she said as she leaned against the sink, holding her pounding head in her hand. “My book launches in a week; I’m sorry if you feel neglected,” she said, trying—and failing—to keep the sneer from her voice, as she crossed her arms over her chest, “but what am I supposed to do? Drop everything—when I’m already swamped and behind schedule—because you’re feeling insecure?”
“I’m not asking that,” Peter Richards insisted, pushing his uneaten food aside. “I know you’re busy.” He shook his head and he threw his hands out. “You’re always busy. You’ve been busy for the past three months.” Ticking off his fingers, he said, “Too busy to go out. Too busy to stay in. Too busy for me. Too busy to help me plan our goddamned wedding.”
He sat back, running his hands through his thick, brown hair. “Jesus, Kat, I know this is important to you—and I think I’ve been incredibly supportive—but I hardly ever see you.”
That wasn’t true. She pouted as she tapped her toe against the tile. They saw each other every freaking day; how much more could they see each other?
“Living together was supposed to bring us closer,” he said with a shake of his head. “But, if you’re not at work, you’re locked in your office with your laptop. Everyday—everyday—you get up, grab food, go to your regular job, come home, work on your novel or promotion or whatever, then fall asleep.” He sighed as he pushed his thin-framed glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. “The only time I get to spend any time with you at all is when you’re unconscious.”
“It’s just one more week,” she said. But even she knew that wasn’t true. After publication came promotion, which was never-ending. Especially since she wasn’t going through a big publishing company and had little more than her own money, effort, and drive behind her. Kat bit her lip, tugging at the full flesh hesitantly.
It wasn’t that she didn’t see his point. She did know that she’d been distant lately. Unavailable. Absent. But this whole process was just more stressful, more confusing, and more consuming than she’d imagined it would be in all the daydreaming she’d done. The hand-wringing and second-guessing about every step and decision along the way alone took up a ridiculous amount of time.
It just didn’t leave a lot of time for much else.
Whom she loved. She did. She would never have agreed to marry him, if she hadn’t. Wouldn’t have moved in with him or spent the past year with him, if she hadn’t.
It was just rotten timing.
She’d been sending her novel off to publishers for months. Getting pretty used to rejection—or worse, just a silent, absent no—she’d been feeling pretty low.
Depressed, actually. Crippling self-doubt had crept inside her head, sure that she’d never make it. Because she wasn’t any good. Because she wasn’t special. Because she wasn’t meant to be anything but some pompous ass’s office grunt.
And then Peter had proposed.
She hadn’t even seen it coming. They hadn’t been together all that long. A little more than a year now.
But she loved him. When she thought about the rest of her life, she thought of him. She wanted to marry him. She did.
But not when she felt like such a failure. They lived in his house. They lived off his income. They were living his life. And while she knew that Peter would never lord it over her, that he wanted to share that life with her, it felt too much like she had nothing worth giving in return. She couldn’t do that. She couldn’t ask him to do that. Not when she—no matter how long they’d been together—still never felt good enough for him.
And then the email came. Less than a week after their engagement. A small, digital publisher wanted to take her manuscript.
She still felt guilty over the fact that a part of her—a small part—was more excited by that email than the beautiful ring Peter had given her. That, in a way, it was offering her something more. The chance to be more.
“Sometimes,” Peter said wearily, “it seems like you really don’t want to get married.”
“Of course I do,” she said on a sigh. Of course she did. She loved him. “But this is such a big opportunity for me.” Please, understand. “I have to take it.” Now. Otherwise she’d regret it for the rest of her life.
“What about me?” he asked. “While you’re busy living your dream, where does that leave me? We haven’t been on a date in months. We haven’t had sex for longer than that. I can’t even remember the last time we played together. Where do we exist in this big opportunity of yours?” He shook his head as he muttered under his breath, “Do we even exist in it at all?”
His tone—his posture, the look on his face—felt like a slap, a strike to the soul. “Are you asking me to choose?” she asked. “Between you and my career?”
“It’s not a career, Kat,” he said, exasperated, as he stood up, turning his back on her. “You talk about it like you’re the next Ann Rice. It’s a tiny, startup company that no one’s ever heard of. It’s sucking up all your time. You’re putting everything else—your job, our friends, me, our life—on hold and there’s no real guarantee that anything is even going to come of it.” He threw his hands up frustratedly. “And I just can’t understand why you’re willing to throw us—and everything we’ve spent a year building—away because of it.”
Kat just stared at him, not believing the words that were coming out of his mouth.
She wasn’t an idiot.
She knew the reality of what this was. She knew that the publisher who signed her wasn’t exactly Harper Collins She might dream about waking up tomorrow to find that she somehow made it on the New York Times’ Best Sellers List, but she did know that wasn’t going to happen. This wasn’t her big break; it was barely a foot in the door. She knew that.
She wasn’t stupid. And she hated the idea that he could even think that.
She also knew that she had a good life. Right now. As it stood. She may not love her job, but it paid the bills. She had the very best friends. She was engaged to be married to the man of her dreams. She had an awesome sex life where she got to realize her every dirty, fun, kinky fantasy while making his come true too. Life was good, book deal or not.
But did that mean that she had to give up her hopes and aspirations—the dream she’d held in her heart since she was a child—because good was good enough? Did she have to downplay—or even dismiss—her long-held dreams to hold on to her newfound ones?
“I’m not the one calling it quits, Peter,” she said, trying to hold back her tears. “I’m not the one who thinks it’s an either/or situation.” She sniffed as she turned away, pushing herself away from the counter as she tried to find her resolve. “But, if you’re asking me to choose,” she shrugged and shook her head as she turned to walk upstairs, saying sadly, “neither of us are going to be very happy with my choice.”
Least of all her.
Peter woke up the next morning with a pounding headache, a stomach full of regret, and apologies like morning breath on his tongue, only to find Kat was already gone.
Too early for her to have left for work, he knew that she’d left so she wouldn’t have to see him. Which was great. Just great.
They had to talk. He’d been an ass last night. He knew that. He hadn’t meant to be. That wasn’t his intention, when he’d started the discussion. He’d just wanted to know if she’d looked into the list of wedding reception sites he’d sent her. How it’d all gotten out of hand was beyond him.
He groaned miserably as he got up to grab a cup of coffee before heading upstairs to his own office to work. But, when he took his mug from cupboard, he saw there was a note folded up and left inside.
You were right. It’s just too much right now, trying to juggle everything all at once. I need to focus and I can’t do that here. It’s tearing at us both.
So I went to work early today to finish some things up before the weekend. I also called work and my parents last night; I’m taking the next week off. Going up to see my parents, stay with them for the book launch.
You were right. I think we both need time to think—really think hard—about where we fit in each other’s lives going forward. We shouldn’t be talking about marriage until we know how our relationship will work from now on.
Or whether it even works at all.”
Peter could almost read her hesitation as she ended the letter, “Love, Kat,” wondering if—hoping like hell—those words were still true.
He checked his mug again, seeing his ring—an emerald instead of a diamond sat at its golden heart because his Katherina deserved better than the average. Deserved something she would know—would recognize at first sight—as hers.
God, he loved her so much. For a year now, she’d been working her way inside him.
No, not even working. She hadn’t done anything except be herself; this beautiful, amazing, sexy-as-hell creature he no longer knew how to be without.
As he pocketed the ring, he knew—in the most elemental, visceral way—that, if he ever lost her, a part of him would always walk around broken. Peter shook his head as he crumpled up her note. He couldn’t lose her.
But he just didn’t know how to keep her either.
Read Part Two Here