NOT IN THE PLANS is a manuscript I started almost a year ago that never made it past the first two chapters. I’m still considering picking it back up when I start sending out queries for BACK TO ME. Until then, I’ll share it here. The first chapter is from Savvy’s point of view. I’ll post the second chapter, from Jackson’s point of view, tomorrow.
Affair. Savvy couldn’t chase the word out of her head, not even with the top down on her convertible and female rock band Saving Jane blaring over the premium sound system. It was the type of word that was hissed or spat out of someone’s mouth, not one that was casually bandied about in pleasant conversation.
Savvy jammed her foot down on the accelerator and flooring it past her condo. She wasn’t ready to face Jackson yet. Affair. Damn, there was that ugly word in her head again.
That’s not what she was doing, was it? No, she thought. Sitting on a couch with Sullivan in his office while he expertly rubbed her feet was not an affair. It was just two colleagues unwinding after another long night of pouring over voluminous corporate due diligence.
Savvy didn’t have the heart to pass her condo a second time, knowing Jackson hated when she worked this late. She slowed as she circled back to the front of the building and eased her car into the underground parking garage. After making her way to her assigned spot, she took her time raising the top to her shiny new BMW Z4.
Savvy had purchased the car as a reward for successfully closing a multi-million dollar real estate development that was certain to make her a lock for partner when the vote came up at the end of the year. She loved the little red convertible and how sexy it made her feel when she slid behind the wheel. Even though her long blonde hair, blue eyes and tall, lean frame would have made most women jealous, she hadn’t felt attractive in awhile. Maybe that’s why she hadn’t stopped him when Sullivan began flirting with her a few months ago.
Savvy knew she was stalling as she stood there staring at her car, trying to avoid the crisis of conscience she might have when she walked through the door and saw Jackson’s adoring face. She took a deep breath and turned on a perfectly spiked heel to head towards the elevator. She spent the ride up to her 22nd floor condo assuring herself that weeks of flirtation with Sullivan, and the occasional foot rub or shoulder massage, did not qualify as an affair.
By the time Savvy made her way down the long, narrow hallway and put her key in the front door, she was convinced she had nothing to feel guilty about.
When she swung the door open, however, and saw the candles burning on the mahogany dining room table, a lump began to form in her stomach. Judging from the wax that had streamed down the sides of the white tapered candles, they’d been burning for quite some time. Silhouetted behind the dim glow was Jackson’s face, hardened into a glare as he held his arms tightly clenched against his chest.Dinner. She’d promised Jackson that she’d be home in time for dinner after he’d complained that they hadn’t had a meal together in three weeks. While she was sitting on Sullivan’s couch getting her feet rubbed, Jackson had been home cooking her a romantic dinner. The guilt was back, and it was so heavy she couldn’t move.
Savvy realized she was still standing in the doorway, so she slowly stepped inside, closing the door behind her. She was buying time, and she knew it. “Jackson, I’m so sorry. I got busy at work and forgot,” she said, her voice pleading for forgiveness and understanding. She realized it was the only voice she ever seemed to use with Jackson these days.
He sat there glaring at her with a mix of hurt and anger she had only seen in him a few times in the seven years they’d been together. The only thing worse than being yelled at was silence. Wasn’t he going to say anything? “Come on, Jackson, please say something,” she pleaded as she moved behind an empty chair on the side of the table.
“Savannah, really?” he asked in disbelief.
It was never a good sign when he used her full first name. No one called her Savannah. No one except her mother and Jackson when they were angry or disappointed in her. At least she hadn’t gotten the full “Savannah Lynn Davis,” that would have meant there was no hope of resolving this before bedtime, and she hated going to bed in a fight.
“What do you want me to say, Jackson? You know how busy I’ve been at work. I’m up for partner at the end of the year, and I’ve come too far and worked too hard to jeopardize my chances.”
For seven years the only fights they’d ever had were over work. Her work, to be exact. She absolutely meant what she said, but her regret over Sullivan and the missed dinner made it come out sounding more like a plea than an affirmative statement.
Jackson hadn’t moved. He was still sitting at the far end of the table, arms crossed, jaw clenched. The candlelight made the contrast between his tanned skin and blonde hair even more stark than usual and highlighted the muscles underneath his thin cotton shirt. She might have gotten caught up in how delicious he looked if she hadn’t been able to see how his clear blue eyes had gone icy.
She kept a safe distance on the side of the table, as he launched into his speech, “Savannah, when is enough ever enough? You’ve slaved away at that firm for seven years. We haven’t gone on a real vacation in three years because you can’t leave them, just in case they need you. What about me, Savannah? What about my needs?”
There it was again, guilt weighing down her entire body. Normally, she would counter this with something about how hard she’d worked in law school, how competitive it was to make partner, and how fabulous their life would be once she finally made it and could relax in her big, corner office.
Her usual tactic was to transfer the guilt back to Jackson by reminding him that when she met him the night after her bar exam she had explained all this. She’d never made a secret of her ambition to be an attorney and one day make partner. Jackson had known what he was getting into, so why did she always find herself apologizing for it?
As she prepared to say just that, Sullivan’s warm breath on her neck flashed through Savvy’s mind. He’d been leaning over to look at the survey she studied on the conference room table this afternoon, but he’d been close enough she could smell his designer cologne. He’d put one hand on the small of her back while he pointed to the planned development with the other hand. Her whole body had tingled and she’d been afraid he’d felt her shudder at his touch.
Willing away the memory of Sullivan Bishop, she stared into the hurt eyes of the man she reminded herself that she loved. There would be no turning this around on Jackson tonight.
Instead, she’d have to appeal to the genteel Southerner she knew lie behind that hardened exterior. He always melted like butter when she turned on the charm. She knew he loved her too much to stay mad at her.
“Jackson, darling,” she purred as she approached his end of the table and circled behind his chair, her arm circling around him and draping across his chest, “I am so sorry,” she leaned over and whispered in his ear from behind. “There’s nowhere I’d rather have been tonight than here with you.” She was disappointed when she only felt him stiffen under the arm she kept across his chest.
“Come on, Jackson,” she said as she moved from behind his chair to kneel at his side. She wasn’t beyond literally getting on her knees and begging. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise. Let’s heat up this delicious-looking dinner on the table and have our meal together.”
“I’ve lost my appetite,” Jackson said as he shoved his chair back from the table, nearly knocking Savvy over in the process.
Jackson had crossed into the living room and was in their bedroom before she could think of what to say to stop him. She heard the door close, but Jackson didn’t slam it.
Anger she could have dealt with, she could be just as stubborn as him when they argued. This quiet disappointment was a different story; it felt like a knife to the heart.
Savvy sighed in defeat, stood up, and straightened out her knee-length pencil skirt. She slid Jackson’s chair back under the table and began carrying the plates of food into the kitchen.
She despised leftovers, but she hated to throw away Jackson’s cooking effort even more. She grabbed some containers from a cabinet and busied herself with transferring the food from the plates. When everything had been stored, she carried the stack of containers to the refrigerator and quietly put them away.
Savvy knew enough to let Jackson have his space when he was really worked up, so she settled in on the couch in the living room. She’d just watch a little television and then sneak into the bedroom after Jackson fell asleep.
She pulled a blanket off the back of the white leather couch and laid down to stretch out her long, lean legs. The last thing she remembered thinking before she drifted off to sleep was how she could make it up to Jackson by making him breakfast before he headed off to the jobsite tomorrow.