“Would you please hoist this up into the car?” Janette asked Chandler with more disdain than he’d heard in a long time. Great. What’d he do this time? “Or do I have to do everything myself?” Janette was struggling to lift their heavy suitcase into the hatch of her Subaru Outback.
Chandler couldn’t understand why she hadn’t waited two more minutes for him to come help her. She was so impatient. Without answering her obviously rhetorical question, he calmly lifted the bulging suitcase up and shoved it further back so they could fit the cooler in.
“Don’t scratch my car,” she snapped.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes then spoke through gritted teeth. “I did not scratch your car. Nor would I.”
“You did the other day when we went to the post office,” she reminded him. “You slammed the door against the curb and scratched the door frame.”
“The day I helped you carry that giant box of books you shipped to one of your little friends on the opposite side of the world? What did that cost you? Like, eighty bucks? Did you take that out of your business account? Or did you borrow money from our home checking account?”
“I used my business account.” Her words were laced with hurt. He needed to rein himself in. Again. “And Lana is not one of my little friends. She is a professional author and one of my co-writers. She deserves to have copies of our co-written book.”
“And she couldn’t just order them from Australia herself?” Chandler didn’t wait for Janette to ask for his help before lifting the heavy cooler and shoving it into the spot barely large enough remaining in the back of the trunk.
“I needed to sign them for her.” Janette’s vulnerability showed in the wavering of her voice. “You may not think my autograph is valuable but other people do.”
“I’m sure they do,” Chandler said dismissively. Looking around the car for anything else that needed to be loaded and seeing nothing, Chandler reached up and pulled the hatch down to close the trunk. “Did you use the bathroom? I don’t want to have to stop an hour from now.”
He pulled the car keys from his pocket and headed for the driver’s side door before waiting for her to answer. It didn’t matter. If she needed to stop, he would stop. He always did. His wife had a bladder the size of a grape and drank too much Diet Coke. Not that he complained since she never batted an eye when he snuck sips of her pop every so often.
Janette spent several minutes digging through her recently organized backpack while Chandler sat in the driver’s seat, adjusting the seat back so his legs would fit better in her tiny car.
If only they could take his Mustang convertible on their cross-country trip. He looked longingly across the driveway at his Mustang’s sparkling blue paint job shimmering in the morning sun, knowing that was a forgone conclusion. Janette hated having wind in her face and refused to ride in his prized possession with the top down. What was the point of having a convertible if he couldn’t lower the top? Plus, the little beast had manual transmission and Janette couldn’t drive a stick shift. Not that he’d give up the wheel long enough for her to drive, but still. If something happened and he was unable to drive, better to be riding in a car she knew how to operate.
“What’s the holdup?” he grumbled when she still hadn’t joined him a minute later.
“I can’t find my computer charger.” She kept digging in her backpack.
“You already plugged the stupid thing in,” Chandler said, reaching across the console to lift the converter from where it rested beside her seat, having already been plugged into the car’s auxiliary charger. “Are you really going to be on the computer long enough to need the charger?”
“I’m going to be writing the whole time you’re driving.” She slipped into the passenger seat and adjusted the lap desk so that it rested across her knees with the laptop already open and ready to go.
“All seventy hours?” He met he gaze and lifted his eyebrows.
“Unless you’re tired and need me to take over.” She snapped her seatbelt into place.
“Not a chance.” Chandler glanced in the rearview mirror and watched the screen with the backup camera to ensure nothing was behind them, then backed out of their driveway. “What are you writing?”
“I’m taking your advice.” Janette was already typing before they’d left the neighborhood.
“About what?” He was nervous that he couldn’t remember what advice he’d given her that involved writing.
“You said I should write a romance novel about our trip.” She kept typing without glancing his way.
“I said that?” He tried to reach back into his mind to dig up that conversation.
“And I told you that no one would want to read a romance about an elderly couple, and you hurt my feelings by telling me no one would want to read any of my romance novels.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” Would he?
“I guess you and I remember the conversation differently,” Janette said.
“I don’t remember the conversation at all, so I’ll take your word for it.” Chandler pulled onto the interstate and merged into rush hour traffic, cursing his brother for asking them to embark on this venture. “Do I get to have any contribution to the story?”
“Sure. I’ll even put your name on the cover if you’d like.” She kept typing. “Under mine and in smaller font size of course.”
“Will you autograph a copy of the paperback for me also?” Chandler chuckled and glanced over at his wife, still adorable in all her youthful endeavors.
“Of course… although the copy will be worth more if you sign the book also.”
“I wouldn’t want to undervalue our joint project by refusing to include my autograph.”
“Excellent. Now be quiet so I can write.”
“Yes, dear.” Their age-old joke from when his brother had given him the best marriage advice ever back on his wedding day. The only two words he needed for a happy marriage: Yes, dear. Worked to this day. And every day from now until eternity. Provided they make it through a seventy-hour cross-country car ride together. That remained to be determined. He glanced at the GPS. Only sixty-nine hours and forty-five minutes left to go.