One year, 365 days—and then one knock at my door changes everything.
The Cabin, an all-new beautifully written, emotion filled romance from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jasinda Wilder is available now!
One year ago, I buried my husband.
One year ago, I held his hand and said goodbye.
Now I spend most of my days lost somewhere between trying to remember every smallest detail of our lives, and trying to forget it all. I fill my hours with work until I’m too exhausted to remember him, to feel anything at all.
One year, 365 days—and then one knock at my door changes everything. A letter from him, a last request, a secret will:
My dearest Nadia,
Trust me, my love. One last time, trust me. Sometimes the epilogue to one story is the beginning of another.
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“All right, Mr. Bell. You’re all set here, I think.”
The nurse is that peculiar, unique brand of brusque efficiency and Zen-like kindness you only find in an oncology department. She fiddles with the IV line puncturing my left arm, the off-white, veiny medical tape securing it to my forearm. Her eyes are brown, the exact shade of a chocolate Labrador’s fur. She is warm, and caring, but lurking beneath that veneer of caregiver kindness is the detached iciness of someone whose job it is to watch people die.
“It will take a couple hours for this to drip through, and then we have to monitor you for—”
“I know,” I interrupt. I open the lid of my laptop. “I’ve been through this a few times.”
She smiles. “Of course, Mr. Bell. If you need anything, just press the call button.”
I hesitate a few seconds and then say, “There is something.” Then I glance at the curtain which is not quite pulled shut.
She catches my meaning and brings the two ends of the curtain together, the metal rings rasping with a rattling ring. “What can I do for you, Mr. Bell?”
I reach into my messenger bag, sitting on the floor next to this monstrosity of a chair—a freakish, Frankensteinian thing, not quite a lounger and not quite a clinical, medical device, but something in between. It’s made from a rubbery plastic or vinyl material that squeaks at every slight movement, and is too hard and too upright to be truly comfortable, but when you kick back in it and lift the footrest, it forces you into a near-horizontal recline in an unnatural defiance of gravity.
The chair is distracting, and I hate the chair almost as much as I hate the ward, the IV, and the whole damned morbid circus.
In my bag is a thin manila folder. On the label I’ve written three letters in neat block handwriting, in black Sharpie: NDA. I withdraw a single sheet of paper, on which are two and a half paragraphs, single-spaced. It’s in tight, clear legalese, drawn up by my attorney, printed on formal, intimidating letterhead. I hand it to the nurse whose nametag, clipped to her pale green sleeve, announces her as Tiffany Snell, R.N, O.C.N.
“This is an NDA, a nondisclosure agreement.”
She allows a frown, briefly. “Okay?”
I keep my voice low, not whispering, but pitched for her ears only. “I’m here alone, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”
“Yes. Which is why your observation period has to be so long.”
I reach into my bag and pull out a pen—it’s a nice pen, hefty, metal, with a satisfying clicker, and on the side is my name: Adrian Bell, and my logo, a coat of arms with my monogram. It’s recognizable to most people, that logo; you see it on the title page of my books, on my website, and expensively animated as a production company logo during the title sequences when you watch movies made from my books. I hand her the pen, tap the NDA with it.
“This says you will not disclose to anyone that I was here at all, let alone why. I’m paying for this with cash, so there’s no insurance paperwork trail.”
She frowns again as she reads. “Why is it a secret, may I ask?”
“I have my reasons,” I say. “Whatever else must be done in the process of this infusion, I would like you to do, including observation and my eventual discharge. All right? This means that just one person has to sign this little item.” I tap the NDA again.
“And if I don’t sign it?” It’s not meant belligerently, just…a simple question.
I smile. “Tiffany—Miss Snell. Do I really need to spell this out? You know who I am. I don’t want this getting out. That’s all. I’m protecting my privacy.”
She breathes out gently—it’s not a sigh, more of a thoughtful breath. “What about your wife? Why isn’t she here?”
It takes all I have to not wince at the question. “I’m going to have to decline to answer that, Miss Snell. Can you please just sign? It just means you don’t tell anyone I was here. If coworkers ask, you simply say you can’t talk about it. Don’t make a big deal about it, just that—I can’t talk about it. That’s all.” I pause, smile again. “Would it help you to know I’m a yearly donor to this facility?”
She rolls a shoulder. “Not really. I’m just a nurse.” Another of those thoughtful out-breaths. “Mr. Bell, I’ll sign your NDA. But I have to register my thoughts with you. Hiding this is not fair.” Her warm brown eyes momentarily reveal the sadness she normally keeps hidden. “I’ve seen your file, obviously. What you’re dealing with, it’s…it’s not…”
“It doesn’t have a stellar survival rate,” I finish. “I know.”
“Hiding it from your wife, Mr. Bell—”
“It’s really, really not fair of you, Adrian. You’re not doing her any favors. I obviously don’t know a thing about your marriage, but if she loves you—”
I let out a shaky breath, cut her off. “She does, Tiffany. More than I deserve. More than…More than is, perhaps, healthy.”
“I have my reasons,” I say again. Now I do not smile. I frown in a way that says this conversation has to be over. “It’s not fair of me, I know. Believe me, I know. But it’s not fair that I have this. That I’m here. It’s not fair that I’m paying as much for this treatment as I am. What in your life can you list as unfair, Tiffany? A lot, I’m sure. Fair is a myth. Fair does not exist.”
She gazes at me evenly, steadily and then takes the pen from me. Signs the NDA in a nurse’s hasty scrawl. Dates it. Hands me the pen.
She lets a small smile cross her lips. “I’ve read all your books, you know. I enjoy them. They make me feel like I can believe in love again.” She gestures with the pen. “Thank you.”
“If you happen to have a copy with you, I’ll sign it for you.”
She bites a lip. “I do, actually.”
“Bring it when you come to check on me.”
She nods, hooks the pen by the clip at an angle in the V of her scrub top. Smiles at me again, and leaves.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, my mother used to tell me.
I enter the passcode on my laptop; there’s Wi-Fi here, so I could check email, but I don’t. In fact, I turn Wi-Fi off, so I won’t be distracted by the siren song of email, pull my wireless earbuds from my bag, and turn on Rostropovich via my phone.
I open my manuscript. Close my eyes, take a deep breath, hold it, and let it out slowly. Repeat four times. Pushing away, mentally, the fog of the chemo, the pinch of the IV, the continual beeping of IV machines indicating a bag is finished, the occasional static PA announcements, the squeak of sensible sneakers, and the murmur of quiet conversations.
Push it all away. Find my flow.
It’s there, under the surface. It’s always there; it’s always been there. Like Louis L’Amour said, I could sit in the middle of Sunset Boulevard with a typewriter on my knees, and once I’m in the flow, I wouldn’t notice a thing but the words on the page.
With this story I’m working on now, though, it’s harder, and it takes more effort to sink down into it, more mental gymnastics to get into the flow. I need to find the right balance, tap into the necessary emotions, while still remaining the objective storyteller.
This one is personal. More than all the other books I’ve written over my career, this one…this one requires more of me.
And I have to get it right.
I’m writing it for an audience of one. Well, two. But really, just one. Her.
My love. My Nadia.
NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, WALL STREET JOURNAL and international bestselling author Jasinda Wilder is a Michigan native with a penchant for titillating tales about sexy men and strong women. Her bestselling titles include ALPHA, STRIPPED, WOUNDED, and the #1 Amazon and international bestseller FALLING INTO YOU. You can find her on her farm in Northern Michigan with her husband, author Jack Wilder, her six children and menagerie of animals.