Scandalous 2


Chapter 1


Jack runs his hands through his hair and sits down hard on the bed. The little cottage in the Caribbean has let him put his life on pause, but the guilt hasn't stopped. It doesn't matter what Abby says, Jack can't help but feel like he ruined her. Abby always had a clear vision of who she was and what she wanted to be, and now that's gone. The future that she'd so carefully planned out crumbled in her hands, and it was his fault. Jack can see it in her eyes at night, when they sit with their feet in the surf. That vacant gaze is all too familiar. Jack remembers having it for so long that the worry lines are etched into his skin. She's drifting, lost, and there's nothing he can do about it. He made her fall.

Jack's phone buzzes on the nightstand. His brow pinches as he lifts it to his ear. Glancing back at the bathroom, Jack makes sure the shower is still running so Abby can't hear. As if things weren't difficult already, now there's this.

"Gus, what'd you find out?"

"Some of it appears the same as always, but there's something else going on. This is going to fuck up your tour, Jack. They're targeting you this time, not just the art." Gus sounds tense, like the last thing he wanted to do was call Jack and deliver this message.

Jack works his jaw, thinking. "Just keep looking. It isn't the same this time."

"How do you know? It could just be the normal crap that pops up before a show." So many things had happened in the past. Gus's explanation was possible, but Jack knew there was more at play. He could feel it looming, threatening to crush them. Everything was different this time, because one factor had changed. Abby.

"It's not the regular shit. Gut feeling, Gus. Track it down. If it's an anti-art movement, I'll feel better, but I have this horrible feeling that it's more than that." Jack glances up at the bathroom door. The shower turns off. The sound of running water stops. "Take care of it," Jack says softly and ends the call.

There are so many things that Abby doesn't know, so many things weighing on him that he wants to tell her. Whenever a new exhibit opens, there are protesters. That isn't what's bothering him this time. They can picket all they want, it isn't going to change the fact that his models are nudes. But maybe that isn't the worst of it. Maybe the whole thing is in his head, and he can't deal with the fact that he changed Abby hard and fast. He keeps waiting for her to realize her mistake. There's a thought in the back of his mind that springs up when he's alone: People who change that quickly don't really change at all. And that's what scares him most.

Chapter 2


I towel off after my shower. Jack smiles at me, but it doesn't reach his eyes. Something's bothering him, but he doesn't say much about it. When we return home, he has the biggest show of his life. Jack's a private person, and being in the press makes him tense. I assume that's where his worry is coming from. I glance over at him. Jack is lying back on the bed, hands behind his head, waiting for me to finish getting ready to go out. It's the last night of our honeymoon. I don't want it to end. I want to protect Jack from retreating into himself. I want to shelter him from the critics and the crazies that come out and slam his work. It takes more than thick skin. I wonder if he withdraws for self-preservation. Either way, I wish he didn't have to go through it. The only solace I have is knowing that it will be short lived, that Jack won't have this weight on his shoulders much longer.

Sitting in front of the mirror on a little padded bench, I attempt to pin up my hair. With the humidity, it's fighting back. Jack slips off the bed and starts to dress since I'm nearly ready. It's not fair. I can spend an hour getting ready and he looks hot when he throws a shirt over his head. There's a light dusting of stubble on his jaw and his hair is messy, the way I like it. Every few minutes, my eyes stray to him and I forget what I'm doing.