“Jack! This is crazy! I can’t leave now.”

“Yes, yes, you can. So many fans are counting on you. Let this go for now and focus on your work. You don’t want to disappoint them.”

“We need to talk!”

“We will. When you get home.” He hurried outside, down the porch steps, and along the sidewalk he had scooped clear of snow before breakfast, knowing the whole entire time, with every shovelful thrown aside, that he wasn’t going with her.

They would talk when she got home. When she got home.

She wouldn’t be home for five weeks.

Jill stood, motionless. Her loving husband of twenty-four years had just announced that he wanted a divorce.

Behind her the clock chimed a quarter past the hour.

 

PART ONE

Chapter 1

Aboard a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles

When Jill was a little girl, her father nicknamed her Jillie Jaws. He asked, What choice did he have? Not only were her initials JAW, she was also without question, from birth, a motormouth. When air first hit her lungs, she never even cried. She yammered. Yes sirree, Jillian Autumn Wagner always had something to say.

Until now.

Four hours into it and she had nothing to say.

Not that anyone would have listened. The flight attendants had spent more time buckled in than not because of air turbulence. A sullen thirtyish woman in the window seat wore a headset and kept her nose buried in a novel that sported a strikingly handsome Fabio-type on the cover. The aisle seat remained empty.

Of course it remained empty. It was Jack’s.

Her jaw quivered. The movement had no relationship to yammering.

What would her father think? Skip Wagner thought the world of his son-in-law.

Her dad? She was concerned about her dad? What about her audience?

Don’t even start, Jillian. Do not even start.

But of course she had started, thanks to Jack’s introduction of the subject. He had said her fans were counting on her.

Jack was a kind man, a physician in the classic sense. He was a gentleman who wanted nothing more than to help his patients feel better. That he actually said he wanted a divorce was inconceivable. As if that weren’t enough, he had added insult to injury by mentioning her fans. Moments later as they stood at the curb, he’d done it again. At the echo of his voice in her head now, she could scarcely breathe.

“You will be all right,” he had said. “This trip is about you meeting your fans.” He gave her a quick hug, the stiff-armed sort he used for his elderly, frail mother. Then deftly, one hand under her elbow, the other on the open car door, he ushered her into the backseat of the cab as if she were another scoop of snow tossed aside.

“Jack, I’ll go later. I’ll get another flight—”

“No!” He shook his head vehemently. “No. I must do it this way. I’m sorry.” He shut the car door.

Before the driver pulled from the curb, Jack had scurried away, making it halfway up the sidewalk without a wave or backward glance.

And that was that.

At breakneck speed he had detonated three explosions: He wanted a divorce. He didn’t want to talk about it for weeks. He mentioned her fans.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Her fans were women who listened to her radio show and planned to read her new book. They were women from across the country who trusted her advice on how to prevent a husband from doing exactly what her husband had just managed to do.

More specifically they were women in Los Angeles who had already paid money to eat lunch with Jill Galloway. They had paid money to hear her speak about how to communicate in marriage. They had scheduled it on their BlackBerrys for tomorrow.