I don’t know where 70,000 words will ultimately fall in terms of final word count, but it’s “spiritually” in the midpoint sequence. There’s a difficult-to-survive battle in the arc of escalating physical conflicts that will culminate in the final boss fight, where Heroine will have to use every skill displayed in these smaller skirmishes (and skills she hasn’t wanted to use). In the romance department, the unbelievable truth comes out, and without the big lie between them, they can now have sex without the consent problems associated with false identity. This is the tipping point—less trying to figure out what’s going on, more direct action to solve the problem as they understand it after all that trying to figure out what’s going on. They’re still missing a couple of puzzle pieces they’ll eventually need, but those will shake loose as a result of acting upon what they already know, hopefully in the form of unpleasant surprises.
I’ve had the notion this will be a five-book series but not even a vague idea about the contents of one of the middle books. I have a cover for it (I have all the covers!) but not a single clue about who the characters are or what their quest is. In the writing that contributed to the 70K milestone, a side character who needed some personality to make his scenes happen decided to audition for the romantic lead in the question-mark book, and it would be an interesting combination with the soldier-looking woman on the question-mark cover. Separately, “someone would definitely be trying to make a weapon using this valuable power source” spontaneously popped into my head. I don’t know how (or if) those two elements work together, but they’ve given my hindbrain something to chew on while I work on stories I know better. I just need to worry at the unknown from the angle of how both things play into the main villain’s master plan, and then everything else will cascade into place. I believe question-mark book would have to be the fourth, so there’s no rush. Hints of the future need to be planted, but “remember this flashy guy, he’ll be important later” might be enough foreshadowing for Book One. Give the soldier a similar cameo in Book Two? Tangentially mention the weapon in Book Three?
*shrug* It’ll work itself out eventually. For now, I’ve got painful emotions and comfort sex to write, and then we’re off to either get eaten by or make a regrettable bargain with a dragon.