My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Page 20)
“That we had sex only three weeks ago.”
This sometimes happens with Millie. She’s not exactly forthcoming about her thought process, and the sudden change in topic is so disorienting that for a breath I think I’ve misheard her. But I haven’t, because she blushes.
“We did,” I agree, wondering how she got from birthdays to here.
She lets out this strange, breathy laugh. “What were we thinking?”
“Probably that we were drunk and sex would be fun?”
“You weren’t drunk,” she says.
“I was.” She considers this. “A little.”
“Are you sure you aren’t drunk now?” I smile and walk to the fridge, less to get a beer out and more to cool down the entire front half of my body. We haven’t talked about this again since the next morning, at Cajé—and it’s pretty daring to do it here when Alex and Ed are only a room away. I realize, too, that she’s wearing the same dress she wore that night. Is that what made her think of it?
I can’t help but wonder if she’s wearing the same thing underneath, too.
“Not yet, unfortunately. What I’m saying is, I could totally write you a letter of recommendation for one of your . . . lady friends. You know, if you need it.”
I give her a smarmy bow. “I genuinely appreciate that.”
Kicking off the counter, she walks to the fridge, opening it with comfort and pulling out a bottle of white wine. I don’t even need to tell her where the glasses are; she finds one in the cabinet near the stove, fills it unselfconsciously, and then returns the bottle to the fridge.
It trips an old memory, one of how Isla came here again and again with me, but even on her tenth visit, needed Mom’s permission or prompting for nearly everything.
Come on in.
Make yourself comfortable.
Would you like something to drink? Water? Wine?
Here, honey, sit next to Reid.
You two’ll be sleeping in the room down the hall.
Yes, honey, you can stay with Reid, you’re adults.
She never felt at home.
That isn’t Millie. It’s not that she’s presumptuous or callous in any way, it’s that she heeded the cues from her first visit here—the unspoken communication from Mom and Dad that my friends should all genuinely make themselves feel at home (except for racing naked in the vineyards). And here she is. She stretches, one arm over her head, then switches the hand holding the wineglass. Her torso elongates, breasts press forward.
Here she f*****g is.
She’s watching me watching her now, leaning back against the counter and sipping her wine. “What’re you thinking?”
She knows what I’m thinking. She knows I’m thinking about the sex we had.
“Just watching you.” I know her so well, and yet in some ways she’s such a mystery to me. Even though what happened between us was fun, and hot as hell—in my opinion—I realize I still can’t really know how she views it. As something fun we did, or as a mistake we made but managed to smooth over without incident. But since it’s Millie, it occurs to me that she could be full of horrified regret, and I might never know it, because she’s shoved it so far below the surface.
On instinct, I scratch at her surface a little, digging: “Get any new messages today?”
Millie tilts her head from side to side. “I got one from my guy last night. I haven’t replied yet.”
My guy. The reference makes my stomach shrink about two sizes, my heart balloon about three until it is this envious, thundering beast in my chest. How weird is it that it didn’t occur to me until we were standing right here that if Millie meets someone, I won’t have free, unlimited access to her anymore? Without entirely realizing it, I’ve become the most important man in her life . . . and I like it.
“You’re all pinched,” she says, “like some new lab tech messed up the hematoxylin stain.” She grins at me. “That’s the easy one, right? See how I pay attention?”
I give her a proud smile, but my mind is turning this around, distracted. How honest should I be here? Millie isn’t the most touchy-feely friend, but we’ve also never been here: no longer just friends, but never going to be more, either. “It just occurred to me that one or both of us could be in a relationship at some point soon.”
She lets out her trademark husky laugh. “That just occurred to you?”
“Yeah. I know what I said the other night, but I don’t think it felt real yet.”
“If we were just doing this for the gala, you and I would still be going together. You were right. But Obama wouldn’t want that. Obama would want us to have sex lives, Reid.” I laugh, and she continues, “At some point, if we kept going the way we were going, we’d all be seventy and doing crosswords together in Chris’s backyard.”
“I mean, that doesn’t sound completely terrible,” I say.
“Come on,” she says, shrugging and then taking a sip of her wine. “We both like sex.” The whole lower half of my body explodes into heat when she says this. “I’m not entirely optimistic, but it might be nice to have someone that I’m close to, and who wants sex with me on a regular basis. And kids, maybe. Someday. And, like, a shared life of adventure.”
“You know,” I tell her, “if there was a way to translate that kind of openness and sincerity to your profile, you might get more legitimate interest and fewer dick pics.”
“Why you gotta be a hater?”
“Why you gotta be such a secret?”
She twists her mouth a little at this, narrowing her eyes at me. “Hitting me where it hurts.”
So she knows she’s bottled up. Interesting. “Seriously, Mills,” I say. “You keep everything so close to your chest. Are you secretly a spy?”
She absorbs this with a smile. “You got me.”
“Okay, no more jokes.” And suddenly sincere curiosity burns through me and out: “Why? Why don’t you tell me more?”
She opens her mouth to say something, and for a beat it feels like a revelation is going to pour down over me. Something about how it felt to lose her mother so young, or how she wishes her relationship with Elly were different. Something bare-wire honest about me, or her, or—f**k—even Dustin. But she presses her lips together again and just smiles at me.
“There,” I say, pointing at her, “right there. What were you going to say?”
Alex steps in, swiping my beer from my hand. “She was going to say that Benedict Cumberbatch looks like an uncircumcised p***s.”
“I thought you were getting beers?” Ed looks forlornly at me, and then Alex, and then the fridge.
“S**t. I forgot.”
Ed frowns like I’ve genuinely let him down.
“Ed,” I say, “there are two six-packs in there. Just grab one.”
He peeks around the corner like a guilty teenager, as if he’s making sure that my parents aren’t going to catch him stealing alcohol, and then does an open-grab-slam maneuver so fast that the condiment bottles rattle in the fridge door when it rockets shut.
“Is Chris still out with your dad?” Alex asks.
“Yeah.” I grab a new beer for myself. “I swear he won’t leave Mom for the younger woman down the road; he’ll leave her for Chris.”
“I don’t think Chris is into dudes,” Ed tells me, helpfully.
“He was joking, Eddie,” Mills says with a gentle fist to his shoulder.
Ed downs about half of his beer and then burps. “Clearly I’m not firing on all cylinders. I need more beer.”
Alex tilts his head to the side, indicating the living room. “Ed just got a message from Selma.”
“The hot one?” I ask.
Ed nods, trying to look breezy about it. “It’s going pretty well. I asked her if she wants to meet up next week.”
“Already?” Millie asks.
“Millie,” Alex says, laughing, “people on Tinder meet the same day they match.”
Millie shrugs. “I know, but I guess IRL seems to emphasize taking things slow.” She glances to me and quickly away. “Which I like.”
“I’ll meet her whenever she wants.” Ed shrugs and then studies the beer in his hand. “I should cut down to, like, three beers a day. I need to lose weight. I’m tired of being brave at the beach.”
“Isn’t that why we get into relationships?” Millie asks. “To start eating again?”
Alex laughs again, and then points his beer bottle at me. “What about you, Reid? What’s up with your ladies?”
“I still really like them both.”
“We need to think of a tiebreaker,” Alex says.
Millie steps forward, slightly flushed as she looks at him with genuine scorn. “Has it occurred to you guys that Daisy and Catherine are probably talking to multiple men, too?”
I blink. I am such an a*****e—and realize it the second she says this. “Is it terrible if my answer is no?”
Ed and Alex say, “No,” at the same time Millie shouts, “Yes!”
I give a tiny apologetic wince. “It just seems crazy that Cat would be having this kind of interaction with someone else.”