My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Page 27)

I feel the soft pressure of a foot over mine, and look across the table at Millie, whose eyes are closed and whose head is tilted back, relaxing after what was, without hyperbole, the best breakfast ever cooked. It seems like an accident at first, but then she nestles her feet more firmly against mine, like she’s trying to get warm. Opening one eye, she peeks at me, stifling a grin, and then feigns sleep again.

An ache—desire—is tempered with a flush of irritation. I don’t want to be the safe friend she can touch and flirt with if she’s only going to erect a new boundary every time something intimate happens. No matter what she or I have said before, we’re in a weird limbo, and we need to get the f**k out of here as soon as possible, or risk ruining what is without question one of the best friendships of my life.

Breaking Mom’s house rule, I pull my phone from my pocket, and open the IRL app at the table. I’m a little disappointed to see that Cat hasn’t written back . . . but at least Daisy has.

From: Daisy D.

Sent: 10:29 am, April 1

Hey Reid,

I hope you’re having an awesome time at home! My weekend ended up being pretty dull—a friend who was supposed to be in town flaked last minute, so I’ve basically been in my pajamas all weekend, bingeing old seasons of Big Brother.

I’m not sure what you’re up to this week, but do you think you’d be willing to meet in person? For dinner? See! I remembered you don’t do first dates over coffee or drinks. I sort of like that a lot about you.

Let me know if you’re up for it.

Talk soon,

Daisy

I glance up at Millie, who is still resting with her eyes closed. It’s time to push past this uneasiness in my gut and just . . . get out of this weird friend-lover zone with Mills.

Gently pulling my feet out from under hers, I sit up a little straighter, opening our text box. She sits up, too, looking groggy as I type out a message to her.

Sleepy?

When her phone vibrates in her back pocket, she leans to the side to pull it out. I watch her read my text, and grin as she replies.

Someone kept me up late.

I wipe a hand down my face. Enough with these mixed messages.

I just got a note from Daisy.

She wants to go out.

I watch Millie absorb this and nothing in her expression shifts—not a single muscle.

Are you going to?

Would it be weird?

For me, or for you?

For you.

Her eyes meet mine over the table, and she gives me a tiny frown before looking at her phone, typing.

I told you, Reid, I’m fine.

I’m beginning to hate the word fine.

Cool.

If Millie is okay with this, then I’ll just have to work on being okay with it, too.

I pocket my phone and stand, following Ed into the kitchen to help him clean up. He frowns as he slides the plates into the sink to begin rinsing them, and his weird silent treatment is starting to annoy me.

“What’s with you?”

Startling, he looks over his shoulder at me. “Nothing. Just full.”

“Of beer and pancakes?”

Finally, he gives me a real smile. “And mimosas and bacon.”

We start to work in tandem as I bring in dishes and he rinses them and slides them into the dishwasher.

“Everything okay with you and Mills?” he asks.

“Yeah, we’re good. Just catching each other up on the dating stuff.”

Ed looks at me with interest. “Yeah?”

“Did you know the guy she’s talking to is named Guy?” I laugh. “Is that even a real name?”

His expression droops strangely. “Huh. No, I didn’t know that.”

“What about you?” I ask. “How’s sexy Selma?”

“She hasn’t responded yet.” He pushes his sleeves up and digs his hands into soapy water. “I asked her to meet, and she never replied. Usually she responds within a couple hours.”

A feeling like heavy clouds rolling in passes through me. I want this experiment to go well for Ed, and if he’s chatting with someone who is dishonest, or vanishes without explanation, I’m going to be pissed.

“Maybe she’s just swamped at work,” I offer.

“She’s a bartender.”

Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

I look up, relieved to see Chris coming in, carrying the mostly empty platter of bacon. “I think I might die of pork overdose,” he says.

“What about you?” I ask him, then give him more context. “You’re being extremely tight-lipped about your dating adventures.”

He slides the platter onto the counter, then leans back. “I don’t know, man. I know it’s working for you, but it might not be my vibe.”

“You could just ask Rayme out,” Ed says without turning away from the sink.

A heavy curtain of silence falls, and Chris’s eyes meet mine. Instead of looking away, he holds my gaze as if he’s reading me. When I met Chris, he was married to Amalia; they divorced a couple of years later. I’ve seen him with a few women since then, but he’s never been particularly effusive when it comes to sharing details about his love life. So it takes me a few beats to register that he’s reading my reaction to see whether I’m horrified by what Ed has said. Strangely, I am not.

“You could, you know,” I tell him quietly.

Chris scowls, but I know him well enough to know he’s covering. “Man, she was fifteen when I met you.”

I shrug. “Yeah. Ten years ago.”

He opens his mouth to reply, but is cut off by the appearance of Rayme and Mills next him.

“What was ten years ago?” Rayme asks.

“Nothing,” I say, too quickly, sounding extremely suspicious.

Millie slides her knowing eyes around the room, landing eventually on me. “What’s going on, weirdos?”

“They were talking about us,” Rayme guesses in a dramatic stage whisper, and the two of them turn and saunter out of the room.

This has all become officially too much for me. It feels like we’re in a van, teetering atop a cliff. If we lean one way, we slide back to safety. If we lean the other way, we catapult headfirst into a canyon.

The problem is, I have no idea which direction to lean to get us safely to the ground.

Chapter eleven

millie

If you were a murderer in the nineteenth century, it’s likely that poison—most commonly arsenic—was your weapon of choice. Used for everything from killing rats to removing hair and controlling insects, arsenic was cheap, easy to acquire, and kept in abundance in most Victorian homes. If you were a desperate woman with an abusive or rich husband you’d like to kill, it was a relatively easy way to do it.

As you might have guessed, the section of manuscript I’m working on—and that I should have finished hours ago—is about poison. More specifically, it’s about women throughout history who’ve been tried for using it. Nannie Doss—dubbed the Giggling Granny—murdered husband after husband, and always wore a smile, even after admitting to killing four of them. Anna Marie Hahn lured rich, elderly men to their deaths, though not before taking them for everything they had. Blanche Taylor Moore’s life was a scandal of dead family and husbands and extramarital affairs, and even inspired a made-for-television movie.

Mayhem, calculated murder, history, and a body count—this is my jam. Normally I would be engrossed. Normally I would have finished this chapter and been well into the next before my laptop ever needed to charge.

But today, nearly a week after Reid and I had sex (again), I have the attention span of a teaspoon. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why.

Since I love torturing myself, I pick up my phone and reread my texts with Reid.

Dinner tonight? I was thinking pizza and gossip about Chris and your sister . . .

Nothing tickles me like hassling him, but he didn’t take the bait.

. . .

You are way too easy.

Pepperoni sound good? We’ll fancy it up with the two bottles of wine your mom gave me.

Correction: the two bottles my mom caught Ed putting in your purse.

Details, details. Should I text everyone and order?

It’s been fifteen minutes and Reid has yet to reply, but just as I’m about to put my phone down, a new one comes in:

Actually I can’t. The date’s tonight.

Date?

Did we make plans I’d forgotten about—

Then it hits me.

Daisy.

He’s referring to the date he’d texted me about, when I had promptly lied through my teeth, or through my fingers.

So Reid is going on a date. But I’m fine.

I can’t think or concentrate for more than ten consecutive minutes, but it’s cool.

Emotions are live wires, and mine are DOA.

If things go well, they could have sex tonight.

I’m definitely not fine.

Gathering my things, I push away from the table and carry it all outside, in desperate need of some air.

I don’t have a huge yard—this is California, after all—but it’s lush and shaded during the summer months, and full of golden colors in the fall. A full-grown ginkgo blots out most of the fading sun, leaving just enough spikes of sky visible where there will soon be stars. Its branches creak overhead and I take a seat on the patio swing, using one foot to gently rock in time with the breeze.

It’s cooler out than I expected, but the overcast weather seems appropriate considering my mood. Reid is going on a date and I’m here, just like I am every night and will be every night in the future because I’m doing nothing to change it. What does it say about me that rather than looking at my own profile, I want to look at Catherine’s? What does it say that I want to write him, even now? In the slim hope he might read it during his date and possibly think about me. Er . . . Catherine.

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