My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Page 42)

He nods. “I almost called about five hundred times.”

“I guess it’s okay that you didn’t. I had—have—some work to do.”

“Yeah.” He shifts his gaze back and forth between my eyes, trying to read me. His brow furrows. “You okay, Mills?”

I shake my head, and my chin wobbles. “Not really.”

At his worried frown, I start crying again. What is with me? Seriously, it’s like a dam has burst and I’m an unending, sobbing mess. I fight the mortification rising inside, and trying to focus on Reid’s reaction helps: he seems completely unfazed by the tears and snot and hiccups.

“But I’m really glad you’re here,” I say through a sob. “Like, really, really glad you’re here. I can’t tell you how much I missed you. I have been—”

“Millie. Honey.” He tries to calm me, pressing his hand to the side of my neck. “I’m here.”

When I choke again, he leans in, cupping my face and covering my lips with his.

I don’t know how he’s interested in kissing my red, swollen mouth right now, but he clearly is, and he’s doing it with such devotion and relief that I feel immediately light-headed. My arms find their way around his neck and my legs slide over onto his lap and all he has to do is let out a quiet, encouraging groan into my mouth and I’m rocking over him, and he’s moving with me, and his shirt is gone, then mine—

But I pull back, pressing a hand to his chest just as he starts making his way down my bare neck to my collarbone.

“Wait.” I swallow, struggling to catch my breath. His eyes move up from my bare torso to my face, and he looks as drugged as I feel. “I need to know you heard me.”

He remains still, listening intently. “Okay.”

“I’m sorry about what I did,” I say, and I wait for him to acknowledge this with a tilt of his head. “And I’m working on being more forthcoming.”

Nodding again, he whispers, “I heard you. Promise you’ll tell me how I can help?”

I feel like a limp rag dragged through warm water; I am so relieved. “I will.”

Reid leans forward, intent on resuming where we left off, but one last bit of Anna’s instructions rises in my thoughts. “And I can’t do this”—I gesture to where we are pressed distractingly together—“without some sort of understanding . . .”

With a smile, he stretches, pressing a sweet, lingering kiss to my mouth. “This is your condition? Commitment?”

I nod, fighting the instinct to make a joke about signing a waiver and my vagina no longer having hourly rates. “I love you. And I’m trying to be better about being clear about what I want and need.”

He nods solemnly, with a playful gleam to his eyes, but catches my expression as I fight a scowl.

“I’m not trying to tease you,” he says, and kisses me again. “It’s just very sweet, seeing you like this.”

I close my eyes, growling, “It’s embarrassing.”

“I’m in, Mills. I’m committed.” He licks his lips, and I swear my pulse is racing a thousand beats a minute. “I want this, too.”

“Okay.” I exhale. “That’s a relief.”

I feel his breath on my neck just before he kisses me there. “I love you, too.” He punctuates each small phrase with a kiss lower on my throat. “All of you. The silly, the quiet, the argumentative, the sarcastic, and even this side.” He kisses my shoulder. “The softer side.” His hands come up over my waist. “I like feeling that I’m getting all of you.”

With a grin, I ask, “Well, do you want to get all of me on the couch? Or would you rather have all of me in the bed?”

Reid laughs, and the sound seems to gather up all the tiny broken bits I’ve left around my living room this past month without him. He stands, with me in his arms, and kisses my nose. “There she is.”

Epilogue

millie

Dad’s dinner sits half-eaten on the TV tray in front of his lounger. He’s already asleep, but I’m not going to bother trying to move him. One, because I couldn’t lift him by myself even if I wanted to (I tried that one night when he fell, and my back still aches even two weeks later), and two, because he seems to sleep better sitting up. At least for now.

It’s not been an easy recovery after the implantation of his deep brain stimulators. He also had to have two spinal fusions, which is the source of much of his discomfort. We hate to hope too much, Elly and I—because we really aren’t that far out of his surgery, and he’s on a lot of medications—but so far it seems like the stimulators are working. His symptoms are a good deal better than they were even the last time I visited.

My book advance has been able to pay for a nurse to stay here with Dad at night, which means that I can go back to the house I’ve rented for the month and decompress after a day of fussing, worrying, and daughtering in a way I’d never really mastered until now. Dad’s vulnerability broke through to me differently this time. Maybe it’s having Reid in my life to support me. Maybe it’s seeing Elly’s girls and how happy her family is, and what it means that she can lean on me a little, too. But being home hasn’t been claustrophobic or scary. It’s been stressful, sure, but it’s also been pretty f*****g great to feel like I’m doing exactly what my family needs me to do.

At around eleven thirty, I pass off the information to nurse Deborah—how much Dad ate, what meds he’s had, how much he walked today, and any other relevant information—before heading out. It’s not even that physically demanding to be with him all day, but it is emotionally draining, and my feet feel like they’re blocked in concrete.

I’ve become acutely aware that we don’t have decades left with Dad; I can’t believe I almost let that time just slide away from me.

After a short drive, I step into the rental house and am overwhelmed by the scent of garlic, salmon, and . . . sulfur?

Dropping my bag in the living room, I round into the small dining room to find Monopoly already spread out on the table.

My smile wilts.

“Are you kidding me?” I ask.

Three sets of eyes swing up to me, and three grins spread wide.

“Come on,” Alex needles, “we’ve been up here with you guys for almost a week and haven’t played once. We’re all getting sick of Pegs and Jokers.”

Reid reaches his arms wide, invitingly, and I shuffle over, settling onto his lap before kicking my shoes off. “Okay, but let’s at least play with the weapons from Clue. I get to be the rope.”

Ed catches this just as he walks in from the back porch where, I can only assume, he was having his nightly phone call with his new—and adorable—girlfriend, Shaylene. “You’re sure you don’t have a murder kink?” he asks.

“ . . . It’s possible.”

Reid goes still beneath me, and I turn around to boop his nose. “Just kidding.”

Chris pushes back from the table to stand. “Your girlfriend is weird, Reid.”

“So is yours,” I fire back.

Alex stifles a whimper. He swears he doesn’t want to settle down with one woman, but I’m not so sure. Someday—someday—he will no longer be emotionally eviscerated by the ball of adorable that is Chris and Rayme in a room together.

“Weird,” Reid agrees, “but awesome.”

He kisses the back of my neck, and for the millionth time I think: This man is a saint. Not only for being here for a month, but for sharing me during the day with Dad, and in the evenings with a revolving door of friends and family who want a place to stay in Seattle. His parents came to visit a couple of weeks back for a spontaneous getaway weekend, and thankfully we were spared any extramarital angst (Marla, as it turns out, is a lesbian and Reid’s father’s interest in her extended only to the extent that he could sample her soil—not a euphemism—for regional comparison purposes). Elly’s twins have done a few sleepovers. And I even let Avery stay in a spare bedroom for a few nights when she came up to visit Elly.

I can report that I don’t like her any more than I used to.

So I’m sure it’s nice for Reid to have the guys up for the week to do more exciting things than local vineyard reconnaissance, gossiping, or This Little Piggy.

I lift Reid’s beer and take a long drink. “What’d you guys do today?”

“Chris had to work on his grant,” Reid says, “so after you left we weren’t allowed back in the house until three. We went for a hike, and then were all so dead, we found a new brewery and got pretty hammered.”

“You do smell a little beery.” I lift his wrist, looking at his watch. “And you’re all still awake and drinking at midnight? My heroes.”

These adorable men, taking vacation to be in Seattle with their hopeless, emotionally stunted friend, Millie. Of all the things that we’ve done as a team—cornhole tournaments, online dating, renting a limo and going together to listen to and share the same air as Barack Obama—this week of my trip has been the best by far. I get family redemption time; they get to deeply explore the Seattle beer scene.

Chris has moved to the kitchen to grab something from the oven. He returns and places a plate of food in front of me: grilled salmon, roasted brussels sprouts, and wild rice.

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