I nearly swallow my tongue, brought back to the present only when he calls out happily in my ear, whooping and laughing as we really start flying down the slope. There’s none of the uncertainty I feel sledding with Dad, none of that unbalanced sensation that we could tip at any time. With Andrew behind me I feel safe, balanced, and centered. I want the ride to last forever.
“You good?” he shouts above the whipping wind.
A small pause, and even though we are surrounded by the screams of other sledders, the sound of wind, and the ski lift, I can almost hear his breath catch.
“I’m gonna say something,” he calls above the fray.
I squint into the bright sun, and we lean to the side in unison to steer our sled around a sapling. “Okay!”
His mouth comes right up beside my ear. “After what you said last night, I thought you were going to kiss me back there. Really kiss me.”
It’s my turn to lose my breath. I can’t turn around and look at him, can’t read his tone.
“Like on the mouth?” I call out over my shoulder, but my voice disappears into the wind as we go screaming down the mountain.
Andrew leans forward, spreading his hand across my side, pulling me closer into his body. When he speaks, he sounds breathless. “Yeah, on the mouth.”
I stare ahead of us, and the figures on the slope start to blur. My eyes water with the cold wind.
His voice is quieter, but everything else has fallen away somehow, and I can hear him perfectly. “You’ve never been for me, Maisie. I never knew you were an option.”
“What do you mean?”
We hit a bump and veer to the left, and his fingers tighten at my waist. When we straighten out, he doesn’t let go; if anything, he tightens his grip, pulling closer and wrapping more of his arm around me. His fingers curl, brushing just under my jacket.
His breath comes out warm against my neck, voice shaking: “It never occurred to me that you might be mine.”
Two hours later and the impact of that first ride down the slope still hasn’t dimmed; I hear it—It never occurred to me that you might be mine—as clearly as if Andrew’s said it again right into my ear, even though he’s sitting next to me at the basement card table and not holding me tight as we sprint down a mountain.
For the first hour of the sledding trip, I didn’t feel even the slightest bit cold. I was a campfire inside, a roaring inferno. Eventually, though, my fingertips went numb and my butt was almost dead from the chill of the wooden sled beneath me. Now back in the cabin, we’ve holed ourselves up in the basement—Theo, Miles, Andrew, and me— to escape the cloying heat of the roaring fire upstairs, as well as the roaring cackles of our parents engaging in some preholiday day-drinking and catching up.
Theo shuffles a deck of cards absently while we all decide what we’re in the mood to play. Under the table, a socked foot finds mine, and the other foot comes around it, gently trapping me in a foot-hug. A careful peek belowdecks tells me it’s Andrew, and I suddenly feel like I’m wearing a wool sweater in Death Valley. Clumsily, I reach down, tugging my sweater up and over my head. It gets tangled in my hair clip, and Andrew has to shift forward to help extract me.
It means that he pulls his feet away, and once I’m free, I catch him biting back a knowing smile.
He holds my gaze. “You’re welcome.”
I take a few deep drinks of my sparkling water to cool this ridiculous fever. You’d think I’d never been touched by a man before, good God.
Looking at me from beneath his lashes, Andrew reaches up, scratching the back of his neck.
“Today was fun,” Miles says, and tries to take Theo’s beer, but is instantly smacked away. “I’m glad you talked Dad into just heading for the lodge. If I had to ride with Mom this year, I think I would have bailed.”
“Thanks for taking one for the team and sledding with Mae,” Theo says to Andrew, and then smirks at me. “Worst sled steerer ever.”
I glare. “Hey.”
Andrew gives a magnanimous shrug. “I’m a humanitarian.”
I smack him. “Hey.”
His eyes sparkle when they meet mine, and the smiles fade into that same buzzing awareness. I finally blink down to the table. We rode the slope about six times, and I guess I’m grateful that nothing was as loaded and heavy as that first ride down, because I probably would have had some internal combustion issue and ended up back on the plane from a heart attack. There was plenty of Andrew being Andrew: he sang terrible opera on one trip, swore he closed his eyes the whole way down on another, and said hello to every other sledder we passed on a third, but it was just normal again. Which I loved, and hated.
Turns out, where Andrew is concerned, I apparently like heavy and loaded.
“We need to call ourselves something other than ‘the kids,’” I say, breaking the quiet. Theo sets down the deck of cards in the middle of the table. “ ‘The kids’ are the twins now.”
“Aren’t the twins ‘the twins’?” Miles asks.
“We could be called the ‘kid-ups,’ ” I suggest, laughing, and Andrew beams over at me, thrilled with this suggestion.
Andrew slides the deck of cards closer to him, tapping, shuffling. I watch his fingers, trying not to think about his hands and how big they are. He has long, graceful fingers. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a man’s nails before unless they were dramatically unmanicured, but Andrew’s are blunt, clean, not fussy. I think I’d like to see those hands roaming and greedy all over my bare skin.
Theo clears his throat and my attention flies away from Andrew’s fingers, guiltily.
“Two truths and a lie,” Theo says, and gives me a bewildering wink.
Andrew looks up from his shuffling and deadpans, “I don’t think that’s a card game.”
Ignoring this, Theo lifts his chin to Miles. “You first. I’ll give you a sip of my beer.”
“Miles hasn’t lived enough to have interesting truths or lies, and he’s definitely too young for day-drinking,” Andrew says.
“Actually,” Miles says, “we did this game as an icebreaker in chemistry last year. It was hard thinking of things that were appropriate for school.”
I hold up my hands. “Pardon?”
Andrew laughs. “Don’t break your sister, Miles.”
“It’s your idea,” Miles says to Theo. “You go first.”
I can tell with a little annoyed tilt of my thoughts that this is why Theo suggested this game to begin with: he wanted to share some scandalous stories. And really, if I think back, nearly every game Theo suggests is a ploy to subtly or not-so-subtly talk about what a wild and exciting life he leads.
“Let’s see,” he says, leaning back and cracking his knuckles. “Okay, one: in college, one of my fraternity brothers kept a chicken living in his room for an entire year and none of us had any idea.”
Inwardly, I groan. That’s right. Whereas Andrew lived in a messy but comfortable apartment off-campus at CU Boulder with some of the funniest and weirdest guys I’ve ever met, Theo was in a fraternity with a bunch of players and trust fund men-children. I know there are lots of great, progressive fraternities out there, but Theo’s was not one of them.
“Dude, why was he hiding a chicken?” Miles’s face pales. “Was he being gross with a chicken?”
I turn to my brother. “Miles Daniel Jones, don’t you be gross.” And then I turn to Theo. “And don’t you break my brother.”
“Two,” Theo continues, laughing this off, “I have a tattoo of a parrot on my hip that I got when I was in Vegas with some friends.”
“A parrot?” Andrew’s expression is a hilarious mix of bewilderment and deep sibling judgment. “On your hip? Why have I never seen this?”
Theo smirks and rocks back in his chair.
Andrew shivers as he gets it. “On your groin is what you’re saying.”
“I’d like to go back to the part where he thought it would be a fun time to get a tattoo in Las Vegas,” I say. “I’m really hoping that one is the lie.”
“And three, I’m not ticklish,” he says, and then turns his eyes to me, adding, “anywhere.”
This wink is definitely lascivious. Rude.
“Um, I’m going to go with number one,” Miles says, still stuck on the chicken.
“I’m glad there are some things I don’t know about you.” Andrew wipes a weary hand down his face. “I’m with Mae: I’m hoping number two is a lie.”
“I also hope it’s a lie,” I say, “but my guess is that number three is the lie. No way do you not have even one tickle spot.”
“Wanna check?” he asks, smirking.
“I . . .” I flounder. “No, I’m good.”
“Well,” Theo says, “you’re right. As Ellie T. discovered my senior year in college, I’m ticklish behind my knees.”
What must it be like to have had sex with so many people that you have to first name–last initial them?
“What do I get for winning?” I ask. “A chicken?”
Miles winces. “Oh, please no.”
Andrew pins me with a teasing smile. “You get it to be your turn.”
“I hate this sort of game,” I admit.
“Imagine how I feel.” Andrew, the world’s worst liar, laughs, sweeping a hand over his messy curls. They pop back over his forehead in a display of careless perfection.
“Okay, one,” I start, “I hated my college roommate so much that I used to use her toothbrush as a fingernail brush after volleyball practice.”
“Gross,” Miles mumbles.
“Two, in college I had a crush on a guy who, I eventually found out, was legally named Sir Elton Johnson because his parents were clearly insane. He went by John.”