He bends when I say this, brushing his mouth over mine. It feels like the next sentence in the conversation, the unspoken Trust me, okay?
We’re at the Boathouse now, and he turns, reaching forward and pushing the squeaky door open to reveal the dark hollow space. I’m not really sure why, but seeing the Boathouse tonight with Andrew, under these circumstances, makes the cold blackness tantalizing rather than eerie and uninviting. Yes, it’s freezing in here, but I know in that far corner there is a pile of sleeping bags, and in a few minutes, I will be cuddled inside them with Andrew pressed all alongside me.
What if we have sex?
The word—sex—flashes into my head, buzzing fluorescent and neon. Only a matter of hours ago, I discovered what it felt like to kiss him. But here we are, no longer children, friends our entire lives. If the intensity between us is anything like it was in the closet and pantry, and with over a decade of pent-up lust trapped beneath my skin, I don’t know how we’ll keep from ripping all of our clothes off as soon as we lock the door.
The door seals shut, and Andrew reaches past me, turning the dead bolt. The click echoes once, contrasting with the staccato of my heartbeat.
“Come on.” He leads me to the back of the room and turns on the little lamp in the corner, illuminating a cone of space with a soft yellow glow. “Ta-da.”
When he steps back, I see he’s arranged the pile of sleeping bags on the floor, and it takes me only a few seconds to realize it’s because the cot is really only wide enough for one body. But by zipping the flannel-carcass sleeping bags together, he’s made a cozy little bed for two. There are pillows propped against the wall to lean against, if we want. He’s even brought a couple of bottles of my favorite sparkling water out here from the kitchen.
I must have hearts in my eyes when I look at him. When did he even do this?
“You said you didn’t have beverages.”
“I said I don’t have any nightcaps,” he says, grinning, “but I do know what you like.”
I’m trying to keep my brain from doing it, but a tiny flash works through, of the handful of guys in my past who would be hard pressed to remember how much ice I like in my drink or name one of my favorite anythings, let alone procure it for me.
Without any careful calculation—only gratitude and want—I move right up against him. My arms go around his neck and there’s no hesitation on his end, either; my God, it’s like an explosion in reverse, a melting. His arms pull me in, and his mouth comes over mine with a laugh-moan of happy relief. This feeling is sunshine. There’s no pause like there was in the closet, no careful consideration of who might find us. Here, there’s only the heat of his smiling mouth, the tiny relieved exhale.
Andrew turns us, pressing me against the wall. Playful and sweet and light Andrew is washed away in the shadow of the man in front of me who smiles still, but it’s dark and exciting. His hands grip my hips, pulling me flush to him, letting me feel that he’s still just as hungry for this as I am.
We move to the floor. My shirt is slid up and over my head. I finally get to push that soft flannel off his shoulders and run my hands down his arms, feeling the smooth definition there, the bunching of tension in his back as he hovers over me, pressing just where I want him.
The neon sign is back. Sex. Sex. Sex.
We’ve been in the Boathouse for maybe four minutes, and we’re half-undressed. It’s not that I’m surprised, but . . . I don’t want to be stupid.
“Andrew,” I mumble against his mouth.
He pulls back, and even in the dim light I can see the worry on his face. “What?”
Do I say it? Or do we figure it out as we go? But honestly, that’s never a good idea. The heat of the moment is a real thing, and we are right in the middle of it. “This is awkward, okay, but I don’t have . . .”
He waits for me to finish the sentence, but suddenly it feels too presumptuous. Too fast. We just have our shirts off, Mae, settle down. “Never mind.”
“Don’t have what?” he presses. He shifts forward slightly, leaning into that distracting heat between my legs.
“Um. Not that we are going to. I mean, of course we probably aren’t. But if one thing leads to another, and—”
There’s a smile in his voice. “Maelyn Jones, are you thinking about birth control?”
I don’t think I could be more mortified.
“Like I said,” I say immediately, “I’m not saying we’re going to go there, we just got here, but I like to be—”
“Safe.” He drops the teasing voice and squeezes my hip with a gentle hand. “I’ve got it taken care of. Don’t worry.”
Andrew bends and it’s sweeter now, less frantic, like we’ve let out some of the pressure by just saying the possibility out loud.
The air in the Boathouse seems colder than the air outside, but in the zipped-together sleeping bags it is toasty warm. Andrew wrestles briefly with my bra, which I find both reassuring and endearing, and then it’s gone, tossed somewhere over near his cot. His mouth is a trail of heat down my neck, over my chest, tiny bites and kisses.
It’s like wanting to hit the brakes and the gas all at once; I want to go faster, feel him moving in me, but want to savor every second of this because it’s so many of my lifelong fantasies come to life and he’s perfect, like he read the Guidebook on Mae’s Body and is determined not to miss a bullet point. I’d had no clue that Andrew felt anything but big brotherly feelings toward me until today, but, with my very simple invitation to explore an us, he’s on board. Totally. It’s almost as though he’s been waiting, too. He’s had fantasies of his own that he’s finally able to bring to life. Which is completely surreal.
He disappears beneath the top of the sleeping bag, and with a combination of kisses, dexterous fingers, and determined hands, he manages to unbutton my jeans and get them down my legs and shoved to the bottom of the sleeping bag.
I can’t see him, can only feel his mouth on my knee, my thigh, the smallest press of his mouth between my legs and, good God I might die, I don’t think I have ever wanted something more in my life, like I would sacrifice anything just to feel the direct, heated press of his kiss there—
Andrew scrambles up my body, crawling in a panicked flurry, and takes a deep gulping breath of air once he manages to emerge from the sleeping bag. “Holy shit.” He sucks in another breath. “I have never been that close to death.”
It’s a combination of shocked laughter and mortified cry that escapes me.
Obviously everything down there is terrible and horrifying? Why has no one ever told me the truth?
I clap my hands over my face. “. . . Are you okay?”
“I’m great. I wanted to—but I couldn’t hold my breath—” He gasps, inhaling again deeply. “It is so hot in that flannel sleeping bag, there’s, like, no air.”
I burst out laughing, dropping my hands. “I was making a mental deal to sacrifice all of our loved ones if it’d keep you going, but it isn’t worth your death by suffocation.”
He bends, leaning his forehead on my bare shoulder. “I accuse Mae, in the sleeping bag, with her vagina.”
I completely lose it when he says this, and he’s shaking with laughter, too. Honestly, laughing with Andrew while I’m naked might be the best feeling I’ve ever had. He slides to the side in the giant double sleeping bags, propping his head on his hand. With the fingers of his other hand, he draws little circles on my stomach, my chest, my neck.
I like looking at him in this light; with the way it’s angled across the room, it makes him a perfect combination of angular and soft. Sharp jawline and cheekbones, the gentle bow of his lips, his impossibly long eyelashes.
“Has anyone ever told you that you have the most beautiful eyes?” he asks. “You’ve got this doe-eyed, innocent Gidget thing going on.”
I laugh. “That’s an awfully old-man thing to say, Mandrew.”
“No, listen,” he insists, pushing up and hovering over me. “I used to watch reruns of Gidget when I was home sick, and I’m not kidding, I think Sally Field was my first crush.”
“Is that weird?” I ask. “I can’t decide.”
“Not weird.” He bends, kissing my jaw. “She’s a babe. Even in her seventies, she could get it.”
“Did you know Tom Cruise is almost sixty?” I ask.
He looks mildly concerned. “Do you have a thing for Tom Cruise?”
I scrunch my nose. “Definitely not. I just think it’s funny that he looks eternally forty.”
He hums thoughtfully. “Did you know Christopher Walken is almost eighty?”
I laugh. “Why do we even know these things?”
“We’re the good kind of weird?” His mouth moves up my neck.
“But is it bad-weird,” I say, “that I’m naked and we’re talking about Christopher Walken?”
“It is good-good that you are naked. And frankly,” he says, “I’m happy to share this moment with Christopher Walken.”
I’m overcome with a fondness so consuming that I cup Andrew’s face and pull him to me. It isn’t just about how good this feels or how flat-out gorgeous he is, it’s about how easy and natural it is to be with him, to talk between kisses, to be totally unselfconsciously naked, to laugh about Andrew’s near-death experience between my legs.
The kiss starts sweet and calm, but when he grazes his teeth across my lip, I make a noise that seems to uncork something inside him, and he’s over me again, elbows planted beside my head, kissing me so good I’m dizzy with how much I want him.
My fingers toy with the waistband of his sweats, and skim just beneath and then—why not—I push them down his hips, and his warm skin slides over mine. I think for one second that it’s moving too fast, but I sense the same awareness in him because he shifts back and away.
I’ve never been in sync with someone like this. It feels like hours pass while we’re kissing and touching, talking and breaking into spontaneous, loud bursts of laughter. The sex is right there, but so is the blackness of night, reminding us that no one is in a hurry and we have plenty of time for fun. Even the fumbling condom unwrapping leaves us in hysterics. He’s still laughing into a kiss when he moves over me, and into me, and then I get to see the quiet, focused side of Andrew, the one who makes it his life’s work to listen, because he works so carefully to respond to every single sound I make.