We had sex.
Things are really, really good.
I jog to catch up with Theo, linking my arm with his, feeling freshly buoyant.
“There she is,” he says, and grins down at me.
Before Park City became known as a popular skiing destination and home to the Sundance Film Festival, it was a mining town. Now nestled between two giant resorts, the small valley was discovered when soldiers stationed in nearby Salt Lake City set out through the mountains to find silver. When the railroad came through and word spread, it was flooded with prospectors in search of their fortunes.
Main Street still bears some resemblance to that old mining town, with old-timey storefronts and historic buildings, but instead of saloons and general stores the street is filled with trendy boutiques and restaurants, museums, and even a distillery. Park City is also money. With more tourists than residents in the area, the Hollises’ property is probably worth a fortune. No wonder they decide to sell.
Theo and I rack up a few easy photos for the hunt—a moose on a sweatshirt, a picture of a cowboy, a dreidel, a snowflake on an ornament. A photo of an object with the words Ho, Ho, Ho. We stop a couple on their way down the street and ask if they’d be willing to sing “Jingle Bells” for us. It takes a moment of awkward convincing, but thankfully they are game because I’ve already spotted Andrew and Miles getting video of at least four different people out on the street, and ahead of us, Ricky and Kennedy seem to be flying through their list. The benefit of having an adorable and precocious five-year-old as your partner.
It’s not even that I care about winning, but this activity is doing an amazing job of taking my mind off the increasingly shrill voice in my head telling me that everything is on the verge of falling apart.
I can’t quite put my finger on why that feeling is rising, but it is; that twinge of panic is growing. Yes, everything is different and for the better. But I’ve never trusted my own decisions, and when you get everything you’ve ever wanted, you don’t know exactly how to manage it. I wanted Andrew, but it isn’t as simple as kissing him and being happy. If there were only some indication, some wink from the stars that I’ve got it all sorted, I could maybe breathe. Right now, I just want to get through December 26—past the point where I’ve ever been before—before I can relax and know that everything is settled. That I’m here to stay.
With a few items checked off our list, Theo stops in front of one of the small shops. “I need to grab a couple of things for my parents.” I follow his attention to a window display filled with fancy cooking gadgets, spice mixes, and kitchen knickknacks.
Honestly, a kitchenware store seems like the last place he should be shopping for Lisa, but just down the block, I see Andrew duck inside a storefront. Without Miles—who’s probably doing some of his own late shopping. My heart grows three times in size. “I’ll just be down there.” I point. “I have some shopping to do, too. Meet me there in twenty?”
If Theo saw his brother go in, he doesn’t let any reaction show. With a little lift of his chin, he urges me to go, and it’s all I can do not to sprint to Andrew.
• • •
The window is lit up with an old feather Christmas tree and an assortment of antique toys. I step inside to a blast of warm air and holiday music, and make my way through aisles of retro electronics and worn furniture, stacks of old records and used kitchenware, searching for Andrew.
I find him in the back of the shop, turning an old record over in his hands to read the song list on the back.
He turns, and when he grins, the world around us briefly glimmers golden.
“Hey.” Glancing around us first, he leans in and gives me a quick kiss. “How’s it going with Theo?”
“It’s fine,” I say, picking up a record out of the box he’s perusing. “A little tense. Not sure why.”
“Probably because you’re sleeping with his brother and he has no idea.”
I glow inside at the casual mention that we’re sleeping together, but guilt shadows the edges. “I feel like I’m lying to him.” And then I remember: “Oh. And Miles knows.”
“Knows we . . . ?” Andrew looks mildly horrified and makes a vague sexual gesture.
Laughing, I say, “I don’t think he knows more than that we were kissing in the pantry.” Off Andrew’s look, I add, “Oh, come on. He’s seventeen, not seven. And he asked me point blank.”
Andrew gives a regretful wince. “Poor Miles.”
“He promised he wouldn’t say anything, but I feel like it’s just a matter of time before everyone figures it out.”
“Especially when I come visit you in Berkeley in a week because I can’t stay away from you.”
I beam up at him. “You what?”
“Maybe?” he says, grinning winningly. “Would that be weird?”
I bite my lip, shaking my head. “I feel like everything is about to change.”
“Miles is leaving for college in a few months. I’m going to have to find a new job.” I smile up at him. “Me and you.”
“We could brainstorm the job thing together,” he says. “What are you thinking?”
I shrug, gnawing my lip. “Something artistic. I could freelance graphic design until I figure something out.”
“I could see if there’s anything we need at work,” he says. “Website stuff?” He shrugs, and it’s clear he has no idea how any of that works, but it’s endearing anyway. “I can ask.”
“That would be amazing.” I smile up at him. “I know I should be more nervous about not being employed, but . . .”
But it’s hard to worry when he’s right here. Every time I start to panic—about the time jumps, about my job, about telling my parents any of this—looking at him immediately calms me down. That has to mean something.
Almost as if he knows what I’m thinking, Andrew looks at me, eyes searching. He steps away from the records and turns, cupping the back of my head and pulling me into a kiss. My thoughts go from Oh, this is happening, to Oh, I need this man’s hands on me immediately.
He tilts his head, his tongue brushes mine, and he lets out a quiet, vibrating sound. Everything about the way I hear it and feel it and taste it reminds me how it felt to be totally immersed in him last night. I stretch, wanting to press as tight to him as I can, even though in the back of my mind, I’m scrambling to hold on to the filmy awareness that we’re in public and our families could be anywhere. His hands slide down my waist to my hips, and he pulls them flush to his before he seems to remember where we are, too, and shifts his hands away.
With his thumb brushing the underside of my jaw, he presses one final kiss to my lips and then pulls back, grinning. “Well, that got dirty fast.”
I swallow, feeling warm and definitely unsteady. “You almost just got laid in a souvenir shop.”
Andrew’s eyes flare and then he takes a deep breath, getting some physical distance. “Don’t tempt me.” He goes back to looking through the records. “I need a second to, uh . . .” He exhales slowly.
“Didn’t realize talking about our brothers would get you so worked up, Mandrew.”
He laughs. “I assure you, sweetheart, it’s your proximity.”
I absorb this and it feels like taking a hit of a drug. “Everything is so much better this time.”
Andrew pauses. “What’s that?”
Oh, shit. I open my mouth to cover, but his attention is snagged over my shoulder.
“Oh my God. Maisie, look.”
Relieved, I follow his gaze. There, on a turquoise velvet couch with a FOR SALE sign on it, is a pillow with a needlepoint of Christopher Walken wearing a Santa hat and words below him reading Walken in a Winter Wonderland.
Bursting out laughing, I say, “Well, that’s a coincidence.”
Andrew looks delighted. “We might need to get this and keep it in the Boathouse. I have very fond memories of discussing Christopher Walken in there.”
“You do?” I ask, hugging him from behind and pressing my lips between his shoulder blades. “Elaborate, please.”
“You see, it was just before I had sex in there last night,” he whispers over his shoulder in teasing confidence, “with a woman who I’ve known forever and who used to wear my brother’s Batman underwear as a pirate hat.”
I stretch to playfully bite his shoulder. “Look at that giant bag of peppermint Hershey’s Kisses. That is my dream right there. I could live off that for a month.”
He follows my attention to the five-pound bag on display and gives a dramatic shudder. “You’re kidding.”
“They’re my favorite! I can only find them this time of year, and I eat so many I get a stomachache.”
Andrew turns in my arms, frowning down at me. “Are you a white chocolate evangelist?”
“One hundred percent!” I laugh-yell. “Oh my God, are we having our first fight?”
“I will die on the White Chocolate Is Not Chocolate hill.”
“It may not be chocolate, but it is delicious.”
“Wrong, Maisie,” he says in Mandrew voice. “It tastes like fake mint and ass.”
“Like fake mint and ass?” I reply in outraged Maisie voice. “You’re the one who steals the crappy, plasticky chocolate from the Advent calendar.”
“Well . . . it’s hard to argue with that.” He starts to bend to meet my kiss, but we both go still at the sound of Theo’s voice behind me.
“Whoa, whoa. What exactly am I seeing right now?”
• • •
It is as quiet as midnight when I turn around. Theo stares at me, and then at his brother, before he laughs dryly and stares at the floor. “Didn’t see that coming.”
“Hey, Theo.” I don’t know what else to say.