Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating

Page 26

He swallows and nods at me. His eyes are growing a little unfocused. “Yeah, you get it. Tabby never did.”

“Well, I think we can agree Tabby is an asshole. Which is why she never got her own personalized fried rice.”

Josh clinks my glass.

“The first time your mom came over and you were still at work,” I say, “she spent fifteen minutes cutting paper napkins in half. She told me they were too expensive to use only once.” I remember the matter-of-fact way she explained what she was doing and it made me look back on every paper napkin I’ve wasted in my life. “I mean, if I did that, you’d chalk it up to me being odd, but she does it and it totally makes sense, right?”

“She’s pretty great at finding ways to save and reuse.”

The room is a little swishy around the edges and I lean against his shoulder, starting to feel sleepy. Against the side of my head, he’s so solid, but above that sensation is the vibrant heat of him. “You’re a furnace.”

Josh nods, and I feel the side of his face brush against my hair. “I run pretty hot.”

“You sure do.”

He laughs, shaking a little against me. His voice comes out slurred: “You ready to head out?”

We turn to the window, and only now do we realize the rain is coming down in thick sheets, and neither of us is in a state to get behind the wheel.

“Cab?” Josh asks.

“My place is two blocks from here. We can run it. You can sleep on the couch with Winnie.”


We’re soaked, freezing, and hammered, sprinting up the five flights to my apartment in a drunken attempt to get warm. Josh stops just inside the door, dripping on the small rug there, cupping his shoulders and shivering. He still takes the time to slip off his shoes.

Winnie gives him a courtesy sniff before deciding it is too late for this nonsense and walking away again. I’m sure she assumes he’ll just follow her into bed.

“Give me your clothes.” I motion him forward. “Come on.” I am breathless from the run, and high from my cocktails. The floor undulates beneath my feet.

He giggles. “If I give you my clothes, then I’ll have no clothes on.”

He seems to have grown even drunker on the run home. Drunk Josh is my favorite.

“Okay.” I put my fingertip to my nose. “I have an idea. Go to the bathroom. Get undressed and get in the shower. I’ll sneak in, take your clothes without peeking, put them in the dryer, and bring you a blanket. Boom.”

He tiptoes down the hall, laughing when his shoulder collides with the doorway to the bathroom, offering it a quiet “Sorry.”

The door closes and the shower starts, and I’m suddenly distracted by the wet slap of Josh’s clothes on the floor and stark awareness that he’s naked in there. With a clarity I’m surprised my booze-soaked brain can muster, my thoughts bend to the memory of him talking about fingering someone under the table.

Settle down, Drunk Hazel. Josh has been naked in places near you before. I used to live at his house and he was naked all the time. Josh naked isn’t interesting, right?


I shake my head, and it makes the world tilt and then slowly right itself. Winnie appears again and licks my hand. I reach to pet her, missing her head the first time.

The shower curtain screeches open and then closed again as he climbs in, and his low groan of happiness reaches me all the way out in the living room.

The sound does weird things to me. Weird, warm, slithery things, making me suddenly very aware of the bits of my body below my waist that have been ignored for so very long.

But as soon as I’m aware of those bits, the bladder pushes its way front and center, practically punching me from the inside. LOTS OF LIQUID, it screams. I AM FULL OF GIN AND TONIC. I squeeze my legs closed, hopping around a little and cursing that I only have one bathroom and didn’t think to go before we left the restaurant. I need to get his wet clothes anyway … Maybe I can just sneak in and pee really quick and he’d never know I was doing anything other than taking his stuff for the dryer?

I also curse my lack of home maintenance as the doorknob creaks under my hand, and I hear the drunken slur of my voice when I warn him: “Josh, I’m coming in for your clothes.”

“Okay!” He is the happiest drunk I’ve ever known. It smells like my body wash in here, and he must notice, too, because he laughs again. “I’m going to smell like cake!”

With as much ninja stealth as I can muster, I unzip my jeans, pull them down with my underwear, and sit on the toilet, but the relief is so amazing that I let out a groan of my own before I can slap a hand over my mouth. I look in horror over at the shower curtain when it quietly squeaks open. Josh stares back at me, his jaw slack.

I yell the obvious: “I’m on the toilet!”

He laughs, his dark eyes shining with inebriation and the joy of a hot shower after a cold run through the rain. “What are you doing there?”

I frantically start shooing him back behind the curtain. “I’m peeing! Go away!”

He looks down the length of my body to my feet and back up again before diving back behind the curtain. His laugh echoes off the tiles.

I want to flush myself down this toilet. “I can’t believe you saw me peeing!”

“I saw your butt.” Clearly he wants to torture me.

“You did not!”

“And your thighs.” He speaks all garbled, as if he’s got water running over his face. “You have nice thighs, though, Hazie.”

I stand with a growl, flush with mild vengeance, wash my hands, and kick off my wet jeans, nearly falling over in the process. Bending, I pick up his wet clothing with mine and leave the bathroom to put everything in the dryer.

The faucet squeaks as Josh turns off the shower, and just as I’m leaving my bedroom in my dalmatian pajama shorts and tank, he emerges with a towel around his waist. “You said you were going to bring me a blanket.”

I pull up short, and my brain becomes a cup overturned: his words spill out onto the floor.

Josh’s bare torso is a study in lines and shadow. “I … what?” Even I can feel the depth of my drunken leer as my eyes find his happy trail.

“Blanket,” he prompts.

It’s relatively dark in the hall, which you’d think would be helpful. Somehow it’s just making it better. Or worse. I don’t even know anymore. “Yeah,” I mumble, “I … blankets.”

Silence falls over us for a few breaths. “You’re staring, Haze.”

I look up and honestly, with his jaw and sensual dark eyes and smooth, straight nose, his face is just as appealing as his bare chest. Everything about him is perfect. “Can’t you be flawed in some way?”


“It feels really unfair that I get to see wildlife framed in its natural element”—I gesture to his body—“and you saw me on the toilet.”

I think he’s smiling at me but I continue to stare at his chest.

“I just. Your”—I motion to his chest and the man nipples I like a lot—“and the”—I wave vaguely to his stomach and the soft line of dark hair there. “It’s nice.” I’m mortified all over again imagining myself curled furtively over the porcelain, groaning in relief. “Toilet. So unfair, Josh.”

I don’t anticipate what he’s doing when his hand comes up to the place where the towel is tucked in around his waist until he tugs it. The blue cotton falls soundlessly to the floor, and my heart vaults up into my throat.




In front of me it seems like Josh has miles and miles of golden skin. I don’t even remember how to blink; he has muscles TA Josh once taught me the names of but now I just know as the Tight Curve of His Bicep, That Appealing Ridge Below His Collarbone, the Edible Eight Pack, and That Lickable Shadow Above His Hipbone.

I also notice he isn’t making any move to cover himself. Instead, he’s watching me with a cocky half smile, like he knows he’s been hiding this bit of artwork under clothes all this time and agrees I’m pretty lucky to be seeing it bare. Drunk giggly Josh is my favorite, but drunk confident Josh is my new religion.

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