and I can’t breathe.
I dial my doctor’s after-hours number, and speak as softly into the phone as I can.
Yes, nine weeks.
Yes, I saw the doctor yesterday.
No, there isn’t any cramping.
After a few words of quiet reassurance, I’m told to do my best not to worry, to rest, and am scheduled to come into the office tomorrow morning.
I end the call just as Josh’s voice comes through the closed door. “Haze?”
I look up and try to sound as calm as possible. “Hey. Yeah, I’m okay.”
Oh my God, what do I do? He loves me. I mean, I don’t think he’ll be angry that I’m pregnant. Instinct and my intricate knowledge of Josh Im’s brain tell me he’s actually going to be really happy. He wants a family. But what if I lose it? I know this sort of thing happens all the time, so is it worth telling him and getting his hopes up that everything might be okay if I’m going to lose my monster? Oh God, I want to shred the walls just thinking it. What if I lose it what if I lose—
I close my eyes. Take a deep breath.
“Hazel.” I hear his head thunk against the door. “I’m so sorry.”
I take a deep breath, standing to splash some water on my face. “It wasn’t you,” I croak.
Silence. And then, “I mean, I’m pretty sure it was me and the hard sex we just had.” He pauses. “Can I come in and, um …?”
Oh crap, that’s right. He’s got blood on him. I open the door and he slips in, kissing me. “Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m totally fine!”
“Okay, good.” With one more kiss, he leans past me to turn on the shower.
I stand and press my face to his back, between the bulk of his shoulders. “Sorry.”
Josh turns, tilts my face up to look at him. “For what?”
“Bleeding on you. Sprinting out of bed.”
His brows pull down. “I don’t mind that. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
Talk to Dr. Sanders first.
He bends, kissing me slowly, and then steps into the shower, pulling me in after him.
Steam fills the room as he lathers the soap in his hands, rubbing it first over my shoulders and breasts, and then gently between my legs and along my thighs before washing his own body.
Staring up at him as he washes his stomach, cock, and chest, I note the way the drops of water build on his eyelashes and then fall, like rain. “You said you love me.”
He looks up, blinking away the water. His lashes are long, and clumped together. He is so beautiful.
Josh leans forward, kissing my nose. “I did.”
I stretch, and his mouth is slippery against mine, his tongue tastes like water. His hand slides over my backside, slipping between, stroking, feeling, and then slides up my back, down between my breasts, like he’s acquainting himself with every tiny curve.
Josh Im loves me.
“I love you too, you know.”
His kiss turns into a smile. “Yeah?”
“I’ve probably loved you longer.”
A trickster grin. “Probably.”
I pinch his splendid ass for that and he growls, pressing into me.
“We don’t have to make love again,” he says quietly into my neck. “You just feel so good, all wet and soft.”
After wanting him for so long, I can’t quite wrap my brain around the fact that he’s here, using words like love. Having Josh naked against me isn’t for tonight only. This could be a very, very addicting problem because my desire for Josh is a clawing, impatient, frantic energy: I want him again and again and again.
I push the panic into a tiny room in my brain, and narrow that down to a closet and a shoe box and a tiny drop of throbbing light in the background. There’s nothing I can do tonight. I just need to breathe.
His hand makes a slow journey over my breasts and down my navel, drawing little swirls and circles with the soap. I’m so full of emotion that I’m not surprised when a single tear slips down my cheek, lost in the spray from the shower. I take the soap and do the same for him, savoring every second of this until we’re all clean and the water has started to run cold.
“Okay, Haze.” He leans in to kiss me, eyes shining as he shifts away to turn off the taps. “Let’s go to bed.”
In Hazel’s bed, I sleep like a rock. I don’t think I even dream, or if I do, it’s just a series of nebulous flashes of her body, and her laugh, and the unreal heat of her wrapped around me all night.
We wake up to the blast of her alarm, entangled, with the covers kicked to the floor. I’m naked, she’s wearing only underwear, and although I come into consciousness slowly, trapped in a syrupy warmth I’m not quite ready to leave, Hazel sits up after only a few breaths into awareness and looks down at me, eyes blurry. Her eyes stay unfocused for a few seconds before she blinks, clearing them, and bends, kissing me in a soft peck. “You’re still here.”
In a wave of happiness, I wonder whether we’ll move in together … and when.
Hazel pulls back and her attention is snagged over my shoulder. She grimaces at the sheets in the hamper in the corner, the ones we pulled off the bed and replaced before falling onto the mattress in an exhausted heap. As if remembering, she stands, and moves quickly out of the room and to the bathroom, closing the door down the hall with a solid click.
Last night wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered blood during sex, but maybe it was for her? I can hardly imagine that, but it seems to have shaken her more than I would have expected.
Rolling to sit, I perch at the side of the bed, blinking down at Winnie where she stares adoringly up from the floor. “Morning, sweetie.” I rub her head and can tell the restraint it’s taking her to not jump up here and join me, but thankfully she resists. Being naked in bed with Hazel is bliss. Being naked in bed with her dog would be awkward.
In the kitchen, and inside one of Hazel’s Muppet canisters, I find just enough coffee beans to brew a pot. By the time she comes out—still dressed only in her underwear—I’ve got two cups poured, and reach for her sleep-rumpled form, pulling her between my legs.
“You left,” she mumbles into my neck.
Her chest pressed against mine is distracting enough to make her words slow to process. So instead of replying with anything witty, I just suck on her neck and ask, “What time do you have to be at school?”
“Normally seven thirty, and I’d be so late that I’d probably put my clothes on backwards. But I’m going to stop by my doctor’s before I head in. They know I’ll be a little late today.”
Her doctor? I’m not sure how to ask about what happened last night, so I go for vague. “You okay this morning?”
A tiny hesitation, then, “Are you kidding? I’m amazing.”
She is amazing—creamy skin, the maddening freckle on her shoulder, the full swell of her breasts—and the thought that she’s mine, and I’m hers, rolls around in my head. A burst of light cuts through me, a flash of joy, and I reach for her, gripping the back of her neck and pulling closer.
The minute our lips touch, my mind quiets but my body seems to take off, ramping toward that place where I can’t think, can only feel. My fingers graze the exposed curve of her throat down to her collarbones. Her hands come to my waist immediately and I feel her push up onto her toes, closing any distance between us and stretching, eager for one kiss, and another.
It’s chaste, but it’s not simple. Nothing with Hazel ever is.
I tilt her head, kissing her bottom lip, her cheek, her jaw.
I glance over her shoulder to the illuminated clock dial on the front of the stove. It’s 7:18. I take a breath, silencing the need to make up for lost time.
My mouth settles on hers and lingers. She smiles.
“Good morning, Josh Im.”
I kiss her chaotic hair. “I’ll say.”
I let myself savor this, the simple joy of standing in the bright light of her kitchen, arms wrapped around each other, and knowing that I don’t have to hold back now. But it’s the way she’s holding me—the way she clings with her face pressed to my neck—that gives me pause. She’s not playfully gnawing on my shoulder, or threatening to suck giant hickeys into my skin. She’s not asking if I want to go roller-skating to the bagel shop before work. She’s just so quiet.