Love and Other Words

Page 26

“Macy, don’t be mad.”

“I’m not mad! Why would I be mad?” I took a shaky sip of lemonade, trying to calm down. “I’m not your girlfriend. I’m just your best friend who apparently knows nothing about you.”

He took a step around the kitchen island, and stopped. “Macy.”

“Am I overreacting?”

“No…” he said, and took another step closer. “I would definitely take issue if I knew some guy had his hand down your pants.”

“I think you’d also take issue if it happened and I never told you.”

He seemed to give this fair consideration. “Like I said, it depends. It would bug me, yeah, so I wouldn’t want to know about it unless you felt something more than… momentary attraction.”

“Is that what it was for you with Emma?” I asked. “‘Momentary attraction’?”

He nodded. “Absolutely.”

“When was the last time you fooled around with someone?”

He sighed and leaned a hip against the counter where he stood.

“If the situation was reversed, you would be giving me the Spanish Inquisition,” I pointed out. “Don’t sigh at me.”

“Emma and I fooled around in March, then went to prom in May, and kissed again the weekend after, but it was nothing. It was sort of…” He floundered a little, staring up at the ceiling. “If you haven’t kissed anyone, then it’s hard to say what I mean, but we were all at a park, and she came up to me, and it just sort of happened.”

I pulled a face at this and he laughed uncomfortably, shrugging. “Jill is Christian’s cousin. She was visiting last December and we made out once. I haven’t talked to her since.”

I dismissed Jill with a wave of my hand. “So you don’t like Emma, then?”

“Not the way you mean.”

I looked away, taking a minute to calm down. I realized it would have been dramatic, but I wanted to storm out and make him follow me and grovel for, like, an entire day.

“I fooled around with Emma because she’s here,” he said quietly. “You’re in Berkeley and we’re not together and I’m in this tiny Podunk town. Who else am I supposed to kiss?”

Something shifted in that exact moment, something that would never shift back.

Who else am I supposed to kiss?

I looked at his big hands and his Adam’s apple. I let my eyes linger on the muscular arms that used to be so thin and stringy, on legs that stretched, defined, beneath his torn jeans. I looked at the button-fly on the front of said jeans. I blinked away, up at the cabinets. Look anywhere but at those buttons. I wanted to touch those buttons, press my hand to them, and for the first time I realized I didn’t want anyone else touching them.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled.

“Then come over here,” he said in that same quiet voice. “You kiss me.”

My eyes flew to his. “What?”

“Kiss me.”

I thought he was calling my bluff, but I was worked up from the Emma situation and the way he looked, leaning against the counter, watching me. I was warm from the way his hands seemed so big now, and his jaw so angular… and the buttons on his jeans.

I walked around the center island and stood right in front of him. “Okay.”

He stared down at me, a smile playing on his lips, but it straightened when he realized I was serious.

I pressed my hands to his chest and moved closer. I was so close that I could hear every quickly accelerating inhale and exhale, could see his jaw twitch.

Fascinated, he moved a hand to my lips, pressing two fingers there and staring. Without thinking, I opened my mouth and let his index finger slip inside and against my teeth. When he grunted quietly, I ran my tongue over his fingertip. He tasted like jelly.

Elliot pulled it back sharply. He looked like he was going to devour me: eyes wild and searching, lips parted, pulse a hammering presence in his neck. And because I wanted to kiss him, I did. I stood on my toes, slid my hands into his hair, and pressed my mouth to his.

It was different than I would have guessed. Different than – I could admit to myself – I had imagined it would be. It was both softer and firmer, and definitely bolder. A short kiss, another, and then he tilted his head, covering my mouth with his. His tongue traced my bottom lip and it felt like instinct to let him in, to taste me.

I think that was probably his undoing. It was certainly mine. After that the moment dissolved for me into only sensation; everything else fell away. All the forbidden images of him, flesh and fantasy, secrets I kept even from myself, tore through my mind and I knew, somehow, that he was thinking the same thing: how good it felt to be this close… and everything else that touching like this could lead to.

One of his hands moved up my back and into my hair, and it was the weight of that touch, I think, that kept me from floating off the floor. But when his other hand slid up my side to my ribs and higher, I stepped back.

“Sorry,” he said immediately, instinctively. “Shit, Mace. That was too fast, I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s just…” I hesitated, my mouth suddenly crammed with words that I didn’t want to be thinking, let alone say out loud. “Doing that might not mean anything to Emma,” I said, touching my lips where they tingled. “But it means everything to me.”


saturday, october 14


ean drops his keys in the bowl near the door and kicks off his shoes, groaning happily.

“Hungry, Applejack?” he asks Phoebe, and the two of them disappear into the kitchen.

I put their shoes side by side on the little shelf near the door and hang our jackets up on the hooks. Their voices echo back to the hallway; Phoebe is doggedly working on her dad to get her a pet, any pet – frog, hamster, bird, fish.

I am honestly so unsure what to feel. Sean and I had such a whirlwind start, and we tumbled easily into a domestic routine, but that routine really only involves me sharing his bed and our schedules rotating around each other like well-oiled gears.

I moved whatever I needed over from the Berkeley house, but it’s still mostly full, and entirely uninhabited, while I’m shacked up here. Sean tells me he loves having me in his bed. Phoebe always seems happy to see me. But I realize, watching him today, that I don’t actually know him that well. He and Phoebe have their own thing going. But if I want to be a part of it, I need to make myself part of it.

“Want me to cook dinner?” I ask, coming in after them, and they both look up from where they’re digging into the fridge, staring at me blankly. “Pasta,” I say, feigning insult. “I think I can handle pasta.”

“Are you sure?” Phoebe remains unconvinced.

“I’m sure, you knucklehead,” I say, smooching her cheek.

She squeals, running from the room, and Sean moves to the pantry, grabbing a box of pasta and some jarred sauce for me. “Need help?”

“You can keep me company.” I nod to the breakfast bar, silently urging him to take a chair and talk to me. To help me assuage this feeling gnawing at my chest that he and I are never going to make it. We’ve never really had downtime together on weekends, and I have a clawing suspicion that this is why we’re essentially strangers outside of bed.

He sits, reading through emails on his phone while I get water boiling.

I want to marry this man; I want him to want to marry me.

I like being around him.

I like his ass in those jeans.

“Did you have fun today?” I ask, keeping my voice light.


Scroll, scroll.

The jar of sauce opens with a satisfying pop, and marinara slops into the saucepan I’ve put on the stove. Sean looks up at the sound, mildly repulsed.

“Did you like meeting everyone?” I ask. “They really liked you.”

He blinks away from the stove and meets my eyes, smiling as if he knows I’m full of shit. “Sure, babe, they were great.”

His tone is so offhand, so uninterested, I want to crack him in the forehead with the empty jar. I want to beg him to meet me halfway. Instead, I rinse it out briefly and drop it into the recycling bin. Irritation with him prickles at my skin like an itch. “Try not to sound so enthusiastic.”

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.