I don’t even have to think about it. “One hundred percent.”
“Well, there you go. And even if we are enabling each other, who cares? You could never die alone, because you have me.”
It’s suddenly quiet in the car and I know I should go inside. I should wash my face and put my pajamas on and go straight to bed.
I should let Reid go home.
The problem is I don’t want to.
“Come inside with me,” I say, pushing open my door and already climbing out. The air is cool and smells like the ocean, but it’s not enough to drown out whatever buzz is still humming in my veins or make me come to my senses.
I have no idea what I’m doing or what’s happening between us, but when I reach the porch and pull out my keys, Reid is right behind me.
I’ve never hooked up with a friend before . . . is that what’s happening right now?
I mean, it seems like it might be. Millie is being herself but a little . . . more. Giving me a shy smile while her eyes wander a lot more than I’m used to, then twisting her fingers in mine when I held her hand in the car . . .
It’s like unlocking a window and letting the wind blow it wide open. If Millie is flirting, then what? Should I flirt back? This is a very The Usual Suspects moment—I had no idea Millie was this person.
Are we doing this?
I blatantly check out her backside when she ducks into the fridge to grab us each a can of sparkling water. It feels nearly clinical the way I study her.
Objectively, it is a fantastic ass.
It’s just that it’s Millie’s ass. Initially—briefly—she was known as Dustin’s Millie. Later—and better—she was known as one-of-the-guys Millie, Our Millie. Now, it appears, she’s Drunk Flirty Millie.
I’ve looked at her ass before, of course. I’ve looked at all of her, frankly, but I’ve done it in the dissociated way all guys look at women—almost without realizing we’re doing it. Casually, too, and entirely due to the habit of proximity: while helping her out of her coat, while holding her beer as she takes off a sweater, while examining her outside a changing room when she asks whether she should buy a particular pair of jeans. Regardless, no matter how objectively pretty she is, Millie Morris has always been off-limits.
But mostly I think she’s been off-limits because she’s never shown any particular interest in any of us.
She clears her throat and I drag my eyes back up to her face. Which, it’s fair to say, may be the best part of her: the enormous bright green eyes, the sarcastic mouth, the splash of freckles across her nose and cheeks. She’s beautiful, yes, but I’ve never truly veered into Is she sexy? territory until tonight.
“I was checking out your ass.”
“And?” She leans a hip against the counter and gives me a smile that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen from her. Most of her smiles are openmouthed, delighted, often given through a choking laugh as she quickly swallows a mouthful of beer. Other smiles are half-baked, amused at us while we try to get a rise out of her. The rare smile is triumphant—when she gives us the perfect amount of shit. They’re rare only because she so infrequently shows her cards.
But this one is a little like being told a secret. She seems to agree, because she bites her bottom lip halfway through it, like she’s trying to put it away.
I think she wants a rating on her backside, but it’s probably clear from my expression that I’d give her high marks. “What’s with you tonight?”
A bare shoulder lifts and drops. “I’m tipsy.”
This makes me bark out a laugh. “ ‘Tipsy’? I’d be amazed if Chris has any wine left in his house.”
“Don’t blame that on me,” she says. “You’re the one who went and got tenure. Besides, Ed took down two bottles by himself, and Alex was pouring mine.”
“Ed’s blood is ninety percent alcohol.”
“And ten percent Cheeto dust.”
She moves over to me, waters in hand, and the only way to describe her gait is sashay-y. It’s so dramatic it makes me start to laugh. We’ve known each other for more than two years, and I never would have predicted this playful, seductive side of her. But the sound is cut off in my throat when she puts the waters down on the end table near me and puts her hands squarely on my chest.
Anticipation comes alive beneath my skin.
Speaking through the pressurized air in my throat, I say, “What are you doing?”
“Seducing you.” She lifts one hand and draws a pinky down the side of her face, pulling away a strand of auburn hair. “Is it working?”
I’ve never had reason to check myself around her before, and the answer easily slides out of me, unfiltered: “Yes. But why?”
Another shrug. “I haven’t had sex in a while. You were doing dishes earlier.”
“It was sexy. And you stretched. I saw stomach muscles and happy trail.”
“Oh, well, of course we should end up here.”
She growls a little as she stretches to press her nose into my neck, inhaling. “I like how you smell.”
I freeze. When she says this, it feels a little like standing at the static center of a spinning room. Again: Millie. This is Millie Morris. Goofball. Colleague. Stealer of my Stanford sweatshirt. Woman who shares my exact tastes in beer. The glue of our circle of friends. “You do?”
“Yeah,” she says, and blazes heat into me with the press of her mouth over my pulse point. “It’s familiar, but I never realized until now how nice it is up close.”
While she kisses up my neck, I’m dragged back two years, when Dustin brought her along with him to meet up with the rest of us for drinks. Chris, Alex, and I thought he seemed like a cool guy; maybe he’d be another colleague we could end up hanging with. Academia is hard as hell, and it helps to have a community of people who get the schedule, understand the pressures. But within a half hour, Dustin was playing darts with some surfers, and Millie got us all drunk on car bombs and dirty jokes. From that night on, Millie seemed more ours than his. I know they ostensibly broke up because their schedules weren’t compatible, and they hit a plateau—also he was basically a dick—but I sometimes wonder how much her friendship with us contributed to the breakup.
It was a friendship that came at the perfect time. I was still reeling from Isla calling off our engagement, was still finding my friend clan at the university. Chris, Alex, Ed, and I hung out, but it was spontaneous—never something we planned or assumed. As soon as Millie joined our little gang, though, being together became the default: barbecues at Chris’s when it was nice out. Football at Millie’s on Sundays with a big TV and best furniture. Game night at Ed’s. Inside jokes and familiarity. We fell into a rhythm and built a scaffold of community. Before Millie we got together when we randomly bumped into each other; because of her we now have lunch every Monday and Wednesday, and I can’t imagine a week without it.
I fucking love all of them, but romance wasn’t even on the table. Now it’s just me and Millie here, standing so close our chests touch. I’m trying not to contemplate what the others would think right now.
When I focus again, it’s hard to think of anything; Millie has been busy. One finger is tucked into my belt loop and her lips are hovering near my chin, skirting along my jaw. It’s decision time. All I have to do is tilt my face down to her, and we’ll be kissing. I’m already getting hard, and the question whether this is a great or disastrous decision is growing cloudier.
“Are we going to do this?” This time I say it out loud. Her breath, against my mouth, is sweet with wine and the apple Jolly Rancher she swiped from Chris’s counter on our way out the door.
“I really, really want sex tonight,” she admits. “Specifically, I’d like sex with you, but if you’re weirded out by this, then it’s cool if you leave and I dive into the drawer of sin in my bedroom.”
I haven’t exactly made up my mind, but my lips pass over hers once—just to see—then again, and it’s not weird, not even a little. It’s soft and easy. My pulse taps out an impatient beat inside me. “The drawer of sin?”