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And I know for sure it didn’t feel like this. I’m so sensitive that he’s only started to move and I’m clawing at him, pressing into him to get closer, and closer, and we find a rhythm for so long where everything feels so good we can’t stop marveling over it, and it blows over me, unexpected—

I’m coming and he’s watching,

moving faster he’s so focused—

his hips stutter against mine and he’s there, following just after me; his deep groan of relief vibrates against my throat. I have one hand in his hair and the other on his neck; my legs are wound around him, hooked together at his lower back: like this, we go still.

It’s raining outside, I didn’t even realize. Heavy sheets of water sluice over the eaves and down onto the sidewalk.

“Was it good?” he whispers, quietly reverent.

“Yeah.” I swallow, catching my breath. “You?”

He pulls back a little and stares down at me. “Yeah.” He bends, kissing me. “I’m reeling.”

Calvin’s breath is warm on my neck, his back still slick beneath my palms. The other night seems like drunken fumbling compared to what just happened between us, and I’m left momentarily out of words.

He pushes up onto an elbow and reaches down between us with his other hand, anchoring the condom as he pulls out. When he shifts away to throw it in the bin, the entire front of my body goes cold, and I urge him back, pulling the covers over us.

“I don’t think you’ll ever be able to fake an orgasm with me.” His voice is muffled by my shoulder.

This makes me laugh. “What? I mean—I wouldn’t fake an orgasm—but what makes you say that?”

“You get this flush, up your neck and across your face. I thought I could go a bit more but then you started to come, and I was done for.”

I curl into him. The feel of his arms around me is so insane. I want to look at him again and again, to make sure I’m not imagining this.

“What time is it?” I ask.

He stretches to see my alarm clock on the other nightstand. “Two.”

We have twenty-seven blissful hours before we have to be anywhere. I nestle closer.



“How did you know that my parents couldn’t afford to come to the wedding?”

I pull back so I can see him. “I just made that up. I assume Molly’s medical care is really expensive.”

“It is.” He leans in, kissing my nose. “It’s been this enormous stress, her whole life.”

This pushes a little ache into my chest.

“I’ve tried so hard to keep them from worrying about me,” he says. I stare up at his face, watching his jaw tense as he swallows. “Didn’t want them spending the money to come out to see me living in Mark’s flat, paying fuck-all in rent. Little lies turned into big lies and—” He stops and looks down at me, searching back and forth between my eyes. “I’ll tell it all to you someday but not now. It just felt good when you said that.” He slides a hand up, over my breast and coming to rest on my sternum. “Feels like I don’t always have to explain myself so much with you.”

The thrill that blooms inside me when he says this feels like a kite pushing up into the sky, expanding beneath my ribs. “Well, for what it’s worth, I can absolutely see how you stayed here for so long, and also why you wouldn’t want them to worry about how you were doing, or who’s taking care of you.”

“Mam is really glad we’re married,” he says. “I haven’t been so good about keeping her up to date, but I’m trying to do better. I told her how good it all is with you. But my father is a tougher sell. I imagine that’s why Brigid texted you.”

I wince, remembering. “I need to reply.”

“You were a bit busy today.”

“I haven’t told my parents yet,” I admit.

I can tell he’s only mildly surprised by this. “Yeah?”

Up close, his green eyes seem so much more complicated—green, yellow, brown, bronze. It makes it hard to be flippant, or lie. “They barely trust me to run my own life, they’d automatically assume th—”

“That you’re being used?”

In truth there are a dozen reasons; this is definitely one of them. “I don’t think that,” I quickly add.

“I was taking advantage at first, I suppose.” Licking his lips, he seems to think on this for a few more seconds. “But I knew that I liked you, knew I’d be happy to score with you”—he laughs, kissing me—“I thought there could be more. I just put the marriage before the feelings.”

“Arranged marriages do that all the time.”

“They do.” He looks down at me. “And you said a year, after all. It seemed to be what you wanted, but what an enormous thing to do for Robert, for me. I wondered whether there might be more you wanted, too.”

I don’t know how to interpret this; I hate my brain sometimes. Does this mean sex is the equivalent of him fulfilling his end of the bargain? Was he pretending to not believe me about my six-month crush, and decided this is the way to repay the favor? Or do I take him at his word, that he wanted this from the beginning?

My logical head wants to wait and see how I feel when I’m alone tomorrow, to not read too much into this. My heart and my heated blood want me to ask for more.

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