I wipe my nose. “No.”
“Probably five thousand.” He zooms in on the picture to an extreme close-up of his hand before giving it back to me. It’s my least favorite part of the photo—Calvin’s hand is wrapped fully around her waist—and it takes me a second to realize what he’s showing me: the glint of a ring on his finger.
My eyes fly down to his hand at his side, here in front of me. He’s still wearing it.
“Natalie Edgerton is a friend of Mark’s,” he explains, and my stomach drops out in realization. “He set us up months ago, but then I got married, and fell in love—admittedly in that order. I never replied to her text from that day, by the way.”
I groan into my hands. “Oh, my God.”
“Natalie Nguyen is an actress with a small role in Ramón’s film.” Calvin pries my hands away and holds them in his. “Even if I was at all interested in seeing other women—which I’m not—do you really think she’s the one who was calling an unemployed street musician for a date all those months ago?”
All motion has come to a halt in my brain. I want to throw myself against the wall repeatedly, until I’m unconscious and can forget this ever happened. “Maybe not.”
He reaches up with one hand to wipe beneath my eye. “I don’t have a girlfriend, Holland. I’ve got a wife, in case you’ve forgotten.”
“I know, but—”
“Though she hasn’t texted, hasn’t rung me back, and hasn’t wanted to see me.”
At his tone, I glance up to his face, for the first time hearing past my own anxiety and hurt. In the stark hallway light, he looks devastated.
“You told me you loved me,” he reminds me. “And I told you I’d wait. But it’s been painful wondering more and more frequently whether you’ll ever ask me to come home.” He ducks a little to hold my gaze. “We were going to have dinner, and you canceled last minute.”
“I was working on myself, and getting past Amanda, and all of the uncertainty that started building between us,” I admit. “And when I thought I was ready to see you . . . I saw the photo.”
“So why not call?” he asks. “Just to ask me about it? Or yell at me? Anything. If I did have a girlfriend that would still be something to discuss, logistically, given that we’re married, wouldn’t it?”
I press my hands to my face, mumbling, “I don’t know” from behind them.
Calvin gently pries my hands away again. “If I went off with someone else, wouldn’t you be angry?”
“As would I. I would be homicidal if you were with another bloke. So why not let me have it? I could have saved you so many days of worrying about this.”
I look up at him. “I wasn’t actually sure a conversation about it would go that way.”
“You mean, you weren’t sure I still loved you after only two months apart? What kind of heart do you think lives inside here?” He presses our joined hands to his chest. “I miss you.”
It feels like a fist curls around my lungs when he says this in present tense. “It made more sense in some ways to think you were playing along.”
“That I—?” He blinks away, scowling. “Did you not read your own essay? You act as though all this time you were simply going along with something. What you did for me was astounding, and who you are—calm, and assured, and sexy, and carefully creative . . . I am absolutely smashed in love with you.”
I bite my lower lip savagely, looking back and forth at his eyes, trying to find the act. He has no reason to lie anymore. His hands come up, framing my face, and my heart pushes painfully against my breastbone, clawing toward him.
A breath away from me, and his eyes are still open. “So? Can I kiss my bride?”
A hallway kiss turns into a full-on hallway makeout session, and I consider it a small miracle that no one finds us out here, with me pressed to the wall, one leg around Calvin’s hips. In his touch, I can tell that he was telling the truth about our time apart being painful: against me, he’s shaking, nearly frantic.
We go back into the party hand in hand. He gets me a wine, gets himself a beer, and we dance, pressed so close together I can feel what it does to him. When he apologizes with a quiet laugh, I look up, and we grin in unison at the shared, unspoken promise of the insane sex we are going to have later tonight.
I’m hoping neither of us can walk straight tomorrow.
My thoughts clean up a little when I introduce Calvin to Davis. Jeff and I watch in awe as the two men seem to strike up an immediate bromance centered on home-brewed beer and rugby.
With the two of them bent together, frantically discussing the Milwaukee microbrewery scene, Jeff pulls me aside, proudly spinning me around the room to some Sinatra.
Calvin breaks in a few minutes later, smiling in thanks to Jeff and pulling me close again.
“You and Davis were lost to beer. I was standing nearby like a floor lamp.”
He laughs, pressing his lips to my jaw. When my hands slip up the back of his neck and into his hair, he groans quietly. “You feel so good against me. I’m so relieved, I could fall over.”
“I think one more hour, then we can justify leaving.”