The day had been entirely full of unpleasant surprises, but Pediatric Dudebro in his dress shirt, stupid tie, and running tights was the cherry on the shit cake. He grinned at Madison, giving her two thumbs up for the outfit.
“Maddie! I came to get a good-luck kiss before the half marathon.” He was running in place on her threshold beside me, both of us outside her door. I didn’t care how nice this man was. He was oozing douchebagness in radioactive quantities.
“Hi.” He turned to beam at me, offering me his hand. I shook it, making sure I pressed hard enough to almost crush his bones. The only reason I didn’t go for full destruction was because his patients were minors and I had enough reasons to suspect I was the first name on karma’s shit list. If he were a plastic surgeon, catering to bored housewives and vain men, his hand would be marshmallow right about now.
“Ethan is . . .” Mad trailed off, allowing herself a moment to think about what he was to her. We both looked at her expectantly. A slow smile spread across my face. They hadn’t had that conversation yet. They weren’t anywhere near as serious as she wanted me to think they were. Mad cleared her throat. “We’re seeing each other.”
Ethan nodded in confirmation, pleased with her bullshit explanation. If I were introduced as anything other than boyfri . . .
Finish that thought, idiot. My brain pointed a gun at my temple from the inside. I fucking dare you.
“Nice tie. Is that from Brioni’s newest collection?” I jutted my chin in its direction, dead-ass serious. He wore a PAW Patrol tie. Specifically, with Chase on it, wearing his firefighter helmet. I only knew the dog’s name because Booger Face used to call me Doggy Chase for a while, and I’d been worried and disturbed about her knowing my favorite sexual position.
Also, why weren’t we talking about the fact he wore tights?
“Brioni?” he echoed, still running in place. “Is that a designer brand?”
“Close. An Italian dish,” I deadpanned.
I felt like an asshole. No doubt I looked like one too. And for the first time in a very long time, it felt like crossing an invisible line. I’d always been sarcastic and brash, but never completely off-the-rails rude. In Ethan’s case, I couldn’t stop myself. I imagined him pressing his tights-clad crotch (seriously, were we just going to ignore the tights?) against Madison’s soft curves and kissing her, and frankly, that made me want to drink myself to death, smash the bottle of whiskey on a brick, and stab him with it.
“Chase!” Madison stomped her high heel, which, for the record, I wasn’t opposed to removing with my teeth later tonight. My cock was stirring uncomfortably in my briefs every time I caught a waft of her perfume. Pumpkin pie, coconut, and Daisy’s smell. She smelled like home. A home I categorically wasn’t invited to, but a home nonetheless. Ethan jutted his chin out at me, a glint of wildness in his eyes. It was a carnal spark that told me he knew Madison was a catch, and he wasn’t backing down.
All yours, Pedi Boy.
“I admit I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to clothing. I’m hoping Maddie here helps me out.” He flashed her a smile and a wink. I ran my eyes along his body, assessing him.
“Sucks for you. The pot and the kettle going shopping. No retinas will be safe.”
I was now insulting both of them. Very bad form, considering she was about to help me. But they seemed wrong together, and she was so oblivious to it I couldn’t stop myself.
Mad rolled her eyes. “See what I mean about you not ever having to worry about him? He’s insufferable. I’ll see you tomorrow, Ethan.” She leaned forward, touching his chest as she kissed his cheek. Her lips lingered on his skin a moment too long, and my hands curled into fists, itching to grab her waist and physically remove her from him. “Good luck with the marathon.”
“Half marathon,” he corrected, hugging her tight.
Don’t look at his tights. If he has an erection, you might have to kill him, and your lawyer is in the Maldives on vacation.
When Mad and I stepped out of her building, my pulse returned to its regular rhythm.
“Do you smell that?” She sniffed the air theatrically.
“The urine from the pissing contest you just launched at my doorstep.”
I laughed. The 2.0 version of her was considerably more fun to hang out with, despite the constant headache she gave me. I said the thing I thought would rile her up the most, because seeing her cheeks turn pink was one of my favorite pastimes.
“I didn’t know golden showers are your jam. I am happy to accommodate this.”
“Chase!” she shrieked.
“What? It’d save water. I’m just being an environmentalist.” Somehow I thought Greta Thunberg still wouldn’t approve.
“That’s it—now I know it. The devil wears Black.”
She meant both my favorite color and my last name.
“Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t.”
“I can’t wait to get to know the angel better,” she retorted.
“I bet the angel doesn’t know how to do that thing with his tongue you like so much.”
“The angel makes me happy,” she snapped, reddening under her understated makeup. Mad was always good at that. Looking put together without resembling a Kiss band member.
“Bull. Fucking. Shit. He makes you comfortable.”
“What’s wrong with comfortable?”
“Comfortable would never set you on fire.”
“Maybe I don’t want to burn.”
“We all want to burn, Mad. It is dangerous, ergo, we want it.”
We proceeded to the subway. I decided grilling her about Grant and Layla would garner more hostility. As it was, if hate translated into electricity, Madison would detonate my ass. We took the train to the Upper West Side. Driving in Manhattan on Friday night was the equivalent of rubbing your dick across a grater: Technically possible, but why would you want to try?
When we exited the train, Mad stopped dead in her tracks, a look of horror marring her face. I turned back to her. “What is it now?”
“I forgot the banana bread.” She slapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh shoot. How did you not remind me? I was so flustered when you and Ethan were doing a dance-off on my threshold I totally forgot to bring it.”