The look on Amber’s face—like she’d swallowed a fly—paired with Julian’s appalled frown almost made me laugh.
Now that we were heading home, I was irritated with the idea of saying goodbye. My ex-slash-current-slash-temporary girlfriend was delectable, and she kept my mind off Dad’s illness, which was definitely a bonus.
“Where do you want to sleep tonight?” I asked, driving at a pace that would make senior citizens look like delinquent punks. The rural view passed like flicking pictures, turning gradually into more concrete, higher buildings, and narrower pavements the closer we got to New York.
“My bed.” She laughed. “Where else?”
“Mine,” I said flatly.
“Daisy,” she pointed out. “She probably misses me a lot.”
“You could bring her to mine.” What the heck am I saying? Seeing women’s stray hairs on my pillow made me want to refurnish the whole apartment. A ball of fur on my floor would likely make me burn the entire building down.
“I think she’d freak out.” Mad paused. “Actually, I think you would too. No thanks.”
I waited for an invitation while Mad flicked through a wedding magazine she’d brought along with her. For research, I reminded myself. She knew the score. When we entered Manhattan, I finally said, “Or I could sleep at yours.”
She closed the magazine, perching it over her crossed legs. “Don’t you want your own space? We just spent a weekend together.”
“Getting laid regularly beats personal space,” I replied wryly. “Any day of the week. It’s science.”
“Does that mean you are giving monogamy a chance while we’re temporarily together?” It was more a taunt than a question.
“Do you want me to?” I countered. I sounded like my mother and sister passive aggressively trying to convince each other to eat the last slice of the pie on Thanksgiving.
“Do you want to?” she answered. My brain keyboard smashed a crass reply. Was she five?
“Sure,” I clipped. “I’ll do temporary monogamy. If you do.”
“If I do?” She grinned at me in my periphery. “Am I known for running around town bed-hopping?”
Good point. It was true that ever since we’d gotten into bed, it felt like I was losing a few IQ points every time I came inside her. It was like she sucked the logic out of me. The Delilah to my Samson, if he were a genius and she were . . . well, a quirky hipster. I took a sip of my coffee.
“Do you think if we ever made a sex tape, it would look weird? You’re so big,” Mad mused.
I nearly sprayed my coffee all over my windshield. “First of all, I would never make a sex tape—or document being affectionate toward another person in any capacity.” I tucked the foam cup into the cup holder. “But let me assure you, we do not look awkward in bed.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I watched us in my bedroom mirror when we were doing it.” Pause. “We looked fucking epic, thankyouverymuch.”
Mad played with her engagement ring, pouting as she processed all this. We were ten minutes from her house. She still didn’t tell me whether I could crash at hers. I got irritated with her again. Maybe it was a good idea to spend some time separately.
“I think I’d like to sleep by myself tonight,” she said finally. “You know, just to make sure the relationship is not too intense and we don’t catch any feelings toward one another.”
“Fine,” I said. I didn’t have the heart to correct her and point out that . . . well, I didn’t have a heart, so catching feelings was not on the menu for me.
I parked in front of her brownstone and helped her with the suitcases. After depositing them in her living room, we kissed on the lips, and I turned around and walked back down to my car.
Stopped at the building’s entrance.
Made a U-turn and went back up, my fist already curled and ready to knock on her door. I raised my hand to knock, but the door flung open just as my knuckles were about to hit the wood. Madison stood there, panting.
I blinked, awaiting directions. Should I kiss her? Give her her space? Berate her for being so goddamn indecisive?
“Ground rules”—she raised her palm in warning—“because I know you don’t have feelings, but I do, and I’m here to protect myself first.”
I jerked my chin up, indicating that I was listening. I stood outside her apartment. She was standing inside. I wanted permission to get in. I’d probably agree to sell entire sections of Black & Co. for a blowie right now.
“One, no more than three sleepovers a week between both apartments. That’s the ratio.”
“Done,” I snapped.
“Two, you take care of Daisy while I’m out of town. It’s not fair for Layla to have to babysit her. You were the one who gifted her to me.”
“You said you always wanted a puppy when we passed an Aussiedoodle on the street,” I pointed out. I’d thought I was doing her a goddamn favor at the time.
She stared at me like I was insane. “I say a lot of things, Chase. I also said I want to get married in an Italian château.”
“And?” I stared at her blankly.
“And of course I’ll get married in my dad’s backyard!” She threw her hands in the air like it was obvious.
“Whatever. I’ll take care of Daisy when you are out of town and will not gift you anything that requires more than water or batteries to survive.” I made a mental note to gift her awful things only. Heating pads and flowery planners and hand creams that smelled like desserts. The cheap shit that made Mad smile. “Anything else?” I spread my arms theatrically.
“Hmm.” She tapped her lower lip. “Oh yeah. No telling anyone at our jobs about us. This thing between us has an expiration date, and I don’t want to look like you’ve dumped me. Twice.”
Mad hadn’t told anyone we’d dated, then or now. I, however, didn’t give a shit who saw me kissing her in the mornings when we came to work together.
“You weren’t dumped by me the first time around either.”
She waved me off. “They’ll just assume.”
She wasn’t wrong. People always assumed the person with the money was the one doing the dumping.