Turning to look at her, I see that same clarity in her eyes she had after the Boulevard event, but this time it’s lacking the panic just beneath the surface. Her expression is open, hungry. This time, she doesn’t have to tell me what to do.
I lean in and feel the hit of adrenaline the second her mouth touches mine and she lets out the sweetest moan in relief. It is emotion in sound, the direct translation of what I’m feeling, too. My hands come to her face, her hands land carefully on my biceps, and I’m cursing the hell out of us for starting this a quarter of a mile down the road instead of in close proximity to one of the house’s ten spare bedrooms.
I reach to the side, flipping my seat back. With her lower lip trapped in her teeth, she smiles at me, climbing onto my lap. Her smile turns to a growl when she settles over where I’m hard, and I like this version of her. I like how unapologetically greedy she is with me like this. I lean back against the seat, thinking, Take whatever the hell you want.
Lifting her soft cotton skirt, I savor the heat of her legs under my hands. I love the little sounds she makes, how impatient she is with her touch and bite. Her hands dig in my hair and up under my shirt. She takes her time and doesn’t grow self-conscious when she struggles with the buttons on my jeans, doesn’t hide from me when she’s exploring my chest with her trembling fingertips.
We undress just enough—for crying out loud, we’re in fading daylight, but it’s enough—and it seems like we’ve been here for two minutes and two years, like we’ve always been here, and she’s smiling down at me, holding me and the condom from my wallet in her hand, and then we’re moving together with our eyes open, laughing into each other’s mouths.
“What are we even doing?” she whispers.
“Sex,” I whisper back. “I think people call this sex.”
Her laugh is a joyful burst against my lips, and I honestly think I’ve never felt this kind of lightness in my entire life, this much optimism. Maybe it’s a release of stress, or maybe it’s the absurdity of what we’re doing—making love in a car at a stop sign in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe it’s that I’m falling in love with her, and as she moves over me, I know for sure we can find a way out of this, and at the very least we can find a way through it together.
Her skin is soft cream under my hands. I feel the way the blood heats it as she moves, can hear her breaths turn into sound and her sounds turn into tight, hungry silence, and then she’s cupping my neck, biting at my lower lip, growing frantic until she’s falling into pleasure and dragging me right along with her. I would follow her anywhere.
With her eyes closed, she presses her forehead to mine, catching her breath. “I needed that.”
“I needed it, too.” I kiss a path up her neck. “But I also really wanted it.”
She kisses me for that, and it turns into a smile. “Your answer was better.”
“They can both be true.”
Carey sits up, pressing her hands to my stomach. “Is it going to be weird when we get home?”
I groan, imagining the obliterating relief of sleeping in my own bed. “I think it’s going to be blissful to be home.”
She pinches me, lightly. “You know what I mean.”
“I do.” But with her still over me, and my pulse still well above baseline, I’m not sure I’m coherent enough to properly have this conversation. There are so many things she and I have to talk about once we get home—what we want in a relationship, what we want from our careers. I still haven’t told her about my conversation with Ted. And once she has all the information, she’ll need to decide what she wants to do, too. It’s all definitely too much for this perfect, quiet moment.
So I simply say the truth again: “Like I said, I think it’s going to be blissful to be home.”
The air grows cool and dark, and we get dressed as best we can in the front seat of an old car.
I look up at the sound of the door opening and see her step outside, arms above her head and back arched in a delicious, satisfied stretch. Climbing out, I walk around to the front of the car and sit back against the hood, watching her.
“Who was your first love?”
Her question takes me by surprise, but I answer. “Her name was Alicia. We were fourteen.”
She walks back to me, smiling like she’s tipsy, arms loose at her sides.
“Fourteen?” She pretends to be scandalized.
“Ohhh,” I say, taking her hands in mine and pulling her closer. “You mean real love? With, like, wisdom and communication?”
“No, whatever you say first goes.”
“Okay, well, then Alicia. I was totally infatuated. She was on the diving team. I think I just really liked seeing her in a bathing suit.”
I can’t make out much of her face but can see the way her head tilts as she considers me. “Occasionally you have these total Dude Moments, and they delight me.”
I tug her closer until her chest is pressed against mine. “What about you? Who was your first love?”
“Dave Figota. I swear to God he fell in love with me when he saw me take my bra off without taking off my shirt. He looked at me like I was some kind of sexy witch.”
I tuck her hair behind her ear. It’s not curly exactly, but too rebellious to be considered straight. It fits her. “I’ve always found it fascinating how much of a mystery that maneuver is to men.”
“It’s not a mystery to you because you’re an engineer.”
I don’t have to see her face to know what she’s doing. “Why do I get the sense that you’re saying that with an eye roll?”
“I think because I’m … aware of the differences in our education.” She pulls back a little. “Sometimes I feel a little dumb by comparison. I don’t even know what an engineer really does, let alone how a person becomes one. Does it bother you that I never went to college?”
“There are bell-shaped curves everywhere,” I say carefully. “Just because someone goes to college doesn’t mean they’re inherently smarter than someone who doesn’t. Plenty of idiots get degrees. Plenty of geniuses never bother.”
“Are you suggesting it’s possible I’m smarter than you?”
“Oh, I know you are.” I run my nose along her neck, taste the salt on her skin. “Plus, think of all the experiences you’ve had that most people haven’t.”
“Like skinny-dipping?” I feel her smile.
“Rub it in.”
Her fingers move to my hair. “We have time.”
I pull her forward, taste her sweet mouth and her tongue, and a single thought lands and sticks for those long, forever seconds: I want to make her life better by being the best thing in it.
Partial transcript of interview with
James McCann, July 14
Officer Martin: What was the nature of your relationship with Ms. Duncan?
James McCann: The nature?
Officer Martin: Yes. Of your relationship.
JM: With Carey? We were coworkers.
Officer Martin: Solely colleagues?
JM: I mean, in a situation like ours, you get closer, you know?
Officer Martin: Can you elaborate?
JM: It was just us on the road with the Tripps. And Joe. Sort of. Carey and I got close. She really put up with a lot from Melissa and had for a number of years. She never had anyone who understood what she dealt with, and then I came along, and I understood. I think that was really good for her. And me. It was good for me, too. I grew to really—sorry. This isn’t about me and Carey. I mean—okay, yes, there were romantic feelings but—how is this relevant to your investigation?
Officer Martin: I’m just trying to understand the dynamics at play here and how they may have contributed to what happened.
JM: But it’s clear what happened, right? I mean, we’ve all told you.
Officer Martin: Mr. McCann, it helps me to know all the facts going into this investigation. Who was close to whom? What your employers knew, what they didn’t know. This kind of thing.
JM: Okay, well. Carey and I got close. I mean, we … [gestures vaguely]. A couple of times. Technically three times.
Officer Martin: To clarify, you were sexually intimate with Carey Duncan?
JM: Yes. But things with us aren’t the same anymore. I made some mistakes with her, as far as disclosing certain information is concerned.
Officer Martin: And what information would this be?
JM: Ted Cox and I had a deal that if the Netflix show was picked up for a second season, he would give me an executive producing credit and the job of lead engineer.
Officer Martin: And was Ms. Duncan given a similar deal?
[Note: The subject didn’t answer]
Officer Martin: Mr. McCann? Was Ms. Duncan offered a similar deal if the show was continued for a second season?
JM: Not to my knowledge. [long pause] It was my hope that—I don’t really know what to say. It was complicated.
Officer Martin: Complicated how?
JM: Complicated because my résumé was in the trash, and Carey was in an impossible situation and suddenly I had the chance to help her get out of it but it would mean blowing everything up. I wasn’t sure I was prepared to do that.
Officer Martin: Mr. McCann, you don’t need to be defensive. No one is accusing you of anything here.
JM: Okay, but I can assure you that Carey and I being sexually intimate had no effect on the incident. None at all. What are you writing down?
It doesn’t happen often, but I do have occasional moments of brilliance. Like taking first place in the seventh grade spelling bee. The final word was rhythm. I turned bright red, but spelled it correctly not because I’d been studying for days like I told my mom, but because I’d been babysitting for a neighbor the night before and read their 1972 edition of The Joy of Sex cover to cover. Twice.
Another would be not giving Rusty and Melly the Wi-Fi password in Laramie until the last possible second. Their usual cabin—where Melly collected river rock for wall pieces—doesn’t have Internet or cell service at all. I knew that as soon as we turned down that wooded drive and Melly saw she had zero signal, she’d assume we’d have no Wi-Fi here, either.