The Soulmate Equation

Page 42

She startled as the entire room broke into sound and commotion. She looked away for a beat, and then back to River. His attention, it seemed, had remained entirely fixed on her mouth.

“I think we just made your company a lot of money,” she mumbled, grinning as she carefully pressed her fingertips to her tingling lips.

He didn’t crack a smile. Jess wasn’t sure he’d even heard her.

“I’d suspect most people comment on your eyes,” he said quietly, running a fingertip across her collarbone. “That startling, bright blue.”

Surely he could feel her heart scaling her windpipe. He didn’t seem to remember there was anyone else in the room.

“But I prefer your mouth.”

“You do?” Jess managed.

“I do,” he said, and bent, kissing her forehead. “You don’t give those smiles away for free.”


THANKS TO A friend of a friend of a friend, Jess met with a potential new client on Tuesday. She didn’t really have room in her schedule for anyone new—who knew fake dating would be such a time suck?—but the gravy train would be over when GeneticAlly went public in May, and Jess didn’t intend to be caught with her proverbial pants down when it happened.

Kenneth Marshall ran a small engineering firm in Wyoming and was in town to see clients of his own. They agreed to meet for lunch at his hotel, which had the added bonus of overlooking the convention center and the San Diego Bay. Unfortunately, it also had views of Shelter Island and the Grubers’ high-rise condo, which meant that it took monumental effort for Jess to focus on the conversation about probability study and regression analysis and not the searing kiss from the cocktail party.

How did someone learn to kiss like that? Did River take a class? Watch YouTube videos, like when Jess learned how to fix the toilet fill valve? She’d lain in bed last night thinking about his mouth and the urging press of his fingers to her jaw, about the sobering reality that Jess had had actual sex that left her less satisfied than River’s kiss.

Sex with River might actually end her.

She was all too happy when the meeting with Kenneth wrapped up, and even happier when he offered a deposit to hold his place on her schedule until late spring. But instead of immediately heading toward the valet, she walked out to the back patio of the hotel to take in the view. Seagulls soared overhead and waves gently rocked the boats docked at the marina. Snapping a photo, she sent a quick text to Fizzy, who was in LA meeting with her agent.

Jess had lived in California her entire life but rarely made it to the ocean. It seemed like too much preparation—the sand, the crowds, finding parking—but once she was there, she’d invariably wonder why she didn’t do it more often.

Kind of like sex.

Jess thought of the kiss again, the way River had angled his head to capture her mouth more deeply, how he’d held his breath, then let out a shaking exhale when they pulled apart. She wondered whether it would have been hard to stop if they’d been alone. She wondered whether he fucked like he kissed.

Her phone rang in her hand, startling her. She expected to see Fizzy’s face filling the screen, but instead there were three words: SCRIPPS MERCY HOSPITAL.

“Hello?” Jess said in a rush, eyes raking over the horizon as her heart began to thump Juno, Juno, Juno against her breastbone.

“May I speak to Jessica Davis?” a woman asked. In the background, Jess heard voices, an elevator ding, phones ringing, and the distant murmur of an intercom.

“This is Jessica.” Her pulse pounded her daughter’s name.

“This is Scripps Mercy Hospital. We have a Joanne Davis here. Your grandfather, Ronald, is asking for you. Please come as soon as possible.”

JESS DIDN’T REMEMBER the wait at the valet or the drive to the hospital, the walk from the parking lot or talking to anyone at the front desk, but she would never forget the sight of Nana in the hospital bed. Jess stood rooted in the doorway, motionless as machines hummed and beeped around Nana, and Pops hovered at his wife’s side, holding her hand. Both of Nana’s legs were immobilized and strapped to a splint. There was an IV in her left arm. The smell of antiseptic burned Jess’s nose. A nurse scooted past her into the hallway, and she managed to step into the room.


Pops turned to face her; every ounce of Nana’s pain was mirrored in his expression. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

“I’m here,” Jess said, crossing the room to wrap an arm around him. “What happened?”

“She fell.”

“I’m fine,” Nana said through a shaky breath. “Just lost my footing.”

Pops squeezed her hand, eyes trained on her face. Jess’s grandfather had always been the strongest, steadiest person she knew. But right now, he looked like a slight wind might knock him down. “They think it’s a fractured femur,” he said, “but we’re waiting for the doctor. We were bowling at that new place in Kearny Mesa and she slipped.” He put a hand over his mouth. “They took the X-rays twenty minutes ago, but nobody will goddamn tell me—”

Nana winced and, if possible, Pops’s face went even paler.

“Okay, okay,” Jess said, guiding him away from the bed and to a chair. “Let’s have you sit down, and I’ll see what’s happening. Have they given her anything for pain?”

His fingers trembled as he pushed them through his thin, fluffy hair. “I think in the IV.”

“I’ll be right back,” Jess said, and leaned in so Nana could see her. “Nana Jo, I’ll be right back.”

Jess stopped the first nurse she saw in the hallway. “Excuse me, I was just in room 213. Can you tell me what’s happening with Joanne Davis?”

“You’re family?”

“I’m her granddaughter, yes.”

“We’ve given her some pain meds and are expecting her X-ray results any second.” The nurse pointed to a woman in blue scrubs striding down the hall toward them. “Dr. Reynolds is coming. She’ll talk you through it.”

Dr. Reynolds returned with Jess to the room, where Pops had moved his chair over to the bed and resumed holding Nana’s hand. Sweat beaded her brow, and it was clear that she was in pain but working valiantly to hide it.

Dr. Reynolds greeted Nana and Pops, and a new nurse took Nana’s vitals. Clipping the X-ray film to a lighted board, the physician explained that Nana had a subtrochanteric fracture, between the two bony protrusions of the femur.

“We’ll have to operate,” she explained. “We’ll put in a rod that goes down here.” Dr. Reynolds drew along the image with her fingertip. “And a screw that goes up into your hip. Yours won’t be that long because your fracture is pretty high. It’ll probably go to about here.” She traced a finger over the X-ray where the metal rod would end. “And then you’ll have another rod that will go up through the fracture into your hip. This is stronger than your actual bone, so you’ll be able to walk and get up and move around pretty quickly. But no more bowling for at least eight weeks.”

“How long will she be here?” Pops asked.

“Let’s say five days if everything goes as planned and you’re able to work on mobility quickly. Possibly sooner.” Dr. Reynolds shrugged. “Or longer if there are complications or we have other concerns.”

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