He laughed. “I haven’t napped like that since I was in kindergarten.” Rolling to face her, he pulled her close again, with sweet, sleepy eyes. “I think our bodies needed our brains to shut down for a few minutes.”
“I think you’re right.” Jess kissed him, unable to close her eyes. She thought she’d felt secure in this before, but the love they’d just made cemented something different between them. With the tip of her finger, she traced the shape of his jaw, his mouth, and then a thought occurred to her. “Can I ask you something about the company, or do you want to stay in the bubble a little longer?”
“I plan to live in this bubble with you, so ask anything you want. It won’t harsh my Jess buzz.”
She grinned, but then it faded. “What’s happening with your executive team?”
“David and Brandon are gone. The board fired them the same day I saw you at Twiggs. Tiffany, too.”
Jess gasped. “She knew?”
“I think she sort of had to,” River said, and reached up to rub his eyes. “The only ones left from the original team are me, Lisa, and Sanjeev.” When he pulled his hand away, he gazed at her, unguarded, and Jess caught a glimpse of just how exhausted he was. “We brought on a geneticist from UCSD and the head of chemistry from Genentech to sit on the interim board. I’ve been promoted to CEO. Sanjeev will step up as CSO. We’re bringing on a new head of marketing, who’ll hopefully start in the next week.”
“Are you going to have to make some sort of official announcement?”
“Yeah, tomorrow. We’re just waiting on Amalia to confirm the CMO package we’ve offered, and then the new executive slate will go up on our site.”
She shook her head. “No, I meant an announcement about the results.”
“The results?” His brows pulled together in confusion.
“Just—” Jess faltered, hoping this wasn’t insensitive or intrusive. “I mean, what about the U-T, and the Today show, and the People issue comes out Friday, right?”
River looked back and forth between her eyes for a second, and then said quietly, “We had to include it in the IPO audit, but otherwise, no. We’re not making a statement on that.”
“Is that …” Again, she hated the possibility that this would insult him. “Is that legal? I mean—”
“—the original score affected your valuation and—”
He leaned in, kissed her slowly, and then pulled back. “GeneticAlly isn’t going to release a statement.”
Unease ballooned in her chest, making her feel like a boat on rocky water. Was he speaking in legalese? “Okay,” she said, frowning.
He studied her reaction and chewed his lip, smiling. “Stop it.”
“Stop what?” she said, blinking up to his eyes.
“I know what you’re thinking. That I’m being unethical or evasive. I’m not. You just have to trust me.”
“I do, it’s just—”
He quieted her with another kiss, a longer one, deep and searching with his hand cupping her jaw and his torso rising back over hers. “Listen, I don’t know how to answer this question any other way, so I’m just going to kiss you until you stop asking.”
“I’m saying, because I love you and I don’t want your company to—”
“Jess.” He kissed her again. A loud, definitive smooch. “You’ve told me you don’t want to know our results.” He stared at her intently. “So, you have to let this one go.”
In shock, she watched him push up and climb out of bed, smirking over his shoulder at her before walking to the bathroom. She heard the water running, and the entire time Jess stared unfocused at the doorway he’d just stepped through. They weren’t going to release a statement. River didn’t seem to think they would need to. Did that mean … ?
Her heart had somehow transformed into a bird inside her.
River returned and reached near the foot of the bed for his boxers, pulling them on. Jess had a million questions but couldn’t ask any of them.
Well, maybe one more. She frowned as he stepped into his pants. “Are you … going in to work?”
He buckled his belt and, before reaching for his shirt, bent over to kiss her again. “No. I’m not going in to work.” Straightening, he went silent for a second, and then said, “But do you think it would be okay if I got Juno from school?”
Jess bolted upright, diving for her phone. Shit. They had two minutes to make the seven-minute walk.
“I mean,” he clarified, “I want to go get her.”
“I know. Just let me—” She stood, reaching for her clothes.
“Jess.” Putting his hands on her shoulders, he eased her back onto the bed. “I’m saying I want to get her. Let me help you.” And then he ran his hands through his hair and took a deep, steadying breath. “If that’s okay. I’ve got to fix things with both of my girls today.”
Two Months Later
IN THE COMMOTION of parents passing by and kids jabbering excitedly about their creations, Fizzy slid a small plastic item into Jess’s hand, then curled her fingers around it. “Surprise!”
Jess stared down at the USB drive, coming to a stop in the crowded hallway. “Is this what I think it is?”
“If what you think it is is the newest Felicity Chen novel, Base Paired, about a hot scientist and a sexy single mom making a love connection through a DNA-based dating app,” Fizzy said, “then yes.”
River hovered behind, leaning a curious chin over Jess’s shoulder. “Is it as dirty as your other books?”
Fizzy nodded proudly. “Probably dirtier.”
His eyebrows went up. “It’s hard to know whether I should be weirded out by that,” he mused, “or proud.” Reaching around Jess’s waist, River took the USB. “I’ll start it tonight.” At Jess’s look, he added, “Consider it research.”
Jess laughed, and his big hand came around hers, guiding her through the maze of tables and exhibits, knowing exactly where to go because he’d been here at one o’clock that afternoon helping Juno set up. For almost a month, River and Juno had worked tirelessly on the roller coaster. To suggest that he had grown more invested in it than Juno had would be unfair—she was, after all, often found awake when she was supposed to be in bed, triple-checking the glue on any one of the two thousand points of contact between all of the Popsicle sticks—but he had also been predictably intense about it. They had abandoned the art tape for something sturdier (read: bigger and faster), and had built four different cars to test on the coaster before finally settling on wheels that had to be ordered from Germany. In the hall closet, Jess now had three remaining boxes of HO-gauge model train track she had no idea what she would do with.
In the end, the coaster was more than four feet long and two feet tall. It had been painstaking work, and after a few nights of watching them with ovary-bursting bliss, Jess had finally registered that her presence wasn’t at all needed and spent the time happily reading or watching her shows alone in bed. When the project had finally been completed three nights ago, River took them both for ice cream to celebrate.