He jolts and opens his eyes. “Hi.”
“Hi. What time’s the wedding?” I try to slither out of bed but he hugs my arm tighter.
“Two P.M. But we have to get there earlier.”
“It’s getting close to one. In the afternoon.”
He’s a little shocked. “I haven’t slept this late since high school. We’re going to be late.” Regardless of this, he nudges my elbow like the kickstand of a bike and I flop back down onto the mattress. I manage to glimpse some bare arm. He’s wearing a black tank.
I slide my hands down one, watching them undulate along each taut, defined curve. Then I do it again. He watches, and the next time I use my fingernails. Goose bumps. Mmmm. I bend my head to kiss them.
“You are something else, Joshua Templeman.” I push his hair away from his forehead. It’s ruffled and messy. I spend a few minutes grooming him.
“Am I trying too hard to seduce you?”
He rolls me closer. I never imagined Josh would be a cuddler. “Well, you could always try harder.”
He’s so sweet. Lying in bed with him is pretty luscious. Without thinking I ask something I’ve always wanted to know. “When was your last girlfriend?”
The question clangs like I’ve struck a gong. Well done, Lucy. Bring up other women while lying in bed with him.
“Um.” There’s a long pause. So long I think he’s either asleep or about to explain he was married. He’s too young. Surely. He tries again. “Well. Um.”
“Don’t tell me you’re waiting for your divorce to come through or something.”
His arm slides up the middle of my back, and my head rolls slowly onto his shoulder. I can barely keep my eyes open, I’m so comfortable. So warm. Surrounded by his scent, and cotton sheets.
“No one would be masochistic enough to marry me.”
I’m a little indignant for him. “Someone would. You’re completely gorgeous. And you’re neat. Tall and muscly. And employed. And have a nice car. And perfect teeth. You’re basically the opposite of most guys I’ve dated.”
“So they’ve all been . . . hideous messy trolls . . . unemployed . . . and smaller than you? How could that even be possible?”
“You’ve been reading my diary. The last guy I dated was so small he could wear my jeans.”
“But he must have been nice. To be my opposite, he must have been so darn nice.” He looks at the wall.
“He was, I guess. But you can be nice. You’re being nice right now.”
I feel teeth on my collarbone, and I snort with amusement.
“Okay, you’re never nice.” The teeth are gone and a soft kiss is pressed against the same spot.
“So when did you break up with this miniature man?” He begins kissing my throat, lazily, with care and gentleness. When I tilt my head to let him have better access I see the clock radio again. Real-world o’clock is fast approaching. I wonder if I have a granola bar in my purse.
“It was in the couple of months prior to the B and G merger. It hadn’t been working for a while. It was such a stressful time at work, and I didn’t see him as much, and we agreed to take a break. The break never ended.”
“That’s a long time.”
“Hence me dry-humping you constantly. But you never answered me. Wait, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.” The thought of him pleasuring another woman is too much.
“Jealous,” I groan and he begins to laugh softly, but then sobers. He’s painfully awkward when he finally explains.
“I was seeing someone, but we broke up in the first week of moving to the new B and G building. She ended it.”
“B and G ruins another relationship.” I want to bite my tongue but the words won’t stop. “I bet she was tall.”
“Yeah, pretty tall.” He reaches to the side table and retrieves his watch.
He buckles it and doesn’t look at me. “Yes.”
“Goddamn it, why are they always Tall Blondies? I bet she has brown eyes and a tan, and her dad is a plastic surgeon.”
“You’ve been reading my diary.” He looks faintly disturbed.
I press my face into his shoulder. “I was guessing she’s my polar opposite too.”
“She was . . .” He lets out a wistful sigh and my heart twists. The territorial little cavewoman inside me appears at the entrance to her cave and scowls.
“She was just so nice.”
“Ugh, nice. Gross.”
“And her eyes were brown.” He watches me mull this over.
“Sounds like a legit reason to break it off. You know what? Your eyes are too blue. This just isn’t going to work.” I was hoping for a clever retort, but instead, his tone is withering.
“You’ve actually thought that this would work?”
Now it’s my turn to say um. I’m halfway recoiled into my own shell when he blows out a breath.
“Sorry. It came out wrong. I can’t help being such a cynical asshole.”
“This is not news to me.”
“It’s why I don’t have a girlfriend. They all trade me in for nice guys.”
He looks at the ceiling with such deep regret in his eyes I have an awful thought. He’s pining for someone. Tall Blondie broke his heart when she moved on to someone less complicated. It would certainly explain his bias against nice guys. I try to think of how to ask him, but he looks at the clock.
“We’d better hurry.”
Please give me a crash course on the key players in your family. Any taboo topics of conversation? I don’t want to be asking your uncle where his wife is, only to find out she was murdered.” I rummage around in my bag.
“Well, before last night when I carried forty-five individual flower displays into the hotel because they couldn’t find her a fucking cart, I hadn’t seen my mom in a few months. She calls me most Sundays to keep me up to date with the news of neighbors and friends I never cared about. She was a surgeon, mainly hearts and transplants. Little kids and saintly types. She’s going to love you. Absolutely love you.”
I realize I’m pressing my hands over my own heart. I want her to love me. Oh, jeepers.
“She’ll say she wants to keep you forever. Anyway. My dad is a cutter.”
“It’s the nickname for surgeons. When you meet my dad, you’ll understand why. He was mainly on call for emergency room surgeries. I’d hear all sorts of things over breakfast. Some idiot got a pool cue through the throat. Car crashes, fights, murders gone wrong. He was forever dealing with drunks with gravel rash, women with black eyes and broken ribs. Whatever it was, he fixed it.”
“It’s a hard job.”
“Mom was a surgeon too, but she was never a cutter. She cared about the person on her table. My dad . . . dealt with the meat.”
Josh sits on the sill lost in thought for a minute and I search in my bag for clothes, giving him some privacy. I start swiping on makeup in the bathroom.
After a few minutes, I peep through the gap in the door. In the reflection of the dresser he’s shirtless, gloriously so, and he’s unzipped my garment bag. He holds the dress between two fingers with his head tilted in recognition. Then he rubs his hand over his face.
I think I’ve made a mistake with my blue dress.
My Thursday lunchtime dash to the tiny boutique near work seemed like a good idea at the time, but I should have worn something I already had. But it’s too late now. He unfolds an ironing board and flaps his shirt over it.
I slide the door open with my foot. “Yowza. Which gym do you go to? All of them?”
“It’s the one in the bottom of the McBride building, a half block away from work.
I have to swallow a mouthful of drool. “Are you sure we have to go to your brother’s wedding?”
I have never seen so much of his skin, and it glows with health; honey gold, flawless. The deep lines of his collarbones and hips are an impressive frame. In between are a series of individual muscles, each representing a goal set and box ticked. Flat, square pectorals with rounded edges. The skin of his stomach pulls tight across the kind of muscles I usually stare at during Olympic swimming finals.
He irons his shirt and all the muscles move. His biceps and lower abdomen are ridged with those blatantly masculine veins. Those veins ride over muscle and tell you, I’ve earned this. His hips have ridges that point down toward his groin, obscured in suit pants.
The amount of sacrifice and determination to simply maintain this is mind-boggling. It’s so Josh.
“Why do you look like this?” I sound like I’m about to go into cardiac arrest.
“I’m not bored. Can’t we stay here, and I’ll find something in the minibar to smear all over you?”
“Whoo, are those some horny eyes or what.” He waggles the iron at me. “Get finished in there.”
“For a guy who looks like you, you’re awfully bashful.”
He doesn’t say anything for a bit, stroking the iron over the collar. I can see how much effort it is taking him to stand shirtless in front of me.
“Why are you self-conscious?”
“I’ve dated some girls in the past . . .” He trails off.
My arms are crossed. My ears are about to start whistling with steam. “What sort of girls?”
“They’ve all . . . at some point made it pretty clear my personality is not . . .”
“It’s not what?”
“I’m just not great to be around.”
Even the iron is steaming in indignation. “Someone wanted you only for your body? And they told you that?”
“Yeah.” He redoes one cuff. “It should feel flattering, right? At first I guess it did, but then it kept happening. It really doesn’t feel good to keep being told that I’m not relationship material.” He bends over his shirt and analyzes it for creases.
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