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“This was a long way to answer your question about what kind of writing I do. I left the L.A. Times about a year and a half ago. There was a big buyout, but I was ready to go. I was getting tired of only doing celebrity stuff, as entertaining as it can be. Now I do a good combination of writing: some celebrity profiles, especially women of color. But also some investigative journalism, and other short fun pieces when I have time for them. It’s been a little scary, but also fun to craft my career in this way.”

He nodded. He’d known some of that from when he’d Googled her to find that Anna Gardiner story, but not all of it.

“What kind of investigative journalism? Who pays for stuff like that these days, other than like, the New Yorker?”

She grinned.

“I had a piece in the New Yorker last week, actually. My second piece there.”

He’d walked right into that one, hadn’t he?

“Holy shit, that’s awesome! What was the story about?”

“Thanks. This one was a celebrity piece; it was a profile of a screenwriter who has two movies coming out this summer. I was really glad to get to write about her.” Her grin lost a little of its sparkle. “I was really excited to see it in print, but I just realized I didn’t even open the magazine. It came the same day as the Dodgers game, see.”

He suddenly hated that Fisher guy. What a way to ruin the joy of her accomplishment.

He looked at their table: plates of half-eaten tacos lined up neatly, the beans and rice basically untouched on both of their plates, their drinks all empty.

“Do you want to get dessert?” he asked.

She laughed, and the sad look disappeared from her face.

“Oh my God, no, are you kidding me? I’m way too full to even think about dessert. I can’t remember the last time I said that.”

They waved good-bye to the staff as they walked out and got in his car. A few blocks down the road, she cleared her throat.

“I might be accused of being bougie by asking this, but I’m going to do it anyway: do you ever worry about your car, parking it in neighborhoods like this?”

He nodded.

“Nah, that’s just common sense. At first I barely drove it anywhere but to work and home. I was so paranoid about break-ins, or accidents, or other cars parking too close to me. I never did valet, which in L.A., as you know, made everything more difficult.”

He flicked his blinker on to turn onto the freeway, and thought about those first months after. A lot of it he barely even remembered. He only knew certain things had happened because friends had mentioned them later. Sometimes he’d searched through his emails for something unrelated and come across emails he’d sent friends, thanking them for their card or the food they’d sent or for coming to the funeral, and he had no memory not only of sending the emails but of receiving their card or food or seeing them at the funeral. It had been such a terrible time; he was glad that there was a fog over his memory of a lot of it. The car probably wasn’t the only reason he’d barely gone anywhere but to work and his mom’s house for months.

“What made you change?” she asked.

He shrugged and started to give her a bullshit answer. But the only answer he could think of was the truth.

“My friends, really. Especially my friend Drew. Some of it . . . a lot of it, probably, wasn’t about the car at all, but was about my dad.” He’d tried not to let anyone figure out what a hard time he was having with his dad’s death. He especially didn’t want his family to know. He knew he had to be there for his mom and for Angie, to be the rock they needed.

“One day at work, we were talking about a new case that had come in the day before. It was a middle-aged man who died suddenly of a heart attack, the same as my dad. When they described what happened and started asking questions for us to answer, I had to leave the room. I didn’t think anyone noticed me leave. But that night, Drew asked if I wanted to get a beer when we both got off. We didn’t talk about it, at all, but . . . it helped. And then the following week, he convinced me to join a basketball rec league. I knew he was doing it to force me out of the house for something other than work, but I did it anyway. And it helped.”

He didn’t look at her, but he could feel her watching him, listening to every word he said. She didn’t touch him, but the softness in her voice felt like a caress.

“A sudden heart attack. That’s terrible. I’m so sorry.”

He nodded, very glad that they were in a car in the dark and she couldn’t see the tears in his eyes.

“Thanks. Anyway, the car. I think I mostly realized I couldn’t live in fear anymore. I mean, sure it could get broken into outside the taqueria, or I could have an accident any day to or from work. Plus, I bought the car in honor of my dad—how did it honor him for me to be afraid to go anywhere in it? Good God, I can’t imagine how ashamed he would have been if I didn’t want to go to a taqueria because I was scared of what might happen to my car, you know?”

Why the hell was he talking to her about his dad? He never talked about him, not even to Angela or his mom. He’d decided to stop talking—or even thinking, for the most part—about his dad almost six months after he’d died. It had been too hard for him to deal with otherwise.

Fucking journalists, they knew just the questions to get you going.

“I’m glad you had good friends.” She put her hand on his, and he thought she was going to say something else warm and sympathetic, which might be more than he could take right now. “I’m also glad you discovered that taqueria, because oh my God was that food good.”

He laughed, relieved she’d changed the subject.

“So am I. I love that place. I try not to go there too often. I always eat too much when I’m there.”

They talked about tacos the rest of the way to her apartment.

“I know this is insanely bougie of me, but so be it,” she said as she opened her apartment door. “Do you want some sparkling water? It always makes me feel better after I eat an enormous meal. I have like four different flavors, minimum.”

She kicked her shoes off by the door, so he followed suit.

“Hmmm, that depends. What flavors?”

She threw off her leather jacket, walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge, while he sat on the couch.

“Grapefruit, lemon, berry, and mango.”

He sighed dramatically.

“Lime is my favorite, but I guess I can settle for grapefruit.”

She grabbed the water out of the fridge and brought it over to the couch.

He drank some water, put his glass down on the coffee table, and put his arm around her.

“Sparkling water is good at settling your stomach after a big meal, but do you want to know something else that works for that?”

She rose her eyebrows.

“Hmmm, what?”

He ran his hand up and down her bare arm.

“Some good, healthy physical activity.”

She took another sip of her water and set it down.

“Oh wow. I’m so glad you told me that. I’d always read the opposite, that you shouldn’t eat before any strenuous activity.”

He shook his head vigorously.

“Oh no, no, that’s outdated advice. I’m a doctor, see, so I know all of the new and up-to-date research on this.” He reached up and tugged on one of her curls, released it, tugged on another one.

“Mmmm. I’m so grateful that I have you, a fancy doctor, to tell little old me about this.” She pulled him against her.

“I’m so glad you appreciate me.” He kissed her neck and then trailed kisses down to the hollow between her breasts.

“I definitely do.” His thumbs were on her nipples, hard peaks beneath the thin fabric of her shirt. She closed her eyes.

“The more strenuous, the better for your digestion, really.” He pushed her back against the couch and lifted her shirt.

“Wow, that’s so good to know. What . . .” She sucked in her breath and paused before she could continue. “What should we do? We could go for a nice walk.”

He pulled her shirt off and tossed it to the side. Her breasts were full and luscious inside her sheer black bra. He couldn’t stop looking at her. And touching her.


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