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“You sure did. Why do you think I woke up early to make you breakfast? I thought you might be hungry.”

“Mmmm, thank you for that.” His hand kept moving up her body. She turned over onto her back, and he pushed her legs open. “What time is it? When do you have to be at work?”

He kissed her neck.

“Um. I think about seven thirty? I know how you feel about waking up early, but I thought the coffee and breakfast would help?”

Her eyes popped open and she pulled the covers down.

“Seven thirty in the morning?” She looked around the room, not seeing a clock anywhere that would confirm his statement. But then, why would he lie about that? “You woke me up at seven a.m.?”

He dropped kisses along her shoulder.

“I know, I know, I’m so sorry. But I was awake. And hungry. And I thought you might want some eggs . . .” he kissed her cheek, “and bacon . . .” he kissed her other cheek, “and strawberry jam . . .” he kissed her mouth. He made kissing into an art form. Never rushed, never impatient, no matter how fast and eager and forceful he was.

“Hmmmm. I guess you’re going to have to find a way to make my hour of lost sleep up to me. Do you have any idea of how you’re going to do that?”

She could feel him smile against her skin.

“Oh, I have some ideas.”

Later, when he was frantically getting dressed to go to work, he stopped just as he’d buckled his belt.

“Oh, hey, are you free Saturday night?”

She picked up her jeans from the floor and pulled her phone out of the pocket.

“Let me check. Why, what’s up?”

She scrolled through her calendar—birthday party Friday night, and ugh, a wedding shower with Dana on Saturday afternoon, but nothing Saturday night.

“Yeah, I’m free. Are you sure you don’t mean Saturday afternoon? If you can give me a good excuse to get out of this wedding shower I have to go to, I’ll love you forever.”

Ooops. She turned to pull her jeans on and decided to pretend she’d never said that. Luckily, it didn’t seem like Carlos had heard anything past “free.”

“It’s no big deal, but my buddy Drew and his fiancée, Alexa, will be in town, and I’m going to have dinner with them that night, if you want to join us.”

Wait, what? He wanted her to meet his friend and his friend’s fiancée? Part of the whole reason she had wanted to stay away from relationships was so she wouldn’t have to hang out with people’s annoying friends when she didn’t want to. The last time she’d done that, she was with Fisher and his friends at Dodger Stadium, and the whole world knew how that one had ended.

Why hadn’t she waited to see what he’d had in mind before saying she was free? She could have used the wedding shower to get out of this. It would have been the only good thing a wedding shower had ever done for the world!

“If you have work to do or whatever, it’s cool.” Carlos was digging through his sock drawer. “But Drew and Alexa are fun, and I think you’d like them.”

He didn’t seem to really care whether she went or not. That made her feel better. Maybe he was just inviting her so he’d have some company around his smug couple friends when they started talking about countertops or wedding flowers or the adorable bed-and-breakfast they’d stayed in on their last romantic getaway.

“Okay, sure,” she said. “Just let me know when and where.”

He had met her friends, after all.

“Will do!” he said as he put his watch on. They walked out of his house together, and he kissed her at the bottom of the steps. “I might just make it to work on time. See you Saturday.”

She kissed him back.

“See you Saturday!”

What had she gotten herself in to?

* * *

• • •

“So this is the new house!” Drew said, standing at Carlos’s front door on Saturday afternoon. “I can’t believe you bought a house without consulting me.”

Carlos waved Drew into the house.

“Please, you would have been useless during the entire process. The only reason I managed to actually find a house to buy was because I didn’t have you around trying to convince me that I needed an in-house sauna or man cave or granite countertops or whatever thing it is they sell you on those house shows you like to watch.”

Drew walked in the house and nodded as he looked around.

“You know, I’ve gotten Alexa hooked on those things, too? Sometimes on Saturdays she’s all ready to go to the farmers’ market and brunch and yoga and whatever else and, like, four hours later we’re still on the couch deep into a house-shopping marathon. It’s fantastic.”

Carlos rolled his eyes. Then he looked at Drew’s face. Damn it, the guy looked so fucking happy he could barely even make fun of him.

“I’ll give you the grand tour as long as you don’t tell me anything more about those shows. The house is pretty small, and I haven’t done half the things I’ve wanted to do with it, but if you tell me that I need a double sink or recessed lighting or any of that bullshit, I’m kicking you out.”

Drew accepted the beer Carlos handed him and took a long swig.

“I’m already a fan of this TV. Does it swivel so you can watch it both in the kitchen and from the couch?”

Carlos nodded and patted the top of the TV.

“It sure does. It makes me happy every day.”

After a walk around the house, where Drew asked a surprising amount of questions about the heated floors in the bathroom and the kitchen, they ended up on the couch in the living room with the game on.

“Oh, hey, how’s Jessie doing?”

Carlos automatically reached for his phone to check to see if anyone from the family had called him. Nothing.

“She’s hanging in there. Her blood pressure is still high, and I’m still constantly worried about it, but her doctor doesn’t seem to be. She’s still only thirty-three weeks. I think my mom and aunt are saying rosaries every day about it. Hell, I should, too.”

Drew patted him on the shoulder.

“She’ll be okay, man. I’m sure her doctor is doing everything she should be.”

She probably was, but that didn’t make him any less terrified.

“Yeah. It’s just that this time of year. I think everyone in my family gets pretty paranoid about health stuff. Me included.”

Ever since Nik had brought it up, he’d been thinking about talking to Angela about their dad. Nik was probably right that Angie was the only person who knew what it was like to lose their dad. Maybe sharing that grief with her would help them both.

But he wasn’t sure he was ready to do that. He’d spent almost five years trying to beat back his grief; the idea of welcoming it in felt obscene.

Carlos got up to get them chips and salsa and more beer. Drew immediately grabbed a chip, but hesitated before dipping it into the salsa. Carlos rolled his eyes.

“Oh my God, you haven’t even been gone a year. I didn’t forget you’re scared of spicy food.”

“I was just checking! I wasn’t sure you stocked Drew-style salsa anymore.”

Carlos leaned back against the couch cushions. Nik was right about this couch; it was pretty magical.

“I don’t. I bought this just for you. Be honored. I wouldn’t buy this bullshit for just anyone.”

Drew put his hand over his heart.

“I am, man. I am.”

At the next commercial break, Drew cleared his throat.

“Um, actually. Speaking of. There was something I wanted to ask you.”

Speaking of what? Carlos raised his eyebrows at him.

“I’m flattered, but I don’t think I’m ready to get married any time soon.”

Drew threw a chip at him.

“Fuck you. I’m taken, remember?”

“Yeah, yeah, I remember,” Carlos said.

“Anyway. I was going to say that if it wasn’t for you, I probably never would have figured my shit out, and well, will you be my best man?”

Damn it. Carlos hadn’t planned on getting emotional today, but he was surprisingly touched by this.


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