- The Wedding Date
He glanced to his right as he went to turn and slid his hand onto her leg. She hoped he left it there for a while.
“Why pediatrics?” Apparently, now she couldn’t stop asking questions.
He shrugged and laughed.
“Is it corny to say ‘because I like kids’? But . . . it’s because I like kids. I thought I was going to be a regular surgeon when I started med school, actually. But I did a pediatrics surgery rotation, and it was just so much more fun. The doctors were great, the kids cracked me up, there were always toys around . . .”
She laughed and touched his hand to interrupt him.
“You picked your specialty because of all of the toys? Figures.”
He turned his hand over and held on to hers.
“See, I knew you would make fun of me. Tell the truth: if you had to choose between two jobs, one with toys all over the place and one without, which one would you pick?” She thought about it for a second, and he squeezed her hand. “See?”
He flicked on the blinker, waiting out the people behind him also vying for the parking spot he’d found.
“So, what does a mayor’s chief of staff actually do?”
“Everything, really.” They got out of the car and into the line outside of La Taqueria. “Manage everything day to day, supervise a lot of different departments, stay on top of major events going on around the city and the Bay Area, crisis management, policy, and on and on.”
When they got to the front of the line, they ordered carnitas for him, al pastor for her, and guacamole and salsa and chips for both of them. He won the fight for the bill.
“How did you get a job like that?” They stood in the corner while they waited for their food, his arm around her waist, her body snug against his.
Don’t get used to this, Alexa, she reminded herself. She almost pulled away from him but decided to hell with that. She had six hours left with this guy; she might as well enjoy it while it lasted.
“I worked in the city attorney’s office one semester in law school, and I really liked it. You got to do a little bit of everything, but you still felt like you were doing something for the public good. After law school, I managed to get a job there full-time. A few years ago, the old mayor retired, and my boss—then the city attorney—decided to run for the job. When he won, he made me his chief. I’m kind of young for this job. It probably should have gone to someone older and more experienced.”
“But you wanted it more,” he said.
She smiled at him.
“I did want it more. I worked damn hard for it, too.”
She tucked their burritos and chips in her tote bag and they left the taqueria.
“You want to walk or drive to the park?” he asked.
“Walk. We can’t count on getting another parking space. This isn’t like L.A., you know. There isn’t going to be a valet up there for us.”
He took her hand as they turned up the street.
“Ooooh, I guess we’ll have to see if my slow Los Angeles legs are up to walking up these great big San Francisco hills.”
She laughed at him. As they walked the mile to the park, they talked the whole way, about their jobs and what they liked most about them, their daily aggravations, their stress relievers.
The park was crowded, but they found a spot in a sunny corner. He reached inside her tote bag and pulled out a towel for them to lie on.
“Where did that come from?” she asked, looking from her bag to the towel and back at him.
He flopped down onto the towel and gestured for her to sit next to him. She stood there looking down at him, the bag of burritos in her arms, not moving.
“A genie put it there?” he tried.
She raised her eyebrows.
“It was a gift from the hotel? An apology for the stuck elevator?”
She pursed her lips.
“Okay, okay, fine, I took it, but it should have been an apology for the stuck elevator. We needed something to sit on. What did you want me to do, take the sheets?”
Alexa gave in and sat down next to him. She handed him the bag of burritos and cracked open her Mexican Coke.
“For the record, just because I sat here doesn’t mean I condone this theft. I’m a public servant, after all.”
He laughed and reached for his burrito.
They ate their burritos in silence and watched the people go by. Dolores Park on a sunny day in San Francisco was like a public party, everyone coming out to enjoy the brief escape from the fogbank. There were groups of shirtless men drinking beer, women in sundresses eating ice-cream cones, tech bros in dot-com T-shirts and baseball caps checking out the women in sundresses, multiracial families pushing strollers on their way to the playground, teenagers on skateboards, solitary people with books, churro and hot dog and coffee vendors, old men chatting together in Spanish or Russian, the scent of weed wafting in their direction every five minutes.
Alexa wrapped up the second half of her burrito, kicked off her sandals, and lay back. She could feel the grass under her toes and the sun on her face. A few minutes later, she felt Drew lie down next to her. Not quite touching her, but almost.
“I should check my email.” She made no move to do so. What she really wanted to do was reach for his hand, but now that they were out of the hotel room—and the hotel room bed—she had lost some of her nerve.
That was a couple-y thing to do, and despite everything that had happened this weekend, the two of them were not a couple. They both knew that they were only together right now because he had time to kill before his flight. And she knew she was there because she didn’t want the weekend with him to end yet.
He picked up her purse and moved it to his other side, out of her reach.
“No, no checking email,” he said. “You’re here with me now—no email, no phones, no checking in with your boss.” He put his hands behind his head and gave her that smug—and, okay, fine, sexy—grin. Damn it if she wouldn’t do anything to make him keep grinning at her like that.
But . . . she’d felt her phone vibrate a few times through her tote bag as they walked to the park. She really should check.
She looked around, grateful that they were behind a tree for what she was about to do. She rolled on top of him so she could reach into her purse for her phone. Just when she was about to roll back off, his hands came around her waist and held her in place.
His face was so close to hers. This smile was really all for her. Not for show, or for photos, or to convince her to be his date, or to sleep with him. It was just for her, Alexa, right now, in this moment.
“Oh, you think you can distract me with your body so you can get to your phone, do you?” She moved, not really trying to get away, just seeing what he would do. His hands tightened on her hips. “Well, you’re right about that. You don’t play fair, Monroe.”
She grinned and pushed away from him for real. He released her but kept his arm around her as she lay on her side next to him and checked her phone, her head on his chest.
She ignored the texts from Maddie—no way she could answer them with him right there—and went straight to the emails from Theo and a deputy city attorney. She emailed Theo back a quick answer but paused to think for a while about the other email. She finally suggested that they meet on Monday afternoon; some conversations were easier in person than in text.
When she looked up, Drew was looking down at her, no longer smiling.
“Everything okay there? Or do you have to go?” he asked.
She moved away from the curve of his arm and sat up, and he let her go.
“Why do you ask?”
Did he want her to go? Did he want her to say, Yeah, as a matter of fact, my boss has a public park–related crisis. I need to rush back to Berkeley immediately. It was nice knowing you? Was he tired of dealing with her and her wide hips and all of her talk about her job and was he ready to go home to L.A. and leave this weekend behind?
He sat up, too.
“You were frowning at your phone. I thought something might be wrong.”
Oh, the hell with it. She might as well take one more risk this weekend.
“No, I don’t have to go,” she said. She paused and looked down. “Unless . . . you’re ready to go?”
“No,” he answered immediately. She looked up at him, and his smile was tentative now. “I don’t want either of us to go anywhere.”