She scrunched her nose at this. “I mean, not really?”

I watched her blink a few times, the tiny panic a little flutter in her breath. This process was a daunting one. I remembered being at that point myself: out of my post-doc and ready to tackle the next phase of my career, yet unable to believe, no matter how good my publications were, or how many job interviews I got, that I’d be able to hack it day in and day out running a lab. Research is scary. Academic research is cutthroat.

It’s one of the reasons I went into industry: I trusted my ability to determine whether a technology could be profitable and how to get it there more than I trusted my ability to come up with something innovative in its own right.

Likewise, Hanna knew her own strengths: her technical creativity was nearly limitless, and she had a rare ability to easily integrate everything she read into the broader scientific context. She would make an amazing professor. I simply worried it would take more out of her than she anticipated.

Best to cross that bridge when we come to it.

She took a deep breath, looking past me up at the ceiling. “The head of the department at Caltech sounds amazing. She seems really happy. I sort of imagined this department full of old, awkward nerd dudes, but apparently it isn’t like that at all.”

“Well, at least not primarily. I’m sure there are still plenty of awkward nerd dudes.” Shaking her head, she continued, “Her name is Linda Albert. She made me feel like I would have time for things outside of the lab, which I never hear on these calls. She asked about you, about your job and how you’re taking this whole interview process.”

Hanna nodded, sipping from her mug of tea before stretching to return it to the coffee table. She snuggled back into my arms. “I told her you were amazing. I told her you’re the most competent man I know.”

I pulled away, gazing down at her. A smile tugged at my mouth. “Did you say it like that?”

“Like there are categories of competence, and a competent man is a lesser category.”

She laughed, holding up her hands. “No, no, I—”

I bent, tickling her waist, and she fell back on the couch. “As in, I’m not a bad driver . . . for a dog.”

Laughing harder, she wrestled against my invading, tickling fingers.

“Basically, you told the head of biotech at Caltech that your husband is a water-skiing squirrel.”

She grinned up at me, and I slowed my assault, bending instead to kiss her, to slide my lips on top of hers, feel her closed mouth opening against mine.

I moved my hand up from her waist, resting my first two fingers just above her collarbone, feeling her pulse there.

I watched her relax on our couch, listened to the sounds of cars and people outside. The early autumn breeze slid in through the window, cooling as night approached.

“It’s so good in the quiet,” Hanna said.

“It’s always good.” I smiled, absently humming a song I knew she liked lately, listening to the rhythm of her breath.

The pad of her finger traced the plum tattoo on my arm, and slid lower, to the black H on my hip, her favorite.

“What do you want to do tonight?” she asked.

I shrugged, running my fingers up through the soft tangle of her hair. “This. Be married. Maybe put on a movie. Order some dinner. Go to bed and fuck for a while.”

“Can I switch up the order of that a little?” she asked, fingers sliding just under the waistband of my boxers.

But as if the universe heard our plans and laughed out loud at this bullshit, the pounding of footsteps sounded outside in the hallway before a symphony of fists met our door.

Hanna startled, bolting upright. “What the hell?” she asked, turning to look at me.

“I think they went with Sumner-Bergstrom,” I heard George correct.

Before the wedding, we’d had no time for parties: Hanna was traveling, I was working, life was too busy for the requisite bachelor and bachelorette shenanigans. And to be frank, neither of us much needed them anyway; we didn’t need any particular send-off for the single days—much to the friends’ dramatic, and vocal, disappointment. In the past week, we’d fallen back into routine and planned for a quiet post-wedding weekend at home. Hanna wanted us to be together at our apartment before another flurry of work trips began.

They knew we were home.

They had promised us a party when the wedding was done.

“I think I know what this is.” I stood, walking to the front door and not giving one single fuck that I was wearing nothing but my boxers. They wanted to come here unannounced? They’d get what they got.

The door swung open to reveal Chloe and Bennett, Max and Sara, and George, holding an armful of booze.

Everyone but George, who was staring at my boxers. “It’s like you knew I was coming over.”

“You have no choice but to let us get you drunk and have our collective way with you,” Chloe said, holding up an armful of lacy garments. “Some of these are for Hanna, but most of them George picked out for you.”

“Well then hell, come in,” I said, stepping aside.

Max and Bennett lingered in the hall, looking guilty. I raised my brows, looking at them expectantly. “You guys coming in or . . . ?”