I swallowed, trying to put the right string of words together—one where I wouldn’t agree too immediately, wouldn’t make her feel she couldn’t choose a school in California. I’d meant what I said—I would follow her anywhere—but there was no denying that a big part of me was suddenly hoping I wouldn’t have to follow her there.

“No,” she said, and it sounded like she rolled over. “You need to be in a big city. Bigger than Berkeley.”

“You still have a lot of choices in cities,” I reminded her.

She breathed in, finally whispering, “Yeah. I think so. I liked it, but not enough.”

We fell silent, and I grew immediately sleepy with the sound of her quiet breaths in my ear. It rocked me from time to time to realize how easily I’d grown dependent on the sounds of her falling asleep next to me.

“I love you so much,” she mumbled.

“I love you, too,” I told her. “Come home to me.”

We fell asleep, neither of us bothering to hang up.

I surreptitiously canceled the car Hanna had scheduled to meet her at the airport and went there myself, on a wild tear deciding to drive the old Subaru from Manhattan to JFK.

The reality of this terrible fucking idea—the traffic, the sheer logistics of parking at the airport—reaffirmed my desire to not have to drive every day.

But when she came down the escalators looking exhausted and sweetly rumpled—fuck it, I would have navigated any cluster of cars to get to her. Surprised, she ran straight into my arms, smelling all warm and sweet and fuckable.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, voice muffled by my jacket.

I shook my head. “We’re headed upstate for the weekend.”

Jerking back to look at me, she asked, “Why?”

Grabbing her bag, I led her outside. “When we got off the phone—this morning,” I added, laughing, “I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted you home so we could talk and relax and get back to baseline. It was this weird antsy thing, and I realized . . . our life is going to change. And I need to know that we can talk about all of this somewhere other than the only place we’ve lived together. I need to know we can be us no matter where we are.”

She turned, stretching to kiss me beside the car, and I struggled against the temptation to open the backseat and fuck her in the sketchy parking garage.

The drive upstate was torture, with her hand working my jeans open, playing at jerking me off—but never actually getting down to it. Instead I got teasing fingers, her mouth on my neck, and then the weight of her head on my shoulder as she rested against me, hand warm against my bare stomach as she dozed off.

It was late when we finally arrived at the B&B and checked in, skipping further conversation and tripping as quietly as we could down the hall to our room.

The room was drafty and smelled of wet cut grass. Outside, crickets chirped and the wind creaked through tree limbs beside the window. It was truly nothing like our apartment in Manhattan. And then Hanna met my eyes, and smiled.

I pulled her clothes off with shaking hands, tossed her onto the creaky bed. Her mouth curled in a laugh, pale limbs spread across the blankets, beckoning.

The smell of her, the taste of her skin on my lips.

I turned on the lamp to see her better, to watch the flush crawl up her neck when I pressed my face between her breasts, groaning.

The muscles in her stomach jerked under my mouth as I kissed down her body, sucking and tasting her until she was pulling me up by my hair, over her, shoving my clothes off with grabby, impatient hands.

It was fast, and, fuck, it was probably a little too rough, but I loved the way her tits moved when I pinned her hands over her head and fucked her as hard and fast as I could.

I wasn’t sure what got into me.

A switch had been flipped, some ancient trigger pulled. She’d been gone. I needed to remind her, remind my hands and mouth and cock that this was default: us. The setting didn’t fucking matter.

She came, but just after I did. I don’t know how I managed to actually get her there and not collapse on her. She’d scratched my collarbone when she was close, drawing blood and making me see stars.

I fell over her, heavy, and managed to keep from crushing her with my elbows planted in the mattress near her head.

“I don’t have enough energy left to care.”

She giggled beneath me. “Awkward group breakfast at the B&B.”

I rolled off her, dragging my hand across her sweaty torso as I went. “You think I’m letting you out of this room?”

She draped her body over mine, kissing the scratch she’d left on my skin. “Darling husband?”

My blood vibrated at her words. “Hmm?”

“Plum.” I stretched to kiss her. “Never mind what we just did in this tiny bed, we’re always okay.”

Standing, Hanna walked over to the door and grabbed a notebook from her bag, shuffling back to me.

“Roll over,” she said, nudging my shoulder.

I rolled to my stomach and rested my face on my bent arm. The notebook was cool against my back, causing me to startle a little. “What are we doing?”

“I need to make a list of what Caltech needs to bring to the table to beat Harvard.”