“But is it weird that even though you’re my best friend, I can’t stop thinking about you na**d? Me na**d. Us na**d together and the way you make me feel when we’re na**d? The way I hope I make you feel when we’re na**d? I think about that a lot.”
He took a step closer, resting one hand on my hip and the other on my jaw. “It’s not weird. And Hanna?”
When he swept his thumb down over the pulse in my neck, I knew he was trying to tell me that he knew how much this scared me. I swallowed, whispering, “Yeah?”
“You know it’s important for me to be up front about things.”
“But . . . do you want to talk about this now? We can if you want but,” he said, squeezing my hip in reassurance, “we don’t have to.”
A tiny spike of panic went through me. We’d had this conversation before and it hadn’t gone well. I’d panicked and he’d taken it back. Would it be different this time? And how would I respond if he said he wanted me, but he didn’t want only me? I knew what I would say. I would tell him it wasn’t working for me anymore. That eventually . . . I’d walk away from this.
He tilted his head, his lips moving to the shell of my ear. “Fine. But in that case I should tell you: nobody makes me feel like you do.” He said each word carefully, as if each one were placed on his tongue and he had to inspect them before he could let them go. “And I think about sex with you, too. A lot.”
It wasn’t exactly that it surprised me he thought about sex with me; that was fairly clear, given his ongoing commentary. But I suspected he wanted to be with me in some clarified, almost contract-oriented way as he did with all of his women, where it was discussed, and laid out in some sterile mutual agreement. I simply wasn’t sure whether for Will that meant committed f**king, or . . . less-committed f**king. After all, if nobody made him feel the way I did, then obviously someone else was out there trying, right?
“I realize you may have . . . plans for this weekend,” I started and his brows pulled together in frustration or confusion, I couldn’t tell, but I barreled on: “But if you do but you don’t want to have plans, or if you don’t have plans but would like to have plans, then you should come home with me for Easter.”
He pulled back just enough to see my face. “What?”
“I want you to come home with me. Mom always does an amazing Easter brunch. We can head up Saturday and head home Sunday afternoon. Do you have plans?”
“Uh—no,” he said, shaking his head. “No plans. You’re serious?”
“Would it be weird for you?” I asked.
“Not weird. It would be great to see Jensen, and your folks.” Mischief lit up his eyes. “I realize we probably won’t be telling the family about our recent sexcapades, but do I get to see your boobs while I’m there?”
He tapped his chin, pretending to consider this. “Hmm . . . This is going to make me sound totally creepy, but . . . in your room?”
“My childhood room? You are a pervert,” I said, shaking my head. “But perhaps.”
“That’s all it took? Boobs? You’re that easy?”
He leaned in, pressed a kiss to my mouth, and said, “If you have to ask, then you still don’t know me very well.”Will showed up at my apartment Saturday morning, having parked an ancient green Subaru Outback at the fire hydrant gap. I lifted my brows as I looked from the car to him, at the way he proudly spun the keys around his finger.
“Very nice,” I said, stepping back through the door long enough to grab my bag.
He took it and kissed my cheek, smiling widely at my approval. “Isn’t it? I keep it in storage. I miss this car.”
“When’s the last time you drove it?” I asked.
I followed him down the stairs, trying not to think about where we were going. Inviting Will had seemed like a great idea at the time, but now, barely a week later, I wondered how everyone was going to react—if I could keep my stupid grin to myself or my hands out of his pants. As I forced my eyes from his ass I realized the odds weren’t looking good.
He looked unbelievable in his favorite jeans, a worn-to-perfection Star Wars T-shirt, and green sneakers. He appeared to be as relaxed as I was nervous.
We hadn’t really talked about what would happen once we arrived. My family knew we’d been hanging out—it had been their idea, after all—but this, what was happening between us now, had most certainly not been part of the plan. I trusted Liv to keep our secret, because if Jensen knew the things Will had done to his little sister’s body, there was a good chance there would be fisticuffs, or, at the very least, some horrifically awkward conversations. It was easy to keep that particular reality in check when we were here, in the city. But heading home meant being faced with the reality that Will was Jensen’s best friend. I couldn’t act the way I did here, as if . . . as if he belonged to me.
Will placed my bag in the trunk and moved to open my door, making sure to press me against the side of the car and leaning in for a long, slow kiss. “Ready?”
“Yeah,” I said, recovering from my small epiphany. I liked feeling like Will belonged to me. He stared down at me and smiled until we both seemed to realize we had but a few hours in the car to enjoy being so unself-conscious about this comfortable intimacy.
He kissed me one more time, humming against my lips and sweeping his tongue gently across mine before stepping back so I could get in the car.
Walking around to the other side, he jumped in the driver’s seat and immediately said, “You know we could take a few minutes, hop in the back? I could put the seat down to make it work for you. I know you like your legs spread wide.”
I rolled my eyes, grinning. With a little shrug, Will turned the key in the ignition. The car started with a roar and Will put it in gear, winking at me before pressing the gas. We lurched forward, jerking to a stop only a few feet from the curb.
He frowned but restarted the engine and managed to pull out smoothly into traffic the second go-round. I snatched his phone from the cup holder and began scrolling through his music. He gave me a disapproving look but didn’t comment, instead turning his eyes on the road.
“Britney Spears?” I asked, laughing, and he reached out blindly, attempting to take it from me.
We reached a light at Broadway and the car stalled again. Will coughed but started it, swearing when it stalled just a few minutes later.
“You sure you know how to handle this thing?” I asked, smirking. “Been a New Yorker so long you’ve forgotten how to drive?”
He glared at me. “This would be a lot easier if we’d had sex in the back first. Help me clear my head.”
I looked out the windshield and then back to him, smiling, as I ducked beneath his arm and went to work on his zipper. “Who needs the backseat?”
I turned off the car and the engine ticked in the answering silence. Beside me, Hanna was asleep, her head resting away from me and against the passenger window. We were parked in front of the Bergstrom family home on the outskirts of Boston, which featured a wide, white porch wrapping around clean brick. The front windows were framed by navy shutters and inside could be seen the hint of heavy cream curtains. The house was large, and beautiful, and held so many of my own memories I couldn’t even imagine what it was like for Hanna to come back here.
I hadn’t been here in a couple of years, not since I’d visited with Jensen for a random summer weekend to catch up with his folks. None of the other kids had been there. It was quiet and relaxing, and we’d spent most of the weekend on the back veranda, sipping gin-and-tonics and reading. But now I was parked in front of the house, sitting next to my friend’s sister, who had given me two rounds of stellar car head, the last one ending less than an hour ago with my hands white-knuckling the steering wheel and my c**k so deep in her throat I could feel her swallowing when I came. She really was a natural with the oral skills. She thought she needed further instruction, and I was happy to keep up the ruse long enough for her to practice on me a few more times.
In the city, enmeshed in our day-to-day lives, it was easy to forget the Jensen connection, the family connection. The they’d-all-kill-me-if-they-knew-what-we-were-doing connection. I’d been blindsided when she’d brought up Liv because it had felt like such ancient history. But I would be faced with all of that this weekend: my brief history as Liv’s former flame, as Jensen’s best friend, as Johan’s intern. And I would have to face all of that while trying to hide my infatuation with Hanna.
I put my hand on her shoulder, shaking gently. “Hanna.”
She startled a little, but the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was me. She was groggy and not quite conscious but she smiled as if looking at her favorite thing in the world, and murmured, “Mmmm, hey, you.”
And, with that reaction, my heart exploded. “Hey, Plum.”
She smiled shyly, turning her head to look out her window as she stretched. When she saw where we’d parked, she startled a little, sitting up straighter, looking around. “Oh! We’re here.”
When she turned back to me, her eyes looked mildly panicked. “It’s going to be weird, isn’t it? I’m going to be staring at your button fly and Jensen will see me staring at your button fly and then you’ll check out my chest and someone will see that, too! What if I touch you? Or”—her eyes went wide—“what if I kiss you?”
Her impending little freak-out calmed me immeasurably. Only one of us was allowed to feel weird at a time.
I shook my head, telling her, “It’s going to be fine. We’re here as friends. We’re visiting your family as friends. There will be no public dick appreciation, and no public breast admiration. I didn’t even pack another pair of button flies. Deal?”
“Because that’s what we are,” I reminded her, ignoring the organ inside my chest that twisted as I said this.
Straightening, she nodded and reached for her door handle, chirping, “Friends! Friends visiting my house for Easter! We’re going to see your old friend, my big brother! Thanks for driving me up here from New York, friend Will my friend!”
She laughed as she got out of the car and walked around to get her bag from the trunk.
“Hanna, calm down,” I whispered, placing a soothing hand on her lower back. I felt my eyes move down her neck and settle on her breasts. “Don’t be a lunatic.”
“Eyes up here, William. Best start now.”
“Me, too.” With a little wink, she whispered, “And remember to call me Ziggy.”
Helena Bergstrom was such a good hugger she could have been from the Pacific Northwest. Only her softly lilting accent and dramatically European features gave her away as Norwegian-born. She welcomed me in, pulling me just past the front door and then into her familiar embrace. Like Hanna, she was on the tall side, and she had aged beautifully. I kissed her cheek, handing her the flowers we’d bought for her when we stopped to refuel.
“You’re always so thoughtful,” she said, taking them and waving us in. “Johan is still at work. Eric can’t make it. Liv and Rob are here, but Jensen and Niels are still on the road.” She looked past me, eyebrows drawn together. “It is going to rain, so I hope they all get here for dinner.”
She rattled off her children’s names as easily as she breathed. What had her life been like, I wondered, herding so many kids? And as each of them got married and had little ones of their own, this house would only grow more full.
I felt an unfamiliar ache to be part of it somehow and then blinked, looking away. This weekend had the potential to be strange enough without my new emotions thrown into the mix.
Inside, the house felt the same as it had years ago, even though they’d redecorated. It was still comfortable, but instead of the blue and gray décor I remembered from before, it was done in deep browns and reds with plush furniture and bright, cream walls. In the entryway and along the hallway leading deeper into the house, I could see that, redecoration or no, Helena still embraced her American life with a healthy smattering of life-affirming quotes masquerading as art on the walls. I knew what I would see farther into the house:
In the kitchen, A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand!
In the family room, Our children: We give them roots so they can take flight!
Catching me reading the one closest to the front door—All roads lead home—Hanna winked, wearing a knowing smile.
As feet tapped down the wooden stairs just to the side of the entryway, I looked up and met Liv’s bright green eyes. My stomach dropped a little.
There was no reason for me to let things be weird with Liv; I’d seen her a handful of times since we’d hooked up, most recently at Jensen’s wedding a few years ago, where we’d had a nice conversation about her job at a small commercial firm in Hanover. Her fiancé—now husband—had seemed nice. I’d walked away from the evening not thinking twice about where things stood with Liv of all people.
But that was because I hadn’t considered that our brief fling had meant anything to her, I hadn’t known she’d been heartsick when I returned to Yale after the Christmas holiday so many years ago. It was as if a huge chunk of my history with the Bergstrom family had been rewritten—with me as the flaky lothario—and now that I was here, I realized I hadn’t done anything to mentally prepare for it.