We stayed that way, without anywhere to be, listening to the quietness of my condo and the noise from the street. Tires still sloshed against the wet asphalt, horns honked, doors from cars slammed. Once in a while, a person would shout, car brakes would whine, and a dog would bark.
Inside, sitting with Thomas—on the very couch we’d christened the night we met—felt like an alternate universe.
“This is nice,” he said finally.
“Nice?” I was mildly offended. I thought it felt amazing. No one had held me that way since Jackson in Chicago, and even then, it hadn’t felt like this.
I didn’t think that I would miss someone touching me, especially when I hadn’t appreciated Jackson’s affection before. But being without it for less than a month had made me feel lonely, and maybe even a little depressed. That was typical for anyone, I imagined, but I was sure that the sadness wouldn’t have come so strong and so soon had I not experienced Thomas’s hands on me during my first night in San Diego. I’d had to miss them every day after that.
“You know what I mean,” he said.
“No. Why don’t you tell me?”
His lips pressed against my hair, and he inhaled, deep and peaceful. “I don’t want to. I just want to enjoy it.”
I opened my eyes, alone and lying on my couch. I was still fully dressed, covered with the wool throw that had been folded on the chair.
I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and then paused. “Thomas?” I called. I felt ridiculous. It was worse than the morning after our one-night stand.
My watch read three a.m., and then I heard a bump upstairs. I looked up with a smile. It was nice knowing that he was so close. But then I heard something else, something that made my stomach turn.
A rhythm of bumping against a wall along with moans began to filter down to my condo, and I looked around, not knowing what to think. Did he leave here and go to Cutter’s? Meet a girl? Take her home?
But Thomas wouldn’t do that. I had been the only one since…maybe I’d gotten him out of his slump.
No. This has to stop.
I stood up and began to search for something long to bang against the ceiling. His embarrassment didn’t matter in the least. I didn’t even care if I was that neighbor—the spinster downstairs who didn’t like hearing music, loud laughter, or sex. I just needed that woman’s abnormally loud orgasm to stop.
I climbed onto the dining room chair, the same one Thomas had used earlier, with a broom in hand. Just before I started banging the handle against the ceiling, someone knocked on the door.
What in the hell?
I opened it, fully aware that either I looked absolutely insane or the person on the other side of the door would be the crazy one, and I would have to use the broom on some psycho.
Thomas was standing in the doorway with dark circles under his eyes, looking exhausted. “Can I stay here?”
“Why are you holding a broom?” he asked. “It’s after three in the morning. Are you cleaning?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Don’t you have company?”
He looked around, seeming confused by my question, and then shifted his weight from one leg to the other. “Yes.”
“Shouldn’t you be at your place then?”
“Uh…I’m not getting much sleep up there.”
I tried to slam the door, but he caught it and followed me inside.
“What is wrong with you?” he asked. Then, he pointed to the stray dining room chair. “What’s up with the chair?”
“I was going to climb up on it and use this!” I said, holding out the broom.
“On the ceiling! To make it stop! To make her stop!”
Recognition lit his eyes, and he was instantly embarrassed. “You can hear that?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes. The whole building can hear it.”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m sorry, Liis.”
“Don’t apologize,” I seethed. “It’s not like we…it’s not real.”
“Please don’t apologize! It just makes me feel more pathetic!”
“I…was going to ask if I could stay here tonight. But I guess if you can hear her—”
I tossed the broom at him, but he hopped over it.
“No, you can’t stay here! Go back upstairs to your one-night stand! Seems like you’ve become a pro.”
His eyes grew wide, and he held up his hands. “Oh! Whoa. No. That wasn’t…that’s not me. Up there. With her.”
I glared at him. “Obviously. You just met her.”
His hands were moving back and forth in a horizontal motion. “No. I’m not up there, fucking her.”
“I know,” I emphasized each word. I might as well have been talking to a wall.
The banging began again, and we both looked up. The woman began to yelp, and a low moan filtered through the ceiling—a man’s voice.
“Someone has a woman in your condo?”
“Taylor. He’s staying here for a few days. He texted me, wondering why I wasn’t at home. I left here to meet him upstairs, but when I got there, he was pissed about something and didn’t want to sit at the condo. So, I took him over to Cutter’s. Agent Davies was there, and—”
“Oh, thank God,” I said, covering my eyes with my hand.
I shook my head and pointed to the door. “You’ve got to tell them to quit that shit. I have to get some sleep.”
Thomas nodded again. “Yeah. I’ll go.” He turned for the door, but then he stopped, flipped around, and pointed at me. “You thought that was me. You were pissed.”
“Why were you mad?” he asked, his eyes begging me for something.
“Because it’s three a.m., and I should be sleeping.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about!”
I knew exactly what he meant, and he knew that I was trying to play dumb.
He smiled. “You thought that was me banging some chick from the bar, and you were mad at me. You were jealous.”
After several seconds of being unable to come back with a believable response, I blurted out, “So?”
Thomas raised his chin and then reached behind him to grip the doorknob. “Good night, Liis.”
I maintained the dirtiest look I could until he shut the door, and then I walked over to the broom, scooped it up, and pushed the chair back to the table.