“Yeah,” Thomas said, shifting in his seat. “She’s definitely going to kill me.”
I shook my head. “I did not see that coming.”
“I’d ask you not to tell her that I told you, but when we get back, she’ll take one look at you and know.”
I turned to face him. “How does she do that?”
He shrugged. “She’s always had a bullshit detector, and then the FBI helped her hone her skill. With pupil dilation, delay of response, looking up and to the left, and whatever inner radar she has that goes off, she can detect more than just lies now. She detects omission even if you’ve got news on your mind that you’re keeping to yourself. Val knows all.”
“That’s why you’re her only friend.”
My mouth pulled to one side, and I cocked my head to the other. “That’s sad.”
“Not many people can handle Val’s gift or her brazen use of it. That’s why Sawyer’s such a dick.”
Thomas pushed a button, and his seat began to recline. A satisfied smile stretched across his face.
“No wonder she’s never let me come over,” I mused.
His grin became wider, and he wedged the pillow under his head. “Have you ever—”
“No. No more questions about me.”
“There is literally nothing to speak of.”
“Tell me about what happened with you and Jackson. Why didn’t it work out?”
“Because our relationship was nothing to speak of,” I said, forming my lips over the words like he had to read my lips to understand.
“Are you telling me your entire life was boring until you came to San Diego?” he asked, in disbelief.
“Well?” he said, shifting until he was comfortable.
“Knowing you now, I’d almost believe you didn’t have it in you to be so spontaneous. It makes sense. You left Cutter’s with me that night to have something to talk about.” Arrogance flickered in his eyes.
“Don’t forget, Thomas. You don’t know me that well.”
“I know you bite your thumbnail when you’re nervous. I know you twist your hair around your finger when you’re in deep thought. You drink Manhattans. You like Fuzzy’s Burgers. You hate milk. You’re not particularly fussy about the cleanliness of your home. You can run farther than I can during our lunch hour, and you like weird Japanese art. You’re patient, you give second chances, and you don’t make hasty judgments about strangers. You’re professional and highly intelligent, and you snore.”
I tried not to smile but failed. “I lived with Jackson for years, and he never said anything.”
“It’s the tiniest wheeze, barely noticeable,” he said.
“To be fair, Jackson was in love with you. He probably didn’t tell you a lot of things.”
“Good thing you’re not, so I can hear all the humiliating things about myself.”
“As far as everyone is concerned, I’m in love with you today and tomorrow.”
His words made me pause. “Then, play the part and pretend that you think I’m perfect.”
“Oh, please,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Does my first FD-three-oh-two ring a bell?”
“You know why I did that.”
“I’m not perfect,” I grumbled, biting the corner of my thumbnail.
“I don’t want you to be.”
He scanned over my face with such affection that I felt like the only other person in the fuselage. He leaned toward me, his eyes fixated on my lips. I had just begun to close the gap when the flight attendant approached.
“Would you open your tray table?” she asked.
Thomas and I both blinked and then fiddled with the mechanics of getting the trays out of the arm of the seat. His popped out first, and then he helped me with mine. The attendant gave us that what-a-cute-couple look and then spread napkins on both of our trays before setting our meals before us.
I looked at my half-empty glass. I hadn’t even realized I’d been drinking it. “Yes, please.”
She filled my glass and then returned to the other passengers.
Thomas and I ate our meals in silence, but it was clear what we thought of our microwaved grilled chicken with a teaspoon of sweet chili sauce and limp mixed vegetables. The pretzel roll was the best part of the meal.
The man sitting in the aisle seat in front of us kept his feet propped on the wall in front of him and talked to his neighbor about his burgeoning evangelical career. The silver-haired man behind us talked to the woman next to him about his first novel, and after asking some basic questions, she revealed that she was thinking of writing one, too.
Before I was finished with my warm chocolate chip cookie, the pilot came over the PA system to announce that he would begin the descent soon, and our flight would land in Chicago ten minutes earlier than expected. Once he finished his announcement, a symphony of seat belts unclicking and bodies shifting could be heard, and the pilgrimages to the restrooms began.
Thomas closed his eyes again. I tried not to stare. Since we’d met, I had done nothing but deny my feelings for him while I fought ferociously for my independence. But I was free only when he touched me. Outside of our intimate moments, I would be held captive by thoughts of his hands.
Even if it was just for appearances, I hoped that pretending would satisfy my curiosity. If Thomas seeing Camille changed anything, at least remembering the best memories of the weekend would be a better alternative to mourning our fake relationship when we got home.
“Liis,” Thomas said, his eyes still shut.
“The moment we land, we’re undercover.” He looked at me. “It’s important that any connections with Mick or Benny have no clue that we’re federal agents.”
“You’re free to talk about anything from your life, except for your time at the Bureau. That will be interchanged by your undercover career as a replacement professor in cultural studies at the University of California, San Diego. We have all the records in place there.”
“Good.” He closed his eyes again, settling into his seat. “You’ve researched the school, I assume?”
“Yes, and your family and a few others who you might have mentioned if we were in an actual relationship—Shepley, America, Camille, the twins; your dad, Jim; his brother, Jack; Jack’s wife, Deana; and your mom.”
His lips curved up. “Diane. You can say her name.”