He would kiss me in front of his sister and nobody blinked.
He would hold my hand on hikes as if we’d been doing it for years.
And even without a Becky around or any other reason we’d have to pretend, he made it plain that we were sleeping in the same bed all week long. It was just how things were: no questions, no explanations.
It was on our last night in the cabin that it happened. Jensen pulled me down onto his lap in the big leather chair in the living room, and I started to feel a dull, thrumming ache in my chest at the thought of packing up and returning to Boston for the final week of my holiday. We sat like that, me curled in his lap, the fire crackling not ten feet away, and he read while I stared out the window.
“You’re so quiet,” he said, interrupting the silence. Putting his book down on the table beside us, he picked up his tumbler of whiskey for a sip.
I stretched up once he’d swallowed it, kissing the taste from his lips. “Just thinking.”
“What are you thinking about?” He returned the glass to the table and met my eyes.
Leaning into his shoulder, I felt him reach beneath my legs, pulling me up so that I was more tightly curled against him. I wanted to say that I’d been thinking about him, and me, and how good it was and how much I hated the idea of going home. But it wasn’t exactly that.
I knew Jensen and I had been living in a bubble, and it wouldn’t be like that back in our daily lives. Couldn’t be, really. It was that I wished our lives didn’t have to be so firmly planted in career and achievements. I wished for things that weren’t realistic, like a Jensen who wasn’t work-obsessed, and who was happy to run away with me to a cabin in the woods six months of the year, reentering the real world only when we were well and truly tired of berry-swathed hotcakes and unlimited sex. I wished for a Pippa who could afford to run away for six months of the year at all.
“Will’s pancakes forever,” I added, clarifying. “And the giant maple out back—I’m sure it gives the best shade in the summer. I’m wishing we could stay in this cabin.”
Jensen adjusted his grip around me, shifting so that I was straddling his lap. “Me too.”
He closed his eyes, letting his head fall back against the soft leather. “I dread facing my inbox.” Looking at me, nearly helpless, he seemed to grow mildly panicked. His phone had been sitting, ignored, on the chair in the bedroom for the past week. I’m not even sure he’d glanced at it, let alone picked it up to check for service.
I put my hand to his chest, shaking my head. “Don’t. You can’t do anything about it now, not if you want the last day here to be as good as the other eight have been. I have eighteen hours left of this place, and I intend to make the most of them.”
He nodded and dropped a kiss on the center of my palm. I stared down at his big hands cupped around my smaller one. My skin looked so fair next to his. My arms were free of bracelets, my nails free of polish. I hadn’t worn makeup in more than a week. Hell, some days I hadn’t bothered to put on a bra.
“Ex-wives and pretend marriages,” I said. “Drinking across the East Coast and macho-man ax hurling.”
“Morning yoga and terrible singing,” he added. “I liked the terrible singing.”
“All right, there may have been a moment or two I enjoyed more.”
“I’ve enjoyed every moment, actually,” he said, and then paused to reconsider. “Almost every moment.” Referring to Becky, I suspected.
Looking up, I waited until I caught his gaze. “Will I ever see you again?”
His eyes grew tight. “Is that a serious question?”
I wasn’t quite sure how to answer this. “Well . . . yes? I am, after all, just a holiday girl.”
A muscle twitched in his jaw, and he blinked to the side, thinking. Finally, after nearly a minute of torment for me, he turned back, inhaling deeply. “I’ll miss this.”
I wasn’t sure if he meant me or the sex, the cabin or just being away from it all, but my “Good” burst out of me, slightly breathless.
“I’m sure my first night back in my bed will be a lonely one,” he added, and I felt my brain frowning, working to comprehend that. “It’s just that we can’t really expect it to go anywhere.”
“I don’t expect it,” I said, pulling back a little in insult. “I’m simply saying, I like you.”
Sliding his hand beneath my knees again, he stood, effortlessly lifting me. The wooden stairs seemed to roll under his confident steps; the bedroom door opened with a simple bump of his shoulder.
And then he was over me, my back to the mattress, his green eyes intently studying my face. “I like you, too.”
I wanted to burn the rest of the night into my permanent memory: the way he undressed me so lazily, knowing what was underneath. The way he stood and took the time to drape his sweater over the back of the easy chair in the corner and then return to me, eyes intent even as he crawled toward me on the bed.
Was this what it was like to make love?
Staring up at Jensen over me, his attention on the way his hands slid down across my bare breasts, I suddenly felt completely naïve. I’d thought I’d made love with Mark, at the very least, if not some other bloke I was particularly fond of. I’d told Mark I loved him, and assumed that I had. But sex with him, even from the beginning, was drunk and sloppy, or a quick bend over the bed. I had assumed that sort of impatient passion meant love.