“No, actually,” she says, laughing. “Not-Joe says he could never marry a divorcée, though I think he forgets we were married.”

“I’ve ruined you for him. This gives me a small touch of pleasure.” Things are getting a bit too honest, so before she can say anything else, I go back to her original question. “And things at the store are great, really. Heaps more business than I anticipated, might even bring in an extra hand to help on weekends.”

Something warms in my chest as I gaze down at her. “You looking for a job?”

“Ha ha,” she says, moving around again so she’s on her back. I can see her now, which is nice, but if she turns her head, my dick will be mere inches from her face. It’s never wanted anything more in its life. I’m not really sure if this is an improvement. “I’d be better company than Not-Joe, I’ll tell you that right now.”

“He’s not so bad. But you look a hell of a lot better in a pair of jeans.”

“Not-Joe wears something other than board shorts?” she asks, closing her eyes as I massage her scalp.

She moans a little and I have to work to not stumble over my words. “If this international stardom thing doesn’t work out for you,” I say, “you could always sell comics at Downtown Graffick.”

She goes quiet, and I take it as a cue to ask, “Do you want to talk a little more about Austin’s idea? Or do you think you’re just going to pull the veto card?”

The more I think about Austin’s suggestion that Razor be turned into a Martian, the more irritated I get. For someone who claims to be obsessed with the books, Austin doesn’t seem to understand the heart of them at all. And it’s a suggestion Lola would have laughed at a week ago. Is she honestly considering it?

She shrugs and gunfire rings out on the television. Lola rolls to look at the screen, taking my free hand with her. “I love this part,” she says.

Stress avoidance. Lola’s superpower. “Of course you do,” I say. “Patrick Swayze is about to be shirtless. Hell, I love this part.”

“Keanu Reeves would have made a great superhero,” she says.

I look down at her in shock. “Have you forgotten Neo?”

She shakes her head. “No, I guess I mean he has this special blankness that could be great for a villain. Like, Sabertooth. Maybe Ra’s Al Ghul or General Zod.”

Lola giggles. “I love the way you say that.”

“Yeah. It’s like . . . I can’t even do that sound you make at the end. It’s like four vowels at once.”

“You’re a dag,” I tell her with affection.

“It’s the o, I think. Whenever I try and mimic the way you say something, I can never get that part right. Say, ‘Go blow the garden hose.’ ”

“I’m not saying that, Lola Love.”

“See? Right there! Luuuooarrrla,” she says, dragging out the word and changing the shape of her mouth dramatically. “I don’t even know what letters you’re using, to be honest.”

“Just the normal ones,” I tell her.

After a moment, she rubs at the back of her neck.

“You okay there?” I ask, taking my hand from her hair to rub the tops of her shoulders.

“My neck is just at a weird angle like this.”

“Do you want me to move or—?” I start to say, but Lola sits up, surveying the couch before standing.

“Maybe . . . um. You move right here,” she says, lifting my feet from the coffee table and swinging them to the cushion. “Yeah, like that.”

I set the popcorn down and do what she says, stretching on my side along the length of the couch. Does she seem nervous? Am I imagining it?

She carefully lies down on the sliver of space in front of me, the back of her body pressed along the entire front of mine. And well . . . this is also new.

“You’ve made me your big spoon,” I say, hoping to ease some of the strange tension that has settled between us.

She reaches back to pinch my hip, and I grab for her hand, intending to stop her but somehow ending up with my arm around her ribs. We lay there in silence for a moment, the sound of the movie ringing around the room, and when I shift slightly, she slots her legs with mine.

No longer interested in the movie, I close my eyes, feeling myself sink farther into the couch as she traces shapes along the back of my wrist, her nails scratching, slowly at first and then slower, slower, until they feel more like caresses than casual touch.

I’ve been so careful around her, careful to keep the depth of feelings from ever being too visible. I don’t want to push her. I don’t want to ruin what we have, but right now it feels like we’re balancing on the tip of a mountain; if we lean too far one way we could slide into something wonderful that I’ve wanted for what feels like years. But if this is only a friendship for her, and I step the wrong way, I could fall off the cliff into a void: without her friendship or her love.

I’m not sure I’m willing to risk that. I need to let her decide.

“Lola?” I say, and I hear every one of my fears and doubts in those two, brief syllables.

The entire length of her body tenses, starting at her shoulders and moving down like a wave, until she’s pushing herself to sit.