I love Oliver’s easy laugh that follows, the subtle slide of his eyes over to me again. I love that the pace of his work doesn’t change even when we look at each other, breathing in, breathing out. He pulls a stack of books from a box and puts it down on a counter. Lifts another stack and puts it down.
“You’re a menace,” I say. I blink over to Not-Joe when I say it, but can pretend I’m saying it to Oliver.
Because he is a menace. A calm, steady, sexy-as-fuck menace.
Not-Joe shrugs, moving on, and bends down to inspect a book. “Say, this new issue of Red Sonja features a lot of breast curve. I mightily approve.”
Oliver turns around to look at him across the room. “Show me both of your hands, Joe.”
Not-Joe holds up his hands, laughing. “You’re the guy who wanks to comics, not me.”
“You’re the guy who gets asked ‘is it in yet?’ ” Oliver drawls.
“You’re the guy who keeps asking, ‘Is it good, baby, does it feel good?’ ”
“Don’t need to, mate,” Oliver tells him, looking back down at an inventory sheet. “I know it’s good.”
Not-Joe laughs but I feel my eyes go wide at the growl in Oliver’s voice, the casual way this fell from his lips. I’m choked by the weight of jealousy and longing when I think about him having sex. Or maybe it’s the leftover needneedneed from last night.
I blink, turning to look at a rack of new releases and urging my brain to reboot.
“Just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean it’s good for them,” Not-Joe says.
“Well,” I answer absently, “there were the lesbian roommates who made him practice, practice, practice. . . .”
I trail off, having felt the store go completely still.
Reboot fail. I can’t believe I just said this.
The story of Oliver and his lesbian roommates was one I heard when we were all hammered—from Ansel, no less, and he had on his adorable troublemaker face when he told me—but Oliver and I have literally never talked about it. Shocking as that may be.
I can feel him staring at the side of my face, and one of his fangirl customers basically eye-fucks him from across the store.
“Wait.” Not-Joe stops him. “Lesbian roommates? Why am I just now hearing this story? I feel betrayed.”
Oliver continues to watch me, and lifts his eyebrows as if to say, Well? You were saying?
“According to Ansel,” I tell Not-Joe, trying to sound casual, like this information doesn’t make me itch under my skin whenever I think about it, “Oliver had two female roommates at universiy in Canberra. Both were into other women, but being that it was college and we’re all sort of loose about things in college, they took it upon themselves to show Oliver the ropes, as it were. Ansel says that loads of women have just raved about Oliver’s—”
“No one has ever raved to Ansel,” Oliver cuts me off, looking flustered. “I mean, it’s not like that at all.”
“Well, it sounded exactly like that,” I say, giving him a playful smile.
But he doesn’t return it.
In fact, he looks really tense, like he doesn’t like that I’m talking about this. And of course he doesn’t; we’re in the middle of his place of business. But . . . wasn’t he just the one talking about knowing sex with him is good?
Confused, I blink down to the book in my hands and read the same dialogue bubble over and over.
“That . . .” Not-Joe claps a hand on Oliver’s shoulder. “That is legendary. Remind me of this the next time I give you shit.”
Oliver doesn’t say anything; he just scowls down at his clipboard.
And now it’s weird. I made it weird, but when I think about it, it’s been weird all morning. I took a leap and crossed an invisible line last night at his place. I exposed the farce of this Just Friends business, at least my end of it. Just friends works as long as everyone is on the level. As soon as it’s clear one person wants more, the entire house of cards crumples. Saying I wanted to draw him a few days ago . . . last night, with the spooning and the hand-petting, and now here with the knowledge about his former sex life when he and I never talk about those things . . . I’ve probably knocked down the entire carefully constructed fortress and doused it with gasoline.
I walk over to him, lightly punching his shoulder. “Sorry,” I mumble. “I just opened my mouth and dropped a whole lot of awkward on this moment.”
He doesn’t look at me. “S’okay. I just don’t want you to think . . .”
“Yeah, I know,” I say when he trails off. I get it. He doesn’t want me to think about him like that.
The panel shows the girl, staring down at the beating organ in her hands.
We fall silent as another customer approaches, and I turn away, headed back toward my things on the couch. I slip my sketchbook back into my messenger bag and sling it over my shoulder, ducking past Oliver and around an aisle of comics so I can discreetly escape.
Outside on the sidewalk, I carefully dodge the reporter and pull my phone from my bag, quickly dialing my dad just to look busy.
He answers on the second ring. “What’s shaking, baby girl?”