He laughs outright, pulling back and smiling down at me. “That’s awful.”
“It was awesome,” I tell him. “I swear. Me, Harlow, Mia, and Luke—Mia’s ex.” I shake my head, remembering us dancing our asses off and Luke smiling through his teeth, being a good sport. “Poor Luke.”
“Taking three chicks to a concert? He could do worse.”
“Only one of us was putting out. Well, back then,” I say, reconsidering. “I think Luke gets more action now than 1979 Steven Tyler.”
Oliver laughs at this, but the song ends and he stops, easing his arms from around me.
“You did it,” he says, looking down at me with a half smile. “You danced with an Aussie in an empty bar and the world didn’t end. Check it off your list.”
We talked. We admitted. We took that terrifying single step forward.
He waits to see how I’m going to finish this, expression warm, but neutral. “Yeah, we did,” he says finally, tilting his head toward the bar. “Let’s finish our drinks.”
And like this, it’s easy again.
I WAKE UP alone in an enormous white bed, in a bright pool of sunshine.
In the past few months I have traveled so often that the dusty blue walls and wide, white chair in the corner don’t immediately trigger a context for where I am. I roll over, see my leather pants folded on the chair, my shirt and bra lying neatly on top.
Obviously, Oliver is down the hall, in his own room.
My stomach feels low and small in my body, missing him. Wanting him closer.
Over our second drink we easily shed the tension of the We Are Totally Into Each Other admission. We were interrupted by a perfectly timed call from Not-Joe telling us how his date passed out drunk on her couch, and only after he left did he realize his phone was dead and he left his wallet in the store so he had to give a taxi driver his watch in order to get a ride home.
At around one in the morning, we left the bar, hand in hand, and walked the two blocks back to our hotel. I had five missed calls from Austin, none with voicemails, so I let them be. I wanted nothing but Oliver on my brain. He pointed out his room when we passed it on the way to mine, but before I could stutter my way through an invitation inside, he bent and kissed my cheek.
“Let’s take it slow,” he said. “See you in the morning.”
The words immediately formed in my head, but I couldn’t exactly say them out loud: can’t we have sex but otherwise take this slow?
I roll over, unplug my phone from the cord on the bedside table, and check my email. Shoving up onto an elbow, I squeeze my eyes together, struggling to read the words in front of me.
“Holy fuck.” I sit all the way up, crossing my legs in bed and zooming in on my screen so I can be sure I’m not imagining what I’m seeing. It seems that while Oliver and I were flirting and clinking glasses and avoiding the discussion of dating, Columbia-Touchstone cast the leads in the Razor Fish film. I have over three hundred emails, and at least ten voicemails from media outlets wanting a statement.
I tried to get a hold of you last night after you left. There’s a script, Austin wrote in an email. Thank God I’ve flagged his name; otherwise who knows whether I would have even seen it? Just something Langdon drew up in the past week. But don’t stress, we did it so we could cast quickly, and you’re going to do all the polish.
He didn’t think to clarify this last night? He told me Langdon had started writing, not finished.
The check also deposited in my bank account, and seeing that much money there makes me want to vomit. It triggers some instinctual panic, like I should have it all made into gold bars and hide them in my mattress.
There’s a knock at my door and I stumble up, pulling on a robe. Outside in the hall, Oliver looks rumpled, a little nervous.
I immediately see it on his face—a soft, vulnerable happiness that flashes in the tilt of his mouth, in the narrowing of his eyes—for only a breath before he can carefully tuck it away.
Even though I was just with him last night, it feels like it’s been a week, and he looks different somehow. Less like this wonderful face of a friend, and more like this man in front of me who has a body under his clothes that I’m growing desperate to see again and even more desperate to touch.
Neither of us has spoken, and I’m afraid last night changed everything. I don’t want things to be awkward between us.
He smiles, wide enough that it shifts his glasses and I can see his eyes crinkling fully at the corners. “I wish I could answer in emoji. I’d just say the fried egg icon out loud.”
Okay, so that was sort of perfect.
“Do you want to grab breakfast?” I ask. “Or . . . order room service?”
This option feels decidedly more intimate, and Oliver seems to agree.
“Nah,” he says. “Let’s hit the restaurant downstairs. They have a buffet. I think I’ll eat it all.”
“Come on in,” I tell him, running over to my overnight bag and grabbing my clothes. “Give me five. I’ve got to call Benny real quick.”
Oliver walks into my room, and I notice when he gives a lingering glance to my clothes from last night, so neatly placed on the chair. I wonder if he’s thinking what I’m thinking, that if he’d been in here with me, those leather pants might have been sacrificed to the sex gods.