She’s headed straight toward me, and she’s definitely moving with intent.
I turn fully to face her. “Hey, how did the video chat go?”
Casual, calm. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
Joe watches as she breezes by him, ignores my question, and stops just at my feet before reaching for the back of my neck and pulling me down to her. With a tiny sigh, her lips meet mine and all other sound in the room is sucked out in one giant rush of air. My blood heats, and lust flashes through me, hot and dizzying.
Lola smells exactly like she always does—the sweet honey scent of her soap—and her lips are just as soft as they were when I kissed her goodbye through the open window of her car only hours ago. My brain spends so much time wondering at these things that it takes a moment for me to realize that Lola is kissing me. Now. Right here, in the middle of my shop.
My hands push into her hair to tilt her head, my tongue slides against hers, and it feels like the perfect way for us to announce what’s happening. I only wish everyone was here to see it, to get it over with in one fell swoop.
A throat clears somewhere nearby, and when Lola takes a step back the rest of the world slowly comes into focus. Joe is leaning against the register, ankles crossed, with his eyebrows raised to the ceiling.
Lola smiles and looks up at me with the adoration I feel for her mirrored in her eyes. “Can we talk for a minute in your office?” she asks, breathless.
She follows me to the back, and her presence behind me feels radioactive, buzzing. I want to turn and kiss her as we walk. It’s a heady infatuation, that need I have to touch touch touch until our skin is sore and the need for food and water takes priority. I crave it, I crave her.
Inside the office, she closes the door behind her back and leans against it, grinning at me. “Hey.”
“Hey.” I’m not sure I’ve ever smiled so wide; it feels too big for my face. “Nice show out there.”
She gives a little one-shouldered shrug. “Thanks.”
“I wonder if Joe will ever move from that spot now that you’ve shocked the life out of him.”
Laughing, she says, “We’ll have to tell the others soon, I guess.”
She looks around the room, and I try to see it from her eyes. She’s been back here only a couple of times, and in the past few months the space has become my little, calming cave. Before we moved into the shop, it was a pretty fancy boutique, and some of those original fixtures remain in the back office. The walls are painted a soft cream and there are outlets where glass chandeliers used to hang from the ceiling. A row of mirrors lines the back wall but is partially covered in boxes I’ve yet to unpack. Even so, it makes the space feel larger than it is. My desk is situated along the long wall behind me, facing the door, and a small row of windows cuts a dusty sunbeam across the room.
When our eyes meet again, I know we’ve silently agreed not to talk about the hardest part of all this, that there’s new pressure there now. Ansel and Mia are married. Finn and Harlow are married. We don’t have the luxury of crashing and burning in a fiery mess.
There’s an unspoken sense among our friends that Lola and I are somehow more together—the store, her comic career—as if we’ve had it all figured out more thoroughly and for longer than they have. But looking at Lola now, I can easily tell she doesn’t trust herself at all in this. As much as I sense she does feel for me, I also know she would rather illustrate a comic for Frank Miller with him looking over her shoulder than navigate emotional territory when a group of friends is involved.
I move to her, giving her a soft kiss. “What brings you to my office today, young lady?”
Wincing, she tells me, “I’m headed to L.A.”
My heart trips over her words. “Today?”
“Yeah. The car is coming for me at five.”
“I think that’s mostly because Austin isn’t sure mine will survive the drive there.”
“You’re still hot shit,” I tease, and then look over my shoulder at the wall clock. It’s three seventeen. “When are you home?”
Well, that blows. “Can we plan for dinner Friday?”
“I’m supposed to go over to Greg’s. Come with me?”
There’s tension in her eyes, and I lean back, studying it.
She swallows, shaking her head quickly as if to clear it. “I’m fine. I have a book due next week and I’ve barely started. We’re supposed to finalize the script this week, but I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done.”
“You take it one step at a time.”
She leans into me, resting her chin on my chest as she looks up at my face. “I’m a little distracted.”
She pushes her lips out in a sweet pout. “And I don’t feel like going to L.A. for a few days.”
“I don’t feel like having a girlfriend in L.A. for a few days.”
Biting the side of her lip, she repeats, “ ‘Girlfriend’?”
“Fuck buddy of whom I am rather fond?” I offer instead.
I put my hand over hers to keep it in place, right over my breastbone. “Girlfriend is certainly my preference.”