She still wasn’t looking at him. He picked up his wineglass, put it down.
“What are you not telling me?”
She shifted on the couch, pulled her knees up, and put her arms around them so her body was one tight ball.
“Oh, Drew, I was so mean to her.” Her voice caught. She stopped, closed her eyes, and swallowed before continuing. “I was mean and snotty and insulting. I made her feel so bad for what happened. I did it on purpose! I became a tattletale to our parents for everything I thought she was doing wrong. We barely spoke for the better part of a year, and even after that, our relationship was fractious and difficult for years. We didn’t really start becoming friends again until I was in college, and even then, it took years for us to be close.” She paused, clearly lost in thought, and shook her head. “I feel like . . . if I manage to make this happen, it would be my way of making up for everything.”
He moved across the couch and put his arm around her. She was so tense he wasn’t sure how she’d react to his touch. But she relaxed against him and released her knees.
“And if you don’t manage to make this happen? What then?”
She shook her head as it rested against his shoulder. He turned toward her and kissed her hair. He felt her sigh.
“Then it’s me failing her again. If I can’t do this one thing for my sister, for my family, for all of those other kids who need something like this like she did . . .”
He pulled her closer to him, so happy to be with her. It felt wrong to be happy when she was on the point of tears, but he was honored that she was sharing this with him. This conversation felt like a gift.
“You know that’s not true, right? That if it doesn’t pass this time it’s not your fault? That all you can do is give everything you have to this, and you know you have been? You do know all that?”
She shrugged and turned away from him. Okay. Did that mean she didn’t want to talk about this anymore? He wasn’t sure if he should keep talking, but he had one more question for her.
“Have you talked to Olivia about this? Have you told her what you’re trying to do, and why?”
She hesitated and shook her head.
“We haven’t . . . We don’t really talk about that at all. At first, I was too ashamed to say anything, and now it seems like it’s been too long.”
He didn’t respond at first, not quite sure what to say. She reached for the slice of pizza he’d put on her plate and had eaten half of it before he spoke again.
“So, if TARP did pass, how were you going to tell her? You were going to tell her, right?”
She swallowed, took a sip of her wine, and swallowed again.
“Yeah. I’ve thought about that. I was going to email her a link to a news article about it. With something like, ‘Look what your little sister has been up to?’ or, ‘Terrible name, great program, right?’” She sighed. “Okay, maybe both of those ideas are stupid, but you know what I mean.”
He laughed and squeezed her hand. The tense look on her face relaxed and she squeezed back.
“Maybe you should talk to her. Before the hearing, I mean. About TARP, yeah—this is a great thing you’re trying to do, and I know she’d be proud. But also about the other stuff you told me. I’m sure she would want to know.”
She shook her head again but didn’t let go of his hand.
“It was so hard for me to tell you, Drew. I don’t even know how I would tell her how I felt, or what I would say.”
He turned her so that her legs were draped over his and took her face in both his hands.
“Say to her what you said to me. Just think about it, okay? I think it would make you feel better.”
She leaned her forehead against his and closed her eyes. He wrapped his arms around her, and they sat there for a while, breathing each other in.
“I’ll think about it,” she said. He moved an inch closer to her, and their lips clung together slowly, gently. He wanted to deepen the kiss but pulled away.
“Now, finish that slice of pizza so you don’t have a hangover in the morning. Your doctor insists on it.”
She laughed, as he’d been hoping she would.
“How many children do you have to advise about hangovers, Dr. Nichols?”
He stood up to take the pizza box and the empty wine bottle to the kitchen.
“You’d be surprised. Though most of my patients have hangovers of the Halloween-candy variety.”
Her laughter echoed through the house as he walked to the kitchen. He was so glad he’d come.
When he came back from the kitchen, Alexa had dutifully eaten all of her pizza but the crust. He made fun of her for that, as he’d done when she was in L.A.
“Yet another similarity you have with my patients.” He grabbed her hands and pulled her to her feet. “You eat your pizza like a toddler.”
She kept her hands in his and looked up at him. She felt wrung out emotionally, but she couldn’t stop smiling at him. It was so nice to have him here, in her living room, just being here with her, on a Tuesday night. She could get used to this.
She shook that thought away.
“Did you have any plans in mind for the rest of the night?” she asked him.
He pulled her close to him.
“Mmm, I don’t know. What were you thinking?”
“Hmmm.” His lips trailed down her neck as she considered. “We could check out a show on Netflix? Or, ooh, I’m listening to this great audiobook about segregation in American cities. We could listen together.” He unzipped her hoodie and bit her shoulder. She gasped and giggled all at the same time. “Unless you had another plan?”
He straightened up, his eyes focused on her face as he ran his hands down her body. She closed her eyes against the sensation and moaned.
She opened her eyes to see him looking down at her. His shirt was half unbuttoned, his hair was on end, his eyes focused on her and only her. He looked like he’d been sculpted from her wildest fantasies.
“You drive me crazy, Alexa. Did you know that?”
She shook her head and licked her suddenly dry lips.
Holy shit, how did this man still do this to her? Shouldn’t this hunger for him and his body and his touch have worn off already? But no, it only seemed stronger now. He squeezed her nipple and she moaned again.
“My plan, you tease, was to spend the next few hours hearing you make that noise over and over again. What do you think about that plan, hmmm?” He pulled her closer to him and kissed that spot on her neck that she loved. She sighed.
“It’s no Netflix or audiobook, but it’ll do.”
He laughed, and before she could blink, he’d picked her up and thrown her over his shoulder. She pounded her hands on his back as he strode down the hall to her bedroom.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
He turned on the light in her bedroom and kicked a pair of shoes out of his way.
“Less talk, Monroe.” He dropped her on the bed. “More action.”
How did the sex just keep getting better with her? Drew turned over onto his back, rolling her on top of him.
“Was there an earthquake, or a bomb, or a building collapse or something?” he asked.
“Mmm, I don’t think so. Why?” She turned her head to look out the window.
“Because my ears are ringing.”
He felt rather than heard her laugh. She laid her head on his chest and ran her hands up and down his still-tingling body. His hands went to her hair, and he held them there, just enjoying the sensation of being with her again.
“When do you have to go back?” she said against his chest.
Oh right. He had to go back.
“My flight’s at seven in the morning.” He pushed her hair over to the side so he could see her face. “I’m so glad I came.”
She looked back at him and smiled, that wide smile that shone from every part of her face. He loved that smile.
Alexa got to work the next morning groggy but blissful. In the middle of the night she’d woken up to him kissing the back of her neck and turned to give him access to the rest of her body. This time it was slower, gentler, quieter, but the fireworks had gone off just the same.