Mae unlocked the door, but didn’t open it. She slipped her hands into her pockets against the cold and looked up at Jamie expectantly.
But Jamie couldn’t think of anything to say. Was the night over already? Four days, he’d known this woman. Four days. It seemed like a lot longer than that. And now it was over.
Or rather, it was supposed to be over. It was supposed to have ended last night, and yet he’d managed to drag it out a little further.
“Three items checked off your list,” he said finally.
“Your list in your diary. You’re halfway done already.”
“Oh, right. Yeah.” She shook her fist in the air, keys jangling, in a lighthearted show of victory.
Jamie half grinned. “So what will you do now?”
“Uh, I’m not sure. I guess try the hookup apps again.”
He nodded, lips pursed. He wanted to object. Jamie didn’t want someone else touching her, not when he still wanted to. But he didn’t have a right to demand anything from her, and he knew it.
“Okay,” she said with a huff of air. “Thank you for tonight. I had a great time. And you were amazing.” She smiled broadly. Cheerfully. Then after a half aborted movement toward him, she went for it and kissed him once on the mouth.
A goodnight kiss. There and gone before he could appreciate it properly.
She smiled again. “Goodnight, Table Five.”
He pinched the thick sleeve of her coat as she turned away, just enough so she paused and looked back at him, eyebrows raised.
Her expression calmed as she came back a step.
She stood before him again, hands in pockets. “You weren’t supposed to tell me that.”
“It’s not short for anything. It says Jamie on my birth certificate.”
She closed her eyes and screwed up her mouth, like she was dealing with a smartass child that she just couldn’t be mad at.
“I live about 6 blocks from here in that old Victorian on Perkins. Down that way.”
She shook her head, still smiling indulgently as Jamie broke all the rules.
“Rent’s cheap. It has a huge tree in the backyard. Taylor, that’s my roommate, he insists it’s a maple, but it’s actually an oak tree. Acorns and everything. He won’t listen to me when I tell him.”
She shrugged, and shook her head again. “What am I going to do with you?”
“I want to see you again.”
“This wasn’t supposed to be the start of something between us,” she said. “Your words.”
“Yeah, I also said ‘tonight only.’ But you showed up tonight, Mae. And it was amazing.”
“I’m not looking for a boyfriend.”
Her meaning was clear as day, but her expression was torn. This was it. He had a foothold.
“I don’t have to be a boyfriend,” he said, shrugging easily. “I can help you finish your list. Then we can see where we’re at afterwards.”
“You can’t help me with everything on that list. Sooner or later I’m going to have to meet someone on my hookup apps. A few someones. And you’re going to be okay with that?”
Of course he wasn’t okay with that.
“Yes. Totally okay.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You were supposed to fuck me and then disappear.”
Jamie twisted his mouth in an exaggerated expression of innocence and shrugged.
“I don’t know. I have a plan. I like the plan. It was supposed to be a me thing. I was supposed to accomplish this thing for myself. By myself. I wasn’t looking to build anything with another person.”
“It can still be about you. I like the list, Mae. God help me but I do. It’s weird as hell but I’m into it.”
“It’s not weird!”
“It is weird, and that’s why I like it.”
“I’m trying to empower myself!”
“I want to empower you!”
“No, see? That’s what I’m talking about.” She gestured wildly as she spoke, and her hair blew into her face in the icy wind. “I don’t want you to empower me. I want to empower myself! I spent my entire life following Sam around like a goddamn puppy, and now he’s abandoned me and I don’t like this feeling! I don’t like that I let him do this to me. I let him do this.”
She came forward and grabbed handfuls of his jacket sleeves. “I want to be brave, you know? I want to ask for sex, and be a little reckless. Just to prove I can!”
“You’ve done that, Mae. You asked me for sex. And you very recklessly slept with a stranger last night. And again tonight. You didn’t have to show up tonight, but you did. You let me take you in a Tex-Mex bathroom and fuck you.” He found himself standing too close to her, his sleeves still fisted in her hands. Her warmth washed over him.
“What I really want to know,” he said, “is if I turn up tomorrow night with straps, asking to check off number four, would you turn me away?”
She said nothing, only stared up at him, breath coming a little faster than before. Her eyes kept falling to his mouth.
She wanted to kiss him again. He could still feel her mouth from earlier that night in the bathroom, hungry and needing. She kissed like she would never get enough of him.
“Would you rather have someone from your hookup app?” he breathed.
She shook her head. “No.”
He couldn’t help it. Jamie dipped his head and took her mouth like it was the first time. In a way it was. He wasn’t The Stranger anymore. He wasn’t Table Five, or whatever. He was Jamie, now. This was the first time Mae had ever kissed Jamie.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, and her chest rose up to press against him in that too-tight bodice. Jamie’s arms went around her and held her there, and he delighted in her mouth. She tasted like flan and tequila, and her hair smelled like coconuts, just like that first night. Probably the best smell in the world.
Finally, she pulled back and set Jamie away from herself. Her breath came fast and her face was red again, her berry lip gloss rubbed clean off. She took one step toward the door before Jamie could make his voice work.
“Give me your number.”
She held up a warning finger as he stepped closer to her. She retreated another step to her unlocked door. “We close at seven every night. Usually, anyway.”
“Mae,” he began.
“There’s no need to bring straps. I already have some. I had a toy for tonight, too. But yours was better. Speaking of which.”
She darted forward and dipped her hand into his jacket pocket. The vibrator didn’t seem to want to come out at first, but she got it. She held it up with a nod. “Thanks for that.”
“Are you serious?” he asked with a laugh, arms spread in incredulity. “Give me your number!”
“Nice to meet you, Jamie!” she called back, slipping through the door. She locked it behind her and smiled primly at him through the glass before disappearing up the shadowed steps.
“What the fuck?” he said to the empty sidewalk, letting his hands fall.
He swiped his hands through his hair, both frustrated and excited. There was no way this was going to end well. But by god, he was going to make it to Number Four.