Sitting on the bed, nude but for the sheet wrapped loosely about her, eating half of a man’s burger and washing it down with his beer was the best post-coital experience Kate had ever had in her life.
She couldn’t stop grinning. She’d never had sex like that, and it was a revelation to her. So many thoughts and feelings were fighting for recognition in her, bits and pieces of them scattering about in euphoria.
This, Kate thought, was what she wanted. This, right here, with this guy, Joe Firretti.
She grinned at him again. Joe didn’t notice—he was too engrossed in the manuscript she was editing. He was propped up against a stack of pillows, the sheet covering him from the waist down. His brow was furrowed in concentration. Kate slipped her hand across his rock-hard abdomen, but Joe caught her wrist and squeezed lightly. “Stop that, you vixen,” he said without looking up from the pages. “I have never used the word ‘vixen’ in my life until this moment. But I have to find out if she’s going to let him in her house or not.”
“Of course she does.”
“Hey!” Joe protested, putting down the pages and casting a playfully stern frown at her. “Don’t tell me. That ruins it.”
Kate laughed. “If she doesn’t let him in, there’s no love story.”
“Oh. I get it.” He grinned and tossed the pages to the foot of the bed. “You’re an expert, I take it,” he said as he gathered her up in his arms. He kissed her, then snagged another fry. “Tell me what you like,” he said.
“What I like?”
“Yes.” He ate another fry. “What makes you happy? Puppies and ribbons? Rugby and scuba diving?”
Kate thought about that. “Shoes,” she said with a definitive nod.
“I should have guessed that based on the weight of your suitcase alone. What else?”
This was what Kate was discovering she particularly liked about Joe. Yes, the sex was amazing, but better still, he was willing to talk. About everything. She tried to remember the last time she’d lounged on a bed—naked—and talked about sports and books and popular TV shows. She wondered if she’d ever known someone who would laugh with her about politics, or know the best sushi places in New York, or agree with her that Justin Bieber actually had put out a few catchy tunes.
Kate was not one for clichés. In the books she edited, she weeded them out and struck them from the pages. But at present she was wallowing in a cliché, because she truly, deeply felt as if she’d been waiting all her life for a guy like Joe Firretti to come around.
It sucked, it totally sucked that he was moving to Seattle. Fate—if such a thing existed—was playing the cruelest joke imaginable on her.
They watched Jimmy Kimmel, then took a shower together and made love again. Only slower. They took their time, learning each other, trying different things. And then they lay in the dark, Kate’s head on his shoulder, their fingers laced together.
“Hey,” Kate said. “Want to come to a wedding with me?”
Joe stroked her hair. “Do you promise to wear the mysterious pink-raft dress?”
She smiled in the dark. “If I haven’t destroyed it.”
“Then yes,” Joe said, and kissed the top of her head. “I would like to go to a wedding with you.”
“Assuming we make it,” Kate said.
“Oh, we’ll make it, baby,” Joe said. “We haven’t even touched the boat industry yet.”
Kate laughed. “We really did have quite an adventure, didn’t we?”
“That’s an understatement.”
“So… do you believe in fate yet?” she teased him.
She could hear Joe’s soft chuckle. “You have to admit, it’s wild that we met like we did and ended up here, just to say good-bye in a day or so.”
“‘Wild’ is not the word that comes to my mind.”
Hers either, really. She could see his blue eyes in the light from the window, shining into hers. “We make a good team, Joe Firretti.”
“We make an excellent team,” he agreed. “Minus the navigation.”
“And the armrest issue,” she reminded him.
“If you were still in New York, do you think we’d… I mean, would it be presumptuous to think that maybe—”
“Baby,” he said, “we’d definitely be checking out some sushi bars and the Giants games, are you kidding?”
She smiled, kissed his chest. That made her a little sad, really. “When you come to visit, we can do that, right?”
“Right. And when you’re in Seattle,” he added.
Right. She didn’t let the thought that she only made it to Seattle twice this year—this being the second time—linger. Maybe she’d come back more often. Maybe she’d make editor and get a raise and come back at least once a month. She refused to allow the reality of her situation to ruin the moment.
Maybe Joe was hearing the tinny voice of reality, too, because neither of them spoke after that.
Kate couldn’t say when she drifted off to sleep, but she was awakened by an alarm that brought her off the bed. She pushed her hair from her eyes and looked around. Joe was standing at the foot of the bed, grinning at her. He had on a pair of jeans, a white collared shirt, and a blue blazer. “Rise and shine, kid. We don’t want to miss that plane. Weather says a big storm is headed for Pacific coast.”
As much as Kate wanted to extend her stay with Joe, the thought of being stuck in Phoenix did not appeal. She dug a pair of yoga pants from her bag, as well as a tank top and hoodie.
Against all odds, when Joe and Kate arrived at the airport, the pink raft in tow, their flight to Seattle showed an on-time departure. At the gate, Kate stood at the window, staring at the plane that had somehow managed to fly in from Los Angeles, and called Lisa, waking her to tell her she’d make it to the wedding.
“Oh thank God!” Lisa said with relief. “Mom!” she shouted. “MOM! Kate’s going to make it!”
“So is everything okay?” Kate asked, as Joe appeared, two lattes in hand.
“Yes,” Lisa said. “Why? What do you mean? Do you mean something?”
“No! But yesterday you were a little freaked out—”
“Pre-wedding jitters,” Lisa said dismissively. Kate could hear her moving around, could hear water running. “Everyone says that’s all it is.”
Joe handed Kate a latte. She smiled at him. “So you’re okay?” she asked again.
“Yes, I am okay,” Lisa said, sounding like her normal self. “I mean, sure, Kiefer could have been slightly more supportive and all that, but I know that a guy like him only comes around once in a lifetime.”
Kate lifted her gaze to Joe. He winked at her. “Tell me about it,” she said. “By the way, I’m bringing someone to the wedding.”
“The guy on my flight who helped me get across the country,” Kate said. “His name is Joe Firretti.”
“Yeah, bring him, bring him!” Lisa said excitedly. “Do you know that everything is shut down from Colorado east? It’s a miracle you got as far as you did. We want to hug him!”
“When are you getting in?”
“Ten this morning,” Kate said.
She made arrangements with Lisa for someone to pick her up, then hung up and smiled a little tentatively at Joe. “They can’t wait to meet you,” she said.
“I can’t wait to meet them,” he said.
Yes, well, he might change his mind after the full force of the Prestons had been visited upon him.