Home > My Favorite Half-Night Stand(3)

My Favorite Half-Night Stand(3)
Author: Christina Lauren

God damn it.

I straighten, hoping I look more sober than I feel. “Hi.”

“Everything okay?” he asks.

“Totally.” I lean against the doorframe in an attempt to appear casual. All this really does is bring my face within inches of his, which somehow makes me feel drunker. “You know how I am with wine. Goes right through me.”

I’m an idiot, but before I can regret what I’ve said, he’s laughing. Why does he always laugh at my dumb jokes?

“Ed and Alex are headed out,” he says quietly. “You can’t drive. Can I take you home?”

“I’m not drunk.” This statement would carry more weight if I didn’t hiccup immediately after saying it. “And I wasn’t going to drive.”

He tilts his head and a piece of soft brown hair falls forward, curling over his forehead. My brain immediately sides with Team Hug It Out.

“Come on,” he says. “You can control the radio on the way.”

It’s sunny and perfect in Santa Barbara at least three hundred days a year. We get most of our meager rainfall in early spring, and as we drive down Highway 1 at midnight—windows open and Arcade Fire blasting on the radio—it smells like a storm in the distance.

“Did you have a good night?” I ask, rolling my head to see him. It takes a few seconds for my eyes to refocus. The inside of the car is dark, his profile in shadow.

“I did.”

“Does it feel different?”

He turns to me and smiles, the tips of his lashes glowing gold in the light from the dashboard. “What? Tenure?”

“Yeah. Knowing you can only be fired for incompetence or gross misconduct.”

He laughs. “Define gross misconduct again?”

“Sexual harassment, murder, embezzlement . . .”

“You’re kind of making it sound like a dare.” He reaches for my hand where it sits on the console between us and squeezes my fingers. “You cold? I can turn on the seat warmers if you want to keep the window open for air.”

“I’m good,” I say, but he keeps hold of my fingers anyway. “Maybe with less time in the lab and more in the classroom, you can cut back a little. Have more time to yourself.”

“To do what? Play pinball with Ed?”

“I don’t know,” I say, “explore new hobbies, find yourself, date. You work too much.”

He turns to me again and grins adorably. “Why would I need a date when I already have you for the banquet?”

I roll my eyes. “I mean, like, in the general sense.”

“Okay, Pot. When’s the last time you went out with someone who wasn’t one of us?”

I search my memory, counting back five . . . six months, and can’t help but recall the veritable wasteland my sex life has become. I’ve been stressed with deadlines and family stuff and my brain is just looking for an escape pod, a little release. No wonder I’m having sex thoughts about Reid.

When it takes me too long to answer, he gives my fingers another squeeze. “Need me to get out a calendar? I think I have an abacus in my office.”

“I think it was Carson? The barista who worked at Cajé.”

In the dark I see his eyes narrow as he thinks. “Wasn’t he younger than you?”

“A few years,” I say with a shrug.

“Seven years,” he corrects. “And he had a nose ring.”

That was some impressive recollection, Reid. “Men date younger women all the time and get a pat on the back. Why does dating a younger guy automatically make me a cougar?”

He holds up a hand. “I am not calling you a cougar. Listen, if twenty-one-year-old college me had had the chance to bang beautiful twenty-eight-year-old you, I’d have done it in a hot second.”

Wait, what?

A shiver moves down my spine and he notices, shifting to run a hand along my arm. “You have goose bumps.”

“Oh.” I reach over to close the window. “I guess it’s chillier than I thought.”

“So what happened? Between you and—”

“Carson,” I finish for him. “Nothing happened. He was twenty-one. There weren’t a lot of places it could go.”

“You mean, it was just sex.”

I’m thankful we’re still sitting in the dark so he can’t see me get all blushy and awkward. “My muscle tone had never been better.”

Reid barks out a scandalized laugh.

“I’m not lying. What about you? When was your last . . . you know?”

“Hmm.” He taps his thumb against the steering wheel. “My last you know. I’m not sure. You probably know my life as well as I do. You tell me.”

“You work all the time.”

“Funny thing about that,” he says with a grin. “It’s probably how I got tenure.”

I concede this with a dorky little nod. He turns down State Street, which, this time of night, is the quickest route to my house. I watch as we dart past the streetlights one by one.

“Does that make us lame?” I wonder. “That we’ve been single this long and nobody in our group is in an actual relationship? Ed and Alex date more than us, maybe even Chris, but it never goes anywhere. Is it possible we’re all enabling each other to die alone? Are we turning into a weird celibacy cult?”

“We’re definitely enabling each other.”

“But should we be worried about that?” I ask. “One of the many, many problems I had with Dustin was that he wanted a good little wife. I’m not even sure I have that gene and haven’t been with anyone long-term since him. You haven’t since Isla. Does that make us failures?”

“I think it means the opposite, actually,” he says, pulling into my driveway and shifting the car into park. He turns to face me. “Let me ask you a question. Do you love your career?”

I don’t even have to think about it. “One hundred percent.”

“Well, there you go. And even if we are enabling each other, who cares? You could never die alone, because you have me.”

It’s suddenly quiet in the car and I know I should go inside. I should wash my face and put my pajamas on and go straight to bed.

I should let Reid go home.

The problem is I don’t want to.

“Come inside with me,” I say, pushing open my door and already climbing out. The air is cool and smells like the ocean, but it’s not enough to drown out whatever buzz is still humming in my veins or make me come to my senses.

I have no idea what I’m doing or what’s happening between us, but when I reach the porch and pull out my keys, Reid is right behind me.

Chapter two


I’ve never hooked up with a friend before . . . is that what’s happening right now?

I mean, it seems like it might be. Millie is being herself but a little . . . more. Giving me a shy smile while her eyes wander a lot more than I’m used to, then twisting her fingers in mine when I held her hand in the car . . .

It’s like unlocking a window and letting the wind blow it wide open. If Millie is flirting, then what? Should I flirt back? This is a very The Usual Suspects moment—I had no idea Millie was this person.

Are we doing this?

I blatantly check out her backside when she ducks into the fridge to grab us each a can of sparkling water. It feels nearly clinical the way I study her.

Objectively, it is a fantastic ass.

It’s just that it’s Millie’s ass. Initially—briefly—she was known as Dustin’s Millie. Later—and better—she was known as one-of-the-guys Millie, Our Millie. Now, it appears, she’s Drunk Flirty Millie.

I’ve looked at her ass before, of course. I’ve looked at all of her, frankly, but I’ve done it in the dissociated way all guys look at women—almost without realizing we’re doing it. Casually, too, and entirely due to the habit of proximity: while helping her out of her coat, while holding her beer as she takes off a sweater, while examining her outside a changing room when she asks whether she should buy a particular pair of jeans. Regardless, no matter how objectively pretty she is, Millie Morris has always been off-limits.

But mostly I think she’s been off-limits because she’s never shown any particular interest in any of us.

She clears her throat and I drag my eyes back up to her face. Which, it’s fair to say, may be the best part of her: the enormous bright green eyes, the sarcastic mouth, the splash of freckles across her nose and cheeks. She’s beautiful, yes, but I’ve never truly veered into Is she sexy? territory until tonight.

“I was checking out your ass.”

“And?” She leans a hip against the counter and gives me a smile that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen from her. Most of her smiles are openmouthed, delighted, often given through a choking laugh as she quickly swallows a mouthful of beer. Other smiles are half-baked, amused at us while we try to get a rise out of her. The rare smile is triumphant—when she gives us the perfect amount of shit. They’re rare only because she so infrequently shows her cards.

But this one is a little like being told a secret. She seems to agree, because she bites her bottom lip halfway through it, like she’s trying to put it away.

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