Night Owl
Author:M. Pierce

Matt's hands snaked around me. His strong fingers found my clit and rubbed it, tickling the nerves, making my body explode.

 

We came together and collapsed against the sink.

 

Afterward, Matt was inert again. I wrapped a towel around him and ruffled his hair with another. I had hoped that sex would knock his head clear all at once, which was ridiculous. Nate was right—Matt needed time. And I could be patient.

 

I kissed his mouth. He kissed me back halfheartedly.

 

"Tired," he murmured, shuffling out of the bathroom. I watched after him in dismay. He did look tired, and with good reason. His body had been through a punishing ordeal. Fuck, maybe I shouldn't have coerced him into sex. What was wrong with me? I pressed the heels of my hands to my eyes. Hannah, grow a brain!

 

I grabbed an orange and a bottle of water from the fridge and hurried to the bedroom. Matt lay belly down on the quilt. He was wearing a pair of black boxers and the manatee I had given him was nestled into his side.

 

I swallowed the lump in my throat.

 

"I brought you an orange."

 

Silence.

 

I set the fruit on the bedside table. His pill bottles were there.

 

"Have you taken these? I think—" I fiddled with a bottle. "—I think you're supposed to take this twice a day."

 

Matt held out a hand.

 

"Um, yeah, okay, so—" So don't fuck up Matt's meds. Oh god. Which was which? Tapering dose... highest dose. After some fumbling, I set a 25 mg capsule in Matt's palm. He washed it down with the bottled water.

 

"Sorry," he said after a space.

 

I patted my body dry and climbed naked onto the bed. I stretched out beside him, hugging him and fitting my curves to his skin.

 

"No apologies," I said.

 

"It makes me sleepy. Can we talk?"

 

"Of course we can talk."

 

"I messed up. With you."

 

"No apologies," I repeated. "I'm not sorry I met you."

 

"I tried to stay away. At first, I tried."

 

"You couldn't have." My chest tightened reflexively at the thought of a life without Matt. I gathered a breath. Time to sound like an idiot. "Can I tell you something?"

 

"Mm."

 

"Matt, I—I don't think I could have stayed away from you. Not in this lifetime." I traced my fingertips over his back. "I love you. You know I love you."

 

"Why?"

 

It helped that Matt's eyes were fixed on the wall. Those penetrating green eyes... I couldn't have said these things to them.

 

"I think I've always loved you," I whispered. "I felt something since we met, since we first started writing together. It was like I had loved you without knowing you, and the love was in me, waiting to happen. So you can't apologize, Matt. It's you I love. There's no why about it."

 

Matt rolled to face me. He met my gaze—finally—with obvious difficulty. We watched one another.

 

"You and Nate..."

 

"He's been a perfect gentleman," I said.

 

"Yeah?" Matt searched my expression drowsily.

 

God, was he actually worried about this? I sighed and cupped his cheek.

 

"Matt... I don't want a perfect gentleman."

 

"What do you want?"

 

"You."

 

For the first time in months, I watched Matt's gorgeous face light up with real laughter. It was soft, enervated laughter, but it was laughter. I wanted to cry.

 

"Not a gentleman," he chuckled, his eyes slipping closed.

 

"Definitely not a gentleman," I murmured.

 

CHAPTER 29

Matt

 

_____

 

HANNAH AND I had an unspoken understanding.

 

I would live with her in Denver.

 

"Here it is," she said, smiling at an unassuming corner building.

 

I paid our cabby and wedged Laurence's cage off the seat. I dragged our suitcases onto the sidewalk.

 

The condo complex was small and frankly hideous. Flimsy balconies jutted from brown brick. Inside, we had to lug our bags to the second floor.

 

"I haven't... had much time," Hannah said as she let us in.

 

What had Hannah been doing for three months? Her condo was a shell. I set Laurence's cage on the floor of the family room. Family room? Living room? With one lamp and a "table" that consisted of plywood and cinder blocks, it was hard to tell.

 

I wandered through the empty rooms. There was no kitchen table. I found two plates in a cupboard. Another smaller room was entirely empty.

 

Only Hannah's bedroom showed signs of life: books, a mattress on the floor, a calendar on the wall. I cleared my throat. She was hovering in the doorway, watching me.

 

"It's..." I scanned the space for a single redeeming quality. "Ah, got nice high ceilings."

 

Hannah burst into laughter. She hugged me tight and I lifted her off her feet.

 

"You're here, Hannah," I said into her hair. "This is the only place I want to be."

 

It was true; I couldn't stomach the thought of my sprawling, modern, lonely apartment. I didn't even want my furniture and appliances. I wanted to start fresh with Hannah.

 

"I've been stalling on the décor," she admitted. "But now I'll make it really great. I'll cook, too. Fatten you up." She poked my ribs and I smirked.

 

"Fatten yourself up while you're at it."