She stretches out under the sheets, arranging herself for sleep, and I bring her against me, sighing at the feel of her warm skin against mine. She curls against me as moonlight sneaks through the blinds, casting a silver glow over her arms and shoulders.
“I like you, Chris,” she says, her voice sleepy.
I kiss the back of her neck. “I like you too. A lot.”
“I’m glad you made me your mission tonight.”
“I’m going to make you my mission on our next date too.”
“I like the sound of that.”
I do too.
I like the sound of all of this.
As she falls asleep, I’m struck with the realization that we’re quickly zooming past no-strings-attached dating.
And I don’t seem to mind the strings.
The preliminary numbers are in. The segments are a hit. Viewers love the chemistry between McKenna and me. And more than that—they love her.
That’s what Bruce tells us the next time we’re in the studio, ready to shoot again.
“They’re going to want you to do a show all by yourself,” I tell her.
She pokes my chest. “Don’t be silly. They’ll want me to take over for you.”
“You know, Needle Arms, she has a darn good idea,” Bruce says with a glint in his eyes.
“I’m cool with that. I can surf all day and eat my avocado toast with smashed beets anytime I want.”
He cringes. “Ah, why do you do this to me? I’m going to have to eat some bacon to make up for hearing about your health food.”
McKenna shoots me a curious look. “I take it he doesn’t know about your penchant for orgasmic ketchup on your succulent fries?”
Bruce’s eyes widen. “You’re secretly eating my kind of food?”
I press a finger to my lips. “Shh. Don’t tell my boss.”
Bruce stage-whispers, “He already knows.” In his normal voice, he tells us the first question from viewers.
The question hits close to home.
“You good with that?” Bruce inquires.
I meet McKenna’s eyes. She nods her assent.
“Yes,” I tell him.
A little later, we record.
“And on today’s What to Do on a Date segment, Denny from St. Louis wants to know: When is it a good idea to sleep together on the first date?”
The faint blush of pink on her cheeks delights me, and feels like both a secret and a statement. She looks to the camera as she answers the question we both have recent firsthand experience with. “I would say it’s a good idea if you’re two adults who communicate clearly about expectations. That’s the key—to talk. To be clear with each other.” She turns to me. “Don’t you think, Chris?”
I rein in the grin, the ridiculous, oversized one threatening to occupy all the square footage of my face. “I do, McKenna. There’s never a guarantee as to what happens next, but as long as you can be straight from the get-go, that’s the best path. So each person knows the score.”
“But remember, too, sometimes sex on the first date can be a terrible idea. And sometimes it can be a great idea. The difference usually lies not in the act itself, but in the talking about it beforehand.” Once more, she looks my way, a naughty twinkle in her blue eyes. “And if the sex is good, definitely do it again with a second date.”
I shrug happily, pointing at her. “That’s what she said.”
And that’s what we plan to do later that night. But first, we play mini golf. Per her advice, I wear flip-flops.
She wiggles her butt as she preps to swing the club at a windmill.
“Your shoes are fantastic,” I say, just as she lets loose.
Her shot is all kinds of wrong. She shoots me a withering glare. “You’re trying to knock me off my game.”
I shrug. “You’d expect nothing less of me.”
She grumbles, narrowing her eyes. “I’m going to crush you, Chris McCormick.”
“Be my guest,” I say as she lines up again. “Also, those jeans look great on you.”
I’m the recipient of another sharp stare as she saunters over to me. “You are not playing fair. Complimenting my clothes to try to get me to balk.”
“And it’s working.”
She splays a hand across my stomach, dragging her fingertips in a way that revs my engine. “Two can play at that game.”
I smile and haul her against me for a kiss. I’m intoxicated by her taste, buzzed on her, and having a great time. I flash back to earlier, what we both said in the studio. The key is to talk. That’s been the refrain of all our segments—be honest, be open, tell the truth.
When I break the kiss, I cup her cheek. “I’m glad you were amenable to fun-dating.”
“We should keep doing it.”
“You angling for a third date already?”
I smile. “Hell yeah.”
She dances her fingers up my chest. “Good. Because I want a third one too.”
The rest of the game, I’m a good boy. I don’t try to distract her with compliments or too many kisses. Instead, we talk as we go, chatting about her dog, and she tells me how much she’s relied on the pooch. I tell her about my friendship with Cooper. How we rib each other constantly, but how we’re also straight shooters when we need to be. She shares a few stories about her sister and their rabid love of cupcakes. I tell her about Jill, and how hard she’s worked for her shot on a Broadway stage.