“I tried to convince him to give you a safe word,” I tell her. “He wasn’t into it. I didn’t push the issue because, well, a safe word is useless if he wouldn’t listen to it anyway.”

Now she squirms, still not looking at me. “We really don’t have to talk about this.”

“Now, I’ve obviously never witnessed whatever you two do behind closed doors so maybe I’m overly worried, but after he fake-killed Vince and stayed in your bedroom anyway, I had pretty much non-stop anxiety about it for a week. I know, I know, you both insist he would never hurt you, he apparently thinks you trust him—whatever, it’s your business. But in the interest of extra caution, let’s just say he got caught up in a lusty fog and, I don’t know, didn’t realize you wanted him to stop.”

Mia’s head falls back against the back of the seat like I’m implementing cruel and unusual torture techniques. Or a mom trying to give her an awkward sex talk. Same deal, really.

“I have an idea for a makeshift safe word. It does the same thing—makes the sex stop—but doesn’t require his willingness to listen. You can say a certain thing and he’ll stop, even if he wants to keep going.”

“I don’t need this,” she informs me.

“So he says, but can you guys just—for me, okay? For my peace of mind, just take my makeshift safe word and promise me you’ll use it if you ever need to.”

“Even for you, this is so awkward,” Mia states.

“Shh,” I say, waving her off. “Okay, so, purely by accident, I figured out something that turns Mateo off.”

“Oh, my God, I don’t want to hear this. Maybe you don’t mind talking about my sex life, but I do not want to hear about yours.”

“No, no, we weren’t having sex. I was trying to keep him out of your bedroom and I said something off-handedly. Both clothed, nothing sexy about it, I swear. Would you just let me get this out?”

“I hate this conversation,” she tells me. “I hate it more than anything.”

“If Mateo ever gets out of hand in the bedroom and you need to pump the brakes, call him daddy.”

With a half-horrified grimace, Mia says, “What?”

“Really sell it. Affect a cutesy voice, something like, ‘I’ve been a bad girl, you wanna punish me, daddy?’”

Covering her ears, she says, “Stop! No. Stop, stop, stop.”

I shouldn’t enjoy her discomfort so much, but it brings me a small measure of joy. I love her, but this is fun. “He feels the same way, so if you say that to him during unwanted sexual relations, my hypothesis is that his sex drive will promptly plummet, thus eliminating the problem.”

“Oh, my God,” Mia says, covering her face with her hands.

I think I catch a snicker from the front seat so I look at Adrian, but he’s not snickering, he’s laughing his ass off.

“What?” I ask, a bit defensively. “You guys. It’s a good plan.”

Nodding, Adrian says, “It is a good plan. I’d say I wish I would’ve thought of it, but strangely I’m not familiar with Mateo’s turn-offs.” Then glancing at Mia in the rearview mirror, he lifts an eyebrow. “You should file this advice away for future reference.”

Mia shakes her head and refuses to look at either of us as she tucks Rosalie’s dress back into the bag. “I don’t want to turn him off. Yuck.”

“But now you have a strategy, just in case you ever do,” I offer. “I’d like to keep us all from going to dark places again. My Mateo sort of disappears when yours emerges, and your Mateo is a living nightmare. If anyone’s going to murder one of us, it’s going to be your Mateo.”

“He isn’t going to murder us,” she mutters, protective, as ever.

“Well, Beth probably thought that once, too. I’ve had too many close calls, and I don’t even drive him crazy the way you do, so, you know, let’s be vigilant.” I shoot another look at Adrian. “Beth drove him crazy, right?”

“Out of his fucking mind,” Adrian verifies.

I nod, raising my eyebrows knowingly at Mia. “So do you. So, let’s be smart. Let’s keep ourselves safe.”

Mia wrinkles her nose up at me, displeased with all the reality I’m raining down on her today. I’m not surprised. Mia needs to retreat into a version of reality only viewable with rose-colored glasses so she can stay soft and loving for him. I used to have rose-colored glasses, too. The main difference is, when he stomped on mine with the heel of his loafer this time, I did not go shopping for a new pair. Mia clearly has an entire cabinet full of rose-colored lenses placed in various fashionable frames, and every time he smashes a pair all to hell, she just slips on a replacement pair.

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