Page 56 of We Were Once

She laughs, and continues, “Would have beat Newman Howard sophomore year in the cabana of his parents’ Hamptons house.” Grabbing hold of my wrist, she’s still talking a mile a minute. I’m not sure she wants to hear from me but prefers the excitement of living vicariously. “So, tell me. How do you manage to get out of bed some days when you have that hunky piece of man-meat lying next to you? Also, other than an ‘it was good,’ I never got the juicy details of your first time. I have a million questions.”

I look around, feeling eyes on us. Ruby doesn’t understand the use of an inside voice. “Sorry,” I mouth to a woman nearby feeding her toddler. Leaning in closer, I whisper to Ruby, “It was better than I expected and nothing like I read online. If you insist on hearing a detail . . . I feel empty without him. Even sitting here.”

“Without him inside you? Girl, you’re making me miss that new relationship sex. It’s so different than one-night stand sex.”

Resting my forearms on the table, I’m now here for this discussion. “How?”

“If you know it’s a hookup, it’s like The Fast and the Furious. Relationship sex varies from making love to fucking to learning what the other likes and gets off on.” She shrugs. “Trust me, it’s all good. A one-night stand never left me feeling like I’m missing a part of myself, though.”

That’s it. I glance back once more to make sure Joshua doesn’t overhear us talking. “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel.”

“Aw, Clo. I think it’s more than sex. I think you’re in love.” She reaches out, nudging my hand. “That’s the sweetest thing ever.” Sitting back again, she adds, “Now please tell me he goes downtown.”

“New York?”

Snapping her fingers, she then aims them down. “Your vagina, Chloe.”

“Ruby.” I hide my face between shielding hands. “Topic change. How was the donut?”

She’s a tough opponent with a steadfast stare and unrelenting spirit. “Don’t toy with me, lady. I need the details.”

“Fine. Yes.” My giggle extends beyond our table. “He goes downtown.”

“Downtown New Haven?”

I cringe when I hear his soothing tone—so innocent to the conversation at hand—that I stare at Ruby between pinched eyelids. She replies to my unspoken question. “Yes, he’s behind you.”

Well then, since he heard already, overheard that is, I might as well be honest. “We were talking about my vagina, Joshua.” I receive two offended glares from the older couple one table over.

“Ah,” he replies, taking the chair next to me. Setting the coffee on the table, he grins to himself. “I would offer to let you guys finish this conversation without me, but what’s the fun in that?”

Ruby’s hand flies out. “Exactly. And by the way, I like you.” Joshua’s eyes bulge until she adds, “Not like that. Well, like that, but I don’t mess around with my friends’ S.O.’s.”

His arm comes around me as he kicks back, making himself at home. “Am I your significant other, Chloe?”

“Why do I feel like you two will get along like a house on fire?”

That leaves them laughing, and although we came in here to pick up our order and go, we stay. The coffee is unloaded from the tray, and the blueberry muffins are pulled from the sack. As I pick off little bird bites, Joshua doesn’t hold back and takes large chunks out of his muffin, finishing it in a few bites.

Pulling my chair closer, he kisses just beneath my ear, causing me to giggle and blush. It’s so different being free in front of others like we are when we’re alone together.

A heavy sigh from Ruby gets my attention. “This living vicariously isn’t as fun as I thought. I need to find myself a man. The hookup apps for this town suck.”

“I have friends,” Joshua says, “who’d be happy to help you out. Actually, you’d be doing them a favor.”

Laughing, she says, “Thanks for the offer. I’m not quite there yet, but I’ll keep you posted.”

I’m enjoying my closest friend and boyfriend getting along, but I’m beginning to feel guilty for taking time away from my studies. “I have so much research to do. My dad would flip out if he knew I’d blown off the morning.”

Contentedly slumped against the wall, Joshua slips his hand to my lower back, his thumb rubbing the skin just under the hem of my shirt. “Why is he so tough on you?”

“Because Foxes don’t fail.”

“They don’t even make B’s,” Ruby inserts.

His eyes haven’t left mine. I’m not sure I see empathy buried in them, but I definitely see curiosity. “Do you always make straight A’s, Chloe?”

“Yes,” I whisper as if I’m ashamed. My dad is hard on me, but I know it’s because he loves me. I can’t imagine not having him in my life. I’ve never felt shame over my achievements, so why do I now?

Tags: S.L. Scott Romance