Maeve slow-claps. “Well done, gentlemen. Well done. Or should I call you, as the Americans say, horndogs?”
“Penguins,” Fitz says. “Call us penguins.”
Maeve arches a questioning brow.
I shake my head adamantly. “Private joke. Moving on. Want to walk around the park and grill Fitz like I know you’re dying to?”
“I do,” she says with a smile.
But she doesn’t interrogate him as we wander past lush green trees and budding orange lilies. She asks him questions about New York, about Soho and the East Village, where he likes to go to see live music. She asks where he lives in the city, and he answers that it’s a spot called Gramercy Park. His favorite things about New York are all of his friends and he tries to see them as much as he can.
He asks her about me, how long we’ve known each other, and if she can handle my sarcasm.
“I manage him fairly well,” she replies. “And you?”
Fitz looks at me and winks. “Yeah, I can handle him too.”
I roll my eyes, and when Maeve happens to look away, I mouth, Manhandle.
He replies under his breath, And soon.
“And when do you leave again?” she asks.
“Thursday at two,” he says, his voice ten tons heavier than it was three seconds ago.
Maeve frowns. “That’s soon.”
Fitz shrugs, unhappily. “Yeah, about forty-eight hours from now.”
My chest tightens, the reminder making an uncomfortable knot inside me. I don’t want him to go.
“I wish I could slow down time for you,” she says, a little wistful.
“Same here,” Fitz adds, then looks my way and slides a hand up my back, rubbing. “Same here,” he repeats, and my heart squeezes with the same wish—the one that won’t come true.
When we near the edge of the park, Fitz’s phone rings. “It’s my agent. Excuse me for a second.”
He walks away several feet as he takes the call while Maeve looks at me with what now eyes.
“What?” I ask.
“Dean . . .” There’s a note of worry in her voice.
She cuts to the chase. “This is more than a fling.”
I glance over at the man I’m spending the next forty-eight hours with, and the pang returns, stinging a little more this time. “Yeah, it is. Wish I could tell you otherwise. But that’d be a lie.”
She reaches for my arm, clasping it. “You don’t owe me anything.”
“Oh, stop it, woman. I did the crime. I’ll do the time.”
She shakes her head. “I mean it. I don’t want you to pay up. But what are you going to do when he leaves?”
I swallow roughly, lifting my chin. “Same thing I always do. Get up, go to work, live my life. I’ll be fine.”
“You don’t have to pretend it’s going to be easy. This is serious. And that’s okay.”
But it can’t be serious.
He’s returning to America.
Yes, it feels like it could be something. But it won’t.
His life is there. Mine is here. There is no in-between.
That’s not even on the table.
I sigh and scrub a hand over my jaw, catching a glimpse of Fitz before I turn my attention back to Maeve. “What can you do? You meet someone. He lives across the ocean. You live here. And nothing will change that.”
She just smiles softly, knowing I’m right, knowing that this fling will end. “I know,” she whispers, and there’s a hitch in her voice, like she’s already sad for me.
I’ll have none of that. I reject it by slicing my hand through the air. “Don’t be sad. I’m having the time of my life.”
She nods, swipes a hand across her cheek, then fixes on a grin.
Fitz returns, clasping his hands, squaring his shoulders. “My new sponsorship deal is a go. My agent said the company has big plans for when I return.”
“That’s brilliant,” I say, and as the three of us stroll on through the park, I do my best to savor every second of it.
Dean and I wait by the river for my sister, the London Eye circling behind us. Emma’s usually early, but it’s almost two, time for the riverboat cruise, and she’s not here.
“Where is Emma?” I scan for her blonde head, her blue eyes.
“Are you sure you want me to go with you?” Dean asks as I survey the crowds again. “If you want it to be just you and Emma, I understand.”
I whip my gaze to him. “Yes. Just yes. I already bought you a ticket. Don’t ask again.”
“So sensitive,” he teases.
I turn to face him. “Don’t you get it, man? I want as much of you as I can have.”
“I know, but I don’t want to encroach on your time with your family.”
I grab his cheeks, locking my eyes with his. “Encroach, Dean. Encroach all you want.”
“That sounds dirty and erudite at the same time.”
“Hey,” I say, smirking. “That sounds just like a hot guy I know.”