My cheeks heated a little. “It’s a lot even for two people. For New York, this is an enormous living space.”
He nodded and bit his lip. “Families can get big, you know.”
My breath caught. Oh, f**k. He was talking about us. Maybe his little talk with Ruthie hadn’t been senile banter. I shifted my weight nervously from side to side.
“Thinking a little far ahead, aren’t we?”
He shrugged, and a little smile turned up his lips. We didn’t say anything more about it as we finished the tour and returned to the safe haven of the upstairs apartment.
“So I have to head into the gym tonight, make sure Darren hasn’t burned the place down or something.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “He’s a fire fighter.”
“It’s a known fact that all fire fighters are pyromaniacs. He can’t be trusted. Anyway, come with me.”
“You don’t want me moping around there. I’ll be bad for business.”
He laughed. “Nonsense. I won’t know what to do with myself if you aren’t there bitching about the routine I’m giving you.”
“You’re going to make me workout?”
He flashed a mischievous grin. “Yup. Get dressed.”
I rolled my eyes and groaned. “Fine.”
He swatted my a*s as I turned.
I shot him a weak glare. “What was that for?”
“I recently realized how much I like spanking your a*s, and when you say snarky s**t, it kind of gives me the perfect excuse to.”
I pursed my lips. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”
“Oh, I do.” He wrapped an arm around my waist, spinning me so we were chest-to-chest. His mouth was close, his soft breath dancing on my lips. All kinds of dark meaning shadowed his eyes. “I like the sound of my palm slapping your a*s. And I like the sounds you make when I do it too.”
I sucked in a sharp breath, heat rising to my cheeks. “All right, you’ve effectively coerced me into wanting to go to the gym.” I disengaged from his hold and gave him a much-needed push before my sex brain took over and let him start acting on these deviant threats.
CAMERON. The gym was fairly quiet. Raina was gone too, with yoga classes being off the schedule until the new year. I was glad for that. I hadn’t had a chance to talk to Raina much about Maya, but I would if it meant quelling her concerns about what kind of relationship we had. The line I’d drawn with Raina to keep things professional would have to be redrawn. I’d let her flirt before, figuring it was harmless. That wouldn’t fly anymore.
I was doing crunches on the mat while Maya killed some time on the treadmill. Darren came into view as I rose.
“Hey,” I said, sitting up.
“Way to bail on us for Christmas, man. That one will go down in the history books, for sure.”
I cringed, regret hitting me in a way it hadn’t when Olivia was spewing her threats over the phone at me.
“Things with Maya got, I don’t know, intense, I guess. I didn’t want to leave her alone and I figured you and Liv could hold things down with Mom and Dad. How bad was it?”
Darren blew out a breath. “Uh, pretty unbearable. More than usual, I suppose, because they were freaking out about you not being there. It basically amplified all the usual awkward s**t. So yeah.”
I had to see them at some point. I’d been able to avoid them for nearly a year. I’d had a lot on my plate, but beyond that, no time ever felt right. Our time felt awkward and forced, and even without seeing them, I knew it’d be the same. I’d spent three years watching life and death play out in the desert, letting days of my life slip by. I couldn’t justify wasting another day pretending to be the son they wanted me to be or apologizing that I wasn’t. But for Darren and Olivia’s sake, I’d have to step up next time.
“Sorry. I owe you one.”
“Awesome, because they’re coming back for New Year’s. You’re taking that shift. I’ve got a date.”
“Not sure, but I’ll have one, trust me. And don’t f*****g give me that look. You owe me one, like you said.”
I sighed inwardly, hating that I had to deliver on my promise so soon. “Fine.”
“Anyway, what’s up with Maya? Everything okay?”
“Yeah, everything’s good now. Really good.”
“Cool. I’m glad to hear it.”
“All right, I’m heading out for a while. I’ll catch you tomorrow.”
He walked off and I finished up, eager to find Maya.
We took a long walk, which ended at a bakery near the park. I’d promised her chocolate if she finished an extra set of crunches. She reluctantly agreed and I’d made a mental note to bribe her with chocolate in the future.