“You had a moment of clarity, Veronica? Well, so did I.”
Veronica steps back from Logan, the space between them leaving her cold. His voice is low, anguished.
“I don’t want to marry someone who needs a brush with death to decide they want me. You know I’ll always care about you, but I can’t be with you right now.”
“Wait, what? Are you breaking up with me?” She knows she’s practically screeching, but she can’t help it. She just told him she wants to marry him. How could he be breaking up with her?
Everything’s been so hard lately, she just wants to hide under the covers with Logan and shut out the world. Preferably after three or four orgasms.
But Logan nods sadly. “I’ve been so focused on your happiness, Veronica, but Jane helped me see—”
“Oh, Jane, of course.”
Why is it that everytime he brings up Jane, it precedes news she doesn’t want to hear? I’m so sick of fucking Jane.
He ignores her outburst and continues. “Jane helped me see that it’s okay for me to want to be happy, too.”
Veronica takes a deep breath, scrabbling for a semblance of control. Be a big girl. Figure out how to fix this.
“Look, Logan, I know I haven’t really been trying lately. It’s just—the bombings and my dad and—I promise I’ll do better. Fifty-fifty partnership, from here on out.”
She gives him a tremulous smile and tilts her head. Please, please don’t leave me. I can’t handle it right now.
“That’s the thing, Veronica. I don’t want a fifty-fifty partnership. I want someone who’s all in, one hundred percent. I used to think you were but—”
“Look, I know I said no the first time you asked, Logan, but I just needed some time to think about it. Marriage has never been my idea of happily ever after but—” She reaches for his hand, but he takes a step back, bumping up against the cabinet.
“It’s not even about that, Veronica. Things were bad before I asked you to marry me. I stupidly thought that would fix it.”
He runs a hand through his hair and the severity of the situation hits her. Panic blooms in her chest. She can’t breathe.
Logan’s words cut through the anxiety buzzing in her brain.
“I don’t know if it’s Neptune, your dad, the case, or what, but you’ve been unhappy for a long time. You don’t want to spend time with Wallace, you couldn’t have cared less that I was gone, you ignored me on Skype, and I don’t even know where to start when it comes to your attitudes about therapy and ‘Logan Lite.’ I just—”
“Is this about the therapy thing again?” she snaps. She thought she was going to die tonight, in that deserted cabin in the woods. In that moment, all she wanted was Logan. She finally decided to marry him. And he’s bringing up therapy? If that’s what it takes to get him to drop it.
“Fine, I’ll go to therapy with you!”
But he doesn’t agree, doesn’t sweep her up and kiss her and make all her demons recede. He crosses his arms over his chest and takes another step back, leaning against the kitchen sink.
“The Veronica I used to know always believed I could be better. I made myself better—for you. And then it still wasn’t good enough. You—you’ve always been a bitch, Veronica, but you used to be nice, too.”
“Nice? You want me to be nice? Logan, you must not know me at all!” She throws her hands up and retreats to pace the living room in a tight, angry circle.
What the hell does he want? Why does this have to happen now?
“I used to, Veronica. I used to think I knew you better than anyone else could, ever. But every day, you put more distance between us, and in spite of everything I do to be more open to you... you just keep shutting me out. I don’t even know what I did.”
Logan sighs again and rubs the back of his neck. “Look, I’m gonna go crash with Dick for a few days and then I’ll be...deployed for a while. So I’ll be out of your hair and you can—”
“Where are you going?” She stops her pacing to stare, unseeing, out the windows. She can’t look at him, or the tears swimming in her eyes will overflow and she can’t—she just can’t. Arms crossed over her chest, she barely keeps it together.
“You know I can’t tell you.” His voice is quiet, hoarse with emotion, but Veronica can’t answer over the tears choking her. Another second and she’ll be bawling her eyes out. She clears her throat, tries to make her words sound normal.
“Okay. I’m just gonna…” She heads to the door, snagging her bag on the way. She can’t bring herself to look into his brown eyes, it would wreck her. “You can have some time to grab what you need.”
She flees, slamming the door behind her. Running down the stairs to the beach, the sobs rip out of her raw throat. Her purse bangs against her legs but she doesn’t slow down until she reaches the shoreline.
Dropping to her knees, the cold from the sand seeps through her jeans. Her chest heaves and her breath comes in great gulps. She’s a mess, and trying to wipe her face with the sleeve of her black leather jacket doesn’t help.
You’ll just ruin the leather, Veronica, and it’s not like you can afford to have it dry cleaned.
The thought only makes her sob harder.
How could I let this happen? Where do I go from here?
Veronica sits on the beach, crying, until she calms, balling the wet sand into clumps in her fists.
You’ll do what you always do, Veronica, she thinks to herself. You’ll solve the case, put the bad guy behind bars, and keep moving on. Don’t let anyone in and you can’t get hurt.
Stumbling back to their apartment, she steels herself for what she’ll find there. With a fortifying breath, she fishes her keys out of her bag and unlocks the door. Pony bowls her over, but she can’t muster up the strength to even interact with her. She gives her some awkward pats and inspects the small space.
Logan doesn’t have much in the way of possessions, but the bare spots—on his nightstand where his favorite pictures used to sit, in the shower where he kept his shampoo, empty hangers in his half of the closet—are glaring. The worst is the shiny silver key, staring at her from the kitchen counter.
Without even bothering to undress, Veronica flops down onto the bed. It still smells like Logan and she wraps herself up in the sheets, burying her face in his pillow. Maybe if she closes her eyes, she can convince herself he’s still here.
Pony hops up on the bed, her warm weight a comforting presence. Veronica doesn’t bother to enforce the rules and make her sleep in her dog bed.
Why bother? It’s not like I need to leave room for Logan.
The bleak thought starts another round of tears, dampening Logan’s pillow beneath her cheek. Exhausted, she finally drops into a restless sleep.
After a near-death experience with a drug cartel and the worst breakup she’s ever suffered, Veronica throws herself into the bombing case with a new fervor. Following Penn Epner around town and watching her dad dismantle the bomb at Kane High School certainly take her mind off her personal turmoil.
Now, though, she shies away from thinking about how close she came to losing him and the sheer panic she felt most of the afternoon.
Keep moving, Veronica. Think about something else.
Don’t think about the fact that he’s all you have now that Logan…
She lingers in the parking lot, not having anywhere better to be. The letdown from the end of the case threatens to suffocate her so she stays, answering questions from the police and watching them collect evidence. Anything to avoid returning to her empty apartment, facing the fact that Logan’s not there.
She expects relief to fill her as the squad car carries Penn off to the station but something about his words niggles in the back of her mind…
IF I’m able to visit him…
His stupid limerick…
It hits her like a ton of bricks.
I know what happened.
Veronica glances at her watch.
“There’s another bomb!” she yells, jumping up off the curb where she had been absently studying the high school.
Every eye turns to her, incredulous.
Where else could Penn have planted it?
Her gaze darts around the parking lot, thinking fast, until it lights upon her blue car.
“The backpack.” Turning to her dad, she grabs his arm. “It was so important to him, remember?”
Comprehension dawns on Keith’s face. “The backpack,” he repeats, then yells, “Check Veronica’s car!”
She rushes over to try to see in the car window, but he pulls her back. Thankfully, Langdon had called the bomb techs and they’re still on site, carefully disposing of the explosives that Keith had defused. They swarm her Hyundai Tiburon, shouting commands and moving with an efficiency she hadn’t thought possible in Neptune.
Veronica stands on tiptoe to see what’s going on, but she can’t get past the wall of police officers that’s formed in front of her vehicle.
Changing her tactic, she takes advantage of her size and peers down low through the crowd. One of the bomb techs pulls her backpack out of the car, examining it with a panicked look on her face.
“There’s no time!” The tech shoves it back inside and slams the car door. “Get everyone to safety!”
Gripping Keith’s arm tightly, Veronica hustles him over to the main entrance of the new high school. The alcove created by the overhang isn’t ideal cover, but it’s better than nothing. He limps and stumbles as best he can. Veronica vows to pay more attention to what’s really going on with him.
For some reason, the thought that runs through her head has nothing to do with their safety, but the surety that Jake Kane will be so pissed if his new school blows up. She stifles a hysterical giggle, remembering the look on his face when she interrupted his speech. And poor Mr. Clemmons. He glared at her the whole time he and Wallace hustled the students back onto the bus to safety.
You’d think saving their lives would earn me some brownie points. But—
The blast from the bomb rocks the mob congregating in the entryway. Veronica’s knocked off her feet, then is helped up by one of the police officers.
As the smoke clears, the bomb techs rush to put out the fire. Veronica’s car is a mess of flames and twisted metal.
Her stomach clenches and she drops back to the ground, legs splaying out in front of her, the breath rushing out of her lungs.
I could have been in there. If we were still sharing a car, Logan could have been in there.
Fumbling in her purse, her shaking hands close around her cell phone. Without giving it a second thought, she presses his name, operating more on muscle memory than anything.
“Hi, you’ve reached Logan. Leave a message.”
Of course she gets his voicemail. He broke up with her, told her he was being deployed. He could already be gone, for all she knows. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to take her call.
When did he stop leaving inspirational greetings, anyway? Why didn’t I notice? What else has changed about Logan that I missed?
The voicemail beeps and she realizes silence is spooling over the line.
“Uh, Logan, it’s me. There was a bomb. Well, two bombs, actually. But we caught the bomber and everyone’s fine. I just wanted you to know in case...you heard about it.”
Still aching for Logan, she hangs up. She wants to track his phone, find him, throw herself into his arms.
What would he say if he were here?
She scrubs at her eyes, then stands and turns to her dad, thoughtfully giving her space a few feet behind her. She moves next to him and, in silence, they watch the emergency personnel begin to tackle the mess. Looking at the carnage of her car and her life, she knows.
“Maybe Logan was right...about all of it,” she murmurs to herself.
“What’s that, honey?” He wraps his arm around her shoulders and she leans in, gathering courage.
“I think Logan was right. It’s time, Dad,” she responds.
“Time for what?”
“Time to get help.”
Jane won’t see her, of course. Veronica calls—and begs, and cajoles, and pouts, and huffs, because for some reason the rejection stings—but it would be a conflict of interest. Jane does, however, recommend Dr. Martin, a fellow therapist in her practice.
Which is how Veronica finds herself sitting in the office waiting room, tapping her fingers on her thigh.
“Are you Veronica? I’m Linda Martin.”
She looks up at the pleasant voice, then jumps to her feet, hand outstretched.
Dr. Martin is probably in her mid-forties, blonde, with thick-framed glasses and a competent air. Veronica pastes a smile on her face and pretends this is better than a dentist appointment.
Cowboy up, Mars. It’s like a job interview. Best foot forward. Fake it til you make it. Keep hanging in there. And remember, you decided to do this. Now follow through.
“Hi, Dr. Martin.” Veronica hopes her palms aren’t sweaty as they shake hands. She adjusts the strap of her bag on her shoulder, trying to hide her nervousness.
“Right this way.” Dr. Martin leads her back toward her office with a pleasant smile. “And you can call me Dr. Martin if you prefer but Linda is fine, too.”
Linda’s office has a mahogany desk in front of a wall of bookshelves but instead of sitting behind the desk, she takes a comfortable chair by the window. Veronica perches on the edge of the couch across from her, poised for flight.
“So, Veronica, what brings you in today?”
“Um,” She rests her elbows on her knees, hands clasped in front of her and stares at her cuticles, willing herself to stay put. “My boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—kept suggesting it, really thought I should talk to someone.”
“And what do you think?”
She shrugs, still not meeting Linda’s eyes.
“You said ‘ex-boyfriend.’ Is that why you two broke up?”
Veronica snorts. “I thought everything was fine. I thought we were on the same page. Then he goes and proposes and ruins everything.”
“He proposed to you? And you said…?”
“I said no.” Veronica looks at Linda, dares her to challenge her on it.
“What made you say no?” Linda’s face is open, assessing but not judging.
Sighing, Veronica tilts her head back and stares up at the ceiling. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold any answers. It’s awkward to talk about her most personal feelings with a complete stranger, puts her on edge. But she remembers the way her car looked when it went up in flames, remembers the horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. She takes another fortifying breath.
“I—my job, my parents’ example, I just—I’d always said I was never getting married. And Logan—my ex—knew that. So it felt like...a ploy? A way to say that he loved me more than I loved him and then when I said no, justify leaving me.”
“Do you regret your decision?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know,” she mumbles, drawing a small circle on the carpet with the toe of her sneaker.
“You thought he proposed so that he could leave you?” Linda’s poker face is excellent, still not giving anything away. Veronica’s pretty sure she could beat Cliff at her dad’s weekly game.
“Well, when you say it like that, it sounds crazy but, yeah. And it worked, didn’t it?”
“It did. Which makes me wonder...why did you want to push him away?”
“I never said that!” Veronica retorts, her defenses snapping into place. Enough is enough . “Everything was fine. I don’t know why he wanted to change anything.”
“Maybe it wasn’t as fine for him as it was for you?”
Screw this. Veronica’s eyes flash and she shoots to her feet.
“Just something for you to think about.” Linda is unperturbed, cutting her off before she can argue. “Our time’s up, but I look forward to seeing you next week.”
“Doubtful,” Veronica mutters under her breath as she rushes out of the office.
Even though she plans on skipping her next appointment with Dr. Linda, she somehow finds herself in the waiting room once again. And again the week after that. Apparently, she really doesn’t have anything better to do.
Linda is a good listener, and while Veronica doesn’t want to admit it, it is kind of nice to have someone in her life who gives insightful advice without taking sides. It gets progressively easier to open up, bit by bit. Veronica avoids talking about Logan with her, though, not sure she’s ready to bring that up again.
After the pizza bombing case, Mars Investigations has been in the news so Veronica’s not surprised when Linda asks about work.
“So your job…” Linda prompts, folding her hands demurely in her lap at the start of their session.
“I’m a PI,” Veronica supplies, “and I work with my dad.”
Linda raises an eyebrow. “How does that affect your personal relationship with him?”
“It’s fine.” Why does the simple question immediately make her feel the need to defend her choices? “It’s always been just the two of us. We work well together.”
She hopes her brusque tone will encourage Linda to drop it, but no such luck.
“How do you two handle conflicts in the office?”
“We don’t really have any.” And they don’t, not really. They understand each other. Keith doesn’t push too much anymore, gives her space to work and think.
Linda’s face stays impassive. “Okay. Did you always want to be a PI?”
She thinks back. As a child, she’d had more typical career aspirations—nurse, teacher, astronaut. Then she thought law enforcement would be the best fit, but her time with the FBI had proved otherwise.
Her dad had started pushing law school as an option when she was at Stanford, and it’d seemed like a good idea. He’d been happy, she’d liked the challenge. Win-win. Paying off her loans now, though, leaves a bitter aftertaste in her mouth whenever she lets herself dwell on it.
“Well, not exactly,” she answers Linda, examining her cuticles. “I graduated from law school, actually. But I don’t want to practice.”
Dr. Linda raises her eyebrows but doesn’t ask about that. Instead, she goes with, “Do you like your job?”
“Yes. This is what I want to do.” Veronica’s so used to defending her choice, the answer is immediate, rote. But Logan’s words drift back to her, reminding her that shutting everyone out has also become second nature. She pushes past the reflex.
Glancing away, she adds, “But I think it’s ruining my relationships.”
Or maybe I just destroy everything I touch.
Her ruined car, twisted and smoking, comes to mind.
Linda surprises her by circling back to her law degree. “Have you thought about using that law background?”
If Linda’s goal is to throw her off, then it’s working because that makes her pause. She can’t really see herself leaving MI, but...
Twisting her hands together, Veronica waits a beat, trying to figure out how to answer Linda’s question. She opens her mouth to explain exactly why that wouldn’t work but then halts. Her dad had said something similar just a few days ago. Maybe it’s worth considering, at least.
“Maybe...maybe if there was a way to use it to help the business…” Veronica clears her throat. “I want to continue working with my dad. That’s one of my favorite things about my job.”
That and the thrill of the hunt. But she hasn’t felt that since Penn. That case ruined everything.
“That’s great.” Dr. Linda gives her a small smile. “Sometimes remembering what we like about our work is a really helpful step. From what I’ve gleaned, you’re a good PI, Veronica, and I don’t doubt that you’re passionate about it. We just need to figure out how to help you rekindle that.”
Linda glances at the clock. “Time’s up for today. I look forward to seeing you next week.”
As the months go by, Veronica quickly learns that one of Dr. Linda’s buzzwords is balance. While she sometimes has to fight the urge to roll her eyes at the frequent use of the word, the general principle helps.
“A job can be fulfilling without consuming you, Veronica,” she says in one of their early sessions, and Veronica takes it to heart. The pizza bomber case had taken over her life, left her feeling guilty for neglecting Logan and her friends, but that’s how cases have always worked for her. She doesn’t know any other way to function.
But Linda helps her see that she can work without making it her identity. She can give her job her complete focus when she’s at the office, but she strives hard not to take work home with her. Or if she does work in the evening, she makes sure to take time off during the day.
Balance. What an interesting concept.
Linda encourages her to invest in other relationships, too, and she enjoys really being present in her friendship with Wallace. She listens to him in a way she hasn’t done in a long time, and she gets to know Shae, too. Even babysitting for Noah isn’t nearly as terrible as she expects. Without feeling the expectation to want to have kids, she can let herself love him and embrace being Aunt Veronica.
Seeing a therapist is not the level of hell that Veronica expected. But she almost quits the day Linda decides to tackle her relationship with her dad.
“Veronica,” she begins, crossing her legs demurely at the ankle, “have you ever heard of codependency?”
Veronica snorts. “You do remember that I did my undergrad in psychology, right? Clearly I’m not very good at applying what I learned,” she gestures at her presence in the office, “but yes, I know the term.”
Linda hesitates, obviously choosing her words carefully. “Can you think of any relationships in your life that might be codependent?”
Her hackles rise. “Nope.”
“I thought you might say that, but your relationship with your father—”
“No. You don’t understand.” Veronica leaps to her feet, hands balled into fists. “We work together, we see a lot of each other. That doesn’t make us codependent.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Linda’s voice stays calm, placid. “But one of the hallmarks of a codependent relationship is a desperate need to please the other person.”
“I do stuff all the time that my dad disapproves of,” Veronica shoots back.
“I—I’m here. In Neptune. I came home to help Logan, and I realized how much I missed taking cases. I decided to stay. My dad wanted me to live in New York, become a corporate lawyer.”
“So, you didn’t like law?”
“No, I did. It’s corporate law, that wasn’t for me. I liked figuring out the right arguments, solving the puzzles. It felt good, the justice aspect of it all.”
“So, why aren’t you practicing? To prove a point to your father?”
Veronica stops. She doesn’t know what to say to that.
“It’s understandable. Teenagers fight their dependency on parents by rebelling, even if it’s not in their own self-interest. It’s not easy to transition into adult relationships with our parents, especially if you were away most of the time. And it’s not bad to be dependent on those we love. Just something for you to think about this week.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, she huffs and storms out of Linda’s office.
Codependent. Yeah, right. That’s the last you’ll see of me, Dr. Linda.
But over the next few weeks, Veronica finds Linda’s assessment creeping into her thoughts at the most inopportune times.
She’s about to invite her dad over for dinner and a movie one night when she doesn’t want to be alone, but she pauses, hand on her phone.
I’m not codependent. I’m not.
But just the same, she doesn’t make the call. And the tension she hadn’t even noticed creeping into the MI office starts to melt away.
Maybe balance isn’t so bad.
So she resumes her appointments with Dr. Linda.
For the first time in...years, if she’s being honest, Veronica feels...okay. Stable. Not exactly bursting with happiness but the dark cloud that had settled over her recedes.
Nothing can fill the giant gaping Logan-sized hole in her life. She misses him with a desperation she’s never felt before. When he was deployed, she always knew he’d be coming back home to her. Even when they were apart for nine years and she forced herself to cut all ties with him, it wasn’t this bad.
Now, there are reminders of him everywhere—the new leather jacket he surprised her with before their breakup, the “Go Navy” baseball cap she found stuffed between the couch cushions, a spare bottle of his shampoo under the bathroom sink. Not to mention, they’d made love on practically every surface in their—her—tiny apartment, so she can’t even look around without feeling Logan’s presence.
She hates how cliched it is, but there are so many things she appreciates about Logan now that he’s gone. He took care of her, yeah, but he also could make her laugh like nobody else. He wasn’t afraid to call her on her bullshit, which she hates, but time with Linda has helped her see it’s something she needs. She clung to Logan so tightly for so long because of their shared history, but the time apart has made her realize she wants him to be part of her future.
Whenever her social life comes up, Linda encourages her to move on. Veronica’s adamant that she’s not ready to start dating anyone else—maybe ever, but she doesn’t tell Linda that. Trying to build a new life without Logan in it is the hardest thing she’s ever done. She’s not in therapy so he’ll take her back, she needed these changes for herself. But damn if she doesn’t miss him like crazy.
Veronica started jogging a few years ago, and Linda encourages her to keep exercising—and to eat healthy, but Veronica can only tackle so much self-improvement at a time. She’s not giving up ice cream and Italian food. She also has an 80-pound dog who needs to get out and run, so they start taking to the beach each evening.
One night on their run, Pony lopes along next to her when suddenly the dog all but jerks the leash out of her hand and goes tearing off along the sand. Veronica tries to hang on, but she can’t keep up with the frantic pace and the leash slips through her fingers as the dog careens towards a stranger with a surfboard.
The stranger turns at the sound of her voice...and he’s not so strange after all.
Her heart lurches.
It’s been four months since she’s seen him. He looks— good. Amazing, actually, in his little blue swim trunks.
Pony halts in front of him, of course, and Logan bends down to scratch the dog behind the ears. Veronica continues slowly making her way over to them.
“Hey, Pony. Yeah, I missed you, too.” Logan grimaces as the dog licks his face. “Thanks for that. Are you being good, obeying your mommy?”
Baby talk to the dog? He has to know what that does to me.
Looking up, he meets her eye.
“Hey, Veronica. How are you?”
“Um, hi. Sorry about that.” She gestures at Pony. “I didn’t realize you were back in town.”
“Yeah, been back for a few weeks now.”
A few weeks, and he didn’t even call me?
Pony presses against his legs and flops down on the sand, exposing her belly for pets.
“Aw, you’re going to get all dirty if you do that, girl.” He rubs her belly anyway. “Now your mom is going to have to brush all that out of your fur.”
“You could help,” Veronica blurts without thinking. Anything to fill this awkward moment. “I mean, she’s your dog, too. And clearly she misses you.”
Glancing up at her from under his lashes, a corner of his mouth quirks up in a smile. “Shared custody, huh?”
God, she misses him so much. She wants to throw herself at him. Twisting her hands together so that she keeps them to herself, she nods.
“Dogs need a father figure, too, you know.”
“All right.” Logan shrugs. “I’ll come by tomorrow after work and take her for a run. Is that okay?”
“I’ll have her all ready to go.”
Grabbing the leash, she tugs on Pony, who refuses to leave Logan’s side.
You and me both, girl.
“Go on, Pony. Be a good girl and listen to your mommy. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Running into Logan throws her for such a loop, Veronica schedules an emergency session with Linda.
“So, Veronica, why did you want me to squeeze you in today? You said on the phone it was important.”
Hands clasped between her knees, she eyes her therapist across the sitting area.
“Do you believe in ‘The One?’” she asks abruptly.
“Do you?” Linda counters.
Veronica’s mouth twists at the typical therapy tactic. She’s started to recognize many of Linda’s techniques from her undergrad studies. It turns out a psychology degree doesn’t do any good, though, if she’s not willing to apply it. So she replies honestly.
“No, not really. I’m the opposite of a romantic. But Logan and I have this history—he understands things about me that no one else does, that no one ever can.”
“Isn’t that because you’re not willing to let anyone else in?”
That’s not the point.
Veronica stands and paces, trying to breathe through her frustration. She doesn’t want a lecture from Linda about being more open and getting back into the dating scene. They’ve talked through much of her relationship history, her traumatic past, her issues with her mom, but still, Dr. Linda doesn’t seem to understand Logan.
“It’s just—I’m not working on all this stuff for him. But I do want him in my life.”
“You’ve really strived to achieve balance in all areas, Veronica. What would it look like if your relationship with Logan was balanced, too?” Linda glances at the clock. “I’m going to have to let you think about that one and get back to me. It’s time to go.”
Driving back to work, she turns off the radio and thinks about Linda’s question.
It’s not something that’s ever characterized things between her and Logan, that’s for sure. Maybe for a while...right after he returned from that first deployment…. But now his job means he leaves at the drop of a hat, and it’s hard to feel like they’re really in a relationship when one of them is always rushing off somewhere. It was more like they encountered each other in their shared spaces, shared orbits, but hadn’t really interacted for a while.
She sighs and taps the steering wheel. Now’s the time when Linda would ask her if she was expecting Logan to change jobs for her.
It would make it easier, but she’s not expecting it. Really.
And Veronica’s not willing to change her job, either.
Balance. Being open, letting him in. Trusting him. Listening, paying attention to what’s important to him. Being present and engaged with the important people in her life.
Is there a way to make it work?
Stopping at a red light, she realizes that it might not matter anyway. Logan has been back in town for weeks and didn’t even call her. Maybe he really is done with her for good this time.
But he’s coming over tonight to pick up Pony...so maybe all hope isn’t lost.
Impulsively, she turns into Java the Hut, parks the car, and hops out.
After grabbing a mocha with an extra shot, whipped cream, and cinnamon sprinkles on top for herself, she orders the disgustingly healthy green tea drink Logan likes.
Friends get each other drinks. It’s not a big deal.
“Oh, I was stopping anyway, thought you might like one.” Veronica casually hands Logan the drink as he stands in the doorway, shifting his weight from foot to foot. She ignores the spark as her fingers brush against his.
“Really?” His eyebrows hit his hairline. “Um, thanks.”
Pony circles his legs excitedly as he takes a sip. “That’s just how I like it.”
Veronica clips the leash onto Pony’s collar and hands it to him. “Don’t keep her out too late, and don’t get her all sugared up before bringing her home.”
“Yes, Mom.” He winks at her as he closes the door behind them, and it sends a flutter straight to her belly.
Veronica keeps herself busy, channeling her nervous energy as she scrubs the kitchen floor while they’re gone. Thirty minutes later, Logan knocks on the door.
Right. He has to knock because he doesn’t have a key.
She opens the door to his grimace. “I have bad news, Veronica. She found a dead fish on the waterline and rolled in it before I could stop her.”
Veronica huffs a sigh and rolls her eyes to the ceiling. “Why, why must she love dead fish so much?”
Catching a whiff of her dog, she wrinkles her nose. “You’re gross, you know?” But there’s no heat behind her words. “Come on, girl, let’s get you in the bath. Thanks, Logan.”
She turns to head towards the bathroom, surprised at Logan’s hand on her arm. It’s the first time he’s touched her in four months.
“Oh, I’ll do it. I mean, it’s my fault she rolled in it. Or I could help, at least.”
Veronica’s mouth drops open. Their—her—tiny apartment only has a shower, not an actual bathtub. The only way to get the dog clean is to actually get under the spray with her. Pony hates the experience and usually tries to escape, soaking everyone and the bathroom in the process. She can’t help but blush at the thought of Logan, in the shower, helping her bathe the dog.
It must dawn on him, too, because he chuckles nervously. “Well, I can get her in there for you, I guess.”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary. But next time it’s your job.” She aims for a breezy tone, desperately hoping there’s a next time. Having Logan back in any capacity is addictive, and she wants more.
“Uh, okay. I’m working nights for a while next week but—”
“That’s okay. You can come over in the morning after you get off work, if you want. I’ll make you breakfast.”
Not wanting to look needy, she shrugs. “It’s the least I can do, if you’re going to take my dog out for a run or give her a bath.”
“Our dog,” he corrects, eyes soft.
Veronica can’t hold his gaze when he looks like that, so she turns to the kitchen, opens the refrigerator door and grabs the first thing she finds—lemon juice—and sets it on the counter, staring at it intently.
“Um, I could come on Wednesday?” he offers, tentative. “Breakfast sounds...nice. Can I bring anything?”
She desperately hopes he doesn’t ask what she’s doing with the lemon juice. “Nah, just your running clothes to change into. I’ll let you take Pony out.”
At the sound of her name, the dog bounds over and Veronica latches onto the distraction.
“Ick. I’ve gotta go give her a bath, Logan, but I’ll see you on Wednesday.”
He leans down, rubs Pony behind the ears just how she likes it, before pulling his sweaty t-shirt away from his chest and wiping his face with it.
Is he showing off his abs on purpose? Not playing fair at all. Her libido definitely stands up and takes notice.
“See ya, Veronica.”
When he’s gone, she sinks down to the kitchen floor, patting her dog. “I’m thinking a cold shower for both of us.”
“So have you talked to Logan recently?”
Linda settles into her chair, sips a cup of coffee, and Veronica raises her eyebrows.
“We don’t even start with the small talk anymore? No questions about my job or my dad or…?”
“You made an emergency appointment to talk about Logan. Of course he’s the first thing I’m going to ask about. Did you see him?”
She eyes Veronica over the rim of her cup and Veronica sighs. It’s not like Linda doesn’t already know the answer.
“Yes, okay. I did.”
“And how did that go?”
“Well, it’s not like I threw myself at him or anything.”
Linda raises a brow. “Is that...a normal thing for you?”
Veronica snorts and shifts, tucking one of her sneakered feet underneath her. “For me, no. For me and Logan, yes.”
Blowing on her coffee, Linda continues to give her a curious stare, obviously waiting for Veronica to elaborate.
“Look, it’s just...things have always been kind of—” she was going to say explosive, but her recent experience with bombs gives her pause. “Well, chemistry was never lacking, let’s say that.”
“So what was lacking?” Linda asks.
Honestly, up until Logan proposed, she hadn’t thought anything was missing. Veronica stares at her hands, unsure how to answer.
“At one point, you told me that you felt like he proposed so that he could prove he loved you more than you loved him and you pushed him away. Why was it a competition?”
Veronica remembers Logan’s words the night he broke up with her. “I don’t want a fifty-fifty partnership. I want someone who’s all in, one hundred percent.”
“Maybe I had...withdrawn a little.”
“And why did you do that?”
She grinds her teeth, hating it when Linda pulls therapy moves on her like she’s doing now.
“I’m not exactly into sharing—you might have noticed.”
There. Sarcasm is always a good response.
But Linda just stares her down.
“I have noticed, actually. And has it helped you?”
Veronica opens her mouth to retort, but nothing comes out.
Damn. Why does she have to be right all the time?
Veronica’s at the grocery store, trying to decide what to fix Logan for breakfast the next day, and trying to convince herself that it’s not a big deal.
It doesn’t matter what she makes. After his many deployments, Logan’s not a picky eater anymore. He’s not half bad in the kitchen, either. She loved it when he used to make pancakes for her on lazy Sunday mornings when he was home. Her stomach rumbles at the thought.
She scans the shelves, trying to come up with something special but which also won’t look like she put too much thought into it.
She knows he’ll eat anything, but he prefers weird healthy food these days. So Veronica fills her basket with bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, eggs, and cheese, figuring that veggie omelettes are within her skill set. And she grabs some of that gross protein powder he used to keep in the apartment, figuring she can make him a smoothie, too.
And if she snags a pound of bacon for herself, too, well, a girl can’t live on veggie omelettes alone.
Because it’s just friends eating breakfast. It’s not a big deal, she repeats.
She selects a bottle of wine to take with her to Wallace’s for dinner tonight—pinot, because that’s Shae’s favorite—and some frosted cookies from the bakery for Noah. He has his daddy’s appetite.
See? Buying people’s favorite foods. Totally normal.
“Oh, hey, come on in.”
Veronica skilfully corrals Pony to open the door then leaps out of the way as the dog rushes Logan.
He leans down and rubs Pony’s ears, cooing at her. He’s still in his fatigues, and he sets a duffle bag down by the door.
In an attempt to prove how nonchalant this breakfast is, she’s thrown on a Stanford hooded sweatshirt over a tank top and yoga pants. Should she have showered, though? Put on some jeans?
Biting her lip in consideration, she pads to the kitchen in her fuzzy socks and begins pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator and setting them down on the counter.
“Mind if I change real fast?” Logan jerks his thumb in the direction of the bathroom, and she nods.
He grabs his duffle and she sighs, definitely not thinking about him getting naked in her bathroom.
Focus on the food, Veronica.
He emerges minute later, clad now in grey athletic shorts and a tight black t-shirt. Not that she’s looking. Lacing up his tennis shoes, he grabs Pony’s leash and they take off out the door.
Sipping coffee as she cooks, Veronica chops the peppers, mushrooms, and onions and sautés them on the stove before cracking the eggs and starting the omelettes. She turns on the radio to help drown out her thoughts and brews another pot of coffee before frying the bacon.
Just breakfast, no big deal, she repeats on loop as she cooks.
Logan lets himself back into the apartment, and Pony makes a beeline for the pan of bacon.
“No, that’s not for you.” Her tone is firm. “To your bed.”
Dejected, the dog ambles over to her cushion as Logan smiles and leans on the counter. Veronica fills a mug of coffee for him and adds just the right amount of cream, the way he likes it. Wordlessly she hands it to him and he takes a sip.
“Breakfast is almost ready.” She busies herself with the plates, carefully sliding the omelettes out of the skillet and adding some bacon to hers.
“Sorry,” she apologizes to Logan. “I was trying to make a healthy breakfast for you, but I couldn’t resist the bacon.”
Perched on a stool at the counter, Logan halts, his bite suspended in midair.
“You wanted to make a healthy breakfast for me?”
Veronica tries not to blush as she stammers. “Well, yeah, I mean, it’s just—I know it’s important to you.”
He reaches out, brushes his fingers gently over hers before running a hand through his short hair. He clears his throat.
“That’s really great of you, Veronica—like, really, really great—but, um, I don’t know how to say this. Not without sounding like a total dick, at least.”
“Have you developed an allergy that you forgot to mention?” she jokes, but her face falls when she sees the distress in his eyes.
“I want to be your friend, Veronica, and hang out but...I just think it’s only fair of me to tell you—nothing’s changed.”
Her stomach clenches, and not because she’s hungry.
I’ll never forgive myself if I lost my chance.
“Are you seeing someone else?” she whispers.
Relief fills her chest at his words.
“Maybe I’ve changed?” she offers, and steadily meets his gaze.
“What do you mean?”
Shrugging, she takes a sip of coffee. “Let me prove it to you, Logan.”
“I took your advice. I’m seeing a therapist and working on some things.” Aiming for casual, she shoves her mouth full of eggs. This is always what I discuss over breakfast.
Logan’s eyebrows rise.
“I—wow, Veronica. I’m really—proud of you.” He glances down at his plate, stabs a stray mushroom with his fork. “I know that’s not easy.”
“So will you?” At his blank stare, she elborates. “Give me a chance to show you I’ve changed?”
Logan huffs a sarcastic laugh. “I’d be quite the hypocrite if I didn’t. What do you have in mind?”
“Go out to dinner with me,” Veronica blurts, unthinking. But she presses her lips together and lets it stand.
He stares at her, intensity burning bright in his eyes, then gives a decisive jerk of his head.
“Okay. But it will have to be when I’m back. I’m on nights and then gone for a few weeks.”
Veronica gulps, brushes her hand lightly over his cheek. “Okay. Stay safe.”
The moment becomes too much for her. Dropping her gaze, she clears her throat. “For Pony.”
She spins to check on the coffee and her eyes light on the giant tub of protein powder that she bought. “Oh, cuss, I was gonna make smoothies.”
Even Veronica has to admit, her conversation stylings are lacking today.
More coffee. That’s what I need. It’s definitely not being this close to Logan again, scrambling my brain like the omelettes.
Yeah, sure, Veronica.
Stretching on her tiptoes to reach the container on the top of the fridge, her fingers just barely graze it. Suddenly, Logan is at her back, grabbing it easily. Spinning, she’s engulfed in his presence and can’t tear her gaze away from his.
“Are you bulking up, Veronica?”
His voice breaks the spell and she laughs nervously.
“Oh, no, I just, um, I know you like this and I...found it on sale.” She pushes the tub into his chest at his raised eyebrows.
“Yeah.” It wasn’t. “Unless you’ve switched brands?”
“Nope, still my favorite. Um, thanks for thinking of me.” He clears his throat. “So dinner? When I’m back.”
“Yep. It’s a—” Don’t say date. “Plan.”
“So I heard you’ve been seeing Logan.” Wallace pins her with his sharpest stare across his farmhouse table while his wife gasps.
“And you didn’t tell us?” Shae chimes in, pouring Veronica a glass of wine. “I’m hurt.”
“I didn’t mention it...because it’s not a big deal. But obviously someone did.” Veronica raises her eyebrows pointedly. “Which, if I’m not mistaken, is outside the bounds of our custody agreement. Wallace, you’re clearly mine after the break up.
“Who did Logan get?”
“So you can see why my boy still needs me.” Wallace gives her the wide, charming grin he knows she can’t resist.
“Go back to the ‘you’ve been seeing Logan’ part,” Shae insists, shushing Wallace.
“He’s stopped by a few times, taken Pony for a run.” Veronica tries to downplay everything as best she can.
Of course, my already-perceptive best friend had to go and marry a lawyer. I’ll never get anything past the two of them.
“That’s not how he told it.” Wallace raises a brow, takes a bite of the chocolate mousse Shae made for dessert.
“I’m surprised you’d get in the middle of things like this, Wallace. Isn’t it beneath you?” Veronica teases, looking away and trying to change the subject.
Wallace persists, “I’m just trying to get the story straight.”
“You mean, gossip like an old woman.”
“Nobody gossips worse than women, V. Except men.” Shae laughs and pats her husband on the shoulder. “Leave her alone, Wallace. She clearly doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“I’m just saying, I thought I should have heard if from Veronica first.” Pointing his fork at her, Wallace takes another bite and continues to stare her down.
“Fine. I’m sorry, buddy. I should have told you. But it’s not a big deal,” she emphasizes.
“Do you want it to be?” Shae questions, standing up to clear the dessert plates, reminding Veronica that she must be a formidable opponent in the courtroom. I thought she was on my side. Shae’s tone is casual, but Veronica knows the other woman is listening intently.
Sighing, she gives up. “Yeah, maybe?”
She blows out a frustrated breath and runs her fingers through her hair.
“Do you believe in 'The One'?” Asking the same query she posed to Dr. Linda, she waits to hear what her friends have to say.
Shae sits down beside Wallace and he grabs her hand, running his fingers across her knuckles. He answers Veronica’s question, but doesn’t take his eyes off his wife.
“I didn’t used to. But now...I don’t know.” A lump forms in Veronica’s throat at her best friend’s gaze, glowing with love for Shae. “It’s not perfect, of course, but there are a lot of things about Shae and I...that just click. We have to work at it, but…”
“I love you, too, honey.” Shae squeezes Wallace’s hand. “Veronica, are you saying Logan is 'The One'?”
Veronica throws her hands up in the air. “I don’t know? I never used to believe in that. I lived without him for almost a decade and dated other guys in there but...” She clears her throat. “Yeah, he’s the one I want to be with.”
“So be with him, V. But you gotta be all in this time.”
“But, Wallace, it’s...hard.”
Wallace nods at her, his eyes full of compassion. “It is. But it’s worth it. What’s holding you back?”
She traces her finger around the rim of her wine glass, not willing to meet his stare. “What if something happens? His job...or my job...or…?”
“Yeah, there are risks.” Shae’s soft tone is full of kindness. She props her chin on her fist and assesses Veronica. “So you either put your heart on the line or live without him. I’ve met Logan. That would be a pretty big loss. If something happens, would it better if you weren’t with him? Or will you just regret it for the rest of your life?”
“But what if we—what if I—” Veronica stumbles over her words, struggling to express herself. “What if we have kids and I screw it up?”
“Ah.” Understanding dawns on Wallace’s face. “Is that what this is about? Kids?”
“Yeah, we had a pretty big discussion about it before his last deployment. I was supposed to take the time to think about it and decide. And then he took the intelligence job, and I think...I mean, he can still get sent anywhere at the drop of a hat, but it’s for shorter stretches...and I think that’s why he took it, so he wouldn’t be gone for so long, in case we…” She trails off.
“Did you...talk about it? When he took the job, I mean?” Shae clarifies hesitantly.
Veronica shakes her head no and thinks back on it, remembering many conversations that Logan tried to start about his job change. She realizes now that she shut him out every time, fleeing to stakeouts or the office or anywhere he wasn’t.
“Veronica...I know Logan likes kids, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t leave you if you decided you don’t want to have them. He wants you more than hypothetical babies.”
“Yeah, but...he broke up with me.” Her voice sounds small, uncertain, to her ears and she hates it.
“You just thought everything would go on like normal after you turned down his proposal?”
“No, I thought—see, this is why he shouldn’t have proposed in the first place!” Veronica glares at Wallace and pushes away from the table. She paces in the small space between the table and the windows, needing to work off some of her irritation. “He kept pushing me and… He should have known better. It was all that stupid therapy.”
Wallace shakes his head sadly. “You gotta keep moving forward. And Logan, too.”
Stopping to stare unseeingly out the window, she puts her fingertips on the cool glass. “I just felt like he was moving away from me.”
“So catch up.” Wallace shrugs. “You’ve never been one to let anybody leave you behind before.”
“Ah, there it is. The Coach Fennel pep talk. I wondered when I’d hear it,” she snarks, spinning to face him and trying to put her defenses back in place.
“It’s what I’m good at, V. But seriously, the sooner that you remember that you and Logan are on the same team, the better.”
She graces him with a massive and much-deserved eye roll. “Shae, how do you stand it?”
“Aw, I like his pep talks. I always need a good one before facing opposing counsel.” Shae smiles at Wallace and kisses him quickly on the cheek. “Besides, I think it’s hot when he gets all fired up.”
“Gross.” Veronica wrinkles her nose. “On that note, I think it’s time for me to leave. Thanks for dinner.”
She heads to the front door, eager to go before her friends get frisky.
“Glad you could come, V. And you’re still on for babysitting Noah on Thursday night?”
“Yep. I’ll swing by the school so you can put his seat in my car, and I’ll pick him up from daycare. I’m sure Shae will leave me a detailed list of instructions.”
Abashed, Shae gives her a quick hug as Veronica grabs her purse off the entryway table. “I don’t mean to be that mom, it’s just…”
“I get it. I’ll be sure to feed him salmon for dinner instead of mac and cheese,” Veronica teases.
“Hey, that was Alicia who was on the salmon thing, not me!” Shae protests as she gets Veronica’s coat from the closet.
“See you Thursday.” Wallace gives her a quick, hard squeeze and she hugs him back tightly. Even when he pushes her a little farther than she’s willing to go, she’s still thankful for her BFF.
Leaving Dr. Linda’s office, Veronica’s heart decidedly does not race when Logan’s picture pops up on her phone. She fumbles, sliding across the screen to answer his call, taking a deep breath and adopting a casual tone.
“Hey, there. How’s tricks?”
Her fingers close around her keys in her bag, and she lets herself into her new grey Prius. Okay, maybe Logan’s environmental kick affected her a tiny bit. But it gets great gas mileage.
“Tricks? I only have treats.” His voice fills her with warmth, but she forces the smile off her face. Don’t be ridiculous, Veronica.
“I’ll be sure to pass that along to Pony. I take it you’re back from...wherever you were?”
“Yep. And I remembered that you had mentioned dinner…”
“I do eat it on a regular basis.”
There, that was good. Not too eager but still interested.
“Can I take you out Thursday night? That Chinese place you like?”
“Oh, I would love—wait, I can’t. I’m babysitting Noah that night.”
Logan’s chuckle reverberates through the phone. “You? Babysitting? Tell me the truth, Veronica: did you join a club with twelve other girls?”
“There weren’t twelve,” she mutters, cradling her phone between her shoulder and her ear and starting the car. “And I’ll have you know, I’m perfectly capable. I babysit for Noah a lot. He loves Auntie Veronica.”
“I’m sure he does. But this I have to see in person. Can I join you?”
Babysitting...with Logan? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
But on the flip side, it could be fun. And nice to have another set of hands to help with Noah.
“Oooh, I don’t know if the parents will trust us,” she jokes. “I remember clients in high school definitely did not want their babysitters to bring male guests.”
“Trust me, I have excellent references. And I’ll call Wallace, make sure it’s okay.”
“You must not know them at all, Logan, if you think that’s up to Wallace.”
He laughs again, and she hates how happy the sound makes her. “All right, I’ll call Shae. And I’ll bring pizza for dinner.”
“Tell Shae you’re bringing organic vegetables and that will help your case.”
“Thanks, Veronica. I’ll see you Thursday.”
After checking the Nest cam, Veronica disables the security system and opens the door for Logan. “You’re late. Noah is not amused.”
Removing the baby from her hip, she thrusts him at Logan and takes the pizza box he’s holding. It’s Cho’s, at least. A decent peace offering for his tardiness. As she re-arms the security code with a mental eye-roll at Wallace the 09er, an odd maternal instinct rears up, happy they’re keeping Noah safe.
“No!” Noah squirms in Logan’s arms, demanding to be let down. “I walk.”
Logan’s eyebrows hit his hairline. “You don’t want Uncle Logan to fly you?”
Lifting Noah above his head, he makes airplane noises as he flies the toddler through the house to the sound of shrieks and giggles.
Of course. Everything is easy and happy for Uncle Logan.
But not even Logan can fix dinner. After Veronica meticulously picks off the offensive pepperoni, green peppers, black olives, and onions and cuts his piece into tiny bites, Noah refuses to eat it and dumps his plate on the floor, screaming “Nooo!” at the top of his little lungs.
“Noah, do you want to color?” Logan asks while Veronica ducks under the table to pick up the wayward pieces.
“Play with cars?”
“Build a fort?”
She’s glad she’s topside as Noah accents this last denial by kicking the underside of the table and pounding his fists on his plate. His fork goes flying.
“Noah Henry Fennel! What has gotten into you tonight?” Veronica feels her cool start to slip as she retrieves his fork. “Do you want to go watch a show?”
She knows Shae would not approve of the screen time, but desperate measures and all that.
“Show.” He nods. “Daniel Tiger.”
Logan sends her a questioning look. “What’s Daniel Tiger?”
“You’re about to find out, sailor. Go turn it on while I clean up the kitchen.”
“Save me a slice?” he begs as he scoops Noah out of his chair and flies him to the sink to wash his hands and face. “Please?”
How did he manage to get pizza sauce all over without actually eating any of the bites? Toddlers are a wonder.
“If you’re lucky,” she calls. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees him locate the remote, settle Noah next to him on the couch, and start flipping through the channels.
Veronica steals another piece of pizza and nibbles on it while she wipes down the high chair, kitchen table, and counter. She doesn’t remember Noah touching them, but they are covered in tiny greasy fingerprints nonetheless.
Tossing her rag in the sink, she snags another slice for Logan, plates it, and settles on the other side of Noah. She hands him the plate over the baby’s head and is happy to note that Noah’s eyes are drooping. After learning about how to find a way to play with friends for twenty minutes, Noah becomes slightly hypnotized, pliable and docile.
Thank God for TV.
As the show comes to a close, Logan shifts Noah onto his lap.
“Okay, buddy, time for bed.”
“I know, bud. I do. But a good night’s sleep will do wonders for you.”
He stands, cradling the baby under his chin, and Veronica glances around the living room, spotting Noah’s favorite blanket and stuffed bear in the corner. Swiping them, she follows Logan back to Noah’s room.
Decorated with a dinosaur motif—Veronica remembers the debate between Shae and Wallace, Wallace obviously pushed for a basketball theme and lost—she scans the space for the pajamas Shae laid out and moves them off the changing table so Logan can lay Noah down.
“You want diaper duty?” he offers with a smirk.
“You just don’t think I can do it, do you?”
“There are some things that have to be seen to be believed, Mars.”
“Fine. Move outta my way.” She elbows Logan, tossing him the footed pajamas, and steps up to Noah, kicking his feet on the changing table. Lifting up his shirt, she blows a wet raspberry on his belly, loving his giggles. She manages to get his shirt off over his head and then slips his jeans off. She deftly makes the diaper switch, remembering to put him in a night time one like Shae suggested, and sticks her tongue out at Logan as she sticks the tabs in place.
“That was pretty impressive.” He raises his eyebrows at her and gives her a tiny salute. “If you want, I’ll help you wrestle him into these pajamas.”
Having attempted to dress Noah before, Veronica’s not above accepting Logan’s assistance. “Sure. I’ll hold his arms if you can get his feet in there.”
Noah wiggles around like an octopus but eventually, they get his arms and feet into his pajamas and Logan zips them all the way up to his chin, buttoning the zipper in place.
“Whew.” He pantomimes wiping sweat off his brow. “That was a workout.”
Veronica lifts Noah into her arms and settles into the glider chair in the corner of his room. “Grab me a book to read to him?”
After inspecting Noah’s bookshelf by the changing table, Logan hands her a board book with a hippopotamus on the cover and she reads to him about belly buttons as he cuddles against her chest. Taking a deep breath, she inhales his soothing baby scent and enjoys the way his warm little body sinks into hers.
After finishing the story, she kisses the top of his head and hands him to Logan, who settles him into his toddler bed with his blanket and stuffed bear.
“Ba-ba!” Noah coos, and when Logan gives her a quizzical glance, she points to the blanket he’s rubbing across his face.
“Apparently that’s Ba-ba, and it’s very important to a successful bedtime.”
“I definitely want us to succeed. Whatever it takes. Is there anything else we’re supposed to do?”
“Shae mentioned something about a lullaby…” Veronica smirks as Logan’s eyes widen. “I totally had you going there, didn’t I?”
Huffing a soft laugh, Logan backs slowly out of Noah’s room and puts his finger to his lips. Smoothing her hand down his head one more time, Veronica follows. She closes the door behind her and leans against it.
“Whew. Not for the faint of heart, is it?”
Logan’s eyes gleam as he stares down at her. “You’re a natural.”
“No, I’m not,” Veronica confesses as she pushes past him down the hallway to the stairs. “I was terrible the first time I tried this. I had no idea what I was doing.”
“But you kept trying. I’m proud of you, Veronica.”
Something about the way he looks at her makes her think that maybe he’s not just talking about babysitting. She heads down the stairs and makes her way to the living room, flopping on the couch in exhaustion.
Logan follows suit, then grimaces and rearranges himself, tossing her the TV remote that he sat on. “Wanna find something for us to watch?”
“Why, Lieutenant Echolls, are you asking me if I want to ‘Netflix and Chill’ with you?” She’s just teasing him but, her stomach flips at the thought anyway.
He gives her a flirty smile. “That’s definitely what the kids are calling it these days, but hanging out with a toddler has me too worn out for anything that’s not literally watching TV on the couch.” He yawns and stretches.
“He’s cute but damn, I’m tired,” Veronica agrees, queuing up Amazon Prime and not looking at the strip of skin visible between the hem of Logan’s t-shirt and the top of his low-slung jeans. “Hey, how about Good Omens ? I’ve seen it a few times, thought you’d like it. Or...I mean, if you have to be at work early in the morning, you can take off.”
“Nah. You always find good shows for me. I’ll stay and watch it.”
They don’t touch, but sit close enough on the couch that she can feel his body heat. It’s enough just being near him. About fifteen minutes into the first episode, Logan absently asks, “So when did you start babysitting for Noah?”
“Oh, I dunno. Four or five months ago.”
Shifting, she lets her shoulder bump against his. She can practically see his mind calculating, doing the mental math. Yeah, about a month after we broke up.
“You, uh, never really wanted to do that...before.” Before, when we were together His unspoken words hang in the air. “What changed?”
Logan carefully doesn’t look at her, keeps all his focus on the television. It helps her answer honestly.
“Linda, my therapist, helped me realize I had neglected my friends, shut out a lot f people in my life. Babysitting Noah’s helped me connect better with Shae and Wallace. He’s awfully important to them, and for good reason, but then he should be important to me, too.”
His question confuses her. “Why is he important?”
“Why did you shut everyone out?”
“Um.” Veronica’s not sure that all the therapy in the world could prepare her for this conversation. “I started worrying a lot about something happening to someone...to the people I love. I mean, if you—or my dad, or any of my friends, really—if one of you wasn’t...okay, then...I wouldn’t be okay, either.”
She doesn’t know how to say, If you were killed in the line of duty, I don’t know how I’d go on living.
Logan sits up straight on the couch, staring at her intently. “Veronica, you’re the strongest person I know. If something happened to someone you love, I know you’d get through it. I know because you’ve done it before.”
“But what if...what if that’s how I stay strong, by keeping everyone out?” Her question comes out in a whisper and she half hopes he doesn’t hear it.
But he does, shrugging. “You do your best work when you’re part of a team.”
“Have you been listening to Coach Fennel’s teamwork speeches again?”
“Maybe.” A lazy grin spreads across Logan’s face as he settles back onto the couch, facing the TV again. “He gives a mean pep talk.”
Veronica snorts. “As he’ll be the first to tell you.”
“Well, for what it’s worth...I’m sorry if I made you feel that way. Insecure or dependent or—”
“Logan, no. It wasn’t you. You’d never. I maybe still have some things—issues—to work through—”
“But you’re working on it.” He moves to face her, their bodies close, and she can’t help but glance at his lips.
Is he going to kiss me?
“Veronica, I’m so proud that you’re working on stuff.” He leans closer and she licks her lips. That look. He’s definitely going to kiss me. “I know it’s not easy, but—”
The sound of the garage door startles them apart. Veronica giggles at the thought of getting caught making out by the parents on a babysitting job. Wallace would never let her live it down.
Logan smirks at her, clearly thinking the same thing, and runs his fingers through his hair.
“Have dinner with me, Veronica?”
She glances at the oversized clock above the mantle. “Now?”
He huffs a laugh. “No. I mean, will you go out to dinner with me? Maybe this weekend or next week?”
His eyes are warm and full of promise.
“Yeah, okay. I’d like that.”
Everything with Logan had trickled out in her last conversation with Dr. Linda and now Veronica thinks over her questions as she runs along the beach with Pony.
Can you be more open? Can you handle his job? Can you picture your future without him?
Her feet pound a rhythm on the sand as they repeat in her head over and over. The answer to the last question is an emphatic no, which means she needs to figure out how to navigate the first two.
Halting, Veronica puts her hands on her knees, panting, as Pony tugs on the leash.
“Pony, no, I need to rest for a second.”
Licking the sweat off her chin, Pony dances around her.
“Gross, Pony, no.”
Veronica shoves the dog off her face and starts her cool-down, walking back to her apartment. The dog ambles next to her, stopping periodically to sniff interesting finds on the beach.
They make their way up the stairs to the second floor and Veronica lets them in, then refills Pony’s water bowl before glancing at the clock and turning on the shower. She has about 45 minutes until Logan picks her up for their dinner date. Just enough time to get ready, but hopefully not so long that she starts freaking out about it.
There’s nothing to worry about, Veronica. It’s Logan. You’ve been on hundreds of dates with him.
But this is different. She knows it is.
She hops in the shower and soaps up her hair, scrubbing her scalp ferociously with her fingernails.
She thought she was finished with Logan after high school. Getting a second chance with him as an adult was practically unbelievable.
She rinses her hair and adds conditioner, smoothing the ends, before letting her mind wander again.
What are the odds of a third chance? Not great. There’s no margin of error this time. It might be “just” dinner, but it represents so much more.
Lathering her legs with shaving cream, she quickly runs her razor over them. Not that she has...expectations, but it is a date. Butterflies swoop around her belly. Shaving her legs is merely...being prepared for all possibilities.
Not exactly on purpose, she’s been celibate since the last time she was with Logan, and the dry spell is starting to take its toll. She turns off the tap, wondering if she should have blasted her body with cold water first to help cool down after thinking about Logan...his hands...his lips...his body...
Wrapping herself in a towel, she dries off and then takes her time, drying her hair, curling it carefully, and applying her makeup. Foundation, blush, smokey eyes. She knows Logan won’t care either way, but she likes the way his eyes glow when she dresses up for him.
When was the last time she did that? Why did she stop?
She slips into her bra and panties and then stands in front of her closet, debating. Not entirely sure where they are going, she eventually selects a lacy black cami and dark skinny jeans. She can always toss on a jacket if she wants after she sees what he’s wearing.
As she adds a dash of perfume, the doorbell rings.
I keep forgetting that he doesn’t have keys anymore.
Hustling to the door, she throws it open.
Just as she had hoped, Logan’s eyes glaze over a bit as he takes her in. She returns the scrutiny. Wearing nice jeans and a black button up, she has to practically stop herself from drooling at the sight. Yummy.
“Hi. Wow. You look gorgeous.”
The note of awe in his voice makes her blush. Tugging on her black motorcycle boots, she looks down so she doesn’t have to meet his gaze.
“Um, thanks. Let me just take care of Pony.”
“Oh, I’ve got it.”
He steps past her into the apartment, and Pony comes running, skidding to a stop in front of Logan. She jumps up and tries to lick his face but his stern “Down!” forces her back onto her haunches. He rubs her ears and kisses the top of her head before glancing at Veronica.
You’re staring at him like an idiot. Stop watching!
“Right. I’ll grab my purse.”
Taking a few minutes to compose herself, Veronica finds her jacket, throws her favorite lipstick into her bag, and swipes her keys off the table by the door. Logan fills Pony’s food and water dish before patting her goodbye.
“Sure. I don’t even know where we’re going, though. I asked Mac for a recommendation, she suggested this new vegan place down by—”
She can’t seem to stop the nervous words from pouring out of her, and it’s almost a relief when Logan cuts her off.
“A vegan place?” His forehead wrinkles in confusion. “Why would we go to a vegan place?”
Flustered, she stumbles over herself trying to explain. “Oh, well, I know you’re always trying to eat healthy, and I just thought—”
“You’d do that for me?”
“Well, yeah.” Suspicion dawns on her. “Logan...I wasn’t very good at that, was I? About doing things for you. I’m sorry.”
She puts her hand on his forearm and meets his eyes. He blinks back at her, a little dumbfounded, and she likes the feeling of surprising him.
Maybe I should do that more often.
“Mars,” he croaks, voice breaking, “Are you feeling okay?”
“Nope, I’m hungry. Let’s go.”
Ushering him first, Veronica locks the door behind her and follows Logan outside and down the stairs. Scanning the street, she realizes she doesn’t even know what kind of car he drives these days.
He beeps his keyfob, and the lights flash on a dark blue Audi A5 convertible. Placing his hand gently on the small of her back, he escorts her over and opens the passenger door.
“Whew,” she teases as she sinks down into the buttery soft leather. “I was worried I was going to have ride on the handlebars of your bike.”
“Dick told me to treat myself.” Giving her a wry grin, Logan starts the car with the push of a button and the engine roars to life. “But I still ride the bike sometimes. It’s nice knowing no one can sneak a bomb onto a bicycle.”
He glances over at her, concern in his eyes, and she braces herself for the lecture that must be coming. But Logan merely reaches across the console and grabs her hand, stroking his thumb over his knuckles.
“I couldn’t contact you at the time, Veronica, but when I heard about that…” He pauses, clears his throat. “Well, I was really glad that you were okay. Thanks for leaving me that voicemail, even after...everything.”
“Yeah, it was kind of…”
How can she explain her feelings that day, that watching her car blow up was the catalyst for change in her life?
“Well,” she continues, squeezing his fingers, “it was awful but it helped me gain some much-needed clarity.”
“Here’s to clarity.” He raises her palm to his lips and places a soft kiss on her hand, sending shivers down her spine.
Time for a subject change.
“So, where are we going?”
“New Mexican place?” He offers, letting go of her fingers and tapping the steering wheel. “Don’t worry, it’s not a trendy hipster joint. Total hole in the wall, Dick took me there a few months back. I thought of you when I went because they have excellent fish tacos.”
He says it like it’s no big deal, but her breath catches. He’s been thinking of her. Relief fills her chest. She’d missed him like a lost limb when he left, but...he had been thinking of her when he went out to eat with Dick. Maybe she hadn’t been the only one secretly pining.
Swallowing, she nods, and shoots him a secretive smile. “You had me at fish tacos.
The food does not disappoint. After taking her last bite and then finishing off the chips and salsa, Veronica eyes Logan speculatively.
He chuckles. “Of course. Amy’s? Or...have you been to UnBaked yet?”
Scoffing playfully, she tosses her hair. “A cookie dough bar? Of course I have! But I’d love to go again.”
Giving her hand a squeeze across the table, Logan smiles. “Let’s go.”
Veronica slides out of the booth and grabs her purse, follows him out to the car. He opens the door for her again and she fiddles with his stereo before she realizes that maybe she shouldn’t do that on a first date.
That’s the trouble with dating Logan Echolls for the fifth time. She’s known him since she was twelve, lived with him for five years. It’s not a first date, but they aren’t a comfortable, established couple right now, either. She can’t figure out how to act, how to handle things between them.
He seems relaxed, though, waving his hand at the radio display as he folds himself into the front seat. “Pick whatever you want.”
After finding her favorite XM station, she sits back and enjoys the short drive to the cookie dough bar, located in what she thinks of as the “hipster” section of Neptune. Trendy or not, edible cookie dough is a brilliant idea.
Logan parks on the street and they enter the store-front dessert shop, designed to look like an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. The bar is lined with sparkly red vinyl stools and the booths, complete with formica tables, also have red benches.
“So what flavors have you tried?” Logan places his hand lightly on the small of her back, eyeing the menu.
“Chocolate chip, obviously. Also birthday cake and the snickerdoodle. Mine is better,” she whispers confidentially, leaning close to him.
“I don’t doubt it.” Logan’s eyes crinkle at the corners as he smiles down at her. “What kinds do you want to try tonight? We can share.”
“Mmm, monster, with the M&Ms? And chocolate peanut butter?” She leans into him slightly, enjoying being close to him again, at the same time, knowing it will hurt when he leaves at the end of the night.
His easy use of the pet name makes her ache for more. She takes a deep breath and stares resolutely ahead at the menu as he orders. Grabbing some napkins and plastic spoons, she takes a minute to regain her composure and give herself a pep talk.
Look, Veronica, it might be hard to say goodbye tonight, but he’s not gone forever. Keep trying, keep fighting for what’s worth it. Maybe you can work your way back to him.
There, she smiles to herself. A motivational speech that would make Wallace proud.
Logan sets the cookie dough bowls down on the table and sits across from her. Their knees bump under the table and she doesn’t apologize or pull away. Watching him, she samples the chocolate peanut butter and has to stifle a moan. It’s amazing.
“This has been...fun.” He offers her a spoonful of the monster and she opens her mouth, lets him feed her.
“It has. It’s a little weird, though. Going on a date with you after…” Veronica waves her hand in the air, trying to encompass their history. “Everything.”
“I, um, actually talked to Jane about it quite a bit.” He stares at the table top, takes a spoonful of cookie dough.
The Almighty Jane. Even after all her experiences with Linda, hearing about Logan’s therapist still irritates her. Veronica tries to keep her voice even.
“I told her about everything you’re doing, how hard you’re trying. She thinks it’s really great. So do I.”
He stares at her frankly, and her mouth drops open.
“Jane approves of us dating?”
She cringes at her own words. God, Veronica, are you twelve? You need her approval now?
But Logan doesn’t seem bothered by it. “She had some qualifiers, thought it was a good idea to set up some boundaries and not rush back into things, but yeah.”
“Boundaries? Like what?”
He glances around as a group of giggling teenage girls spill into the cafe. “Wanna take this to go?”
Swiping her dish of cookie dough and spoon, she smiles tremulously.
Does it freak her out that he doesn’t want to have this conversation in public? Yes. Does it freak her out that they are having this conversation at all? Yes. But she thinks of Dr. Linda, of balance, of Wallace and Shae, and digs deep for some courage.
Logan opens the car door for her, hands her his cookie dough to hold while he drives. She lets her fingers linger on his longer than strictly necessary. He has to know the dessert will be gone by the time they get back to her apartment. Handing it to her is like covert permission for her to devour it.
“Hey, Logan.” A thought just occurred to her. “Where do you live?”
Looking across the vehicle at her, a smirk tugs at his lips. “You should have guessed. Where do I always end up when no one else will take me in?”
“Ah, Dick. I know you said you were gonna crash there; I just thought maybe you had your own place now.”
“Nah. After everything,” he lifts his hand off the steering wheel and waves it, “he didn’t mind the company.”
“How’s he doing?” she asks quietly. “I didn’t feel right going to the funeral after…” She trails off, allowing him to fill in the blank.
“He’s okay, actually. Once the shock of his dad’s death wore off, he threw himself into the real estate properties he inherited. He’s a natural.”
“Dick, a slumlord. How fitting.”
“Watch out, if you’re not careful, he’ll end up as your landlord.” He glances over at her gaping mouth, grins. “He’s looking to buy up a bunch of the beach properties. But I was talking to him about it the other day, and he has a different vision from his dad’s. I think he’d probably give you a break on the rent.”
Veronica rolls her eyes. “In exchange for sexual favors?”
“I’m sure you could negotiate your terms.”
Pulling up along the curb outside her apartment, he puts in the car in park and lets it idle.
“Do you...want to come in? Say hi to Pony?”
“Veronica,” He grimaces, pained. “This is one of those boundary things that I talked about with Jane. She—”
“You talk about sex with Jane?” Veronica interrupts.
“Sure, why not?” He shrugs.
She doesn’t know why she’s surprised; Logan’s never been one to kiss and tell, but he also doesn’t have a prudish bone in his body. Still, it feels weird that his therapist knows so much about her.
“I don’t know, it just seems…"
“Do you talk about sex with your therapist?”
Not really. There was that one time, when she was trying to explain things between her and Logan but—
“Maybe you should.” He cuts off her musings, lascivious gleam in his eyes. He swallows and it dims. “But Jane really encouraged me to take things slow in that department this time.”
Jane is a troll. Probably a virgin, too.
Veronica crosses her arms over her chest and huffs, frustrated.
“You have to admit, we haven’t tried that approach in a while. And if we want different results—”
“Stop. No quotes, Einstein, thank you very much.” She covers his mouth with her hand, muffling his words.
He’s probably right, you know. Tell your libido to get over it.
He kisses her palm, eyes soft, and she feels his tenderness flow like shockwaves through her body, all the way down to her toes.
Whew. If a tiny kiss does that...this is going to be harder than I thought. But the look on his face is earnest, serious.
With a forlorn sigh, she leans close, brushes her lips across his cheek. “Good night, Logan. I haven’t had a date end without a decent kiss since...middle school.”
“In that case…”
He cups her face in his gigantic hands, gazes into her eyes, and then places a gentle kiss on her lips. She wants to fist her hands into his hair, pull him flush against her, deepen the kiss and straddle him in the front seat of his car.
Instead, she respects their boundaries and keeps it light. Shivers run up and down her body anyway as he pulls back. Disappointment is clear in his features, bringing her a touch of perverse joy. At least she’s not the only one struggling.
“I’ll, uh, call you, come by and take Pony for a run.” He clears his throat, voice rough. “Good night, Veronica.”
Feeling his eyes on her the whole time, she adds a little extra sashay to her steps as she walks to her front door and lets herself into her apartment. Boundaries are all well and good but a small reminder of what he’s missing is in order.
Leaning back against the door after she closes it, she exhales. More sexually frustrated than she’s been in a long time, she still can’t help the smile that spreads across her face.
It may not have had the ending that she wanted, but it had been a good date, a good start.
Linda adjusts her thick-framed glasses and crosses her legs as Veronica paces back and forth in her office a few weeks later, fuming.
“It’s just, it’s an insurance fraud case, right? And I can totally prove that the perp is lying,” she spins on her heel, words pouring out of her, “but I don’t want to. Because I’m working for the insurance company and, and I feel bad for the victims. It’s an older couple and…”
She trails off, halts in the path she’s worn across the plush carpet, and meets Linda’s gaze.
“Veronica, I’m not here to argue with you about the ethics of your job.” She clears her throat. “But I’m glad you brought it up. We haven’t talked about it in a while, but I think we need to.”
Sighing, Veronica flops onto the leather couch across from Linda’s chair.
“What’s there to talk about? This is my job.”
“So from what I understand, you want to be a PI but you also enjoyed studying law. Is this accurate?”
Nodding, she takes a moment to process, to try to formulate her thoughts into words.
“It is. Maybe my decision not to pursue law has more to do with my dad than I thought. But I see what he meant now. Why he wanted me to get out. Neptune is...” She swallows, tries again.” Neptune is not for the faint of heart.”
“Well, have you thought about moving?”
Shaking her head no, she chews on a cuticle and stares at the ground. “Everyone I care about is here.”
“It sounds to me like part of the problem is that you feel powerless.”
Veronica’s head snaps up, meets Linda’s frank gaze behind her lenses. Maybe this therapy thing is worth it after all. It’s awfully nice to have someone who understands.
“So what do I do about it?”
“Have you ever thought about taking the California bar?”
She opens her mouth, closes it.
She has, actually. Quite a bit. But she couldn’t do it when she first moved home because her dad was pushing her law career so hard. She needed to prove to him that she was all-in when it came to her new life. By the time he finally backed off, they had fallen into a rhythm at work, and it didn’t feel necessary anymore. But maybe...
“It could open up some new avenues for you...you could consult for law firms or even provide legal advice to your clients,” Linda says as Veronica continues to process. “It might help you rediscover some of that purpose you’ve been missing.”
“I’ll think about it.” Her words are flippant, but the idea starts to take shape in her mind, filling the space behind her chest with a spark of excitement. She can’t wait to tell Logan about it.
“So what's the big deal, Veronica? What are we celebrating?”
Logan eyes her warily as she lets him into her apartment. The hesitation in his eyes is new, something she’ll have to work to overcome. She put it there, she realizes. Shutting him out over and over again, building walls because of his job—and her job—robbed him of the easy trust he used to have in her. It’s been growing as they’ve continued to see each other over the past few weeks but she knows she still has a ways to go.
Brushing it aside for now, she fills two flutes with champagne and hands him one.
“Congratulate me. Or wish me luck.” She clinks her glass against his, takes a sip. Logan continues to stare at her, forehead adorably wrinkled, while he holds his untouched champagne and shifts his weight from foot to foot.
“Veronica, what’s going on?”
“I made an important decision.” She clears her throat. “All the paperwork is finally done. I’m officially signed up to take the California bar exam.”
His eyebrows shoot up. “Wow, that’s...that’s great.”
Finally clinking his glass to hers, he takes a sip of champagne.
“What inspired this? And what does that entail?”
Veronica tips her head back and downs the rest of her champagne in one gulp.
“Basically it involves me studying 24/7 and freaking out because I’ve been out of law school for almost six years and I’ve forgotten everything.”
Grimacing, she moves to refill her flute. Logan halts her, grabbing her hands.
“Whoa, Bobcat. Is that what this is really about?”
Regardless of whether she loves it or hates it in any given moment, she can’t deny that Logan knows her better than anyone else.
But a girl likes to play it coy every now and then.
“What do you mean?”
He holds up the champagne flute. “You’re freaking out. That’s why you called me.”
She scoffs at the smug grin that spreads across his face. “I made a momentous decision, wanted to celebrate with a friend. Way to make it all about you, Echolls.”
She busies herself, filling her glass again so she doesn’t have to look at Logan. He covers her hands with his own.
“Veronica, that’s awesome. I’m so proud of you and I know you’ll do great.”
His gaze is earnest, his praise warming her heart.
“The California bar is one of the hardest in the nation,” she protests, taking another sip of champagne, letting the bubbles tickle her tongue.
“It’s a good thing you went to Columbia, then, and were at the top of your class.”
“You’ll take a review class and read those test prep books.” He cuts her off, waving her protests away. “You’ve probably already ordered them off Amazon.”
Logan reclines on the orange couch, taking up all the space. Which worked fine before, she just used to climb on top of him. Now, though, Veronica leans awkwardly against the arm before he shifts, making room for her.
“So what brought on this decision?” he asks.
“Dr. Linda, actually.”
Logan raises his eyebrows, motions for her to elaborate.
Veronica sighs, then remembers that she has to be willing to talk to make this relationship work.
He needs to hear the words.
“Well, I like being a PI, but sometimes Neptune…” she pauses, searching for the right words, and shifts to face him. “It’s no secret that sometimes Neptune is The Pit of Despair. I struggle.”
Logan nods, wisely doesn’t mention this time that it ranks above Fallujah. He doesn’t interrupt.
“But Linda came up with the idea of me taking the bar. Thought it might help me make more of a difference.”
“And that’s what you want?” He grabs her hand, studies her face intently. “To stay here in the fight? I remember you emailing me about that while I was deployed the first time, right after you came back. I loved that image of you, but for a while there, I thought you might need to leave.”
Swallowing around the sudden lump that developed in her throat, Veronica squeezes his fingers.
“All my favorite people live in Neptune,” she finally manages, her voice steady. “I don’t want to run. Or push them away.”
“And could you make enough to keep the business running?”
His practical questions help her hold it together. And she makes a point not to look at the way his eyes are shining, too.
“I could consult for some local law firms, ones in San Diego, too. They often need to hire investigators and this would certainly give us a leg up over the competition. I think it would be enough that we could take the cases we want, too, and keep helping the ones overlooked by the system.”
Logan scoots closer on the couch, his knees brushing hers and his face inches away.
“Is that the only thing you want to fight for in Neptune, Veronica? Justice for the underdog?”
His gaze draws her in, practically on fire, and she can’t help it. She reaches out, strokes her fingertips along his jaw.
“You,” she breathes. “I want to fight for you, too. For us.”
Closing the distance between them, his mouth meets hers in a hungry kiss. He tastes like champagne and Logan , and she can’t get enough. Twining her fingers into his short hair, she tugs him closer.
It’s been worth it. All the therapy, time, effort, boundaries, and everything else that she’s worked on to get to this moment, to get healthy and get back to Logan.
But her body is screaming that it’s been forever and patience has never been one of her virtues. Virtue hasn’t actually been one for a long time, either, she thinks, as she climbs onto his lap.
“Are you sure this time?” He pants, pulling away. “Do you—”
“Yes.” She cuts him off with another kiss. His lips move to her neck as she talks, drawn like a magnet to her favorite spot. “I’m sorry that I pushed you away, over and over again. I don’t want you to leave. I get why you had to, but—”
“I didn’t want to, you know that, right?” He pulls back, his gaze anguished. “It was the last thing I wanted, Veronica.”
“I know.” She smooths her hands over his shoulders. “Logan, I don’t want to get married, I might never want that, but I want to be with you. I was kinda pissed that you asked, actually.”
He huffs a laugh. “I know. I’m sorry. It was never meant to be a power play, like you said. I just...really love you.”
He kisses her again, soft and sweet this time instead of fevered and hungry.
“I love you, too. And I like to think that, given a little more time and therapy, someday we can have a conversation about marriage like grown ups. But not yet.”
She smiles, to take the sting out of her words, and lets the happiness suffuse her body.
“Okay,” he says, running his hands up her back. “I won’t push you into that if you don’t push me away.”
Winding her arms around Logan’s neck, Veronica kisses him, pouring all her desire and longing into it. Clearly, he gets the message because he stands and carries her into their bedroom. Words aren’t necessary anymore.