The cancelled room reservation he can't explain.
Nadine thinks it's his fault, of course, and doesn't seem to believe his insistence to the contrary. As if he wanted this.
The problem is that they have a whole block of perfectly legitimate room reservations at the Des Moines Marriott, with a place for every single person on Elizabeth's campaign team to lay their head tonight except for, it seems, Nadine Tolliver.
Mike really isn't sure how that happened.
Nor is he sure how his room got offered up to share, but here they are. Sharing his hotel room.
He honestly didn't think she'd stand for it, but then again Nadine doesn't have a ton of other options. Practically every hotel room in the city is booked for the campaigns in town, all of whom are capitalizing on a crucial window of opportunity. The Iowa caucuses are critical, and soon. Nadine knows this. She knows she has to stay close at hand; she can't go home or go elsewhere just because she has no place to stay. Not before Iowa. She's going to have to suck it up, and so will he.
A headache forms near his temples. Mike makes a note to his future self to find the intern responsible for this fuck up and fire them summarily. This is the last thing either of them needed in their lives.
It's been almost three years since their break up, but Mike doesn't have any practice interacting with Nadine as his ex-whatever-she-is. And of course he couldn't just ease into it with coffee or maybe a working lunch—no, he has to share a hotel room with her for tonight without any practice or preparation to speak of. It's like tossing a toddler into the deep end of a pool.
He unlocks the door with his key card and lets her in ahead of him. The door swings shut behind them both as they take stock of what they're working with.
Only one bed, of course. Because why should anything be easy?
They're both silent for a long time. Then, in a peculiar voice, Mike says, "We can be adults about this, right?"
"You're not gonna make me sleep on the floor are you?"
She doesn't answer for a long time, thinks it over hard. "No," she says finally.
"...Maybe." Nadine walks all the way in, sets her luggage down on the small armchair in the corner. She crosses her arms, looks legitimately nonplussed. He softens.
"Hey," he says gently. "If it really makes you uncomfortable, I can take the floor. No worries."
"No, no." She flaps her hands a little. "We've shared a bed before. This doesn't have to be a big deal."
He raises an eyebrow.
"You know what I mean," she says. "It doesn't have to be awkward."
He shakes his head. "Nadine, I don't know about you, but everything about this situation is awkward for me." He's exasperated. They can pretend all they want that everything between them is okay, but pretending can only take them so far.
His headache intensifies.
She sighs and rakes a hand through her hair, mussing her curls. "Yeah," she mutters, "same here."
"We can build a pillow fort down the middle if it makes you feel better," he offers. It would be more for his own benefit than hers, truthfully. Mike needs every safeguard that will save him from making bodily contact with her in his sleep. If he were to wake up tomorrow morning to find himself rutting against her ass, he would throw himself right out the fucking window just so he wouldn't have to face her. And he is not kidding.
He drops his duffel on top of the bedspread. "You go ahead and take the bathroom first."
"Thanks," she says, smiling gratefully. "I'll be quick." She unzips her bag and pulls out her toiletry kit and her pajamas, then locks herself in the bathroom. After a second Mike hears the fan turn on, and he rolls his eyes. It's not like he's never heard her pee before, for Christ sake. Then the sound of the toilet flushing, and the shower being turned on.
Mike uses the time to change into his sleep clothes, tossing his shirt and slacks over the desk chair and then tucking his bag against the wall, out of the way. He pulls the comforter down and lines up two of the four provided pillows down the center of the mattress. There. Impenetrable.
"Fuck me," he mutters, sighing. There's about a zero percent chance he'll get a good night's sleep tonight. He presses his thumbs against his temples and tries to massage out the dull ache.
He hears the shower turn off ten minutes later. The rattle of the shower curtain being pushed aside on the rod.
"Hey, Nadine?" he calls through the door.
"Do you have any ibuprofen?"
"Check in my bag. There should be some Advil in the zippered pouch."
"Zippered pouch," he repeats to himself, walking over to her duffel bag. He unzips the whole thing and rummages around inside. Christ, there's like three different pouches, all varying shapes. Why the fuck do women need so many bags in their bags?
He'll just open them until he finds the Advil. Hopefully she won't mind. Mike unzips the first one, which is shaped like a pencil case, and… oh. Oh.
"Did you find it?" Nadine calls through the door.
This was the wrong pouch. This was absolutely the wrong pouch. He can't stop staring.
He should pretend he didn't see it. Just find the damn Advil and pretend this never happened. Because if she were anyone else—Elizabeth, or Daisy, or god forbid, Blake—he would pretend. But she's not, she's Nadine and there was a time when all he could think about was Nadine, when all he wanted was Nadine, and god dammit—
"Um," he says stupidly.
Don't just stand there, move!
He doesn't have time to make a decision at all because the bathroom door opens just then, and Nadine comes out in her tiny pajamas, curls damp and face bare.
He whips around, literally caught red-handed. When she sees what he's holding, her eyes widen.
Mike glances inside the open pouch again. At the vibrator inside it.
Her vibrator is bright pink.
"Sorry. Sorry. I, ah… this is the wrong… I opened the wrong one," he stammers. He zips it closed and practically throws it back into her bag. He rubs the back of his neck. "You know what, I'm just gonna take a quick shower and… and yeah. Sorry." That'll at least give them both time to compose themselves. "Room's all yours." He pushes past her hastily and shuts himself inside the humid bathroom.
Quit thinking about it, you idiot!
He tries not to picture her using it. Naked, sweaty, writhing on the—
Fucking herself with her own—
Get it together, Barnow!
He adjusts himself uncomfortably, half-hard in his shorts. The whole bathroom smells like her shampoo, and it isn't helping his cause. He strips out of his clothes and turns on the water. Cold shower it is.
He's not clutching his pearls over the fact that Nadine has a vibrator (wouldn't it be more surprising if she didn't own one?), he just never really thought about it. In the time they'd been together it never came up and he never bothered to ask. And he'd never seen it. He wonders now just how much she used it while they were dating. Probably not that often, he thinks, given how actively they'd been sleeping together at the time. But maybe that's his ego talking. Maybe she has an insatiable thirst he just couldn't slake.
Mike steps in the shower, inhaling sharply when the cold spray hits his skin.
He knows better than to agonize over this—their relationship is a thing of the past. And anyway, he's reasonably confident that if he hadn't been satisfying her, she would have let him know. When Nadine wants something, she says so.
He kinda wishes she'd said something about this.
It's a damn shame you never got to use it on her, his mind supplies unhelpfully.
He doesn't need to think about that.
His dick, unfortunately, really likes that idea, and it isn't going down. Mike sighs. He tried. He turns the water to warm and soaps up his hand. He'll have to take care of this the other way.
Images flash in his mind on cue as he wraps his hand around his dick. Nadine's mouth wrapping around her vibrator, getting it wet—
He leans his forearm against the tiled wall and pumps himself with his other hand.
Nadine sliding it into her pussy, turning it on with a little gasp—
He rests his head on his arm, jerking himself in long, firm strokes. He's not trying to draw this out.
Nadine fucking herself with it nice and slow, teasing him about it—
He runs his thumb over the head of his cock, sensitive and wet with pre-cum, and shudders a little.
Him taking over, holding her hips down, pushing her legs open—
He strokes himself faster, feeling a familiar tightening deep in his abdomen.
Fucking her with it until she's whimpering, until she's pleading, until she's coming on his hand—
Mike bites back a groan as he spills over his fist. It disappears down the drain. His headache, thankfully, disappears too. He takes a moment to let his head clear, and then quickly finishes showering.
He shuts the water off and steps out, grabbing a fresh towel from the pile next to the sink. He dries off and then hangs the towel up behind the door. He realizes that, in his haste to lock himself in the bathroom, he'd forgotten to grab a clean pair of boxers on the way. He could just put his pajamas back on without them, but going commando doesn't seem like the best idea given their current sleeping arrangements. He pulls the towel back down and wraps it around his waist before opening the door and making a beeline for his bag.
"Forgot some stuff," he mutters. He can feel Nadine's eyes on him and does his best to ignore it and her. He can't really look at her right now.
He grabs boxers and his dopp kit and goes back into the bathroom, changes, brushes his teeth. He re-emerges feeling a little more level-headed than when he'd gone in.
Nadine is sitting against the headboard, propped up against her single remaining pillow on her side of the pillow divider. She has her reading glasses on and is scrolling through her phone. Probably catching up on emails.
Mike climbs in on the other side warily. She doesn't look at him. Finally, he breaks the tense silence. "Nadine, I'm really sorry. It was an honest mistake. I wasn't expecting to find… y'know."
She puts her phone down and turns her head, though she still isn't quite looking at him. "Not your fault. I'm the one who told you to look through my stuff. I wasn't thinking."
"Please don't be mad," he says.
She shakes her head. "I'm not mad. A little embarrassed, maybe."
"You don't have anything to be embarrassed about."
She finally shifts to look him in the eyes, and he sees that she's blushing a little. She never blushes. "Are you kidding? Of course I'm embarrassed! We're colleagues—"
"Oh come on, not just colleagues—"
"And this is a work trip—"
"We have a history, Nadine—"
"—which makes it that much more unprofessional!"
"Let's not pretend like I haven't seen you naked before."
That stops her short. "Yeah, she finishes dryly. "That too."
"Look, I get it. All you wanted tonight was a room to yourself so you could have some alone time—"
She squeezes her eyes shut, pinches the bridge of her nose. "Mike…"
"—and then the hotel fucked it all up and now you're stuck here with me instead. And we've been on the road for weeks with no privacy; of course you're frustrated. I'll tell you what," he says. "If you want, I can just leave for a bit. Take a walk around the block, drink some shitty decaf coffee at the diner across the street. Give you a chance to take care of yourself. And then we can both get a good night's sleep and start fresh in the morning, yeah?"
She looks at him like he's insane, but Mike has rolled out of bed and is rifling through his luggage. He pulls out jeans and a sweatshirt and is already pulling them on when Nadine finally finds her words. "You— This is ridiculous," she sputters.
He turns. "Unless you want me to stay and help," he offers. "Because I could. In fact, I'd prefer it."
"Yeah, I didn't really think you'd go for it either."
"This is inappropriate. I'm not going to kick you out of your own room just because you think I need to get myself off."
"You're not kicking me out; I offered." He shoves his phone in his pocket and throws on a pair of sneakers. "Just text me when you're done. And let me know," he says with a little mirth, "if you want a sandwich from the diner." He winks at her, and then he's out the door before she has another chance to lodge a protest.
He rides the elevator down to the lobby and then goes outside. Around the corner, the neon sign of the 24-hour diner glows bright. It advertises all-day breakfast. Inside, it's mostly empty save for one college-aged guy who Mike recognizes from the campaign bus, along with a few locals.
The sole waitress looks up from the couple she's serving at a hightop table. "Sit anywhere you like, hon," she calls. Mike takes a seat at a booth by the window. She makes her way over to him.
"Just coffee, please," he says. "Decaf, if you have it." He tries his damndest not to think about what Nadine is doing in their room right now.
The waitress goes behind the counter, returns with a steaming mug of coffee. "There you go. Decaf. It's a fresh pot," she says.
She places a menu at his elbow. "Let me know if you want any food, okay?"
His phone begins to ring. "Okay, thanks," he responds distractedly. He pulls his phone out. It's Nadine.
He answers. "Are you done already?" he says by way of greeting, sounding surprised. "I just got to the diner. You… you can take your time, you know."
There's a long pause. Finally, she says, "Come and help me," and hangs up.
Mike sits there for a moment, mouth dry. And then scrambles into action. He pulls out a handful of one dollar bills from his wallet and leaves it under his untouched coffee without bothering to count them. And then he's out the door in a flash, hoping hard that Nadine isn't going to change her mind in the time it takes him to get there. Down the street, through the lobby, back up the elevator—he already has his room key in his hand, and he lets himself in the room and then stops short.
Because Nadine is lying down in the middle of the mattress with nothing on but the barest scrap of lacy panties. She's cupping one naked breast in her hand, stroking over a hardened nipple, and using the other to trail the blunt tip of her vibrator over her inner thighs. Teasing herself. Looking at him while she does it.
He holds up a finger. "Hold that thought," he says. He steps out of his shoes and disappears into the bathroom, where he washes his hands and then pulls off his sweatshirt and jeans, leaves them in a heap on the floor and himself only in his boxers. And he tries generally to get a hold of himself.
"Mike?" she calls softly.
"There's a small bottle of lube in my toiletry bag. Can you grab it?"
"Yeah." He peers into her bag, which is open on the counter. Everything is in a small bottle, but at the very bottom he sees KY Jelly. He pulls it out and brings it with him, sets it on the nightstand before climbing in bed.
With a teasing smile, Nadine holds out her vibrator, offering it to him. He takes it and tosses it aside, opts instead to bury his hand in her hair and kiss her breathless.
She moans into his mouth and winds her arms around his neck. She hooks one leg around his thigh and tilts her pelvis up, pressing against him where he's half-hard in his boxers, and slides her tongue between his lips. Kissing him back like no time has passed at all.
After a while, he relinquishes her mouth and kisses his way down her jaw, her neck, her sternum, sucking and biting as hard as he dares without leaving marks on her skin.
"This is a bad idea isn't it," she moans, just as he's swirling his tongue over her nipple. She arches into the sensation and then he wraps his lips around it with a suckling pressure.
He releases her with a pop. "This is the best idea we've had in years," he says. He licks his way over to her other breast, giving it the same treatment, before kissing his way down her abdomen. When he gets to her hips, he yanks her panties down past her knees and allows her to kick them off the rest of the way. "Now," he says, reaching over for the vibrator. It has a domed tip and a gentle curve, and is ribbed all down the shaft. It isn't as big as his dick, but it certainly has more... interesting features. "You wanna show me how you use this thing?"
"Why?" She tilts her head. "You need a refresher on how to fuck me?"
It makes him grin widely. "No, I just wanna see you play with yourself." He leans down and presses a kiss to her hip. "I remember exactly how you like to be fucked, sweetheart. Don't you worry," he murmurs. He presses the toy into her hand. "Show me."
Nadine reaches for the lube, pops the top open. She pours a bit of it over the tip of her vibrator and then sets it on the nightstand again. She uses her fingers to spread the liquid down the entire shaft, and once it's thoroughly lubed up she reaches between her legs to drag her coated fingers over her clit. And then she eases the vibrator inside herself, one agonizing inch at a time, and turns it on, sighing in contentment.
At her feet, Mike adjusts himself in his boxers. He watches her with rapt attention, wouldn't be able to tear his eyes away if he wanted to. She holds the toy in place for a long moment, just basking in the feeling of it, and then starts to slide it in and out slowly. Her hips begin to rock in counterpoint.
He presses a hand to the inside of her thigh, urging her to spread her legs wider. "Good?" he asks roughly.
"Really good." She uses her other hand down between her legs to touch her clit lightly.
"You look incredible," he says, moving his thumb back and forth over her thigh. He watches as she fuck herself just like that, taking it slow, taking her time. Making it last.
She rolls her head to the side to get a better look at him. "Are you just gonna watch?" she says. "Or are you gonna help me?"
He smiles and, excited, takes over control of her toy. He uses the same rhythm she'd been enjoying, but with more intention and at a sweeter angle. He knows it's right when her head falls back against the pillows and she groans. Her fingers are still swirling over her clit, and he bats her hand out of the way before running his own fingers through her slit, gathering her wetness, and dragging it up to her clit. He circles it with two fingers and firm pressure, the way he knows she loves.
"Is that good too?" he asks, mostly rhetorically. He knows exactly what he's doing to her.
Her hands squeeze her own breasts as she moans her assent. "I'm close," she moans. "God, don't stop."
Oh, he has no intention of stopping. He fucks her steadily, watching as her body seems to coil tighter and tighter. She likes the slow buildup of it, the deliberate climb to her release, and he's always loved watching her get there.
Her hips press up, up, up, and then...
"Oh," she chokes out, her hand shooting down to grab his wrist and hold him right there as she comes against his hand. Mike presses her down against the bed, feels her abdominal muscles quiver as she rides it out with tiny panting moans.
After a moment she pushes him away, and he turns off the toy and slides it out of her. He tosses it on the other side of the bed—they can clean it later—and climbs on top of her, seeking out her lips in a frantic, desperate kiss.
"Fuck me," she says between kisses. She pushes at his boxers urgently. "Please, please fuck me."
He gets his boxers off just as Nadine wraps her legs around his waist. She slides her wet center back and forth along his shaft impatiently and he has to hold her down so that he can line himself up and slide home. She cries out in pleasure, drowning out his own heartfelt groan. Her arms go around his neck and she pulls him down, holds him so close to her that it seems like every part of his body is pressed against every part of hers. God, he's missed her body.
She captures his mouth again, kissing him hard and quick and dirty, sharing his air and licking his moans right out of his mouth as their bodies move together in perfect synchrony. Mike is suddenly grateful that he'd taken one out of the chamber earlier, because otherwise this would have had a very quick ending.
She unwinds her legs, and he hooks one over his arm and presses her knee up toward her chest for a deeper angle. When he enters her again, her mouth opens in a little oh. "That's it," she breathes.
"Is this what you needed? You gonna come again for me, Nadine?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," she moans. He feels her fingers curling into his shoulders, nails digging in as he fucks her hard and deep. He thinks he should be able to get her there again with just a little more encouragement, so he eases a hand between their bodies and gently presses his thumb against her clit until she keens. "Yes, keep going." She throws her head back. Her hips move frantically against his for a long moment, and then she's crying out and shaking under him, and she takes him with her over the edge.
"Oh fuck," Mike gasps, coming harder than he has in a long time. "Oh my god." He's panting into her skin. Mindlessly, he presses a kiss to her neck, feels her pulse flutter rapidly against his lips. He rolls them over so that she's laying on top of his chest, and they both lay there and try to catch their breath.
"You were right," she mumbles after a while, practically liquid now. "I needed that."
He grins up at the ceiling, feeling loose, feeling happy. "I can always tell when you need to get laid, sweetheart."
"Hush," she says, smacking his chest lightly. "Or else you don't get to participate in the next round."
They can't have that. He tightens his arm around her. "Yes ma'am."