“Good. I just wanted to be clear up front. Now I’m going to propose something that might seem extreme, but bear with me. The no commitment will be easier if we keep what we know of each other to a minimum. First names only. Exchanging phone numbers is okay, maybe, but no home addresses or Facebook-friending. Are you good with that?”
I paused and let the idea rattle in my head. It was extreme, and there was only one reason I could think of for him to insist on that. “Ah, Jesus Christ. You’re married, aren’t you?” While that made him less likely to get attached, I did not do infidelity.
Except maybe I had done infidelity, since I’d already fucked him. Ah, fucknugget.
But JC was already protesting. “No, no, no, no. I am not married, Gwen. Not. Married. I swear on whatever you think is holy that I have no wife, fiancée, girlfriend. Nothing. I’m a non-commitment guy all around. Come on, do you really see me any other way?”
I could almost imagine it—could see him as a protective caretaker and a doting partner. He’d shown those qualities to me in our brief interactions and it wasn’t a stretch to envisage him doing that for someone he loved.
But then there were the other parts of him. When it came down to it—even though he could be sweet—no, I did not see him as the type to commit. At all. Ever. “Then why so secretive?”
“Not secretive. Anonymous.” He lowered his gaze, seeming to be unsure that I’d like what he had to say next. “Detached.” He raised his eyes again to meet mine. “Is that a deal-breaker for you?”
It probably should have been. If he wasn’t married, he had to be hiding something else, even though I couldn’t fathom what that might be.
On the other hand, didn’t I want the same thing? I didn’t want him to know about my life—about my father, about Ben. Maybe he had his own family secrets. Did I really want to demand transparency on his part when he could turn around and demand it of me?
“No, it’s not a deal breaker,” I said in earnest. “In fact, I think it’s a great idea.”
“It is, isn’t it?” He leaned closer, his voice just above a whisper. “It’s also really kind of hot. To not know anything about each other except what matters. The things we learn naturally. Through our own discovery.”
His words were full of innuendo, but as other times when he’d said such things, it didn’t feel sleazy. It felt sensual.
Also, he was right—the anonymity and mystery was quite a turn on. Which made me even more anxious to get on with the whole set up. “Anything else we need to work out?”
“Yes. The deets. Are you done with this?” He gestured to my half-eaten quiche.
Since I’d lost my appetite for anything but skin on skin, I said yes. He took our plates to the dish bin and returned, continuing where he left off as he sat back down. “Here’s what I’m thinking. You get up around what time on Wednesdays? Afternoon? Evening?”
I was impressed that he’d remembered my schedule was unusual. “Six-ish. Sometimes seven.”
He nodded as he took in the information. “Perfect. I usually work until around then. Let’s say we meet at seven on Wednesdays at my hotel. Then we’ll plan to spend those nights together. There’s our standing date.”
“Don’t expect me to sleep. I don’t sleep at night.” I felt stupid as soon as I said it. He already knew.
“We won’t be sleeping,” he said, his lids heavy. “Also, I rarely sleep. So we’re good.”
My breathing suddenly felt heavier and my neck warmed. I wanted this. I did. But I was so unused to giving myself things for pleasure, and more, I was not in the habit of trusting other people. This deal with JC, with a man I knew nothing about, took me out of my comfort zone in a big way.
But my comfort zone was, as Norma implied—as everyone around me implied—a tightly wound cocoon. Surely even the caterpillar had a bit of trepidation before breaking out of his cocoon.
Besides, we could cancel at any time. It was part of the deal. “Wednesdays, then.”
“Wednesdays.” He narrowed his eyes. “Is this making you nervous?”
I shook my head but said, “I’m not sure.”
“Well. That’s probably a good thing.” He rubbed his hands together as if warming them, or as if he were also a bit apprehensive. “Honestly, I’m a little unsure too. Not about you. Not about this.”
“Then what about?”
His vague answer made me want to dig, but I could tell from his expression that he wouldn’t say more. And maybe that was okay. I didn’t want to talk about my reasons for trepidation. This was better. Mystery could be good.
There was something I thought should be said, though. About me. “Um, JC, about the other day…in the kitchen. I should explain.”
“No, you most definitely shouldn’t. No life details, remember?”
I wasn’t planning to tell him about Ben or anything specific, but he had to know that I’d been acting out of character. I didn’t want him to have the wrong idea about what to expect from me. “You need to know I’m not usually like that. I had—”
“Don’t worry.” He cut me off. “I know. Whatever drove you to act outside yourself that morning is none of my business, and I don’t want to make it my business. I’m grateful I was there. Right place at the right time has never worked out better for me.”
Funny, I’d been thinking he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I smiled, and by now I’d lost count of how many times he’d made me do that. Smiling was also out of my character. Perhaps JC just brought that out in me.
I took another swallow of my coffee, finishing it off. “All gone,” I said, hoping that would indicate I was ready to go.
If JC got my hint, he ignored it. “How many men have you been with?”
I was taken aback. The question was surprising enough, but especially with no lead in to it. “I thought you didn’t want to know anything about me.”
“I don’t. But this is relevant.”
Yeah, right. Relevant. Or did he just want to figure out how easy I was going to be to impress in the bedroom.
I wasn’t usually ashamed about my number of bed partners. JC, however, had infinitely more experience. I knew it without asking, but since he’d put me on the spot, I turned it back on him. “How many woman have you been with?”