He shook his head dismissively. “That’s not relevant.”
I snickered. “That’s the kind of answer you give when you’re embarrassed with the truth.”
“I’m not embarrassed.” He considered for a minute. “You want to know? I’ll tell you, but I don’t know if you’ll like it.”
I thought about that. How many women would he have to sleep with to give me pause? I couldn’t come up with an exact number, but it occurred to me that whatever that number was, it would lead me to either feel inadequate or overwhelmed. “You’re right. I don’t want to know.”
He didn’t hide the satisfaction from his face. “But I do want to know how many guys you’ve been with.”
I let him wait in silence for a few seconds before I gave him what he wanted. “Three.”
It was JC’s turn to look nervous. “Oh shit. Are you sure you can do this without getting attached?”
This time I couldn’t ignore his pretension. “Do you have some sort of narcissistic disorder? I’m not going to get attached. For your information, only one of those three men was a boyfriend. One was a drunken night in college. One I banged for fun.”
His eyes lit up like I’d taken off my shirt. “You banged a guy for fun? We’re further ahead than I assumed.”
“I did. Judger.” Actually, I’d banged him because the activity had given me a place to hide. An occasional sanctuary from the trial and the emotional effort it took to survive the aftermath of Dad’s arrest. At first, anyway. Then it became a habit.
“So let me ask this—when’s the last time?”
“That I got banged? Three days ago. In my club’s kitchen.” I knew what he meant. I was stalling my answer.
He didn’t even crack a smile. “Before that.”
“A couple years ago. Maybe three. Or five.” It was more than seven, actually. The last friends with benefits had been before Ben had taken off for the West Coast.
“Uh-huh.” Like before, I could hear the doubt in his voice. “Why did you stop fucking him? The last one.”
The last one—Marcus—had been a nice enough guy. He’d been a student at Pace University. We’d never felt the romantic spark for each other. In fact, when we’d first met he’d been crushing on another girl in our Accounting 101 course. I was simply someone to shag while he waited around for her to notice him, and I liked the escapism sex provided.
Then things changed. “I realized it was easier to get myself off,” I said to JC. “A lot less work, a whole lot less emotion involved.”
“Then you did get attached.”
It took a moment for him to process that. “He fell for you. And you cut him off.” JC’s expression eased. “Wow. Brutal, Gwen. Brutal.” Yet, he seemed pleased. “Had you set guidelines beforehand? Told him you weren’t interested in more?”
“We didn’t set guidelines like this, but he knew.” Long before he’d moved his crush on Chelle—was that her name?—to me, I’d told him I only did sex for fun.
JC shook his head. “He liked you from the get-go. He probably hoped he’d change your mind about wanting something else through the power of fucking.”
I would have disagreed, except I’d wondered the same thing. Wondered if Chelle was an excuse to get me to spend time with him in the first place. Now I wondered how JC could be so perceptive. “If he did, it didn’t work. In case you were having any ideas about changing my mind about anything like that.”
“Um, no. You don’t have to worry about that.” He laced his fingers and cupped them behind his head. “So three priors. And you don’t have a problem with no condoms.”
It wasn’t a question, but I interjected with an answer. “Oh, no. I do have a problem with that. We’re using condoms.” Even though I’d entertained for a moment the idea of not using them when he’d shown me his clean report, I had since realized the folly in it.
JC scowled. “We’ve already gone bareback. We can’t go to condoms now. That’s moving in the wrong direction.”
“It was one time, and it was a mistake. I can’t have sex with someone who’s sleeping around and not use condoms.” I gathered our empty cups and headed to the trashcan.
“You think I’d sleep around when I’m with you?” JC followed after me, his statement raising the eyebrows of a lady sitting at a nearby table.
I pushed the cups into the trash and turned to face him. “Isn’t that your M.O.?”
“No. It’s not.” He was irked. “We do this, I’m with you and no one else.” The sincerity of his statement was evident in his intense expression.
My chest fluttered. Monogamous sex was what I preferred. Even if I wasn’t interested in romance, I was still a girl. I got insecure and compared myself to others. Sometimes I got jealous.
But while I wanted it, the question was, why did he? I was leery. “That’s commitment number two in our no commitment deal.”
“You’re going to be a hard-ass about this, aren’t you?”
“That’s my M.O., remember?” At least my teasing made him drop the serious expression.
The sound of a throat clearing made me realize we were still blocking the trash. “Sorry,” I said to the man waiting to get through. I grabbed JC’s shirtsleeve and tugged him back to the table where our jackets still sat waiting for us.
“Okay, yes,” JC said as soon as we’d sat. “It’s commitment number two. But I think we can both agree that this is an important one.”
“We could just use condoms.” But the fight was waning in my tone. Even with clean health reports and an IUD, I usually preferred the double protection. But we had already gone condom-free. And if I were truly learning to chill-the-freak-out, then maybe this was a good place to start relaxing my rules.
There was only one issue keeping me from giving in entirely—could I trust JC to be faithful?
JC’s persistence also diminished. “We could. I’d prefer not to. Whether we do or not won’t change that I’m only going to be with you.”
It was weird how I believed him in my heart. He connected with me there, knew how to say things to cause a leap of faith.
But my head still had doubts. “You’d be willing to have sex only once a week? For however long this goes on?”