Hello, First name / my friend! Happy solstice season! As Erin Walsh would say, you might not celebrate this event but it happens to you nonetheless.
A few weeks ago, I talked all about The Cornerstone and it was soon after that I learned the extended epilogue link wasn't showing up in that book. If you need three more chapters of Shannon and Will several years into the future, you can find it here. You might've also caught this epilogue when it appeared in the Nightingale anthology (no longer available) to support human rights.
In celebration of the solstice (and all other winter holidays) season, I have a little visit with Sara and Sebastian from The Worst Guy here for you. I hope you love it as much as I loved revisiting them.
I picked up one of the many bottles of wine on the island and scowled at the label. “Could you remind me why we’re doing this?”
“You’re more than aware that I don’t have an answer for that,” Sara replied from inside the pantry. “Repeatedly asking isn’t going to change that.”
I rolled my eyes. “Then remind me how we came to be hosting the Christmas Eve party this year because I still don’t understand this turn of events.”
She emerged from the pantry with a platter tucked under one arm several boxes of crackers in the other. “Sebastian. Do you really think this is the moment to ask these questions?”
Relieving her of the platter, I said, “I’m just saying, I thought there were at least fifteen people who had to die before anyone tapped us to host anything. My only question is who died?”
She busied herself with rearranging the wine bottles. Once again. “You’re not legally required to be an asshole all the time.”
“Why can’t Emmerling do this thing?”
She skewered me with a glare. It would’ve hit harder if her hair wasn’t spilling out of her bun and curling around her face. It made her look like an angry angel. I loved it.
“Emmerling lives in a small apartment that she and Riley have filled to the gills. As you know.”
“And what about Acevedo? His place is big enough for the entire residency program.”
“Don’t be a dick.” Another gorgeous glare. I loved it when she hated me. So much fun. “Acevedo hosts everything and Erin’s been traveling all month.”
“And what about O’Rourke?”
She stared at a box of crackers like it was more interesting than anything I had to say. “What about O’Rourke?”
“Where the hell is he?”
“I draw the line at keeping track of your fellow. That problem is all on you.”
“Here’s what I want to know,” I started.
“Oh god,” she said to a set of candlesticks.
I didn’t even know we had candlesticks. Hell, I didn’t know we had platters. Wedding gifts, man. They just kept rolling in. And so random. Who decided we needed platters and candlesticks? Did married people use that stuff with frequency? I couldn’t picture that. Acevedo was the most married person I knew, and I’d never seen a candlestick at his place. Platters, though, he had those—but only because he liked entertaining. We did not. We were not those married people.
“Patrick and Andy have been doing this thing every year since—fuck, as long as I’ve been in Boston,” I said. “Where the hell are they tonight?”
“As I’ve told you several times, they are renovating their place. It is a construction zone. Again. They’re hobbyists at this point.”
“There are like a dozen kids in that family and they all have huge fucking houses. What’s wrong with all of them?”
She flattened her hands on the countertop. “Are you under the impression that I want thirty people in our house for the next few hours? Because I don’t. I pulled the on-call resident aside this morning and told him to page me for anything.”
“That’s my whole point,” I cried. “You hate having people here so why the fuck are we doing this?”
“Because—because it all happened very fast. One minute, Emmerling’s sisters-in-law were talking about their fun little Halloween parties and their wild Thanksgiving traditions, and how we have to join them for all of it, and the next, no one knows what they’re going to do about Christmas Eve because something is going on with everyone and it’s a whole big thing. And here I am, not even sure how Emmerling roped me into this brunch but they’re all really nice and friendly, and the food doesn’t kill me so I can’t complain about that, and I say we have plenty of room. We always to go to their events, all the time, and they’re always so welcoming, and it seemed like the only appropriate thing to say and they were so happy and now we actually have to do it. That’s what happened. That’s why we’re doing this. All right?”
“That sounds harrowing. Get your ass over here.” I circled the island, my arms outstretched. “Come here, my little black cat.”
She pressed her face to my chest and heaved out a sigh. “I sound like you, blubbering on about nothing.”
I ran my palm down her back. “And what’s wrong with that?”
“Well, it’s moronic, to start.”
I murmured in agreement and kissed my way down from her forehead to her neck, her lips. “And somehow, you still love me.”
I backed her up against the refrigerator. She fisted her hands in my t-shirt, pulling me even closer. “I need to wash my hair and put on real clothes,” she whispered against my lips.
In response to that, I shoved a hand down the back of her scrubs and squeezed her ass. “Just let me get your off your clothes. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“That’s not the answer.” She said this while she whipped my belt off me and tossed it to the floor. Vicious little thing she was.
“It’s my answer.” I scooped an arm under her ass and boosted her up against the refrigerator. “And as much as you hate to admit it, I’m often right.”
“What did I tell you about not being an asshole?”
I yanked her t-shirt over her head. “Shut up, Shap. You love it.”
She twisted my hair around her fingers while I buried my face between her breasts and tried to figure out how to get her scrubs off without either of us moving an inch. That wasn’t really an option and I had to admit the kitchen wasn’t the most comfortable place for any part of this—honestly, I was too fucking old to be fucking anyone on a refrigerator—but our bedroom was upstairs and the time it would take to get there was just long enough to snap Sara’s attention back to all the things she thought she needed to do before our friends staged their invasion. And I couldn’t have that.
“Stop your squirming,” I said to her chest. “I’m trying—“
“I know what you’re trying to do.”
“Then let me do it.”
“You’ll have to put me down.”
“But I don’t want to.” I said this as I (resentfully) set her feet on the floor, but I really did know how her mind worked and I wasn’t going to give her a second to fixate on crackers or hair washing again. Instead, I dropped to my knees and yanked her scrubs down.
I had maybe three wonderful, gorgeous minutes of her ripping my hair out of my head and crying and hollering like I was killing her—five minutes, tops—before a rattling noise forced its way into my consciousness. It sounded like clinking. Like glass. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t really care. I convinced myself it could wait a few more minutes. I had priorities.
That was until I heard, “Hey, guys. Here’s the last of the wine and—oh, shit. Sorry. Sorry! My bad.”
I glanced over and found Riley Walsh standing at the side door, holding two cases of wine. Behind him sat several more.
I pushed to my feet and shoved Sara behind me. “Whatever happened to knocking, Walsh?”
“I did,” he said, shifting the boxes in his hold. “And I thought I heard Sara tell me to come in.”
That wasn’t exactly what she’d said. “Yeah. Okay. You can go now.”
He added, “Sorry, Sara. I didn’t see anything. At least nothing specific.”
“That’s great,” she replied as she pulled on her shirt.
His gaze pinged between me, the island where the rest of the wine sat (why did we need so much damn wine?), and where he stood. He took a step toward the island, but thought better of it as I stared murder at him. After a minute of internal debate, he set the cases on the floor and then headed in the direction he’d arrived. He stacked the additional cases inside the door. When he finished, he called, “I’ll see you folks later.”
When the door closed behind him, Sara burst out laughing—and that was not the reaction I’d expected. I figured we’d be sending a group text and telling everyone to fend for themselves tonight because my wife was nothing if not profoundly private. But here she was, laughing like she’d just witnessed the prank of the year.
“Take me upstairs,” she said, reaching for my hand. “Finish what you started.”
I brought a hand to her neck. “Are you okay?”
“Somehow, yes,” she replied. “But I do need to wash my hair, so if you’d like to be useful, this is your chance.”
I leaned down, pressed a kiss to her lips. “I love it when you’re mean to me.”
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