I rapped on William's door. "Um, hi?"
William was stabbing at the keyboard on his phone, feet up on his desk. He didn't say anything.
"William!" I snapped, and he tossed his phone on his desk with a sigh.
"Are we going to LA?"
"It was supposed to be good news," he said. "But now," his nostrils flared, irritably, "Goddamnit this really put a damper on things. Of all the people LS Barton had to put on the account." He raised an eyebrow at me. "I'm sure you're thrilled as well."
I pressed my lips together, afraid to say anything. William clearly didn't know that Peter had volunteered for this position because of me, and I didn't want him to ever find out that I was the reason his arch nemesis was following him west.
William swung his legs off the desk and folded his hands in front of him. "Listen," he said, his tone reassuring, "let's not let Peter ruin this for us. We should both be excited about this—I'm taking on more of a leadership role in the company, and now you get to go to LA even sooner than expected. We aren't really going to be working with Peter all that much. So let's focus on the upside, okay?" He gave me an encouraging smile, and I was quick to follow his lead by smiling gratefully back at him. I suddenly understood, very clearly, how important it was that William believed I was dreading working with Peter, that I was unnerved by his mere presence. It put the two of us in the same boat, and I needed to be in the same boat as my boss.
William and I chatted for a few more minutes about logistics—when we would leave (no definite date yet, but sometime in the next two or three weeks), the car I needed to rent for both of us, the living arrangements I'd have to make. CWA has a suite of apartments permanently rented out for trainees, and if I could find someone to sublet my apartment while I was away I'd actually end up making money on the move, which was definitely an upside.
I was meeting Richard at his apartment after work. He'd been on Long Island all day, dealing with his mom, and I felt bad burdening him with the news that I was about to take off to LA with my dashing, very successful ex-boyfriend, but there was never going to be a good time to tell him this. I just had to reassure him that I was in love with him and there was nothing Peter could do to change that.
Richard had a glass of wine waiting for me when I walked into his apartment. "You warned me you had a tough day," he said.
I took a big gulp. Then another. "I don't want you to freak out."
"Then little tip—don't start a story off by saying you don't want to freak me out."
I set my wine glass on top of the GQ on Richard's coffee table and flopped onto his couch. "Sorry. Right. That's dumb."
Richard opened his eyes wider. "Josie. Jesus, out with it."
"I'm going to LA in three weeks to help William head up the new film financing department." I took a deep breath.
"Okay," Richard said, "so it's a little sooner than expected, but we'll be fine, and this is just so great for you."
"That's not really the part I'm worried is going to freak you out."
Richard knitted his eyebrows together. "Okay...."
I explained how LS Barton was funding the new department—and that Peter would serve as the liaison between his firm and CWA.
Richard laughed a little. "William must be ecstatic."
I rolled my eyes. "Over the moon," I said. "But...um, there's more."
I'd debated whether or not to tell Richard what Peter had admitted to me. In the end, I realized that if the roles were reversed, I would want to know, and I owed Richard the courtesy of the whole truth. "Peter volunteered to go out to LA when he learned that William was going—meaning I would be going too."
Richard's jaw ticked. "How do you know that?"
"He told me," I said. "He said he missed me."
It was so quiet I could hear Richard's neighbor's TV, gently mumbling through the far wall. I opened my mouth to deliver my little 'But you don't have to worry because I love you' speech, but shut it when I saw Richard smile, ever so slightly.
"What?" I looked over myself quickly. Did I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe or something? Why was he smiling?
"No, nothing," Richard said, and then he began to laugh.
Richard crossed the room and sat down next to me. He leaned one elbow on the ledge of the couch and angled his body towards mine. "So Peter misses you?"
I shrugged. "I guess. That's what he said."
"I know what he misses," Richard said, and he leaned down and brushed his lips against mine. My stomach splintered up as he pulled away just enough to say, softly, "It's just really too fucking bad he can't have it."
Up close, I could make out just a few flecks of grey in Richard's scruff. I'm a sucker for a little salt and pepper on a young face. "So you don't care?"
"Josie," Richard said, and his hand slipped up my cute little J. Crew tweed skirt. "If you wanted to be with Peter, you would be with Peter." He held his thumb in a place that made me gasp. "And I don't think you want to be with Peter." He removed his thumb. "Do you?"
I shook my head, and Richard returned his thumb to where it had just been. "Good." With his other hand, he snapped my tights against my skin. "Take these off."
I shimmied out of my tights and skirt. Richard kissed all down my thigh, until he was kneeling between my legs, his head dipped low. For twenty glorious minutes, he reminded me exactly why I did not want to be with Peter anymore. Not one bit.