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When I got back to the room, Bernard and Maggie were on one twin bed, Maggie flat on her back, snoring with her mouth wide-open, while Bernard hung over the side, huddled into a tight ball, apparently trying not to disturb her, and snoring softly himself.

Theo sat on the other bed, and he looked up when I came in. He patted the space next to him. I sat down.

This is all so crazy, I whispered. Are you freaking?

I guess I should be, but He shook his head. You gotta tell me, though, are you always like this?

Like what?


Im not drama!

Shh. He pointed at Maggie and Bernard, neither of whom stirred a bit.

I am not drama.

Dude, when I met you-

When you met me there was no drama. Not even a little!

Okay, I guess thats true, but within a week or so it was Drama Central.

Im not like this all the time. I swear. I paused and then thought about it. You know what? Its true that Im not usually Drama Central. Honestly. I looked at my left hand where my engagement ring used to be. But it has been a bizarre year. Ive never told you about my fianc'e. My ex-fianc'e. There was a lot of stuff that went on there. I waved a hand. But you know what? Now that I think about it, that craziness has brought me a lot of good, too. Its almost like it pulled a scab off of me, something I didnt know was there, and it opened me up to everything. Everything. I mean, Ive been tested in so many different ways, and generally, Im pretty proud of the way Ive responded. But Im still the same Izzy I always was. I turned to face Theo, crossed my legs. So its been crazy, but the crazy keeps bringing interesting stuff into my life.

And thats a good thing?

I reached out and tucked a lock of his silky hair behind one of his ears, looked at the pillow puff of his bottom lip. Yeah. A really good thing. I met you. And Ive met some other amazing people, too. And my friends and family have shown me that theyre there for me no matter what. I guess I always knew that, but its nice to see. I held out my hand and grabbed his. I squeezed it. But, anyway, youre right. It has been drama. I guess. And Im seriously sorry if its put drama in your life.

He leaned toward me, kissed my forehead. Then he looked down at my new necklace and lifted the stone. Ive been meaning to ask you about this.

I got it from my aunt. She got it from her mom, my grandmother.

He tugged gently on my necklace, tugging me with it until we were close, our faces just an inch from each other. He kissed me again, this time on my lips. Slow. I think we need to find another room.


He grinned.

Are you serious? I whispered. You still want to fool around with me with all this going on?

He nodded.

I laughed, then stood up. Lets go.

We went in search of an innkeeper to ask for our own room, but everything was shut down for the night, and no one was around. I led him into the breakfast room, closed the door behind us and turned off the lamp. It was dark now, only the alley lights barely seeping through the windows. The rain began to pound harder against them, blocking out all other sounds.

Theo picked me up and wrapped my legs around his waist.

This is getting to be a favorite position of ours, I said.

Mmm-hmm. His mouth was on my neck, just below my ear.

He walked, my legs still around him, until he reached the table at the far side of the room, where everything was covered in darkness. He sat me down on the table and drew me closer. I thought I knew what he would do. I thought he would do exactly what wed been doing in my condo stairwell the few nights before I left town. But instead, he put his arms around me and embraced me gently. For minutes. I dont know how many exactly, but they were long, soothing minutes.

And then he started kissing me. He kissed me as though there was nothing else he wanted to do, not at that moment, not ever. He seemed to be drawing something out of me, something from a very small pit deep inside me that the eye couldnt see, a place that held calm and clarity. With every kiss, I felt myself loosening, felt that calm rising to the surface.

We never did have sex that night. We kissed on the table for an hour.

Finally, he said, Lets go to bed.

That night, in a twin bed, tucked in Theos arms, I slept better than I had since all the craziness began.

She doesnt scare easily, said the voice on the phone from Napoli, telling Dez exactly what he didnt want to hear.

But then again, thats what he prized about Neapolitans, about his coworkers in the System. They told it the way it was, not how you wanted it to look.

Well, then handle it, he said. Try harder.

| Red, White & Dead | c