The day had been perfect. She’d woken up on time, had a great workout, kissed her husband good-bye. Everyone had been on-task at the office. No files had gone missing, no photos out of place. Designs were all coming together beautifully. Custom orders had been thrilled with what she’d sent them.
She’d gotten a thank you note from someone in the parliament. Someone who was in the hearings, who knew what she’d done.
She settled into the corner of the leather couch, her elbow on the armrest and her forehead in one hand. Flipped open her book with the other. Stared at the page, blowing out a breath that made her red hair flutter away from her face. She didn’t read. Just sat, and was home.
“Hey, sweetheart.” Jason called from the apartment doorway, letting himself in. He paused as he saw her sitting in the lamplight, holding her book in her lap. “Good book?”
“Hm,” Arianna answered without looking up. Jason laid his coat over the arm of the couch, turning up his shirtsleeves as he walked behind her, pausing to kiss the top of her head.
“Bad day?” he pressed, moving into the kitchen and opening the fridge. “Hungry?”
Arianna ignored him, her fingers running over the words she wasn’t reading. I just wanted to thank you personally, though that’s probably presumptuous. Not really. She was glad to help.
Arianna jumped, her hand flying from the book and turning into a weapon. Jason blocked it deftly, offering her a glass of water with his free hand. She accepted it silently, letting the book fall closed as Jason settled next to her on the couch and put a hand on her thigh. “Come on, babe. What’s up?”
Arianna stared at the water for a moment, took a sip, finally sighed. She shifted out from under his hand, leaning her head on his shoulder. He took the water from her, and she slid further until her head was in his lap. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “The day was fine.”
Jason patted her hair soothingly. “All your customs go okay, then?”
“Yeah. Fine.” She sat up suddenly, pressing her hands into his leg as she looked him in the face. “It just seems wrong.”
“What does?” Jason sat the glass of water on the floor, gave her his full attention.
“Doesn’t it, though? Seem wrong?” She looked around as if to indicate the whole world, then put her forehead on his shoulder. “The war. It’s over. No more snatching. Or experiments.” She looked up at him, her mouth grim. “And they’re thanking me.”
“Well, dear,” Jason said a trifle dryly. “You did stop the war.”
Arianna sighed, flung out an arm dramatically and collapsed back into his lap. She stayed there for a long moment, Jason rubbing her shoulder. Then Jason’s gentle hand turned suddenly mischievous and started tickling her furiously. Arianna shrieked, struggling to get away, rolling onto the floor, grabbing throw pillows as she went, beating him with them mercilessly as he continued to tickle her.
“Yield,” Jason bellowed as Arianna laughed uproariously.
“Never!” Arianna gasped back. She managed to grab one of his wrists and jerk it into a joint lock.
Jason stopped, his mouth twisting in amusement. “That’s cheating.”
“All’s fair,” Arianna taunted him.
He darted in with the other hand, but Arianna joint locked that one as well. Jason took advantage of her busy hands by leaning in and kissing her.
“My plan worked,” he informed her, inches from her mouth.
“Did it?” The mouth curved up into a smile. “I wasn’t aware getting joint locked by your wife was the plan.”
“You’re smiling,” Jason answered simply.
Arianna snorted, dropped his hands. Jason held out an arm and she scooted next to him, their backs against the couch. Ari rested her head on his shoulder once more. “You know, I like you,” she told him.
“I like me, too.”
Arianna rolled her eyes, poked him in the side. “That one was old a hundred years ago.”
“I’m bringing retro back.”
“You’re not that cool. That’s my job.”
“Then I’m doomed to be cool-less forever.”
“Naw. You get some, kinda. When it bounces off me.”
Jason squeezed her until she squirmed, then let her go. “It really is over, even though it doesn’t feel like it could be.”
“It won’t ever. Too much happened.” Too many are gone. And I didn’t lose anyone. Jason smiled at her. She didn’t have any right to be this happy, and she knew it.
“Be happy anyway.” Jason kissed her cheek, missed her surprised look. “Come on.” He lifted his arm away from her and started to stand. “I think it’s a sushi night.”
Arianna gripped his belt loops, letting him pull her up and following him out the door, leaving the book on the floor, teasing him; laughing. Happy.