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Book 3: Not Quite A Billionaire

We didn’t go for a walk after all that night, and we didn’t have a chat, either. We cooked a quick dinner and ate it, and Karen told Hope about her upcoming driving lessons, and Hope smiled and asked questions, and I considered mentioning Noah the Buddhist but decided it could wait until tomorrow, along with everything else. And I thought about how good it felt to eat dinner with them, and how little I’d done it back in New York.

Hope and I did the washing up, because Koro’d never taken to the idea of a dishwasher, and when we were done, Hope said, “I’m sorry, guys, but I think I’m going to have to take a shower and go to bed. Jet lag, I guess.”

“Too bad you didn’t come in Hemi’s jet,” Karen said. “Those seats fold down into beds, did you know that? It’s like being a rich person. Oh, wait. It is being a rich person.”

“Mm,” Hope said. She looked at me, hesitated, then said, “I don’t know if there are sheets on Karen’s bed. And I wonder . . . I hope . . .”

“Karen can take care of her own sheets,” I said, and my heart had started to hammer. “She’s sixteen, not ten, eh, Karen.”

“Yeah,” Karen said. “And I guess I’m going to go watch TV and read a book. Not that there’s anything to watch. New Zealand seriously needs to get some better channels.”

“You could just read instead,” Hope said.

“Too boring,” Karen said. “Multitasking is my life.”

When she was gone, I looked at Hope and said, “You wonder what?” Easy, boy, I told myself. Don’t rush her. Don’t push her. Even though self-control had never come harder.

“I know I left,” she said slowly. She’d been looking at the tea towel in her hands, folding and refolding it, but now, she looked straight at me. “I was right to leave. I know that, too. But I still want to sleep with you. It would feel so much better, even though I should be too tired to care. I’m too tired for sex, and I know you probably want it, and that you’re so angry at me for leaving. But from now on, I’m going to try much harder to tell you what I feel and what I need, and it seems . . .” She stopped and laughed a little, trying to make it lighter, to make herself less vulnerable, and hung the towel carefully over its rack. “It seems what I need most is to fall asleep with you holding me. So I’m asking for it.”

I had one chance here. I was going to get it right. “From now on,” I said, “I’m going to try much harder to listen. Go take your shower, baby. I’ll come hold you.”

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