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‘Honey,’ Jake shouts, slamming the door to his and Amy’s apartment behind him, ‘I’m home! Are you playing opera?’

‘It’s Gaetano Donizetti,’ Amy calls back.

‘Oh, yeah. That guy.’ He follows the sound of her voice and the opera music through to the living room. The furniture’s cleared out but for the CD player from which comes the offending wail, and the floor is covered in an overly-cautious amount of newspaper. More tins of paint than they could possibly need are in a neat row along one wall.

‘Hey,’ Amy says.

He nods at the CD player. ‘Let me guess what she’s doing. Is she dying?’

She rolls her eyes. ‘They’re not always dying, Jake.’

‘Mm, they’re usually dying. She sounds like she’s dying.’

‘She’s not dying!’ she insists. ‘And this is a beautiful rendition of a beautiful aria. Don’t be mean.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he says. ‘What’s she singing about?’

‘She just went insane and stabbed her husband.’

‘That’s so much more cheerful. On an unrelated note, is it too late to rethink our engagement?’

She smiles in response and he leans in the doorway, taking her in. She’s wearing an old shirt of his, sleeves rolled up, and a pair of cut-off shorts, her hair up in a messy bun as she stands on tiptoe to paint a small square near the top of the wall. No, he’s not rethinking anything.

‘I’m just seeing what it looks like in the light on this side,’ she tells him. She nods toward the patchwork of paint swatches at the other end of the room. ‘I tested all the different shades over there, too, though.’

Jake surveys the wall, folding his arms. ‘Huh. And they are… almost all beige.’

‘Neutral,’ she corrects. ‘And not all of them. Look.’ She crosses over to him, picking up a couple of paint samples from the floor. ‘I thought we could do the Oatmeal with this Sienna Red as an accent wall, or maybe this Cake Batter shade with the Candy Apple?’

He takes one of the paint pots from her, examining it. ‘The second one sounds way more delicious, so…’

‘I want it to feel warm and homey.’ She faces the wall, chewing thoughtfully on her lip. ‘Are you sure you don’t prefer the Oatmeal?’

‘You know, on second thought, yeah,’ he says, wrapping his arms loosely around her from behind and resting his chin on her shoulder. ‘I totally prefer Beige One to Beige Two.’

‘Jake. Take this seriously.’

‘I’m very serious. Go with the Cornmeal.’



‘I already bought enough of each type to do the whole room,’ she says. She points at one of the larger tins on the floor. ‘So that’s the Oatmeal, and so’s that one. That’s the Sienna. Okay?’ She points again. ‘Oatmeal. Oatmeal. Sienna. Got it?’

‘Sure.’ He kisses the shell of her ear. ‘And the paint’s supposed to go where?’

‘On the—’ Amy breaks off, craning her neck to look at him. ‘You’re making fun of me.’

‘Kind of.’

‘I’m not trying to patronize you!’ she assures him. ‘I just want to make sure we get it right.’

‘I know.’ He tightens his arms around her. There’s a splotch of paint that’s dried on the shirt she’s wearing, rough under his fingers. She smells really, really good. ‘You know what we could do instead of decorating the living room?’ he murmurs, nipping at her earlobe. ‘You’re Petra Rose Solomon, a sexy art student with a mysterious past, and I’m Dexter Gruzinsky, a cool loner from the wrong side of the tracks.’ He kisses his way down her neck and she hums in satisfaction, tilting her head. ‘I don’t wanna give too much away,’ he continues, ‘but we totally do it in that giant bra thing at the MoMA.’ His tongue flutters against her pulse point and she shivers.

‘You know,’ she sighs, ‘there are way sexier works of art in the MoMA.’

‘So many nudes,’ he agrees, slipping his hands under the hem of her shirt. ‘The bra is my favorite, though.’

Amy tips her head back to rest on his shoulder. ‘Know what would be really hot?’

‘Mm, what?’ he asks, nuzzling her neck.

‘If Petra and Dexter decorated their living room and then went and had sex in their bed while they waited until the walls dried enough to apply a second coat of paint.’

Jake thinks about it, smoothing his fingers across her stomach. ‘Well, paint takes kind of a long time to dry,’ he points out.

She grins, pressing back into him. ‘I know.’

‘Petra wears glasses,’ he tells her. ‘You think you could arrange that?’

‘I’ll see what I can do,’ she says solemnly. ‘I’m sure I can figure something out.’

‘Then I’m so on-board with the amended Petra/Dexter story,’ he says. ‘Let’s get to work.’