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He can’t stop messing with her hair. They’re spooned together in his rumpled bed, a rare lazy Saturday morning tilting into afternoon. Holder loops her hair around his wrist, lets it slide through his fingers again and again, coppery silk. Twists a couple sections around each other but he doesn’t actually know shit about making a braid, so instead he tucks it behind her ear and presses his face into the lush waves at the nape of her neck.

“How long you been growing your hair out like this, Linden?”

She turns over, nestling against him. “I don’t know. I just never cut it.” She rests her head on his shoulder and runs her nails lightly over his chest, tracing his tattoo. “Why?”

“Just…I like it.” Holder lifts another hank of her hair and drapes it across his face, breathing in her scent of shampoo, cigarettes, sex. “Rapunzel,” he mutters, grinning behind the warm curtain of it. “Let down your sexy red locks, girl, lemme get all up in your tower…”

Linden raises her head and peers at him. “If this is your kink, Holder, it’s pretty lame,” she says.

“Oh, snap! Rapunzel, copping an attitude! Lame? You want kinky, mamacita? Oh, I’ll give you kinky!” He slaps her ass, a cartoon smack! and rolls them so that he’s on top. Tickle-gropes her, planting sloppy kisses like bites wherever he can reach as she writhes beneath him, chuckling.

He doesn’t tell her, then—he might not, ever—that what really does it for him? what gets him hard enough to cut glass? It isn’t her hair. It’s this: Sarah Linden, laughing. When she’s startled into a breathless giggle, and masks it with a scowl. When she throws back her head, now, and twines her bare limbs with his. When he cajoles and teases and pesters a dry snicker out of her in the car. In those moments when he can make her laugh, that’s when he knows, she’s happy. For a second, for an hour, maybe longer, maybe always if he lets himself believe it: he, Stephen Holder, can make Sarah Linden happy.