I develop the pictures I took with Dee at the park. And while I wait in the darkroom, I think about the last time I was here. With her. Her wet mouth, the stroke of her soft tongue, the way her cheeks hollowed out when she sucked me dry.

As my memory runs wild, I just barely contain the pu**y-whipped urge to call Delores and implore her to come over. I succeed, but only because we already made plans for her to hang out here Wednesday night.

As far as I’m concerned, Wednesday can’t come soon enough.

On Wednesday afternoon, I meet Alexandra downtown for lunch.

The weather is mild, so we sit at a sidewalk table outside. I take a bite of my burger while Alexandra crunches a salad with grilled shrimp. Then I tell her, “So . . . I’ve met someone.”

Growing up with Drew, I always regarded Lexi as my older sister, but the fact that we didn’t share the same genes, or actually have to live together, made our relationship much less contentious than the one she has with her brother. She looks out for me, but she doesn’t “mother” me the way she does with Drew. She gets annoyed by my screwups, but she doesn’t feel responsible for them. For me, it’s the best of both worlds—all the benefits of a big sister without the pain in the ass headaches.

“From what I hear, you and my brother ‘meet’ lots of women.”

I grin. “This one I like.”

She nods. “Once again, you and Drew ‘like’ a whole bunch of poor, unsuspecting ladies. Why is this one worth mentioning?”

“I like her, like her.”

Alexandra’s blue eyes widen. “Wow. A Wonder Years reference. This must be serious. Do tell.”

My eyes abashedly drop to my burger. “Her name is Delores.”

“That’s kind of random.”

“She’s . . . different.”

Lexi tries to pull more details out of me. “Like . . . she has three br**sts kind of different?”

I laugh. “No. But, for the record, it wouldn’t be a strike against her if she did. She’s . . . cool. I have a good time talking with her, you know? She says she’s not into relationships, but I think I’m hoping I can change her mind. I haven’t felt like this since . . .”

Alexandra puts up her palm. “Don’t. Do not even say the foul beast’s name. I’m trying to eat here.”

“Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s going anywhere, but I . . .”

I don’t get the opportunity to finish my sentence. Because a wave of icy, red liquid splashes in my face.

Tastes like cherry.

“Lying motherfucker!”

I swipe my face, clearing the fluid off my eyelashes. When my vision clears, I see Delores standing on the sidewalk—with a now-empty Slurpee cup clenched in her hand.

Which she proceeds to throw at my f**king head.

“All that talk about not hooking up with other people! Exclusive f**k buddies, you said! I would’ve liked you if you had just been straight with me! I knew it—I knew you were just another false-faced bastard who doesn’t like to share his sex toys but has no problem playing with a different one!”

By this time, Alexandra and I are both on our feet. And I have no idea what’s going on.

I try, “Delores . . .”

But she cuts me off. “Four days! You tell me four days ago that you’re not interested in screwing anyone else, and here I find you with . . . with . . .”

Lexi holds out her hand for a shake. “Alexandra Reinhart.”

Dee’s incendiary glare turns to Lexi. But her tirade stops as she wonders. “Reinhart. How do I know that name?”

She lets me answer. Finally. “She’s Mackenzie’s mother.”

If you look closely, you can almost see our previous conversation replaying in Delores’s eyes. “Mackenzie . . . the pseudo niece?” Her head turns more fully to me. “That means she’s . . .”

“The girl I grew up with—yes. Drew’s sister.”

Alexandra takes over for me. “Drew’s sister, Steven’s wife, daughter of John and Anne. I have many designations. One, in particular, is about to be put to good use.”

It’s times like this I suspect Alexandra knows about her nickname. And it scares me.

A lot.

Alexandra’s eyes stay on Dee, but she says to me, “I see what you meant about different.” Then to Delores, “You must be Delores. Matthew was just telling me about you. I’d say it’s a pleasure to meet you, but I’ve reached my bullshit quota for the week.”

Alexandra circles her slowly—like a shark checking out a wounded seal. “You know, Delores, my mother used to tell me that even though a man wasn’t supposed to ever strike a woman, I should never take advantage of that. That I should never act without expecting an equal and deserving reaction.”

Dee folds her arms across her chest and stands stubbornly tall under the weight of Lexi’s disapproving gaze.

“Matthew’s explained our relationship to you. He’s like a second brother to me. And of the two of them? He’s the nicer one. You should keep that in mind before you think about tossing Icees at his head again.”

Dee gives just a little. She looks down at the sidewalk and mutters defensively, “It was a Slurpee.”

Alexandra snaps her fingers at me. “Give me your shirt and jacket.”

After taking off my tie, I hand the items to her and stand on the sidewalk in a plain white undershirt and gray slacks. Dee reaches for the stained clothes in Lexi’s hands. “I’ll pay to have them dry-cleaned.”

Alexandra rolls her eyes. “The dry cleaners won’t be able to get this out. Luckily, I have a homemade paste that should save the day.” She says to me, “You can pick it up Saturday.”

She puts her hands on my shoulders and kisses my cheek while wiping some remaining red slush off my ear with a napkin. “I have to get going. Good luck—you’re going to need it.”

Before Alexandra leaves, Dee offers, “I hope the next time we meet, it’ll be under better circumstances.”

And Alexandra responds, “I seriously doubt we’ll be meeting again. Matthew’s sweet, not stupid.” Then she grabs her purse and walks down the street.

Dee and I watch her go.

Almost to herself Dee says, “Is she always that much of a bitch?”

I smile. “It’s what she does.” Then I run a hand through my sticky, stiff hair. “What the f**k, Dee?”

The arm folding is back, and she babbles, “I’m not apologizing. It was a natural mistake. I told you I’m not good at this. Apparently, I even screw up f**k buddies. I was walking around on my lunch break, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw you. What else was I supposed to think? If you want to blow me off, that’s your decision to make, but I’m not sorry.”

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