The Book of Ivy / Page 46

Page 46


“Ivy…” He sounds uncharacteristically nervous, and that makes me brave. He won’t be the one to ask for this. He’s been waiting for me.

“I want you next to me,” I say.

It takes him four steps to get to the bed, and then he hesitates. He is dressed only in a pair of boxer shorts, and I’m hit with a sudden attack of nerves. Maybe I should have suggested this when he was fully dressed. Who are you kidding, Ivy? My hands itch to touch; my fingertips throb with need.

“Are you sure?” he asks me.


He climbs in beside me, the sheet puddled around our ankles. He mirrors my position, on his side, one arm under the pillow where his head rests, knees bent. Our legs are both so long that our knees bump, and after a second’s awkward hesitation, I slide a leg over both of his. He puts his free hand on the hollow of my waist before moving it lower to rest on the curve of my hip. His thumb glides along my skin, back and forth over my jutting hipbone.

I inch closer. His eyes glitter in the near darkness, his hair tousled from the pillow. I move closer still, until my body is flush against his. I twine both arms around his neck. Climbing him like my namesake.

We kiss until I’m drunk with it, drunk with the taste of him. His hands are fisted in my tank top, pulling it halfway up my sides, my leg hooked around his waist. And it doesn’t matter what either one of us said about not being ready, if we don’t stop soon, we aren’t going to be able to stop. It will be like trying to put out an inferno with a thimble full of water.

“Ivy,” Bishop whispers against my mouth. “There’s a fine line between self-control and masochism and right now we are walking it.” His voice is husky and breathless but laced with amusement, too.

I tug lightly on his hair. “Lying in bed with me is a form of torture?” I ask, laughing.

“When we’re both half naked, it is.”

One of my hands has found its way to his bare chest and my fingers play lightly over his skin. It’s warm and smooth, and I like the way his muscles shift under my curious hand.

“Stop,” he groans, catching my hand as it drifts toward his stomach and raising it to his lips. “Now you are torturing me.”

I hadn’t thought a touch like that would affect him so much. But then I imagine him touching my bare chest the same way, and heat pools in my stomach, leaving me dizzy and short of breath. “Sorry,” I whisper.

“It’s okay,” he says, tipping his head down to look at me. “There’s just a limit to what I can take.”

I lean up on my elbows and give him one last kiss. I turn over, pulling his arm across my waist. I fold his hand between both of mine. We’re not kissing anymore, but I’m not sure this is any less dangerous, having him pressed against me, his chest to my back.

The full moon is visible through the curtains, its cool glow painting the room in silver. I trace the long lines of Bishop’s fingers. “Why didn’t you stop trying with me?” I tell myself that if he’s asleep, I won’t ask again.

He’s not asleep. “What do you mean?” His breath tickles the tiny hairs on my neck.

“That night we played truth or dare. You said that after a while you stopped trying to earn your mother’s affection.” I pause. “Why didn’t you give up with me, too?”

“You know why,” he says quietly. I close my eyes. I do know, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to hear it. But some part of me must be, because I wouldn’t have asked the question otherwise, not of Bishop, the boy who never chooses to say something easy just because the truth is hard. Maybe I want to hear it so that I will know, once and for all, that there is no going back.

“Because I’m in love with you, Ivy,” he whispers. “Giving up on you isn’t an option.” He lifts my hair away from the back of my neck and kisses the delicate skin there.

My breath shudders out of me. The silence spirals into the dark room, and maybe it was foolish to ask the question, but I’m not sorry. I uncurl his hand and kiss his palm, his skin cool and dry. I place his hand over my heart, cover it with my own.

We fall asleep that way. His lips on my neck. My heart in his hand.

When the end comes, it comes quickly. I am not prepared, although I should be. Every second of my life has been leading to this moment. Its arrival should not surprise me.

I’m leaving the courthouse for the day, mind on Bishop and home, when the man from the jam stall at the market approaches. He’s walking in my direction, pushing a small cart loaded with his wares. I pretend not to see him, like a child who thinks if she doesn’t look in the closet a monster won’t be hiding there. But refusing to look doesn’t save me.

“Jam?” he calls after me as I pass. “Ma’am, could I interest you in some jam?” His voice is loud enough that I can’t ignore him, not without drawing attention to myself.

“No, thank you,” I say over my shoulder. “Not today.”

“But ma’am, I have raspberry. At a good price.”

I have no choice but to stop and turn with a false smile stretched across my face. “One jar,” I say.

He sidles up next to me, raspberry jam already in his hand. He passes it to me, along with a small slip of paper, and I hand him a wad of crumpled vouchers. “Thank you,” he says. “Enjoy.”

I shove the jam into my bag, keeping the note in my fist, and walk away fast. I wait a block, then two, before I stop and open it. Bridge in the park. Now. Callie’s handwriting.

It’s almost a relief, after all these endless weeks, to finally be getting down to it. I suppose I could ignore the summons, but that would only delay the inevitable. So instead of continuing straight toward home, I turn left at the corner and cut across the park, the brittle, late summer grass crunching under my feet.

Callie is already waiting for me on the bridge. She’s standing against the railing, leaning out slightly over the hazy water. A few ducks swim lazily below her, but even they are subdued by the heat. She waits to speak until I’m next to her, my bag lowered to the bridge between us.

“It’s time,” she says.

I don’t say anything, keep my eyes on the far edge of the pond. She is holding something out to me, but I refuse to turn my head and look at it.

“You need to put this into his food,” she says. “Most of it. Take a little yourself so they won’t suspect you of doing it. But only a little. A few drops.”

“What is it?” My voice is a dead thing, flat and dry.

“It’s a poison that mimics a virus.”

This is not what I expected. Something more dramatic that involved sharp knives or bulging eyes. Some method where I would be forced to use my hands to take his last breath.

“We’re going to have some put into food at the market, too.” Now I look at her, my eyes wide. “Not enough to kill anyone, but enough to make some people sick. Everyone will think it’s another epidemic. They happen often enough.”

I stare at her. “And the fact that only Bishop dies? No one’s going to be suspicious of that?”

“Suspicion is a long way from proof.” Callie shrugs. “And besides, there’s no way to know how much people might eat. Bishop may not be the only death.” Her nonchalance sends a dagger of ice through my chest.

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