The love Hypothesis by ALI HAZELWOOD ,Chapter 16

HYPOTHESIS: When I think I’ve hit rock bottom, someone will hand me a shovel. That someone is probably Tom Benton.
Olive drifted off after the first time, and dreamed of many strange, nonsensical things. Sushi rolls shaped like spiders. The first snowfall in Toronto, during her last year with her mother. Adam’s dimples. Tom Benton’s sneer as he spat the words “little sob story.” Adam, again, this time serious, saying her name in his unique way. Then she felt the mattress dip, and the sound of something being placed on the nightstand. She slowly blinked awake, disoriented in the dim light of the room. Adam was sitting on the side of the bed, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear. “Hi.” She smiled. “Hey.” Her hand reached out to touch his thigh through the pants he’d never managed to take all the way off. He was still warm, still solid. Still there. “How long did I sleep?” “Not long. Maybe thirty minutes.” “Hmm.” She stretched a bit against the mattress, arms above her head, and noticed the fresh glass of water on the nightstand. “Is that for me?” He nodded, handed it to her, and she propped up on her elbow to drink it, smiling in thanks. She noticed his gaze linger on her breasts, still tender and sore from his mouth, and then drift away to his own palms.
Oh. Maybe, now that they had sex—good sex, Olive thought, amazing sex, though who knew about Adam?—he needed his own space. Maybe he wanted his own damn pillow. She returned the empty glass and sat up. “I should move to my bed.” He shook his head with an intensity that suggested that he didn’t want her to go, not anywhere, not ever. His free hand closed tight around her waist, as if to tether her to him. Olive didn’t mind. “You sure? I suspect I might be a cover hog.” “It’s fine. I run warm.” He brushed a strand of hair from her forehead. “And according to someone, I look like I might snore.” She gasped in mock outrage. “How dare they? Tell me who said that and I will personally avenge you—” She yelped when he held the icy-cool glass against her neck, and then dissolved into laughter, drawing up her knees and trying to twist away from him. “I’m sorry—you don’t snore! You sleep like a prince!” “Damn right.” He set the glass on the nightstand, appeased, but Olive remained curled up, cheeks flushed and breathing hard from fending him off. He was smiling. With dimples, too. The same smile he’d smiled into her neck earlier, against her skin, the one that had tickled her and made her laugh. “I’m sorry about the socks, by the way.” She winced. “I know it’s a controversial topic.” Adam looked down at the rainbow-colored material stretched around her calves. “Socks are controversial?” “Not socks per se. Just, keeping them on during sex?” “Really?”
“Totally. At least according to the issue of Cosmopolitan we keep at home to swat cockroaches.” He shrugged, like a man who’d only ever read the New England Journal of Medicine and maybe Truck-Pushing Digest. “Why would anyone care one way or the other?” “Maybe they don’t want to unknowingly have sex with people with horrible, disfigured toes?” “Do you have disfigured toes?” “Truly grotesque. Circus-worthy. Antithetical to sex. Basically a built-in contraceptive.” He sighed, clearly amused. He was struggling to hold on to his moody, broody, intense act, and Olive loved it. “I’ve seen you in flip-flops multiple times. Which, by the way, are not lab compliant.” “You must be mistaken.” “Really.” “I don’t like what you’re insinuating, Dr. Carlsen. I take the Stanford environmental health and safety guidelines very seriously and— What are you—” He was so much larger than her, he could hold her down with one hand on her belly as he wrestled her out of her socks, and for some reason she loved every moment of it. She put up a good fight, and maybe he’d have a couple of bruises tomorrow, but when he finally managed to take them off, Olive was out of breath from laughing. Adam caressed her feet reverently, as though they were delicate and perfectly shaped instead of belonging to someone who ran two marathons a year. “You were right,” he said. Chest heaving, she looked at him curiously. “Your feet are pretty hideous.”
“What?” She gasped and freed herself, pushing at his shoulder until he ended up on his back under her. He surely could have unseated her, giant that he was. And yet. “Take it back.” “You said it first.” “Take it back. My feet are cute.” “In a hideous way, maybe.” “That’s not a thing.” His laugh blew warm against her cheek. “There’s probably a German word for that. Cute, but exceptionally ugly.” She bit his lip just enough to make him feel it, and Adam— he seemed to lose that grip he always had on himself. He seemed to suddenly want more, and he flipped them until she was underneath him, turning the bite into a kiss. Or maybe it was Olive herself, since her tongue was licking his lip, exactly where she’d made it sting. She should probably tell him to stop. She was sweaty and sticky, and should excuse herself and go take a shower. Yes, that sounded like good sex etiquette. But he felt warm and strong, positively glowing. He smelled delicious, even after all they’d done, and she couldn’t help getting sidetracked and letting her arms loop around his neck. Pulling him down. “You weigh a ton,” she told him. He made to move up and away, but she wrapped her legs around his waist, holding him close. She felt so safe with him. Invincible. A true slayer. He turned her into a powerful, ferocious person, one that could destroy Tom Benton and pancreatic cancer before breakfast. “No, I love it. Stay, please.” She grinned up at him, and saw his breathing speed up. “You are a cover hog.” There was a spot at the base of her neck that he’d found earlier, a spot that made her sigh and arch
up and melt into the pillow. He attacked it like it was his new true north. He had a way of kissing her, half cautious and half unrestrained, that had her wondering why she used to think of kissing as such a boring, aimless activity. “I should go clean up,” she said, but didn’t make a move. He slid down, just a couple of inches, just enough to get distracted by her collarbone, and then by the curve of her breast. “Adam.” He ignored her and traced her jutting hip bones, and her ribs, the taut skin of her belly. He kissed every last freckle, as though to store them up in his memory, and there were so many. “I’m all sticky, Adam.” She squirmed a little. In response, his palm moved to her ass. To keep her still. “Ssh. I’ll clean you up myself.” He put his finger inside her and she gasped, because— Oh God. Oh. Oh God. She could hear the wet noises down there, from herself and his own come, and he should be disgusted by this, and she should, too, and yet— She wasn’t. And he was groaning, as if the satisfaction of having made a mess of her, inside her, of knowing that she’d let him, was a heady thing for him. Olive closed her eyes and let herself go under, feeling him lick the skin between her thigh and abdomen, hearing low moans and gasps coming out of her own mouth, sliding her fingers in his hair to grip him more tightly against her. She was definitely clean by the time she came, slow contractions that swelled in large waves and had her thighs shaking around his head, and that was when he asked, “Can I fuck you again?” She looked up at him, flushed and hazy with her orgasm, and bit her lip. She wanted to. She really wanted to have him on top of her, inside her, chest pushing her into the mattress and arms snaked around her body. That feeling of security, of
finally belonging that seemed to get more intense the closer he got to her. “I want to.” Her hand came up to touch his arm, the one he was holding himself up on. “It’s just—I’m just sore, and I—” He immediately regretted asking. She could tell by how his body stilled before he got off her, as if to not crowd her, as if to give her space she didn’t want. “No,” she panicked. “It’s not that—” “Hey.” He noticed how flustered she was and bent down to kiss her. “I do want to—” “Olive.” He curled around her. His cock rubbed against her lower back, but he instantly angled his hips away. “You’re right. Let’s go to sleep.” “What? No.” She sat up, frowning. “I don’t want to go to sleep.” He was struggling, she could tell. Trying to hide his erection. Trying not to glance at her naked body. “Your flight was early this morning. You’re probably jet-lagged—” “But we only have one night.” One single night. One night for Olive to suspend the outside world. To avoid thinking about Tom, and what had happened earlier today, and the mysterious woman Adam was in love with. One night to forget that whatever feelings she had for him, they were not mutual. “Hey.” He reached up, pushing her hair behind her shoulder. “You don’t owe me anything. Let’s get some sleep and—” “We have one night.” Determined, she pressed her palm on his chest, straddling him. The cotton of his pants was soft against her folds. “I want the whole night.” She smiled down at him, forehead against his, her hair a curtain between them
and the outside world. A sanctuary of sorts. He gripped her waist like he couldn’t help himself, pulling her against him, and oh, they fit so well together. “Come on, Adam. I know you’re old, but you can’t go to sleep just yet.” “I—” He seemed to forget what he was about to say the moment her hand slid inside his pants. His eyes closed, and he exhaled sharply, and—yes. Good. “Olive.” “Yes?” She kept on sliding down his body. And tugging at his pants. And he made some half-hearted efforts to stop her, but he didn’t seem to be fully in control, and in the end he let her take his remaining clothes off. She pulled her hair back and sat on her heels between his thighs. Adam tried to look away and failed. “You are so beautiful.” The words were low and hushed, as though they’d slipped out of his mouth. Loose and unbidden, just like everything else about this. “I’ve never done this,” she confessed. She didn’t feel shy, probably because this was Adam. “No. Come here.” “So it probably won’t be any good.” “You—Olive. You don’t have to. You shouldn’t.” “Noted.” She pressed a kiss against his hip, and he groaned as though she’d done something special. As though this was beyond anything. “But if you have any wishes.” “Olive. I’m going to—” Grunt. He was going to grunt, a rumbling noise coming from deep in his chest. She ran her nose on the skin of his abdomen, seeing his cock twitch with the corner of her eye. “I love the way you smell.” “Olive.”
Slowly, precisely, she wrapped her hand around the base of his erection and studied it from underneath her eyelashes. The head was shiny already, and—she didn’t know much, but he seemed close. He seemed very hard, and above her his chest heaved and his lips parted and his skin flushed. He seemed like it wouldn’t take much, which . . . good. But also, Olive wanted her time with him. She wanted so much time with Adam. “Someone has done this to you, before? Right?” He nodded, like she’d expected he would. His hand fisted the sheets, trembling slightly. “Good. So you can tell me, if I mess it up.” She said the last word against the shaft, and it felt like they were oscillating, vibrating at some short-wave frequency that burst and shattered when she touched him for real. Before parting her lips on the head of his cock she looked up at him, gave him a small smile, and that seemed to do him in. His back arched. He groaned, and ordered her in hushed tones to please, give him a moment, go slow, not let him come, and Olive wondered if his spine was melting into the same liquid, scalding pleasure she’d felt earlier. It probably couldn’t have been more obvious, that she’d never done this. And yet it seemed to turn him on beyond belief. He clearly couldn’t help himself—he thrust forward, threaded his fingers in her hair, pressed her head down until her throat was tight around him. He groaned, and talked, and caught her eyes, as if constantly fascinated by the way she was looking up at him. He slurred raspy words, mumbling, “Olive, yes.” “Lick the . . .” “Take it just—deeper. Make me come.” She heard praises and endearments come out of his mouth— how good she was, how lovely, how perfect; obscenities about her lips and body and eyes, and maybe she would have been embarrassed, if it hadn’t been for the pleasure spilling rich from both of them, overflowing their brains. It felt natural, to have Adam ask for what he wanted. To give it to him.
“Can I—?” Her teeth grazed the underside of the head, and he grunted abruptly. “In your mouth.” She only had to smile at him, and his pleasure looked nuclear, pounding through him and washing over his entire body. What Olive had felt earlier, white-hot and just shy of painful. She was still sucking gently when he regained control of his limbs and cupped her cheek. “The things I want to do to you. You have no idea.” “I think maybe I do.” She licked her lips. “Some, at least.” His eyes were glazed as he stroked the corner of her mouth, and Olive wondered how she could possibly be done with this, with him, in just a few hours. “I doubt it.” She leaned forward, hiding a smile into the crease of his thigh. “You can, you know.” She nibbled on the hard plane of his abdomen and then looked up at him. “Do them.” She was still smiling when he pulled her up to his chest, and for a few minutes they managed to sleep. —
IT REALLY WAS a nice hotel room, she supposed. The large windows, mostly. And the view of Boston after dark, the traffic and the clouds and the feeling that something was happening out there, something she didn’t need to be part of because she was here. With Adam. “What language is that?” it occurred to her to ask. He couldn’t quite look at her face, not with her head nestled under his chin, so he continued to draw patterns on her hip with his fingertips. “What?”
“The book you’re reading. With the tiger on the cover. German?” “Dutch.” She felt his voice vibrate, from his chest and through her flesh. “Is it a manual on taxidermy?” He pinched her hip, lightly, and she giggled. “Was it hard to learn? Dutch, I mean.” He inhaled the scent of her hair, thinking for a moment. “I’m not sure. I always knew it.” “Was it weird? Growing up with two languages?” “Not really. I mostly thought in Dutch until we moved back here.” “How old was that?” “Mmm. Nine?” It made her smile, the idea of child Adam. “Did you speak Dutch with your parents?” “No.” He paused. “There were au pairs, mostly. Lots of them.” Olive pushed herself up to look at him, resting her chin on her hands and her hands on his chest. She watched him watch her, enjoying the play of the streetlights on his strong face. He was always handsome, but now, in the witching hours, he took her breath away. “Were your parents busy?” He sighed. “They were very committed to their jobs. Not very good at making time for anything else.” She hummed softly, conjuring a mental image: five-yearold Adam showing a stick-figure drawing to tall, distracted parents in dark suits surrounded by secret agents speaking into
their headsets. She knew nothing about diplomats. “Were you a happy child?” “It’s . . . complicated. It was a bit of a textbook upbringing. Only child of financially rich but emotionally poor parents. I could do whatever I wanted but had no one to do it with.” It sounded sad. Olive and her mom had always had very little, but she’d never felt alone. Until the cancer. “Except Holden?” He smiled. “Except Holden, but that was later. I think I was already set in my ways by then. I’d learned to entertain myself with . . . things. Hobbies. Activities. School. And when I was supposed to be with people, I was . . . antagonistic and unapproachable.” She rolled her eyes and bit softly into his skin, making him chuckle. “I’ve become like my parents,” he mused. “Exclusively committed to my job.” “That’s not true at all. You’re very good at making time for others. For me.” She smiled, but he looked away as if embarrassed, and she decided to change the topic. “The only thing I can say in Dutch is ‘ik hou van jou.’ ” Her pronunciation must have been poor, because for a long moment Adam couldn’t parse it. Then he did, and his eyes widened. “My college roommate had a poster with ‘I love you’ written in every language,” Olive explained. “Right across from my bed. First thing I’d see every morning after waking up.” “And at the end of year four you knew every language?” “End of year one. She joined a sorority as a sophomore, which was for the best.” She lowered her gaze, nuzzled her face in his chest, and then looked back up at him. “It’s pretty stupid, if you think about it.” “Stupid?”
“Who needs to know how to say ‘I love you’ in every language? People barely need it in one. Sometimes not even in one.” She smoothed his hair back with her fingers. “ ‘Where’s the restroom?’ on the other hand . . .” He leaned into her touch, as if soothed by it. “Waar is de WC?” Olive blinked. “That would be ‘Where’s the restroom?’ ” he explained. “Yeah, I figured. Just . . . your voice . . .” She cleared her throat. She’d been better off without knowing how attractive he sounded when speaking another language. “Anyway. That would be a useful poster.” She brushed her finger against his forehead. “What’s this from?” “My face?” “The little scar. The one above your eyebrow.” “Ah. Just a stupid fight.” “A fight?” She chuckled. “Did one of your grads try to kill you?” “Nah, I was a kid. Though I could see my grads pouring acetonitrile in my coffee.” “Oh, totally.” She nodded in agreement. “I have one, too.” She pulled her hair behind her shoulder and showed him the small, half-moon-shaped line right next to her temple. “I know.” “You know? About my scar?” He nodded. “When did you notice? It’s really faint.” He shrugged and began tracing it with his thumb. “What’s it from?”
“I don’t remember. But my mom said that when I was four there was this huge snowstorm in Toronto. Inches upon inches of snow piling up, the most intense in five decades, you know the drill. And everyone knew it was coming, and she’d been preparing me for days, telling me that we might end up stuck at home for a few days. I was so excited about it that I ran outside and dove headfirst into the snow—except that I did it about half an hour after the storm had started, and ended up hitting my head on a stone.” She laughed softly, and so did Adam. It had been one of her mother’s favorite stories. And now Olive was the only person who could tell it. It lived in her, and no one else. “I miss the snow. California is beautiful, and I hate the cold. But I really miss the snow.” He continued stroking her scar, a faint smile on his lips. And then, when the silence had settled around them, he said, “Boston will have snow. Next year.” Her heart thudded. “Yeah.” Except that she wouldn’t be going to Boston, not anymore. She’d have to find another lab. Or not work in a lab at all. Adam’s hand traveled up her neck, closing gently around her nape. “There are good trails for hiking, where Holden and I used to go in grad school.” He hesitated before adding, “I’d love to take you.” She closed her eyes, and for a second she let herself imagine it. The black of Adam’s hair against the white snow and the deep greens of the trees. Her boots sinking into the soft ground. Cold air flowing inside her lungs, and a warm hand wrapping around her own. She could almost see the flakes, fluttering behind her eyelids. Bliss. “You’ll be in California, though,” she said distractedly. A pause. Too long. Olive opened her eyes. “Adam?”
He rolled his tongue inside his cheek, as if thinking carefully about his words. “There is a chance that I’ll be moving to Boston.” She blinked at him, confused. Moving? He’d be moving? “What?” No. What was he saying? Adam was not going to leave Stanford, right? He’d never been—the flight risk had never been real. Right? Except he’d never said that. Olive thought back to their conversations, and—he’d complained about the department withholding his research funds, about them suspecting that he was going to leave, about the assumptions people had made because of his collaboration with Tom, but . . . he’d never said that they were wrong. He’d said that the frozen funds had been earmarked for research—for the current year. That’s why he’d wanted them released as soon as possible. “Harvard,” she whispered, feeling incredibly stupid. “You’re moving to Harvard.” “It’s not decided yet.” His hand was still wrapped around her neck, thumb swiping back and forth across the pulse at the base of her throat. “I’ve been asked to interview, but there’s no official offer.” “When? When will you interview?” she asked, but didn’t really need his answer. It was all starting to make sense in her head. “Tomorrow. You’re not going home.” He’d never said he would. He’d only told her he’d be leaving the conference early. Oh God. Stupid, Olive. Stupid. “You’re going to Harvard. To interview for the rest of the week.” “It was the only way to avoid making the department even more suspicious,” he explained. “The conference was a good cover.” She nodded. It wasn’t good—it was perfect. And God, she felt nauseous. And weak-kneed, even lying down. “They’ll offer you the position,” she murmured, even though he must
already know. He was Adam Carlsen, after all. And he’d been asked to interview. They were courting him. “It’s not certain yet.” It was. Of course it was. “Why Harvard?” she blurted. “Why—why do you want to leave Stanford?” Her voice shook a little, even though she did her best to sound calm. “My parents live on the East Coast, and while I have my issues with them, they’re going to need me close sooner or later.” He paused, but Olive could tell that he wasn’t done. She braced herself. “The main reason is Tom. And the grant. I want to transition to doing more similar work, but that will only be possible if we show good results. Being in the same department as Tom would make us infinitely more productive. Professionally, moving’s a no-brainer.” She’d braced herself, but it still felt like a punch in the sternum that left her void of air, caused her stomach to twist and her heart to drop. Tom. This was about Tom. “Of course,” she whispered. It helped her voice sound firmer. “It makes sense.” “And I could help you acclimatize, too,” he offered, significantly more bashful. “If you want to. To Boston. To Tom’s lab. Show you around, if you . . . if you’re feeling lonely. Buy you that pumpkin stuff.” She couldn’t answer that. She really—she could not answer that. So she hung her head for a few moments, ordered herself to buck the hell up, and lifted it again to smile at him. She could do this. She would do this. “What time are you leaving tomorrow?” He was probably just moving to another hotel, closer to the Harvard campus. “Early.”
“Okay.” She leaned forward and buried her face in his throat. They were not going to sleep, not one second. It would be such a waste. “You don’t have to wake me up, when you leave.” “You’re not going to carry my bags downstairs?” She laughed into his neck and burrowed deeper into him. This, she thought, this was going to be their perfect night. And their last.

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