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Gerri’s untying the silk ribbon at the neck of her blouse when her hotel room phone rings. It’s late enough at night that it startles her. She’d already stepped out of her high heels and rolled her pantyhose down, ready for a quiet night in bed reading an old Barbara Pym novel. The phone’s insistent blaring begins to feel personal. Annoyed, she picks up the receiver.


“Ms. Kellman in Room 304?”

“This is she.”

“This is Andrew at the front desk. I’m calling to confirm that a Mr. Roman Roy’s room reservation has been successfully canceled and his room keys transferred to your room number.”

That sneaky little fuck.

“Excuse me, Andrew? No, that’s incorrect. Please keep Mr. Roy’s reservation as is. He requires his own room.”

The phone line goes quiet. She can hear Andrew thinking. It’s louder than his breathing.

“I… can’t keep his reservation as is. It’s already been taken by another guest. But he assured me these were your wishes,” Andrew says, sounding a little scared.

“Once again, that’s incorrect. Of course it’s none of your business, but we had not previously discussed this and if you would be so unprofessional as to release a suite of rooms based on a child’s request without first confirming it with the other party, then that’s a breach of conduct I will have to discuss with your supervisor.”

Andrew’s anxious panting makes some small dormant part of Gerri want to have him sit down and put his head between his knees. She’s worked hard to kill that part off, so instead she waits for him to offer to put his supervisor on the phone. He doesn’t. Which forces Gerri to ask him, pointedly, to do so. Are any young men capable of confident, decisive action these days?

“Ms. Kellman,” a woman’s crisp voice comes on the line. “I am so sorry for the mix-up here. There’s no excuse for it, so I won’t offer you one, but please rest assured that I will personally ensure that you are able to keep your room reservation as is. I’ll find a place for Mr. Roy to stay, even if it requires a room at one of our sister properties”

“A sister property?” That won’t work. He can’t be unattended. She’d wanted to put him on a toddler leash at the airport after just an hour together. They’re only in Japan so Gerri can try to fix the PR nightmare caused by Roman’s misplaced exuberance. “Are you saying there’s no additional available rooms for tonight here at the Hilton?”

“That’s correct, ma’am.”

“Gerri, please. Not ma’am.”

“Of course, Gerri. We’re booked to capacity this evening but I was able to secure a room at another hotel a few minutes away by car.”

Fuck. This is happening to her. Things keep happening to her.

“No, that won’t work. Have a cot sent up to my room. And whatever other complimentary items you think might make up for this gross misstep.”

“Yes m—ah, Gerri. Right away.”

“Thank you, that’s all.” She hangs up with a decisive click, then does her blouse back up and briskly re-knots the tie. It never ends well to be casual around Roman. Who likely is, perhaps at this very moment, roaming the halls of this four-star hotel terrorizing whatever staff he can find on his way to terrorize her. She texts him.

Roman? Where are you

Hi Gerrrrrrrri


Your mom.


He switches over to sending his texts with that dreadful memoji head so an octopus with toddler features delivers the next message in Roman’s voice.

Actually I’m on my way to our humble abode now.

Gerri doesn’t make enough money for this. There aren’t enough Waystar Royco stock options in the world to deal with this. Her nails click furiously against her phone screen as she texts back.

There is a cot on the way, which you will be staying on. The entire time. Consider that your sole domain.

Kinky. Do I get handcuffed to said cot?

She can’t execute a Roy heir at gunpoint. The legal mess, let alone the physical mess, precludes that. But no one can stop her from fantasizing vividly about backing Roman against the wall and sliding a pearl-handled revolver inside his open, profane mouth. Explaining to him, while she has his full attention, just how badly he’s miscalculated her. Watching his eyes get dark, though whether it's from fear or from lust isn’t of much interest to her. She runs that tape through her head several times, seeking serenity.

Roman’s keycard works on her door. He comes right in, just him, no luggage. He beelines towards her bed but she holds up a hand.

“You can sit on the sofa until the rollaway bed gets here.”

“Gerri. C’mon. Don’t be a pruney-prune.” He’s standing there, steadily looking at her as he unbuttons his collar then tugs his shirttail out of his pants. Honestly, the entitlement. He’s probably about to drop trou.

“Where’s your suitcase? The rest of your stuff?”

Roman stops moving for a second. He looks like she just caught him in a lie, or with his hands down his pants, which is strange because he’s still mostly dressed and simply standing there. She can see both his hands.

“Uh…I’m trying this new thing.” He’s studying the glass door of the minibar now like she’ll be testing him on its contents later tonight. “It’s called, uh, selective disentanglement.”

“That explains nothing.”

“I threw my suitcase out?”

“You threw it out?”

“Yeah. I don’t need any of that shit. I figured if we were gonna bunk together I could just hang out in your bathrobe.”



Does he know his wheedling tone won’t work on her? She once read something in an outdated waiting room copy of Psychology Today that repeating another person’s statement illustrates the insanity of it to them. She might as well try it.

“You threw your suitcase out so you could wear a hotel bathrobe for the next 36 hours? Do you hear what that sounds like?”

“Sounds like a good time to me, Ger. There’s two in there, you can have one too.”

Gerri’s blouse tie feels like it’s strangling her.

When Gerri had learned she was supposed to accompany Roman to Tokyo for the rocket disaster mitigation effort, she’d been prepared to fish him out of a pricey sex club at an ungodly hour of the morning, but instead, here he is in her room, where he just wants to sit in a bathrobe on her couch and look at her. It’s unsettling.

“Don’t you want to go out or something? Wear the one Tom Ford suit left in your possession?”

“Ger, that’s so irresponsible of you to suggest. You wouldn’t want me to get bad coke that makes my cute, expensive head explode just like that rocket, would you?”

“Of course not. I didn’t say anything about doing coke. Of course you shouldn’t do coke.”

“Say yes to your life, kids,” Roman warbles, in what is actually an annoyingly good impression of Nancy Reagan. “And when it comes to blow, hookers, and using singles to suck baby powder off rock-hard fake tits, just say no.”

Gerri hates that she wants to laugh. This would be easier if Roman didn’t have the lion’s share of charm whatever deity saw fit to pass out to the Roy kids. That deity skipped Kendall completely and only sort of sideswiped Shiv.

Roman looks at her, then, and seems to know that she wants to laugh, to do or say something outrageous. His pleased expression turns insinuating. “Rock-hard fake tits aren’t everything, Gerri. I’d do a line off your aged ones.”

Gerri flinches, just a little, unable to keep her own expression serene in the face of that slap. She doesn’t think Roman knows her well enough to notice. Gerri’s too practiced to blush in anger, but her voice comes out clipped.

“That sort of remark’s never necessary, Roman.”

“What! I’m not being an ass, I think they’re hot. Old and hot! You’ve got them strangled under that bag thing you’re wearing, but I have a sense for boobies. A real radar for jug-a-lugs.”

The bag she’s wearing is a silk Escada blouse. Her skirt, now cutting in uncomfortably at her waist, is a MaxMara camel wool. The stilettos she kicked off earlier were Jimmy Choos, a practical but still feminine 60mm height. Not that she needs to justify her outfit or sartorial sensibility to this ill-bred spare wearing a hotel bathrobe over boxers.

“Did you develop that sense before or with Tabitha? I can’t imagine her chest offers you that much to measure.” Her playground retort embarrasses her; she’s annoyed Roman managed to goad her into being a sexist pig herself. But then he turns red himself and she’s interested again.

“We don’t do that.”

“What do you mean, you don’t do that?”

“Uh, exactly that, Gerri. We don’t do it.”

“Why?” Some day Gerri will learn to moderate her curiosity over Roman Roy’s tangled snarl of sexual proclivities, but not on a day when he’s thrown his entire wardrobe out to play mother-son charades in her hotel room. “Does she not want to?

“No, I mean…like. I don’t know. She texts me about her fuckin’ wet pussy all the time. Like, if you’re having a chronic medical issue you need to call a doctor. I don’t play one on tv.”

There it is again, that helpless urge to laugh, which she quells by going into the bathroom and closing the door behind her. Her silk robe hangs behind the door and her toiletries are carefully arranged on the counter. Here, everything is in order.

“Gerri, can you just come back in here?” Roman’s plaintive voice filters through the bathroom door.

Gerri shakes her head no as she slips out of her blouse, then her skirt, and into her robe. She’s folding her clothes neatly when she finally replies. “Can I come back in there?” She picks up her cold cream and rubs it in. “To do what, Roman?”

“Oh, fuck you!”

Now she does laugh, wiping the cold cream off her face with a damp towel. “I recently heard you don’t do that.”

Silence follows Gerri as she finishes her nighttime routine. When she emerges from the bathroom, her robe pulled close around her neck and knotted tightly, she registers several things at once.

The cot, along with several bottles of eye-wateringly expensive champagne, was delivered at some point. It’s been set up in the living room in front of the sofa. Roman sits on it, scrolling through his phone. He’s still in the terry bathrobe, but his hair’s messed up, like he’s been tugging on it absentmindedly while looking at the screen. The scraggly brown hair flopping over his brow makes him look even younger than usual.

“Hey,” she says, wanting him to look at her.

“Hey,” he replies, eyes on the phone.

“Is Tabitha seeking medical treatment again?” she cracks.

He looks up miserably.

“Oh,” Gerri says. “Roman, it can’t be that bad. Let’s see.” She takes the phone from him and holds it down and out to try reading the small text. Fuck her, she can’t make it out. Her reading glasses are on the table close to Roman. She gestures towards them. “Hand me those, will you?”

“Trying to get a better look at my dick?” Roman asks, giving them to her. There’s no sharpness to it, not that Gerri misses it.

“I’d need a lab coat and a microscope for that.” She puts the glasses on and reads.

Tabitha: wolf man on the prowl tonight?

Roman: meow

Tabitha: hot. keep it up and i’m gonna explode like that rocket lol

Tabitha: lol

Tabitha: roman is your dick out yet

Gerri’s a little afraid to verify where Roman’s dick is. “What’s wrong with people your age,” she says, hearing her mother’s voice echoing in her head.

“We’re a freak clown generation with antidepressant-induced erectile dysfunction,” Roman says.

“You don’t have to invent sex, you know,” she says. “You can just ask Tabitha what she’s wearing, or what she’s thinking about, what she likes. Simple stuff like that.”

“Sure, Professor Mommy, just text the basic, simple stuff like “Oh, where do you keep your whips, LatexDemonHunter420, next to your cockring collection?” He flicks his hand at her dismissively. “Go on, it’s your rodeo now. Be a clown.”

Gerri now finds herself in charge of one Roman Roy, his cellphone, and his girlfriend’s incipient orgasm. Hell, in for a penny.

Roman: What are you wearing?

Tabitha: fishnets under a wetsuit

Roman: ?

Tabitha: just fucking with you i’m naked

Roman: Oh. Good.

Roman: What are you thinking about?

Tabitha: what is this, a cosmo quiz? you need my blood type and college transcripts too to get off?

Tabitha: anyway the meaning of the universe and how i still haven’t fucked or gotten fucked by my boyfriend

Gerri’s still standing there with Roman’s phone, trying to think of what to say next when it buzzes again.

Tabitha: this is boring bye

“Is she jizzing her brains out yet?”

Gerri’s never considered herself sex-repulsed but after a few hours with Roman, she’s reassessing.

“I don’t think so. You bored her.”

He sits forward to snatch his phone back and scrolls back up the text thread. “Oh good, the twenty fucky questions game killed her. Now she’s dead and according to you, I’m some kind of official pervert who doesn’t like fishnets. Thanks a lot, Gerri.”

“Don’t mention it.”

It’s strange to see him like this, the little boy he hides under the filthy bluster. If she doesn’t watch herself, she’s going to do something really regrettable, like comfort him. She runs a hand over the blanket on the cot to smooth it out, then sits next to him.

“Roman,” Gerri says. “I’m not involved, so I’m saying this as a fully uninvolved party; if you don’t want to be with Tabitha, you know you don’t have to be. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

He laughs. It sounds worse than anything she’s heard in the last few days, including the sick crunch of the satellite’s explosion on the launchpad that sent flames and shrapnel everywhere.

“Roman,” Gerri says again, because what else is there to say to a hostage.

He looks up at her then, eyes dark and wet.

“We’ll figure it out, okay? We’ll do the press conference tomorrow and you’ll say all the right things. You’ll be fine. I promise.”

He sniffs softly then again, theatrically. “Get off my cot, Gerri, I didn’t invite you to sit on it.”

She stands up, the moment duly dismissed. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Gerri turns out the light in the sitting room on her way to her bedroom. There’s a pair of glass french doors separating the two rooms, and she pulls those closed behind her too. Settling into her own bed, she takes her reading glasses off, then thinks better of it and picks her own phone back up.

Tabitha missed out by not asking you what you were wearing.

Through the glass panes, she sees Roman’s face light up blue in the dark. He tucks the phone in closer and rolls on his side. She can’t see his expression now. It’s probably not a smile. She gives him one, though, in her own mind.