I absorbed this information: Bull might currently be “on” with this Maisie woman and was hitting on every va**na under forty in the wedding party. “Are you kidding me?”

I studied it as casually as I could; the last thing I wanted to do was raise Bull’s attention and let him think I was checking him out. But the tattoo was enormous, practically the size of my entire hand, and incredibly detailed. It had been hidden at the dinner the night before under his dress shirt, but now, in casual clothing, the entire thing was revealed, in full color. Basically, it was Maisie’s face, neck, and chest stopping just where the hint of her br**sts began to swell.

Turning back to Bennett, I whispered, “Jesus. She must be bringing it. I know how to suck a dick but no one has ever tattooed my face on their skin.”

Bennett went still, hand frozen where he had just reached for his glass.

“I don’t expect you to tattoo my face on your arm, Mr. Ryan, settle down.”

He exhaled heavily, bringing the glass to his lips and saying, “That’s good,” before he took a sip.

“But I would like to suck your dick so hard you promise to do it anyway,” I said and laughed as he planted his hand on my back and shoved me out of the booth, telling me to go play with the girls for a bit.

We danced, and drank; Hanna and Mina were an unstoppable combination of inappropriate, and had all of us laughing until our sides hurt on the dance floor. It was a perfect night: out with all of my favorite people in the entire world, surrounded by my girlfriends while the love of my life hate-loved me with fiery intensity from across the room.

And, because they were fully on my side in this ridiculous abstinence business, Max and Will came and joined us and surrounded me, dancing and teasing, lifting me up and carrying me to Bennett for an upside-down, drunken kiss.

“I love you anyway,” I told him as he scowled down at me. “And I’m going to break you tonight.”

He shook his head, giving in to the smile he was trying to fight. “I love you anyway, too. And you can try your hardest, but it won’t work. You’re not getting my dick again until we’re married.”We brushed our teeth side by side and studied each other in the mirror. I was wearing a thick cotton robe over my weapon of mass seduction, but Bennett wore only his boxers, so I took some time to appreciate his na**d torso. I loved his man nipples, the dusting of hair on his chest, and the definition of his shoulders, chest, and stomach. I lovingly counted the six-pack and then stared at the trail of hair leading from his belly button to beneath his boxer briefs. I wanted to lick that line and then taste the smooth skin of his cock.

He shook his head, mouth wide as he brushed his back molars.

“I like your body,” I said around a mouthful of toothbrush.

He bent to spit and rinse his mouth before saying simply, “No.”

“Want to give me a quickie from behind?”

He wiped his face on a towel and then placed a peck on the top of my head. “No.”

“Handie?” I asked to his retreating form as he left the bathroom.

I washed my face and walked out into the bedroom to join him. He was already under the covers, reading some political nonfiction book.

“I’m going to try to not be insulted that there’s a military man on the cover of that book and you just turned down a bl*w j*b.”

“Let me know how that works out for you,” he said, giving me a little wink.

Shrugging, I stripped out of my robe and stood near him, wearing a tiny mint-green thong with a skirt overlay in silk chiffon with delicate floral embroidery and matching sheer bra. Thin silken garters held up the softest nude stockings I’d ever worn.

He glanced up and did a quick double take, exhaling, “Christ,” under his breath.

“Just some comfy jammies,” I said, hopping over him and climbing under the covers. “I just love sleeping next to you when I’m wearing silk garters and these flimsy, expensive panties.”

He adjusted the pillows behind his back and returned to his book, but I counted to one hundred before he even turned his attention from one page to the next, so I could tell there was no way he was actually reading anything.

Sliding the covers down to expose my upper thighs, I curled into his side, humming. “You should feel these stockings. They’re so delicate. I bet you could just look at them and they’d rip.”

Bennett coughed, and then smiled patiently down at me. “I’m sure they would. I bought them for you, after all.”

“But I’m just not sure I should sleep in them.” I frowned thoughtfully. “Can you help me take them off?”

He hesitated for a beat, staring at his book before turning and placing it carefully on the bedside table. And then he peeled the blankets all the way off my legs and studied me in the muted light of the table lamp.

“You’re so f**king beautiful,” he murmured, bending to kiss my neck, my collarbone, and the top swell of my breast.

Victory exploded with adrenaline in my veins and I closed my eyes, arching my spine so he could unclasp my bra, lifting my ass so he could carefully remove the tiny skirt around my panties. But I opened my eyes, studying him as he gently peeled the stockings down my legs, planting only a single kiss on the inside of each knee.

Something was off.

When I lay only in my panties, Bennett looked up at me and smiled wickedly before grasping them and sliding them down my legs, dropping them undamaged on the floor beside the bed.

I glared at him, trying to burn a hole in his forehead with my eyes. “You’re a prick.”

“Do you know how much I want to feel you on top of me? Did you not see that lingerie? It was ridiculous! You could have ripped it with your teeth!”

“It was stunning.” Bennett bent and kissed my mouth so sweetly, so fully, that my chest squeezed almost painfully in pleasure. “I know how much you want it. I want it, too.” He nodded to his shorts, where he was so hard I could see the tip of his c**k pressing up from beneath the waistband. “I’m asking you to trust me.”

He reached to turn off the light, and then turned so that he was on his side facing me. “Tell me you love me.”

I ran my hands up his bare chest and into his hair. “I love you.”

“Now go to sleep. Tomorrow is a big day. The rest of the guests arrive, we rehearse our wedding, and I am one day closer to being your husband. After that, I will never deny you again.”

He kissed me slowly, all firm, warm lips, no tongue, no sounds, just his mouth on mine, sweetly sucking and soothing me until I felt serene, and doted on, and even drowsy enough to imagine I could fall asleep next to this man and not need to be worn-out from orgasms.I woke up to an otherwise-empty bed. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, and I started to fall back asleep before remembering that Bennett wouldn’t be up working; we were in San Diego for our wedding. My heart exploded in panic and a cold, sick feeling of déjà vu crept into my stomach. What if Bennett was sick?

I bolted upright and looked at the light under the bathroom adjoining our darkened bedroom. Climbing out of bed, I moved into the main room of our suite and to the small bathroom adjoining the living area. The light under there was on, and I tiptoed forward, not sure whether I should call out to him or just go back to bed and hope that he was okay.

I blinked, taking a step backward and remembering the only other time I’d seen Bennett sick—the food poisoning incident I’d discussed with Sara earlier.

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” I’d asked him.

“Because the last thing I needed was you in there, watching me throw up.”

“I could have done something. You don’t have to be such a man.”

“Don’t be such a woman. What could you have done? Food poisoning is pretty lonely business.”

Resolved to leave him alone, I started to turn back to the bedroom . . .

My heart twisted in sympathy and my pulse picked up speed. I moved to the door, putting my hand against the wood. Just as I was about to call out to him, to ask if he needed a Popsicle or some ginger ale, he moaned and sounds of pleasure escaped in his deep voice: “Oh, fuck. Fuuuuuuuuuuck.”

I pulled my hand back from the door and slapped it over my mouth, stifling a gasp. Was he . . . ? Did he escape to the nonbedroom bathroom so he could. . . ?

On the other side of the door the faucet turned on, and I stared at the wood as if I could develop X-ray vision if I only concentrated hard enough. How often did he do this? Did he masturbate all the time in the middle of the night? The faucet creaked slightly as he shut off the water and I turned, bolting back into the bedroom.

I hurled myself on the mattress and yanked the covers up to my chin so Bennett wouldn’t know I’d moved from where he left me, sleeping. Sleeping while he tugged one out in the other room!

I rolled into my pillow, stifling a giggle. In the other part of the suite, the bathroom door opened, and a slice of light cut across the carpet before everything quickly went black when he flipped off the switch.

I listened intently, trying to slow my breathing as he padded across the carpet and back into the bedroom. Bennett carefully lifted the covers and slid in beside me, curling up along my side and kissing my temple.

“Love you,” he whispered, running his water-cooled hands over my too-hot skin.

I still hadn’t decided if I was going to pretend to be asleep, or bust him for this and give him endless shit, so I sleepily rolled into him, sliding my hand up and over his chest to rest on his heart. His pulse was hammering, racing, positively pounding.

Like he’d just had a sneaky, covert orgasm.

I cuddled into him, stretching close to his ear. “You didn’t even moan my name. I’m insulted.”

Beside me he froze, his hand covering mine on top of his heart. “I thought you were sleeping.”

I snorted. “Obviously.” I nibbled at his jaw. “Did you have a nice self-inflicted bathroom orgasm?”

“Why did you bother going in there? I have a hand and several orifices at the ready.”

With a laugh, he simply said, “Chloe.”

“Do you do that a lot?” I wondered if he could hear the slight edge of anxiety in my voice.

“I’ve never done it when I’m with you. I just . . .” He brought my hand to his mouth and kissed my palm. “You’re na**d. It’s hard to . . .” Laughing, he seemed to reconsider what he was going to say. “It’s just been hard for a few hours. I couldn’t sleep.”

I loved his voice in the middle of the night, all deep and gravelly. I loved it even more after he’d had a middle-of-the-night orgasm . . . even if he’d had it from sneaking into the bathroom and stroking himself. His voice was always deeper after he’d come, his words delivered more slowly. He was impossibly sexier. “What were you thinking about?”

He paused, his thumb smoothing up and down the back of my hand. “Your legs spread over my face and your mouth on my cock. Like the other night, except without your teasing.”

With a groan, he said, “I don’t know. I wasn’t . . .”

I smacked his chest lightly. “Oh please. I know how specific your fantasies are.”

Rolling to me in the dark, he said, “You came first. Of course you came first. Okay? Can we go back to sleep?”

I ignored this. “Did you come in my mouth or on my—”

“I love you,” I said, leaning to kiss him.

For a moment, he let me take his lip into my mouth and suck on it, nibble it. But then he pulled away and wrapped his arms around my waist, shifting my head closer to his chest. “I love you, too.”

“I don’t want to get up and go to the bathroom,” I said, smiling into the darkness.

I heard his mouth open but it was several seconds before he made a sound. “What do you mean?”

I rolled to my back and spread my legs so one of them was bent and resting on top of his thigh.

I found that I was already wet, just from the idea of what he’d done, and what he’d been thinking. I was wet from the memory of his voice in the bathroom when he came: it was the sound of relief mixed with regret, and the fact that I could tell it was more out of necessity than fun made it so much hotter. I slid my fingers over my skin, rocked up into my hand.

Beside me, Bennett held very still until I let out my first quiet moan, and then he shivered and melted against me, rolling so he half covered my body, and ducked to kiss a path from my throat to my breast.

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” he whispered into my skin. “Tell me every f**king thought.”

“It’s your hand,” I said, feeling my pulse quicken with my own strokes, “and you’re teasing me.”

His voice was so deep it was barely more than a vibration when he asked, “How so?”

Swallowing, I told him, “I want you to touch my cl*tand you’re just dragging your fingers in tiny circles all around it.”

He laughed, sucking a nipple into his mouth before releasing it with a quiet, slick kiss. “Slide just one finger inside. Keep teasing. I want to hear you beg for it.”

“I want more.” My finger was so much smaller than his, and one of his was never enough. One of mine was a torment with that voice in my ear and that breath on my skin. “I want faster, and bigger.”