Then, nearly two months ago now, Sara said she was ready to make love again.
I’d been terrified at first, but one kiss led to another, and soon I’d been harder than I could remember being in weeks. The sound she made when I pushed into her would forever echo in my thoughts. It was a broken sound, the sharp, surprised cry of pain. I’d immediately stopped, and although she swore she felt no pain now, I couldn’t help but feel I was handling her differently: being careful with a treasure I’d only recently discovered could be broken . . .
We had yet to return to the club.
We had yet to even pull out the camera for anything other than pictures of our daughter.
We had yet to have sex that did anything more than rustle the sheets, let alone break furniture.
But here, in our bed, with her beneath me, and making her hungry, gasping little noises, her words echoed in my head—pounding—each one like a mallet hitting a drum.
I miss seeing you lost in me, and unapologetic about it.
She was letting me be gentle. She was patiently waiting for it to sink in that she’d asked for more, for real sex, again and again.
She’d say, Do you want to make a movie tonight?
No, Petal, it’s enough just to feel you.
Do you ever miss the club?
No, Petal, I love being right here where we are, with our baby asleep down the hall.
You really like to look at them like this? You like the taste?
I’d wanted to make things easy for her. I’d wanted her to feel safe and cherished. I closed my eyes, absorbed by the paradoxical sensations of relief when Sara began to quietly come beneath be, and heartache in the realization that somewhere along the line, I had forgotten what she needed.
At four in the morning, I sat on the floor of the nursery while Sara fed Annabel. The sky outside was deep blue-black, and even on the Upper East Side at this hour, the streets were relatively quiet.
“You didn’t have to get up with us,” she whispered.
She said the same thing every morning, worried about my lack of sleep and a long workday ahead. But this, right here, was my favorite part of the day.
“I’ll bundle her up and go for a run when you’re done.”
Sara watched me in the darkness. “I love you.”
I swallowed, nodding as I struggled to work past the lump in my throat so I could repeat the sentiment. I’d barely been able to sleep last night after realizing I’d been so focused on enjoying Sara the Mother that I’d barely let myself enjoy Sara the Woman.
“I think we need to make a deal to return to us before we can get pregnant again.”
“I think I heard what you were saying last night.”
Her brows pulled together and I could tell she wasn’t exactly sure what I was saying. “Oh?”
“I want to be the husband you need again. Photographs. Film. Knowing I’m giving you what you need.”
She licked her lips, blinking down to the baby. “You’re so much more than I could have ever hoped for. You know that.”
“I’d like to occasionally outdo myself,” I said, and she giggled, putting her hand over her mouth when the baby pulled off her breast in surprise.
“Maybe Mum can watch little Beloved and we can start with dinner out? Slowly work our way to something else?”
She looked up again, eyes wide. “Like the club?”
I watched her holding our child in her arms and felt a protectiveness so violent lash over me I wasn’t sure how I would handle letting others see her so vulnerable, so ripe.
She nodded, gently answering the question in my voice. “It is.”
I folded up the stroller and stowed it in the foyer closet before stripping off my shirt. Although so far it had been a mild winter, it was still January and the long-sleeved running shirt I wore to keep me from freezing outside immediately felt claustrophobic upon entering the warm apartment.
Bending, I unzipped the carrier and pulled out the extremely bundled child inside.
“Was that good, baby girl?” I murmured, kissing her pink cheek. She was warm and drooly and her enormous brown eyes crinkled exactly like her mother’s when she smiled. “Got a good run in, didn’t we?”
I sat on the couch and laid Annabel on my chest while I caught my breath.
“You’re sweaty and sitting on the couch, aren’t you?” Sara called from the master suite.
I stuck my tongue out at Anna and she tried to grab it. “Very sweaty,” I answered my wife. “Quite disgusting, actually.”
Sara’s heels clicked down the hallway and she froze when she saw us. “Max.”
“I don’t care about that,” she said, walking closer. “You’re shirtless with the world’s sweetest baby cuddled on those muscles. Put a shirt on, you beast, or I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”
I fucking loved it when Sara looked at me like that. “Imagine how I feel when you’re feeding her.”
She gave me a bright smile as she bent, kissing Anna’s chubby thigh. “She looks like a little peach on you.”
I took in her outfit and immediately wondered if we’d be able to get the baby down for a nap this early in the day. I hadn’t seen Sara in work clothes in months and didn’t realize until just then how much I missed it. Her little black skirt hit just below her knees, giving a tiny flash of skin above her soft leather boots. Her tits looked fucking unreal in the gray sweater she’d put on.