“Take my cock.” I bent, pressed a kiss into her neck, and groaned when she reached between us to grip me. “Guide it into you.”

She shifted her h*ps beneath me until I could feel myself at her entrance. I slid into her slowly, even though every tendon and muscle in my body wanted it rough and frenzied. I groaned, shivered on top of her, feeling myself sink inside.

Shifting my h*ps back and then forward, I felt her arms wrap around my neck, her face press into my neck as she rose to meet my movements. It took only two more shifts of my h*ps before we grew louder and more frantic.

“Give it to me,” I whispered into her mouth, licking forward, asking. I lifted her leg, pressed it up to her side and slid in deeper. My eyes rolled closed for a beat and I felt like I was about to explode in her.

She pressed her head back into the pillow, parted her lips to gasp, and I took the opportunity to slide my tongue into her mouth, to suck a little on hers. “That okay?” I whispered, pressing into the skin of her hip with my fingertips. She loved the edge of pain and pleasure, that razor-sharp line we’d discovered early on together. She nodded and I moved faster, filling my head with the smell of her. I tasted her collarbones, her neck, bit a mark into her shoulder.

“Up here,” she breathed, pulling me back up to her face. “Kiss me.”

So I did. Over and over until she was panting and squirming beneath me, urging me to move faster. I felt her abdomen tense and then her legs squeezed hard around me, her cries sharp in my ear.

Clenching my jaw, I pushed my own release to the back of my mind, wanting more, and longer, and to feel her coming again before I would even let myself drift toward orgasm.

Her cries grew louder, and she screamed and then gasped and tried to pull away but I knew she could come again. I knew she was sensitive but she could take more.

“Don’t pull away. You’re not done yet. Not even f**king close. Give me another.”

Her h*ps relaxed in my hands; her grip tightened in my hair again.

“Oh.” It was just a breath of a sound. There was so much contained in that single, quiet gasp.

I pressed closer, holding her h*ps and tilting them with my movements. “That’s it.”

Her h*ps shook and I gripped her as hard as I dared. “Don’t you f**king stop.”

“Touch me . . . there,” she gasped and I knew what she wanted. I kissed her neck before licking my fingers and sliding them to her backside, touching, pressing.

With a sharp cry she came again, the coiled muscles beneath her skin tightening all around my length. Taking a deep breath, I let my orgasm unravel down my back and tear through me; light bursts exploded behind my closed eyes. I could barely hear her hoarse cries over the pounding of blood in my ears.

“Yes yes yes yes . . .” she chanted, delirious, before collapsing onto the pillow beneath her.

It felt like the walls rattled in the silence that followed. Everything in my head shook with need for her; it was disorienting.

“Yes,” she gasped one last time.

I held very, very still as awareness seeped back into my thoughts. “Yes?”

Then with her limbs still trembling all around me, and breaths coming out in sharp little pants, she gave me a radiant smile. “Yes . . . I want to be married, too.”

Thank you to the readers who also wanted more from these two. Your tweets, FB posts, emails, comments, and reviews make us feel like the luckiest chicks out there, and without you, there is no BEAUTIFUL anything.

Thank you to Adam Wilson for having us howling in laughter while we were editing at midnight on a Tuesday. For two people who claim to be writers, we are surprisingly inarticulate when it comes to expressing how much we value your confidence in us.

Thank you to everyone at Gallery for being game for our silly, smutty words.

Holly Root, thank you for your calm, cool, collected self and for continuing to let us play in every sandbox. And thank you to our families, for being as excited for all of this as we are.

Lo, you put the “ in my words. Christina, you put the ” in my stories. Race you to the tattoo parlor in Paris.

I raced down the darkened hall of the now-empty building, the presentation materials clutched haphazardly in my arms, and glanced at my watch. Six twenty. Mr. Ryan was going to have my ass. I was twenty minutes late. As I experienced this morning, he hated late. “Late” was a word not found in the Bennett Ryan Dickhead Dictionary. Along with “heart,” “kindness,” “compassion,” “lunch break,” or “thank you.”

So there I was, running through the empty halls in my stilt-like Italian pumps, racing to the executioner.

As I neared the conference room, I tried to calm my breathing and slowed to a walk. Soft light shone from beneath the closed door. He was definitely in there, waiting for me. Carefully, I attempted to smooth my hair and clothing while tidying the bundle of documents in my arms. Taking a deep breath, I knocked on the door.

I walked into the warmly lit space. The conference room was huge; one wall was filled with floor-to-ceiling windows that gave a beautiful view of the Chicago cityscape from eighteen stories up. Dusk darkened the sky outside, and skyscrapers speckled the horizon with their lighted windows. In the center of the room stood a large heavy wood conference table, and facing me from the head of the table was Mr. Ryan.

He sat there, suit jacket hanging on the chair behind him, tie loosened, crisp white shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows, and chin resting on his steepled fingers. His eyes were boring into mine, but he said nothing.

“I apologize, Mr. Ryan,” I said, my voice wavering with my still labored breathing. “The print job took—” I stopped. Excuses wouldn’t help my situation. And besides, I wasn’t going to let him blame me for something I had no control over. He could kiss my ass. With my newfound bravery in place, I lifted my chin and walked over to where he sat.

Without meeting his gaze, I sorted through my papers and placed a copy of the presentation on the table before us. “Are you ready for me to begin?”

He didn’t respond aloud, his eyes piercing my brave front. This would be a lot easier if he wasn’t so gorgeous. Instead, he gestured toward the materials before him, urging me to continue.

I cleared my throat and began my presentation. As I moved through the different aspects of the proposal, he stayed silent, staring directly at his copy. Why was he so calm? His temper tantrums I could handle. But the eerie silence? It was unnerving.

I was leaning over the table, gesturing toward a set of graphs, when it happened.

“Their timeline for the first milestone is a little ambi—” I stopped midsentence, my breath caught in my throat. His hand pressed gently into my lower back before sliding down, settling on the curve of my ass. In the nine months I had worked for him, he had never intentionally touched me.

This was most definitely intentional.

The heat from his hand burned through my skirt and into my skin. Every muscle in my body tensed, and it felt like my insides were liquefying. What the hell was he doing? My brain screamed at me to push his hand off, to tell him to never touch me again, but my body had other ideas. My ni**les hardened, and I clenched my jaw in response. Traitor nipples.

While my heart pounded in my chest, at least half a minute passed, and neither of us said anything as his hand moved down to my thigh, caressing. Our breathing and the muted noise of the city below were the only sounds in the still air of the conference room.

“Turn around, Miss Mills.” His quiet voice broke the silence and I straightened my back, eyes facing forward. Slowly I turned, his hand skimming across me and sliding to my hip. I could feel the way his hand spread from his fingertips on my lower back all the way to where his thumb pressed against the soft skin just in front of my hipbone. I looked down to meet his eyes, which looked intently back at me.

I could see his chest rising and falling, each breath deeper than the last. A muscle twitched in his sharp jaw as his thumb began to move, slowly sliding back and forth, his eyes never leaving mine. He was waiting for me to stop him; there had been plenty of time for me to shove him away, or simply turn and leave. But I had too many feelings to sort out before I could react. I had never felt this way, and I had never expected to feel this about him. I wanted to slap him, and then pull him up by his shirt and lick his neck.

“What are you thinking?” he whispered, eyes somehow both mocking and anxious.

“I’m still trying to figure that out.”

With those eyes still locked to mine, he began to slide his hand lower. His fingers ran down my thigh, to the hem of my skirt. He moved it up so his fingertips traced the strap of my garter belt, the lace edge of one thigh-high stocking. A long finger slipped beneath the thin fabric and pulled it down slightly. I sucked in a sharp breath, feeling suddenly like I was melting from the outside in.

How could I let my body react like this? I still wanted to slap him, but now, more than that, I wanted him to keep going. The heavy ache between my legs was building. He reached the edge of my panties and slipped his fingers under the fabric. I felt him slide against my skin and graze my cl*tbefore pushing his finger inside me, and I bit my lip trying, unsuccessfully, to stifle my groan. When I looked down at him, beads of sweat were forming on his brow.

“Fuck,” he growled quietly. “You’re wet.” His eyes fell closed and he seemed to be waging the same internal battle I was. I glanced down at his lap and could see him straining against the smooth fabric of his pants. Without opening his eyes, he withdrew his finger and fisted the thin lace of my panties in his hand. He was shaking as he looked up at me, fury clear in his expression. In one quick movement he tore them off, the rip of the fabric echoing in the silence.

When my old life died, it didn’t go quietly. It detonated.

But to be fair, I’d been the one to pull the pin. In just one week I rented out my house, sold my car, and left my philandering boyfriend. And though I’d promised my overprotective parents that I’d be careful, it wasn’t until I was actually at the airport that I called ahead to let my best friend know I was moving her way.

That’s when it all seemed to sink in, in one perfectly clear moment.

I was ready to start over.

“Chloe? It’s me,” I said, voice shaking as I looked around the terminal. “I’m coming to New York. I hope the job’s still mine.”

She screamed, dropped the phone, and reassured someone in the background that she was fine.

“Sara’s coming,” I heard her explain, and my heart squeezed just thinking about being there with them at the beginning of this new adventure. “She changed her mind, Bennett!”

I heard a sound of celebration, a clap, and he said something I couldn’t quite make out.

“He asked if Andy was coming with you.”

“No.” I paused to fight back the sick feeling creeping up into my throat. I’d been with Andy for six years and no matter how glad I was to be done with him, the dramatic turn in my life still felt surreal. “I left him.”

“Better than okay.” And I was. I don’t think I realized exactly how okay I was until that moment.

“I think it’s the best decision you ever made,” she told me and then paused, listening as Bennett spoke in the background. “Bennett says you’re going to shoot across the country like a comet.”

I bit my lip, holding back a grin. “Not too far off, actually. I’m at the airport.”

Chloe screeched some unintelligible sounds and then promised to pick me up at LaGuardia.

I smiled, hung up, and handed the counter attendant my ticket, thinking a comet was too directed, too driven. I was really more like an old star, out of fuel, my own gravity pulling me inward, crushing me. I ran out of energy for my too-perfect life, my too-predictable job, my loveless relationship—exhausted at only twenty-seven. Like a star, my life in Chicago collapsed under the force of its own weight, so I was leaving. Massive stars leave behind black holes. Small stars leave behind white dwarfs. I was barely leaving behind a shadow. All of my light was coming with me.

I was ready to start over as a comet: refuel, reignite, and burn across the sky.

The club was dark, deafening, and filled with writhing bodies: on the dance floor, in the halls, against the bar. A DJ spun music from a small stage, and flyers plastered all across the front promised that she was the newest and hottest DJ Chelsea had to offer.

Julia and Chloe seemed entirely in their element. I felt like I’d spent most of my childhood and adult life so far at quiet, formal events; here it was as if I’d stepped out of the pages of my quiet Chicago story and into the quintessential New York tale instead.

I shoved my way up to the bar—cheeks flushed, hair damp, and legs feeling like they hadn’t been properly used like this in years.

“Excuse me!” I shouted, trying to get the bartender’s attention. Though I had no idea what any of it actually meant, I’d already ordered slippery nipples, cement mixers, and purple hooters. At this point, with the club at maximum density and the music so loud it shook my bones, he wouldn’t even look up at me. Admittedly, he was slammed and making such a small number of tedious shots was annoying. But I had an intoxicated, newly affianced friend burning a hole in the dance floor, and said girlfriend wanted more shots.

“Sure is doing his best to ignore you, in’t he?”