But from the look on Hanna’s face you’d think we just stepped into heaven. Beside me, she bounced a little and then reached for my hand, squeezing it. “I’m so glad you came with me!”

“Seriously, have you actually ever been to a party before?” I asked.

“Once,” she admitted, pulling me deeper into the mayhem. “In college. I drank four shots of Bacardi and barfed on some guy’s shoes. I still have no idea how I got home.”

The image made my stomach twist. I’d seen that girl—wide-eyed, trying out wild—at virtually every party I’d been to in college and grad school. I hated to think of that girl ever being Hanna. In my eyes she was always smarter than that, more self-aware.

She was still talking, and I leaned in to catch the rest of what she said. “. . . wild nights were mostly spent playing Magic in our dorm lounge and sipping ouzo. Well, everyone else would be drinking ouzo. I can barely smell it without wanting to puke.” She looked back at me over her shoulder, clarifying, “My roommate was Greek.”

Hanna introduced me to a group of people, mostly guys. There was a Dylan, a Hau, an Aaron, and what I think was an Anil. One of them handed Hanna a cocktail made with a trendy plum sake and fizzy soda water.

I knew Hanna wasn’t much of a drinker, and my protective instincts kicked in. “Would you rather have something nonalcoholic?” I asked her, loud enough for the others to hear me. What dicks, just assuming she wanted booze.

They all waited for her to answer, but she sipped the drink and made a quiet cooing noise. “This is good. Holy crap!” Apparently she liked it. “Just make sure I only have the one,” she whispered to me, sliding closer into my side. “Otherwise I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”

Well, fuck. With that one line she managed to derail my plans to be the good, big-brother figure for the evening.

Hanna drank her cocktail faster than I expected and her cheeks grew rosy, her smile lingered. She met my eyes and I could see her happiness there, lighting her up. Christ, she’s pretty, I thought, wishing she and I were alone at my place watching a movie, and making a mental note to make that happen soon. I looked around the room and realized how many more people had joined the party. The kitchen was growing crowded. Another graduate student joined our little circle partway into a conversation about the craziest professors in the department and introduced herself to me, stepping between me and Dylan on my right. To my left, I could feel Hanna watching my reaction. I felt hyperconscious around her, seeing myself through her eyes. She was right when she said I noticed women, but while this other woman was pretty, she did nothing for me, especially not with Hanna so nearby. Did Hanna really think I made a habit of ha**g s*x with someone every single time I went anywhere?

I met her eyes and gave her a scolding look.

“You really don’t,” I murmured. And f**k it, I let it all out: “There’s still so much you could learn.”

She stared up at me for several long, loaded beats. I could see her pulse in her neck, see the way her chest rose and fell with her quickened breathing. She looked down, put her hand on my bicep, and ran her fingertips over the tattoo of the phonograph I’d had done when my grandfather died.

In unison, we stepped away from the group, sharing a secret little smile. Fuck, this girl makes me feel unhinged.

“Tell me about this one,” she whispered.

“I got that a year ago when my Pop died. He taught me how to play the bass. He listened to music every second he was awake, every day.”

“Tell me about one I’ve never seen before,” she said, attention moving to my lips.

I closed my eyes for a beat, thinking. “I have the word NO written just over my smallest rib on my left side.”

Laughing, she stepped closer, close enough for me to smell the sweet plum drink on her breath. “Why?”

“I got it when I was drunk in grad school. I was on an antireligion kick and didn’t like the idea that God made Eve out of Adam’s rib.”

Hanna threw her head back, laughing my favorite laugh, the one that came from her belly and took over her entire body.

“You’re so f**king pretty,” I murmured, without thinking, running my thumb over her cheek.

She jerked her head back upright, and, with a lingering glance to my mouth, pulled me out of the kitchen, a small, devilish smile on her face.

“Where are we going?” I asked, letting her lead me down a narrow hall lined with closed doors.

“Shh. I’ll lose my nerve if I say it before we’re there. Just come with me.”

Little did she know I’d follow her down this hallway even if it caught fire. I’d come to this dirty bohemian party with her after all.

At a random closed door, Hanna stopped, knocked, and waited. She pressed her ear to the wood, smiled up at me, and when we heard nothing, turned the knob, letting out a cute, nervous squeak.

The room was dark, blessedly empty, and still relatively sterile from the recent move. A bed was freshly made in the middle of the room, and a dresser was pressed tight in a corner, but the far wall was still lined with boxes.

“I’m not sure.” Reaching around, she flipped the lock at my back, and then stared up at me, smiling. “Hi.”

Her mouth dropped open and her beautiful eyes went wide. “You didn’t call me Ziggy.”

“Say it again?” Her voice came out husky, as if she was asking me to touch her again, to kiss her again. And maybe when I’d called her Hanna it felt like a kiss. It certainly had to me. And part of me—a very large part of me—decided I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care that I’d kissed her sister twelve years ago and her brother was one of my closest friends. I didn’t care that Hanna was seven years younger than I was, and, in many ways, very innocent. I didn’t care that I’d probably f**k it up, or that my past would bother her. We were alone, in a dark room, and every inch of my skin felt like it was buzzing with my need for her to touch me.

“Hanna,” I said quietly. The two syllables filled my head, hijacked my pulse.

She smiled a secretive little smile and then looked at my mouth. Her tongue slipped out, wetting her bottom lip.

“What’s going on, Mystique?” I whispered. “What are we doing in this very dark bedroom, exchanging flirty eyes?”

She held up her hands, her words coming out in a breathless tumble. “This room is Vegas. Okay? What happens here stays here. Or, rather, what’s said here stays here.”

I nodded, mesmerized by the soft curve of her bottom lip. “Okay . . . ?”

“If it’s weird, or if I cross a friendship boundary that by some force of magic I haven’t yet crossed, just tell me, and we’ll leave, and it will be the same level of ridiculous it was before we walked in.”

I whispered, “Okay,” again, and watched as she took a deep, shaky breath. She was tipsy, and nervous. Anticipation pricked along the back of my neck, and down my spine.

“I’m so wound up around you,” she said quietly.

She shrugged. “I want you . . . to teach me things. Not just about how to be around guys but how to . . . be with a guy. I think about it all the time. And I know you’re comfortable doing this stuff without being in a relationship, and . . .” She trailed off, looking up at me in the dark room. “We’re friends, right?”

I knew with absolute certainty where this was going, and murmured, “Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”

She stepped a little closer, put her hand on my chest, and I closed my eyes as her warm palm slid down to my stomach. I wondered for a beat if she could feel my heart hammering all the way down my torso. I felt my pulse everywhere, slamming through my chest and all along my skin.

“I watched another movie,” she said. “A porny one.”

“Those movies are actually pretty bad.” She said this quietly, as if she was worried she might be offending my male, porn-loving sensibilities.

“The women are so over-the-top. Actually,” she said, considering, “so are the guys for most of it.”

“Not at the end,” she said, her voice dropping to barely a decibel. “When the guy came? He pulled out of her and did it on her.” Her fingers moved beneath my shirt, tickling over the line of hair that went from my navel and beneath the waist of my pants. She sucked in a breath, running her hand up higher and over my pectorals, exploring.

Fuck. I was so worked up I could barely keep my hands from reaching for her hips. But I wanted her to lead this conversation. She’d pulled me in here, started this. I wanted her to get it all out before she turned it over to me. And then I wouldn’t hold back.

“That’s pretty common in porn,” I said. “The guys don’t come inside the women.”

She looked up at me. “I liked that part.”

I felt myself grow rigid in my pants, and swallowed thickly. “Yeah?”

“I liked it because it felt real. I feel like I’m just figuring these things out. I haven’t really tried before . . . or maybe I haven’t wanted to explore it with the guys I’ve been with. But ever since I started hanging out with you, I can’t stop thinking about these things. I want to figure out what I like.”

“That’s good.” I winced in the dark room, wishing I hadn’t answered so quickly, sounded so desperate. I wanted more than anything for her to ask me to carry her over to the bed and f**k her so loud the entire party knew where we’d gone and what she was getting.

“I don’t really know what feels good to men. I know you say guys are easy, but they aren’t. To me, they aren’t.” She took my hand, and with her eyes trained on my face, she brought it to her breast. Beneath my palm, she was exactly how I’d imagined a hundred f**king times. So full and soft, all lush curves and creamy skin. It was all I could do to keep from lifting her, and crushing her between my body and the wall.

“I want you to show me how,” she said.

“What do you mean ‘show you how’?”

She closed her eyes for a beat, swallowing. “I want to touch you, and make you come.”

I took a deep breath and glanced over at the bed in the middle of the room. “Here?”

She followed the path my eyes had taken, and shook her head. “Not there. Not a bed yet. Just . . .” She hesitated and then very quietly asked, “Are you saying yes?”

“Um, of course I’m saying yes. I’m not sure I could say no to you even if I should.”

She bit back a smile, slid my hand down to her hip.

“You want to give me a hand job? Is that what you’re asking?” I bent my knees to look her in the eyes. I felt like an as**ole being so blunt, and this whole conversation felt completely surreal, but I had to be clear what was actually happening before I let go of my tenuous self-control and took it too far. “I’m just making sure I understand.”

She swallowed again, suddenly shy, and nodded. “Yeah.”

I stepped closer and when the light botanical smell of her shampoo hit me, I grew aware of how amped up I was. I’d never been nervous before, but right then I was terrified. I didn’t care so much about how good it was for me—it could be awkward and fumbling, too slow or fast, too soft or too hard—I knew I’d fall apart in her hands. I just wanted her to keep feeling this open with me, every second. I wanted sex to be fun for her.

“It’s okay to touch me,” I told her, trying to carefully balance my need to be gentle with my tendency to be demanding.

She reached for my belt, unfastening it, and I moved my fingers from her hips, sliding up her waist to the top button of her shirt. Her smile was giddy, and she tried to duck her head to hide it but failed. I had no idea what I looked like, but I imagined my eyes were wide, mouth parted, hands shaking on her tiny buttons. Slipping her shirt from her shoulders, I noticed the way she hesitated on my fly, fingers unsure, before she moved away to let her shirt fall to the floor.

She stood in front of me in a simple white cotton bra. I reached behind her, meeting her eyes for permission before I unclasped it and slid it from her arms.

I’d been unprepared for the sight of her na**d chest, and stood staring, dumbly.

“Just so you know,” she whispered, “you don’t have to do anything to me.”

“Just so you know,” I said, just as quietly, “keeping my hands to myself would be impossible right now.”

“I want to pay attention. You might . . . distract me.”

I groaned; she was killing me. “Such a good student,” I said, leaning to kiss the juncture of her shoulder and neck. “But there’s no way I can stand here and not look at these. You may have noticed I’m a bit obsessed with your chest.”

Her skin was soft and smelled amazing. I opened my mouth, bit her gently, testing. She gasped and pressed into me, the best f**king reaction. My mind flooded with images of her nails digging into my back, my mouth open and pressing hard and hungrily into her breast as I rocked over her.

“Touch me, Hanna.” I lifted the weight of her breast in my hand, pushed it higher, squeezing. Holy fuck, she’s edible.