I tried to read his expression, understand why he seemed to be so carefully considering every word he spoke.

“I’m sorry about what I said,” I told him. “I panicked and said something hurtful. I feel like an idiot.”

He reached out, hooked a finger into my belt loop, and pulled me to him. I went willingly, feeling the press of his chest against mine.

“We’re both idiots,” he said, and his eyes dropped to my mouth. “And just so you know, I’m about to kiss you.”

I nodded, pushing up onto my toes to bring my mouth to his. It wasn’t really a kiss, but I wasn’t sure what else to call it. His lips brushed against mine, each time with just a bit more pressure than the time before. His tongue licked out softly, barely touching before he pulled me closer, deeper. I felt him tuck his fingers beneath the fabric of my shirt and stay there, resting on my waist.

My mind was suddenly spinning with ideas of what I wanted to do to him, how much closer I needed to be. I wanted to taste him, all of him. I wanted to memorize every line and muscle.

“I want to go down on you,” I said, and he pulled back, just enough to gauge my expression. “For real this time. Like, making you orgasm and everything.”

I nodded, brushing my fingertips over the line of his jaw. “Show me how to be awesome at it?”

Laughing, he said, “Christ, Hanna,” quietly into another kiss.

I could feel him already hard against my hip and I slid my hand down his body to palm him. “Okay?” I asked.

Eyes wide and trusting, he took my hand, leading me to the couch. He hesitated for a moment before sitting. “I might pass out if you keep looking at me like that.”

“Isn’t that the point?” I didn’t wait for an invitation and kneeled on the floor between his legs. “Tell me how you want me to do it.”

His eyes grew heavy, staring down at me. He helped me with his belt, helped push his pants down his hips, and watched as I bent and kissed the tip.

He paused for a moment when I sat back up, and gauged my expression. And then he gripped his c**k at the base. “Lick from base to tip. Start slow. Tease me a little.”

I bent, drawing my tongue up the underside of his length, along the thick vein, and slowly over the tightness of the crown. He leaked a little at the top and it surprised me with its sweetness. I kissed the tip, sucking for more.

He groaned. “Again. Start at the bottom. And suck it a little at the top again.”

But he seemed unable to smile back; his blue eyes turned stormy with intensity. “You asked,” he growled. “I’m telling you step by step what I’ve imagined a hundred times.”

I started again, loving it, loving to see him like this. He looked a little dangerous, and at his side, his free hand had formed a fist. I wanted him to unleash himself, digging hands into my hair, and start pushing hard into my mouth.

He nodded as I surrounded him with my lips, then my mouth, using my tongue to stroke a little.

I did what he asked, closing my eyes for a beat and trying not to panic at the thought of choking on him and losing control. Apparently, I did it right.

“Oh f**k yes, like that,” he groaned when I sealed my lips around him. “Be sloppy . . . use a little teeth on the shaft.” I looked up at him for confirmation, before letting my teeth graze his skin. He grunted, h*ps jerking so he hit the back of my throat. “That’s it. Jesus. Everything you do feels so f**king good.”

It was just the compliment I needed to take over, suck him harder and let go, unleash myself.

“Yes, oh . . .” His h*ps moved harder, rougher. His eyes were fixed on my face, his hands pushed into my hair just the way I’d wanted. “Show me how much you like it.”

I closed my eyes, humming around him, sucking in earnest now. I could feel small noises escaping my throat and all I could think was yes, and more, and fall apart.

His deep grunts and choppy breaths were like a drug to me, and I felt my own ache build as his pleasure grew and grew. We fell into a rhythm, my mouth and fist working him in tandem with the movements of his hips, and I could tell he was holding back, making it last.

“Teeth,” he reminded me in a hiss, and then groaned in relief when I complied.

With one hand, he used his fingertip to trace my lips around him, and the other hand remained threaded in my hair, guiding me and, eventually holding me in place while he carefully thrust up. Against my tongue, he swelled and his hand in my hair formed a tight fist.

“Coming, Hanna. Coming.” I could feel the muscles of his stomach jump and tighten, his thighs tensing. I gave his c**k one last long suck before I pulled off, taking him in my hands and, sliding up fast and rough, gripping him the way he liked, squeezing.

“Oh fuck,” he warned, hissing in a breath as he came, warm on my hands. I worked him through it, continuing to pull in slow drags until it was too much and he batted me away, smiling as he pulled me up to him.

“Fuck, you’re a fast learner,” he said, kissing my forehead, my cheeks, the corners of my mouth.

He laughed, pressing his smile to mine. “I can assure you I didn’t learn that from experience.” He pulled away, eyes traveling over every inch of my face. “Stay and have dinner with me?”

I curled into his side and nodded. There wasn’t anywhere I’d rather be.

It had been so long since I’d cuddled on my couch with a woman, I forgot how awesome it was. But with Hanna, it was borderline blissful to simultaneously enjoy a beer, a basketball game, some nerdy science talk and nice lady with curves at the ready. I finished my drink with a long swallow and then looked over at Hanna, her eyes glazed as if she was on the cusp of a nap.

I was disappointed that I’d backpedaled after seeing her reaction this morning. But as I was quickly learning, I’d do anything for her. If she wanted to keep things casual, then that’s what we’d do. If she wanted us to be friends with benefits, I could pretend. I could be patient, I could give her time. I only wanted to be with her. And as pathetic as it sounded, I’d take what I could get.

For now, I was okay being the Kitty.

“You good?” I murmured, kissing the top of her head. She nodded, humming, and wrapping her hand more firmly around the beer bottle in her lap. Hers was still mostly full and, at this point, probably pretty warm, but I liked that she had one anyway.

Laughing, I pulled my arm out from behind her neck and leaned forward to put my empty down. “That’s the hops.”

“Is that like what they make marijuana clothes from?”

When I looked over at her, she was smiling and I realized, of course, she’d been f**king with me.

She patted my head patronizingly and I shrugged away from her hand, saying, “I like how I forgot for a minute there that you’ve probably memorized the name of every plant, ever.”

Hanna stretched, her arms shaking slightly over her head as she hummed in pleasure. Naturally I took the opportunity to check out her chest. She also happened to be wearing a totally badass Doctor Who shirt, I hadn’t even noticed earlier.

“Are you looking at the goods?” she said, opening one eye and catching me, slowly lowering her arms.

“Are you always such a boob man?” she asked.

In what was clearly becoming a pattern, I ignored the implied question about other women, deciding I wasn’t going to address anything about that entire taboo conversation again . . . for now. Beside me, she grew still and I knew she felt the same unspoken question settle back between us: is this conversation over?

We were saved by the bell, or in this case the buzzing of my phone on the coffee table. A text from Max lit up my screen.

Headed to Maddie’s for some pints. Coming?

I showed the phone to Hanna, in part wanting her to see that it wasn’t a woman texting me on a Tuesday night, and in part to see if she’d be up for coming along. I raised my eyebrows in silent question.

“Maddie is a friend of Max’s, who owns and runs Maddie’s, a bar in Harlem. It’s usually pretty empty, and it has great beer. Max likes it for the horrible British pub food.”

Shrugging, I said, “Max. Probably Sara.” I stopped, considering. It was Tuesday, so Sara and Chloe would probably be testing to see if I was with Kitty. It was all probably a quasi-causal ruse to check up on me. “I’m betting Chloe and Bennett are coming, too.”

Hanna tilted her head, studying me. “Do you guys go out to bars on weekdays a lot? Seems strange for all of these serious business career people.”

I sighed, standing and pulling her up with me. “I think they’re trying to track my sex life, to be honest.” If she knew Saturdays had been my nights with Kristy, then she may also know Tuesdays were usually reserved for Kitty. May as well be up front with her about how meddling my friends could be.

Her expression remained unreadable, and I couldn’t tell if she was irritated, jealous, nervous, or maybe even just listening neutrally. I wanted so much to know what was going on in her head, but I couldn’t possibly start the talk again and have her freak out. I was a man; a man perfectly capable of accepting sex from a woman even under the murkiest of emotional circumstances. Especially when that woman was Hanna.

I bent to pick up both beer bottles.

“Will it be weird if I’m there? Do they know about us?”

“Yes, they know. No, it won’t be weird.”

She looked skeptical, and I put my hands on her shoulder. “Here’s a rule: things are only weird if you let them be.”

As the bar was roughly fifteen blocks from my apartment building, we decided to walk. Late March in New York was either gray and cold, or blue and cold, and luckily the snow had finally disappeared and we were having a pretty decent spring.

Only a block from my apartment, Hanna reached for my hand.

I threaded my fingers with hers, and pressed our palms together. I’d somehow always expected love to be primarily a mental state, so I still felt unaccustomed to the physical manifestation of my feelings for her: the way my stomach would grow tight, my skin would start to feel hungry for her touch, the way my chest would press in, my heart pounding blood hard and fast through my arteries.

She squeezed my hand, asking, “Do you actually like doing sixty-nine? I mean, really.”

I blinked over to her, laughing and fuck, falling even harder for her. “Yeah. I love it.”

“But, and I know you’re going to hate what I’m about to say—”

“You’re going to ruin it for me, aren’t you?”

She looked up at me, tripping slightly on a crack in the sidewalk. “Is that even possible?”

Opening her mouth, she started to speak and then closed it again. Finally, she blurted, “Your face is basically in someone’s ass.”

“No, it isn’t. Your face is on someone’s c**k or someone’s pussy.”

She was already shaking her head. “No. Let’s say I’m on top of you, and—”

“I like this hypothetical.” I kept waiting for her to take charge and ride me. In fact, I wanted it so much that as soon as I pictured it, I had to take a moment to discreetly adjust myself in my jeans with my free hand.

Ignoring my hint, she continued, “So that means you’re under me. My legs are spread over your face, so my ass is . . . it’s like eyeball level.”

“It’s my ass. By your eyes.”

I let go of her hand and reached up to tuck a stray hair behind her ear. “This won’t surprise you, but I have zero aversion to asses. I think we should try it.”

Pulling up short, I turned her to face me. “Have we done anything yet that feels awkward?”

Her cheeks went pink, and she blinked down the street, mumbling, “No.”

“And you believe me when I say I’ll make everything good for you.”

She looked back up at me, eyes soft and trusting. “Yeah.”

I took her hand in mine again, and we continued walking. “It’s settled then. There will be some sixty nine in your future.”

We walked in silence for several blocks, listening to the birds, the wind, the sound of traffic in bursts organized by the streetlights.

“You think I’ll ever teach you something?” she asked just before we reached the bar.

I smiled down at her, growling, “Without a doubt.” And then I opened the door to Maddie’s for Hanna, gesturing that she lead us inside.

My friends, seated at a table just to the side of the little dance floor, saw us as soon as we walked in. Chloe, facing the door, noticed us first, her mouth forming a tiny, surprised O that she almost immediately tucked away. Bennett and Sara turned in their seats, each of them deftly hiding any reaction. But f**king Max had an enormous shit-eating grin spreading from ear to ear.

“Well, well,” he said, standing to walk around the table and give Hanna a hug in greeting. “Look who’s here.”

Hanna smiled, greeting everyone alternately with little hugs and waves, and then pulled up a chair to the end of the table. I made Max move down so I could sit next to her, and didn’t miss his amused laugh, and under his breath, a guffawed “Smitten.”