But that was it; her eyes searched mine, waiting for me to say . . . what? What could I say that I hadn’t said already? Hadn’t I laid it all out enough times?

With a tired sigh, I stood. “Do you want the first shower?” I asked. Things were so weird between us, and even when we were still virtual strangers, running together that first, freezing morning, it hadn’t ever been this way.

She had to step back to let me move past her. “No, it’s okay. Go ahead.”

I turned the water as hot as I could bear. I wasn’t sore yet from the run—probably wouldn’t get too sore anyway—but with the stress of wanting to make love to Hanna and wanting to throttle her at the same time, the hot water and the steam felt amazing.

It was possible she wanted things to be how they’d been before: sex, as friends. Comfortable without expectations. And I wanted her so intensely I knew how easy it would be to fall back into that, to enjoy her body and her friendship in equal measure, to never need or expect it to grow deeper.

But it wasn’t what I wanted anymore. Not from anyone, and especially not from her. I soaped up, closing my eyes and inhaling the steam, washing away the race and the sweat. Wishing I could wash away the twisted mess inside.

I heard the faint click of the shower door only a split second before cold air bit across my skin. Adrenaline slid into my veins, pumping through my heart, filling my head with a wildness that made me dizzy. I pressed my hand to the wall, afraid to turn and face her, and feel all my resolve melt. There was only a fraction of me I knew would be able to hold back. The rest would give her anything she asked for.

She whispered my name, closing the door and stepping close enough for me to feel the press of her na**d br**sts against my back. Her skin was cool. She ran her hands up my sides, over my ribs.

“Will,” she said again, moving her hands to my chest, and down over my stomach. “Look at me.”

I reached down, gripping her wrists to keep her hands from moving any lower, low enough to feel how hard I was with just this small bit of contact. I was like a racehorse, held back by a single, flimsy gate. The muscles in my arms tensed and jumped; holding her at her wrists was to restrain myself as much as it was to keep her hands from my skin.

Leaning my forehead into the wall, I remained still until I was sure I could face her and not immediately take her in my arms. Finally, I turned, adjusting my grip on her wrists.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I whispered, looking down at her face.

Her hair was loose, and the wet strands clung to her cheeks, her neck, her shoulders. Her brows were pulled together in confusion and I knew she didn’t understand my meaning. But then she seemed to hear me, and a bloom of humiliation spread across her cheeks and she squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m sor—”

“No,” I said, interrupting her. “I mean can’t do what we did before. I won’t share. I don’t want this if you still want to date other men.”

Hanna opened her eyes, and they softened, her breath picking up.

“I can’t fault you for wanting to experiment,” I told her, my fists curling tighter around her wrists at the thought, “but I won’t be able to keep my feelings for you from deepening, and I won’t want to pretend we’re just friends. Not even with Jensen. I know I’d take whatever you’ll give me because I want you that much, but I would be miserable if it was only sex for you.”

“I don’t think it was ever just sex for me,” she said.

I let her wrists go, studying her face and trying to understand what she was offering.

“When you called me your Hanna earlier,” she began and then paused, pressing her hand to my chest, “I wanted it to be true. I want to be yours.”

My breath formed a brick in my throat. Beneath the delicate skin of her neck, I could see her pulse thrumming.

“I mean, I am yours. Already.” She stretched, eyes wide open as she carefully took my bottom lip between hers, sucking gently. She lifted my hand, pressed it around her breast and arched into my palm.

If what I felt now was even a small taste of the fear she’d felt all this time that I’d hurt her, then I suddenly understood why she’d been so skittish for so long. Being in love like this was terrifying.

“Please,” she begged, kissing me again, reaching for my other hand and trying to pull it around her. “I want to be with you so much it’s making it hard to breathe.”

“Hanna,” I choked, bending involuntarily, giving her better access to my lips, my neck. I curled my hand around her, rubbing my thumb over her nipple.

“I love you,” she whispered, kissing down my chin, to my neck, and I squeezed my eyes closed, heart pounding.

When she said this, my resolve shattered and I opened my mouth, groaning when I felt her slide her tongue inside and go over mine. She moaned, clawing at my shoulders, my neck, pressing her stomach into the hard line of my cock.

She gasped at the shock of the cold tile on her back when I turned her, pressing her into the wall, and then gasped again when I ducked and lifted her breast to my mouth, sucking hungrily. It wasn’t that my fear was gone; if anything, hearing her say she loved me was infinitely more terrifying because it brought hope along with it: hope that I could do this, that she could, that both of us could somehow navigate blindly through this elusive first.

I returned to her mouth, feeling wild now, lost in the fever of her kisses and knowing without having to ask that some of the water on her cheeks wasn’t from the shower. I felt it, too, the dissolving relief, followed immediately with a fiery need to be inside her, to be moving in her, feeling her.

Reaching down, I cupped the back of her thighs, lifting her so she could wrap her legs around my waist. I felt the slick warmth of her sex, and rocked there, pressing just inside and out again, falling in love all over again at her raspy, impatient sounds.

“Never done this before,” I murmured into the skin of her neck. “I have no f**king idea what I’m doing.”

She laughed, biting at my neck and gripping my shoulders tightly. Slowly, I pressed into her, stilling when our h*ps met and knowing in an instant that this would be over fast. Her head fell back against the tile, landing with a quiet thud, and her chest rose and fell with sharp, jagged breaths.

Pulling out, I whispered, “Do you feel it, too?”

Hanna hiccupped, begging me to move, pressing into me as much as she could, trapped between the wall and my body.

“That isn’t just sex,” I told her, sucking along her collarbone. “This feeling that it’s so good it almost hurts? It’s been like this every single time I’ve been inside you, Plum. That’s what it feels like when you do this with someone you’re f**king insane for.”

“Someone you love?” she asked, her lips pressed to my ear.

“Yeah.” I pushed in and pulled out again faster, knowing I was so close I would need to take her to my bed, suck on her pussy, and then f**k her again until we both collapsed. It was too intense, and as soon as I started moving I knew I wouldn’t ever get used to the feel of being inside her without anything between us.

I jerked against her, relishing her sounds and whispering my apology into her neck over and over. “It’s too intense . . .” All of it was overwhelming: the feeling of her around me, her words, and the understanding that she was really mine now. “I’m too close, Plum, I can’t . . .”

She shook her head, nails biting into the skin of my shoulder, and pressed her lips to my ear. “I like when you can’t hold back. It’s how I always felt with you.”

With a groan I let go, feeling myself spiral down

pressing deeper and harder until I could hear the gentle slap of my thighs on hers and her back on the wall, and felt my body flush warm and wet, coming inside her so hard my shout echoed sharply off the tile all around us.

I don’t think I’d ever come that fast in my entire life and I felt both euphoric and mildly horrified.

Hanna pulled my hair, silently begging for my mouth on hers but after only a small kiss I slipped from her with a groan, and fell to my knees. Leaning forward, I spread her with my hands and sealed my mouth around the soft rise of her clit, sucking. I closed my eyes and groaned at the sound of her sweet moan, the feel of her sex against my tongue. Her legs shook—exhausted from the run, probably also exhausted from the rough treatment I’d just given her against a wall—and I slid my arms between her thighs, spreading her legs and lifting her so her thighs rested on my shoulders and my palms gripped her ass.

Above me, she cried out, her arms grappling wildly for something to hold on to, and finally she settled for clutching my head with her thighs and reaching down, bracing her hands on the top my head while she watched me with wide, fascinated eyes.

“I’m so close.” Her voice wavered, hands shaking where she gripped my hair.

I hummed, smiling into her and moving my head slowly side to side as I sucked. I’d never done this before and felt so much like I was loving someone, making love in every way I possibly could. My chest warmed intensely when it occurred to me: this was our beginning. Right here, partially hidden by the steam of the shower, was where we clarified everything.

I could see the moment she started to come, the hot flush bloomed on her chest and spread upward, reaching her face just as her lips parted in a gasp.

I’d never get tired of this. I’d never tire of her. With the most possessive pleasure I’d ever felt, I watched as her orgasm rocked through her, pulling a scream from her throat.

Stopping when her thighs went lax, I carefully slid my arms from her, easing her down on shaking legs. I stood, staring down at her for a beat before she slid her arms around my neck and stretched to hold me.

She was soft and warm from the heat of the water and seemed to melt in my arms.

And it was so f**king different. It had never felt like this—like I was completely connected to her—even when we were in our most intimate moments as “just friends.”

Here, she felt like mine.

“I love you,” I whispered into her hair, before reaching to the side for my soap. Carefully, I washed every inch of her skin, her hair, and the delicate skin between her legs. I washed my orgasm away from her body, and kissed her jaw, her eyelids, her lips.

We stepped out and I wrapped her in a towel before pulling one around my own waist. I led her into the bedroom, sat her on the edge of the bed, and dried her, before urging her back onto the mattress.

“I’ll bring you something to eat.”

“I’ll come with you.” She struggled against my roaming hands, tried to sit up, but I shook my head, bending to suck her nipple into my mouth. “Just stay here and relax,” I whispered against her skin. “I want to keep you here in bed all night long, so you’re going to need to eat first.”

Water from my hair dripped onto her na**d skin and she gasped, eyes wide, pupils spreading inky black in the soft gray of her irises. She slid her hands to my shoulders, trying to pull me down and, fuck, I was ready to go again . . . but we needed food. I was already starting to feel woozy.

We ate sandwiches, sitting na**d on the bedspread, and talked for hours about the race, about the weekend with her family, and finally, about how it had felt when we thought things had ended between us.

We made love until the sunlight faded outside, and then slept, waking in the middle of the night starving for more. And then it was wild, and loud, and exactly how it had always been when things were best with us: honest.

For the moment, I was sated, and reached for my bedside table to find a pen. Curling around her, I put her tattoo back on her hip—All that is rare for the rare—hoping that I could be that rare thing, a recovered wildness, a reformed player, that Hanna deserved.

The flight attendant walked past, snapping the overhead bins shut with decisive clicks before bending to ask, “Orange juice or coffee?”

Will asked for coffee. I shook my head with a smile.

He patted my knee, palm up. “Give me your phone.”

I handed it over, but complained anyway: “Why do I need wireless? I’m going to be asleep the entire flight.” Never again would I let him book 6 a.m. flights from New York to the West Coast.

Will ignored me, entering some code into a tiny box on my phone’s Web browser.

“If you haven’t noticed, I’m sleepy. It’s someone’s fault that I was kept up all night,” I whispered, leaning into him.

He stopped what he was doing, turning to smolder at me. “Is that how it happened?”

A thrill ran from my chest, down my belly, and between my legs. “Yes.”

“You didn’t come over after lab, a little . . . worked up?”

His eyebrow rose, a smile curling half of his mouth. “And you didn’t interrupt my preparation of the very romantic dinner I was planning for you?”

“And pull me down onto the couch asking me to ‘do that thing with my mouth’?”

I held my hand to my chest. “I would never.”

“It wasn’t you who then ignored the delicious smells coming from the stove and pulled me to the bedroom and asked for some very, very dirty things?”

I closed my eyes as he leaned close, grazing his teeth over my jaw and murmuring, “I love you so f**king much, my naughty, sweet Plum.”

Images from the night before pulled me deeper into the hungry, achy place I practically lived in anytime I was near Will. I remembered his rough hands, his commanding voice telling me exactly what he wanted me to do. I remembered those hands tugging my hair, his body moving over mine for hours, his voice finally low and begging for my teeth, my nails. I remembered the weight of him collapsing on me, sweaty and exhausted and falling asleep almost as soon as he found his release.