It didn’t seem possible that my chest could grow any tighter but it did. I barely managed a hoarse “Okay.”

His eyes were so earnest, so expressive when he asked, “Will you continue to be as open with me as you were last night?”

I nodded, lifting my glass to my lips with a shaking hand. How was this happening—

“In that case,” he said, seeming to tamp down some renewed nervousness, “I know it may be hard to explain such preferences, which is to say, it is difficult to vocalize things that are more a matter of physical reaction . . .” He babbled helplessly, finally looking up at me. “But it helps to know.”

He’d completely lost me. “To ‘know’? To know what?”

Niall swallowed, blinked to his left to confirm the couple beside us weren’t listening in. “To know what feels good,” he said, hesitating. “To be frank, I’m not sure she ever . . .”

“Ah, no . . . she always came,” he said, rubbing his jaw with his index finger. “But I’m not sure she ever wanted sex. Wanted me.”

It felt like an elevator car dropped through my stomach, and I needed a moment—and a little wine—to clear any heartbreak from my voice before I could answer him. “Well, then she really is a beast. Like I said earlier, have you looked in a mirror lately?”

He laughed and then seemed to instantly regret it. I felt terrible. “Ruby, I don’t want to malign her. You must understand that she’s the only woman I’ve been with. What I’m trying to say is that we didn’t explore very much. There’s a lot of mileage between getting somewhere and enjoying the journey.” He looked up and grinned, eyes dancing. “Last night—and your uninhibited show—was a completely new experience for me.”

I paused, looking out over the water while I considered how to respond. No wonder he had such a wall up. She’d built a fortress around their sex life a decade ago.

“No. Heavens no. But without a doubt our relationship shaped me. I was made very aware of the fact that she had sex with me, for me. Never for her.”

I raised my glass. “Well, I’m fine having it be all about my pleasure, if that helps,” I said, hoping to lighten the mood.

“How very generous of you,” he said with my favorite, dimpled smile. “That’s just it, though. What do women really like? Pornography is rather unhelpful in this way.”

“Not always,” I corrected. “We do like big dicks and dirty talk.”

It was a testament to his newfound comfort with me that he barely flinched.

“But oral sex, for example . . .” he began and then left the rest unsaid, simply raising his eyebrows.

“Most women, you’ll find, tend to be a fan of the oral sex.”

He was straightening his silverware, and looked up at me from across the table. “Receiving?”

“It is, unfortunately.” He grinned at me, and in that moment—just a heartbeat—he looked so young and playful. “And giving?”

I bit my lip, imagining how good it would feel to drag my tongue around the tip of his cock, hear his quiet groan. “Oh, yes.”

He took a moment to look around the room, just long enough to make sure we weren’t at risk of being overheard by the other diners. “Do women like to swallow?”

This conversation had leapt off the cliff and was sailing through the air. I could barely hold on. “I’m going to make a completely unscientific guess and say it’s seventy-thirty, in favor of not swallowing.”

His eyes lit up with a teasing smile. “And which category do you fall into? The seventy or the thirty?”

“With you?” I said in a whisper, leaning in, “I will.”

Niall inhaled, his head jerking back slightly. The room seemed to shrink until I felt like it was just the two of us at this table, looking at each other. “I want it, too,” he admitted.

The image, the idea seemed to take up the tiny remainder of empty space between us until it was this alive, pulsing thing.

“Say something filthy,” I whispered, feeling brave. Feeling wild. “Tell me the craziest, dirtiest thing you can think of. Render me speechless.”

He nodded as if I’d given him a normal request, and glanced at his clasped hands on the table for several breaths before blinking up to me. His brown eyes were so thickly lined with lashes and once again he looked just like a man, and less like the intimidating conquest I’d idolized for months.

I wanted him even more.

He leaned closer, saying, “I very much enjoy—”

His eyes seemed to darken as he looked down at my mouth. “I want it.”

“For you to suck my cock, and suck it so hungrily that you beg me with your eyes to let you swallow.”

The waitress came by with our food, setting it down before asking us if there was anything else we needed. I wanted to ask her for a bucket of ice. For my lap.

“Wow. Well played,” I mumbled when we were alone again, still dazed. “I’m not sure how I’ll eat now.”