A new plan, then. I would take this side of me—the secret side that had long been dormant: romantic, passionate, desperate to find adventure with someone just a touch wilder than I could ever be—and not let it slide back into politeness, into convenience, into routine.

If Ruby wanted me to open up, I would do everything I could to do it.

I would ask for what I wanted with her.

I would learn how to play.

I would show her that I could give her what she needed.

With this sorted, an unwinding sense of relief passed through me and I sat down in my boxers at the desk, intent on going through my piles of voice mails from the London office. Pulling out my small voice recorder, I set to making notes after each call: which required immediate follow-up, which I could have my assistant attend to, and which only provided information of note. But after only fifteen messages, my mind wandered back to dinner.

Ruby’s habit of smiling with her tongue trapped between her teeth combined with the sweetness of the pineapple sorbet she had made me nearly dizzy with curiosity: Was her tongue cold? Cold and sweet? Did she like to have her tongue sucked and licked?

What would it feel like if she tasted her sorbet and then licked me, her tongue chilled, sliding around . . .

I let myself imagine Ruby at my door, in her tiny silken sleep shorts and tank, her breasts hard at the tips, the curve of her hips narrow and smooth. She steps inside, holding a glass of ice water in one hand and using the other to press on my chest and walk me backward to the bed.

Wordlessly, I nod. I’m wearing only my boxers, and she doesn’t say anything else, she doesn’t even kiss me; but she traps that pink bubble-gum tongue between her teeth, smiling up at me, and slides to her knees, pulling my pants down as she goes.

I slid my boxers down my hips, letting the fantasy build.

I’m hard, jutting thick toward her, and watching transfixed as she takes an ice cube in her mouth, sucking it, sliding it down my stomach, over my hips.

“Ahh,” I gasp as she slides her free hand up the inside of my thigh, cupping all of me—testicles and cock together in her grip—holding me crudely. I’m finally brave enough to put my hand on top of her head and then slide my fingers into her hair. It’s soft, just like I imagined, and she gasps a little when I fist it, when I tug it.

She didn’t expect that. She lets the ice cube fall from her mouth.

I wrapped my hand around my cock, pulling down and tight, groaning. “Lick it,” I managed, my voice feeling oddly loud in the empty room.

Ruby’s eyes go from bright and mischievous to half closed and sweetly obedient. I can feel her pull against my grip in her hair, struggling to reach me.

“You look so bloody gorgeous,” I growled, moving my hand faster, imagining how it would feel for her to wrap her fist tight around the head of my dick, and swipe that soft, cool tongue around and around . . . I groaned. “Go slow,” I hissed. “I want your tongue to play with me before you show me what you look like when you beg for it.”

Her tongue peeks out, licking away the liquid there, sucking for more. Greedy, wicked little thing. I pull back, swiping myself across her lips, asking,

“Did you think about this earlier? When you licked your dessert from your spoon or sucked the sauce from your thumb, did you imagine you had my cock perched between your lips?”

She nods, opening her mouth and looking up at me with her lips suspended like that—parted for me.

Nodding again, she lets her lips meet only long enough to whisper, “Please?”

With a tight moan, I slide in deep, relishing the feel of her tongue, of her mouth sealing around me and the rippling vibration of her surprised moan. Her eyes widen only for a heartbeat at the abrupt invasion before she relaxes, licking and whining sweetly, eyes fixed on mine. I slide in, and out, my breath choppy and rough as I tell her,

“I’ll never get this sight out of my head. Never.”

Her hands reach up to cup me lower, to tug and pet—and it’s heaven. It’s too good, and it’s too soon and I want to watch her face when she feels me come.

I closed my eyes at the fantasy. I hadn’t received oral sex in nearly seven years and I was obsessed with Ruby’s mouth and her tongue and her filthy, brave words.

“I’m coming. Ruby. Ruby. Please . . . please let me come inside.”

And with a jerk against her tongue I do—the pleasure crawls up my legs and down my spine until it’s pulsing and hot and my skin flushes with a tingle along every inch and

I came against my fingers, groaning her name.

It took nearly a minute before my vision cleared and I could use my discarded boxers to clean my hand and the floor in front of me. The room felt startlingly quiet, as if I’d been on a stage somewhere, performing.

On the desk, my watch ticked loudly in the silence.

I glanced down at the desk and felt my face heat in embarrassment.

My voice recorder had been on the entire time.

My finger hovered over the rewind button. Nothing in the world could be more mortifying than listening to myself masturbate. I could rewind it all, erase everything.

But something in me dared to hesitate, and I put the device back down on the desk, staring silently at the wall separating our rooms.