Ruby arched from the mattress, crying out and pulling so hard at my hair that the sensation teetered between pleasure and pain. “Niall,” she gasped. “Oh, God. Oh, God.”

The intensity of her response threw me; I was causing this simply by licking her breast and covering her body with mine. I wanted to own this reaction, wrapping it carefully and hiding it away. My thoughts shifted away from relieving my own ache, to giving her more of this pleasure. I needed to feed on her reactions until she was sweaty and screaming beneath me.

Her skin seemed to glow under my touch; my lips followed the fit lines of her abdomen, the perfect circle of her belly button, the sharp spike of her hipbone. I drew my teeth over each of these discoveries, following with my fingertips, hungry to know every inch. Pushing my hips into the mattress, I grew desperate for relief.

Beneath me, Ruby rocked up into my hands, mindless and begging; a fine sweat had broken out on her chest. My hair was a mess from her hands, tugging fingers and scratching nails.

Oh, she was a fucking wonder.

“Let me taste you,” she begged. “Let me touch you.”

Her words sent a spike of electricity down my spine and along my cock. “Wait, darling.”

I pushed the top elastic of her knickers aside, kissing the softest skin of her navel, just above her pubic bone.

She hissed out a Yes and gasped when I slid the light yellow lace down her hips and thighs, undressing her entirely.

Ruby was completely naked and she was fucking perfect.

I felt her eyes on me as I slid my hand up her leg, watching my fingers move over her skin, mine darker than hers, tan against pale. Her inner thigh was the softest skin I’d ever felt, and my fingers trembled slightly as I moved them higher. Inside my chest, my heart hammered. I’d touched her between her legs before, of course, but it was different at the office: rushed and intense. Here, I had hours. I could keep her up all night with my hands giving her pleasure and my mouth on her breasts, her ribs, her stomach.

My fingers reached the juncture where hip met thigh and I lingered, barely an inch away from where she wanted me. Under my hand, she shook, pushing her hips off the bed.

“You’re killing me with the teasing,” she whispered, reaching to wrap her hand around my wrist. “I swear I’m going to come the second you touch me.”

The way she said come, and the idea that she was this worked up—that my touch could do this so easily—rocked me. With a smile pressed to her hip, I slid my fingers over her, groaning at the sound of her sharp cry. She was drenched, and slick and warm and it was all I could do to not bend to kiss her there, or—even more tempting—lift my body over hers and simply slide inside. I couldn’t begin to fathom how it would feel to be inside her.

I was grateful for the barrier of my trousers, and of the kernel of hesitation still residing in my thoughts, the constant reminder to take this slowly.

It was impossible not to compare this experience to the only other one I’d really had—late-night pub fumbling aside—even though guilt tried to shove the thoughts away. I knew I shouldn’t think of Portia right now, not even in relief of my independence from her, but with Ruby naked against me and my brain fried to bits at the thought of giving this sublime creature pleasure, I didn’t have the discipline of thought to which I was accustomed. Ruby unraveled me, opened something inside me, and made me want to be more transparent with myself, with her.

And as I touched her, and gave her pleasure with first two fingers, and then three, I let my thoughts flap wildly in my mind. This is what it should feel like to be intimate, giving pleasure to someone who wants it hungrily, both partners wholly giving in to it. She’d opened up to me tonight—it was the entire purpose of her admission, I realized—and in turn it had given me some freedom to relax with her, with this. With each circle of my hand and each moan that pushed past her lips, my confidence multiplied until I was convinced no man had ever wanted a woman more than I wanted the one beside me just now.

I wanted to kiss her and lick her and fuck her, but a baser part of me—a dark piece I’d never acknowledged—wanted a greater ownership over her lips, her glowing skin, aching sounds, soft thighs and—I let myself admit it—the most beautiful, soaking-wet pussy I’d ever dreamed of. I wanted to look at her and have a deeper sense that she was mine.

She started to clench under my movements and my insides began to simmer, thrilled. How odd it is, I thought, that my whole body should ache for the curve of her shoulder, the straight, downward slope of her navel, the pounding pulse at the side of her neck.

Watching her unravel under my touch seemed to literally bring my heart into my throat. I lifted my gaze from where I touched her to move up and suck savagely at her breast as she first seemed to calm—her breaths came out slow and deep—and then she pushed her head back into the pillow and nearly screamed as her orgasm tore through her and pressed down against my fingers inside.

She stilled for only a breath before pulling me by my hair so we were face-to-face and I could lick away the quick, relieved exhales falling from her lips.

“Holy shit.” She closed her eyes, going limp beneath me. “I just . . .”

“You’re exquisite when you come,” I whispered, sucking at her jaw, her neck, her mouth.

“That . . .” she began, looking up at me. “Right now you seem like something I made up when I was lying awake at night.”

I ran my wet fingers up over her stomach, to her ribs, quietly giving voice to the crude thought that slipped into my mind, sharing my most exposed self: “I love the way you smell. I fear I’ll lose my mind when I finally feel you on my tongue.”