After the words left my mouth, Ruby pulled me back to her with eager hands and renewed desire. I was wild and she was nearly out of her mind—sweaty, mouth wet and messy over mine. Teeth scraped chins, kisses turned sloppy, and she whipped my belt across my stomach in her haste to get my trousers off.

Oddly, the sharp sting only made me more unhinged.

With my pants pushed to my knees, Ruby reached for me, her hand strong and warm as she gripped my shaft. “Holy shit,” she said. “You’re . . .”

I pulled back, looking down at her with what I was sure were savage eyes. She was only the third woman in my life to have touched my cock, and I honestly didn’t care what she was going to say to finish the sentence; I pulsed in her palm, practically begging her to give me relief.

“Big,” she said, looking down at me. “Jesus.” And then she slid her hand over the head with such perfect pressure that I nearly missed her words through my loud, relieved groan: “I’ve never been with a guy who wasn’t . . .”

My mind fogged with the feel of her slowly stroking up, and slowly stroking down. Wasn’t what? American? Willing to take his time? Experienced with scores of women?

And then it occurred to me, where her hand lingered, exploring. “Wasn’t circumcised?”

She nodded, ducking her head to press her mouth to my neck.

“I imagine it’s much the same, only perhaps easier in some ways.”

“Easier?” She sounded as dazed as I felt.

If you moved your bloody hand a bit faster, maybe you’d see what I mean.

I reached between us, wrapping my hand around hers to make her move. I could feel the hot tension in my lower back, my growing need to fuck into her, fuck her fist, fuck something, and she whimpered a little as I think my words registered: my foreskin slid easily over the head of my cock as she worked me.

“It’s so fucking hot,” she groaned. “Oh fuck, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I can’t believe—”

“Shh,” I whispered, wanting her lost in me, not the idea that she was doing this. This was a reality: I was over her, my cock in her fist, my mouth on her neck, and my heart slowly bleeding into hers. “Stay with me.”

My words transitioned from this to a steady mantra of give me

—I wasn’t even sure what I meant.

Give me pleasure and your achingly honest words and the reassurance that this is real. Give me the freedom to let my words fall easily. Give me permission to let go and lose myself the way I’ve needed to for so long. Give me a place to be safe and open and unguarded.

Her hand slowed, thumb sliding over the taut, slick head, eyes wide as she watched herself. And I watched, too. The sight of her hand wrapped around me caused me to groan, jump in her palm.

“I love that I made you hard,” she barely whispered.

“You do,” I admitted. “Hard enough to feel nearly mad, all the time.”

She looked up at my mouth and I bent to kiss her, sucking at her wet, plump lips.

Her nipples grew tight, skin pebbled, and it struck me that she behaved almost as if this was all for her, that my pleasure was a gift in some way. I had to admit it made me high to be wanted like this, with such awed abandon. At the same time, I wanted her to feel the same ease with me when we were intimate like this as when we were conversing or simply walking down Fifth Avenue in easy silence.

I ran my finger over her lip, trapping it with a kiss and hissing at the taste of her on my skin.

Her fist stroked up, down, sliding and gripping perfectly.

“I can taste you on my finger,” I murmured into her mouth, shifting, beginning to move my hips as I kissed down to her chest.

I swelled in her hand, feeling the pleasure climb my legs and descend along my spine until I was savagely fucking her fist, my mouth sucking ferociously at her breast until the blood pooled beneath the skin and her tight breaths in my ear begged me to come, come, come, come . . .

With a deep groan, I let go, spilling into her hand, her hip, her navel, and even across the breast I’d marked with my mouth. Even after my orgasm dissolved and the only sound in the room was my heaving breaths, she didn’t let go of me. Instead, with her other hand she reached up, pressing her palm across where I’d come on her skin.

Only once I stilled over her did I realize how wild we’d been, how savage in our touches and kisses. Her chest was red from the scratch of my stubble; her lips looked swollen and abused. Sweat covered the surface of our skin. Without having kissed her between her legs, without having made love to her, I’d just had the wildest sexual experience of my life.

She closed her eyes, chin wobbling slightly before she admitted, “I’m terrified that what I feel for you is going to get too big for—”

I quieted her words with a kiss, sucking at her full bottom lip and reaching to distract her, my fingers sliding between her legs again.

I was barely able to escape the chaos of my own thoughts. This was more intense than anything I’d experienced in my marriage. This was more intense than anything I’d experienced, ever.

Something about that felt terrifying, and wrong.

I needed to dive back down into sensation before panic over this enormous emotion swelled and made me mute.

I expected him to sleep like he worked—stiffly, everything about him as adult as an adult can be. Adult as a verb and adjective. But he didn’t. He was asleep on his stomach, hands dug under his pillow, curled around it and with his face pressed to his arm. Like a kid or a drunk frat boy, complete with the occasional mumbled word and soft, snuffling breaths.