She paused, as she seemed to understand the depth of my reaction. I wasn’t even sure I understood the depth of my reaction. I’d never been jealous with Portia; even when she tried, by dancing at parties or getting drunk and flirtatious with friends. But with Ruby . . . there was an instinctive pull, some desire to claim her that made me at once uneasy and thrilled.

“I know I’m flirty,” she admitted, her eyes searching my face, “but I’d never betray anyone like that.”

And somehow, I knew that. In the dim light of the bar and in the midst of such a bustling crowd, our conversation felt even more intimate.

“I’m having more fun with you than I can remember having,” I told her. “I trust you, even though sometimes it feels like I know so much about you, and other times I remember that we’re barely acquainted.”

I had to remind myself that Ruby was only twenty-three, that she had broader sexual experience than I did, and far more experience with flirting—but no long-term relationships, nothing showing her how to enter into something to be treated initially as fragile. I wanted to balance her tendency to run headlong into things against my tendency to hide my head in the sand.

“We are not ‘barely acquainted,’ ” she growled, pinching my backside in her hand. “Just because this is a new relationship doesn’t mean I don’t know you in ways no one else does. How else are we supposed to start? You can’t know everything at the get-go.”

The bartender returned with our drinks and I released Ruby from my hold and paid before she could get her wallet out of her small bag. She offered me a petulant glare, and then turned, stretching to pull me into a kiss I expected to be only a small brush of her lips but immediately turned deep, her tongue sliding into my mouth, claiming me in the playfully brazen way she had.

And for a moment, I forgot that we were away from the privacy of our hotel or the safety of London. With my hand cupping her neck and her palms pressed flat to my chest, it was just Ruby and I, as lovers, falling forward into this thing that had captured me so immediately.

I pulled away to catch my breath and slow my pulse, jerking back into awareness of the press of bodies all around us at the crowded bar, the eyes on us attempting to not stare, the hint of a smartphone capturing a public flash of our passion. The bartender deposited my change on the bar with a smack that told me he’d been watching us, too. And Ruby couldn’t care less. She lifted her drink, raised her eyebrows cheekily at me, and took a long swallow.

“You kiss like it’s your goddamn job,” she said.

With a little smile, I pulled out a few of the multitude of limes in my drink to drop onto a bar napkin. I liked limes as much as the next bloke, but my Ruby seemed to want her gimlet as limes with a side of gin.

I swallowed, staring at her as I licked the juice from my fingers. My Ruby. She watched my tongue slide over my fingers with wide, fascinated eyes.

“Right now,” I began with a grin, “are you imagining how far I could work my tongue inside you, or how many of my fingers would fit?”

Her breath caught, and her eyes went wild for a flash before her confident smile took center stage. “I’m actually wondering if you would like to watch me lick your fingers as much as I like watching you do it.”

I swallowed thickly, staring down at her slightly parted lips. They were shiny from her drink and from her habit of licking them often, and I was immediately reminded of the way they looked around my cock the only time she’d done that, swollen and slick.

“I’d rather like to watch you suck something else entirely,” I admitted, feeling a heated flush run down my chest, adrenaline pumping to the tips of my fingers, adding, “Again.”

While she stared at me, I heard a woman’s voice mutter just behind her, “Right? I bet they have sex every fucking day.”

Ruby’s eyes widened, a smile spreading over her face as she tilted her head slightly to listen.

“I bet she lives with his dick inside her.”

Her brows shot up and I blinked away for just a moment to keep from laughing. Ruby was still grinning when I looked back. “Are they talking about us?” she mouthed.

I nodded. They were definitely talking about us.

She looked down the length of her body and then up to me, whispering. “Nope. Not inside me right now.”

I slid her hand down my stomach and over the shape of my cock. “Not right now, no.”

But Lord, there were few things I wanted more just then.

The opening band filed out onto the stage and a portion of the crowd immediately began migrating away from the bar. Ruby grabbed my hand, downing half of her drink in a few swallows and motioning for me to do the same. As she watched, I finished it, set the glass down, and raised an eyebrow at her. With a tiny shake of her head, she tilted her drink back and downed it, wincing as she slammed the glass down on the bar.

When Ruby tugged my hand, I held her back from moving to the front, enjoying our time together too much to end it yet. “My condition on this evening is that you spend this opening set talking to me, back here.”

She tilted her head, smiling mysteriously up at me. “It’s funny that you don’t think you’re a flirt,” she said, wiping the back of her hand across her mouth.

Signaling to the bartender that we would each like another drink, I asked her, “What do you mean?”