Ruby drew one fingertip across my bottom lip, tracing the shape of my mouth as she said, “Did you ever tell her any of these things? When it ended?”

I felt myself frown. “There wasn’t really a chance. Or maybe, more accurately, we’d both grown so weary by that point, that it was easier to just walk away.”

Ruby’s question pricked at some thought I’d long since buried. Why hadn’t we ever spoken of these things? Surely if I was unhappy, Portia had been as well. I could only imagine how self-aware Ruby—with her psychologist parents and need to always express herself—would view the way I’d reacted after the divorce. There was no attempt at reconciliation, no attempts to fix what was wrong, no search for closure. I’d packed up my things and gone. The decision to end our marriage had been filled with as much passion as we’d had during it.

Always able to read my expressions, Ruby tipped my chin back in her direction. “Hey, I’m not saying you should have, everyone deals with things differently. I saw your face before the divorce, and after. I know you’re happy with me. I didn’t ask that because I’m jealous. I hate to think you didn’t get the sort of adoration you deserve, but—and as horrible as it sounds to say it out loud—it turns me on to think about how much I can give you.” Her hand ran down my stomach and wrapped around where my body seemed to return to life. “You were so different just now. Like”—she closed her eyes, thinking as she absently stroked me—“kind of dominating and rough.”

Just as I opened my mouth to apologize on instinct, she stilled me with a look, then said, “I liked it.”

Without any words, I returned to her, pressing my chest to hers as we kissed.

I felt her reach for me, guide me into her again, and just like that we were moving together frantically, vocal, grasping. I tried to restrain myself, tried to remain gentle, but the tightness in my chest over her admission made me feel demanding, possessive, and desperate to deserve her.

I opened my eyes and blinked in confusion at the walls and ceiling, at the soft dark sheets wrapped around me. Everything looked completely foreign. For a moment I was wildly disoriented. I wasn’t in the hotel room in New York. I wasn’t in my own flat.

I was with Niall, in his bed, naked, with his heavy arm slung over my hip.

A glance at the clock told me it was one minute before seven, and in the time it took for the numbers to turn over, I remembered: Niall Stella fucked my brains out last night.

I nearly rolled into my pillow to scream.

I closed my eyes and relished every memory: Niall beneath me, thick and rigid inside me, his hips arching and desperate to get deeper. And after I came: Niall flipping me over, laying me down on the rug, Niall growing so rough and wild with his hands holding my hips off the floor as he drove and drove and drove . . .

My eyes opened wide as I was punched with the memory of the rest of it—what had happened before the perfect, obliterating sex. More specifically, the way I’d managed to blurt that I loved him, and the way he’d blinked a thousand times, long lashes fluttering, lips awkwardly forming a hundred different evasions before he kissed my forehead and declared: “You’re lovely.”

That was easily the most mortifying event of my life. Followed closely by him bringing up Portia mere seconds after being inside me.

Number of Times I Told Niall Stella I Loved Him and He Had Sex with Me to Distract Me from the Fact That He Hadn’t Said It Back: one.

Number of Times Niall Stella Ruined Post-Coital Bliss by Bringing Up Sex with His Ex-Wife: also one.

Well, technically, he had sex with me twice.

Carefully, I slipped out from under the weight of his arm. My body was worn-out, limbs and joints stretched, breasts tender in the most amazing way. With each step toward the bathroom, the ache in my muscles and between my legs reminded me exactly how good all that pent-up lust and frustration felt when he unleashed it. Max was right, New York should definitely consider hooking Niall up to the grid.

But the feelings after? Not so good. In fact, when he’d initially brought her up—my first instinct had been to knee him in the balls. Niall’s marriage had seriously skewed his idea of what relationships could be, and it seemed he was only beginning to realize it. What worked for one couple didn’t always work for another, and thankfully, he appeared to be letting those ideas go.

My body . . . my body was exhausted and still humming from what was easily the most mind-blowing, intense sex I’d ever had. My body knew it had been good for both of us.

But my heart had its own hesitations. I hated the gnawing sense that if I hadn’t declared my feelings last night, we would have kissed, cuddled, gotten each other off, and then happily fallen asleep. Niall was my cautious, courteous giant and I knew that his desire to treat sex with reverence was eclipsed only by his new desire to show me he could try to be what I needed.

It took me only a few minutes to use the bathroom and wash my hands and face. The soap, the towels, the entire room smelled like Niall. I’m sure if I were to press my nose to my skin I’d find that I smelled like him, too.

I tiptoed out of the bathroom and down the hall, where our clothes were scattered all over the floor. The chair sat empty in the middle—a reminder that he hadn’t taken me to his bed, but had me right there in the living room. Twice. I tried not to read too much into that. Maybe he simply needed me right then. Or, maybe sex in his bed felt like a new, scary frontier.