“Not much? Or not any?”
He was already shaking his head. “I’m not talking about soft-focus covers with sweaty bare-chested men. I mean books that tell you how the woman feels when the man penetrates her. How she aches when he slips his tongue inside her. How he describes her flavor when she asks him to. I mean books that describe the f**king.”
My heart began to drill beneath my sternum at how casually he talked about things that made me want to close my eyes and squirm. “Then no. I haven’t read anything like that.”
“Well, then,” he said, handing me the book, “I’m happy to be here for this momentous occasion.”
I glanced down at the cover. Anaïs Nin. Delta of Venus. I knew the name and, like everyone, I knew the reputation, too.
“Great, let’s check this one out.” I flipped it over, looking for some kind of bar code or number. But the volume was leather, with heavy gilded pages. Obviously a rare edition. “Take it with us . . . ?”
“Oh no, no, no, no. One can’t actually check out the books at this library,” he began. “And, besides, where would the fun be in that anyway? The acoustics in here are so lovely, with the wood, and ceilings and whatnot . . .”
“What? Here?” My heart drooped a little. As much as I loved the idea of reading something racy with Max nearby, I loved the idea of being completely wild with him tonight even more.
“Yes. And I’ll probably feel the need to f**k you in here, too. You got to be loud last week. But this week”—he brushed some hair off the side of my face, lips pursed—“not so much.”
I swallowed heavily, unsure whether this was exactly what I wanted to hear or whether it terrified me. His hand spreading across the back of my neck was soothing. His palm was warm; his fingers were long enough to wrap almost to my windpipe.
“You did only give me Fridays, and no beds,” he said. “Circumstances being what they are, I want to do something with you I know with absolute certainty you’ve never experienced before.”
“And you?” I reconsidered why he knew this room so well.
He shook his head. “Most people aren’t allowed down here at all. And I can assure you, I’ve never f**ked a girl in the library before. For as much of an expert at this as you think I am, most of my adventures are in a limo on the way to drop someone off somewhere. I’m more of an arse than a slut, if I’m being introspective about it.”
There was freedom in his determined bachelorhood; I didn’t have to pretend that this meant any more than it did. And even though it was only sex, and even though he was the first man I’d been with whom I really didn’t need to know at all, I had craved his touch all week long.
I reached up and pulled his face close to mine. “Fine with me. I don’t need you to be a nice guy.”
He laughed into a kiss. “I’ll be quite nice to you, I promise. You’ve so far refused the back of my limo or a quick shag at my place. You’re making me break all of my habits.”
We were invisible from across the room, thanks to the books surrounding us, but if anyone walked down to our dark little corner, we’d be exposed. Something inside me began to ache in that heavy, sweet way that caused my spine to arch and my heart to pound wildly.
Max stepped forward and bent to kiss me, starting with the corner of my mouth, humming at the contact and smiling.
“I’m following your rules, but it does mean I’m hard all the time. I deleted the video, but I’ll admit I regret it. You’ll let me take some more pictures tonight?”
It took so little from him to make me feel like I was no longer solid, but turning into a warm, honeyed ooze. “Yes.”
He gave me a smile that made me fear for a beat that I’d handed a slice of my soul to the devil. But then he kissed my jaw, whispering, “You know I’d never show anyone. I despise the idea of another man seeing you like this. When you leave me, the next poor bastard will need to figure out all on his own how to please you.”
He shrugged, eyes wide and clear. “Or end this. However you choose to describe it.”
“I half wondered this Friday if you’d simply not text. If that’s how it would end.”
“I think that’d be pretty shite,” he said, frowning thoughtfully. “If either of us wants to end things, let’s have the courtesy to say it, right?”
I nodded, surprisingly relieved. I suspected that even though I’d made the deal with myself to keep this about sex, if it ended I would still miss it—miss him. Not only was Max an amazing lover, he was also fun.
But he was a player, and took this just as seriously as I did . . . which is to say not at all.
“Now that that’s settled . . .” He turned me to face the stacks. Reaching around me, he opened the book, flipping to a specific passage, and then moved my hand to hold it open. With him pressed behind me and a shelf in front, I felt completely hidden, like I was buried in this hulking man. Or maybe sheltered.
“Read,” he whispered, his breath hot against my ear. “Start there.”
He indicated with his fingertip that I begin at a paragraph partway into a chapter. I didn’t know what was happening, who was narrating. But I understood it didn’t matter.
Wetting my lips, I read, “ ‘When he and Louise met, they immediately went off together. Antonio was powerfully fascinated by the whiteness of her skin, the abundance of her breasts, her slender waist. . . . ’ ”
Max’s hands ran up beneath my dress, over my hips, across my stomach, up to where he cupped my breasts.
One of his hands smoothed down my side and between my legs, teasing at my wetness.
It was work to focus on the plain English in front of me, but I kept reading. Max moved his hands away, clearing my head for only a beat, because behind me, I could feel him shifting, could hear the click of his belt as he unlatched it. I barely processed the words as I said them, instead listening to the sounds of him behind me.
Could I do this? This wasn’t a wild dance floor, with strobing lights and writhing bodies; this wasn’t an empty restaurant and his hand under the table. This was the most famous public library, full of rare volumes, marble flooring . . . literary history. Since entering the building we hadn’t even spoken at full volume. And we were going to have sex? It was one thing to imagine it, another to be standing here about to actually do it.
Hell, I was terrified. But I was also buzzing, every neuron firing, my blood pumping wildly in my veins. My words faltered as I read.
I blinked down at the book, struggling to push my attention to the words on the page.
“ ‘Everything made him laugh. He gave one the feeling that the whole world was now shut out and only this sensual feast existed, that there would be no tomorrow, no meetings with anyone else—that there was only this room, this afternoon, this bed.’ ”
“Read that again,” he growled and then lifted my skirt. “This room, this afternoon, this bed.”
Just as I was about to speak, and without any warning, he slid right inside me, so wet was I that he hadn’t even really had to tease, stroke, or pet me. He just had to give me a book, the briefest teasing touches, and the sounds of him undressing. I groaned, wishing he could find a way to push all of him entirely inside me. I was convinced that being ripped in two by him would be the best pleasure I’d ever known.
“Quiet,” he reminded me, moving back and then into me slowly. He was so hard, so long. I remembered the sharp sting when he’d taken me roughly on all fours last week in front of the mirrors. I remembered how I dreaded and welcomed every brutal thrust. When he caught my face in my orgasm on a hundred different mirrors, he’d completely come undone. More than anything, seeing him like that had been the cl**ax of my night.
We were at the end of a darkened row, but I could hear the faint sounds of someone else a few stacks down. I bit my lip as Max slid his hand around my hip and between my legs, teasing my clit.
I felt my eyes go wide. Was he serious? If I gave my throat permission to make any sound, I couldn’t be held responsible for what came out. “I can’t,” I squeaked.
“Sure you can,” he said, as if he’d suggested I simply take a deep breath. His fingers swept across my cl*tagain, teasing. “Or we can stop.”
I threw him a dark look over my shoulder and ignored his silent laugh. I had no idea where I’d left off, or what was happening in the story other than Antonio ripping off Louise’s dress but leaving on some giant, heavy belt. I could barely find my breath, but I began reading again in a tight, stuttering cadence that seemed to make Max crazy. His fingers dug into my h*ps and he swelled inside me.
Somehow, I strung the words together, and the passage grew heated and wild. So descriptive. Her wetness was “honey.” The man sucked and tasted every single place on this woman’s body, probing into her and teasing until I started to feel heavy with her want and mine. To my horror, I could feel my own wetness going down my thighs, sliding between us with the force of his movement.
Max shuddered behind me, losing both patience and rhythm. He seemed unable to move his hand from where it gripped my hip, and I suspected the other held his phone, taking pictures.
I carefully pinned the book open with one forearm and reached between my legs, rubbing. I’d been so swollen, so heavy with the weight of my orgasm pressing down on me that I began to come within only a few seconds. The last of my words came out broken.
“ ‘ . . . thought she . . . would go in-sane . . . with a hatred and a j-oy . . . ’ ”
When my muscles stopped trembling, he thrust hard into me a few more times and then stilled, stifling his groan with his mouth pressed to my neck.
The room was completely silent, and I realized I had no sense of how loud we’d actually been. I’d whispered every word I read, I knew. But when I came, had I made some other loud noise? I lost myself so completely with him.
He pulled out of me, releasing a quiet grunt, and a whispered, “Be right back.”
I stood, hearing him disappearing behind me while I fixed my clothes. He returned, kissing the back of my neck. “Mmm. Lovely.”
“And per your rules,” he said, looking down at me as he buttoned his suit jacket, “I suppose this is where we part.”
I straightened my already straightened dress. This was our arrangement—I’d been the one to demand it—but it felt . . . odd. He continued to watch me with a twinkle in his eye, almost as if to say, I just gave you an insane orgasm and you look a little dazed, but hey! Here’s your dumbass rule!
“Right. Perfect. I’m glad we’re on the same page,” I said instead.
He laughed as he slid the book back onto the shelf. “And thank God that page isn’t Page Six, right? A brilliant shag and no one’s the wiser. We are most definitely in agreement.”
“Do you ever get tired of it?” I asked. “People watching you?” I remembered how much I hated the unsolicited opinions about my hair or what I wore when I was with Andy, the speculation on whether I’d gained or lost a few pounds or who I was seen with. I wondered if it was the same for him.
“It’s not like being a true celebrity. People here just like to know what I’m up to. I think most people reading that rubbish just want to think I’m having fun.”
That seemed so optimistic. “Seriously? I think they all want to catch you with your pants down.”
“Wait, isn’t that what you’re after?” He laughed at my eye roll, and continued: “The slut image is convenient for them. I’m not f**king a different girl every night.”
Stretching to kiss him, I added, “Well, at least not lately.”
Something passed across his eyes, a tiny flicker of confusion before it cleared. “Too right.” He leaned forward and kissed me sweetly, his hand cupping my face. “Let’s go, shall we?”
I nodded, a little dazed. Max motioned for me to lead the way and we climbed the stairs, stepping back onto the main floor of the library. Nothing had changed: the sound of whispers and pages turning still filled the air and nobody even glanced in our direction. There was a thrill in what we had done, and the fact that nobody seemed the wiser.
We were nearing the exit when Max reached for my arm and pulled me into a darkened corner. “Just one more,” he said, right before he brought his lips to mine. It was soft and sweet and his lips lingered there, as if he didn’t want to be the one to pull away.
I swallowed when I met his eyes again.
And then he was gone. I watched as he crossed the floor and headed out into the fading sunshine, and wondered how much I would regret this when it was over.
Monday afternoon I was in a crap mood. It was hotter than balls outside, my oldest sister was making noises about convincing Mum to move back to Leeds, and Will’s office had a better view.
Will laughed and shoved an enormous bite of his lunch into his mouth. “Is this about my view again?”