“You’re beautiful,” he whispered when I’d given up and cried out, when I’d finally stilled and he’d crawled over me, kissing me deeply. “It’s staggering how it affects me.”

I reached up and dragged my nails down his chest, urging him to use my body to get what he needed this time, to feel everything he possibly could. My hands moved on their own accord, roaming and scratching, pulling him closer and pushing him back so I could see him when he reached between us to position himself against me. I tickled down his stomach, feeling his muscles clench underneath my fingertips.

He groaned, exhaling as he lowered his body over mine and pushed into me fully. The sensation was astounding—everything all at once—the feeling of his chest on mine, of his face against my neck, of my arms around his neck and hands diving into his hair, of his hands pulling my thighs around his waist, of his h*ps pivoting as he moved in me.

Please don’t ever let this end. I don’t want this moment to stop.

We were out of words, and covered in sweat, and this, I thought, this is what it’s like to make love.

He rolled me on top of him, watched my face until it was too much, too intense, and I let my eyes close as I came. I heard the click of the camera, and the heavy thud of it as it hit the mattress and Max was over me again, wilder now, my thighs pressed up in his hands and his brows pinched together in concentration.

Images of lights and shadows pounded against my retinas but this time I refused to close my eyes.

He fell over me, heavy; his mouth moved to mine and we held them open against each other, breathing and on the edge together. He moved his parted lips over my mouth as he moved on top of me and we both began to speak silently.

I’m coming, we said together without sound, begging. I’m coming.

We’d both skipped dinner, so I watched in rapt attention as Max raided the kitchen.

He wore boxers but nothing else, and I registered that I’d never just stared at his body. Obviously Max was long and sculpted, but he was also easy in his own skin. I liked watching him scratch his stomach as he considered the contents of my refrigerator. I got lost in the way his lips would move as he cataloged everything in the produce drawer.

“Women are bloody amazing,” he mumbled, rifling through an assortment of cheeses. “I have mustard in my fridge. Maybe some old potatoes.”

“I just went shopping.” I’d put on his T-shirt and pulled it up to inhale the smell of him. It smelled like his soap, and his deodorant, and the inherent Max-smell of his skin.

“I suspect I last went in May.”

“What are you looking for?”

He shrugged, pulling out a bowl of grapes. “Snacks.” He grabbed a six-pack of beer and grinned as he held it up. “Stella. Nice choice.”

He piled grapes, nuts, and a few slices of cheese on a plate and nodded to the bedroom. “Snacks in bed.”

Back on the comforter, he slipped a grape between my lips and then took some for himself, mumbling, “So, I have a thought,” around his bite.

“I’m hosting a fund-raiser at my flat in two weeks. How about we make that our big coming-out night? Max and Sara: blissfully in love.” He snacked on a few nuts and studied me before adding, “I’ll even make a no-press rule.”

“You wouldn’t have to do that.”

“I wouldn’t have to, but I would.”

It took a while for me to sort out what I wanted to say, and while I thought it all through, Max snacked patiently. It was such a stark contrast from Andy, who always wanted an answer as soon as he’d asked the question. The truth is, my mind had never worked that way. Politicians pop questions and answers like verbal racquetball. It always took me longer to formulate what I wanted to say. And, in the case of Max, it seemed that it took me a couple of months to sort out what I felt.

“I mean, the reason why I felt weird about pictures for so long was that there are so many of me and Andy together. And they’ll always be there, easy to pull up every time anyone wants to. I’ll always feel humiliated when I see my ignorant smile and his fake, lying one.”

He finished chewing his bite before answering, “I know.”

“So I think you’re right. Maybe no press this time. Maybe we can just be around some of your guests, and see how it goes.”

Max leaned forward and kissed my shoulder. “Works for me.”

He fed me another grape and then slid the plate next to a bottle of water on the bedside table before pulling his T-shirt up and over my head.

Our lovemaking was unhurried this time, when the night was at its blackest and the wind roared just outside the open windows. With my legs around his waist and his face buried against my neck we rocked together, him underneath, just feeling and watching.

Nothing had ever been like this.

Max was curled up behind me when the sun barely began to light the sky. He looked amazing. Rumpled hair, and the warmth of his arms and legs wrapped all around me. He was hard and pressing against me; hungry and honest and asking for friction even before his mind was awake.

He didn’t say a single word once he realized I was watching him. He just rubbed his face, looked at my lips, and reached for the bottle of water we’d left on the nightstand. He offered it to me and then took some, before putting it aside so he could run his hands up and over my breasts.

And I was immediately lost in the feel of him as he rolled onto me and rocked forward, holding there, kissing my lips good morning. I was sleepy and he was sleepy, moving down my body and sucking at flesh and ribs and hip bones. I slid my arms and legs around him, wanting to be smothered in his inches and inches of smooth skin. I wanted him na**d on top, and his face between my legs, and his fingers everywhere.

His hands were calm and deliberate; he teased. What he started to build under my skin was a slow burn. He kissed me everywhere, giving pleasure with his hands and mouth and words; asking me what I liked as if we hadn’t done this so many times before. But I understood: it was different here, in my bed. Everything had crashed last night, and I couldn’t see anything beyond how it felt to finally open my heart to him.

I looked down at her in the late-morning sun, all sleep-warm and cheek pressed into the pillow, her smooth hair a tangled mess around her head. My eyes moved over her body, along the side of her bare breast and down the curve of her spine, to where the sheet rested just at her hips.

There’s a list of things you learn about someone the first time you spend the night together: whether they steal the blankets, whether they snore, if they’re a cuddler.

Sara was a sprawler: all limp arms and legs, her whole body draped over me like a starfish.

We’d made love again when the sky started to lighten, soft and pink and blue smudging its edges. She’d collapsed on me, boneless and grinning, and immediately fallen back asleep.

It was half ten now and I trailed my finger down her arm, not wanting to wake her, certainly not wanting to leave. My camera still sat on the nightstand and I reached for it, sitting carefully on the edge of the mattress as I began scrolling through the photos. I’d taken hundreds of her last night, some of her undressing but even more of her desperate and arched below me. The sounds of our bodies moving together and her soft cries broken by the click of the shutter would forever be branded into my brain.

I went back to the pictures of the beginning of the night and stared at the photos of her expression as I’d admitted I loved her. She’d let me take so many pictures of her face last night; I relished the memory of the moment she’d brought it up. Our last rule, broken. Her permission said more than words ever could. As I clicked through the series, she went from desperate at first, to relieved, and then to mischievous in rapid succession.

And the photos from later, on her bed, looked just as intimate and carnal as I’d remembered feeling.

I stood quietly, crossed the room, and retrieved my laptop. It took only a moment to boot up and I removed the SD card from my camera, fitting it into the attachment for my computer. I logged into my favorite photo site, a small, discreet company that specialized in printing professional photos. I uploaded the ones I wanted and then erased the files from my hard drive, removing the card and stowing it safely in my bag.

With everything but my camera packed away, I leaned over her, whispering, “I have to go,” against the shell of her ear. Goose bumps broke out along her skin and she stirred. “I’ve a flight to catch.”

She mumbled, then stretched, and I watched as her eyelids slowly fluttered open.

“Don’t want you to,” she said, rolling to look up at me. Her voice was thick and raspy with sleep, and I immediately thought of a thousand things I wanted her to say.

She was too f**king tempting, eyes still tired and pillow creases lining her face, but it was her na**d br**sts that had my full attention. I braced my hand on either side of her head and hovered above her.

“You look f**king phenomenal in the morning. Did you know that?” I asked.

I reached down and ran my thumb across her bare breast, and had to take a shaky breath, overwhelmed by the immediate and almost suffocating closeness of her, how she seemed to fill up every space inside my chest.

“Yeah?” She smiled, arching a brow and brushing her thumb across my bottom lip. I wanted to suck on it, bite it. Her expression seemed to sober and she blinked up at me, eyes searching mine. “Did last night really happen?”

“You mean did I f**k you senseless and admit that you basically own me? Yes.”

“What does ‘I love you’ even mean? It’s weird how different three words can feel. I mean, I’ve said it before but it’s never felt so . . . big, you know? I’m not sure it meant the same thing then. Like, I was too young to get it. Is that insane? You think I’m insane. But I’m not. I’m just . . . new to this, I think. Honestly, I think I’m new to this.”

“I know you’re saying something profound, but it’s hard to focus when your tits are out.”

Sara rolled her eyes and tried to push me away, but I wouldn’t have it. Instead, I leaned in and kissed her, swallowing her protest as I tried to shape every wild and unhinged feeling I had and fit it into that kiss.

I could hear the sound of a summer rainstorm as water began to pelt the windows and thunder bellowed in the distance. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought briefly of wet roads and everyone hailing a cab at once, and how much more time it would take to get to the airport. But as she wrapped a leg around the back of my thigh and pulled me fully on top of her, talk of the weather evaporated from my mind.

Her lips moved from my mouth to my ear and I tried to remember why I’d needed to leave in the first place.

“I’m sore in a really good way,” she said, rocking her h*ps against mine. “I want more.”

Any blood left in my brain evacuated and headed straight for my dick. “That is probably the best thing anyone has ever said to me.”

Sara pushed against my chest and I practically whimpered as she rolled me to my back. “Don’t go,” she said, moving on top of me. The sheet fell away and I gripped her torso, my thumbs brushing the undersides of her breasts. She reached for my camera and held it up, looking down at me through the viewfinder. “I want to take pictures of your pretty face between my legs.”

“Jesus Christ, Sara,” I said, my head falling back against the pillows and my eyes closed tight. “And here I thought you were this little innocent little thing and I was the Great Corruptor.”

She burst into giggles and I just stared up at her.

“I love you,” I said, gripping the back of her neck and bringing her mouth to mine. My hand trailed down her side, na**d and smooth and covered in goose bumps.

“We’re really doing this, aren’t we?” she asked, pulling back just enough to meet my eyes.

“A hundred percent. Dinners, dates, introducing you as my girlfriend. The whole thing.”

“Think I like the sound of that,” she said, her cheeks pink. She dragged her nails across my scalp and I melted, turning in to her touch. Not wanting to be anywhere but right here.

The time on the clock near the bed reflected back at me. “Fuck. I really do have to go,” I said, closing my eyes.

“Okay.” I felt the heat of her lips against mine, not moving or doing anything in particular, just there, a chaste kiss made so much hotter by all the decidedly unchaste things we’d done only hours before.

I groaned, tugging my tie from my collar and tossing it somewhere over my shoulder. Pushing up on my knees, I looked down at her as I began to unbutton my shirt.

“But your flight,” she said, even as she reached for my belt. An evil grin spread slowly across her face.

“I’ll take the next one.”

After a mad dash through JFK—totally worth it—and another five hours in the air, I finally touched down in San Francisco. I’d only managed to get an hour or two of sleep the night before, and only a few minutes here and there on the plane, and was really starting to feel it.

I yawned and gathered my bag from the overhead compartment, stepping off the plane and heading out of the terminal and straight for the closest cup of coffee I could find.

It’d been reckless to blow off my flight just to get an extra hour with Sara; I knew that even as I was looking down at her, watching myself move in her. But I’d never felt anything even close to this before, and it was still a bit hard to wrap my head around everything we’d said.