I turned, smiled up at him. His eyes were wide open and clear, and when they met mine, they curved into a smile. I’d never looked someone so closely in the eye when they were touching me like this and something about this man, and this night, and this city, made me immediately sure this was the best decision I’d ever made.

Dear New York, You are brilliant. Love, Sara.

P.S. This is definitely not the alcohol talking.

“I don’t have many chances to look at the back of my neck.”

“A shame, really.” He pulled his hand away and I felt a mild chill where his warm fingers had been. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a tiny package.

A condom. He just happened to have a condom in his pocket. It would never have occurred to me to bring a condom with me to some random club.

Turning me to face him, he swiveled us, pressed me back against the wall and bent to kiss me, first soft and then harder, hungrier. When I thought I’d lose my breath, he wandered away, sucking at my jaw, my ear, my neck, where my pulse hammered wildly. My dress had fallen back down my thighs, but his fingers teased at the edge, slowly lifting.

“Someone could walk down here,” he reminded me, giving me one last out, even as he lowered my panties enough for me to step out of them.

I didn’t care. Not even a little. And maybe even a tiny part of me wanted someone to wander up here, to see this perfect man touching me like this. I could hardly think of anything other than where his hands were, how my skirt was over my h*ps now, how he pressed so hard and insistent against my stomach.

“You’re drunk. Too drunk for this? I want you to remember it if I f**k you.”

He lifted my leg, spreading me, exposing my bare skin to the cool air-conditioning blowing from just above us, and hooked my knee around his hip, making me grateful for my four-inch heels. Reaching between us, I unbuttoned his jeans, pushed his boxers down just enough in front to free him, and wrapped my hand around his erection, rubbing it across my wetness.

“Fuck, Petal. Let me get this on.”

His pants were open but slung over his hips. From the back we could even appear to be dancing, maybe just kissing. But he pulsed in my palm, and the reality of the situation made me wild. He was going to take me, right here, overlooking the crowd below. In that crowd were people who knew me as Good Sara, Responsible Sara, Andy’s Sara.

New home, new job, new life. New Sara.

My stranger was heavy and so long in my hand. I wanted him and was also a little terrified that he might impale me. I wasn’t sure I’d ever held a man who got this hard.

He smiled, a wolf truly about to devour me, and quickly tore the condom package with his teeth. “That is the best thing you can say to a man. You could even tell me you’re not sure I’ll fit.”

I swept the tip across my opening, and trembled from it. He was so warm: soft skin, hard beneath.

“Fuck. I’m going to come all over your fist if you don’t stop that.” His hands shook a little with urgency as he pulled himself from my grip to roll on the condom.

“Do you do this a lot?” I asked.

He was right there, poised against me, his smile aimed at my face. “Do what? Sex with a beautiful woman who won’t tell me her name and prefers me to f**k her in a public hallway rather than in a proper place like a bed, or a limo?” He started to push in, achingly slow. The light burned in his eyes, and—holy crap—I didn’t think sex with strangers was supposed to be intimate like this. He watched every reaction cross my face. “No, Petal. I must admit I’ve never done this.”

His voice was tight, and then his words fell away because he was deep inside me, here in this chaotic club with living, breathing lights and music pulsing all around us, where people walked past unaware only fifteen feet away. And yet, my entire world reduced to the place where he filled me, where he rubbed firmly against my cl*twith every stroke, where the warm skin of his h*ps pressed to my thighs.

There wasn’t any more talking, only small thrusts that grew faster, and harder. The space between us filled instead with quiet sounds of praise and urging. His teeth pressed into my neck and I gripped his shoulders for fear I might fall over the edge or even somewhere else, not onto a dance floor but into a world where I couldn’t get enough of being so exposed, having my pleasure so visible to anyone watching—especially this man.

“Christ, you’re gorgeous.” He leaned back, looking down, and sped up a little. “I can’t stop looking at your perfect skin and—fuck—where I’m moving in you.”

Light was clearly on his side because to me he was backlit, just the silhouette of my stranger. I could see nothing when I looked down but dark shadows and the suggestion of movement: him into me, and out again. Slick and hard, pressing against me with every pass. And, as if to emphasize that I didn’t really need to see anyway, the lights dimmed almost to black as a lazy, oscillating beat filled the club.

“I took video of you dancing,” he whispered.

It was a few, long moments before his words registered above the feeling of him moving in me. “Wh—what?”

“I don’t know why. I won’t show it round. I just . . .” He watched my face, slowing down enough presumably so I could think. “You were so f**king possessed. I wanted to remember. Bloody hell, I feel like I’m confessing my sins.”

I swallowed, and he bent closer, kissing me before I asked, “Is it weird that I like that you did that?”

He laughed into my mouth, moving in and out of me again with slow, deliberate strokes. “Just enjoy it, right? I like to watch you. You were performing for me. There isn’t anything wrong with it.”

He lifted my other leg, wrapping both around his waist, and then, for the span of several perfect seconds in the darkness, he started to really move. Fast and urgent, he let out the most delicious grunts and there would be no question what was happening if someone happened upon our little corner of this balcony. With that thought alone—where we were, what we were doing, and the possibility that someone could see this man taking me so roughly—I was lost. My head rolled back against the wall and I could feel it

building in my belly so low and heavy, an aching ball rolling down my spine and then out, exploding along my sex so hard I cried out, not even caring a little if anyone could hear me. I didn’t even need to see his face to know he was watching me come apart.

“Holy fuck.” His h*ps grew jagged and rough and then he came with a low groan, fingers digging hard into my hips.

He might bruise me, I thought. And then: I hope he bruises me.

I wanted a reminder of this night, and this Sara when I left, to better differentiate the new life I was so determined to have from the old one.

He stilled, leaning heavily against me, with his lips planted gently against my neck. “Good Lord, little stranger. You’ve wrecked me.”

He pulsed in me—aftershocks of his orgasm—and I wanted him to stay buried deep like this for eternity. I imagined how we looked from across the club: a man pressing a woman to a wall, the hint of her legs around his h*ps visible in the darkness.

His broad hand smoothed up my leg from my ankle to my hip, and then with a small moan he pulled out, set me on my feet, stepped back, and unrolled the condom.

Holy hell, I had never even come close to doing something this insane. My grin took over my entire face as my legs shook almost to the point of collapse.

It was perfect. Everything about this had been perfect, but it had to end right here. Do it all differently. No names, no strings. No regrets.

Straightening my dress, I stretched on my toes to kiss his lips once. “That was unbelievable.”

He nodded, humming a little into the kiss. “It was. Shall we—?”

“I’m going to go downstairs.” I began to back away and gave him a small wave.

He stared at me, confused. “You’re—”

“So . . . thanks.” Adrenaline still buzzing in my veins, I turned before he could respond, and left him standing with his pants unbuttoned, his lips twisted in a surprised grin.

Minutes later I found Chloe and Julia, both of them ready to head home. Arm in arm we left the club, and only after we were in the limo, and I was silently reliving every second of what had just happened with that strange, powerful man, did I remember: I’d left my underwear on the floor at his feet, and the video of me dancing on his phone.

Saturday my life was perfect: blazing career, orderly flat, several women available for play whenever and wherever. Sunday and Monday: a f**king mess. I was unable to concentrate, obsessively watching that damn video, and had a stranger’s knickers burning a hole in my bedroom bureau.

Shifting in my chair, I ran my thumb over the screen, turning my phone on for the thousandth time today. The lunch meeting had veered off-topic again, and I’d tried my best to look like I gave even the slightest f**k what anyone was going on about, but as soon as the topic of American football came back up, I was done.

All I could think about was her anyway.

I glanced down, making sure the volume was muted and hesitating for only a moment before pressing play.

The screen was dark, the image was blurry, but I didn’t need to make out every detail to know what came next. Even without the sound I could remember the throbbing music, the way her h*ps moved to the beat while her skirt slipped further and further up her thighs. American women didn’t appreciate the value of perfectly pale, unfreckled skin, but my stranger had the most exquisite skin I’d ever seen. Fuck, I would’ve licked her from ankle to hip and back again if she’d given me the chance. I knew now that she was dancing just for me, that she knew I was watching.

And she f**king loved it.

Christ. That tiny slip of a dress. Her messy chin-length caramel hair and those enormous, innocent brown eyes. Those eyes made me want to do very, very bad things to her while she watched.

Her perfect arse and tits didn’t hurt, either.

“You’re a terrible lunch date, Stella.” Will reached over and pulled a chip from my plate.

“Mmm?” I murmured, eyes still down, careful not to react in any way. “You’re discussing American football. I’m over here killed by boredom. I am sitting here, quite literally dead.”

If there’s one thing I’d learned in this business, it’s that you never, ever show your cards, even when you’re holding the worst hand imaginable. Or a video of a girl dancing just before you f**ked her against a wall.

“Whatever you’re looking at on that phone is obviously a hundred times better than how the Jets are gonna look this year. And you’re not sharing.”

If only he knew.

“Taking a peek at the market,” I said with a small shake of my head. I almost whimpered as I closed the video, slipping my phone into the inside pocket of my suit jacket. “Boring stuff.”

Will drained the last of his drink and laughed. “I hate that you’re such a good liar.” If we hadn’t been best mates since opening one of the most successful venture capital firms in the city three years ago, I might have actually believed him. “I think you’re looking at p**n on your phone.”

“Hey, Max,” James Marshall, our head tech advisor, piped in. “Whatever happened with that woman you were talking to at the bar?”

Normally when my best mates asked about a random woman I’d met, I’d shrug and say, “Quick shag,” or even simply, “Limo.” But for some reason, this time I shook my head and said, “Nothing.”

Another round of drinks arrived at our table and I thanked the server absently even though I hadn’t yet touched my first one. My gaze moved restlessly around the room. It was the typical lunchtime crowd: business meetings and ladies who lunch.

I wanted to crawl out of my skin.

James groaned, closing the file he’d been looking over as he slipped it into his briefcase. He lifted his glass to his forehead, wincing. “Is anyone else still paying for the weekend, though? I’m too old for that shit anymore.”

I lifted my scotch to my lips and immediately regretted it. How could a drink I’d had practically every day since puberty suddenly remind me of a woman I’d seen exactly once?

I looked up at the sound of a throat clearing.

“Hey,” Will said. I followed his gaze to where a man was crossing the dining room. “Isn’t that Bennett Ryan?”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” I said, as the tall shape of my old friend moved across the restaurant.

“Yeah, we went to uni together; he was my flat mate for three years. Called a couple of months ago, wanted to borrow my place in Marseilles to propose to his girlfriend. We talked about Ryan Media’s expansion to the New York office.” We watched as Bennett stopped at a table on the far side of the room, smiling like an idiot before bending to kiss a stunning brunette.

“I’m guessing France did the trick.” Will laughed.

But it wasn’t the future Mrs. Bennett Ryan who had my attention. It was the beautiful woman who stood beside her, reaching for her purse. Caramel-honey hair, the same red lips I’d been kissing at the club, the same wide brown eyes.

It was all I could do to stay in my chair and not go straight to her. She smiled at Bennett, and then he said something that made both women laugh as the three of them left the restaurant and I could do nothing but stare on.