I LEAVE LOLA’S JUST after breakfast and our private little art session. Sliding the loft door closed behind me, it seems like my dick does a reflexive stretch in the fresh air. The memory of her in her pajamas, fuzzy socks, and of tiny smudges of charcoal on her forehead and cheeks from when she would absently sweep her hair out of her face . . . it warps my brain a bit, and I’m exhausted from focusing on not getting an erection for the past hour.

I’m not really sure what possessed me to pull that just now. I could see her working to stay calm after the call. Lola’s ambition is mighty, and the only thing keeping her from taking over the entire fucking planet is how much she detests stepping out of her creative space and into the public eye. On top of that, she puts more thought into the mythology of Razor Fish than she puts into anything else in her life, so the idea of changing such a critical detail of her story . . . her meltdown was visible beneath the surface.

So, there I was, lying on the floor, bare except for my boxers, with her eyes moving over my body like tiny licks of heat. All I could do was think about riding a bike or counting out money in the register and definitely not how it would feel if Lola got up from the couch, walked over, and parted her long, slender legs, settling her weight over my hips.

Having her apartment so close to the shop has been a blessing and a curse. In the early days, I’d be in to work before dawn and there long after the streetlamps popped to life and all the other stores had closed up. At some point after the grand opening, Lola handed me a spare key and insisted I was welcome to use it. There have been loads of times it would have been easier to crash at her place for a bit, rather than drive all the way home to Pacific Beach. But with Lola, from day one it’s always been a slippery slope. One little grin when she walks into the store leads to an uncontrollable, face-splitting smile when I find I’ll see her again at the Regal Beagle later. A lingering glance leads to outright staring at her milky skin, shiny black hair, perfect curves. If I’m not careful, crashing at her place too regularly would make it a habit and I wouldn’t be satisfied until I found my way curled around her, every night spent between her sheets, between her thighs.

I jog down the metal stairs that lead to E Street and burst out into the bright, January sunshine, tilting my face up. Oxygen, I need it. I stretch my back, taking several deep breaths.

I spend most of the day trying to stay busy enough that I don’t replay what it was like to wake up and see her as she looked first thing in the morning: face soft and free of any makeup, tiny diamond glinting just above her full, cherry lips. Lola has perfect skin; I fantasize about searching for a single freckle or scar. Usually brushed to a shine, this morning her long black hair was mussed and tangled on the right side, telling me exactly how she slept. Her eyes were heavy with sleep and I wanted to turn back the clock, climb into her bed, and kiss the warm, swollen red of her mouth before she was fully awake, dig my fingers into her soft, thick hair and roll on top of her.

I’ve had the fantasy a million times, in a thousand different ways, but in every iteration, we always sleep naked. Sometimes I fall asleep on top of her; very often I’m still inside her. Sometimes we start moving again before we’re fully awake, and what wakes me up is her quiet little noises right in my ear, carried by her warm exhales. Sometimes we make love when the sun is just up, because I love a good, slow fuck first thing in the morning.

Letting the daydream fill my thoughts, I pull a pile of books out of a box and find a razor to break down the cardboard for recycling. It’s a quiet moment in the shop—Joe isn’t in yet, the lunch rush hasn’t been unleashed—and the image loops through my brain, like a skipping song: Lola’s hips moving up as I move in, and she’s so fucking warm. Her eyes are locked with mine—grateful for the way I make her feel, and a little cocky that I’m so obviously trying not to come before she does. When Lola loves me in my imagination, she’s never shy, never closed off. I can see the intensity inside me matched in her expression.

It’s always like this, every fantasy. I once wondered if it was bullshit that I bang her in my head more than we have imagined conversations, but when I drunkenly confessed this to Ansel, he just as drunkenly insisted it made perfect sense: “Well, first of all, I’d be fine living out my entire marriage in bed, naked with Mia. I don’t have any qualms about admitting that.”

“But also,” he continued, “you talk to Lola all the time. You two have become so close you almost have a secret language. Sex between you guys will be some sort of spiritual experience. All the things you want her to say to you, she’ll say without words when you finally sleep with her.”

His confidence that it’s only a matter of time is alternately reassuring and maddening. I want more than anything to believe him, but even with the jerking leaps forward in my friendship with Lola—this morning, particularly—I’m just not sure.

But . . . letting her draw me was one fantasy I’d never thought to have.

It felt more wide-open than even the most tender kiss, or the deepest kind of fucking. I had to just lie there and let her look at me. I itch to dig into those sketchbooks, to see how she isolated each part of me, what parts—if any—she drew again and again.

I knew she was drawing my legs when her charcoal would scratch heavily on the paper. It was quieter when she drew the details of my face, and that was when her breathing would break down into tiny, shallow bursts of air, in and out. And I knew she was drawing my half-hard cock when she stopped breathing—so nervous, but so eager to practice.