My skin ignites, shock and lust curling tight inside me at his words.

He grates across my clit again and again, each time with more intent, and I can tell he knows exactly how close I am when he pulls back to watch, his eyes so close to mine, teeth pressed to my jaw as he growls out tiny sounds of encouragement.

I close my eyes under the weight of the looming explosion, but he bites down into my jaw, hissing an Open, and cupping my ass, rocking me up into him.

I gasp, my wide, thrilled eyes meeting his calm, knowing ones and an electric storm builds in me, curling my spine and pulling my legs apart. He groans when he feels me go off like a bomb all around him. A million tiny eternities pass with his teeth pressed roughly against my jaw, my body liquefying beneath him.

The panel shows the girl dissolving into a sky full of stars.

“Lola,” he gasps, hips faltering and then gaining speed, and if he ever managed to iron out that accent I would crumble.

He grunts into my neck, hand moving up my body, gripping my breast somehow too hard and just right and then he’s moaning, “I’m coming . . . fuck, here I come,” and I feel him shake over me, pushing deep. The sound he makes when he does—a choking, rasping approximation of my name—carves itself deep into my heart.

I can hear the ocean in the silence that follows. The distant hum of cars, a palm frond scratching against the side of the house in the wind. Oliver’s breath is warm and rapid against my neck, his hand sliding up over my breast and down my waist, along the curve of my hip, my thigh, to my knee, and then back again, over and over, as if measuring me with long, sure sweeps of his hand.

“I don’t need you to love me yet, Lola, but I can’t do casual with you,” he whispers when my eyes open and I return to orbit. “I’m completely in love with you and if this is only—”

My heart catches high in my throat and squeezes so tight I cough. “It’s not. It’s not casual.”

Oliver’s eyes stall on my lips, and he grins with relief, kissing me once, softly, before pulling out of me, pushing the covers back, and sliding the condom off. He reaches for a tissue and I watch him the entire time; there’s so much man to his movements: the easy comfort he has touching his own cock, knowing exactly what to do with the condom, the shadow of dark hair on his chest, the muscular line of his shoulders as he turns and climbs back between the sheets with me. His hand slides down over my stomach and between my legs, where I’m still warm from the friction of him pounding into me. I love the possessive flat plane of his palm, the confident command of his fingers when he touches me.

“You okay?” he murmurs into my neck.

“Yeah.” But my hips instinctively shift away as he slides his fingers inside me.

He moves his hand back up my body and he runs his knuckles between my breasts. “When was the last time you were with someone?”

It might feel intrusive or weird to be asked this so soon after sex with any other new lover, but with him, I don’t mind the question; I want to unload it all. Every event, everything else that happened before him. We’ve shared all of the everyday details of ourselves but not these: the most sacred, the barest.

Turning his hand, he brushes the back of his fingers over my breast, before sliding the index and middle apart and capturing my nipple between them. He bends to lick the very tip. I close my eyes, struggling with the mental calculation while he’s doing that.

“March of last year?” His fingers tease their way down my ribs and there’s no jealousy in his voice when he asks, “Who was he?”

“This guy I saw a few times, from my digital cinema class.”

I trace the shape of his jaw from his ear to his chin. “One of the times it was pretty good, I guess,” I say. “The others . . . it wasn’t particularly memorable.” I close my eyes, finding bravery. “What about you?”

“This last one? In June?”

He nods as he kisses my collarbone. “It was at the end of May, actually, but yeah. That trip.”

I know the answer to this. Of course it was before he met me. He met me in Vegas, at the end of their journey. But I guess I want to somehow acknowledge that after me, he wasn’t with anyone.

“Mm-hmm. Albuquerque. She worked at the hotel restaurant.”

“Nothing particularly memorable,” he echoes back. “For her, either, I don’t think. We were all pretty lit.” He laughs, admitting, “I was too drunk to finish.”

We haven’t given these other people names. I can barely remember the last guy’s face or how his body felt under my hands. With every possessive touch, Oliver erases the trace of any other men from my skin.

He smiles as he kisses me. “No one since.”

“Is it weird for you to go that long?”

He answers this with a shrug. “I wanted this gorgeous woman named Lorelei Castle too fucking much to play around.”

I pull back enough to meet his eyes. “You’ve had options.” I hear the tiny sting in my voice, jealousy over the could-have-beens.

His smile dissolves my tension like sugar in hot water. “So have you, pet.”

“I have five hundred things going on right now; who wants to put up with that?”