I can’t catch my breath, can’t remember how to swallow.

His eyes darken again when he says, “And that thing we did in the shower.”

I suddenly feel very, very aware of the fact that he hasn’t kissed me again since we left his house. That it’s been over two weeks since he had his hands on me, and far longer since I let myself be completely lost in the feel of them.

His head angles down, lips skirting across my jaw. “Your turn for a recap.”

“I had a crush on you in Vegas but sort of got over it when I thought you weren’t interested,” I tell him. “And then I was buried in the launch of Razor and just . . . mainly . . . fantasized about you.”

“Yeah,” I tell him. “Licking, biting, fucking. And that thing we did in the shower.” He laughs without sound: a gentle rumble in his chest against me. “But then I drew you nearly naked and the fantasy wasn’t enough anymore. I mean, I have approximately twenty drawings just of your dick.”

“Must have been hard to find places for all that poster board,” he says, smiling.

“I mean, obviously. Go life-size or go home.” His hands slip into my coat, ducking under the hem of my shirt. Cool fingertips meet the warm skin of my waist, my ribs, the top swell of my breast above my bra, and our eyes meet for a few seconds until he bends, kissing me once.

I feel my smile all the way to my knees. “Hi.”

Silent communication isn’t new to us, but the message in his eyes is. There aren’t words for what he’s saying, at least not in any language we know. He’s desperate but elated; his body is amped up, but it isn’t about fucking for the sake of orgasm, or ironing out some twist between us with pleasure. It’s this intense, perfect connection he feels. I know because the same thing is thrumming in me.

I slip the top button of his jeans free while his eyes hold mine, granting silent permission. The three beneath it open with only gentle coaxing. Oliver’s breath comes out fast and warm on my cheek.

“What are you up to, Lorelei?”

I look down, watching my hand dig into his boxers, but I can feel when he looks up and behind me at the beach, making sure we really are alone out here.

I tilt my face to his, silently asking for a kiss.

“This massive, massive love . . .” he murmurs into my lips, trailing off when my fingers slide over the swollen, slick head of him.

Oliver wraps his coat around us both, obscuring my bent arm, my hand when I pull him free of his boxers. His mouth opens against mine, tongue sweeping over me for tiny strokes, hands clasped together at my back to keep our cover intact. There are so many ways to declare love, to make love. I swallow his sounds, stroking him in this slow, nearly lazy way until he’s shifting against me, until he’s shaking, until his kisses stop and he’s too focused on the pleasure of it. His lips go slack, simply pressed against mine, and I’m greedy for the little grunts that begin when he’s close, swollen to bursting, knuckles pressed into my spine, begging. We’ve been nearly silent: a couple embracing, kissing on the beach in the darkness, but when something splits open in me—relief, thrill, tension unloaded—it pulls a paradoxical sob from my throat, and Oliver leans forward, coming with a low groan.

He’s warm in my hand, wet and slippery, urging me with a tiny retreat of his hips to not move my fingers anymore. But I don’t want to let go; I like the way it feels to share these languid kisses, hold the satisfied weight of him in my hand, cocooned in his circle of body heat with the enormous ocean crashing beside us.

Finally, I move my hand away as he buttons his pants back up, laughing at the mess. Once he’s situated, he kisses my nose, unwilling to let me out of the shelter of his jacket. And with the water lapping near our feet, it feels like Oliver and I have been together for years; the quiet between us is simply too easy for this to be a fickle fling.

When I look up at him, he’s staring out at the water but feels my eyes on him and turns to gaze at me, smiling. “I like it out here,” he says.

“I was thinking . . . you shouldn’t buy a house,” he says. “I’ve got a good one.”

Excitement and unease boil together in my stomach. “I was thinking the same thing while I worked up the nerve to come to your door. But then I figured . . . one thing at a time.”

His eyes smile first and it spreads down to his mouth. “One thing at a time,” he repeats. “But just don’t buy a house. It’ll be a huge waste of money.”

Stretching to kiss his chin, I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell him I honestly don’t know if I ever want to be married again, I don’t know how to do any of this and am pretty sure I’m going to fail . . . a lot. “But I don’t—”

His fingertips come over my lips and he covers them with a small kiss. “Shh. We are not our friends. We have our own path, okay? I’m just being optimistic here.”

With a smile, I pull him down with me onto the sand and we sit and watch the moonlit foam of the curling surf. Oliver tells me stories about his first year in the States. I tell him stories about the year my mother left. We grow quiet and nearly fall asleep on the beach before we wrestle each other awake and halfheartedly argue over what to get for dinner.