“Do you remember the kiss itself?” My fingers scratch lightly at his stomach, down to the hem of his shirt, and I slip my thumb under, stroking. “Or do you just remember that it happened?”
Ethan licks his lips again, and fire erupts in my belly. “Yes.”
“Was it good?”
I can tell his breathing is accelerated now, as well. In front of me, his chest rises and falls rapidly. I, too, feel like I can barely get enough oxygen. “Yeah.”
“Did you forget your words, Elvis?”
“It was good,” he manages, and rolls his eyes but I can see him fighting a smile, too.
His jaw ticks, like he wants to argue with me about why I’m asking him this when I was obviously there, too, but the heat in his eyes tells me he’s just as turned on as I am, and is willing to play along. “It was the kind of kiss that feels like fucking.”
All the air is sucked out of my lungs, and I’m left staring up at him, speechless. I was expecting him to say something safe, not something that would send my libido spiraling out of any controlled orbit.
Running both hands up his chest, I relish the exhaled little grunt he can’t seem to keep contained. I have to rise on my toes to reach him, but I don’t mind the way he’s making me work for it. With his gaze locked on mine, he doesn’t bend until I’m right there, at the limit of where I can reach.
But then he gives in to it entirely: with a soft moan of relief, his eyes fall closed, his arms come around my waist, and Ethan covers my mouth with his. If last night’s kiss felt like a drunken impulse, this one feels like a complete unburdening. He takes my mouth slowly, and then with more vigor until his deep groan vibrates all the way to the marrow of my bones.
It’s heaven to dig my hands into the silk of his hair, to feel the way he lifts me up from the floor so that I’m at his level, high enough for me to wrap my legs around his waist. His kiss makes me come undone; I can’t be embarrassed that I fall so quickly into wild hunger because he’s right there with me, nearly frantic.
I speak the single word into his mouth: “Bedroom.”
He carries me down the hall, maneuvering me easily through the doorway, toward the bed. I want to eat his soft little grunts, the bursting exhales he gives when I tug on his hair or lick at his lip or move my mouth to his jaw, his neck, his ear.
I pull him over me when he lowers me to the mattress, taking his shirt off before his chest even touches mine. All that smooth, warm tanned skin under my hands makes me crazed, like I’m feverish. Next time, I think. Next time I’ll undress him slowly and enjoy every inch revealed, but right now I just need to feel his weight over me.
His mouth makes its way down my body; hands already familiar with my legs now explore my breasts, my stomach, the delicate skin beside my hip bones, and lower. I want to take a picture of him like this: his soft hair brushing against my stomach as he makes his way down, his eyes closed in pleasure.
“I think this is the longest we’ve gone without arguing,” he murmurs.
“What if all of this was just a ruse to get a great blackmail photo?” I am breathless as he kisses a string of heat across my navel.
“I’ve always wanted someone who appreciates the long con.” He bares his teeth, biting the sensitive juncture of hip and thigh.
I start to laugh but then a kiss is pressed between my legs, where I am overheated and aching, and Ethan reaches up, resting a palm over my heart to feel it hammering. With focus and quiet, encouraging sounds, he makes me fall apart so thoroughly I am a demolished, giggling mess in his arms afterward.
“You okay there, Olivia?” he asks, sucking gently at my neck.
“Ask later. Nonverbal now.”
His growl tells me he’s happy with this answer; hungry fingers slide up over my stomach, my breasts, my shoulders.
I manage to pull myself together, too tempted by his collarbones and chest hair and abdomen to let a walloping orgasm keep me from exploring. With his lips parted and fingers loosely tangled in my hair, Ethan watches me move down his body, kissing him, tasting him until he stops me with tense, dark eyes.
Reaching down, he pulls me back up and rolls over onto me in an impressive display of agility. I feel the air sweetly pressed out of my lungs, the smooth slide of his body over mine.
“This okay?” he asks.
I’d argue with him about the word okay when things are very clearly sublime, but now is not the time to nitpick. “Yeah. Yes. Perfect.”
“You want to?” Ethan sucks at my shoulder, sliding his warm palm up and over my hip, to my waist, my ribs, and back down again.
“Yeah.” I gulp down an enormous breath of air. “Do you?”
He nods against me, and then laughs quietly, coming up for a kiss. “I really, really do.”
My body screams yes just as my mind screams birth control.
“Wait. Condoms,” I groan into his mouth.
“I’ve got some.” He jumps up, and I’m distracted enough by the view of him crossing the room that it takes me a second to realize what he’s said.
“Who were you planning on having sex with on this trip?” I ask him, fake scowling over from the bed. “And in which bed?”
He tears open the box and glances at me. “I don’t know. Better to be prepared, right?”
At this, I push up on an elbow. “Were you thinking you’d have sex with me?”
Ethan laughs, ripping the foil open with his teeth. “Definitely not you.”
He makes his way back over to me, treating me to a very lovely view. “I think it would have been delusional for me to think I could ever get this lucky.”
Does he know he’s chosen the perfect words to complete this mad seduction? I can hardly argue; being with him right now represents the most astonishing luck I’ve ever had, too. And when he climbs over me, pressing his mouth to mine and running a hand down my thigh to cup my knee and pull it up over his hip, arguing is suddenly the last thing on my mind.
Ethan looks at me, smiles, and then turns his head down and pokes at his lunch. It’s an ironically bashful expression for the hot, objectifying pervert who, barely a half hour ago, watched me with the intensity of a predator while I got dressed. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, “Just having a moment.”
“What kind of moment were you having?” I ask now, and Ethan looks back up.
I realize I’m digging for a compliment. He was watching me get dressed with a thirst I didn’t see in his eyes even on mai tai night. But I guess I’m still in that weird fugue where I don’t actually believe that we’re getting along swimmingly, let alone having fun being naked together.
“In the room,” I say. “ ‘Having a moment.’ ”
“Oh,” he says, and winces. “Yeah. About that. Was just freaking out a little over having sex with you.”
I bark out a laugh. I think he’s joking. “Thank you for being so consistently on-brand.”
“No, but really,” he amends with a smile, “I was enjoying watching. I liked seeing you put your clothes back on.”
“One would think the undressing part would be the highlight.”
“It was. Believe me.” He takes a bite, chewing and swallowing while studying me, and something in his expression takes me back an hour, to when he kept whispering, It’s good, so good, in my ear before I fell to pieces beneath him. “But afterward, seeing you put yourself back together was . . .” He glances over my shoulder, searching for the right word, and I’m guessing it’s going to be a great one—sexy, or seductive, or perhaps life-altering—but then his expression turns sour.
I point my fork at him. “That is not a good face for this conversation.”
“Sophie,” he says, both in explanation and greeting as she steps up to the table, cocktail in one hand and Billy’s arm in the other.
Of course. I mean, of course she approaches us right now, wearing a bikini under a tiny, sheer cover-up, looking like she just walked off the set of a Sports Illustrated photo shoot. Meanwhile, my hair is twisted up in a haystack on my head, I have zero makeup on, and am sex-sweaty, wearing running shorts and a T-shirt featuring smiling ketchup and mustard bottles dancing together.
“Hey guys!” Her voice is so high-pitched it’s like having someone blow a whistle next to your head.
I study Ethan from across the table, eternally curious how that relationship worked once upon a time: Ethan with his deep, warm-honey voice; Sophie with her cartoon mouse voice. Ethan with his watchful gaze; Sophie with her eyes that bounce all over a room, searching for the next interesting thing. He’s also so much bigger than she is. For a second I imagine him carrying her around the Twin Cities in a BabyBjörn, and have to swallow back a giant cackle.
We let out a flaccid “Hey,” in unison.
“Catching a late lunch?” she asks.
“Yeah,” he says, and then puts on a plastic expression of marital happiness. If I recognize how forced it is, Sophie—his live-in girlfriend of nearly two years—has got to see through it, too. “Spent the day in.”
“In bed,” I add, too loudly.
Ethan looks at me like I am eternally hopeless. He exhales through his nose in a long, patient stream. For once, I’m not even lying and I still sound like a maniac.
“That was our day yesterday.” Sophie’s eyes slide to Billy. “Fun, right?”
This entire thing is so weird. Who talks to each other like this?
Billy nods, but isn’t looking at us—who can blame him? He doesn’t want to hang out with us any more than we want them here. But his reaction is clearly not enough for her because a cloudy frown sweeps across her face. She glances at Ethan, hungrily, and then away again, like the loneliest woman on the planet. I wonder how he’d feel if he looked up and noticed it—the flat-out yearning in her expression, the Did I make a mistake? expression—but he’s back to obliviously poking at his noodles.