Beautiful Beloved: Chapter 6

Max

I stared at my brother the next morning as he took a bite of toast and scanned the business section, oblivious to my inspection. It had been too long since our last visit—longer than we’d ever been apart. Marriages beginning and ending, careers growing, babies born, family obligations, and a myriad of other obstacles had kept me from England and him from the States. Though I was only ten months older than him, seeing him here brought back the older-brother protectiveness his calm stoicism had always triggered in me.

Because he rarely said otherwise, I needed to make sure he really was doing all right.

He looked thinner, but fitter, too. I meant it when I said divorce suited him. Instead of seeming beat down by the taxing drag of the proceedings, it seemed as if a literal weight had been removed from his shoulders. His face was less shadowed, mouth less drawn. He smiled easily again.

Of all my siblings, Niall and I were the most similar physically but dissimilar mentally. We were both tall, had tended toward athletic builds, and had our father’s lighter brown hair. But whereas it had taken me years to get my head on straight about school and birds and the bleeding enormous what-to-do-with-my-life decisions, Niall was born thinking like a little engineer: logical, calm, meticulous. I’d worked my way through most of Manhattan’s single women; he’d married the first girl he kissed. I had barely found a single job I loved until I met Will and we started the firm together; Niall had excelled in civil engineering so early he’d been the second in command at the London Underground when he was only twenty-eight before being wooed away to a private firm. I spoke freely, shared too readily, loved perhaps too openly. Niall considered every word before he let it out, held his private truths close to his chest, and had never been with a woman who let him love openly at all.

“How’s the ex-monster?” I asked.

“Portia’s mostly off doing whatever it is she does,” he told me, letting out a quiet laugh. “I get the occasional note about needing to fix this or that at the flat.”

I felt the familiar protective heat rise in my chest. “She can hire out for that. Lord knows she has enough of her own money, as well as yours.”

“She can, indeed,” he agreed with the genuine smile of a man finally liberated.

I hated what Portia had done to him. She’d started with a shy, sweet, and devoted teenage Niall and left us with a deeply emotionally reserved version of the same man. I didn’t mind his reserve; I didn’t even mind his new emotional discipline. I missed the lad with the easy dimpled smile and enormous, curious eyes.

But fuck it. He was here in my flat, finally coming back to life.

“You should have fucked Teena Smith at Robbie’s party when I told you to,” I said to him.

He barely missed a beat: “Oi, this again. I was already with—”

“Oh, fuck Portia. Teena would have bounced on your knob for days.”

He laughed, scratching his jaw. “A bit too eager, though, yeah?”

“Eager with a cocksucking mouth and great tits.”

“Great tits,” he agreed ruefully. “Bloody great tits.”

“Who had great tits?” Sara asked, walking into the kitchen to grab her coffee.

“Teena,” Niall and I answered in unison.

“The one I should have shagged,” Niall explained further.

“And it’s unfortunate he didn’t,” I explained. “Portia would have married that insufferable arse Richard, and Niall would have been a sex god in uni instead of saddled with a wife and mortgage.”

He hummed, blowing over the surface of his hot tea as his eyes returned to the paper. “Maybe.”

Sara looked at us with a sweetly quizzical grin before leaving again.

“So.” I brought my coffee to my lips.

He smiled without looking up. “Hmm?”

“Good to have you visit.”

My brother nodded, sipping his tea. “Been too long.”

“Everything good across the pond?”

Shrugging, he said, “Same, I suppose? There’s a chance I’ll be back in a few weeks’ time for a summit here.”

“Yeah?” I said, a little more eagerly than I’d intended.

He nodded. “I’ll be around a bit more, you see. So you might as well just bring up whatever it is you’re working up to.”

“Oh, you mean the thing about how you’re watching the child tonight while I take my woman out for some fun?”

He brought his toast to his mouth and smiled around it, “Yes, that thing.”

“We’ll be out late,” I warned.

“I certainly hope so.” He maintained eye contact, eyes wry and knowing as he chewed, swallowed.

“I’m not going to tell you what we’re doing, if that’s what you think.”

He laughed, shaking his head as he poured some more tea. “Well, until you said that, I assumed it was just dinner. Now I think maybe I’d rather not know.”

Sara brought Anna out into the kitchen, making her way over to me, but Niall wiped his mouth and his hands with a napkin before he reached for the baby. “Come here, love. Guess who gets to watch you tonight?”

Sara folded the baby in his arms and turned to the fridge, pulling out a bottle of milk. “Are you sure?”

He nodded. “Might kick you out myself.”

She smiled at him gratefully. “Well, I’m leaving around six, but there’s plenty of bottles in here for the rest of the night,” she said, looking at him over her shoulder. “We use this bottle warmer. See?” She put the bottle in, pushed the button, and we all watched as it began to steam, and then beeped when it was done. “Easy.”

“We’ll manage fine,” he said, taking the bottle and expertly shaking it to warm the milk evenly as he looked down at Anna again. “Won’t we, princess?”

Watching him like this, I realized how much more experience he had with babies than I did: between our eight siblings there were seventeen nieces and nephews, and Niall was the favorite uncle to them all.

Sara put her hand on his shoulder. “Thanks for doing this.”

He waved her off, making one of his stiff, dismissive grunts.

“That’s awkward Brit for ‘you’re welcome,’ ” I said, laughing as I waited for Anna to push the bottle away and cry for Sara.

Niall gazed down at her as he offered her the milk. “That’s a girl. Who’s a good baby?” He bent and kissed her forehead. “Ah, but she’s a hungry one, isn’t she?”

I gaped at him, at her tiny hand clutching his thumb as she drank happily.

Bloody hell.

If my daughter had one superpower it would be the ability to locate her mum from several rooms away. If Sara were anywhere in the house, Anna wouldn’t dare take a bottle from me.

I scowled at Niall. “You must smell like a woman.”

“Piss off,” he said to me, still using his baby-soothing voice. “Why is your daddy such a wanker, hmm? I’ve got a hundred nieces and nephews and he expects I can’t give this tiny miss a bottle?”

Laughing, I stood and cleared our dishes.

“Baby girl knows which uncle’s gonna spoil her rotten,” Niall whispered just loud enough for me to hear. “Who wants a pony? Is it you? You do? I’ll make sure you get a pony.”

I groaned, smacking the back of his head as I walked past him to go find Sara.

“You’re welcome, wanker,” he sang sweetly.

I found Sara in the bathroom, putting on the pair of diamond earrings her father sent after Anna was born.

Bending to kiss her neck, I said, “I’ll have Scott come for us here at eight—”

“No.” She turned to face me, running her hands up my dress shirt and straightening my collar. “Don’t.”

I blinked, tilting my head as my stomach dropped. Had she changed her mind? “You don’t want to go?”

Her smile was a sweet reassurance. “Of course I do. But I want to meet there. Scott can bring me. You come separately.”

She wanted to leave for the club separately? “But we’ve always gone together.”

“I don’t want to drag anything behind us when we leave. If he picks us both up here, we’ll fuss over the details of leaving Anna, we’ll talk about her in the car. I think I’m going to take her out and do some back-to-work shopping then head to your mom’s. I’ll coordinate with Niall. Scott can get me there and I’ll see you at Johnny’s. We can just be us tonight.”

“You sure?”

She pulled her lip between her teeth and smiled around it before whispering, “Yeah, I’m sure.”

Innocence, anticipation, lust, and something sweeter than pure sugar. It was everything I loved about Sara distilled into a single expression.

“Right then. I’ll meet you there at nine.”

I left for work, expecting to see Sara at lunch, or even get a call from her as I usually did during the day, but knowing I might not. I suspected Sara might want a little distance today to help put her in the right mind-set, and I was right. A text came just as the office was clearing out, to let me know Niall was picking Annabel up at Mum’s flat and she would meet me at the club, as planned.

The distance was odd, but also thrilling.

I went home, showered and dressed, and walked through the rooms of my empty flat. Niall had rung to say he’d be back with the baby shortly, and I had to admit that I agreed with Sara, it would be better if I left before they got here. Annabel was in excellent hands, and Max and Sara as parents could be put on hold for a few hours.

There was nothing left to do; it was time to meet my wife.

My phone buzzed on my way out, a text from Johnny: Use the front door.

We always came in through the back hallway and directly into Room Six. Having performed dozens of times at the club, Sara and I were recognizable to nearly everyone who would be there on a Wednesday night. Johnny wanted her to walk in, right in the middle of all of that?

My protective instinct flared.

Did Sara request this? I replied.

Shut up. In a fucking meeting.

This was as good as a yes; if it was for any other reason he would have said so.

Laughing, I replied in eight separate messages:

It’s

A

Shame

About

Your

Tiny

Shriveled

Dick

Once I confirmed with our driver Scott that he was picking Sara up at my mother’s flat, I called for a cab to get me over to the club, Red Moon. I’d put on something simple, not knowing how Johnny would have the room set up for our return to the club. I wore black trousers and a simple pressed gray check button-down shirt. It had been so long since we came in through the secretive front entrance that I was actually nervous—wanting to make sure I remembered how to get down there: with a key, down several flights to the receptionist. Except standing at the desk waiting my arrival wasn’t Lisbeth, but a stunning redhead who circled the desk, hand outstretched.

“I’m Trin,” she said, smiling in welcome. “You must be Mr. Stella.”

I fucked my wife for everyone to see in this club. It seemed a little odd to be so formal. “Max, please.”

“Lovely to meet you.” She gestured to the heavy steel door that would lead into the club itself. “Mr. French is very much looking forward to having you and Mrs. Stella back in the rotation.”

I smiled, arching a brow. “The pony play and multiple ménage scenarios are growing a little tired?”

She laughed, shaking her head. “I think the regulars like your story,” she said. “It’s sweet. It’s different from everything else we get in here.”

And of course it was. What other married couple would let their most intimate moments play out in such stark display for complete strangers? Who else would invite the world into their sex life?

But being back here, even in this unfamiliar anteroom to the main event, felt deliciously surreal. I could smell the mix of wood polish and leather emanating from the other room. I could hear the faint beat of music pounding through the enormous door. It was a sensory trigger for me, being here, knowing how Sara would get off on being watched, and how I would get off on watching her bloom. It never ceased to amaze me that her greatest turn-on was exhibition, given that in our everyday life she was beautiful but unassuming, brilliant but endlessly humble.

“How’s the baby?” Trin asked, pulling my attention away from the door and back to her face.

“She’s brilliant, yeah,” I said, feeling my grin split my face. “Home with my brother.”

Her eyebrows rose wickedly. “You have a brother?”

“I do,” I said through a laugh. “He’s tall, a genius, and has enough repressed sexual energy to power this club. I should give you his number.”

Trin tilted her head before finding a card in the top drawer of her desk with her name and phone number. “Give him this.” She turned and gestured that I lead us to the door. “Mrs. Stella is inside. I don’t want to keep you.”

Through the door, the club opened into a large main room, dimly lit with wall sconces and lined with a lavish, intricate wallpaper of subtle stripes and swirls. Velvet curtains hung beside a number of small alcoves surrounding low tables, making the entire room feel both lavish and faintly medieval. A small bar stood in the corner, where I remembered, but the design of the room had been modified so that the stage was directly in the center, rather than jutting into the floor from one far end of the expansive space.

Sara was tucked into an alcove in the middle of one long wall, sipping a cocktail and looking surprisingly comfortable all on her own here. She watched the show—a woman stripping to a slow beat while a man behind her was tied naked to a chair.

It was surreal how quickly my brain switched from the daily reality of diapers and investors, bottles and contracts, to the present reality of a private—and rather illegal—space where only the most well-connected and wealthy clients came to indulge their darkest voyeuristic fantasies. It didn’t seem odd that the woman performing was stripped down to a long string of pearls hanging heavily between her small breasts, or that the man had begun quietly begging for pleasure. All around us, people sipped drinks and talked in low voices or simply sat and watched the main show, waiting for the individual rooms to open for the audience.

There were six other rooms in this club, connected to the main room by a long hallway. The setup was simple: each room had a different scene to watch, with tables outside a window looking in. Clients could have drinks while enjoying a perfect view of some of the darkest, sweetest, and filthiest fantasies come to life.

Some of the performers in the club were regulars—experienced Doms, Broadway performers with exhibitionist leanings earning some good money on the side, or dancers who were willing to try anything—and some were vague acquaintances of Johnny who had begged him for the opportunity to perform at the prestigious club. Sara and I were the only friends of his granted a consistent time slot: Wednesday nights were ours in Room Six for as long as we wanted.

Though we never took money—unlike a few others who “performed” at the club—Wednesday night in Room Six grew to be one of the most popular acts in the place, and quite a profitable show for Johnny. The only reason Sara and I knew this, however, was that he told us. We never saw a single face in our audience; other than our first night and until tonight, we’d only ever come into the club through the back entrance.

And just on my short walk from the front door to the table, I could feel the rustle of movement, the way people sat up straight in realization. I could feel the subtle gestures, the quiet whisper of They’re back.

Had Sara felt it, too?

Had she liked it? I felt a shiver climb up my spine, felt my heart begin to thunder at the idea that she was sitting here, thinking of how many times these people had watched me fuck her. Thinking of her growing wet at just the idea of it all.

Sara looked up when Trin led me over to her, and stood, making my blood come to a thudding stop in my veins.

She wore a short black dress, simple but with a beading detail that gave just a hint of sparkle. It would look amazing under the lights, I realized, then smiled when I noted that it would look even better off, lying in a pool on the floor. Her eyes were lined with a soft brown, her lips an edible red. There was nothing particularly special about how she had put herself together tonight, but the heat in her eyes—the devilish fire, the flirtatious tilt of her mouth, the way she looked at my face for only a beat before ogling my body—set my skin into a heated flush.

Bending, I kissed her jaw. “Hello, Petal.” I inhaled the sweetness of her skin, dragging my lips to her ear. “You look fucking beautiful.”

“Hey, Stranger.” She sat, glancing at the space on the bench beside her as if to say that I was meant to be immediately beside her, and not across the table. There were strict rules at the club: two-drink maximum, no touching between clients, everyone is there by choice and any evidence to the contrary results in the fist of God—aka Johnny—coming down.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to touch Sara out here on the main floor, but did the rules really apply to us, when it was clear that we were part of the show? More people were watching us at our tiny table than were watching the naked woman deep-throating the man bound to the chair in the middle of the room.

Sitting beside, her, I leaned close, sucking at her neck.

“Max,” she warned.

“They’re watching,” I told her. “You think they want to see me come in here and follow the rules?” I kissed my way to her mouth, parting her lips with mine and sucking deeply on her tongue before whispering, “I haven’t seen you all day. I’m going to greet you the way I bloody well feel I should. Fuck Johnny and his rules.”

And proving that I was right, no one appeared at the side of our table asking us to leave.

No one signaled a warning to me across the room.

Instead, it felt like the entire room held its breath, watching.

“How long have you been here?” I asked.

She shrugged, tucking her long hair behind her ear. That was another thing that had changed over the past year. Her hair had grown out, curves had bloomed. “About ten minutes before you.”

I studied her face—the pink flush to her cheeks, the quick intake of breaths, the way her gaze could barely stray from my mouth. “Did you feel them watching you?”

She nodded.

“Was it weird?”

She shook her head slowly before whispering, “No.”

I slid my hand under the table, up her bare thighs to the soft lace of her underwear beneath. I could feel the heat through, warming my fingers. “Did it make you wet?”

She watched my mouth. “Yeah.”

“What do you think they remember the most?” I rubbed my fingers over her clit beneath the lace, kissed her cheek, and then moved to her lips, kissing her once at the fullest part of her perfect fucking mouth.

“Maybe the time I tied you up,” she said, taking my face in her hands so she could tilt my head and scrape her teeth over my jaw. “Or maybe the first time we . . .” She trailed off, smiling knowingly.

I nodded. The first time we’d had anal sex, we’d had it here. Somehow it felt safer, slower. Her hunger, her surprise, her pleasure had been so raw. I was sure as soon as she said it that if anyone here tonight had seen it, they would never forget the soft curved shape of her mouth when she felt me fully inside her, and when she came harder than I think she ever had before.

The attention in the room ebbed and returned, ricocheting between the main act and us. We were the quieter option; we had always been the quiet act. What we offered wasn’t hard kink, it was simply us—a relationship that deepened, trust that intensified, sexual exploration that matured. What we received in return was a safe place to try it all. Their focus was a paradoxical sort of respect: they watched nearly every move we made but they loved it. They were invested.

We didn’t normally drink much before a show, but since this particular occasion seemed to be about breaking all the rules—arriving separately, entering through the front door, and touching each other on the main floor—I waved the waitress over with a subtle lift of my hand. She brought me a vodka gimlet, and Sara ordered a club soda with lime.

I was so excited for what would follow that my hand nearly trembled as I lifted the glass to my mouth, which was all the more reason to do this. I needed to be calm, to settle into the atmosphere before we walked back to our room. We sipped our drinks as we watched the others around us, and wordlessly agreed to save the real show for Room Six.

A tall woman in a flowing pink negligee, nothing but glittering pink pasties visible beneath, stepped to our table, signaling that it was time.

I followed Sara as she stood, and sensed the way the room grew still. As we headed toward the hallway, I could hear the quiet shuffle of chairs pushed back from tables, of footsteps following at a respectable distance.

“You ready for this?” I asked her.

I could hear her smile: “Yeah.”

My heart seemed intent on hammering its way up my throat. We passed the scenes in the other rooms to our left.

An orgy of men.

An older woman masturbating a man who had such a young face, he may have turned legal only today.

I watched Sara walk confidently past clientele who looked up as she passed as if they knew her. I felt their eyes on my face.

To our left, a woman behind the glass was tied up and being prepared for anal penetration.

I could see the door to our room just around the slight bend and my body seemed to come to life.

I never knew what to expect as far as room décor went; some nights Johnny kept Room Six simple, with a bed and nothing more. Other nights it looked like my living room, a lavish hotel room, or, once, even a tropical bungalow.

Tonight Mr. French had gone with simple: a gleaming silver rolling cart with a decanter of scotch and some chocolates, a plush rug covering most of the smooth wood floor, and an enormous bed in the middle of the room. Soft plum-colored sheets covered the mattress but it was otherwise bare.

I walked to the rolling cart, looking over my shoulder at Sara. Already the thrill of being here overwhelmed me; I needed to distract myself with an activity other than throwing her onto the mattress and defiling her.

“Do you want a drink?” I asked. I poured myself a small bit of scotch and looked up at her.

“Sure. A little of that.” She nodded to the bottle in my hand. Sara rarely drank hard alcohol, but, again: breaking all the rules. She looked so in her element right now, so fucking thrilled. I could tell by the flush of her neck how much the walk down that hall had turned her on.

I poured her a small glass of whisky and she took it from me before dipping a finger in it and painting a wet line across her neck.

An invitation.

“We’re starting, then?”

Her laugh was a quiet, husky thing. “We started an hour ago.”

I downed my shot, took a step closer, and bent to suck her neck.

“The last time we were here, I was pregnant,” she whispered, and I wondered how firm the pressure of attention through the mirrored glass felt against her back.

“You were glorious,” I corrected her.

“Tell me what we did that night.”

“We were lying down,” I said, looking over to the far side of the room where the bed had been that time, right up against the mirrored window that let others see in where we couldn’t see out. “I was curled behind you, taking you like that.”

“Gently,” she interjected, laughing.

I smiled into her shoulder, nipping it. “Despite your efforts, yes, gently. But I watched you come with a scream, in the mirror just as clearly as they did.”

Her fingers moved up my chest and touched the bare skin beneath the collar of my shirt. “And then what happened?”

Inhaling deeply, I closed my eyes as the memory caused my heart to pound harder, squeeze faster. “Your water broke in the car on the way home.”

“And then what?”

And then what.

And then we turned around, drove to the hospital in a heady fog of terror and glee, and I burst into the ER, carrying Sara in my arms and yelling for help like she’d been shot instead of simply gone into labor.

“And then Annabel Dillon Stella was born thirty hours later.”

“We had a baby, Max.” Her chin was tilted up in her badass, proud smile.

I smiled down at her, feeling my chest expand until it consumed the entire world. “Yeah we fucking did.”

She ran her hand down my torso and cupped the swollen tip of my cock in her palm, pushing and slowly stroking it through my trousers. Just like that. There was no transition topic. No need to distance herself from remembering having our baby to touching me like that. No space between Sara the mum and Sara my lover.

“And here we are again,” she said, stretching to kiss my throat. “Just being in this room makes me feel wild. I love it so much.”

I closed my eyes and groaned. “I love you.”

“And I love you.” I felt her stretch, graze her teeth over my neck. “What do you think it’s like for them to watch us tonight?”

I blinked over her shoulder and gazed at the giant mirror. “I think it’s a milder version of how it feels for us to be here tonight.”

“Like they’re on this journey with us, kind of.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Did you feel them following down the hall?”

“All of them.” She tilted her head back, running her hands into my hair as I bent and kissed lower, to her breastbone through her silk top. “I always knew people were watching. I just didn’t know it was nearly everyone.”

I unzipped her dress and slipped it down her shoulders inch by inch, feeling like I was seeing her new body through their eyes. Knowing they could see what I did—the fuller breasts, the return of her narrow waist. They would see her tonight without the benefit of transition—from lush and pregnant to her body now: slim, ripe, fucking wicked. She was a siren half naked in her delicate dress, her nails a soft pink, lips full and wet. Soft. Everything about her was so fucking soft.

I blinked away but not before glancing quickly to where I knew people were watching, knowing each and every one of them could see my sharp possessiveness and pride.

Look at her, I thought, reaching to unhook her bra. Look at this beautiful fucking woman.

Her breasts were firm when I cupped one, and a flush of warmth pulsed through me when I registered she hadn’t pumped before she came here.

“Jesus, Sare.”

“Own it, Stella.” She tugged my shirt from my pants with a devious little smirk. “If we’re going to play tonight, we’re going to play.” Sara unbuttoned my jeans and slid her hand into my boxers. “In here you don’t get to pretend it doesn’t make you crazy to suck on them or get your palms all wet. You don’t get to pretend my body like this is for her. It’s for you, too. You did it. Own it.”

She pressed the heel of her palm into me and let out a quiet groan. I was so rigid it skirted the line of pleasure and true discomfort. This is what she did to me. Scooped out every thought and sensation so she could fill me up with nothing but this searing ache for her.

“They’re going to watch you and wonder how it feels,” she said, “whether you like it.” Her voice dropped to a whisper as she ran the nail of her index finger along my collarbone: “They’re going to wonder how often you fuck them.”

I could barely look at her like this—rapt and sexy and self-possessed—without feeling a heavy swell of emotion in my chest. I swallowed, hands shaking as I pushed her dress down her hips. Her need was a tangible thing, growing and filling the room, and it started to consume me, too, knowing what it would feel like in the tiny slide of skin between her legs. How slick and wet she would feel on my fingers.

The fabric pooled on the floor—looking every bit as good as I anticipated—and I didn’t bother to lower her lacy pants before I slid my hand down in them, fingers searching and finding her soaked.

“Fuck.”

“They’re wondering why your mouth isn’t on my breast,” she whispered, pulling my head down until I licked at the tight pink swell, until I felt the sweetness draw across my tongue. I groaned, squeezing her with a hand that had started to feel a little greedy, more than a little wild. She slid her hands down my back. “They’re wondering what it’s like to play with them like this.”

I sucked, groaning and turning her until she faced the mirror and could watch what they watched: me, bent at the waist to reach her breasts, licking them into a wet shine, making them grow fuller and tighter.

“I’ll fuck them,” I whispered.

“Yeah,” she gasped.

“I’ll come all over that pretty neck and then lick your pussy so deep they’ll see in my face how sweet you taste.”

She pushed me until I reached the mattress and sat and then straddled me, bending to seal her mouth to mine. I let out a sound between a groan and a plea for more when her tongue pushed into my mouth, tiny and sweet but commanding, hungry to feel and dominate. I loved my Sara like this, in charge and powerful, fists in my hair so she could pull my head back and get me at whatever angle she wanted. She fucking owned every cell in my body, every breath, every reflex.

I could barely move my hands from her breasts, working and kneading, loving the feel of the tightness in my hands and the wet on my palms. I swiveled her so her back faced the mirror and they could see the slide of my hands around her ribs, over her back, down to her ass.

She ground down over my cock, and then pushed me until I was lying on my back so she could peel my trousers and boxers off in a fierce, determined tug.

“Socks,” I commanded quietly, and she giggled as she finished undressing me completely.

My wife gave me a look that communicated some pretty wicked intentions before she licked her way up my legs and pushed them apart to draw her tongue across my balls.

“Filthy fucking girl,” I said through a laugh, closing my eyes as she drew her slick tongue up my cock. I pulled her hair into my fist and guided her as she was sloppy and wild all over me. Pushing onto an elbow, I reached to spank her tight ass with my other hand and groaned when she pushed herself deep onto my cock in response, swallowing the tip deep into her throat.

It was too good—too much wet and suction and pull along my length if I was going to last at all—and I pulled out and flipped Sara to her back, smiling at her surprised giggle and climbed over her ribs, pushing her tits around my cock. I was still slick from her mouth and I rocked over her, fucking with a sort of savage abandon I hadn’t let myself feel in so long. I might bruise her and I could tell neither of us cared. I could come all over her neck, defile her, feel the tip of my cock hit the delicate skin of her throat and it was the kind of rough and possessive behavior, I could see from her expression, that she needed.

She’d missed seeing me like this, I knew. She’d missed seeing me obsessed and hungry to claim, seeing me overcome and wild. Did she really need to be reminded? I told her every day she was beautiful. Every night she felt my desire for her when she curled against me. But of course, here it was different: here we were more bare somehow than we were even in our bedroom, as if constantly raising the stakes of what we were willing to share with the people on the other side of the window.

We gave them a show but it was never false. It was as if it was a game where we could unveil every dark or wicked thought we had, every needy impulse, every vulnerability that needed to be given attention.

See? she said with her eyes. You forgot how much I love to see you wild for me. You forgot this is where we play with fetish and boundaries.

But I remembered.

And it was the best game. I could see the moment she felt it, too, because her lips parted in this elated smile and she laughed, sliding her fingers over me and arching her spine to press my cock harder into her skin.

I was close, could feel the ache behind my naval build and spin downward until I was wild—one hand braced beside her head while I fucked earnestly, hips pivoting faster and harder over her until the growling sound I heard was my own voice, warning her, begging her, telling her how hard I was going to come and where.

Her neck.

Her tits.

Her chin and bottom lip when she bent, wide-eyed, watching me spill out onto her.

Still gasping, I slid down her body, smearing my hand down her wet skin and resting my palm on her belly as I settled between her legs, kissing her hip, her thigh, and finally the sweetness just between her legs. Her hands found their way into my hair and pulled, hips lifting from the mattress, circling as I sucked and licked at her, knowing how to make it fast and easy, knowing how to make the hoarse cries tear from her throat when she came, and then slowed, smiling up at her eyes closed in relief, her upper lip glistening with sweat.

I rose to my knees and slid my fingers into her, watching from above as I pumped them, fucking her. I’d seen her naked in every conceivable way—spread wide beneath me like this, or showering alone, begging for more pleasure or less pain, absorbed in my touch and oblivious to my proximity—and there was something so intimate, so safe, about sharing this sight of her but being the only one who could ever touch her, who would ever know each of those quieter moments. No one else would ever see her give birth to our child or bend and shave her legs in the bath. No one else would ever see her sleeping, curled around a pillow in our bed or nursing our daughter at four in the morning. So the owners of each set of eyes out there watching her come apart under my touch would never, not in a million years, be able to give her what I gave her. For Sara, nothing turned her on more profoundly than my total, obliterating adoration.

Every second that I loved her—a love story for the ages condensed into not even two years—coalesced into this single fucking touch. My hand slowed, fingers carefully pulling from her as I bent and covered her body with mine, covered her lips with mine. I was nearly hard enough again, and pushed into her, wanting to be inside when she completely shattered.

Her legs wound around my hips, hands slid down my back and she pressed her perfect, soft sounds right into my ear, telling me she was close, to move faster, to suck her, harder, and harder.

She was sticky with my orgasm and her milk, with sweat and scotch. Pleasure built brick by brick until it tripped that feeling that was too intense to simply be called pleasure anymore and was nearly painful with how good it was. I kissed her one more time, a gentle growl and the tiny press of teeth before my restraint crumpled and I turned wild, fucking her in a flurry of thrusts, messy and wet.

I ground against her, the tension in me building until it snapped and jerked above, coming with a sharp groan. Beneath me, Sara let out hoarse, moaning cries that broke with very rhythmic clenching around me.

“Max,” she whispered and pulled me close, the movement grating me against her sensitive skin so she shuddered at the friction. I began to pull back but she stopped me with her hands sliding down my sweaty back. “Stay in me.”

I caught my breath in the soft space beside her neck, halfheartedly working to keep my weight off her. Her nails scratched lightly up and down my back, legs still curled around my hips.

“All right?”

Beside me, she nodded.

“That was fun,” I whispered playfully, and felt her smile when she kissed my cheek.

“Welcome back, Mr. and Mrs. Stella,” she said.

We rode together in the back of the car, with Scott up front, navigating us through the streets of Manhattan. I felt uncorked, able to release pressure for the first time in months, and it occurred to me only now that I’d been rather terrified: I hadn’t known whether Sara and I would ever find our way back directly to each other, or if from now on there would forever be something else—children, careers, the gradual bricklaying of life itself—bridging us.

I would have been all right if it had gone that way, if the secret we had and shared had faded away and we had to learn to find our intimacy in other ways. But knowing how easily we could go back to that, and anytime, relieved something a bit guilty and dark inside.

“What are you thinking?” she asked, as she always did, right when I wanted to admit my thoughts the least.

“Something rather dickish.”

“Ooh, then you have to tell me.”

I turned to her, took her hand in both of mine. “I was thinking that I’m relieved we still have this. That if it had gone away, I would have been okay, but I think I would have been a bit devastated at first, too. I can share you with any number of kids, as long as there is a piece there that remains only mine.”

“There’s more than one piece that is only yours,” she said, looking mildly surprised. “That’s what our marriage is. It’s the thing between us that we take care of, knowing that someday it will only be us in that enormous apartment again.”

“If you want more kids, you know we can’t stay in Manhattan forever,” I told her.

She put her fingers over my lips, saying, “Shh. Let’s enjoy this new baseline for a bit.”

We both straightened, seeming to realize in unison that we hadn’t heard our phones go off the entire time we’d been at the club.

“Shit,” she whispered, digging in her purse. “Did I turn it off?”

“I know I didn’t,” I said, pulling mine from my pocket. It was just that there were no texts, no missed calls, nothing.

I quickly typed a message to Niall: All good? We’re headed home.

His reply came almost immediately. Everything is fine. Anna is asleep. See you soon.

Niall was stretched out on the leather couch in the living room, watching John Oliver on the telly. Anna was asleep on his long legs, one fist in her mouth and the other curled around her lion blanket.

“Good night out then?” he asked quietly, watching as we hung our coats up in the closet.

“The best,” I told him, taking in the scene in front of me. “Are you sure you don’t want to move in across the hall? There’s a flat for sale. This would be very convenient for us.”

He laughed. “It’s tempting. Your building is rather posh, and this little one is brilliant, yeah?”

“Cheers, mate,” I said quietly. “You let us forget to be worried.”

He smiled up at me, giving me that look that told me he thought I was a sentimental wanker, and then rested his hand on Anna’s belly. “It was really nice. Perhaps you can return the favor someday.” His smile straightened for the span of a heartbeat, and in that tiny flicker in his expression, I felt the full weight of his disappointment in his marriage.

“Without a doubt,” I reassured him.

Sara went to change out of her dress and I reached for Anna, picking her up with the confidence of a father who expects the child to remain sleeping. Except she didn’t; for once she woke when jostled, and her sweet little face screwed up in frustration as she began to cry.

“Ah, sorry, sorry,” I whispered, bouncing her gently. “Just a minute, little miss, your mum’s almost done.”

Anna didn’t want to be held and rocked, she wanted Sara, and the sound of her angry cry pushed an ache into my chest. But it didn’t bother me the way it would have only days ago. I felt recharged like a battery, full of patience and calm and the quiet that comes from genuine contentment.

Sara came into the hall, taking the baby from me, and I followed them both into the nursery, watching them settle into the rocking chair.

“You’re a lovely sight, my two girls.”

“She’s probably the cutest baby on the planet,” Sara said, grinning up at me. So relaxed, so fucking giddy. It was as if she knew all along we would end up right here, in this night.

I bent down, kissed Annabel’s soft cheek as she calmed down and began to nurse. “You got your sensitive side from your daddy,” I whispered. “Sorry about that, baby girl. But you also got your mum’s steel, so you’ll be okay.”


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