SOMEWHERE IN MY subconscious I sense Ansel crawling on the bed and hovering over me beneath a sun-warmed blanket cave. He wakes me up with the pressure of his stare.
I stretch, frowning up at his neatly pressed dress shirt, white with small purple geometric shapes.
“You’re going in to work?” I ask, my voice still thick with sleep. “Wait,” I add, once consciousness forces its way to the surface. “It’s Tuesday. Of course you’re going in to work.”
He kisses my nose, running a warm palm from my shoulder, down over my breast, to my waist. “I only have a few weeks left of this craziness,” he says.
“Me, too,” I say, laughing. And then my smile drops like a hammer out of the sky and I pout. “Ugh. Why did I even say that? Now I want to eat my feelings in the form of an enormous chocolate croissant.”
“Croissant,” he repeats, kissing me before whispering, “Better this time, Cerise. But we call it pain au chocolat.”
He touches my lip with his index finger. I smile and bite his fingertip. I don’t want him to be frustrated with my impending departure, either. We’re both so much happier when we’re pretending it doesn’t exist.
He pulls his hand back and runs it over my breast again. “I’m pretty sure Capitaux will settle eventually.”
“I wish you didn’t have to go.”
“Me, too.” He kisses me, so softly, so earnestly that something swells painfully inside my chest. It can’t just be my heart because it sucks the air from my body, too. It can’t be only my lungs because it causes my pulse to race. It’s as if Ansel has taken up residence inside my rib cage, making
everything go haywire.
“Do you have very important plans for an adventure today?” he asks.
I shake my head.
“Then today you practice speaking French,” he says, resolute.
“With Madame Allard downstairs. She loves you and thinks we’re going to have a baby soon.”
My eyes go wide and I press both hands to my stomach. “I have not gained that much weight.” I look down at my hands and ask, “Have I?”
He laughs, and bends to kiss me. “You don’t look very different from when you arrived. Tell me how you say ‘I’m not pregnant’ en français. You can go downstairs and tell her yourself.”
I close my eyes, thinking. “Je ne . . . suis pas . . . uh”—I look up at him—“pregnant.”
“Enceinte,” he says. His eyes move over my body, and I stretch under his gaze, wondering what the chances are that he will take off his clothes and make love to me before he goes to work.
He pushes away, but I can see the tight bunching of his dress pants where he’s hard beneath his zipper.
I palm him, arching my back. “Ten minutes.”
I mean it to sound playful, but his eyes grow a little pained. “I can’t.”
“I’m so sorry, Mia.” His eyes search mine. “I knew I would be busy, what was I thinking? But you’re here and I’m wild for you. How can I regret it?”
“Stop,” I tell him, curling my hand around the shape of him. “It’s the best decision I made in a long time.” His eyes flutter closed when I say this, and he pushes into my palm before lowering himself over my naked body.
“It is strange, isn’t it?” he asks quietly, pressing his face to my neck. “But it isn’t fake. It’s never really been pretend.”
In a wild burst of color, images from the past several weeks pop through my vision, each one bringing such a surge of nostalgia, so much emotion. The disorienting first two weeks with him gone nearly every waking minute. The awkwardness of the first time we made love after we arrived. The renewed heat between us the night I dressed up as his maid. I would no more be able to serve Ansel with an annulment than I would be able to swim all the way home in a few weeks.
“What are we going to do?” I ask, my voice disappearing on the last word.
My sunshine Ansel returns as he pulls back with a smile, as if he knows only one of us at a time is allowed to consider the darker side to our impulsive—and wonderful—adventure.
“We’re going to have a lot of sex when I get home from work.” This time, when he pushes away, I can tell he’s determined to get moving. “Let me see the naughty side again.”
The comforter flaps over me with a burst of air, and when it settles, he’s gone, and all I hear is the heavy click of the front door.
IT TAKES A while for Madame Allard to get around to asking me whether we’re having a baby—she’s determined to cycle through her thoughts on the new puppy in the building and the fresh grapes at the corner market—and then even longer for me to convince her that we are not. Her joy over my simple sentence, “Madame, je ne suis pas enceinte,” is enough to make me want to try to order lunch in French.
But the far less approachable grouchy waiter with the wild eyebrows at the corner brasserie makes me reconsider, and instead I order my favorite—soupe à l’oignon—in my standard apology-glazed English.
I wonder how many of the people in Ansel’s life assume that I came back here with him because I got pregnant. Even though he was gone for only three weeks, who knows what the people in his life assume? And then I wonder: Has he told his mother? His father?
Why does the idea of being pregnant right now make me laugh, and then make me feel a tiny bit tingly inside? Enceinte is such a gorgeous word. Even more gorgeous is the idea of being full—full of him, and the future, and this thing building between us. Even if a baby isn’t growing inside me, genuine emotion is.
So is a glowing hope. Immediately, my stomach drops.
Impulsively, I pull out my phone, texting him, Do your parents know you’re married?
How has it never occurred to me to ask him this yet?
He doesn’t answer while I eat, and it isn’t until nearly an hour has passed and I’m a mile away from the apartment, wandering aimlessly through curving alleys, when my phone buzzes in my bag.
My mother knows, not my father. And then: Does this bother you?
Knowing he’s at work and I may only have his attention for a second, I type quickly: No. My parents don’t know. I just realized how little we’ve really talked about it.
We’ll talk about it later, but not tonight.
I stare at my phone for a beat. That’s certainly cryptic. Why not tonight?
Because tonight you are naughty, not nice.
I’m typing my reply—basically hell yes and get home as soon as you can—when my phone buzzes with another incoming message . . . from Harlow.
I’m in Canada.
My eyes widen as I search for any other explanation than the one my brain immediately latches on to. Harlow has no family in Canada, no business in Canada. I type my question so fast I have to correct typos seven times in five words: Are you there banging Finn???
She doesn’t answer immediately, and without thinking, I text Ansel for confirmation.
In fact, it feels natural to text Ansel first . . . holy crap we have mutual people, a shared community now. My fingers shake as I type: Did Harlow fly up to Canada to visit Finn this weekend?!
Ansel replies a few minutes later, They must have texted us at the same time. Apparently she arrived wearing nothing but her trench coat.
I nod as I type my reply: That sounds like Harlow. How did she get through security without having to take that off?
No idea, he says. But they’d better not be trying to steal our costume game.
My blood simmers deliciously in anticipation. What time will you be home?
I’m here with the dragon until around 21:00.
Nine o’clock? Immediately I deflate, typing OK before slipping my phone back into my bag. But then, a thought occurs to me: He wanted me to be naughty? I’ll give him naughty.
LATELY, ANSEL HAS been texting me around dinnertime—when he’s working and I’m home. The routine has only been going on maybe the past four days when our schedules land like this, but somehow I know to expect it around seven, when he takes his evening break.
I’m ready, in the bedroom, when my phone buzzes on the comforter beside me.
Don’t forget what I want tonight. Eat dinner. I will keep you up.
With shaking hands, I press his name to call him, and wait while it rings once . . . twice . . .
“Âllo?” he answers, and then corrects to English. “Mia? Is everything all right?”
“Professor Guillaume?” I ask in a high, hesitant voice. “Is it an okay time to call? I know it isn’t your office hour . . .”
Silence greets me across the line and after several long beats, he clears his throat, quietly. “Actually, Mia,” he says, voice different now—not him, but someone stern and irritated at the interruption, “I was in the middle of something. What is it?”
My hand slides down my torso, over my navel and lower, between my spread legs. “I had some questions about what you were teaching me, but I can call back if there is a better time.”
I need to hear his voice, to get lost in it to find the bravery to do this when he’s not expecting it. When he may be sitting across the table from someone.
I can almost imagine the way he leans in, pressing the phone flush to his ear and listening carefully for every sound on the other end of the line. “No, I’m here now. Out with it.”
My hand slides up and back, fingers pressing to my skin. I pretend it’s his hand, and he’s hovering over me, watching every expression as it passes over my face. “Earlier today in class,” I start, my breath catching when I hear him exhale forcefully. I search my memory for some rudimentary law terms from my poli sci class two years ago. “When you were talking about judicial politics?”
“Yes?” he whispers, and now I know he must be alone in his office. His voice has gone hoarse, goading, deep enough that if he were here I can just imagine the way the sunshine would melt from his eyes and he would pretend to be hard and calculating.
“I don’t think I’d ever been more wrapped up in a lecture before.” I hold my phone between my ear and hunched shoulder, sliding my other hand up and over my breast. My breasts . . . Ansel loves them in a way no one ever has before. I always loved being able to move around them easily. But under his touch, I realize just how sensitive they are, how responsive. “I’ve never enjoyed a class as much as yours.”
“And I couldn’t stop thinking . . .” I say, pausing for effect but also because I can hear him breathing and I want to dive into the slow, deep cadence. I feel something inside me ignite with want. “I was thinking what it would be like if you would meet with me outside of school.”
It’s several tight, pounding heartbeats before he answers. “You know I can’t do that, Miss Holland.”
“Can’t because of the rules? Or because you don’t want to?” My fingers are moving faster now, sliding easily over skin that has grown slick with the sound of his voice, the sound of his breath through the line. I can imagine him sitting behind a desk, his hand clutching himself through his zipper. Even the thought makes me gasp.
“Because of the rules.” His voice drops to barely a whisper. “Also, I can’t want to. You’re my student.”
Without meaning to, I moan quietly, because he does want it. He wants me, even when he’s drowning at work and miles away.
How would it feel to really be his student, or to be one of the girls on the métro, watching him, wanting him? What if he really were my teacher, and every day I had to sit, and listen to his quiet, deep voice, unable to move forward, catch his eye, run my hands up his chest and into his thick hair?
“Mia, you’re not doing anything . . . inappropriate right now, are you?” he asks, stern voice back in place. It’s the first time I can’t see his face when we’re playing like this, but already I know him well enough to know he’s pretending. His voice is never stern with me, even when he’s upset. He’s always even, always steady.
My back arches off the mattress, sensation pooling and warming in my thighs, low in my belly. “You want to hear me?” I ask. “Do you like to imagine me doing this here in your bed?”
“You’re in my bed?” he hisses, sounding irate. “Mia! Are you touching yourself?”
The thrill of the game spins through me, making me dizzy and nearly high. I remember the way he looked over me this morning, conflicted, wanting to take me before he left for work. I remember how his mouth felt on my neck when he climbed into bed last night, how he pulls me against his chest, spooning me every night. And then, when I barely whisper, “Oh, oh, God,” I hear his rumbling groan on the other end and completely fall to pieces under my own hand, pretending it’s his, knowing how much better it will feel when it really is his, later.
And he can imagine me now, because he’s seen me do this.
My legs are shaking and I’m crying out into the phone, riding through the wave of heat, of slick pleasure sliding across my skin. I say his name, some other things I’m not sure are even coherent but just knowing he’s listening, and it’s all he can do—he can’t touch or see or feel—prolongs my release until I’m spent and gasping, my hand sliding to my hip and then down to the mattress beside me.
I smile into the phone, drowsy and satisfied . . . for now.
Blinking, I swallow and whisper, “Oh, God. I can’t believe I did that. I’m so sor—”
“Don’t go anywhere,” he growls. “I’ll be there soon to take care of this . . . this indiscretion.”
I’VE DRIFTED OFF waiting for him when the door slams open, the knob hitting the plaster of the wall just on the other side of the bedroom. Startled, I sit up, pushing my little skirt down my legs, rubbing my eyes as Ansel storms into the bedroom.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” he roars.
I scoot back to the headboard, disoriented and heart pounding as my brain slowly catches up to the adrenaline racing through my bloodstream. “I . . . you told me not to go anywhere.”
He stalks toward me, stopping at the side of the bed and tugging his tie loose with an impatient jerk. “You broke into my house—”
“The door was open—”
“—and got onto my bed.”
“I . . .” I look up at him, eyes widening. He looks genuinely upset, but then reaches forward, reminding me it’s all a game by gently sweeping his thumb across my bottom lip.
“Mia, you broke about a hundred university rules and several laws tonight. I could have you arrested.”
I push up onto my knees, sliding my hands up his chest. “I didn’t know how else to get your attention.”
He closes his eyes, moving his fingers to my jaw, down my neck to my bare shoulders. I’m wearing nothing but a short skirt and underwear beneath, and his palms slide over my breasts before he pulls his hands back, forming tight fists.
“You don’t think I notice you in class?” he growls. “Up front, your eyes on me the entire hour, lips so full and red all I can think about is how they would feel on my tongue, my neck, my cock?”
I lick my lips, bite the lower one. “I can show you.”
He hesitates, eyes narrowing. “I’d be fired.”
“I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
His conflict feels so genuine: he closes his eyes, jaw tight. When they open again, he leans in and says, “If you think of this as rewarding you for breaking into my house . . .”
“I don’t . . .” But he sees the lie in my face. I’m getting everything I want and my dark smile makes him growl, cup my breasts again with rougher hands.
My skin rises to meet his touch, and inside, my muscles and vital organs twist as if being wrung out, pushing heat down my chest, into my belly where it pools low, down between my legs. I want him so much I feel restless and urgent, this elemental need clawing in my throat. I dig my hands into his hair, holding him to me and barely letting him move a breath away from my skin.
But it’s all a ruse. He pulls free of my grip easily, leaning back to look at me with convincing fire in his eyes.
“I had a lot of work on my desk when you called with your little show earlier.”
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. Being near him makes me liquid, my insides slithering and molten.
His eyes flutter closed, nostrils flaring. “What do you think it did to my concentration, knowing you’re here thinking of me, touching skin that could be mine to touch?”
With his eyes anchoring mine, and to make his point, he slides a rough hand into my underwear, two fingers searching, dipping inside and finding me soaked. “Who made you this wet?”
I don’t answer. I close my eyes, pushing into his hand before reaching to grip his wrist and fuck his fingers if he won’t move. I’m on fire, everywhere and especially here, drowning with a clawing need to come, for him to make me come.
With a jerk of his arm he pulls his fingers from me and reaches to push them into my mouth, pressing my taste onto my tongue. His hand grips my jaw, fingers curled into the hollow of my cheeks to hold my mouth open.
“Who. Made you. Wet.”
“You,” I manage around his intrusive fingers and he pulls back, plucking at my bottom lip with an index finger, a thumb. “I thought about you all day. Not just when I called.” I stare into his eyes, so full of anger and lust it takes my breath away. They soften as I continue to hold his gaze, and I can feel both of us stutter in our roles. I want to melt into him, feel his warm weight over me. “I think about you all day long.”
He can see the truth in my expression and his eyes drop to my lips, his hands spread gently across my sides. “You do?”
“And I don’t care about the rules,” I tell him. “Or that you have a lot of work. I want you to ignore it.”
His jaw tenses.
I say, “I want you. The semester will be over soon.”
“Mia . . .” I can see the conflict in his eyes, and does he feel it, too? This longing so enormous it shoves everything else inside my chest into a tight corner? Our time together is almost over, too. How can I possibly be away from him in only a couple of weeks?
What are we going to do?
My heart turns, pounding so hard it’s no longer a safe rhythm. It’s cymbals crashing and the deep heavy pulse of the bass drum. It is thrashing beneath my ribs. I know what this feeling is. He needs to know.
But is it too soon? I’ve been here barely a month. “Ansel . . . I—”
His lips crash over mine, tongue pushing my mouth open, tasting, rolling up against my teeth. I press up, hungry for the flavor of him, of man and ocean and heat.
“Don’t say it,” he says into my mouth, somehow knowing I was going to put something sincere and intense out there. Pulling back, he searches my eyes frantically, pleading. “I can’t play rough if you say that tonight. D’accord?”
I nod urgently and his pupils dilate, a drop of ink into the green and I can actually see his pulse pick up.
He’s mine. He is.
But for how long? The intruding question makes me desperate, reaching for him and needing him deep in every part of me, knowing he can’t really take my breath away but offering it up anyway in tiny, constant bursts.
He steps closer, and although his grip on my hair doesn’t lessen, I greedily reach for his shirt, tugging it free of his pants. With shaking fingers, I work each button free and once his smooth, warm torso is exposed, I hear my fevered moan and my hands slide up across his skin, frantic. How would it feel, I imagine, to want him as much as I do and not have access? And then just tonight—a single, dangerous night—he lets me touch him, taste him, fuck him?
I would be wild. I would be insatiable.
He growls when I spend too long running my hands up and over his chest, fingernails scratching across his small, flat nipples, stroking the teasing line of hair leading down below his belly button and into his pants. Impatiently, he tugs at my hair, pushing his hips forward, and grunts his approval when I quickly unfasten his belt, his zipper, and shove his pants down his thighs so I can free his cock.
It juts in front of me thick and warm; when I reach for him, he’s steel in my palm. I use both hands, gripping and sliding down his length, wanting him to let go of my hair so I can bend and suck on him with as much hunger as I feel.
He exhales a tight groan as I pump him in my fist and then curls down, capturing my mouth in a brutal, commanding kiss. His mouth sucks at mine, pushing my lips apart as his fist tightens in my hair. He slides his tongue inside, pushing deep, fucking me with an unmistakable rhythm.
I won’t be gentle, he’s telling me. I won’t even try.
Thrill ripples through me and I twist free of his grip, intending to lick him until he comes, but with a growled curse he pushes me back on the bed, bending to retrieve his tie so he can wrap it around my wrists and secure it to the headboard.
“Your body is for my pleasure,” he tells me, eyes dark. “You’re in my house, little thing. I’ll take whatever I want.”
He kicks off his pants and climbs over me, yanking my underwear down my legs and shoving my skirt up my hips. With his hands flat on my thighs, he spreads my legs, leans forward, and roughly thrusts into me.
It’s a relief so enormous it makes me scream; I’ve never before felt so full of him. I’m starving and satisfied, wanting him to stay just like this forever. But he doesn’t stay deep inside me for long. He pulls back and then slams forward, gripping the headboard for leverage and taking me so roughly each thrust makes my teeth clatter, forces air from my lungs.
It’s wild, and frantic, his body over mine, my legs clamped around his waist so tight I wonder if it hurts him. I want to hurt him, in a sick dark way I want to pull every sensation to the surface, make him feel everything all at once: the lust and pain and need and relief and, yes, even the love I’m feeling.
“I wanted to get things done tonight,” he hisses, hands clamping around my thighs. He pumps hard and fast, fucking me so roughly, sweat trickles off his temple and lands on my chest. His anger is terrifying, thrilling, perfect. “Instead I need to come home and deal with a naughty student.” His hips are pounding and pounding into me and he groans, eyes growing heavy. His large, rough hands reach for my breasts, and he slides his thumb across my nipple.
“Please make me come,” I whisper, honestly.
I want to stop playing.
I want to play forever.
I want his approval, I want his anger. I want the sharp smack of his hand across my breast only seconds before he delivers it. He knew.
“Please,” I beg. “I’ll be good.”
“Bad pupils don’t get pleasure. I’ll take and take and you can watch me instead.”
He’s moving so hard the bed is shaking, groaning beneath us. We’ve never been so rough. The neighbors must hear, and I close my eyes, relishing the knowledge that my husband is so completely cared for in bed. I’ll give him anything.
“Watch me come,” he whispers, jerking from me and gripping his cock. His hand flies down and up his length and he curses, eyes on me.
The first pulse of his release lashes me across my cheek, and then my neck, my breasts. I’ll never be able to imagine a sexier sound than the deep groan he makes when he comes, the way he growls my name, the way he stares at me. He bends, sweaty and out of breath; his eyes move over my face and down, inspecting how he’s decorated me. Climbing up my body so his hips are level with my face, he presses his cock to my lips, quietly ordering, “Lick it clean.”
I open my mouth and lick around the tip, and then suck down, along the velvet-soft skin.
“Ansel,” I whisper when I pull away, wanting to be us now. Wanting him.
Relief fills his eyes and he runs his finger across my lower lip. “You like this,” he murmurs. “Pleasing me.”
He pulls away, bending to kiss my forehead as he carefully unties my hands. “Attends,” he whispers. Wait.
Ansel comes back with a damp cloth, wiping my cheek, my neck, my breasts. He tosses it into the bin in the corner before kissing me gently.
“Was that nice, Cerise?” he whispers, sucking on my lower lip, tongue probing gently into my mouth. He moans quietly, fingers dancing over the curve of my breast. “You were perfect. I love being with you that way.” His mouth moves over my cheek, to my ear, and he asks, “But can I be gentle now?”
I nod, cupping his face. He wrecks me with his play, with his command that so easily melts into adoration. I close my eyes, sinking my hands into his hair as he kisses down my neck, sucking my breasts, my navel, parting my legs with his hands.
I’m sore from his rough treatment only minutes ago, but he’s careful now, blowing a soft stream of air across me, whispering, “Let me see you.”
Ducking, he kisses my clit, licks slowly around. “I love to taste you, do you notice?”
I curl my hands into fists around the pillowcase.
“I think this sweetness is just for me. I pretend your desire has never been like this.” He dips a finger inside and brings it up to my lips. “For everyone else it was never so silky and sweet. Tell me it’s true.”
I let him slide his finger inside and suck, wanting to make this night last for days. I’m wild for him, hoping he stays here with me. Hoping he doesn’t retreat to the office and work until dawn.
“Isn’t it perfect?” he asks, watching me suck. “I’ve never loved a woman’s flavor as much as I love yours.” He climbs up my body, sucking at my lips, my tongue. He’s hard again, or maybe he’s hard still, and he grinds into my thigh. “I crave it. I crave you. I’m too wild for you. I want you too much, I think.”
I shake my head, wanting to tell him he could want me more and wilder but the words get stuck in my throat when he returns his lips to my pussy, licking and sucking so expertly now that I arch off the bed, crying out.
“Like this?” he purrs.
“Yes.” My hips press up from the mattress, greedy for his fingers, too.
“I’d be your slave,” he whispers, sliding two fingers into me. “Give me nothing but this and your mouth and your quiet words and I’d be your slave, Cerise.”
I don’t know how it happened, or when exactly, but he knows how to read my body, knows my tells. He teases me, pulling each sensation longer and tighter, making me wait for the orgasm I’ve wanted for what begins to feel like days. With his tongue, and his lips, his fingers, and his words he brings me to the edge over and over until I’m writhing beneath him, sweating, begging for it.
And just when I think he’ll finally let me come, he pulls away instead, wiping his mouth with his forearm as he climbs over me.
I push up onto my elbows, eyes wild. “Ansel—”
“Shh, I need to be inside when you come.” With quick hands, he rolls me onto my stomach, spreads my legs, and slides in so deep I gasp, bunching the pillowcase in my fists. His groan vibrates through my bones, along my skin, and I feel the continued buzz of it as he begins to move, his chest pressed to my back, breath hot on my ear.
“I’m lost in you.”
I gasp, nodding frantically. “Me, too.”
His hand slides underneath me and presses, circling against my clit. I’m right there
and I go off like a bomb the second he presses his lips to my ear and whispers, “What you feel, Cerise? I feel it, too. Fuck, Mia, I feel everything for you.”