NEVER DO I feel more like an underling than when lawyers pile their stacks of briefs in my arms at the end of a meeting, and pat my back as they file out for lunch.
“Send upstairs to Records, would you?” Kevin asks, dropping a folder in my hands.
“Five copies,” Roger says with a friendly wink as he gives me a heavy file. “Just put them on my desk when you’re done.”
“Same,” Lisa says over her shoulder. “Thanks, Danny.”
I go to correct her—there are only two of us interns, and Danny is the short, black one—but she’s already halfway down the hall.
Turning, I see London standing near my cubicle, with an amused smile on her face. My stomach tightens and I immediately remember her smile after she kissed me last night.
I texted her this morning after we babysat together, but in typical London fashion, she didn’t answer. The strange thing was, it didn’t really bother me. I know that London is struggling with her feelings, and how they’re tied into her friendships with Lola and Mia and Harlow. I know that what she’s going through actually has very little to do with me at all, and that I need to be patient. To be honest, patience has never really been my strong suit and it’s killing me a little, but I’ve already come to terms with the fact that London is important, and I’ve got far longer than a few weeks of patience in me.
“Need some help, Danny?” she asks.
I laugh, readjusting the load in my arms. My happiness in seeing her partially overrides the humiliation of what she’s witnessed. “What are you doing here?”
She is glowing. She’s wearing an orange sundress and sandals; her hair is down and soft, hanging long past her shoulders. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it looking like it isn’t windblown.
Fuck, I think I love her.
Something grows tight inside my chest, and I reach with a free hand to loosen my tie.
She holds up a recyclable grocery sack. “I brought us some lunch. I thought you might be hungry.”
With this, she has just completely made my day. “You’re probably the most amazing person alive right now, do you know that?” She shrugs, jokingly waving her hand forward for me to continue. “And the prettiest. And the best surfing teacher. And, if I may get personal, your rack—”
“Shhh!” she cuts in, stepping toward me, her hand coming up to cover my mouth. We’re essentially alone in the hallway, but she does a quick glance around anyway.
I lift the pile in my arms, smiling in apology. “Do you want to go grab a picnic table outside and I’ll meet you in five?”
With a little blushing smile, she nods and walks back toward the front of the offices.
Never in my life have I made photocopies so fast.
Never at this job have I sprinted up the stairs to the Records office to drop off a set of files.
And never did I ever expect London to show up and want to have lunch with me.
IT’S SEVENTY-FIVE DEGREES out, the air smells like the ocean, I can hear seagulls calling just across the street near the beach, and there is not a visible cloud in the sky. In fact, it’s so beautiful outside I know I won’t want to go back in after lunch. It’s one of the reasons I tend to eat at my desk; the job is a painful slog, the paralegals and lawyers seem to love treating me like the village idiot, and our offices are across the street from the Pacific Ocean. I keep reminding myself being a legal intern is a rite of passage and will be over soon enough, but looking up and seeing London out here in the sunshine, unpacking a big bag of food, makes the prospect of returning to my cubicle feel impossible.
“Hey, Logan,” I call.
She looks up and smiles, but her eyes go wide and her mouth drops open just as a voice comes from behind me: “Hey, Sutter.”
I turn around, and the woman standing in front of me is so out of context here that it takes my brain at least two full seconds to place her.
“Harlow? What th—?”
“Surprise!” She throws her arms out. “Happy to see me?”
I glance over my shoulder to London, confused. “Um, is this an ambush of some form?”
“I asked London to lunch,” Harlow says. “And . . . then I suggested we have lunch with you.”
I wait, brows lifted in expectation, before I slide my gaze over to London, hoping for some form of silent communication.
Is this cool?
London gives me a tiny smile, a barely perceptible nod.
I can only assume that there’s been a conversation I haven’t been privy to, and that maybe this is Harlow’s way of reaching out, letting London know that this is okay. I walk over, still confused and also totally thrilled—I spent nearly every weekend from the age of eleven to nineteen with this woman—and give her a hug. Harlow squeezes me tight, and I get a face full of her auburn hair.
“Holy shit, you’re still using that herby shampoo,” I say, filled with an unexpected wave of nostalgia.
When she steps back, Harlow purses her lips at me. “It’s Aveda, you plebeian.”
“You smell like a commune.”
She shrugs, unfazed. “My husband likes it.”
“Or he’s just too terrified of you to say anything.”
A delighted giggle escapes her lips. “You clearly haven’t met Finn.”
With a lingering smile, Harlow turns, walking over to the picnic table where London is now waiting and has spread out a crazy amount of food: sandwiches, a few deli salads, olives, chips, and sparkling waters.
I look up at her, quietly telling her, “This looks amazing.”
She blushes again—sweet Lord, what is up with that?—and then meets my eyes. “Good. This was sort of Harlow’s idea—”
“I wanted to bring you peanut butter and jelly, but London insisted we stop and pick up something nicer. She might be too good for you,” Harlow says, and I have to restrain myself from hugging her again.
I look back and forth between the two of them. “So what brought this on? Are you buttering me up for a Harlow tongue-lashing?”
“Keep up, Luke. If I wanted to rip you a new one I’d have done it already,” Harlow says, picking up a sandwich and examining it.
“Right,” I say, and pick up a sandwich of my own.
“We had a nice long talk yesterday and London mentioned it was possible that I was a little out of line. I thought about it and decided she was right. Case closed. Now, whether you’re actually worthy of Miss All-American over here,” she says, nodding toward London. “That remains to be seen.”
I look over at London, who seems to be doing everything she can to avoid eye contact with me. Confident that Harlow isn’t here to neuter me, I say, “Harlow, you saw me with Mia every day for years. You already know whether or not I’m worthy.”
She nods, popping an olive into her mouth. “I’m trying to do the grand gesture here, Luke. I don’t remember you being this slow on the uptake.”
I want to volley back with something similarly playful, but I’m so grateful to Harlow in this moment that I can’t seem to conjure up more than a grin aimed in her direction.
“In case you’ve forgotten, Harlow is a bit of a bulldozer,” London explains, smiling down at the table. She pulls the top off a container of salad, and sticks a fork in it. “Sorry. Already has the dressing on,” she jokes under her breath.
“I’ll persevere,” I answer, intentionally touching her hand when she slides it over to me. She went head-to-head with Harlow over this. For me. I may need a few minutes to process that.
As if on instinct, London looks up, widening her eyes in a Be cool gesture before returning to unwrapping her sandwich.
Harlow watches the exchange with interest. “I miss you, Luker. We all do.”
“Yeah, well . . .” I trail off. I mean, honestly, there’s so much. We were all so close. Mia, Harlow, and Lola were like family to me, and although we all tried to keep up appearances after Mia’s accident, our relationships just crumbled. For a couple of years, it was hard not to feel resentful that the friendships with her girlfriends never suffered from whatever it was she was going through. But years later, I know no one is to blame. “I missed you, too.”
“Seems like you managed okay,” she says, and I can’t exactly read her tone. Is she referring to my lack of monogamy? Is she being genuine and telling me I look good? Does she mean London? With Harlow, I always assume there is a layer of shit being given; the question is always how deep I need to look to see it.
“So what’s up with everyone getting married all of a sudden?” I ask her. “You guys have a few days out of college and freak out that you’re going to be spinsters, or what?”
She shrugs. “Guess we just found the one.”
When I glance to her again, London begins intensively studying her Pellegrino label. She’s being oddly quiet.
“I hear you’re headed to law school,” Harlow says, drawing my attention back to her.
“Personally I think it would be amazing if you ended up at UCSD, and—”
“And Ansel was my professor?” I finish for her, smiling. “Yeah, you’re not alone there. Margot prays for it daily.”
“It would be the most awkward.”
“I actually don’t think it would be that bad.” She raises her eyebrows at this. “Ansel seems like a pretty great guy.”
Harlow goes quiet, so I know I’ve surprised her by reiterating this, even when Mia isn’t here and I’d otherwise be free to let loose the honest opinion.
“Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to happen,” I tell her.
“Oh, come on, Luke,” Harlow says. “You know you’ll get into UCSD.”
“I already have,” I say, glancing briefly at London. I haven’t mentioned any of this yet. I haven’t wanted to bring it up because it just seems so . . . serious. “What I meant is that I probably won’t accept the offer from UCSD. I got into Boalt. I’m still waiting to hear from Yale, but most likely I’m headed to Berkeley.”
London’s head shoots up. “What?”
Guilt cools my bloodstream. “Yeah, I heard back from a few places last week.”
“Holy shit, that’s ama—” Harlow’s phone rings in her purse and she digs for it, squealing when she looks at the screen and excusing herself to answer the call.
“Hey, weirdo,” I whisper-hiss to London. When she looks up, I continue: “Are you going to tell me what’s going on? Why are you so quiet today?”
“I had sort of a mini-meltdown when I got home last night. Harlow was there, we had a little talk, and here we are.”
I frown and I reach for her hand. “I’m glad—thrilled, actually—but that’s not what I meant. Are you okay today?”
“I’m just thinking.”
“Thinking about wha—”
“Would it be okay if I came over tonight?” she asks, finally holding my gaze.
“I’d invite you to my place,” she quickly cuts in, “but Lola left this morning so I’m having the paint redone and the entire loft reeks.”
I can’t figure out if she wants to come over to escape her place, or because she wants to be with me, but in either case, I’m all for it. “Of course. Sure.”
She smiles her thanks and ducks to keep eating. I can’t really look away. Out in the sun it’s obvious that London put some effort into how she looks today: she’s wearing a little makeup. Her hair is brushed and smooth. She even painted her nails.
“London?” I ask.
She looks up and I realize I have no idea how to ask her what I want to ask her. Why are you so dressed up? sounds kind of douchey and may imply I think she usually looks less than perfect, which is totally false.
“What?” she asks when I’ve been silently staring at her for too long.
“You look really pretty today.”
She scoffs, smiling into her sandwich. “Shut up.”
“No, you really do. You’re not going to meet some guy after this, are you?” I ask, trying to give her a winning smile.
Laughing, she says, “No.”
“A girl, then? I’m cool with switch hitters, but when you look like this, I want you all for myself.”
Her smile is enormous, but it’s gone in a flash. I watch her tuck her hair behind her ear and pretend to scowl down at her lunch when she whispers, “You’re an idiot.”
Harlow returns, dropping her phone into her purse. “Never marry a fisherman,” she tells me.
I laugh. “Noted.”
“They’re too sexy for their own good and you’ll end up spending your entire paycheck on a last-minute ticket.”
I look back and forth between London and Harlow before saying, “I’m confused. You have to fly to see your husband?”
“When he’s filming,” she says, and then takes an enormous bite of sandwich. It feels like it takes her three years to finish chewing and swallow before she explains, “He’s one of the Fisher Men.”
I slap the table. “Shut up. I can’t wait for that show. Even the promotion is making me feel manly. Wait.” I pause. “You’re married to one of them?” London is shooting me a warning look but I’m too dense to pick up on it right away. “They’re all single.”
“No, they aren’t,” Harlow says with an edge, and when I look up at London, she quickly tucks away a smile.
Harlow and I catch up on the past few years and then begin stumbling down memory lane. London listens, smiling and laughing at the stories—she didn’t grow up with us so she couldn’t possibly understand the insanity that was Harlow, Lola, and Mia together since elementary school.
“Luke,” Harlow sings, shaking her head, “what would we have done without you back then?”
“Luke was your go-to?” London asks. She’s a little skeptical, but mostly fascinated, and fuck, I could kiss Harlow right now. How did she know this was exactly what London needed?
“Oh,” Harlow says, holding up a hand. “You have no idea. This poor guy. Before we would call our parents we would call Luke. He drove before any of us, and took us everywhere. He rescued the three of us more times than I can remember.”
I laugh, because it’s true. The girls got locked out of buildings naked I think more than any other humans on the planet, punctured two tires on Mia’s piece-of-shit Geo Tracker when they decided to try offroading in the San Bernardinos—hours away from home—and needed me to come get them in Big Bear one night when they’d tried to go camping and had forgotten the tent, had no money for a motel, and Harlow got food poisoning.
They were put in charge of the prom committee senior year—and it’s a miracle the entire school didn’t end up getting arrested for public indecency, but when the cops came, I made sure they knew it wasn’t Harlow who had spiked the punch.
I knew the best way to sneak Mia in and out of her house—not just for fooling around, but to drive her down to the beach and watch her dance at sunrise.
I drove Lola to her evening art class every Tuesday and Thursday night after I got my license.
I would have done anything for those girls, and I did.
I still would.
Harlow and I go from fuming together over something horribly condescending Mia’s dad said to her about dancing, to wheezing in laughter, remembering Lola’s three-legged Humper Dog that would literally have sex with any vertical limb in close proximity. The girls once playfully held me down to see what would happen if we let him go—trust me, at fifteen I was fine being pinned to the couch by three girls—and the dog eventually just peed on my leg.
All through it, though, London stays pretty quiet, and I’m inclined to not push her about it. I mean, I’m not an idiot; the way she’s looking intently at me every few seconds makes me think she’s probably mulling over what’s happening between us, and her being here—with lunch, all dressed up—has to be a good sign.
But inside, I feel tense, wanting to be alone with her to talk it out—to talk about us and make sure she’s really okay, to discuss the prospect of me moving in a few months—but knowing there is no way I can push the conversation yet again. For the first time in our . . . relationship . . . I have to wait for her to come to me.
LONDON IS ON my porch when I get home, clutching her bag. Before I even reach the top step, she’s speaking.
“I just got here. I haven’t been waiting—”
“I wish you would lie to me sometimes,” I grumble, teasing. “I like the idea of you hanging out, anxiously pining for me.”
Her hand lightly slaps my shoulder as I bend to unlock the front door.
“Want something to drink?” I ask her over my shoulder, dropping my keys, wallet, and phone on the counter.
I can feel her behind me, looking around before following me into the kitchen. She’s quiet as I open the fridge, reach for a bottle, and pop it open for her.
Turning with her drink in my hand, I immediately run into her. She’s there—right there—chest now pressed to my arm.
I smile, but it feels badly shaped, wobbly. “Hey.”
Her tongue slips out, wetting her lips. “Hey.”
She stares at me, studying, and in an instant I realize she’s working up the nerve to start something. But I’m still wary enough to never want to make that bet. Maybe she changed her mind and doesn’t want a beer. Maybe she wants to add a snack to her order. Maybe—
Her hand comes up from her side, moving up my chest and around to cup the back of my neck.
She pulls, stretching at the same time, covering my mouth with hers.
The relief, the soft feel of her, the slide, the sweetness. Her full lips move over mine, sucking at the bottom, coaxing me open, and my pulse explodes. Her tongue licks my lip, my top teeth. I feel when she moans before I hear it.
My heart is a fucking monster in my chest, claws thrashing.
I pull back, on that razor-sharp edge of ecstasy and heartbreak, needing to know which way I’ll slide. “Are you . . . ?” I don’t even know how to end the sentence. I don’t want this to be a rash impulse of hers.
I’m settled here, in love with her; I couldn’t weather a drive-by.
“Just kiss me?” she whispers.
Her fingers tangle in the hair at the back of my head and she stretches, trailing kisses up my chin. Soft, hesitant kisses to convince me, to coax me some more. Once I force my eyes open, I see that she’s watching me nervously. As if I might say no. The vulnerability there . . . I am fucking done.
The beer bottle shatters near our feet but I need both hands to hold her face. With a groan I take her mouth, tilting her head, sliding my tongue inside and nearly roaring at the stroke of hers, the clench of her hands in my hair. I step forward, moving my hands down her neck, over her shoulders and down her sides, pulling her legs up and around my hips.
My thoughts are nothing but relief and need and need and love and fuck, I’m walking in circles, groaning rhythmically into her mouth.
I don’t know where to take her. I want her in my bed. In my room. I want her here against the wall.
“Your room,” she says, lips moving over my jaw. “Can we go to your room?”
I turn, stumbling down the hall while she kisses and sucks at my neck, her hands digging in my hair, hips grinding into me.
My feet move us to the bed and I lower her there, covering her body with mine and rocking into her, sliding my tongue over hers in the same, slow rhythm.
London scoots up my bed, pulling me up with her, and then rolls us so that she’s over me, her pussy pressed right over my cock as she stares down.
“I like your bedroom,” she says, breaking eye contact to briefly look around.
I follow the path her eyes take: over the bed, the dresser, to the window. It’s a basic room—nice, but unremarkable—and it doesn’t take long for our eyes to meet again. Is she thinking about how many other women have been in here? Is she wondering whether my sheets are clean?
I want to tell her everything, as if confessing—I’ve probably only had sex with two or three girls here, my sheets are clean, I’ve never slept with someone all night in this bed—but there’s no easy way to unload all of this, and what if she’s decided she doesn’t care anyway?
London reaches for the hem of her dress, now bunched at her hips, and lifts the soft cotton up and over her head. Her bra is white and plain, and she reaches back, unhooking it and letting it fall down her arms.
I watch, helpless, as she reaches for me, unbuttoning my dress shirt, helping me shrug out of it. I toss it aside and wrap my arms around her waist, looking up at her.
“I like you,” she whispers.
I exhale, hungry for her and leaning forward to kiss her neck.
The most fucked-up thought hijacks my brain: I don’t want to have sex right now. I want to kiss her. Just kiss. Just feel. I want to focus on the way she touches me, the sounds she makes when I touch her. We’ve charged through everything so far, and I want to go back and feel all the Firsts with her.
I glide my tongue across her collarbone, kissing over the rise of her breast and circling around her nipple. Flicking, sucking—she has a perfect body, perfect skin.
In my hair, her fingers grow tight and restless. Her back arches, pushing her chest closer to my face, hips circling, legs seeking a way to wrap around me.
“I’m sensitive,” she gasps. “I like that.”
I turn my eyes to her, using them to smile as I pull her nipple into my mouth. She watches it come out wet from my tongue, eyes heavy.
“I can tell,” I say.
She was so controlled before, even in the shower when I felt at the time like I got all of her. Here, she’s exposed and defenseless, looking at me with eager eyes and—
Her voice breaks on the single syllable and she just lets it hang there as she closes her eyes. I don’t really need her to say any more because the fear is written all over her face.
Don’t hurt me.
A spike of pain wedges between my ribs, and I sit up straighter, kissing her slow, and deep. “Hey,” I whisper, repeating it again when she doesn’t open her eyes. “Hey.”
Finally, she looks down at me.
“There isn’t anyone else.”
Her eyes flicker back and forth between mine before she nods, cupping my face and kissing me—so sweet, not deep, just a slide of her mouth over mine.
“Here’s where you tell me you’re not seeing anyone else, either,” I mumble against her lips, and she giggles.
But her eyes are serious when she pulls back. “I’m not seeing anyone else.”
“You realize how this sounds?” she asks, looking back and forth between my eyes again. “You’re saying that you want to be in a relationship with me?”
“I believe I’ve made that abundantly clear.”
London stretches over me, catlike, and kisses me once before asking, “Where do you keep your condoms?”
Running my thumb across her lips, I say, “Bedside table.” I tilt my head to show her which side I mean, adding, “But I don’t want to do that yet.”
She thinks I’m kidding, and goes to lightly smack my chest, but I catch her hand. “No, I’m serious.”
“We’ve had sex before, you nerd.”
“It was different.” I reconsider. “This is different.”
Nodding slowly, London tries to hide her confusion, and fails, finally admitting, “I want you. I mean, you.”
“I do, too,” I assure her. “God. Trust me.” I close my eyes, swallow, and steady my thoughts before I look at her again. “But I’m also pretty sure I love you,” I say, and she stops breathing. “And I really, really don’t want to fuck this up.”
Her mouth moves for a couple of beats before any sound comes out. “You love me?”
I shrug, going all in. “Yeah.”
As if she only now seems to realize it, she whispers, “You’re shaking.”
I smile, kissing the corner of her mouth. “Because I’m nervous.”
Tilting her head, she lets out a quietly skeptical, “You’re not nervous.”
“I’ve only ever loved one other person.” I reach up, sliding her hair behind her shoulders and cupping her face. Fuck, the way she’s watching me . . . “And doing this feels really different, okay?”
London nods, and slides off my lap to lie back on my bed, wide blue eyes trained expectantly on my face. “What should we do?”
I smile and lose my breath a little at the way her expression softens. She’s never said it, but I can tell London loves my smile.
“I could touch you?” I ask, leaning over her to suck her neck.
I watch her pull her lower lip between her teeth, thinking this over before she whispers, “Okay. I could touch you, too?”
“Me first.” I smile into a kiss to her neck, and inch my fingers under the waistband of her underwear. My hand moves slowly over her pubic bone, farther down . . . and she hisses when I spread her, sliding over her clit and lower and—
“Fuck,” I gasp, pressing my forehead to hers. “Fuck, you are—”
“I know. I know.” She slides her hand around the back of my neck, pulling me down, closing her eyes, working her mouth over mine, working my mouth open. But I want to see her while I do this. Want to witness everything. I give her one kiss and then move back, watching her face as I pull the slickness up and over her clit, circling,
and her eyes fall half closed, jaw goes slack, hips arch into my hand.
“Is that nice?”
She exhales a quiet, “Yeah.”
I pull my hand out of her underwear. Her eyes shoot open and she reaches blindly for my arm. “Don’t. Don’t—”
“Shh.” I kiss her. “Trust me.” Showing her my intentions, I slide her underwear down her hips and off her legs.
Relief coats her expression, and she laughs a little, stretching to kiss me.
I run my hand over her stomach. Her knees are bent, legs parted slightly. Just enough for my hand, but not for my full attention.
“Spread your legs.”
She hesitates, and I kiss her, saying again, “Spread your legs. Wide. Please. I want to be able to see.”
With a blush, she lowers her knees to the sides, focusing on my face as I reach forward, touching her.
Something in my chest seems to drop, pulled by a weight in my stomach that makes me feel wild and breathless as I look at her, so open for me. I tease her, slow at first, exploring, telling her I’m patient in every way she needs me to be, but when she reaches for me, running her hands over my bare chest and down, I know she needs more. Faster.
Steady, steady friction.
She whimpers, tugging at the back of my neck, wanting my mouth on hers but I shake my head, telling her I need to watch, I want her to just feel my hand. In truth, I want her wild and a little unhinged, I like the way she finally seems to be all in, needing my weight over her and my kiss on her mouth. I want her begging for my tongue and my cock and my fingers.
She growls a little in frustration but the way she holds her breath when I speed up, her tight gasp when I slide two fingers into her—it’s everything. The entire time, she watches my face; I can only feel it, because I’m watching my hand on her, reeling over the way my fingers come out soaked, the way her skin flushes, the way her legs shake as she gets close, hips arching from the bed and into my hand as she starts to tighten, coming with a long, sharp cry of relief.
She shivers under my touch when I pull my fingers out, and run them up and down the soft, wet skin.
Her eyes are closed, arms bent beside her head and fingers curled in her hair.
“You alive, Logan?”
“No.” She giggles and I bend, drawing the tip of my tongue over her dimple. I’ve wanted to do that forever.
My mouth moves over hers and she opens to me, soft and warm, taking my tongue, my sounds. I want to claw my way out of my skin and into hers somehow, in love, in desperation for more of this. I still don’t want to fuck again yet, but my body screams at my brain.
Her eyes come open and she smiles when she realizes I’ve been watching her as she kisses me.
“Can I . . . ?” she asks, lightly skirting her hand down my stomach. To my belt. I watch as she unfastens it, pushes it aside.
I let out a shaking “Yeah,” adding a very breathless “Yeah, okay.”
London laughs at my oddly desperate restraint, and I can’t blame her. But I mean, fuck. I don’t want to say no. I can’t say no. Not with her naked next to me. Not with the feel of her clenching still echoing down my fingers. If she doesn’t touch me, I’m just going to lock myself in the bathroom and jerk off.
She works the zipper down, watching her own hands coax the fabric of my dress pants open. It kills me, it really does. She pushes my pants down and I kick them off before returning to her. Her shoulder lifts and then pushes down as she digs into my boxers, finally looking up at my face. “Come here.”
She means the part of me she’s taking into her hand, the part she’s remembering with her fingertips. And fuck, I don’t know why it’s so hot that she’s said that, that she didn’t mean for me to come closer, to kiss her, but it is. It’s sweet, and reassuring, and sexy, and I want to let the words burst free—I fucking love you—because it’s exactly what I feel watching her do this, but it seems like the worst time to say it again.
It’s ironic, but I’m stubbornly monogamous, I realize this now. When I commit, I go deep, unable to even imagine letting someone do to me what London is doing now. She’s just touching my dick, but it’s hers. Every cell in my body belongs to her. Even the tiny image of Mia in my thoughts as I test out this impulse—the nanosecond flash of being with her instead of London right now—is wrong enough for me to want to drown it with the feel of London’s mouth on mine, the pleasure of soft, deep kisses as her hand moves up and down—at first reacquainting and then with intent: firmer, faster, her focus just where I need it. I moan into her mouth and she pulls back.
“That’s not fair!” she protests, laughing. “You don’t get to kiss—”
I cut her off with my mouth over hers again, lips fitting between, coaxing her open so I can lick at her, go deeper, feel like I’m inside her in every way I can be right now.
Because now I know why she wanted my mouth on hers when I touched her. There’s an ache in my chest, clawing its way up and out of me, needing to feel her deeper, to thank her or—fuck, I don’t know—show her what it feels like that she’s touching me like this, giving me this kind of pleasure. I rock into her hand, giving in and finally rolling on my side to face her, pulling her by the hip to face me and fucking her fist, reaching between us to lift her leg, pull it over my hip so I can touch her, too.
I push a finger into her, stroking her, sucking and swallowing her noises and falling into the feel of her hand on my dick, her slick skin covering my hand.
It’s sex, but it’s not.
It’s sex, but it’s more.
There are so many ways to love this girl; good God, let me find each and every one of them.
London shifts against me, rocking, rubbing, getting there and she’s close—she’s holding her breath—and when I look at her I see her eyes on me, looking back and forth between my face and where her hand grips and I fuck into it and it’s almost like I can see her thoughts, see it telegraphed, how watching me come undone like this is going to send her falling along with me.
“Come on me?” she whispers.
It doesn’t take effort to get there. Fuck, I’ve been holding it back since the beginning of time—at least that’s what my body is screaming. I cut the control, letting it overtake me, fucking hard and fast three, four, five more times into her fist and then everything is warm, shooting down my back, out of me, onto her. On her stomach, her hand. Over her breasts, on her arm. She stares, eyes wide, mouth opening slowly more and more until she’s crying out, riding my hand, head falling back as she comes with a staccato of sharp, relieved cries.
She goes quiet, breaths heaving as she lets her head rock forward and rest against my shoulder.
“We’re really good at that,” she whispers, and then laughs before kissing the center of my chest.
I know we’ve just finished a round, but I can’t imagine ever being done with her.
My hand moves carefully back and forth between her legs and she whimpers a little, rocking into my palm.
“Are you sore?” I ask.
I feel her hair brush against my ribs when she shakes her head no.
“Hmm?” she hums.
I stroke my middle finger across her clit. “I really want to kiss you here.”
She arches into me, holding me closer and sliding her hands up and around my neck so she can kiss me.
So she can keep me from crawling down her body and putting my mouth on her.
“You don’t like it?” I ask against her lips.
“I like it too much,” she whispers. “I’d like it the most of anything I think you could do to me.”
I pull back, the question then why won’t you let me? perched on my tongue.
But she speaks first, whispering, “I can’t give my heart away all at once. I want to. But I can’t.”
I kiss her, and hold there while something tight works its way past my throat. “Okay.”
Her blue eyes are trained on my face. “To me, that’s the most intimate thing anyone can do.”
Nodding, I tell her, “I agree, actually.” Moving my hand up her body, I circle my wet finger around her nipple and then bend to suck her into my mouth.
It’s a mistake.
I can taste her, and already, only minutes after I’ve come on her skin, I want her again.
She feels me stir, rolling to face me and reaching for me. “But we’ve already had sex . . .” Looking up at my face, she says, “I don’t know why we aren’t doing that right now.”
I groan, watching her stroke me, feeling emotion tighten my breaths. “I just need to know it’s different.”
“You seem to feel different,” she whispers. “At least that’s what you said.”
“I mean . . . I need it to be different for you.”
London kisses me then, a slow, exploring kiss that makes my brain unravel.
She doesn’t move to climb on me, or pull me onto her, and this silent admission that she’s heard me and won’t push it is both a comfort and torture.
I FEEL DRUGGED, pulled up from somewhere low and heavy.
Her hands are on me, frantic and insistent. Pulling me over her, scratching down my back. I feel her, wet against me. The warmth of thighs around my hips. The suction of kisses on my neck.
The slick heat of her.
I’m dreaming—at least I think I am until the sharp sting of her teeth on my shoulder jolts me fully awake and I realize I’m starting to push inside.
Beneath me she’s gasping tightly, asking me to move into her, to be deeper.
I’m so groggy. Her hands are on my face, pulling me close.
“Holy shit.” It’s all I can say, all I can think as my vision clears and I sink in. “Did you wake me up?”
London giggles and the sound is hoarse from sleep. She runs her hands down my back to my ass. “I don’t know.” Between breaths she adds, “I woke up.” She sucks in a breath, and her thighs come around my hips. “I kissed you.” London arches her neck, moaning when I pull out and slowly push back in. “And you were warm and smelled so good.”
I groan, rocking into her.
“And then you were . . .” she says, gasping, “you were so hard, and you rolled on top of me. I thought you were awake.”
She’s soft and warm, wet all around me, her limbs slow with sleep. I’m groggy, aware of how smooth my sheets are, how desperate she seems when she slides her teeth down my neck. I’m aware of her sleepy, sucking kisses, the wet slide of her all along my cock. London rocks up when I push in and we’re moving together in this easy, grinding tandem,
so fucking perfect.
I groan, kissing her through all of it, deep, licking kisses, sucking on her lips, her chin. And fuck, we’re noisy together, talking through it all.
It’s good, she says.
So fucking good, I agree.
She asks me why on earth I wanted to wait.
And I bite her gently, admitting in a murmur that I wanted to savor her. Admitting I wanted to treat it like something special.
But she tells me it’s already special; says it like it’s obvious.
And don’t stop, Luke.
I’m fucking smiling, pressing my face into her neck, and I can’t stop the relieved laugh that escapes. I forgot how it feels, how insanely different it is to make love, not just hook up or get off. It isn’t two bodies coming into contact for pleasure alone. It’s the weird sense of getting inside that person, turning sex into a fucking revelation.
But pulling back and looking into her eyes, I know I’ve never had this before, this sort of unspoken understanding of what’s happening. Her whispered words are only an inch from my lips. I feel so bare while she watches my face as I move in her. I was too young with Mia to experience this, and too detached after.
It’s so good
It’s so good
Oh my God, Luke
she keeps saying over and over, looking right into my eyes, and she could say it a hundred times and the sound of it would never get old. It’s hoarse, her voice. Hoarse and pleading, and yes it’s good but it could be better and I know it can be. I know it will be over time, and holy fuck, I can feel it when she starts to come, the way her skin gets hot and her muscles tense, the way she goes still, holds her breath and then it’s like a cascade of tiny explosions go off inside her and she’s arching, crying out, scratching her short nails down my back.
I bend and fall into my quiet mind and my frantic body, feeling the perfect heat of her tongue, sliding over and around mine. Feeling her pleasure through the vibrating moans. Feeling my body get warmer, tighter, until that relief is building low in my back and taking over every thought. Just the relief of it, the fucking joy of being with her like this.
I come with a groan, so deep in her, arching away and I can feel her eyes on me, sleepy and proud. Her hands slide over my chest and back down over my abs until her arms wrap around my waist, holding me over her.
Keeping me inside her.
The thought tickles in the back of my mind: I came inside her.
“London, I’m not wearing anything.”
She turns her face into my neck, kissing. “I’m on the pill.”
It’s a relief, but I’m still uneasy with the need to reassure her. “I was just tested—”
“Shh,” she says, nuzzling her face into my skin. “You wouldn’t have done that with me if you weren’t safe.”
She’s right, but I still feel a little off-balance as the connection I felt with her evaporates slowly as she falls asleep, when she won’t talk to me more about what we just did. It feels monumental to me—I’m reeling from the emotion of it—and I’m still inside her. I want to press her, ask her if there is an Us now, if she really trusts me as much as this means she does. But her breaths even out, and she goes still beneath me.
I PULL OUT several minutes later, only when I’m pretty sure it won’t wake her. Kneeling between her legs, I stare down at her body. Her hair is a mess, lips pressed lightly together. Her pulse is a rhythmic beating shadow in her neck; her chest rises and falls with her steady breaths. I look lower, to her spread thighs, her skin naked and smooth and flawless.
I’m in love with her body, in love with her mind.
I can’t give my heart away all at once.
I want to. But I can’t.
And then we had sex without any other words of reciprocation on her part. No admission that she wants more with me, no real reassurance that she’s giving me any of her heart, let alone all of it . . . and it stings. I realize that it was spontaneous middle-of-the-night sex, and we were more animal instinct than conscious thought, but it still makes me uneasy.
Climbing out of bed, I pull on boxers, shuffle down the hall and into the kitchen, and run straight into my sister.
She looks haggard, in pajamas, with a face that tells me she hasn’t been sleeping.
And then the two pieces connect and I realize why she hasn’t been sleeping. My stomach drops out and I nearly vomit. “Oh, God.”
Margot nods. “Yeah.”
Suddenly very aware of my mostly naked body, I’m relieved that at least I put on underwear. “I didn’t know you were staying here tonight.”
She slumps against the counter. “The roommate—enjoy the humor here—had the girlfriend over and they were being very loud.”
I scrub my face with a hand. “Fuck. I’m sorry.”
Margot shakes her head. “Part of me wants to congratulate whoever is in there because that certainly sounded great.”
She straightens, pushing past me and opening the cupboard for a glass. “I thought you weren’t hooking up with random girls anymore?”
“Not that it’s your business,” I say, stealing the glass from her and filling it with water. “But London’s in there.”
Her eyes go wide and she considers this for a few seconds in silence before shaking her head and shivering. “I’d be happy for you if I wasn’t still traumatized.” She looks me over. “I mean, gross, Luke. You’re still sweaty.”
“And now we’re both traumatized.” I gulp down the water. “Seriously, though. You don’t even live here anymore.”
Pushing herself up to sit on the counter, she’s now close to eye level with me, and studies me closely. “You look stressed considering . . .”
I don’t really know what to say. If you’d asked me earlier in the day how I wanted today to end, I would have said, “London in my bed” without hesitation. But now I’m just not sure what it means that she’s in my bed.
I want it to mean something.
“It’s nothing,” I say, and when Margot makes an annoyed face, I add, “I worry she’s not really taking this as seriously as I am.”
My sister looks toward the heavens. “Let me enjoy the irony of this for a second.” She inhales deeply, and then exhales. “Man, that’s great.”
Anger rises inside me. “Margot, are you shitting me right now?”
She looks genuinely confused. “Yes? I think so?”
“If I gave you crap for hooking up with however many women you want, you would tear me a new one. If you slept with a different one every night, you would expect me to pat you on the back and tell you I think your commitment to your sexuality is admirable.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to have opinions on my sexuality,” she deadpans.
“Fine, but you’d expect me to accept it, and not judge you.”
She allows this with a tiny nod.
“So why is it different for me?” I ask. “Why can’t I have had some wild oats, and then fall in love without it being ironic when I worry she doesn’t have the same feelings for me?”
“Love?” she repeats, eyes wide.
“Yeah,” I say finally.
Dropping her head, she stares at the floor for several breaths before mumbling, “Wow. Sorry, you’re right. I am happy for you. I’m just tired and grossed out.”
I lean forward and kiss the top of her head. “We’re sleeping now. We’ll be quiet.”
Turning, I walk back down the hall to my bedroom. London is sitting in the middle of the bed, covers pulled over her lap.
I climb under the sheets and try to coax her down beside me but she resists.
“Was there a girl here?” she asks.
Fuck. She heard our voices. Of course she would be suspicious. And fuck. So much for trusting me.
“It’s just Margot,” I assure her. “I didn’t know she was staying here tonight.”
London exhales, nodding, and then lies back down, curling into me.
I know I should be reassured by how easily she melts into my side, by the tiny, sleepy kisses she trails up my neck to my mouth—and I am. But none of this is as easy as I expected it to be when she finally came around. I still have so much trust to build, and London still has so much trust to give me.