He scoffed. “Because you dated tools.” He took another bite of his breakfast.

“Gee, thanks.”

He set down his fork, leveling me with an honest stare. “Well, they kind of were, Nina. That guy Kenny? He was a professional poker player, and all he talked about were different combinations of cards. He nearly put me to sleep the night we all went to dinner. Wait, I think he did. If memory serves, I fell asleep at the table.”

I didn’t want to laugh, to admit I’d had bad taste, but I couldn’t help myself. “So he wasn’t terribly scintillating.”

“‘Scintillating’? He was tedious.”

With a huff, I shrugged. My admission. “Okay, he was duller than Dullsville.”

“Good. While we’re at it, how about Jared? Wasn’t he, like, a product manager of spreadsheets, or something equally mind-numbing? You’d need a microscope to find his sense of humor.”

My lips quirked into a grin, as I tried to rein in a chuckle. “No. The requirement was actually the world’s strongest microscope to find it,” I said, then laughed. It was so good to be normal with him the next day. To poke fun at me, together. To be who we’d always been with each other. He’d seen me half-naked, he’d sent me soaring to the heavens, and he’d come on me, then watched me lick his release off my lips. And still, we were laughing and teasing the next morning. It was so easy to be with him. To be us, and this conversation tugged at the part of my brain that craved interesting facts. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking? What is the world’s most powerful microscope?”

Like twin gunslingers, we grabbed our phones from our pocket holsters, fingers swiping. I beat him to the punch.

“Berkeley has a twenty-seven-million-dollar electron microscope,” I blurted out.

“It lets you see to a resolution that’s half the freaking width of a hydrogen atom,” he said, jumping in.

“That’s one ten-millionth of a millimeter,” I said, my jaw dropping with wonder. “It can see everything.”

He smiled as he read more, devouring intel about microscopes, then he stopped and met my gaze. “Look at us,” he said, kind of amazed.

My heart skittered knowing we were on the same wavelength. “Yeah, look at us.”

“We’re doing this. Like we said we would last night. Breakfast, and lightning-fast searches to look stuff up, and talking.”

“We’re us,” I said, seconding him, then I returned to the previous topic, because digging into my reasons, my choices, felt good. “Adam?”


“Maybe I wasn’t so great at picking men. Maybe I was drawn to guys I didn’t have a great connection with because I knew what I wanted in bed.”

His brow knitted. “I’m not following, but keep going, because I want to.”

I swallowed, drawing a deep breath of air. “I think I always knew what I wanted in bed, and that it would be hard to find it, and harder still to voice it. So I chose the other path—where I wouldn’t ever be faced with voicing my desires. I chose men who were unlikely to stimulate my mind, and so I kept my desires locked up.”

His expression turned serious. “Why is it hard to speak about what you want?”

My throat tightened, but I pushed past the fear, like Aphrodite urged me to do. “Because I might be a virgin, but I don’t want sweet and tender sex. And it’s hard to say that. Because society expects virgins to want sex a certain way.”

He set down his fork, studied me intensely. “There is nothing wrong with what you want. There is nothing wrong with kinky desires. I think it’s sexy and smart and hot as hell to write down all those fantasies.”

I sighed, relieved. “Sometimes I feel like a huge pervert. Like, when I’m with my clients, I sometimes picture them sleeping together afterward and imagine the things they’d do, the things I’d orchestrate. Doesn’t that make me a pervert?”

“No. Your job is sexy. It’s sensual. You’re capturing people all day long who want each other, who want something, who pose in seductive ways. I can’t imagine not thinking about sex, or them having it.” His lips curved in a wry grin. “And there’s nothing wrong with being a dirty pervert. Well, unless you’re looking at their photos when they’re gone and getting off to them, or diddling yourself while taking their pictures.”

I balled up my napkin and tossed it at him. He caught it with one hand as I said, “I don’t diddle myself in front of them.”

He wiggled his brows. “You can diddle yourself in front of me though.”

A ribbon of heat unfurled in me, and my laughter ceased. “I want that too. I want you to watch me, Adam. I want to be the one someone’s looking at.”

His hazel eyes darkened, that heat I’d seen last night flickering in an instant. “I know. I love your list. I love what’s on it. And, Nina, you need to know—your list is what I like too.”

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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