In every way.

You’re beautiful—my sweet, dirty girl.

P.S. Did you know Antarctica is the only continent where pumpkins don’t grow? Lucky Antarctica.

There. That wasn’t too much. It was just enough for where we were, but it hinted at more. More something. More us.

I left the note by the coffee pot, a surefire guarantee she’d see it.

Then I set the pen by the notebook.

This notebook.

And to think this was where it had all started. I ran my finger down the cover, as if it had magical powers and would tell me how to win Nina’s heart, along with her body.

I flipped it open to her list, smiling as I reread every item.

And then I saw a new one.

My skin turned electric.

She’d filled in number eleven.



I was alone, and it was fitting.

I’d always done well with my own company, processing my day, sorting my thoughts. After last night and all that had happened and hadn’t happened, I needed time to figure out what to do next.

I padded out of the bedroom, but the open guest room door and the lack of Adam’s phone and gym bag told me he was gone. I knew he was busy today, so I wasn’t worried. I’d shower, have some coffee, and prep for my shoot.

I headed for the bathroom and cranked up the heat. I lifted my face to the water, letting it beat down on me. A mere twenty-four hours ago, I’d luxuriated in the water then too, the newness of my sexual explorations a palpable thing.

I supposed they were this morning too.

After all, last night I’d crossed the bridge.

But as I ran my hands down my body, I still felt like me.

I felt the same.

I was the same woman I’d always been.

Because the woman I was had always wanted sex, wanted kink, wanted submission in its own way.

Now, I was simply the woman who’d had those things.

Was I different?

I turned around under the water, shampooing my hair.

The difference, I supposed, wasn’t in my body and whether someone had or hadn’t entered it.

The difference lay in who I’d let in.

Adam was inside me in a deeper way. When he’d touched me for the first time, it was like he was breaking down a wall. One I hadn’t known I’d erected. One that had prevented me from seeing him in certain ways. Before he found my list, I’d assumed he was the sweet guy next door, a fantastic friend. Charming, confident, and 100 percent a good guy.

He was still all of those things. But he was more. So much more. He was my filthy match. And if I hadn’t taken the chance on working through my list with him, I’d never have known that we’d set each other on fire in the bedroom.

I trembled as memories raced past me.

We were an inferno in bed. We were wild together. We melted into each other. And that told me more than an awkward post-sex conversation about lists and gold stars did.

I had no prior evidence. No point of comparison.

But in the bright light of morning, I knew I didn’t need one.

Because I was certain in my body and in my heart that we’d shared something deeper than a laundry list. The connection was real, visceral, and powerful.

Yes, the moments after sex had been weird, with me trying to keep it light.

But I didn’t linger on those images.

I scrolled through the viewfinder on my mind’s camera to before.

When we were naked, looking into each other’s eyes, falling apart. He’d said my name, something he hadn’t done before. He’d said it over and over, and he’d sounded like a man who’d lost himself too. Lost himself to emotions, to possibilities, to a future like this.

Was it too much to hope for? Too much to ask?

I didn’t know, but I burned with longing. A new kind of longing—I craved a deep intimacy, and I craved it with my best friend.

After I rinsed the soap from my body, I turned off the water and stepped out of the shower.

Brushing my teeth, I reached for my phone on the vanity and scrolled through the recent episodes of Ask Aphrodite, finding one that fit my state of mind.

The title was True Intimacy—How to Ask for It.

I hit play, and that smooth, sensual voice filled the room.

Hello there, gorgeous lovelies. Today we’re going to tackle a different side of sensuality. But it goes hand in hand with sexual exploration. After all, doesn’t true intimacy in the bedroom come from intimacy outside of it? Rare is the couple who can set fire to the sheets without the foundation of love, respect, and adoration. In fact, I will die on this hill: great sex is only possible with great love.

And as you’ve been learning how to ask for what you want inside the bedroom, I urge you to ask for what you want outside of it too.

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic