At a secret masked ball at Yale, Naomi Costa is literally swept off her stiletto-blistered feet by a man with a killer jawline, a perfect body, and an even-better kiss. They bust out of an emergency exit and have axis-shaking sex. He pours whiskey in her belly button and after they run out of condoms, they have to get creative. That kind of sex.
The next day, she learns that he is none other than Dr. Benjamin Beck, a brand new member of the Yale faculty and the hottest thing to happen to academia since… well, ever. She has to take his damned junior seminar to graduate, but it gets worse. He’s also her College Master: her boss, her advisor, her everything. And he’s just moved in, right downstairs.
They can’t stay away from each other. They’re either fusion or fission or both. They’re making out in libraries, hiding notes between stones, and sneaking off to nautically themed AirBnbs. Hear that sound? It’s the academic code of ethics going up in flames.
If they’re found out, he’ll lose his job and his reputation. She’ll lose her scholarship and be forced to return to the life of lobster fishing that she thought she’d escaped.
And they will be found out, yes they will.
So what the hell are they going to do?
The next thing that happens is a familiar smell. At first, I can’t place it. It’s chemical and yet sweet…
Marker. He’s got a marker. My whole body gives a sudden, excited shake. I think he’s going to write on me. Somewhere, something, his handwriting in ink on my skin.
God, yes, yes, yes. Is that a thing? Writing on skin? Because that’s so hot.
He’s hovering over me. I can feel the mattress depressing on either side of my body, under his knees. “What are you going to write?”
There’s an airy breath. I know he must be smiling. He smiles so much. I love that about him.
“What I want to write is mine on every inch of your skin,”he says. I feel a touch on my arm, and at first I think it’s the marker, but it’s warm and soft. His fingertip. He trails it up my forearm, lingering on the shallow depression above my elbow. “Mine, mine, mine,”he says. “All over you. A thousand times.”
I can see it in my head. Mine everywhere. Big and little. Sloppy and neat. “Please. I’d love that,”I whisper.
“I want to get a jar of ink,”he says. Now his palm is flat on my stomach. “And put my prints all over here.”When he says here, which he says slowly, he slides his fingertips down my abdomen.
All I can do is nod. I have no way to tell him how much I want that.
The mattress squeaks a little as he lowers himself down on me. His weight is heavenly on my legs. The feel of his chinos pressing into my bare skin. The agony of knowing his beautiful cock is right there, not six inches from pressing into me. It drives me right out of my mind.
“But there’s really one word that needs writing first. Before all the rest.”
The words line up in my head like flashcards. Trying to guess. But then I just let it go. Let him do it. Let him take control.
The tip of the marker is cold on my skin. It begins on my right side with a downward stroke.
I, is what I think at first, but then there’s a curve at the top. And a kick-out. R.
Another downwards stroke. I again? Nope. Three right-to-left lines. E.
Oh God, I think I know. Diagonal stroke, and a second. He makes the crossbar just over my belly button with agonizing slowness. A.
I know the word. But I just want to savor every last drop of this. Downward stroke, half circle. D.
Small check mark on my left abdomen, small downward stroke. Y. Already I’m nodding.
“Are you?”he asks.
And I tell him a long stream of Yesses straight through the squiggle and point of a ?
My hands are in tight fists, my nails pressing into my palms. Whatever he’s going to do to me, if it hurts or teases or pulls or pinches, I want him to do it. All of it. “Ready,”I whisper back.
The next thing I hear is a snapping. Rattling of markers. Another uncapping. Now he’s closer to me. I feel his forearm over the soft skin of mine. This is harder to make out, it’s on my wrist and small. “What does it say?”
He doesn’t answer at first. The little marks continue on my wrist. I hold very still, trying to get a sense of what it could be. “Ben,”I whisper, “Tell me.”
“It’ll drive you crazy not knowing, I’ll bet,”he says when he’s done. I hear him cap the marker shut.
God, yes it will. “You don’t want me distracted.”
His laugh is quiet and smug. I love it. “It says Property of Master Beck.”
Nicola Rendell writes dirty romantic comedy. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She grew up in Taos, New Mexico; after receiving a handful of degrees from a handful of places, she now works as a professor in New England. An Amazon bestseller, her work has been featured in USA Today’s Happy Ever After and the Huffington Post. She is represented by Emily Sylvan Kim at the Prospect Agency.