“I always thought tits and ass were recession-proof.”

She shrugs and sips her drink. “Didn’t we all.”


I toy with the napkin on the bar, feeling Lily’s eyes appraising me. “What?”

“You just . . . you’re nothing like the other grooms I’ve seen in this place. They acted like I was their last meal before the execution. But you’re different. It’s nice.”

Although she seems sincere, I’m suspicious of the nice-girl-just-trying-to-get-by act. Strippers get na**d for money—that’s the job. They get more money if the customers like them—if the stripper can make them feel they’re special. Different. “I don’t do this for just any guy,” they say, and—bam—before the loser knows it, his whole paycheck is down the drain.

Or up the crotch, in this case.

Lily puts her hand on my leg, and she starts to rub—moving higher and higher. “How about we go in the back for a private dance? I’ll even do you for free. It’ll be my pleasure.”

What’d I tell you? Can I call them, or can I call them?

I stop her wandering hand with my own. “I can’t.”

She leans toward me and tries again. “Sure you can.”

But I hold my ground. “I could. But I won’t.”

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She stops, finally getting the point. Looking a little confused, she asks, “Do you have one of those crazy, controlling fiancées? The kind that makes you promise no lap dances, even at your bachelor party?”

I shake my head. “Not at all. I don’t think she’d be pissed. But . . . I think she’d be hurt.”

That’s what no one tells you about being in love. Sure it’s grand and amazing and feels f**king fantastic. But there’s stress too. Obligation. Responsibility. The knowledge that someone else’s happiness—someone who means so much to you—can be made or destroyed by the choices you make. By the things you do.

Or in my case, the things you don’t.

“I’ve done that before—made a bad call. Hurt her. And I’m determined not to ever do it again.”

Lily’s eyes glaze over with admiration. She’s probably not used to talking to a guy who isn’t a complete and utter dickweed. For her, it must be like when those scientists in the sixties first realized apes were capable of learning sign language. A revelation.

She kisses her fingertip and presses it to my cheek. “I hope your fiancée knows how lucky she is, Drew.”

I smirk. “I make sure to remind her every day.”

She smiles longingly. Then her gaze turns to the other end of the room, where an expensive-suit-wearing older gentleman sits by himself, looking all kinds of lonely.

She hops off the bar chair. “Duty calls.” In a flurry of dark hair, she walks away.

My eyes follow her as she goes. And, thank Christ, my dick doesn’t move an inch.

Before she reaches her destination, I get an idea. Practice makes perfect—and there’s no better practice run than a newly minted stripper.

I call her back. “I’m gonna pay for that private dance after all.”

Her eyes light up. “Okay.”

“But it’s not for me.”

I guide her to the back room, where Warren is playing poker—badly—with Steven, Jack, and Matthew. “Hey, douche bag, have you ever had a private dance?”

Suspicion washes over his face, probably thinking I’m setting him up to be the butt of a joke. Not that he needs any help in that department. “No, I haven’t. Why?”

I smile and motion to each of them with my hand. “Lily, this is Billy. Billy—Lily.”

Warren stands and Lily loops her arm around his. “First timer, huh? I’ll take good care of you.”

I’m just racking up the good deeds today, aren’t I? I tap both their shoulders. “You kids have fun.”

As they walk away together, I hear Warren ask, “Have you heard the one about the priest and the rabbi in a bar?”

I close my eyes and shake my head. Fucking hopeless.

I tell the poker dealer to deal me in, then lay my money on the table and stack the green chips she slides my way. Without prompting, a shot girl places a fresh whiskey in front of me, and I put my tip on the tray. Paradise isn’t your run-of-the-mill strip club. It’s not just about the dancers—it’s about making the customers feel like kings. Anticipating their wants and desires.

Jack changes two cards and comments, “Drew Evans turning down a lap dance—that makes me sad.”

“I turned it down out of respect for Kate. Just like she canceled the man massage out of respect for me.”

Steven smiles and congratulates me. “You’ve come so far, Little Grasshopper.”

I grin. “Kate and I have a very respectful relationship.”

This is mostly true. Although, at times a little disrespect can end up being a really good time.

Let’s examine that theory more closely:

After what feels like an eternity of not being inside Kate, our six-week sex ban has at last come to an end. My generous parents—whom I love tonight more than ever—agreed to come to our apartment and watch James for a few hours.

My c**k has fabulous, filthy ideas on how to spend every minute of those hours.

Despite his intentions, we didn’t go straight to the hotel room I rented for the evening. Why not? you ask. The short answer is because Kate owns me, I’m now a pushover—and a f**king idiot. The long answer is because Kate put extra effort into getting dressed for our night together—she painted her toenails, curled her hair just so, and bought a scorching-hot little black dress that makes her tits look fantastic. Meaning she wants to spend at least part of the night in public. Around other adults.

Engaging in conversation that will stimulate her mind as acutely as I plan on stimulating her cl*t with my tongue very shortly.

So . . . we’re eating dinner at Jean-Georges, an ultrachic restaurant that also happens to be located one block from our hotel suite. Talk during dinner was interesting and fun, as always. We talked about James, work, Kate’s upcoming transition back to the office, and my impending conversion to part-time stay-at-home dad. The food was great too. Yet it hasn’t exactly been an enjoyable meal for me.

My body is strung tight with anticipation, and every single thing Kate does just makes me want to f**k her that much more. The way her fingers grasp her water glass, the way she licks her lips and slides the fork deep into her mouth.

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