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“Of course foreplay is the rule.” I sip from a tall glass of Prosecco and blood orange juice. The lake is still, the air thick and redolent with insects.

Jeremy finishes my sentence. “But sometimes you want the exception.”

“Sometimes,” I grin, “you want to be fucked hard, and without preamble. There’s something very hot about desire that won’t be detained.”

“He sounds like a bore, your Spaniard.” Jeremy lounges back against the chaise longue. His bare legs and feet are deeply tanned, the hair there gone golden, even in the light of a half-dozen citronella candles. The heat doesn’t seem to touch him.

I’d forgotten how breath-stoppingly beautiful he is. “I don’t want to talk about Angel.”

“What do you want to talk about, Bee?”

There are so many things — so many men — I won’t discuss. Hugo, Angel. Blue. I offer him a silent toast over the rim of the glass. “You, darling.”

“I’m boring.” Jeremy reaches into a galvanized bucket where more than twenty sparklers stand ready for lighting. The last drifting smoke-ghosts from the fireworks in the valley make their way past the Big Dipper.

The wine loosens my tongue and I ask the question that burns hot on its tip. “How you came to be on my doorstep on the Fourth of July, with wine and sparklers, as if the last year hadn’t happened?”

Jeremy’s answering smile is clever and naughty. “Abandoning your friendships when life gets hard is your rule, but sometimes you need to be rescued hard.” He clinks his glass against mine and lights the first sparkler. “And without preamble.”

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