“Damn, you’re photogenic,” he murmured, approaching the bed. “Your skin catches the light like a pearl.” As he continued to take shots from various angles, praising and flirting, fondling whenever he got the chance, I found myself beginning to have a good time. “I’m beginning to think you’re just using this as an excuse to feel me up,” I commented. “Side benefit,” he said, climbing onto the bed with me. Still holding his camera, he straddled my hips in an easy movement, his denim-clad thighs on either side of me. “Hey,” I protested, tugging the sheet higher over my breasts. Rising on his knees, Joe angled the camera directly above me and took a few shots. As close as we were, it was impossible not to notice that the button-fly crotch of his jeans was straining. Playfully, I walked my fingers up to his crotch and wiggled them into the spaces between the metal buttons. Joe fumbled to adjust the focus ring. “Avery, don’t distract me.” “I’m trying to help you.” I unfastened the top button. “That’s not helping. In fact” – he let out an unsteady breath as I began on the second button – “that’s the opposite of helping.” He pried my hand from the placket. “Be a good girl and let me take a few more shots. I like this pose.” After pressing a kiss into my palm, he positioned my arm up around my head in an abandoned posture. His fingers adjusted my elbow, softening the angle. With every alteration of his weight, I felt the enticing pressure of him against my groin. Picking up his camera, Joe rose to his knees again. I looked into the lens while he looked at me, and I thought of the last time we’d had sex, how he’d stood at the side of the bed and pulled my legs up to his shoulders, how he’d teased and entered me slowly. As I lay there, warmed by the erotic memory, I felt a deep, unfamiliar sense of ease, of languorous openness. My inhibitions had dissolved, and for once I wasn’t trying to hide anything. It was so completely the opposite of what I’d expected that my lips parted with a faint, wondering smile. The shutter clicked a few more times. “That’s it,” Joe said softly, the camera lowering. “What do you mean?” “I got the shot I wanted.” I blinked. “How can you tell?” “Sometimes I can feel it even before I see it. Everything lines up. The second I push the shutter, I know I’ve found the sweet spot.” As he stretched to set the camera on the nightstand, I went for the buttons of his fly again, and I heard his quiet laugh. He stripped off his T-shirt and tossed it aside. Intent on my task, I worked at the fastenings, my hair pooling and sliding over his bare stomach. I licked at the line of crinkled hair leading into his jeans, my tongue sliding over roughness and silk. He made a fervent sound, his hands coming to my head, a slight tremor in his fingers. Another button, another, and then I pulled at the waist of his boxers. Joe moved to help me. Before he could shove his jeans all the way off, I was on him, grasping the thick shaft with both hands. It was scorching hot, the thin skin moving easily over hard flesh. I put my mouth on him, and he went still, his jeans bunched around his knees, his lungs working in powerful bursts. I painted him with my tongue, taking in the salt and satin and a rampaging pulse, his pleasure so intense that I could feel its echoes in my own body. When I heard his muffled pleading groan, I lifted my head inch by inch, sucking wetly all the way. His entire body was rigid, his face flushed. I crawled over him and he tangled one of his hands in my hair, forcing my head down to his. As he kicked off his jeans, I straddled him and reached down to guide him in place. With a hoarse murmur, he moved to help me, his hand closing over mine. I began to ride fast and hard, pumping in reckless abandon. Wanting to make it last, Joe reached for my hips, forcing me to ease the pace. His hands played over me gently, caressing, coaxing me to lean forward. Lifting his head, he caught my nipple and pulled it deep. I writhed with the heat of him inside me, my body filled and brimming with sensation. He pulled me down farther, and we tried to find ways to pull each other even closer, using arms, legs, hands, mouths, breathing the same air, matching kisses and caresses and heartbeats. Much later, Joe showed me the photo after he’d loaded it onto his laptop. A bright wash of light had imparted a pearly glow to my skin and turned my hair ember red. The eyes were heavy-lidded, the lips full and slightly parted. The woman in the photo was seductive, inviting, radiant. Me. As I stared at the image in wonder, Joe wrapped his arms around me from behind and whispered in my ear, “Every time I look at you… this is what I see.” Nineteen “Everyone be quiet,” Sofia said, adjusting the TV volume. “I don’t want to miss a word.” “You’re recording it, right?” Steven asked. “I think so, but sometimes I don’t get the settings right.” “Let me check,” he said, and she handed him the remote. Everyone in the studio had gathered to watch the broadcast of a local television-magazine show. The producers had sent a camera crew and reporter to the Harlingen wedding we had done recently. The hour-long wedding special featured the latest tips, fashions, and trends, as well as profiling Texas-based businesses. The last segment of the show focused on practical advice for wedding planning. A Houston planner named Judith Lord had been asked to discuss choosing venues and vendors. I had been invited to follow up with advice about day-of preparation and logistics.