On the bed, she writhed and wriggled. "Ransom. Ransom, are you certain this is-"
He raised his head just long enough to say: "Yes."
He worked his way over and around all her most sensitive places, taking time to accommodate and make adjustments.
She gasped his name and clutched at his hair, holding him fast to her core. God, he loved it when she touched his hair.
He increased his efforts, licking all along her folds, then sweeping back to the swollen bud at the crest of her sex and suckling hard, flicking his tongue back and forth.
She shuddered and moaned, arching off the bed and spasming under his tongue.
Come for me. Me, and no other.
As her climax broke, he slid his tongue inside her, needing to be in her, in some way. To possess her. Her intimate muscles convulsed, pulling at him. Begging for more.
He hurried to rejoin her on the bed, fitting himself in the cradle of her splayed thighs. His cock brushed against the soft, dewy heat of her sex. He could be inside her in seconds.
But once he was inside her, there would be no taking it back.
He pressed his head to her shoulder and released a heavy sigh.
"Ransom?" She pushed up on one elbow. "What is it? Is something wrong?"
"I don't know," he said. "That's for you to decide."
Izzy stared at him, her vision hazy in the aftermath of that beautiful, beautiful pleasure. Surely he wasn't changing his mind now. The broad, smooth head of his erection lay against her thigh-hard and hot and eager.
He said, "I'm just drunk enough to think this is my most brilliant idea in ages. But I'm not too drunk to stop if you don't feel the same."
She was sober, and she knew very well that this might not be the most prudent idea. But something felt right about it, all the same. This wasn't impersonal lust. They understood each other. She was likely halfway in love with him, and he cared for her, too. He might never say it in those words, but this very room was ablaze with the proof.
Besides, a girl like Izzy didn't have the luxury of being choosy with her nights of wild passion.
This happened tonight, or never.
"I don't want to stop," she said.
"Thank God." He sounded relieved as he pulled at her buttons and laces. His fingers moved more easily now. "For a moment there, I thought the attempt at decency would come back and bite me. It usually does."
"Decency?" She slipped one arm free of its sleeve. "I should be terribly disappointed if you were decent. I'm expecting you to be wicked indeed."
He freed her breast and bent to suckle it. "I'll do my damnedest. It's been a while."
However long it had been, he hadn't forgotten how to make a woman twist and writhe.
He pressed a finger inside her. Then he added another finger to the first, stretching her with an exquisite fullness.
"Ransom . . . hurry. Don't you want-"
He pressed the heel of his hand against her mound, rubbing her in just the right place as he stroked his fingers in and out. Deeper, and deeper still. Before long, she was arching off the bed to meet his thrusts.
He bent to suck her nipple, and she moaned at the decadent heat of his mouth.
"Yes," he murmured, sounding triumphant. He swirled his tongue in ruthless circles, and the sweet tension began to build between her thighs again.
He withdrew his fingers and sat up on his knees. He pulled his shirt over his head and cast it aside, then worked to undo the remaining closures of his breeches. Izzy thought about asking if she could help, but he didn't seem to need assistance.
When he'd wrestled free of all his garments, he rejoined her on the bed. He dropped reverent kisses along her neck, her chest, her belly. She felt worshipped.
Then he moved between her legs, and his hips pushed her thighs wide.
"Wait." She stroked his shoulders and chest, exploring the firm, sculpted contours. "I . . ." She nearly lost her courage. "I want to see you. Touch you."
He sat back on his haunches in wordless invitation.
Izzy looked. There it was, in all its magnificence. Dusky, proud, alarmingly large. Jutting out from a thatch of dark hair and straining toward her.
She was entirely unaware of the protocol when becoming acquainted with a man's rampant sex organ. Did she reach out and give it a handshake? Touch one finger to the tip? Bid it a polite howdoyoudo?
In the end, she decided to ask for guidance. She put her hand in Ransom's. "Show me how to please you."
The words alone made him moan. He took her hand in his and curled her grip about the base of his erection. Then he guided her, teaching her to stroke him, up and down. She loved the feel of him in her hand. The soft skin sliding over rigid flesh beneath. Curious, she brushed her thumb over the tip and was delighted to find it silky and sensitive.
He squeezed her hand, preventing her from indulging in any further explorations.
"Did I do something wrong? Is there something else I should do?"
"Nothing wrong," he whispered, lacing his fingers with hers and pressing her hands back to the bed. "Nothing else. You're perfect. Just be there. Just be you. Lovely, lovely Izzy."
She felt the smooth, broad crown of his erection prodding at her entrance.
And then he was inside her.
She cried out. She couldn't help it.
"Am I hurting you?"
She bit her lip. "A little."
"Sorry." He pushed forward, sinking an inch deeper. "So sorry."
She struggled to breathe. He was just so foreign and . . . and just impossibly large inside her.
"I'm going to take this slowly." He dropped little kisses on her lips. She could taste the whisky in them. "Until I can't anymore, and then I'll probably take it hard and fast. I'll apologize now. Words might be beyond me then."
"It's all right," she whispered. "I understand."
She didn't, really, but she assumed she'd figure it out along the way. She was still struggling to adjust to the feeling of him inside her
. The fullness, the stretching, the heat. He glided smoothly in and out, sinking a little deeper each time. Eventually, his body met hers, holding there a moment before retreating to do it all again.
Soon the pain of their joining receded, and she began to enjoy the friction of his hard, male body against hers. His legs, coarse with hair and dense with muscle, rubbing against her sensitive inner thighs. His chest pressing against her breasts.
This wasn't so bad anymore. It was rather nice.
He lifted up on his arms. His face twisted. "Izzy. God. I . . ."
Right. So this would be the "hard and fast" part now. She was glad that he'd warned her.
He shifted, and his hips spread her thighs to a new, wider angle, holding her open for his thrusts. He drilled deep, working in and out of her body at a furious pace. It hurt her. It excited her. It pushed her to the verge of . . . of something unknown.
She felt as though she were sprawled atop not a wool-batting mattress but a tense, brittle surface. A thin sheet of ice over black, fathomless longing. Each of his fierce thrusts put a crack in it. The unknown that lay beneath both thrilled and frightened her. She wanted to let go, to fall through it . . . but she was too afraid to let go.
He knew what she needed.
He reached between them and pressed his thumb to her pearl, working it in small, tight circles. The tension broke into a thousand facets of pleasure, and she clung to his neck as her world constricted to the thick, hard, stroking length of his cock. Her orgasm was weightless, helpless, endless. Like free-falling through clouds of bliss.
Above her, he cursed. Then groaned. Then cursed again.
Out of nowhere, she felt like laughing. He'd been right. Words were beyond him now. It felt good to know she'd sent him to some other place.
One last frantic barrage of thrusts, and he slumped atop her. Heavy, panting, sweating, shuddering.
At last, he released her hands. His arms went about her middle, clutching tight. He laid his head on her breast.
Tentative, Izzy placed one hand flat on the slick surface of his back. With her other hand, she touched his hair.
He tensed for a moment. She did, too. And then he exhaled so deeply, she could believe he was expelling air from his lungs that had been there for months. Perhaps years. Everything went out of him-all the arrogance, pride, anger, fear, lust. Until he just existed in her arms.
She stroked his hair, teasing her fingers through the soft, heavy locks. Her heart swelled with an unbearable sweetness. It didn't matter what happened tomorrow. This tenderness was worth everything.
"Ransom," she whispered. "I've fallen just a little bit in love with you. You needn't be worried. I won't expect you to return the emotion, and I know that this can't last. But I've been waiting so long for somebody to care for, and I . . . I can't help it."
She waited, heart pounding in her chest, for his reaction.
And when it finally came, it was this:
A faint, reverberating snore.
The strangest things woke Ransom the next morning. Sunlight, streaming warm on his face. A gentle breeze, scented of blossoms. The chirp of songbirds.
The tickle of hair against his neck.
Someone was shaking the limp, dead weight of his arm.
He opened his eyes. He saw the halo of curls surrounding her pale face. Those dark eyebrows. Her red lips.
"Ransom, wake," she said, shaking him again. "What's wrong? Are you dead?"
"No." His voice was a rasp. "I'm not dead." Emotion burned at the corners of his eyes, like acid. He said it again, slowly. Gratefully. "I am not dead."
He was very much alive. Awakened, in a way he'd never felt before. His heart was like a new organ, pumping a fizzy, champagne-like joy through his veins. He felt like dashing to the window and bursting into song.
He hadn't been with a woman since . . .
For the first few months after his injury, he was simply in too much pain to contemplate it. And then . . . then, he'd feared it would be like entering an unfamiliar room. He'd be fumbling about, cursing. Making stupid mistakes as he learned the lay of the space. What if it was bad?
What if he was bad?
But it hadn't been bad. It had been good. So damned good for them both. Memories came back to him in bits and pieces. Her slick heat clenching around his fingers, making him wild to get inside her. The tight, willing welcome he'd found once their bodies joined. The sweet way she'd held him at the end.
"Good," she said. "Now hurry and dress."
"What?" He blinked and sat up in bed.
She fluttered about the room, washing up and donning her clothing. Watching her was like watching a burlesque dancer. Water splashed and dripped as she dragged a sponge over her body. He watched, transfixed, as her white shift drifted down over her dark head, then the pale pink column of her nude body. She pulled her hair free, and it tumbled like a black cascade, transforming her silhouette once again. Light and dark tugging back and forth.
There was no doubt in his mind that she was the most alluring creature he'd ever beheld. Utterly, elementally sensual.
He moved to the edge of the bed, catching her by the waist and drawing her close. He pressed his forehead to her belly. "Izzy . . ."
She pulled away from his grasp. "We can't. Not now. I don't know where Duncan's gone, but he's sure to turn up soon. We can't let him find us like this."
Ransom rubbed his face. "Believe me, Duncan has seen far, far worse. And he knows better than to ask for explanations."
"I suppose this could be just another morning for the two of you. But it's a bit out of the usual for me." A wadded ball of fabric hit him in the chest. "Your clothing."