Somehow, he knew it would be her. He was still unprepared when she appeared.
For a beat, his mind was a blank.
Her hair was down, gleaming, glorious hair, streaming to her waist in mahogany rivers. And she was as good as naked.
Heat swept over him from head to toe.
A filmy white robe clung to her curves as she drifted toward him. Bare feet slipped from beneath the hem, achingly vulnerable pale feet . . .
He felt himself swell and stiffen with arousal. With some difficulty, he dragged his gaze back up to her face.
“Annabelle.” His voice emerged roughly. “Is something the matter?”
She stepped between his knees and her scent curled around him.
He actually felt weak, smelling her again.
“I’m afraid so,” she said.
Every muscle in his body locked when she gently took the book from his hand and lowered herself onto his thigh.
“What is it?” he asked thickly. The soft, feminine weight in his lap had him almost painfully hard.
“I missed you,” she murmured.
Her eyes were on his throat, his shoulders, his chest, taking a primal inventory, and her fingertips began skating over the V of bare skin exposed by his loosely fastened robe.
His hands circled her upper arms in an unconsciously rough grip, crushing warm silk between his fingers. “If you are here out of gratitude—”
Her eyes widened. “No,” she said, “no.”
Her gaze slid down his torso to the bulge at the front of his robe, and he bit back a groan. She may as well have placed her hand on him.
She glanced up, a pink flush tingeing her cheekbones. “I want you, Montgomery.”
I want you, Montgomery.
His grip on her relented, and she twisted closer and kissed him on the mouth.
“How I missed you,” she whispered against his lips.
She slipped from his lap to kneel between his thighs. His breathing turned shallow when her slender fingers began working on the knot of his belt. He clasped her chin and made her look him in the eye. “I cannot offer you any more than I have.”
Her gaze narrowed slightly. “I know.”
She spread his robe open.
For a long moment, there was only the sound of ragged breathing and crackling fire.
When she looked back at him, her eyes glittered with emotion.
She leaned in and touched her lips to his chest, drawing a guttural sound from his throat, and she dragged her open mouth down, down, down the tight planes of his stomach . . . His right hand curved around the back of her head of its own volition.
She hovered, her warm breath rushing softly over his aching cock.
She closed her mouth over him.
His body bowed up as pleasure hit him like a whip. “God.”
Wet, soft heat and tenderness. Bliss. He groaned, his fingers flexing in her hair. He would have never asked this of her, but God knew he had imagined it. The dark fantasies paled against the sensations that engulfed him now, streaking like fire through his veins at every touch of her tongue.
She began sliding her mouth up and down his length, and sweat broke over his skin; he could already feel the pressure building at the base of his spine. With herculean effort, he pulled back and came to his feet and scooped her up into his arms.
* * *
Montgomery’s gaze was fixed on the large bed that dominated the room, and she clung to him, discomfited and thrilled at being carried off like the prize of a conquest. He set her down onto the edge of the mattress with greatest care, but his eyes burned with the scorching blue hue of the center of a flame.
She shivered. So that was what it was like to have all his intensity focused on her. Time and conscious thought went up in sparks, leaving only now, him, her, and the need to be close.
He cupped her face in both hands, his thumbs stroking at the corners of her mouth.
“How I want you,” he said, and leaned down and kissed her.
He took it deep on the first stroke, his lips demanding, guiding, giving. He kissed like a man who knew he would not have to stop. He wouldn’t have to stop. A vision of his strong body covering hers pulsed through her in a lazy, molten wave, leaving her boneless and breathless.
When he broke the kiss, she was panting and on her back, her legs still lolling over the side of the bed. Her robe had been undone and spread open. Montgomery was looming over her, his eyes savoring and lingering on all the delicate places that most intrigued a man.
She should have clamored to cover her modesty. Alas, there was so little moral fiber in her, hopeless, and so she tipped up her chin and showed him her throat.
The smile vanished from Montgomery’s face. He stepped back and his robe slid to the floor with a soft swish.
She swallowed. He could have seduced her with his body alone, all vital confidence and well-honed muscular grace. His skin was fair, the light mat of hair on his chest a sandy color, like the trail running down his flat abdomen to the most male part of him. He was beautiful there, too, heavily erect and straining with want . . .
He inhaled sharply, and her attention snapped to his face. He was homing in on her knees, his eyes narrowed to slits.
“Oh,” she said, “it’s nothing.”
His hands were already on her, gently angling her leg so he could examine the plum-sized bruises on her skin.
“Who did this to you?”
“No one . . . I fell when they took me,” she added when he looked up and she met his feral expression.
She shuddered, strangely more aroused than before.
She extended a hand toward him. “Please,” she whispered, “come to me.”
His gaze traveled over her bare body, sprawled on the bed, and as she had hoped, it distracted him enough for the bloodlust in his eyes to fade.
He sank to his knees. When he brushed a kiss onto her shin right below the bruise, it felt different. His kisses had been charged with desire, the need to possess. This was soft as the touch of a feather. Revering. As if she were precious and made of glass. Another kiss on her thigh, and his fingers stroked the sensitive skin at the back of her knees. The sensation flowed over her warm and sweet like syrup. A flash of tongue on the inside of her thigh, gentle sucks, a light nip of teeth, and she shifted restlessly on the sheets. A warm hand palmed up her other leg, to the junction of her thighs, and there his fingers splayed and anchored her . . . until his thumb moved over her. She jerked. He did it again, a knowing flick, and her lips parted on a silent moan. Heat welled everywhere he touched with his clever fingers, his silky mouth. He kissed her between her legs, his tongue on her warm and fluid, and she was lost, lost to him. He licked and caressed her deeper into oblivion until her hands clenched in the bedsheets and she arched against him with a cry.
She was still limp and pulsing when he rose over her and braced his elbows on either side of her head. The hot, hard nudge at her entrance sent a jolt through the daze.
She flattened a hand against his chest. “Please.”
He made a strangled sound, his handsome features stretched taut with the effort to stop.
She said it quickly. “Please don’t get me with child.”
An unintelligible emotion passed over his face. Then he gave a nod.
She gasped when he pushed forward. It had been too long, and he was big, and there was the instinctive trill of feminine apprehension right on the brink of letting someone in.
He sensed her struggle beneath him, and his movements gentled, became endlessly tender and slow.
“Don’t, my love,” he murmured, “just let me come to you . . . yes . . .”
His body belied his even voice. Beneath her palms, the muscles in his back were trembling.
It was that, or the husky murmur of his voice near her ear, or the soft scrape of his cheek against hers, but something in her gave, and she watched his eyes glaze over as he sank into her.
He filled her utterly, body and mind, and he planted himself deeper until she had no more to give. Her gaze was riveted on his face, taut with a primal tension, until the feel of his thrusts dissolved any boundaries, left no beginning or end between them. She felt him shudder and wrench away from her just as she peaked again.
His head dropped to the crook of her neck and he slumped against her.
Her hand curled over his damp nape.
He rolled off her and lay like a dead man.
* * *
She watched as he crossed the room to the corner with the pitcher and basin and washed, then returned to the bed with a damp cloth. She should feel embarrassed at seeing him wander around stark naked. Most definitely at him carefully wiping her down. But she must have lost the last of her inhibitions somewhere between his chamber door and his armchair.
She placed her hand on her belly, where he had spent himself earlier.
He had kept his word. He had protected her. Wild horses wouldn’t have pulled her from the path to ecstasy on which he had set her with his talented mouth, so she had a good idea of what it had cost him to hold on to his wits. Wonderful, trustworthy man.
The mattress dipped when he stretched himself out by her side again.
Raised on his elbow, his chin in his palm, he studied her with half-lidded eyes. He looked different. Younger. She couldn’t stop her hand from drifting up to trace the curve of his bottom lip with her fingertip. His mouth, too, looked different, soft and full. This was intimacy, knowing he could look this way. Very few people would ever see him like this, Montgomery the man, not the duke. How she wished he were only a man.