Colin stifled a groan as the woman who rested against him shifted a little. His testicles ached like hell, and his cock was so stiff he felt as if all the blood in his veins had rushed to that engorged portion of his body.
Mrs. Howard was perfectly right, he was a marauding male.
After all his inner chastening, the bitter experience of his ill-fated marriage, and the fact he suspected the woman pressed so enticingly against him was a consummate little liar, he was still completely and fully aroused.
Well, why was he surprised? He wanted her. Fine, that wasn't a crime. She was gorgeous and there had been a spark between them from the very first time he had gazed into her topaz eyes. Yes, it was a personal dilemma, but he'd done the honorable thing once before and it had gotten him absolutely nothing but scandal and disillusionment.
If he took her, who could blame him? The soft weight of Kate's glorious breasts were against his chest, even the hardened tips of her nipples, which signaled she wasn't entirely indifferent to his proximity either. Her quickened breathing was warm against his bare shoulder and one slim hand rested on his waist. The perfect oval of her face looked pale in the thin illumination and her eyes were huge and shadowed by her long lush lashes. "Is it wrong I am pleased you desire me?"
Bloody hell, he was in real trouble now.
He laughed, but there was no mirth in the sound. "That is absolutely what not to say, my dear. Do not encourage me. Perhaps I had better go now."
"I don't want you to go." Incredibly she let her hand drift up his bare chest, very slowly, as if testing the tensile strength of every tendon, each single ridge of muscle. Her fingers trailed across his throat until she lightly touched his jaw. It was a journey of exploration and curiosity, and he'd never felt anything so intensely provocative in his life. "I feel as if I want something also."
Another small twinge of warning went through his brain. Beware...
His cock throbbed at the very delicate caress. "No, you don't," he muttered in protest, but he made no move to leave. Every muscle in his body suddenly locked up at her ingenuous statement. Hoarsely, he tried to argue, "You do not know what you're saying. You're grateful to me, I suppose, but you owe me nothing. No woman owes a man sexual favors. Ever."
The young woman in his arms shook back her long curls, the gleaming strands catching the streaming moonlight with hints of chestnut and gold. Whether she intended it or not, her smile was both shy and infinitely sensual. In a low cut nightgown--his former wife tended to think modesty overrated--that showed every curve of her slender form, she was a mixture of seductive beauty and the promise of carnal heaven. "I never said I thought I owed you. I said I wanted you."
"Jesus, Kate, don't do this."
"What am I doing?"
"Deliberately tempting me."
"I suppose I am."
Silence filled the bedchamber. Outside, he could hear the sounds of the insects in the trees, and the rustle of the leaves in a low, sighing night wind. Oh yes, there was no question he wanted her.
She could be anyone, he sharply reminded himself.
On the other hand, she could be his, at least for now.
Get out of the bed right this moment. His conscience pleaded sanity.
Stay and make love to her. She wants it. You want it. His body gave a solid argument.
As if independent from his will, his hand lifted and pulled free the ribbon at the neckline of the seductive nightdress Rachel had left behind. It gaped open, and he abruptly lost his inner argument. Colin felt a wash of heat surge through his entire body as he tugged the cloth farther apart and partially down Kate's shoulders, baring her ivory breasts. She offered no protest, but her cheeks looked suspiciously flushed.
He studied her lush form in the moonlight. All that flawless pale skin, supple limbs, and those voluptuous breasts beckoned for his touch, his kiss. He took in a shuddering breath and felt the pulse of his heart in the tip of his swollen cock.
"Colin?" Kate looked a little uncertain, her lustrous hair a shining tumble down her back.
"If you mean this, lie down and take your gown off entirely." The order was given in a low growl that was partly desire, partly frustration with his inability to turn down what she offered. He slipped from the bed. As quickly as possible, he unfastened his breeches, eased them over his straining erection, and stepped free. "I don't know if I should hope you are a virgin, or aren't."
Kate complied, shimmying the gown down her hips and those long, slim legs. She lay there watching him amidst the tumbled bed sheets. Her beautiful eyes were shadowed by the veil of her long lashes as she openly stared at his erect cock. "I cannot see that it matters, for it's my body and my choice to give it to you."
There was certainly an argument to that illogic, but he didn't care to make it at this moment. Colin slid on top of her gleaming, naked body and kissed her.
Definitely a virgin, he realized with an inner curse almost immediately. She had no idea he wanted her to open her mouth, and when his tongue gently forced her lips apart, the woman in his arms was momentarily surprised.
Good God, what was he doing? She'd obviously never even been kissed, and how someone so entrancingly beautiful could be untouched was no mystery. She'd been sheltered and chaperoned.
At least she wasn't someone else's wife.
Dammit. He should stop anyway.
But he couldn't. God, he had guarded himself closely for the past few years and to feel this kind of reckless, wild desire was like taking a drug.
She caught on very quickly, responding at first with shyness to the foray of his tongue as he explored the sweetness of her mouth, and then with increasing enthusiasm. He tried to be temperate, but persuasive, and the fullness of her delectable breasts against his chest was positively intoxicating. Kate rubbed her hands over his shoulders and ran her fingers down his back as they kissed, and he found the light exploration made him break out in a sweat. With his lips he traced the curve of her smooth cheek, the line of her jaw, and pressed his mouth to the delicate hollow beneath her ear as she sighed in open pleasure.
As he moved lower, trailing down the graceful arch of her throat, he could feel the frantic beat of her heart. His hands cupped her breasts, lifting the delectable mounded flesh, testing the abundant weight and shape. They overflowed his palm, lush and womanly, and the level of his arousal increased almost painfully. Colin kissed the supple soft skin, lightly circling a rosy nipple with his tongue before sucking it into his mouth.
Beneath him, Kate gasped and arched.
Good. The faster she was wet and ready, the faster he could be buried deep between her legs.
He still couldn't believe that he was being quite so reckless. Almost from the first moment when he'd turned her over on the bank and gazed at her pale face, he'd felt a sort of magnetic pull that was both unusual and hard to resist. It was as if in very act of saving her life, he'd made some sort of commitment he had to honor.
Not that honor had much to do with what he was doing at the moment.
As he stroked, fondled, and tasted the delicate flavor and texture of her silken skin and glorious perfect nipples, Colin sensed the increasing restlessness in her movements. She might be innocent, but was unmistakably in the throes of rising of sexual excitement. He played with her beautiful breasts, taking his fill, indulging his masculine appreciation with his mouth and hands until she finally moaned openly and clutched his hair. "Oh ... that feels very ... wicked."
"I assume you mean wickedly pleasurable, beautiful Kate," he whispered against the peaked point of a hardened nipple. "Apparently you are one of those women who have very sensitive breasts. It's a wonderful thing, I've found, in a lover. Now, let's gauge exactly how much you enjoy it."
His hand slid across the taut plane of her stomach and lightly stroked her pubic hair, pleased it was slightly damp. Kate stiffened a fraction, but when he moved to kiss her again, she gladly parted her lips and responded with artless abandon. Encouraged, he traced the seam of her labia with an exploring fingertip and found the small opening to her vaginal passage. She reacted when he slipped his finger inside and tested the sleek, hot satin of her inner walls, making a small sound that was probably an embarrassed protest against his lips. He pushed deep, exploring her body intimately.
Colin whispered with effort, "I can feel your maidenhead. For now, you are still untouched. If you wish to change your mind, this is the time."
Long lashes fluttered and to his surprise, she said fiercely, "Don't you dare stop. I feel ... I feel..."
"Incomplete?" he suggested on a small muffled laugh, pushing a little against the membrane that was a symbol of her untried body. "I know exactly what you mean, sweetheart."
"Then complete me."
Dammit, did she have to be so eager? So tight and inviting? And wet, which meant she was enjoying his touch, his kiss...
"Your purity means there will be a little pain the first time." He wasn't sure if even now he didn't want her to change her mind and save him from what was undoubtedly an act of utmost folly.
On the other hand, if she changed her mind, he might expire of frustrated desire at this point. There was little doubt that he was on the brink of that physical point of no return that every male eventually can reach.
"It doesn't hurt, I just never thought of anyone touching me ... there." she said in breathless whisper, letting her thighs fall open a little. "It's ... oh ... pleasurable."
"My cock is considerably larger than my finger," he explained with a small glimmer of warning in his voice. "And believe me, probably every man who has ever met you, Kate, has wanted to touch you here." Colin inserted another finger, widening her a little, her tightness a concern. He didn't bed virgins--ever--and wasn't sure how much care he had to take. Innocent young women were off limits to an unmarried male with money and good family. Unless marriage, of course, was involved.
Proof he had completely lost his mind.
There was no question she was wet and ready. He slid his fingers free and they were slick with her fluids. He was a lustful idiot, but he was going to do this, he'd known it the minute she'd pleaded with him to stay and he had agreed. In a hoarse whisper, he urged, "Spread your legs."