"Are you all right, Sarah?" he asked, his voice soft and powerful in her ear.
Was she all right?
She supposed she must be, but in the space of an instant she just couldn't stop shaking.
Sarah's heart fluttered and raced as she advanced into the spacious room. It was almost as if she'd just entered some kind of arena, before a huge crowd, with an ordeal ahead of her. Which was stupid, really, because this was the most luxurious and beautiful bedroom that she was ever likely to stay in. The Retreat was an exclusive country house hotel, a heritage listed building and five stars to boot, so it was about as far from a horrible ordeal as it was possible to get to stay here.
But it wasn't the original beams, the open fireplace, or even the huge bed with its brass head and foot rails and traditional English chintz bed linen that had caught her breath, and made her pulse race...it was a simple, almost inconsequential thing that had just happened in passing that had made her gasp.
As they'd entered the room, Ben had tapped her oh so lightly on the bottom to encourage her forward.
It should have been nothing. It was nothing. Just a harmless, affectionate gesture from a man she really, really, really liked, and possibly more than liked. Something that by rights she should barely even have noticed.
But the tiny gesture, over so fleetingly, had almost pole-axed her. She was still trembling and she'd broken out into a sweat.
It was as if the world had just changed, and she'd changed with it, irrevocably.
"How do you like it then?" Ben's hand settled on her waist as she stood looking around, not really seeing or appreciating the lovely room or the breath-catching view from the window, of the early evening sunset gilding the park outside. The porter was waiting just behind them, and she fought for composure, hoping he couldn't tell she'd suddenly gone slightly mad, or work out why her face was suddenly bright pink and blushing furiously.
Get a grip, woman!
"It's gorgeous...I really like it. I love the chintz and the furniture and the view...it's all so...um...old English."
I'm babbling, she thought, trying to focus on the traditional furnishings and the gentle scent of cottage garden potpourri that filled the air.
She turned, hardly daring to look at him. Had he felt the change too? It had been so huge it couldn't just be restricted to her, surely?
Ben was studying her, as he so often did. His warm brown eyes were mild, yet intent and full of secrets. If he'd sensed the turmoil inside her, he wasn't giving any indication. But then, he was the sort of man who gave very little away at the best of times. He was so composed, so contained, always in control.
"I'm glad you like it. I hoped you would. This is one of my favourite places in all the world." Favouring her with a slight smile, he turned away to deal with the porter and their luggage.
Don't you feel anything? she demanded silently, watching and admiring and wanting him, as she always did.
Ben Chambers was perfect. Dark, beautiful, intelligent, successful. A boyfriend...no, more than that...a lover to die for. His thick brown hair was swept back from a broad, handsome brow, and his perfectly trimmed, somehow old-fashioned little goatee beard only emphasised the strong line of his jaw and his firm, passionate lips. And he had style too, distinct and quirky. She loved that he possessed this aura of an elegant yet bohemian Edwardian gentleman. He was always immaculately dressed and she very rarely seemed to see him in casuals. He was either dapper in a good suit, a waistcoat, pristine linen and a crisply pressed tie...or he was naked. There didn't seem to be an in between with him.
She watched his hands as he peeled off a banknote to tip the porter, smiling and cheerful with the man, almost as if they were old friends. Maybe they were? Ben's fingers were long, narrow and tapered, yet infinitely deft, like a magician's. She knew their capabilities and her sex warmed and fluttered just thinking about them. END EXCERPT