She reached out, idly following the handsome tracings on the cold glass with a fingertip, remembering all those sleepless nights at Merrick keep when she could not tear him out of her mind, when her body felt empty and overheated and cried out for his. Behind her, she heard him start toward her, and she knew what was going to happen between them as surely as she knew she loved him. God forgive her, she loved her family's enemy. She had known it at Hardin, but she had been stronger then—and afraid. Afraid of what would happen to her if she let herself love a man who seemed to regard her as nothing more than a temporary amusement. But as surely as Jenny knew she loved him, she knew he loved her, too. It explained everything—his anger, his laughter, his patience… his speech in the bailey.

She felt his presence like a tangible thing even before he slowly slid his arm around her from behind, drawing her back against his body. In the windowpane their eyes met, and Jenny gazed into his as she asked him for the one promise that would free her from all guilt for giving him her love and her life. Her soft voice shaking with emotion, she asked, "Will you swear to me never to raise your hand against my family?"


His answer was an aching whisper. "Yes."

Shattering tenderness swept through her, and she closed her eyes, leaning back against him in complete surrender. He bent his head, brushing his mouth against her temple, his hand slowly sliding upward to caress the fullness of her breast. His mouth trailed a hot path down her cheek to her ear, his tongue exploring each fold as his hand slipped inside her gown, cupping her breast, his thumb rubbing over her hardening nipple.

Awash in a sea of pure sensation, Jenny made no protest when he covered her lips with his, turning her into his arms. She felt no shame or guilt when her gown slid down around her hips or when he came to her in bed, his bare, muscled shoulders gleaming like bronze in the candlelight as he leaned over her, skillfully parting her lips with his tongue. With a silent moan of surrender, she slipped her hand around his neck, her fingers sliding into the curling hair at his nape, holding his mouth pressed fiercely to hers as she welcomed his tongue and gave him hers. Her innocent ardor was more than Royce's ravenous body could withstand. Wrapping his arm around her hips he pulled her into vibrant contact with his straining thighs, molding her body to the rigid contours of his. His other hand cupped the back of her head as he drove his tongue into her mouth again and again, forcing her to give him back the sensual urgency he was offering her.

When she tore her mouth from his, he almost groaned with disappointment, thinking he had frightened her with his unbridled passion—but when he opened his eyes, what he saw on her face was neither fright or revulsion, it was wonder. A knot of tenderness swelling in his chest, he held perfectly still, watching her as Jenny took his face between her hands, her trembling fingertips reverently caressing his eyes, his cheekbones and jaw, and then she leaned up and kissed him with an ardor that nearly matched his own. Turning into his arms, pressing him back into the pillows, her hair spilling across them like a satin veil, she kissed his eyes, his nose, his ear, and when her lips closed over his nipple, Royce lost control. "Jenny," he groaned, his hands rushing over her back and thighs and buttocks. His fingers dug into her hair, pulling her lips back to his fevered mouth. "Jenny," he whispered hoarsely, his tongue plunging into her mouth, tangling with hers as he rolled her onto her back and covered her body with his. "Jenny," he murmured hotly as he hungrily devoured her breasts and stomach and thighs with his mouth. He could not stop saying her name. It played like a melody in his heart when her arms went around him and she lifted her hips, willingly molding herself to his engorged manhood; it sang in his veins as she welcomed the first fierce thrust of his body into hers; it rang through every fiber of his being as she matched his fierce, driving thrusts; and it exploded in a crescendo as she cried out, "I love you," her nails biting into his back, her body racked with wave after wave of ecstasy.

His body straining, desperate for release, Royce dragged his lips from hers and leaned up on his forearms, waiting for her tremors to subside as he gazed down into her beautiful, shadowy face. And then, because he could hold back no longer, he drove into her one last time, gasping her name. His body jerked convulsively again and again and again as he spilled his life into her, holding her hips to his hips and her mouth to his mouth.

Lying on his back, his wife cradled tightly against his side, he waited for the thundering beat of his heart to subside, his hand roving over her satiny skin, his mind still dazed by the explosion of his body. In all his years of aimless sexual encounters and torrid dalliances, nothing had ever approached the shattering ecstasy he'd just experienced.

Beside him, Jenny raised her head, and he tipped his chin down, looking into her eyes. In their slumberous blue depths he saw the same wonder and confusion he felt. "What are you thinking?" he asked with a tender smile at her upturned face.

An answering smile touched her lips as her fingers splayed across his hair-roughened chest.

Only two thoughts had crossed Jenny's mind and, rather than admit that she'd been longing to hear him say he loved her, she confessed to the other thought. "I was thinking," she whispered ruefully, "that if it had been like this… at Hardin… I don't think I'd have left with William."

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"If it had been like this," Royce countered, his smile widening to a wicked grin, "I'd have come after you."

Unaware that she could so easily stir his desire, Jenny trailed her fingers down the flat planes of his hard stomach. "Why didn't you?"

"I was under arrest at the time," he replied dryly, then he caught her wandering hand in his, flattening it beneath his palm to prevent it from straying lower, "for refusing to turn you over to Graverley," he added, releasing her hand.

His breath caught as her hand slid down the side of his thigh. "Jenny," he warned hoarsely, but it was already too late, desire was pouring through him, making him rigid. With a smothered laugh at her startled expression, he caught her hips and lifted her, settling her gently but firmly atop his swollen shaft. "Take as long as you like, little one," he teased huskily, "I'm entirely at your service." His laughter faded, however, as his wife leaned down, straddling him, and sweetly covered his mouth with hers.

Chapter Twenty-One

A smile drifted across Jenny's face as she stood at the window of the solar, looking out into the bailey, her heart filled with the memory of last night. It was mid-morning, judging from the angle of the sun, and she'd only arisen less than an hour ago—later than she'd ever slept in her life.