He started to walk toward her. "I'd prefer you unafraid, though I can understand the first time would be frightening for a virgin."

His bid to soothe her failed. Duncan reached that conclusion when Madelyne bounded off the bed. "First time? Duncan, you're not going to bed me," she shouted.


"I am," he answered.

"'Tis one thing to be forced to sleep beside you, but that is all that's going to take place this night!"

"Madelyne, we're married now. 'Tis a usual occurrence to bed one's wife on the wedding night."

"And is it a usual occurrence to force a lady to marry?" she asked.

He deliberately shrugged. She looked ready to cry. Duncan decided to make her angry again. He preferred it over tears. "It was necessary."

"Necessary? You mean expedient, don't you? Tell me this, Duncan. Will it also be necessary to force yourself on me tonight?"

She didn't give him time to answer her. "You didn't even bother to take the time to explain your reasons for this marriage. That is unforgivable of you."

"You actually expected me to explain my actions to you?" he roared. He was almost immediately sorry for his lack of control because Madelyne was back to sitting on the edge of the bed, wringing her hands.

Duncan attempted to cool his temper. He walked over to stand in front of the fire. With deliberate slowness he began to unfasten the lacings at the neck of his tunic. He never took his gaze off Madelyne, wanting her to see what he was doing.

She tried not to look at him, but he was an overwhelming presence, and she could not ignore him. His skin was bronzed by the sun, golden now by the glow of the fire. The play of muscles showed when he bent to remove his boots.

God's truth, she wanted to touch him. It was such an appealing admission, she shook her head. Touch him, indeed. She wanted him out of this room. But that, she thought with a sigh that reached her toes, wasn't the truth at all.

"You think I'm a whore," Madelyne suddenly blurted out. "Aye, living with a defrocked priest… those were your words, Duncan," she reminded him. "You'd not want to bed a whore."

She prayed she was right.

Duncan smiled over the way she thought to sway him. "Whores do have certain advantages over unskilled virgins, Madelyne. You, of course, understand my meaning."

No, she most certainly didn't understand his meaning, but she couldn't tell him that, now, could she? Her deception was getting out of hand.

"They do not have certain advantages," Madelyne muttered.

"Don't you mean to say we?"

She gave up. She wasn't a whore and knew he realized it too.

When she didn't answer him, Duncan concluded she'd be forced to lie if she continued. "A whore knows all the ways to please a man, Madelyne."

"I'm not a whore and you know it." Duncan smiled. Oh, how her honesty pleased him. He was a man conditioned to betrayals, yet he knew with a certainty he'd stake his life on that Madelyne would never lie to him.

Duncan removed the rest of his clothes and walked over to the other side of the bed. Madelyne's back faced him. He saw her shoulders stiffen to the snapping point when he threw back the covers and got into bed. He turned, smothered out the candle flame, and then let out a loud yawn. If Madelyne had been watching him, she would have known the yawn was a blatant lie. His arousal was obvious, even to someone as naive as his skittish wife. It was going to be a long night. "Madelyne."

She hated the way he called her name when he was irritated with her. Duncan always drew out the last until it sounded as though her name was actually Lane. "My name is not Lane," she muttered. "Come to bed."

"I'm not tired." It was a stupid remark, but Madelyne was too frightened to be clever. She should have listened to more of Marta's tales. It was too late to do anything about that now. Oh, God, she thought she was going to be sick right this minute. And wouldn't that be humiliating—to lose her dinner in front of him. The thought made her stomach lurch, intensifying her worry. "I don't know what to do."

The anguished whisper tore at Duncan's heart. "Madelyne, do you remember the first night we spent together in my tent?" Duncan asked.

His voice was soft, husky too. Madelyne thought he might be trying to calm her.

"I promised you that night I'd never force you. And have I ever broken my word to you on any matter?" he asked.

"How would I know?" Madelyne returned. "You've never given me your word on anything." She turned to see if he was going to try to grab her. That was a mistake, because Duncan hadn't bothered to pull the cover over himself. He was as na*ed as a wolf. Madelyne grabbed the blanket and threw it toward him. "Cover yourself, Duncan. It isn't decent to let me see your… legs."

She was blushing again. Duncan didn't know how long he could keep up this nonchalant facade. "I want you, Madelyne, but I want you willing. I'll have you begging, even if it takes all night."

"I'll never beg."

"You will."

Madelyne stared into Duncan's eyes, trying to discover if he was trying to trick her or not. His expression told her nothing of what he was thinking. She nibbled on her lower lip while she worried. "You promise me?" she finally asked. "You really won't force me?"

Duncan let her see his exasperation even though he nodded. He decided that tomorrow he'd let her know she wasn't to question him in such a manner. For tonight, however, he'd allow her transgression.

"I trust you," she whispered. " 'Tis strange, yet I think I've always trusted you."

"I know."

She actually smiled over his arrogant remark. Then she let out a sigh of relief. She felt safe again. "Since you wouldn't let me bring my sleeping gown, I'll just have to use one of your shirts," she said.

Madelyne didn't wait to gain his permission. She went over to his chest, opened the lid, and rummaged through the clothing until she found one of his shirts. She didn't know if Duncan was watching her or not, so she kept her back to him when she pulled her robe off and put his shirt on.

The garment barely covered her knees. She hurried to get under the blankets. And surely that was the reason she accidentally bumped into Duncan.

She took an infinitely long time adjusting the covers to her satisfaction. Madelyne didn't think it would be proper to touch him, but she wanted to get close enough to feel some of his warmth. At last she was settled. She let out a sigh. She had hoped that Duncan would have grown weary of her motions by now. In truth, she wanted him to grab hold of her and pull her up against him. Lord knew she was used to being grabbed and hauled around, and if the truth were admitted, she actually liked it a bit. She always ended up cuddled against him, feeling snug and safe. And almost loved. It was a fantasy, that, but she allowed the pretense anyway. There wasn't any sin in pretending, was there?

Duncan had no idea what was going on inside Madelyne's head. It had taken him far longer than he had anticipated just to get her into bed. His nightly ritual of swimming in the freezing lake was a paltry effort compared to the trial he was presently undergoing. The prize was worth the torment, however. With that thought in mind, Duncan turned to his side. Propping his head up on his elbow, he looked down at his wife. He was surprised to find her staring up at him, for he truly expected her to be hiding under the covers. "Good night, Duncan," she whispered to him, giving him another smile. Duncan wanted much, much more. "Kiss me good night, wife."

His tone was arrogant. Madelyne wasn't upset by it. She gave him a frown. "I've already kissed you good night," she reminded him sweetly. "Was it so insignificant that you've forgotten it already?"

Was she baiting him? Duncan decided she was, and probably because she felt so safe. Victorious too. Ah, she trusted him, and while he was pleased by that fact, the throbbing increased in his loins, bothering his concentration. He couldn't take his gaze away from her mouth, was powerless to stop himself as he slowly, inevitably, lowered his mouth to hers. His arm circled her waist, blocking any retreat if she tried to leave him. He promised himself that he wouldn't force the kiss, only keep her next to him until he could find a way to reason with her.

His mouth settled on hers in a kiss meant to melt any resistance. His tongue plunged into her mouth, hungry, almost savage in the quest to mate with her. He wanted to give her pleasure and knew he had succeeded when her tongue touched his and her hand gently brushed the side of his cheek.

Duncan captured her sigh when he deepened the kiss. His hand caressed the side of her neck while his thumb rubbed a lazy circle above the wild pulse he felt.

Madelyne wanted to get a little closer to his warmth. Kissing him felt so right. Her hands slipped around Duncan's neck, and when he showed his pleasure over her aggression by emitting a low growl, she smiled against his mouth.

He lifted his head to look at her. Madelyne looked thoroughly satisfied. Her lips were dewy and swollen and there was a sparkle in her eye that warmed his heart. He found himself smiling back and couldn't explain the reason. When he felt her fingers tentatively brush the nape of his neck, he couldn't resist kissing her again. Her lower lip was easily captured between his teeth; he tugged, bringing Madelyne up to him. She laughed, delighted. Duncan groaned, tormented.

The kiss turned fierce and hot. His hands captured the sides of her face, and when she began to respond, he let her feel the hunger in him.

Madelyne moaned and moved closer, until her toes were rubbing against the crisp hair on his legs.

Duncan stopped her restless motions by trapping her legs between his heavy thighs. His mouth never left hers. He feasted on her, using his tongue to plunder the sweet interior she so willingly offered.

He couldn't get enough of her. The kiss turned wild, ravenous. His hands were as undisciplined as his mouth, taming and exciting as he stroked a warm path from her shoulders to the base of her spine. Shivers of ecstasy made her tremble all the more. She couldn't seem to catch a thought and hold on to it. Madelyne felt as if she were spinning out of control. She couldn't seem to save herself. Her mind was being ruled by such new, erotic sensations flooding her body.

Madelyne squirmed within his hold. She was drawn to the heat, until she felt his hard arousal against the junction of her thighs. She uttered a gasp and tried to pull away, but Duncan's hot kiss was pushing away all her fear. The heat was incredible. Her mind rebelled against the intimacy, but her body knew how to respond. She instinctively captured him and held him there, using her thighs to cuddle him. She let the warmth penetrate, but when Duncan began to move his h*ps and his arousal rubbed against her, she tried to stop him. Her hands grabbed hold of his thighs and she pushed him. She thought she was making him stop, but the more he moved, the weaker her struggle became. His touch ignited the embers of desire deep inside her, and it wasn't long before she was actually clinging to him, her nails digging into his backside to keep him firmly against her.

Duncan realized she was frightened by the longing that had taken her, but he was determined to make her respond with equal passion. His hands cupped her buttocks, almost roughly. He lifted her and pulled her against him, letting her feel all of him. A low mating sound came from deep in his chest, a primitive, erotic sound, and as magical as the song of the Sirens calling to Madelyne, mesmerizing her. She couldn't resist and she kissed him with wild, free abandon. Madelyne's uninhibited response nearly pushed Duncan over the brink of sanity. He tore his mouth away from hers and began to press hot kisses down the column of her neck. He tried to gain control but the effort cost him. It had turned painful holding back, and he wanted nothing more than to plunge inside her, to fill her body and her soul completely. He couldn't, of course, it was too soon for her. Duncan told himself to go easy, to give her a little more time, but his mouth and his hands refused to listen to the dictates of his mind. God help him, he couldn't stop touching her. Her scent drove him to distraction; Duncan had never experienced such overwhelming passion. The realization that there was still much more to come made him feel close to exploding.

Madelyne knew she should stop his liberties. She was clinging to Duncan, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. She took a deep breath, trying desperately to control herself. It proved an impossible task; Duncan was tantalizing her neck with his mouth and his tongue, and whispering such bold, sexy, unrepeatable words into her ear, she couldn't think much at all.

He called her beautiful, told her in erotic detail what he wanted to do to her. He said she made him crazed with desire, and she could tell from the way his hands shook when he pushed her hair away from her face and kissed her brow that he meant what he said.

She knew he could easily crush any resistance she offered him. Yet his strength didn't frighten her now. All she had to do was tell him to stop. He wouldn't force her. Duncan always kept his power contained when he was with her, whenever he touched her; he used an even greater method of winning her. Aye, he wooed her with tender caresses and soft, forbidden promises.

If she could just find the strength to put a little distance between them, perhaps she could think again. With that intent in mind she rolled away from him.

Duncan followed her. She realized then that the blankets were gone. He covered her now, most thoroughly. Their bare legs were entwined and only a thin shirt protected her virginity from him.

He removed that barrier as well, slowly edging the material up over her breasts. He was determined, and had the shirt off before she could utter a single word of denial. In truth, she might have helped him.

All thoughts of caution left when Duncan's chest touched her breasts.

The thick mat of hair rubbed against her nipples. She moaned with true pleasure. His breathing excited her almost as much as his touch did. It was harsh, uncontrolled, as ragged with need as her own.

Duncan lifted his head to look at her. Madelyne's eyes were dark, slumberous.

"Do you like kissing me, Duncan?"

He wasn't prepared for the question and answered her only when he'd found his voice. "Aye, Madelyne, I like kissing you." He smiled then. "As much as you like kissing me."

"I do," Madelyne whispered. She shivered with heat, nervously rubbed the tip of her tongue along her lower lip. Duncan watched her. He groaned and had to close his eyes for a second before he could look at her again.

She was making him frantic. This wooing was difficult work. He wanted her. Now. He knew she still wasn't ready for him. He'd have to continue this trial of endurance even if it killed him. He thought it just might.