She moaned, the sound catching between their lips. His tongue went deep, and she felt corresponding twinges of pleasure low in her stomach. Her legs lost their strength, her balance eroding. Her spectacles became dislodged, catching between their faces. Leo reached up to remove them carefully. He slipped them into his pocket. With deliberate slowness, he put the key in the door and locked it from the inside. Catherine stood mutely, torn between desire and caution.

In the silence, Leo went to light a lamp. A rasp, as a match was struck … a glow, as the wick kindled. Catherine blinked owlishly at the shadow-crossed room, at the large dark shape of him before her. She ached for him, her body clenching on intimate emptiness. A tremor went through her as she thought of how he had filled her, the sweet heaviness of him inside her.


Blindly she turned to face away from him, offering access to the row of hooks that fastened the back of her dress. The fabric tightened across her br**sts as he grasped the dress at the back. There was a series of deft tugs, the garment loosening, slipping lower. She felt his mouth brush the tender nape of her neck, a whisk of exciting warmth. He pushed the gown to her waist and over her hips. She moved to help him, stepping out of the heap of layered pink silk, kicking off her slippers. Turning her around again, Leo unhooked her corset, pausing to kiss each of her shoulders in turn.

“Take down your hair.” The touch of his breath on her skin made her shiver.

Catherine obeyed, pulling the pins from her chignon, collecting them in a little bundle. After setting them on the dressing table, she went to the bed and climbed onto the mattress, waiting tensely as he undressed. She couldn’t help wishing she had her spectacles back as she stared at the intriguing, hazy shape of him, the play of light and shadow on his skin.

“Don’t squint so hard, love. You’ll strain your eyes.”

“I can’t see you.”

He approached her, every line of his body replete with masculine grace. “Can you see me at this distance?”

She contemplated him thoroughly. “Certain parts.”

Leo gave a husky laugh, crawling onto the bed, over her, bracing his weight on his arms. The tips of her br**sts hardened beneath the light veil of her chemise. Their stomachs pressed together, the erect shape of him caught exquisitely against the corresponding notch of her body.

“What about now?” Leo whispered. “Am I close enough?”

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“Almost,” she managed to say, staring into his face, taking in every breathtaking detail. She had to force out words between uneven breaths. “But not quite…”

Leo bent to take her lips, locking his mouth over hers in a blaze of sensation. She lost herself in it, a kiss that was at once giving and demanding. He searched her gently, meeting the shy advances of her own tongue. She tasted inside his mouth for the first time, and felt the jolt of his response.

With a ragged sound, Leo reached for the hem of her chemise. Pulling the garment upward, he helped Catherine to lift it over her head. He untied the tapes of her drawers with torturous slowness, running his fingers along the loosening waist, easing the thin muslin fabric down her hips. Her garters and stockings soon followed, leaving her completely exposed.

Murmuring his name, Catherine twined her arms around his neck and tried to draw him over her again. She arched into him, gasping with delight at the varied textures of him, roughness and silk, smoothness and steel.

He brought his mouth to her ear, his lips toying with the soft lobe before he whispered, “Cat. I’m going to kiss all the way down your body and up again. And I want you to lie perfectly still and let me do as I please. You can do that, can’t you?”

“No,” she said earnestly, “I really don’t think so.”

Leo averted his face for a moment. When he looked back at her, his eyes were sparkling with amusement. “That was actually a rhetorical question.”

“A rhetorical question has an obvious answer,” she argued, “and what you’re asking is not—” She broke off, unable to speak or think as she felt him nibble and lick at a sensitive part of her neck. His mouth was hot and silken, the flat of his tongue like velvet. He worked his way along her arm, pausing at the hollows of her inner arm and wrist, caressing the pulse that beat visibly in the fragile skin. Every inch of her body prickled with awareness of him and what he was doing.

His mouth wandered back along her arm to the side of her breast, the trail of his mouth leaving her skin flushed and damp. He kissed all around the rosy peak without touching it, until she felt a whimper climb in her throat. “My lord, please, ” she gasped, sliding her hands into his hair, trying to guide him.

He resisted, grasping her wrists and pulling them to her sides. “Don’t move,” he reminded her gently. “Or do you want me to start over?”

She closed her eyes and lay with aggrieved stillness, her chest heaving. Leo had the gall to laugh softly, his mouth returning to nuzzle the undercurve of her breast. A cry escaped her when she felt his lips brush against the gathered crest. Slowly his mouth opened and sealed over her, and he began to suckle. Heat writhed in her stomach, and her h*ps lifted from the mattress. His hand settled on her taut abdomen, rubbing in a soothing circle, pressing her back down.

It was impossible to lie motionless as Leo tormented her, arousing her skillfully but providing no relief. Impossible to endure … but he wouldn’t allow otherwise. He made his way down to her stomach, licking and blowing lightly into the hollow of her navel. She was weak and perspiring, wet at the roots of her hair, her body racked with delight that verged on pain.