His eyes were passion-drowsed as he kissed her other breast. His tongue provoked the soft peak into a stinging bud, soothing it with warm strokes. She pressed upward into the wetness, her breath mixed with low sobs. He drew her nipple between his teeth, clamped it carefully, flicked it. Win moaned as his strong hands traced over her body, lingering in places of unbearable sensation.

Reaching her thighs, he tried to part them, but Win held them bashfully closed. Her eagerness to proceed had been obliterated by the dawning awareness of lavish moisture, there, which she had never expected or been told about.


"I thought you said to hurry?" Merripen whispered near her ear. His lips wandered over her crimson face.

"Undo my hands," she begged, perturbed. "I need to… well, to tidy up."

"Tidy up?" Giving her a quizzical glance, Merripen unwound the length of silk from around her wrists. "You mean the room?"

"No, my… myself."

Perplexity worked a notch between his dark brows. He stroked the seam of her clamped-together thighs, and she tightened them reflexively. Perceiving the problem, he smiled slightly, while utter tenderness rushed through him. "Is this what worries you?" He pried her legs apart, finding the slick of moisture with gentle fingers. "That you're wet here?"

She closed her eyes and nodded with a choked sound.

"No," he soothed, "this is good; this is how it's supposed to be. It helps me to go inside you, and…" His breathing roughened. "Oh, Win, you're so lovely, let me touch you; let me have you…"

In an agony of modesty, Win let him push her thighs open farther. She tried to stay quiet and still, but her h*ps jerked as he stroked the place that had become almost painfully sensitive. He murmured softly, passionately absorbed in the soft female flesh. More wetness, more heat, his touch skimming around and over her, tenderly nudging until one finger slid inside. She stiffened and gasped, and the touch was immediately withdrawn.

"Did I hurt you?"

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Her lashes lifted. "No," she said in wonder. "In fact, I didn't feel any pain." She strained to look between them. "Is there blood? Perhaps I should-"

"No. Win…" There was a near-comical expression of dismay on his face. "What I just did isn't going to cause pain or blood." A brief pause. "When I do it with my cock, however, it's probably going to hurt like hell."

"Oh." She pondered that for a moment. "Is that the word men use for their private parts?"

"One of the words gadjos use."

"What do Romas say?"

"They call it a kori."

"What does that mean?"

" 'Thorn.'"

Win slid a bashful glance at the heavy protrusion straining behind his trousers. "Rather too substantial for a thorn. I should have thought they would use a more fitting word. But I suppose-" She inhaled sharply as his hand moved downward. "I suppose if one wants roses, one must"-his finger had slipped inside her again-"bear the occasional thorn."

"Very philosophical." He gently stroked and teased the clenching interior of her body.

Her toes curled into the quilt as wicked tension coiled low in her belly. "Kev, what should I do?"

"Nothing. Only let me please you."

All her life, she had hungered for this without quite knowing what it was, this slow, astonishing merging with him, this sweet dissolution of self. This mutual surrender. There was no doubt that he was in control, and yet he browsed over her with absolute wonder. She felt herself soaking up sensation, her body infused with color and heat.

Merripen wouldn't let her hide any part of herself from him… He took what he wanted, turning and lifting her body, rolling her this way and that, always with care, and yet with passionate insistence. He kissed beneath her arms and along her sides and all over her, running his tongue along every curve and humid crease. Gradually the accumulating pleasure shaped into something dark and raw, and she moaned from the pain of acute need.

The drive of her heartbeat reverberated everywhere, in her br**sts and limbs and stomach, even at the tips of her fingers and toes. It was too much, this wildness he had aroused. She begged him for a moment's respite.

"Not yet," he told her between ragged breaths, his tone rough with a triumph she didn't yet understand. "Please, Kev-"

"You're so close, I can feel it. Oh God-" He took her head in his hands, kissed her ravenously, and said against her lips, "You don't want me to stop yet. Let me show you why."

A whimper escaped her as he slid low between her thighs, his head bending to the swollen place he had been tormenting with his fingers. He put his mouth on her, licking along the delicate salty strait, spreading her with his thumbs. She tried to sit bolt-upright, but fell back against the pillows as he found what he wanted, his tongue strong and wet.

She was spread beneath him like a pagan sacrifice, illuminated by the daylight that now flooded the room. Merripen worshipped her with hot, glassy licks, savoring the taste of her pleasured flesh. Moaning, she closed her legs around his head, and he turned deliberately to nibble and lick at one pale inner thigh, then the other. Feasting on her. Wanting everything.

Win curled her fingers desperately in his hair, lost to shame as she guided him back, her body arching wordlessly… here, please, more, more, now… and she groaned as he fastened his mouth over her with a fast, flicking rhythm. Pleasure seized her, wrenching an astonished cry from her, holding her stiff and paralyzed for excruciating seconds. Every movement and measure and pulse of the universe had distilled to the compelling, slippery heat, riveted there on that crucial place, and then it all released, the feeling and tension shattering exquisitely, and she was racked with hard, blissful shudders.